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B is for BDSM

Dr. Jess     
BDSM describes sexual play that involves some exchange of power or pain.

BDSM describes sexual play that involves some exchange of power or pain. B stands for bondage, D stands for dominance and/or discipline, S stands for sadism (pleasure associated with inflicting pain) and/or submission and M stands for masochism (pleasure associated with receiving pain). Sometimes the terms are grouped together in pairs with BD referring to bondage and discipline, DS standing for dominance and submission, and SM referring to sado-masochism.


Would you like a little spanking?


While BDSM encompasses a wide range of sexual activities, practitioners tend to play complementary roles that involve some degree of power differentials. However, activities are underscored by the consent of all parties involved and BDSM can be a part of healthy, normal and safer sex play.

Playing out sexual fantasies can be a great way to explore new role-play identities and it is not uncommon for powerful and dominant people to enjoy being submissive during sex play. The desire to engage in elements of BDSM play like pain infliction or humiliation during erotic play in no way implies the desire to partake in these activities in other situations. That is, you can be a feminist who loves being sexually dominated by male partners and you can be a gentle, loving friend who enjoys inflicting pain on consensual sex partners. The complexity of these roles, however, requires a strong degree of communication to negotiate the parameters of activities in which you are willing to engage.


Consent, Communication and Respect


Sometimes referred to as scenes or sessions, physical BDSM activities may involve the use of hot wax, leather, massage oil, ropes, gags, leashes, suction cups and even fire. Psychological elements may involve punishment, praise, love, control or humiliation all of which are discussed in advance of each scene. The possibilities are endless – but consent, communication and respect are absolutely necessary to reduce risk and promote pleasure.

While the thought of studded collars, whips, chains and torture poles may conjure up images of violence and danger (supported by sensationalist media portrayals), the reality is that practitioners take many measures to practice safer sex. Pre-play negotiations, educational workshops, the designation of a “safe word”, post-play debriefings alongside the usual (and necessary) use of barrier methods for safer sex are just a few of the precautionary measures that make BDSM sex safer and pleasurable.


Welcome to the world of BDSM...


But this is really just the beginning…if you are interested in exploring BDSM, begin by checking out this pamphlet or online resource, enroll in a local workshop and be sure to talk to your partner about your interests and discuss your boundaries. All sex play (not just BDSM) should involve honest negotiations and discussion in advance of any physical contact – this is an important component of safer sex and is particularly important to address the potential physical and psychological outcomes associated with BDSM.




Until next time, have fun, experiment and always practice safer sex!

Dr. Jess

"An award-winning speaker, Jess has worked with thousands of couples from all corners of the globe to transform their relationships via her wildly successful Marriage As A Business program. From Prague and Istanbul to Albuquerque and New York City, her relationship retreats receive rave reviews from some of the most powerful couples in the world who are drawn to her enthusiastic, practical and no-nonsense approach to happily ever after. Jess's doctoral research focused on sexual health and relationship education and she is passionate about accessible, classroom-based education. When she isn't globetrotting for speaking engagements, she volunteers with students, teachers and social service organizations to empower young people to embrace healthy, happy relationships. As a global ambassador for several brands, Jess contributes regularly to the biggest names in international media. You'll find her advice weekly in the likes of Women's Health, Men's Fitness, Cosmopolitan, SELF, Showtime and The Movie Network. Her insights into couple' issues reaches millions of homes across America as the host of the hit reality series Swing, which just capped its fifth season on PlayboyTV. Canadian-born and Chinese-Jamaican and Irish by descent, Dr. Jess loves ultimate frisbee, crab, airplane turbulence, cheese and red wine. Makes perfect sense, right?"
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