For anyone that cares to read it, this is something I wrote for a paper for school. If you wish to re-use it at all please just let me know first. I hope you all enjoy my little paper on what we all already know.
Unmasking the “Dangerous” World of BDSM
BDSM is often referred to as “Sadomasochism,” which is a term used to combine sadism and masochism, the enjoyment of causing pain and the enjoyment of receiving pain. The term “Sadomasochism” is also used in clinical psychology to describe a form of mental illness (Sadomasochism). Media rarely discusses the topic unless involved in the foul play of someone being hospitalized or dying, such as Reverend Gary Aldridge who was found dead from accidental asphyxiation. The 51-year old Reverend was found in “two wet suits, a face mask, diving gloves, slippers, rubberized underwear, two ties, five belts and eleven straps,” (Love Hurts). Another such instance was that of a 67-year old college professor who went into a three day coma after being found unconscious after being left alone and wearing a dog collar and a leather hood (Love Hurts). It is true that both of these instances as well as any other that occur are unfortunate but does it mean that BDSM is as dangerous as the media has us believe? To be able to make that distinction one must first understand better what BDSM is, what is done to keep it safe, and lastly the actual amount of deaths related to BDSM annually.
BDSM, as stated previously, is often referred to as “Sadomasochism” but in reality Sadomasochism is only a part of what BDSM really is. BDSM is actually a three part acronym for bondage and discipline (B/D), Dominants and submissives (D/s), and sadism and masochism (S/M). Bondage is the act of controlling one’s physical movement through use of implements including, but not limited to rope, handcuffs, and clothing designed for such purposes. Discipline is the act of controlling someone mentally, physical restraints may be used but are not necessary because the person being controlled is willingly doing something to please the other person or perhaps avoid punishment. Dominants, or Tops, are the people involved that most assume are in control of a situation, they are the ones telling the submissives, or bottoms, what to do and how to behave as well as administering any reward or punishments for behavior. Submissives, however, are the ones that actually are in charge of any given situation through the use of safe words. There is also another type of person not listed in the acronym called a Switch; this person can “switch” back and forth between being a Dominant or a submissive given the situation they are involved in whereas most Dominants or submissives remain only that. Now that BDSM has been broken down into its core meanings one should understand that just because someone is involved in one aspect of the Lifestyle, BDSM, they are not necessarily involved in the rest. For example a Dominant and his or her submissive may deal heavily in the D/s aspect but may not have anything to do with the S/M side and vice versa.
For those involved in the Lifestyle there are many steps that are taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Most will argue that there is nothing safe about someone being restrained and whipped or flogged and to an extent they have a point. The act of whipping someone or flogging someone, or any other method used, puts strain on the body whether it is in the form of causing pain or restricting blood flow or any other number of things. For this reason safety measures are in place such as pre-scene negotiations, which allows all parties involved to discuss at length what will be involved, what may happen, what is not allowed to happen, and the safe words that will be used in case the scene must stop. It is true that there is always the chance that something will go wrong, but the same is true for any situation such as driving a car or walking down the street, the difference here being that play scenarios are much more controlled than the street. Another of the main differences between safe play and unsafe play is the addition of extra people. One would probably assume that the addition of more people would make a scene less safe but the opposite is true, the more people that are involved, the more people there are watching to make sure things go properly; most accidents happen when someone is playing by themselves such as the two gentlemen stated earlier.
In a study of the causes of death in the U.S. in 2000, tobacco was listed as the number one cause with 18.1 percent of deaths followed by poor diet and exercise, 16.6%, alcohol consumption, 3.5%, and motor vehicles, 1.8% (Actual Causes). If BDSM is so dangerous then why are sexual activities listed with only a 0.8% death rate and the majority of those being related to HIV and AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and cervical cancer? One must also wonder why it is that things such as hang-gliding, scuba diving and rock climbing aren’t shunned from the public eye considering their death rates of one in 116,000, one in 200,000, and one in 320,000 respectively. Maternal pregnancies even have a death rate of one in 8,200 (Data on climbing). According to Google public data there are currently 307,006,550 people in the United States as of July 2009. At the death rate of rock climbing of one in 320,000 approximately 959 people will die of rock climbing where as approximately 500-1000 people die of autoerotic deaths (Autoerotic Fatalities). Again, one must wonder why BDSM is shunned as being so dangerous when clearly there are other activities that are far more dangerous yet so widely accepted and praised.
The only answer to why BDSM has been and probably will continue to be hidden from the public is misunderstanding and unwillingness to learn. Even though the media will continue to portray BDSM as something that is dangerous and only for those that are full of “guilt, embarrassment and fear of intimacy” (Love Hurts), those involved can only hope that someone will see the Lifestyle for what it truly is, just another way of living, no more dangerous than anything else.
“Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000” American Medical Association. 2004.
Actual Causes of Death in the United States
“Autoerotic Fatality” Wikipedia. 30 June 2010. Autoerotic Fatality
“Data on climbing and fatalities” All Climbing. 12 January 2009.
Data on climbing and fatalities
“Love Hurts: Sadomasochism’s Dangers” 14 February 2008.
“Sadomasochism” Wikipedia. 24 July 2010. Sadomasochism
Ignixia is an international kink and alternative sexuality educator. The following blog entries range from educational information and resources from her classes to daily musings had on things occurring in the world.