We’ve posted about fetishes here on our blog before and explained what fetishes are and if it is healthy to have one or not.
Just to recap, the definition of a fetish “specifically refers to a strong sexual preoccupation with an object, material, or body part.” This object, material, or body part – the specific thing that is fetishized – often needs to be present, incorporated, or at least thought of in order for the person to reach sexual satisfaction. A fetish is a type of paraphilia, which generally “means compulsively responding in a sexual way to an unusual or socially acceptable stimulus."
For this workshop, we focused specifically on BDSM. BDSM stands for a combination of acts and philosophies: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism.
BDSM involves role-playing with the behaviors of dominance/submission and by receiving or inflicting pain, humiliation, restraint, and other un-equal power dynamics. This role-playing can be situational (called a session), or can be long term (sometimes playing a specific role 24/7). There are many roles a person can play, including a dominant/top/master/dominatrix (this person does the controlling) and a submissive/bottom/slave/brat (this person is the one being controlled).
The key to BDSM is that all parties must consent to all activities and rules decided by each person, so much so that the motto of the BDSM community is “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.” This means that activities must not cause unwanted or permanent harm, participants must be aware and sane to consent, and that all participants must consent.
Although many sexual acts (such as penetration) are included in BDSM play, not all play has to include them. Many activities like spanking, whipping, bondage, verbal degrading, etc don’t involve sexual activity.
We had some safety tips mentioned in our blog post about fetishes, but we’ll list them here again:
- Do research on your specific fetish/paraphilia. What are the community’s philosophies? Do they provide support or resources on how to begin and how to be safe.
- Be mindful of which communities (physical or virtual) you’re connecting with. If you feel like you’re in danger, that you cannot trust the people you’re with, or that they’re involved in illegal activities, you do not have to be a part of that group.
- Establish rules of consent and safety with your sexual partners. An example of this is using safewords. Safewords are specific words or phrases that are mutually agreed upon and used to let others know that we want to stop sexual activity. This is most commonly used in BDSM, where words like ‘stop’ or ‘no’ are not taken at face-value and are considered part of role-playing.
- Be safe if you’re meeting someone from the internet. You can find great tips here.
What’s most important is that it be your choice to participate in BDSM activities if you want to, and that you are practicing them safely.
- For more information about understanding fetishes/paraphilia: http://kinseyconfidential.org/sexual-fetish-blog-post/
- Resources and directories for many fetshes/paraphilia: http://www.ticklepedia.co.uk/Ticklepedia/Other_Fetish_Sites.html
- A resource to help distinguish BDSM from abuse: http://www.kinkabuse.com/