The first time I took part in any kind of BDSM play I got a fit of the giggles. I was hanging by my wrists from the ceiling and my ankles were attached to a spreader bar. I was blindfolded and my lover was tentatively whipping me.
“Is that all you got?” I taunted him. He whipped me harder. I was a bit shocked but then snorted and fell into a laughing fit so hard I nearly got the hiccups.
“Is this turning you on or are you trying to make me feel like a knob?” my partner sighed.
I let my legs go loose and hung from my wrists, swirling around to face him. “So sorry, love. But this is turning me on about as much a Laurel and Hardy movie.” He unhooked me and I fell on the floor in near hysterics. “OK, clearly we can check that off the list.” I gasped. “Now. Just fuck me.”
I hadn’t let myself be restrained because I felt an urgent need to do so. I was simply curious and had the opportunity. I trusted my partner, we discussed ahead of time our limits, and he wanted to find out if it did anything for him. I may have been a wet blanket on his experience, but what I’ve come to learn is that we weren’t doing anything psychologically damaging. In fact, our willingness to engage in BDSM activity indicated that we were actually healthier mentally than people who won’t.
Past assumptions of BDSM suggest that people who enjoy the practice have a mental disorder or were abused in the past. But the science has proven time and again it’s actually the opposite. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people who engage in BDSM were found to be less neurotic, more open, more secure in relationships, more equipped to handle rejection and had better overall well-being.
It makes sense when you consider the bedrock of good sex is communication. People who do things consensually that involve physical risk need to work things out before they go down the fantasy rabbit hole.
“BDSM friendly couples require impeccable communication whereas many mainstream relationships communicate about their sexuality as a result of ‘inflammation’ or challenges that arise. For a BDSM relationship to thrive, it must rely on a foundation of transparency and effective interaction.” says Dr Jeffrey Sumber, a psychotherapist in Chicago.
Sexual adventure can also increase intimacy, trust, and encourage fidelity. “If someone is going to bind your wrists or tie you to a Saint Andrew’s cross and flog you, there has to be a high level of trust at work.” writes Patricia Johnson, co-author of Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-term Love. The longer a couple explores kinky play, the more significant the investment in the relationship, and with that a disinterest in sabotaging the safety and trust that is built up around this.
So what’s going on that makes BDSM attractive and pleasurable? For the people who respond to BDSM, they will experience the release of powerful neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. The same chemicals that are swirling in our brains when we are falling in love or experiencing infatuation. Studies have shown that people who engage in dominant and submissive bondage have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their systems afterwards. That’s right; despite the potential for pain, BDSM play can decrease your stress levels.
But BDSM isn’t for everyone. Some people, like me, simply don’t get aroused. One study looked at the arousal states of women who reported themselves either a fan of kinky sex or happily vanilla. The kinky sex women became more physiologically aroused watching BDSM porn compared to vanilla porn. The vanilla sex women were not aroused by watching rough sex, but did get excited with the vanilla fare. So even if you’re hoping a little bondage might spice up your sex life, it simply may not depending upon how you’re wired. And that’s ok. The fact that you would be willing to try kinky sex has repeatedly shown that your mental health is not only sound but robust.
The bottom-smacking line for me? Explore. Communicate. Experiment. Our bodies change over time and you never know what might spark a new, pleasurable sensation. It could be a gentle whack on the bum with a spatula in the kitchen leads to new levels of fun and intimacy with your partner. You will never know until you try.
Have a question? Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org