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The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ list (Part 1 of 7)

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The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ List
Where the kinky knowledge resides!
Part 1 of 7

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
This list is posted semi-monthly, on or around the 1st and 15th.
Please send additions, suggestions, etc. to johnson_grey@unrealities.com
If this posting appears truncated or damaged, contact me, also.

The World Wide Web version of this FAQ (which is the prime copy) is at:
        http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm
Please make links to that page, rather than posting separate
Web copies of the text of this FAQ.

This FAQ list is copyrighted.  The full copyright notice appears at
the end of each part of the list; please respect it.

 
*Introduction* Soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm
is a Usenet discussion group, or newsgroup, about various topics
including sex and bondage. This FAQ list is my set of answers to some of
the most common questions in that group. You may find it interesting
whether or not you've encountered s.s.b-b itself.

o What kinds of things are discussed on soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm?
And what things are _not_ appropriate for discussion there? Read the
group's charter!  And all shall be made clear.

This FAQ contains explicit sexual information. If you do not wish to
view such information, I advise you to skip this FAQ. If you believe
this FAQ itself is obscene, I ask you to read my response to
{http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/t.htm} question 20.

Check out {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/whatsnew.htm} what's
new with the FAQ!  [Also, if you're curious, check out
{http://www.unrealities.com/johnsongrey/adult/} my personal adults-only
home page.]

Books could be and are being written about these questions; remember,
this is a thumbnail FAQ list. If you learn anything from this list,
hopefully it will be how many questions there are to ask, and how much
there is to learn! If you're concerned or curious about issues that you
feel are breezed over here, see the very end of this FAQ for a list of
wonderful books and sources of more information. And if you want more
ideas or discussion about anything, well, what else is
soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm for?

*The FAQs Themselves*

PART 1:
 1. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/a.htm} What do B&D,
S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?

 2. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/b.htm} What is a "scene",
and what is "negotiation"?

 3. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/c.htm} What is a "safeword"?

 4. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/d.htm} When is pain not
pain?

 5. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/e.htm} What are some basics
of safe SM, emotionally and physically?
PART 2:
 6. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/f.htm} Is everyone either
a top or a bottom?  What's a "switch"?

 7. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/g.htm} How can I learn to
be a good top?

 8. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/h.htm} How can I learn to
be a good bottom?

 9. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/g2h.htm} Is BDSM sexual?

10. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/i.htm} Why is bondage fun?

11. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/j.htm} Why is whipping fun?
PART 3:
12. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/k.htm} What is body piercing?
What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"?

13. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/l.htm} What is cutting/play
piercing/burning/branding/electrical play? What are "bloodsports"?

14. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/m.htm} What is it about
breath control? Is it safe to make someone pass out?

15. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/n.htm} What are "golden
showers"? How about "scat"?

16. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/o.htm} Is anal sex safe?
Why do people do it?

17. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/p.htm} What is "fisting"?
PART 4:
18. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/q.htm} Does the way I play
qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM, anyway?

19. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/r.htm} What is it about
leather/latex/high heels/corsets/other fetishes?

20. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/s.htm} What about shaving
body hair and/or crossdressing?

21. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/t.htm} Why am I defending
SM?

22. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/u.htm} Is SM degrading or
abusive? Were most SM people abused?
PART 5:
23. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/v.htm} Why is SM taboo,
and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral, unethical, or unhealthy?

24. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/w.htm} Isn't the bottom
always in control?

25. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/x.htm} Can someone _really_
be someone else's slave?

26. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/y.htm} What are the "codes"?

27. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/z.htm} My fantasies scare
me. What if I get too into SM?
PART 6:
28. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/a2.htm} I want to throw
a play party; how do I go about it?

29. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/b2.htm} I want to attend
a play party; what is the etiquette?

30. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/c2.htm} What's the deal
with this anonymity stuff?

31. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/d2.htm} Are SM people being
politically and socially harassed?

32. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/e2.htm} What topics are
or aren't acceptable on s.s.b-b? (including, what's s.s.b-b's charter?)

33. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/f2.htm} I'm sick of certain
topics on s.s.b-b. How can I avoid them? Also, what's with all these
ads?

34. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/h2.htm} OK, so I can't post
ads to s.s.b-b.  Where CAN I post them?

35. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/g2.htm} I don't have access
to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm; what can I do to get information about
the scene?
PART 7:
36. {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/resource.htm} What are some
websites/books/magazines/organizations/stores/news archives where I can
get SM information or toys, or meet people in the scene?

*Translations & Etc.* The FAQ has (so far) been translated into four
languages!  (I'm putting this before the FAQs because, well, I'm quite
proud and happy about this :-)  If you wish to translate it into another
language, or re-translate it into one of these languages, simply let me
know--I have a standing policy of granting permission to do so if
permission is requested--and I will link to your translation once it is
available, as well as archiving it here.  Thanks VERY VERY MUCH to all
those who have put in time and effort so far to translate my FAQ; it is
a great honor to me, and a great help to many others.

o There is a Japanese version online
{http://www.st.rim.or.jp/~tku/ASBFAQ/faq.html} here. I have archived an
old version of it
{http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/japanese/faq.html} here.

o An Italian version is {http://www.smack.org/freeita/asbfaq.htm} here
(with an older, archived copy
{http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/italian/asbfaq.htm} here).

o A German version is online
{http://www.zarthart.com/asb_faq/index.html} here; I've also archived it
locally, {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/german/} here.

o The most recent version is Czech, currently only archived locally
here.

o If you want to download this entire FAQ as a plain text file (in
English :-), you can do so thanks to the able efforts of
spectrum@magenta.com;
{http://www.magenta.com/~spectrum/faqssb.txt} here's his
full-text copy of the FAQ.

*

FAQs about the FAQs* Some simple questions, answered simply.

o What about the alt.sex.bondage FAQ? Alt.sex.bondage was the first
Usenet BDSM newsgroup. It is currently overrun by advertising (as is all
the alt.sex hierarchy). When soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm came about, I
asked if I could convert The s.s.b.b FAQ (which I wrote) to the s.s.b-b
FAQ, and people said "sure!", and I never did it. Until now. The s.s.b.b
FAQ is now merely a reference to this one. I'm delighted to see how much
of the "a.s.b-of-old" feeling s.s.b-b has recaptured. (Now I have much
more of a life than I did then, which is basically why this FAQ has
slipped... hope I haven't let the community down too badly by doing so
much realtime pervery rather than virtual....)

o How long have you been running the FAQ? Since 1991. I've gotten a lot
of thanks and suggestions in that time, and I hope to make more time to
work on the guts of this FAQ, which is still (to my knowledge) the best
free reference about SM on the entire Internet. (If I'm wrong about
this, please let me know which sites are better, so I can add links to
them!)

*The Appendices*

The appendices are available on the World Wide Web version of this 
FAQ, {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm}

Thanks for reading!* Hope you learned something! Remember, your
sexuality is wonderful; treasure it and nourish it!

{http://www.unrealities.com/johnsongrey/adult} To Johnson's adult page.
=======================================================================
* 1. What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?*

The easy part first: B&D = "bondage & dominance" or "bondage &
discipline." S&M = "sadism & masochism." D&S = "dominance & submission."

People who read s.s.b-b are generally interested in ways to have sex
that are outside the mainstream. One of the recurrent threads on s.s.b-b
is the question of "what to call ourselves", since there is no one set
of sexual practices we all enjoy or are interested in, yet there is a
lot in common among all the things we talk about.

Some people enjoy submitting to another person, placing themselves under
the power of another, in a sexual context. It can be a very hot thing
for someone to say to you, "I'm yours. Use my body for your pleasure."
This is D&S; one person is dominating, the other submitting.
Slave/master, harem girl/sultan, boy/daddy, student/schoolmistress. D&S
is an erotic power game, where both people are getting off--one on the
thrill of controlling, the other on the thrill of being controlled.
This is also where the terms "top" and "bottom" come in; the top is,
roughly, the dominant; the bottom is, roughly, the submissive.

What do tops and bottoms do with each other? Well, one good possibility
is they have lots of hot sex. Another possibility is the top ties the
bottom up in some manner, which directly and physically puts the bottom
at the top's mercy, and then the top plays with the bottom, teasing,
seducing, frustrating, and hopefully finally satisfying. This is a
bondage & dominance sort of game. Some people enjoy playing with
punishment--"You've been bad and now I have to tie you up and spank
you!" That's bondage & discipline for you.

Then there's the sort of game described by S&M--"sadism and masochism".
Whips, canes, nipple clamps, all the wonderful things that are designed
to cause, in greater or lesser degree, pain. It can be a powerful thing
to submit to someone else who wants to hurt you; it's a fantastic
gesture of trust. And as will be discussed later, pain is not really
pain anymore in an S&M game; it becomes overwhelmingly intense
stimulation, which when administered by a skilled top can bring a
bottom to entirely new heights of ecstasy.

Sometimes the D&S aspect becomes secondary to the sensual trip; you
don't have to enjoy obeying another's commands to enjoy being tied up
and whipped! And of course, pain (whether light or heavy) is only one
sort of sensation; there are many others, and all of them can be lots of
fun to play with.

This sort of trip, merging pain and pleasure to create an amazingly
powerful experience for the bottom, is sometimes known as SM: Sex
Magick. The precise definitions of B&D, S&M, whatever, don't matter so
much as do the experiences they point towards. All these areas, as you
can see, overlap and intermingle in many many ways, but for me they all
meet in the single concept of Sex Magick: taking a fantasy and turning
it into reality, creating a magical space in which your desire can come
to thrilling life!

While we're sorta on the subject of abbreviations, here are some more:
motos = Member Of The Opposite Sex; motss = Member Of The Same Sex; IMHO
= In My Humble Opinion; BTW = By The Way; SO = Significant Other (i.e.
lover); SMBDLMNOP = SM and BD and whatever else it is that we're always
talking about here on s.s.b-b; "Munch" refers to "any social gathering
of local people who read s.s.b-b" (it's short for "Burgermunch", a
tradition started in Palo Alto); "plonk"--see a later question; WIITWD =
What It Is That We Do (a newer term than SMBDLMNOP); YMMV = Your Mileage
May Vary (i.e. this is my experience, yours may be different); ObBDSM =
"Obligatory BDSM"--if a post here contains little BDSM content, the
poster will put "ObBDSM: <some hot BDSM item>" at the end of the post;
YKINOK = "Your Kink Is Not OK"--see question 17... and of course FAQ =
Frequently Asked Questions.

Oh, and the reason I refer to SM behavior as "play" here is because,
well, it ain't work! Play means nothing other than activities done for
recreation and for pleasure, and hence "play" is a fine word for many
BDSM behaviors. Many of my friends use "play" similarly. (Though let me
begin the many YMMV's by stating that many other people who do BDSM
consider it to be a very real, and deep, part of their sexual
orientation; these people find that the term "play" doesn't adequately
express how important and fundamental these behaviors and relationships
are to them. I am increasingly finding myself to be one of these
people. And for still other people, some BDSM is play and some isn't.
Confused yet?)

Just so it is totally clear at the outset, NONE OF THIS MATERIAL
ADVOCATES ANY KIND OF NONCONSENSUAL BEHAVIOR. What I am describing here
is a variety of ways for lovers to enjoy one another, if and only if
they both want to, and both give their consent. Anyone who claims that
this information is in some way advocating nonconsensual, criminal acts
is hereby charged with having failed to read and understand what I am
saying. When I use the term "SM" in this FAQ, I refer specifically to
consensual behavior. (See a later question for more on this.)

Finally, you've probably already noticed that we talk about more here
than just sex and bondage. If that bothers you, please, post something
_yourself_ about either or both topics! Complaining "where are all the
sex and bondage posts?" is unproductive; if you want to see more of
something, put it out there yourself. Everyone on s.s.b-b is posting
for their own reasons, which don't often include titillating strangers.

But then again, this whole group is _about_ titillation--about conscious
eroticism, about getting what you want, and the first step is often
admitting it. Read on, and enjoy! Who knows, you might be a different
person by the time you finish this FAQ... it's happened to others
before you :-)

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 315 Dec 1997
=======================================================================
* 2. What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"?*

SM has definite connotations of theater. The fact that you are a
submissive while you're playing sexually does not mean you are a
pushover in real life, nor does your being a dominant while playing
mean that you are an overbearing egotist. These are roles that you can
play; you are in some sense an actor.

Hence the concept of a "scene". A scene is a particular interaction
between a group of players, usually revolving around a bottom. It's not
a formal concept, just a handy way to describe the action. "That was the
hottest whipping scene I've ever seen!" "Our last scene really pushed
me, Master; I've never felt like that before." Usually a scene has a
momentum of its own: you (a top) will begin
fucking/whipping/sucking/whatever your bottom, you'll both be
fantastically into it, one or both of you comes/peaks/starts getting
tired, and you wind down and rest for a while and talk about what
worked and what didn't, about how the scene was for you.

Novice SM players may profit from actually taking this loose description
and using it to structure your first scenes. If there's something you
want to try, first negotiate it with your partner; discuss what you
want out of the scene (bondage? orgasm?), what your limits are (no
fucking, no tickling), and what safeword you want to use (see the next
question). Then get "into scene"--assume your roles (if any), put on
the collar (or whatever), get into the mood to play... and play! And
after the scene is over, take time to discuss what the scene felt like
for each of you. Make sure to listen to your partner and learn how they
felt, and thank your partner for playing... after an intense scene,
it's really nice to cuddle and connect, rather than stopping abruptly
and going home. A scene has a beginning, middle, and end; all three
parts are very important. (And not necessarily disjoint; talking about
how you feel and what you want can continue right through the whole
process!)

This "negotiation" concept in the SM community simply means open, honest
communication about what you do and don't want. Negotiation in this
sense is not a bargaining process, where one person is trying to get
something at the expense of someone else; it's a win-win technique
where you're both talking about what you've done and what excites and
doesn't excite you, so you can feel more comfortable and turned on
together. It's completely legitimate to talk both about your fantasies
and your boundaries--about what makes you wet, _and_ about what makes
you cringe and tense up. Telling your partner about things that you
_don't_ want them to do is valuable, as you deserve to have those
limits respected... and if you don't tell your partner those things,
they may do them, and neither of you will enjoy it. (If you do express
your limits, and your partner ignores them, that's nonconsensual, and
you will want to think hard about whether you can trust your partner.
Negotiation can bring these issues into clear focus, which can help.)

If you're just getting into SM, or just into a new relationship,
negotiation is a VERY valuable process. It can be as upfront as "I'd
really like to kiss you, does that sound good?" or as nasty as "Tell me
your deepest darkest fantasy or I'm going to stop rubbing your cock!"
Talking about what you want from your sexual relationships can be
difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets and the
more you get out of it! And note that none of this is necessarily
specific to SM; negotiation is useful on all levels in all
relationships, whether they involve SM or not. Consent is much more
than a simple "yes"--any relationship, and especially SM relationships,
will do better with lots of honest talk about what you both want, and
why, and how much, and what you _don't_ want.

There are some who feel that negotiating--talking--"ruins the momentum".
The image they seem to have is of the lovers who need say no words;
every touch, every action, is perfect. That's great when it happens,
but it doesn't happen automatically. My personal experience is that
talking upfront makes me feel much better about whoever it is I'm with,
and much more confident that they won't do something I'm not ready
for... this in turn means I can throw myself wholeheartedly into
whatever we've negotiated. Plus, as you get to know each other better,
you'll know what you like and don't like... because you'll have
negotiated it! THEN the momentum REALLY gets rolling!

The other connotation of "scene" applies to the whole B/D/S/M
population; sometimes someone will ask another SM player "Is X in the
scene?" or "I've seen Y around the scene before." If you want to get
into the scene in this sense, look up one of the organizations I've
mentioned at the end of this FAQ list--especially the NLA, which may
well have a chapter in your area! Doing this can be very worthwhile;
you can make new friends, get lots of good ideas, and find a community
that shares your interests.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
* 3. What is a "safeword"?*

One of the thrills of SM is that it can stretch your limitations. If you
enjoy this sort of play, you can naturally find yourself trying more and
more new things, accepting greater and greater levels of sensation,
doing and feeling more than you've ever done or felt before.

But the process is slow and gradual, and people are not telepathic. It
may be that you are the bottom in a whipping scene, and your top is
whipping you, and suddenly it doesn't feel good anymore!! and you want
them to STOP!!! That is what a safeword is: a word that means "This
isn't working! This scene is going wrong somehow! Please stop!"

A safeword needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes you may be playing
with a top you don't know that well, and if they do something to you you
don't want, it's important that you have a way to let them know,
IMMEDIATELY. Especially if you're tied up or otherwise made helpless.

Everyone has their own favorite safeword. I personally use "Yellow!" to
mean "Something's too intense; I need you to lighten up, but I don't
want to stop the scene," and I use "Red!" to mean "I'm in trouble and I
want everything to stop NOW, no more games, scene over, let me outta
here!" Some people just have one flavor of safeword, and use "aardvark"
or some other weird word they'd never say in the context of a scene. At
many parties, the universal safeword is "Safeword!" It's up to you. All
it is is a safety valve for when things get out of control. If your top
doesn't respect your safeword, it's a safe bet that they won't respect
other limits of yours, and you will need to decide whether you want to
play with someone who doesn't acknowledge your boundaries.

Using a safeword can be hard to do sometimes. It's important to realize
that no one is perfect, and if you as top do something that squicks your
bottom (i.e. pushes beyond your bottom's limits--"squick" is a recent
bit of s.s.b-b jargon), it doesn't mean you're a bad lover or a bad
person. It only means that you ran into a limit you didn't know was
there, or you were tired or disconnected and not in tune with your
bottom. It happens to everyone from time to time. If you as top feel
burned out and want to stop the scene suddenly, or you get a powerful
reaction you weren't expecting and aren't sure how to continue, you can
use a safeword too; safewords aren't just for bottoms! If you as bottom
feel like your top is pushing you, and you don't want to play anymore,
it's not fun, that's when you want to use a safeword--your top will be
glad you used it to tell them where you were at.

A safeword is just a communication tool, nothing more, nothing less. If
you're playing intensely, it may feel hard to stop the scene, to come
back from the edge via a safeword... but if you need to, that's what
they're for. Some tops deliberately push their bottoms until their
bottoms call safeword; this way, the bottom gets the experience of
using it. A safeword that's never used can seem unusable, which isn't a
good property for a safeword.

Sometimes a top will want to gag you, whether because you're being too
noisy or they want to increase your helplessness or you've been being
impertinent or whatever. You may still want a safeword to let the top
know when a rope is too tight or the nipple clamps are pinching or
whatever. Some people put a handkerchief in the bottom's hand; if they
let go and the handkerchief falls, they know there's something up. I
personally use the old SOS signal: three loud yells spaced evenly;
"Unh! Unh! Unh!" No gag I've ever seen can stop _all_ noise, and that
signal works even if my hands are in mittens or a strait-jacket and
unable to hold anything at all.

Before playing with someone, it's a good idea to negotiate, not only
what safeword you want to use, but how you'll handle it if you need to
use the safeword. When you're just getting into SM, it's almost
inevitable that some scenes will end prematurely or abruptly. If you
acknowledge this possibility in advance, and talk about what kinds of
comforting or remedy you might like, it'll make recovering from a
mishap a lot easier and more pleasant. And because a scene goes wrong
is no reason to think that you or your partner is fundamentally bad or
untrustworthy--mistakes will happen. (If your partner doesn't want to
hear your concerns about the mishap, though, or if they belittle or
deride your concerns, you may well be unable to avoid future mishaps.
If your relationship doesn't learn from painful experience, it may not
be ready to handle doing SM. Of course, this kind of processing is a
vital part of _every_ healthy relationship, SM or not.)

Not every SM player uses safewords. Some people into SM don't find them
useful for the style of play they prefer; more straightforward
communication suffices for them. Some partners find their need for a
safeword gradually diminishes as they come to know each other better.
Some people do SM in which the bottom doesn't _want_ to have a verbal
escape route, for the duration of the scene. (This "no-safeword" play
is also sometimes called "edge play.") One thing that you will learn
about the BDSMLMNOP scene is that styles vary wildly, and peoples'
experiences are astonishingly diverse. But for many people beginning
their explorations (and many who've explored enormously), safewords
have proved very helpful.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
* 4. When is pain not pain?*

Often people outside the scene don't see the appeal in any of the things
SM people do that look painful. What's enjoyable about being hit?
Where's the fun in getting bruised?

Well, think about this. Have you ever had intense sex and afterwards
noticed bite marks on your neck of which you had no memory? What
happened was your love partner bit you, HARD, hard enough that it
bruised you, and all you felt was another jolt of pleasure. If they bit
you that hard when you _weren't_ having sex, you would scream "OUCH!!!"
because it would hurt a lot! But when you are sexually aroused, your
pain tolerance goes way up, and stimulation that you usually feel as
pain is now actually pleasurable.

This is common knowledge. Another usual explanation is that the brain
produces endorphins, natural opiates, to compensate for pain. You
actually get high off the sensation. The "runner's high" comes from
pushing the body painfully for so long that the endorphins kick in; the
rush you get after eating chili peppers comes from the same source; and
that's what makes it enjoyable for SM players to be whipped or spanked
or whatever. It's not pain, it's pleasure! All athletes that are
"hooked on exercise" are essentially masochists who enjoy stressing
their bodies to get that chemical response. So your friend who enjoys
being spanked may actually be a lot _less_ masochistic than your
average marathon runner!

For just this reason, one well-known local dominant uses pain as a
reward, when she's topping a masochist. Pain as a punishment can have
the reverse effect, when your bottom _likes_ getting whipped!

Endorphins are by no means The Single Explanation for why masochists
find intense sensation to be desirable. Not every masochist floats away
blissfully while being whipped, nor would they all even _want_ to. The
ways to experience intense sensation vary from dreamlike rush to
stinging ouch to irritating maddening burn to soothing warmth to
tears-in-the-eyes throbbing... and whatever the sensation, there is
likely someone who enjoys it.

Also, pain is a continuum. There are many different kinds of sensation
that you can use in your lovemaking--light scratches with fingernails,
open-hand spankings, pinches, squeezes... there are many many ways to
touch someone, and all of them can be enjoyable.

Different people enjoy different levels of sensation; "different strokes
for different folks." What may be a wonderfully sensual caress to one
person may be practically unnoticeable to another, and what may be a
delightful flogging to one person may be no fun AT ALL to someone else.
Ongoing negotiation is the secret to finding the happy medium.

Some people consider all this absurd. "How could you WANT pain?" The
best answer I can give is that some people simply seem to be calibrated
differently. They want _more_ sensation; they find the intensity
thrilling and exciting, whereas someone else might find it overpowering
and agonizing. People like different amounts of spice in their food;
why not in their sexual encounters? Each person experiences sensation
differently, and if you want more, there are safe ways for you to get
it. Getting what you want, safely, can make your life much happier.

(For much more about sensations and sensation play, I strongly recommend
Pat Califia's book _Sensuous Magic_. See the resource list at the end of
this FAQ.)

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
* 5. What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically?*

SM is often play, and as such is fun! But SM can also get intense and
powerful. Here are some useful tips for people just getting started.

*Emotional safety* First of all, communicate. Let your partner know what
you want and don't want. Keep the dialogue going; watch your partner, be
aware of what she or he is feeling and thinking, and respect his or her
limits. Establish a safeword, and make it very clear that it will be
taken EXTREMELY seriously if used. DON'T assume that your partner shares
a fantasy of yours unless you've EXPLICITLY discussed it with them; just
because someone likes being blindfolded doesn't mean they'll enjoy being
tied up. And most important, give full permission to both people playing
to stop at any time for any reason; respect each other enough to commit
to call a halt and work things out if something goes wrong.

Be sensitive. SM play, which can (doesn't have to! but can) involve
helplessness, intense sensation, and psychological domination, is strong
stuff; it can reach deeply into someone's soul and bring up childhood
traumas or hidden fears, without warning. Be aware that you are
swimming in deep waters, and be respectful, loving, and careful. Don't
let this reality scare you away from SM, though, if you want to
experiment; let it make you more aware and open to what both of you are
feeling. Most of all, decide for _yourself_ whether SM (or elements of
SM) has a place in your sex life; don't listen when someone _else_
tells you "SM will be OK for you" or "SM will not be OK for you". Only
you can make that decision.

Be honest. If you do not want to do something, don't let your partner
pressure you into it. When you begin exploring SM, you may often find
yourself with a partner who wants something more than you have
experience giving, or who's right now in the mood for something that
you're _not_ in the mood for. In my experience, it's generally better
to say, "Whoa, I think we're wanting different things. Let's talk."
Doing a scene when you don't really want to can result in anything from
a lukewarm scene to something you just wish was over. There is plenty
of time... honesty, and not pushing, will lay a foundation of trust
that will stand you in good stead later.

One especially charged kind of D/S play is dominance and submission, in
which the bottom gives up some of their freedom of choice to the top,
who can command them. Though many people with strong boundaries can play
like this perfectly safely (and indeed derive enormous happiness and
satisfaction from doing it), this kind of play can carry some real
emotional risks for people with low self-esteem. The risk is that the
dominant will wind up abusing their power, using the D/S dynamic to
make the submissive feel ever more worthless and powerless, and hence
willing to let the dominant take over more of their independence.

If you have issues around your personal sense of self-worth, and if you
feel that being submissive (albeit perhaps an enticing idea) might serve
to confirm and consolidate your negative self-image, you would do well
to think hard about whether D/S play is for you at this stage of your
life. The answer may well be "no." (And conversely, if you are
considering topping someone who wants to submit because they deserve no
better, you might consider whether you want a partner who thinks so
little of themselves.) In general, it's imperative for everyone who
does SM to look hard at their motivations and their boundaries, and to
be clear on whether the SM (whatever form it may take) is
self-actualizing or self-destructive.

It may not be all black-and-white, either; there may be some particular
activities or roles or words that will make you feel unsafe, scared, or
worthless, and you may well want to avoid those activities/roles/words.
That is exactly what negotiation is for; you have the right to do what
feels good to you and avoid what does not, and you have the right to
insist your partner respect your boundaries. (This goes for any
relationship, of course, BDSM or no.) The discussion of "when do
dom/sub relationships become excessive or abusive" is an ongoing one on
s.s.b-b, and for good reason; it's an important topic.

BDSM may at times be therapeutic, but it is in no sense a substitute for
therapy. It's been said that "you can't take power from the powerless."
A healthy D/S relationship is grounded in mutual respect, and in the
knowledge that both partners are choosing this life in a fully
informed, non-coerced manner; the submissive is proud to submit, and
the dominant is proud to receive the gift of their submission. It is a
very different thing from an abusive relationship in which one partner
controls the other partner's entire world, with the goal of making that
partner irrevocably and helplessly dependent.

*Physical safety* Back to the physical plane: If you are the top, and
you are tying your bottom up, keep your attention on what you're doing.
Your bottom is going to be blissing out; it's up to you to see that
they're comfortable and kept amused. The "amusement" can be as nasty as
you please, but see that they don't get _bored_; that's seldom fun.)
Indeed, if you as top really _are_ displeased with your submissive for
breaking an agreement the two of you had made, ignoring them or sending
them away may be the harshest punishment you can administer. But that's
pretty advanced.)

Remember AIDS. Almost everything beyond closed-lips kissing and
bare-skin contact is potentially unsafe, unless some kind of latex
barrier is used. No unprotected contact between any combination of
fingers, genitals, mouth, and anus; use a latex dam (or saran wrap) for
cunnilingus or rimming (i.e. oral-anal contact), gloves for manual
penetration, condoms on dildos and dicks. Use water-based lubricants
such as ForPlay, Astroglide, Wet, KY Jelly; if the lube has nonoxynol-9
in it (which kills HIV), all the better (but some people are allergic
to nono-9, and Lord knows it tastes FOUL!). OILS AND OIL-BASED LUBES
DISSOLVE LATEX; keep the mineral or massage oil away from your gloves
and condoms (and latex clothing for that matter!).

Blood, semen, female secretions, urine... all can carry HIV. Play hard,
but play safe. (One interesting thing about SM is that it expands the
range of safe ways for people to pleasure each other! But it also
expands the range of unsafe ways to play....) There are more safety
tips, but if you want the in-depth skinny check some of the books at
the end.

Disinfect your SM equipment after play, by washing with a disinfectant
solution.  Betadine is probably the most commonly-used disinfecting
agent, followed by Hibiclens.  Definitely disinfect dildos, sharp
things, anything that penetrates or that could come in contact with
blood. Disinfect whips and canes, if the scene has gotten heavy enough
to bruise. Rubbing alcohol is not as good at cleaning things as it is
made out to be; use an agent with antibacterial properties.

Many tops come up with an SM safety kit, containing (among other things)
such items as a flashlight, duplicate keys for _all_ locks, bandage
scissors (with one flat blade) for speedy bondage removal, a first aid
kit with all the standard first aid items, disinfectant (such as
Bactine or Hibiclens) for toys which come in contact with bodily
fluids, safer sex supplies (sometimes including several varieties of
lubricant--different people like different sorts), and so on. See _SM
101_ (a book listed in the Resources section) for an excellent
description of such a kit.

And there are some things that are commonly regarded as potentially too
dangerous to do unless you've been taught by someone who knows.
Suspension is one: there are lots of things that can go wrong, and many
of them can result in severe injury. Crucifixion is an especially
hazardous form of suspension. And body piercing is also not for the
novice; it takes know-how and precision, and a mistake can result in a
really big mess.

Fortunately, most SM activities, such as bondage, spanking, and teasing,
are not nearly so severe; you can start out light and build up the
intensity as far as you both want to go. Pay attention to what you're
doing and use common sense and you'll likely be fine. In general, start
out slow and PRACTICE! You will learn quickly and you'll have fun all
along the way, and soon you'll be places you'd only dreamt about!

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 3 April 1999
=======================================================================
Thanks for reading!
Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful;
treasure it and nourish it!

Created 10 August 1995, last updated 2 15 Dec 1999, and copyright
{http://www.unrealities.com/adult/copyrite.htm} by Johnson Grey
{johnson_grey@unrealities.com}.

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