BDSM lifestyle FAQ

Isn’t D/s just about kinky sex?

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. How much of a person’s life is affected by their involvement with D/s depends entirely on the individual. For some people, D/s is limited to sexual role-play; for others, it is a way of life. Each person decides for themselves how much or how little they want to involve D/s in their lives.

What does ‘vanilla’ mean?

‘Vanilla’ is a term used to refer to things or people not involved with D/s or BDSM. The term is sometimes used with a negative connotation but generally is not intended in a derogatory manner.

What is the difference between D/s and BDSM?

There is a fair amount of overlap in how the terms are used, but in general:

D/s is an acronym that stands for Dominance & submission. D/s generally refers to the authority and responsibility transfer between a Dominant and a sub; i.e., D/s relates to who makes and is responsible for decisions. The range of decisions included depends on the people involved and may be limited to the bedroom or extend to any area of life.

BDSM is an acronym that stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism & Masochism. BDSM generally refers to the physical interaction during a ‘scene,’ such as ropes and paddles. However, BDSM can also include non-physical interactions such as humiliation play, and often the term BDSM is used to include D/s as well. It is a term that came from the fusing of the term S&M (sadism & masochism) with the term B&D (bondage & discipline). B&D was a term that was put forth by the leather community in an attempt to remove itself from term S&M, which had a strong negative connotation at the time.

How do I meet people involved with D/s and BDSM?

One common way for people to meet is via IRC or other computer messaging systems. Being online gives individuals the ability to remain anonymous while asking questions about their lifestyle. On the downside, because IRC and the like allow a level of anonymity, anyone can present themselves as being an ‘expert’ on the lifestyle, regardless of their actual experience (or lack thereof). This is one of the reasons the Net has a great deal of inaccurate information about D/s and BDSM.

Most areas also have local D/s or BDSM clubs and organizations. Often the easiest way to find these organizations is a quick search on the web. These organizations frequently have informal meetings called ‘munches.’ Munches are just a chance for people with shared interests to meet in a relaxed setting. Munches are normally held at public restaurants with everyone wearing normal everyday clothing.

Why do people use nicknames rather than their real names?

People within the lifestyle use nicknames for several reasons, one of which is to provide a level of anonymity and separation from other areas of their lives. Because BDSM and D/s are sometimes viewed unfavorably by mainstream culture, it is often helpful to keep one’s private life private.

What is the difference between a ‘submissive’ & ‘slave’?

The use of the term ‘slave’ in the D/s and BDSM community is the subject of some debate. Many people use it to describe a very high level of submission. Others use it as a generic term to describe any submissive. In general, it can be said that a ‘slave’ gives up more of their autonomy than a ‘submissive’.

What does ‘collared’ mean?

A collar is usually used to show that a Dominant and submissive have a formal commitment to each other. The significance of the ‘collar’ varies depending on the parties involved. The significance can range from a temporary training arrangement to the equivalent of marriage. A physical collar is often worn much like a wedding ring to show that a submissive is spoken for. The physical collar may be anything from a simple leather collar to an expensive piece of jewelry.

Can the submissive just say ‘no’?

The first thing to consider is a submissive is with a Dominant by choice. The submissive wants to obey. If they did not want to be given guidance and instruction they would not be with a Dominant in the first place. With that said, the amount of pressure a Dominant can exert on a submissive depends entirely on the specific people involved.

In casual D/s relationships, a Dominant has a rather limited amount of pressure that can be used to get a submissive to comply. In such cases, this often comes down to the Dominant simply discontinuing the relationship if the submissive is consistently obstinate. In more serious D/s relationships there are more avenues a Dominant can employ to gain compliance, so it becomes more difficult for the submissive to arbitrarily refuse instructions. Obviously, the more actual leverage a Dominant has over a submissive the more important it is the Dominant demonstrate good judgment.

How is a submissive punished?

There is a wide range of punishments used with subs. It entirely depends on the Dom, and the seriousness of the infraction. Punishments can range from a gentle scolding to significant whipping, and anything in between. Other common punishments are writing assignments, standing in corners, loss of privileges such as computer access, and extra chores. Punishments vary as much as anything else in the lifestyle.

What will other people think if they find out that I have an interest in D/s or BDSM?

Well, that depends on whom you tell. This is a reasonable concern considering the world is full of people who are quick to judge anyone they see as different. Each person with an interest in D/s or BDSM needs to assess their own life and determine how accepting the people around them are likely to be. Many people have been surprised to find that friends can be more accepting then expected. Each person must make a decision as to how ‘out’ about their interests they choose to be. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between being ‘out’ and flaunting your interest in front of people who really don’t want to know.

Does a Dominant partner control money in a D/s relationship?

Every relationship is different. In some cases the Dominant may control the finances, in other cases finances may be completely separate.

Are people involved in this lifestyle ‘damaged’?

This question is the curse of the ‘outsider’; it is rooted in the majority assumption that what is different or unfamiliar is somehow ‘wrong.’ The short answer is no — being involved with the D/s lifestyle is not an indication that someone is psychologically injured. In general, Lifestyle people are generally well balanced, intelligent, and self-reflective. They usually demonstrate a greater-than-average level of self-knowledge as a result of the personal reflection required to choose to live an alternative lifestyle. However, the D/s lifestyle, like all lifestyles, is comprised of separate individuals, and specific individuals may have their own specific problems.

The hidden reason to suggest that someone must be damaged to be in a Lifestyle D/s relationship lies in the assumption that a D/s relationship is ‘wrong.’ If you ask someone why they think a person would have to be damaged to choose a D/s relationship, they will tend to answer with an explanation of why D/s relationships are ‘bad.’ The thinking goes, only a damaged person would choose a ‘bad’ relationship. So the crux of the issue is the assumption that the D/s relationship is ‘unhealthy’.

Is submission unhealthy?

No, submission is not ‘unhealthy.’ Those outside of the lifestyle will often suggest that any authority shift between people is ‘unhealthy.’ Their position often centers on the argument that being in such a relationship is, in essence, giving up an individual’s rights.

An interesting point here is those who insist an individual must be free to make their own choices will, in the same breath, deny that same individual the right to live the lifestyle of their choosing. Critics often attempt to avoid this hypocrisy by saying that anyone choosing to a D/s lifestyle is ‘damaged,’ and only does so out of injury and ignorance. This is a redirection argument that dodges the question of why they believe that other people should not be free to live the lifestyle of their choosing.

In the end, it all comes down to what an individual wants. If a person chooses to live a D/s lifestyle, it is a deeply personal choice. There have always been and will always be those who will insist on seeing what they do not understand in a negative light.

Why does a submissive need ‘training’?

Western culture generally represents that to be submissive in a domestic relationship is ‘wrong.’ (To be fair, there is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ culture.) Part of the reason for ‘training’ is to ‘level the playing field.’ Training provides alternative socialization that helps remove the unconscious objections to submission that result from socialization in Western culture.

Some of the biggest problems faced by subs stem from the fight to reconcile their need for submission with the cultural view that submission is a personal fault. Countless new subs end up berating themselves because they view their need for submission as a character flaw. A large part of training is to help a submissive take pride in their submission. One might call it, “self-acceptance” training.

Another aspect is that, to some degree, obedience is a teachable trait. If a Dominant wants a high level of obedience from a sub, it is helpful to train that submissive to obey.

Can you have children in a D/s relationship?

Yes, but it is certainly more complicated than being in a D/s relationship without children. The issues are numerous and complex. The general advice given is that it is best to hide the nature of the relationship from children. The world is full of judgmental people, and children being born without such prejudice, are inclined to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Well-meaning but misguided friends, family, and teachers are all too happy to ‘intervene’ and ‘show you the error of your ways.’ Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valor.

Can a vanilla relationship become a D/s relationship?

It is possible, but it takes time, effort, communication, and understanding. It is not possible to completely change the dynamics of an existing relationship overnight. This is doubly true if one or more of the parties involved are new to D/s relationships. In order for a vanilla relationship to migrate to a D/s relationship, everyone involved must have a solid understanding of how D/s relationships work. If any party in the relationship doesn’t have this understanding, it is almost inevitable that the relationship will become poisoned by differing expectations. Also, there must be a true desire for this type of relationship. Attempting to just ‘go along with it’ for that sake of one’s partner is an invitation to disaster.

Do all Dominants want multiple submissives?

No, but it is not uncommon. As with all relationships, the people in the relationship determine its nature. Some people have open relationships, some closed relationships. Some people have relationships that fall under the title ‘poly-amorous fidelity,’ where three or more individuals are involved in a closed relationship. All manner and sorts of relationships exist with the D/s community.

Do people really live D/s 24/7?

Yes, although it is uncommon. 24/7 is normally refers to relationships where the D/s dynamic is in place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, because some people view D/s and BDSM as something that elevates social status, people are known to overstate their involvement. Some people will even refer to long-distance relationships as 24/7. This is a shame because it gives the impression that ‘more is better’ rather than encouraging people to find their own comfort level.

In an effort to avoid this confusion, the term Lifestyle D/s is helpful. Lifestyle D/s may be defined as a lifestyle in which D/s is a principal element in day-to-day living, and where the final authority for the majority of significant life decisions rests with the Dominant in the relationship.

From www.domsub.info

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