Knot What You Think: An Intro to BDSM

Knot What You Think: An Intro to BDSM

cover image by RXCH!®

Bondage. Dominance. Submission. Masochism. 

While it may mean something for others within the practicing lifestyle, the aforementioned terms, better known as BDSM, are an integral part of my life. No, I don’t mean like 50 shades (that’s just downright rude to compare), I mean real life. To describe BDSM as a blanket phenomenon wouldn’t do it any justice. Because there are so many forms and components that go into defining these identities that it is hard to pinpoint just one. Instead, I want to share with you how I got to this point in my life, why I choose to participate, and why an accurate depiction of being black in BDSM matters in the shifting social taboos of today. 

My first brainwash article discussed my identity as an asexual and how navigating this identity has been a winding journey throughout my 20s. When I find someone I’m interested in, I often let them know in addition to my asexuality that I also participate in BDSM. This often calls into question how these two identities can coexist. Asexuality in the general sense refers to the lack of sexual attraction/desire, and most people with a basic knowledge of BDSM assume that it is all about sex. While many people within my circle are aware of my participation, this is the first time that I’ve spoken about it in a non-kink forum. I feel that conversations like these are important, and necessary because it exposes people to real working concepts of duality and freedom. Just because I identify as asexual does not mean that I don’t enjoy sex, and for me, BDSM isn’t always about sex. One of the things that I love about the BDSM lifestyle is that what you see it is not always what you get, and the intricacy and complexity of identities and preferences, or kinks, is never-ending. The beauty in this world is the level of communication, honesty, and consent that is necessary for two people to engage in what we call “play” and to get whatever it is out of that moment that allows them to experience pleasure.

I first found my way into the world of BDSM through a former partner. The relationship was kind of like one of those plane rides where turbulence hits out of nowhere, but for some reason, you don’t freak out because you’re kind of expecting it. I’ve always felt comfortable within a “submissive” role, but until age 18/19, I really didn’t start physically practicing what I would come to know as BDSM. I didn’t even feel comfortable talking about my identity publicly until I was about 22. By then I was out of the relation/situation-ship, but my former partner was not very big on socializing outside of our dynamic so a lot of the BDSM centered questions that I had (that he couldn’t answer) got shelved. After undergrad and moving back to my home city, I felt a sense of responsibility to be more open about who I was and what I can do so that others like me could have someone to come to when they feel shut out or scared. I’ve faced my own set of pitchforks since then about my identity, but it has only pushed me to become more of a resource because this isn’t something to be ashamed of. 

I could probably name 100 reasons why I like to participate in BDSM and seek out dominant partners, but for the sake of this article, I’ll keep it to 3. 

  1. I get stressed out. A lot. I stress myself out. Life stresses me out. STRESS, AGH! The specific practice of Dominance/submission gives me structure, stability, and balance. Though communication and understanding, one of the opportunities BDSM and D/s provides is that I can establish my need(s) with my partner and we can work to figure out what best provides me with what I seek and in turn, I provide them with theirs. The power dynamic/exchange between us creates a level of support and nurturing that helps keep me sane when I need it most. D/s can mean so many things depending on the people engaged in play. Whether it is based in scenes, which can be described as short-term play, or TPE, the power dynamic/exchange established between two consenting parties helps to better align needs and boundaries. 
  2. As of lately, the struggle of duality has been a pain in the ass, and not in a good way. As a young black woman in America, I struggle with balancing all of the intersections of my identity sometimes. When I am engaged in play, BDSM allows me the space to focus on my submissive identity as the sole purpose.I have trust that my partner is as aware and concerned with my needs and desires as I am of theirs, and we work in sync to maintain a balance. 
  3. After a lot of research and experimentation, an understanding of my kinks/preferences and interests within BDSM allows me to align with a partner who can provide what I seek, consensually and caringly. Identifying as asexual within this lifestyle has led me to identify non-sexual ways to experience pleasure, and this experience has been exhilarating and self-fulfilling. Finding out about yourself is a journey, not a race. There are so many different kinks to choose from, so many different identities to explore, and there's a comfort knowing that expression is welcome. 

I feel like life dealt me a double-edged sword as a young, black, asexual, kinky and professional woman in today's America. While I acknowledge the freedoms that allow me to identify and participate in this lifestyle, there are still stigmas associated with participation in BDSM both as a black person and a woman. Under the mainstream gaze, BDSM was traditionally seen as something that white people do. Although somewhat smaller to identify, the black BDSM community is something that I treasure and appreciate being apart of. BDSM has been associated as demonic and just downright wrong, miscategorized as deviancy. For those of us who participate, we’re often faced with the assumption that we must be dealing with “daddy issues”, or some other sexual trauma that would drive us to engage in such behavior. While I’m not discounting those who may be dealing with their demons, the majority of the participants that I come across do it because they want to. It is a choice. A consensual decision that people choose to enact and can revoke. I will not deny that there are people who try to warp and take advantage of BDSM and use it in negative ways, but to cast this misconception as the majority would be a mistake. Over centuries women have dealt with backlash for taking agency on their sexual identities and practices, and that battle still rages on. There is no correlation between the perception of promiscuity and participation in BDSM, but I still get those looks when I bring it up around certain people. Through my own journey, I I appreciate that I have come to a point that allows me the acceptance and the freedom to identify and participate in BDSM, but I also acknowledge the racial stigmas that exist within the lifestyle, and outside of it that can cause apprehension upon acceptance and understanding.The word “bondage” alone can cause people to give me confusing looks, knowing the history of my people and my willingness to participate in the act. Through conversation I try my best to highlight and acknowledge the differences between the two, but I also leave anything further in the court of the conversing party. Although sometimes it feels like it, I know that I cannot possibly change the minds of every single black person when it comes to BDSM, but as long as I am open and honest with myself, I am grateful to engage with those open minded enough to consider the possibility. 

I don't mean to paint BDSM as this fantastical realm, it's not for everyone and by no means should you feel forced to participate in something you don't feel comfortable with. A big part of aligning myself as a resource has been making sure that my delivery doesn't feel forced or disingenuous. Similarly with my journey on asexuality, I want people to know about what other lifestyle choices exist and what's available to them if they currently feel unfulfilled. I'm always open for respectful questions or opportunities to talk. 

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