For example, pain, physical restraint and servitude are traditionally inflicted on persons against their will and to their detriment.
In BDSM, however, these activities are engaged in with the mutual consent of the participants, and typically for mutual enjoyment.
In the past, sadomasochistic activities and fantasies were regarded by most psychiatrists as pathological, but have been regarded as increasingly acceptable since at least the 1990s.
Indeed, the DSM-IV asserts that “The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviours” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” in order for sexual sadism or masochism to be considered a disorder.
BDSM is a catch-all phase used to describe an interest in a number of related patterns of human sexual behavior including sadomasochism, power exchange or bondage.
Strictly speaking, fetishism is not part of BDSM, but fetish imagery is very common in visual depiction of BDSM activities.
Some BDSM activities may be potentially dangerous if proper precautions are neglected.
One aspect to make sure safety is to agree upon a safeword.
Many practise their BDSM activities exclusively in private, and do not share their predilections with others. The BDSM community can be regarded as a subculture within mainstream society.The major sub-groupings are described in the abbreviation “BDSM” itself: To someone outside of the fetish / BDSM scene it might appear to be a very homogeneous group of people and it may even seem to be a paraphilia. The stimulus that brings on the sexual arousal in an individual will vary from person to person.For one person objectification and sexual humiliation might be a huge turn on whilst the thought of being caned by a dominant does nothing to them at all. This emphasis on informed consent and safety is also known as SSC (safe, sane and consensual), though others prefer RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink), which places the emphasis more on informed consent, and acknowledges that all activities are potentially risky.This releases endorphins, creating a sensation somewhat like runner’s high or the afterglow of orgasm, sometimes called “flying”, which some find enjoyable. This experience is the motivation for many in the BDSM community but is not the only motivating factor.Indeed, a strong minority of BDSM participants (especially ‘bottoms’) may well take part in a scene they do not derive any physical pleasure from in order to provide their ‘top’ with an opportunity to indulge their desires or fetishes.
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While the stereotype of heterosexual BDSM is a male dominant and female submissive, the reality is almost evenly split between “maledom” and “femdom” couples.