Kink and BDSM

BDSM stands for 'Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism'. The term BDSM is used as a convenient shorthand for kinky sensual or sexual play, rather than as a tight definition.

People into BDSM enjoy some form of kinky sex which may involve power exchange, role play, strong sensations, fetishes, bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, masochism… Basically something kinky in some way.

BDSM is something which should only take place when consent is given, which can be defined as an active collaboration for the pleasure, benefit and well-being of all concerned. 'Safe, Sane, Consensual' is another phrase you might hear.

A lot of kinksters now prefer the acronym RACK, which stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, instead of SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual.) This is because we recognise that nothing we do is 100% safe (as very little in life is!) but that knowing the risks and taking steps to mitigate them are important to giving informed consent. We also recognise that classifications of "sanity" are problematic and potentially ableist – lots of people have mental health conditions but this does not mean they cannot participate in kink

Frequently asked questions about BDSM

Why would you find BDSM people at BiCon?
There are people of all genders and sexualities who are into BDSM. Some people find out about BDSM while exploring their bisexuality and vice versa. At BiCon you may see people being more open about all aspects of their sexuality, including BDSM, and at BiCon there is also space to discuss what people into BDSM do and why they do it.

Isn't hurting someone else abuse?
Just like there's a difference between a boxing match and a violent mugging, there is a difference between abuse and BDSM practices. Any kinky act is done with the fully informed consent of everyone concerned. This isn't just 'Is it OK?' but 'Is this what everyone wants? Is this good for everyone present?'

Can you be a feminist & into BDSM?
There has been a pretty acrimonious debate both within feminism and between some feminists and some BDSM people. Some feminists support BDSM play, while being quick to point out any real life power differences that it may exacerbate or hide. Other feminists are against it.

How can people possibly enjoy pain?!
BDSM is a broad area and many BDSM people enjoy kinks that don't involve any pain. Some people don't enjoy pain but like the feeling of being scared of it or of being able to take it, just as some people like horror movies, getting tattooed or power-lifting. For other people, when they are very turned on (for example) a scratch doesn't feel like pain anymore and it blends with pleasurable feelings. Other people simply find pain turns them on when in it's in a sexual or consensual context.

Is BDSM dangerous?
Some kinky things, such as dressing up in rubber or kissing someone's feet, are safe and much less dangerous than certain non-kinky (or 'vanilla') sexual acts. Other things require more care to be taken – this is a question of making informed and empowered decisions based on controlled risks, just as you would if you were going rock climbing or crossing the road. BDSM people tend to look after themselves as well as their lovers and play partners.

What about more extreme fantasies?
Just as you can read a murder mystery and not worry about killing your neighbour, people into BDSM understand the differences between hot fantasies entirely in the mind and the practicalities of making some of them come true with willing participants.

Is it sexual? Is engaging in BDSM play with someone cheating on my partner?
For some people, their kinky play is always sexual for them. For others there may be a strong sensual feeling but it isn't a genital turn on. Limits and boundaries vary from person to person and it's very important to communicate about them. Making too many assumptions or going against the spirit of an agreement while still following it to the letter tends to lead to problems and upset.

Commonly used words

What do people mean when they use the word 'scene'?
In BDSM, a 'scene' is used to refer to an episode of BDSM activity.

What do the words 'top', 'bottom' and 'switch' mean when people into BDSM use them?
A 'bottom' is a passive participant (a person having something done to them) in a BDSM scene by a 'top', the active partner. Some tops are sadists and some bottoms are masochists, but this isn't always the case. A 'switch' is someone who tops in some scenes and bottoms in others.

What about 'Dom(me)' and 'sub'?
'Dom(me)' refers to a person who is dominant in a BDSM scene – 'Dom' usually refers to a male-identified dominant, and 'Domme' to a female-identified dominant. Some people prefer the term Dom(me) to be capitalised, others aren't so bothered. 'Sub' refers to someone who is submissive in a BDSM scene.

What do people into BDSM mean when they say 'play party'?
A play party is a private party at which people have sex and/or get involved in BDSM play. People also engage in kinky play in their own homes and at fetish/BDSM clubs.

What is a 'safeword'?
A 'safeword' is a distinctive word chosen before BDSM play takes place which can pause or stop the events taking place during a scene. In a situation where someone is unable to communicate verbally (because they are gagged, for example) they may choose to use a non-verbal signal such as waving instead of a safeword.

Where to find out more about BDSM at BiCon
At BiCon there will be sessions talking about BDSM for people new to the idea or wanting to know more, see the programme guide for sessions and meet ups (also known as a 'munch') appropriate for you.