For as long as I’ve been around on this internet thing, the BDSMers’ mantra has always been Safe, Sane, and Consensual (I’m sure this predates the internet, but I’m too young to imagine what an internetless world might look like). These words are fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll break it down for you, in case this in the first time you have come across this concept.
Safe: protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.
Sane: (of an undertaking or manner) reasonable; sensible.
Consensual: relating to or involving consent, especially mutual consent. (consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something).
Today, I would like to propose an additional requirement for BDSM play: Loving, or with love. This can be a somewhat vague term expressed in countless ways. For this discussion, I would like to characterize love in the same way Paul writes about it in first Corinthians (ya know…that overly cliché verse that shows up in 50% of marriage ceremonies). Here love is described in several ways: patient, kind, not boastful or self-seeking (and many others). Or more succinctly put: treating people right.
What this all comes down to is your motives when playing with someone. BDSM often lends itself to scenes with abusive language, degradation, physical pain, and other things that are often characterized as negative. To be blunt, these things are rightfully categorized this way in a vast majority of contexts.
It is important to realize that just because a negative behavior is undertaken within the realm of BDSM, it isn’t magically transformed into something healthy. As an example, generally speaking, calling someone a “stupid bitch” is a pretty terrible thing to do. There are some couples who use such language in their BDSM play and attest to it actually being their specific way of showing love. The submissive enjoys this type of speech and the dominant is providing it knowing that fact. However, if the scenario was just a dominant that really likes using abusive language and isn’t concerned with the desires of his partner, well, that’s just shitty human behavior (even if he has been given consent).
There are many behaviors I’ve witnessed in BDSM that are hard to fathom being loving. I certainly cannot judge what is in the hearts of these individuals, though, and can only hope their play is uplifting and beneficial to their lives. For those new in their exploration, I encourage you to be discerning in how you choose to interact with your partner. Are you both doing what you do out of love? Do you see this type of play building you both as people and strengthening your relationship? If something feels unhealthy or coming from a place of hate, anger, depression, etc. don’t feel you need to make it part of your relationship.