A Whole New World: 5 Common Myths About BDSM / DDLG Debunked

Not surprisingly, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s survey found that 35% of BDSM practitioners identify as bisexual. This could be due to the fact that sexual deviation and fetishes, as well as the LGBTQ+ community, fall under the same social umbrella of sexual liberation –a deviation from social norms.

When I was 13, I stumbled upon a tattered copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ at my local library. Of course, I was intrigued by the seemingly profound, unfathomable title – which, much to my stupefaction, I later discovered, was not as sapient as my naïve 13 year-old self had imagined. It was when I embarked on the rather life-altering journey of reading this book which would soon traumatize me for years to come, that I first came to know of the phrase BDSM. Needless to say, I didn’t understand it. Of course, I harboured a vacillating understanding that it involved belts, whips, handcuffs and vanilla ice cream – but it took me years to understand what it meant. As a 13 year-old, BDSM was a perilous concept which I would observe eagerly from afar – something to ogle, smirk surreptitiously at, glance at secretly – but never touch.

I was 16 when I finally realized that BDSM wasn’t just a deviant concoction of belts and whips and chains for damaged people – it was a lifestyle, capable of healing, arousing, loving and trusting (not to be confused with thrusting, but that too).

It was around the same time, that I discovered the infamous DDLG community – daddy dom little girl, which initially caused me a great deal of discomfort due to its uncanny semblance to paedophilia. Curious, I started reading up about DDLG – what it was, why it was practised, the subtle nuances that shaped its dynamic. And soon enough, my eagerness to learn about the community opened up a whole new world for me – a world where boundaries were carefully prodded in a one step forward, two steps backward fashion – but never, ever crossed beyond comfort.

Not surprisingly, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s survey found that 35% of BDSM practitioners identify as bisexual. This could be due to the fact that sexual deviation and fetishes, as well as the LGBTQ+ community, fall under the same social umbrella of sexual liberation –a deviation from social norms.

This is not to imply that they’re the same, or even share similar aspects – they don’t. The only things they have in common is that they’re both a form of sexual liberation in today’s socio-political context. They’re both shrouded in stigma and distraught sentiments of log kya kahenge. A mutiny against the unspoken rule which says that sex begins and ends with a penis penetrating a vagina.

Another reason for a relatively large proportion of BDSM practitioners identifying as bisexual, could possibly be the safe space it provides for role-play and experimentation. Within the community, boundaries and social roles are self-defined and flexible –often the result of a fluctuating interpersonal dynamic with each session. This gives the partaking individuals, the liberty to decide their role within a BDSM relationship, and make amendments to it according to their experience within said role. For a queer individual, BDSM is a means of exploration, of flirting with gender roles, and seizing agency over one’s own body and sexual experiences.

Despite the upsurge in dialogue about sexual freedom in today’s context, a majority of the world’s urban population still views BDSM and DDLG practises with wary contempt. Lack of adequate information, misrepresentation, and fear of the unknown – are all contributing factors to people’s skeptical attitudes towards healthy sexual deviation (read: safe, sane, consensual; and not causing harm or discomfort to any of the parties involved).

In an attempt to spread awareness about the aforementioned practises, here are a few common BDSM myths debunked.

Myth 1: BDSM and DDLG are forms of abuse and paedophilia, respectively

Fact: Contractual sexual activity, consent, trust and mutual respect are some of the building blocks of BDSM and DDLG practises. Prior to engaging in sexually deviant acts, partners often have a discussion about ground rules applicable to the act. These include, but are not restricted to: boundaries, safe words, role-play preferences and pre-existing medical conditions.

DDLG, on the other hand, is slightly more tricky to navigate, since the boundary between sexual and non-sexual activities is often blurred. Whilst most DDLG practitioners use age regression and the notion of a power imbalance to induce arousal, exclusively during sexual activity, a number of partners involve the same dynamic in their day-to-day lives during non-sexual situations. However, similar to BDSM relationships, any complications can be resolved by regular dialogue, contractual agreements about specific issues, and ensuring that both partners are empathetic and respectful towards each other. The difference between DDLG and paedophilia, is the simple fact that DDLG is an informed, consensual relationship between two adults, who are aware of the distinction between role-play and reality – whereas paedophilia is an adult’s exercise of power over a child who is incapable of consent.

Myth 2: It’s a sporadic phenomenon – very few people are inclined towards sexually deviant practises

Fact: Whilst it is true that a relatively smaller percentage of people are openly involved with sexually deviant practises, a study conducted by Joyal et. al demonstrated, that out of a total of 1500 participants, “64.6 percent of women and 53.3 percent of men reported fantasies about being dominated sexually—and 46.7 percent of women and 59.6 percent of men reported fantasies about dominating someone sexually.” Although fantasies do not always translate to actually engaging in BDSM activity, it can, however, be assumed that a significant portion of the world’s urban (read: sexually aware) population would be likely to fantasize about and/or involve themselves in said acts – at some point in their lives.

Myth 3: It’s purely sexual

Fact: Whilst BDSM and DDLG fetishes are inarguably sexual in nature, they do not always revolve around sex. A number of individuals partaking in the aforementioned activities incorporate characteristics of BDSM and DDLG into their day-to-day lives.

Littles (submissives in DDLG relationships), for instance, are often dependent on their dominant partners for physical affection, emotional validation, and support in managing everyday tasks. The notion of a power imbalance usually brings about a sense of catharsis, relief and an elevated mood for the parties involved. It’s often a stress-buster, and in a few cases, age regression can aid the process of healing for individuals with childhood trauma, since it enables the adult to relive their childhood, and replace their toxic, traumatic memories with healthier, most positive ones. 

Myth 4: Interest and/or participation in erotic sadomasochism is a sign of psychological trauma

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, interest and/or participation in erotic sadomasochism is not linked to mental illnesses or disturbances. A recent study by Wismeijer et. al demonstrated that BDSM practitioners were “well-adjusted and reported slightly better wellbeing than people who don’t take part in those activities.” In fact, the study concluded that they scored higher on questions measuring “neuroticism, openness, adventurism, wellbeing, awareness and sensitivity to rejection than the control group.”

Myth 5: Men are dominant, whilst women are submissive

Fact:A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a person who vehemently argued that BDSM is sexist, misogynistic, and founded on the principle of the subservience of women. When I explained that gender roles are often reversed during BDSM acts, she scoffed and said that it didn’t matter – the foundation of BDSM was still the same.

I find it peculiar that one would decide whether or not to partake, or even support, BDSM activity, merely on the basis of how it started out. Yes, BDSM started out with dominant men and submissive women, as a means of re-enforcing orthodox gender roles. But have things changed since then? Yes.

Today, BDSM enables women to seize agency over their bodies, ensuring that all sexual activity is consensual and accounts for a woman’s pleasure – rather than viewing women as mere pleasure-giving machines. It allows women to experiment with notions of dominance, flirt with gender identities and sexual orientations, and discover their sexual freedom and creativity, in a space that has always been unaccommodating of women and their desires.

It’s a step forward for womankind, and I can’t wait to see what the next years bring to the BDSM scene in India, and across the world.

About the author

Asfiyah

17. Queer. Socially anxious introvert. Ironically, a performing arts enthusiast. Experiences bizarre minimalistic urges, with often manifest in a desire to encompass the universe and confine it to a glass jar. Has a penchant for books, cats, doggos, horror movies, sunsets, oversized black t-shirts, mountains, Lucy Rose, and rickshaw rides on rainy days.
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