"Bind me as tight as you can:" An Intro to BDSM (Web Exclusive)

Lasso of Truth tells the story of Wonder Woman’s first publication in 1941 and her shifting but lasting influence since that time: one of the key storylines is focused on her creator, William Moulton Marston. Marston imbued the Wonder Woman universe with a moral structure dependent on dominance and submission, including the use of hog-tying and other types of bondage. Because of this aspect of the Wonder Woman comics and Marston’s focus on dominance and submission in his popular psychology, it is strongly suspected that Marston (and the two women with whom he lived in a polyamorous relationship) also enjoyed bedroom activities structured on dominance and submission. Although the kink community was much more closeted in the 1930s and 40s, these erotic acts fall under the umbrella of what is today called BDSM.

1940s comic panel of Wonder Woman willingly being tied to a post.

BDSM encompasses a variety of erotic behavior and sexual practices between consenting adults that involve alternative forms of stimulation, playing with power dynamics and experimenting with nontraditional roles between partners frequently, though not always necessarily, leading up to and during sexual activity. Whether an individual participates only occasionally or considers it an ongoing lifestyle choice, practice of and inclusion in the BDSM community is through self-identification and choice.

The acronym BDSM can refer to many different things. It has evolved since its introduction in the late 1960s, but is understood to include a combination of the terms bondage and discipline (B/D), sadomasochism (or sadism and masochism, S/M) and dominance and submission (D/s). Though the terminology is fairly recently been established, evidence of BDSM practices can be found throughout history.

Bondage and Discipline: is consensually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic, and/or physical stimulation. Rope, cuffs, bondage tape or other restraints may be used for this purpose. A common reason for the dominant partner to tie up their submissive partner is so both may gain pleasure from the restrained partner’s submission and the feeling of the temporary transfer of control and power. Discipline refers to the process of punishing or being punished.

Sadism/Masochism: Sadomasochism is the giving and/or receiving of pleasure—often sexual—from acts involving the infliction or reception of pain or humiliation. Both sadism and masochism are terms originally derived from the names of authors: sadism from the Marquis de Sade (who not only practiced sexual sadism, but also wrote novels about these practices, the most well-known being Justine) and masochism, named after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (who practiced masochism and wrote novels expressing his masochistic fantasies). While the terms sadist and masochist specifically refer to one who either enjoys giving pain (sadist), or one who enjoys receiving pain (masochist), many practitioners of sadomasochism describe themselves as at least something of a switch, or someone who can receive pleasure from either inflicting or receiving pain.

Dominance/submission: Dominance refers to taking control of a person or situation through usage of some means (physical, mental, financial, etc.), or to exercise this power. Submission refers to the act of yielding to something or someone. In a D/s relationship, there is a clear power structure in place. The Dominant in the relationship (male or female) exerts control, directs their submissive(s) to complete tasks or behave in a certain ways, follow rules and submit to actions that please or give pleasure to the Dominant (often called Master or Mistress). The submissive (male or female) willingly gives up control, surrenders to the Dominant, complies with his/her wishes, follows rules and is invested in pleasing the Dominant.

SSC: Safe, sane and consensual, an acronym commonly used by the BDSM community in guiding relationships and activities.

Safe: attempts should be made to identify and prevent risks to health; also, being knowledgable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you’re doing
Sane: activities should be undertaken in a sane and sensible frame of mind (i.e. no one should be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while negotiating terms, nor should one take advantage of mental or physical illness)
Consensual: all activities should involve the full consent of all parties involved; also, respecting the limits imposed and agreed to by each participant at all times.

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