PhotoKaitlin Oki/Nevada Sagebrush

By Stephanie Self

What I’m about to discuss may disgust some readers. To be perfectly honest, I have only discussed this with people with whom I’m relatively close. Feel lucky, readers! You’re about to learn more about my sex life than you ever wanted to!

What I’m really getting at is that I want to talk about BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism). Per the gross success of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” (which, by the way, is a poor representation of BDSM), I won’t bore you with an explanation of what BDSM entails. Rest assured, this is not a column meant to shock you with detailed accounts of my “perverted” or “twisted” sex life or fantasies. My goal is to hopefully inform you about what it means to practice BDSM and to be a part of relationships and interactions that involve elements of it.

Where do I even begin? First of all, I’m somewhat of a unique case. I started experimenting with BDSM as soon as I started having sex. It probably had a lot to do with the person I was with for my first time, but I just consider it getting lucky (pun intended). I knew it was taboo, but even before I tried it, the first time I watched “Secretary” — a movie about a woman who learns to love herself through being a submissive, despite a history of self-harm and an abusive family — I was just plain turned on. I wasn’t one of those people who start “experimenting” with being tied up and spanked when my sex life was boring. It was just the way I liked it.

There is a common misconception that people who are kinky must, at the very least, have deep-seeded psychological traumas (such as being abused, raped or victimized in some way) that they never addressed, and now it comes out when they want to get off. I would argue this is not true in most cases. In fact, a study released in May of last year by the Journal of Sexual Medicine claims that people who practice BDSM are actually more psychologically healthy than “vanilla” people (those who are not kinky).

My non-professional, but experienced, opinion is that these seemingly counterintuitive results could be because it takes a hell of a lot of trust to have somebody put you in a vulnerable position like gagging you and tying you to a bed frame. I certainly have never been able to engage in any kind of BDSM activity with someone I don’t respect or trust. There are discussions of limits, boundaries, safe words and requests before doing anything. At least there should be.

It’s not sexy when you’re doing something you’re uncomfortable with, and being uncomfortable or unwilling isn’t what BDSM is about. Well, not completely anyway. It’s true that these acts happen to women, specifically, without their consent, and sometimes that’s even what the fantasy is derived from. The difference is that BDSM is meant for consenting adults who are only engaging in acts they both enjoy. Even someone who identifies as a sadist would say that they don’t truly want to hurt the person they like or love.

As a woman who identifies as a feminist in my public and private life and a submissive in the bedroom, I could never allow just anyone to tie me up, spank, flog, cane or gag, let alone have sex with, me in that context if I didn’t have genuine feelings for them. I derive sincere satisfaction and pleasure from serving people I care about, especially if it’s physical pleasure. Whether or not that makes me a relentless people pleaser, I don’t really know. I’m not really interested in psychoanalyzing something that doesn’t hinder me or the people in my life. I’ve been in enough therapy throughout my life to know I’m not harboring some dark, festering emotional wound.

I’m not encouraging anyone to try BDSM if they don’t want to. However, it’s important to know that sexuality is such an intrinsic part of our identities that it’s no wonder it gets a little weird sometimes. You may be surprised at the intense, mind-blowing orgasms you can get from mixing some pain with pleasure.

Stephanie Self studies English. She can be reached at sself@sagebrush.unr.edu.