Things That Are Not BDSM

You’re expecting a 50 Shades rant, aren’t you? Heh, no. Although for the record, ignoring consent and safewords, coercing and manipulating your partner are not behaviours that are kinky, sexy, or in any way representative of BDSM, whose hallmarks are Safe, Sane, and Consensual. But this is not that rant. Not today.

handcuff-300x164 Things That Are Not BDSM

This is kinda the opposite of that rant.

I have long waxed lyrical about the obsession among a certain faction with the concept of top/bottom, active/passive, particularly when it comes to queer male relationships. No matter that most guys are neither exclusively one thing or the other; nor that penetrative sex isn’t mandatory by any means. An awful lot of gay men never have anal sex and they’re just fine and completely satisfied, thankyouverymuch.

But still people insist on drawing those distinctions, and that leads us down a very dark rabbit hole indeed. The sort of rabbit hole where I find Blowing It tagged on ARe as “gay BDSM” and “male dominant and male submissive”.

No. Just no.

Owen and Magnus aren’t kinky. They aren’t in a D/s relationship and omg please, that is not BDSM. Not because I object to it/don’t want to write it/don’t like it/add your own thoughts here, but because that wasn’t what I wrote in that particular book. And I’m a little bit worried about the person who thinks that because Owen’s a bratty lover and Magnus is pretty chill, that’s some kind of D/s.

Here’s the thing: there will always be a “dominant” (in a non-BDSM sense) partner in any relationship. No pair is ever completely, 100% equal in all things. One might earn more, or might always be the one to decide what they do or where they go, or retain complete control of the TV remote, or call the shots in other ways. And the other might be more than happy to coast along letting their partner have their own way. That’s not kink, that’s basic human interaction. Even when we take it into the bedroom, that’s still basic human interaction.

BDSM is a catch-all to describe a number and variety of different fetishes which are acted upon in different ways by different people, but always with informed consent and within clearly-defined parameters. The vanilla couple who went to see 50 Shades last weekend and decided to buy some furry handcuffs on the way home are not suddenly BDSMers, any more than the woman becomes a Domme if she decides that tonight she’d rather be on top.

But it seems with the prevalence of BDSM clogging up the romance charts, every book is now understood through that filter. And when the filter isn’t properly applied to begin with, things go awry. People swoon over abusive, manipulative men, and assume that every relationship has an element of D/s in it. BDSM seems to have moved from something very specific to a generic way of describing any interaction between two characters who are perceived as “unequal” in some way. Add the old fixation about anal sex and suddenly we don’t have “tops” and “bottoms” anymore, we have Doms and subs.

So whoever tagged the book: firstly, thank you. Genuinely. Because tagging a book with keywords which you think are appropriate makes it more discoverable to a wider pool of readers and that in turn gets the author more sales. So tagging the book was a sweet, generous gesture, and I truly, truly appreciate it. This is not an attack on you, kind stranger.

However, incorrectly tagging a book might encourage sales from people looking for something different to what they get, which will leave them disappointed. Moreover, tagging books like Blowing It with BDSM keywords reinforces the mistaken perception of what BDSM actually is. BDSM is not any and every kind of power imbalance within a relationship. D/s is not interchangeable with top/bottom. Vanilla couples can spice it up from time to time without it meaning they’re BDSMers. The ownership of a sex toy does not make one a lifestyler.

BDSM is, above all else, a mindset. Being happy with your lover taking the reins in the bedroom is not the same thing as craving submission. Knowing what you like and enthusiastically pursuing it doesn’t make you a Dom. The presence of toys signifies nothing, because no true Dominant needs props to exercise control (which is not to say they don’t enjoy them, but they’re the tools of their dominance, not the source).

If you want to read actual BDSM, you won’t go wrong with the Power Exchange or Bound series. If you want to read something a little bit different, Blowing It might be the book for you.

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6 replies on “Things That Are Not BDSM”

  1. AnnAlaskan says:

    An excellent description of what BDSM is not. I’m so disappointed that foolish people think FSOG is a handbook for a BDSM lifestyle. I love your descriptions of normal life … very true. I am so very thankful for the Power Exchange series to refer people to for a glimpse into a correct BDSM lifestyle. Blowing It does not fit under this heading but ignorant folks are going to put it there. Loved the book because it stands on it’s own.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      Thanks Ann. I think it’s only ignorance in terms of people not knowing enough about BDSM to understand what it is and isn’t, rather than being willfully wrong. Fortunately, the cure for that is education 🙂

  2. Thanks God you mentioned who controls the TV remote, because we all know that’s really the person who holds all the power. And you’re not even married yet. I’m impressed. ;o). Great post, Kate.

  3. Alexa Milne says:

    Just read and enjoyed Blowing It and in no way is it BDSM. I wondered for a moment if I’d missed something. Why do we need to label everything and everyone?

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