Even Vanilla People Practice BDSM: Common Myths Debunked

BDSM is an acronym that stands for “Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, and Sadomasochism”. A big factor keeping people from considering BDSM as a potential practice in their lives is a handful of common myths regarding this growing subculture.


All too often, the initial thought when it comes to BDSM is to imagine a group of people wearing leather and masks whipping each other (not that this isn’t one potential scenario - that sounds fun), but the reality is that BDSM is as varied in practices. In fact, most people practice elements of BDSM with their partners and don’t even realize it.


Let’s start by addressing some of the common myths and stigmas which contribute to the widespread misunderstanding of BDSM as a practice of pleasure and self-growth.


MYTH: Only Certain People Practice BDSM

While you may think you have never partaken in BDSM, the reality is that many people practice one element or more of BDSM in their sex lives without even being aware of it. BDSM is a wide cast net encompassing many sensory exchanges that do not involve inflicting or receiving pain.


Bondage and discipline are the more acceptable expressions of BDSM. They are practiced by many who would firmly affirm they are against BDSM and never do anything “like that”! If you have ever used fluffy handcuffs, tied your partner's hands to the bed or engaged in dirty talk by telling your partner what to do, you have dipped your toes into the magical waters of BDSM.


MYTH: BDSM is an Abusive Practice

At the heart of this practice is a sort of role-playing where the people act out fantasies that involve the taking or giving up of power in some way. Sex, while often involved, is not always a part of BDSM practice, contrary to popular belief. A common myth is that BDSM is both an abusive and dangerous practice.


Franklin Veaux (2013) explains how “people who are practicing BDSM in any of its trillions of forms are doing it voluntarily, for fun. It's a way to explore. Everything that happens in a BDSM relationship is consensual, holding no parallels or effects related to that of abuse.” Ethical BDSM is a huge proponent of explicit and enthusiastic consent practices.


In response to the myth of BDSM being an abusive practice, experts explain how in fact, for the most part, people who practice BDSM regularly are very well adjusted individuals without a history of abuse. He also points out how people with such backgrounds aren't likely to sexually gravitate towards this kind of erotic play. This isn’t to say that BDSM relationships are immune to being abusive or dangerous — no form of human interaction is.


MYTH: BDSM is the Dominant Getting Their Way at the Expense of their Submissive Partner

Another common myth addressed by Jennifer Sweeton Ph.D. (2009) is that BDSM curtails to the dominant getting their way at the expense of the submissive’s well-being, when in fact, it is the submissive who holds most of the control in any given exchange. BDSM scenes are negotiated traditionally with fantasy from a submissive, with the dominant stepping in as a facilitator.


In this way, the dominant is constantly gauging the submissive’s feelings, needs and limits. A safe-word is another tool the submissive holds as a means of controlling the denouement of any given scene. Franklin Veaux (2013) steps in and adds that “dominants need to be highly in-tune with their submissive. People who are self-centered generally make poor dominants, they lack the empathy required to be able to read and judge their partner's reactions, and bring their partner where that person wants to go.” Dominants who do not show up in this attuned way quickly find that nobody wants to “play” with them, naturally excluding them from the community.


All the real outstanding and reputable dominants I've ever met in my community, without exception, were incredibly trustworthy, empathetic people. Many of the myths associated with BDSM are perpetuated not only by the misunderstanding of individuals but by the inaccurate portrayals generated by the industry of pornography and erotic literature.


If you’d like to talk more, contact me and set up a free 20 minute session.


Sophia Lou. O’Connor, MA, Ph.D. (Cand)

Psychotherapist | Trainer | Educator

[Pronouns: She/They]

Tel: (720) 935 2706