Sado-masochism, or S&M, seems to be a taboo and misunderstood subject in sex. Rihanna has a popular song titled “S&M” and a suggested video on the YouTube sidebar is a man asking her what S&M stands for. “Is it Sex and Money?”
A sexual style that is often considered extreme, S&M is the domination of one partner over another and can involve role-playing, restraints, sensory deprivation and inflicting pain. In her book, “The Complete Idiots Guide to Amazing Sex,” Sari Locker describes the “[dominant partner] in an S/M relationship, is passionate about taking control of exactly what is, and is not, going to occur during the sexual experience,” and the “[Submissive partner] consents to allowing the top to take control, and in fact, derives great pleasure from relinquishing control.”
It is not abuse only if both people give consent. This is necessary and should be completely clear because it is an exchange of power. One person gives up control of their body to someone else. It requires trust, open communication and safety. Extensive research about S&M should be done before engaging in it, and never pressure your partner to try it.
Find out how to do it safely, talk about who will be dominant and submissive, what each person’s boundaries are and a safe word.
Safe words should not be “no” or “stop” because they are too common and may be used, but not meant, while role-playing.
Some couples adopt this into their lifestyle outside of the bedroom but only with a lot of trust, understanding, and open communication.
I took a human sexuality class at a different college, and we watched a video interview of a couple who adopted S&M into their lifestyle. Their friends and close acquaintances were unaware of it because it wasn’t something they advertised or were obvious about.
They were respectful of each other, knew their boundaries and communicated well. The man was dominant while the woman was submissive.
He would have her on a strict schedule at home and for grocery shopping, but because they were close, he was able to tell when she didn’t want to participate or when she needed a break from outside stressors. While it sounds like an abusive relationship, it isn’t. It is the desire of both people to be in the situation, and it is ultimately tied to their healthy sex life. It seems to me that it is the submissive person’s complete trust that the dominant person will take care of them and be a stable partner.
Another similar style of sex is Submission and Domination, or S&D. It is similar in having one dominant partner and one submissive partner. It can include restraints, blindfolds, role-playing and a little pain. But, it is less of a lifestyle and more of a way to spice sex up for a night or a couple times a month.
Partners may change if they are submissive or dominant each time, making it good for people who want to explore the dominant and submissive roles. It still requires consent, trust and communication and a safe word is always a good idea.