Fifty Shades of Real Life – Part 1

The way BDSM is portrayed in fiction is quite different from the way these relationships are practiced in real life. In real life there are agreements between play partners, Doms take responsibility for the sub, and people may do scenes with someone besides their lover. And the players may or may not have sex.

Take off Your Panties and Let’s Talk

Very often in fiction, the characters jump right in to some sort of BDSM relationship. In Power Play, the first moment the hero steps inside her house, he begins:

Power Play coverAs Sergio advanced toward her, she stepped back.
“No use backing away from me, Liz,” he said in a low voice. “You’re mine for the entire evening.”
She froze and lifted her chin high.
He looked her up and down, contemplating something. “Kick off your shoes,” he instructed.
She complied, and instantly he moved into her space. He stood above her now, her eyes level with his chin.
He slipped the jacket off her shoulders and onto the floor. Her padding gone, he eyed the bits of silk still covering her. “That’s a start.”
He took a handful of silk blouse and tugged hard. Losing her balance, she fell against him. As she righted herself, he unbuttoned her blouse and tossed it aside.


When two people meet for the first time in real life, the Dom often gives a command. If they are in a public place like a restaurant, stereotypically he might tell the sub to go to the bathroom and remove her panties, to gauge her response. But before they actually begin a scene, the Dom asks the submissive to spell out her (or his) limits, either verbally or in writing. The sub must clearly state which types of experiences are desired and which are not allowed, as well as any injuries or physical limitations.

Doms are Responsible

Certainly there are Doms who break the rules and abuse their power over their subs, but normally Doms understand the responsibility of that role and take great care of their subs. Someone interested in becoming a Dom would learn from others and gain experience at a club or play party first. Once the Dom is clear about the limits of his or her submissive, the Dom may lay out parameters for a scene (i.e. where and when they’ll meet, what the submissive should wear, etc.) The Dom establishes a ‘safe word’ that the sub can use at any time to end the scene. Within a scene, the word ‘no’ is never a safe word, allowing that word to be used in any context without abruptly ending the play. A common safe word is ‘red’ as in red light, with ‘yellow’ being used as a warning that the sub is not comfortable with the direction the Dom is going. Some submissives are not able to formulate words when in sub-space, or don’t know their own limits. It’s up to the Dom to watch the sub carefully and stop before going too far. If a Dom has pushed a sub in a way that had a big emotional impact, the Dom would check on the submissive in the days following the encounter.

Play Partners are not Always Life Partners

Even soul mates are not always all things to each other. In the BDSM lifestyle that is acknowledged, and people play with others outside their primary relationship. Sometimes one partner needs much more intense play than their lover is comfortable with. Sometimes a boyfriend and girlfriend are both submissive, and might look for a woman to dominate both of them. Sometimes a husband and wife discover that one of them craves BDSM experiences while the other is not interested in pursuing that. In all these cases, going to a BDSM club or party allows people to find play partners. And lots of people in BDSM relationships like to experience scenes with other people to discover new things about themselves.

Sex May Not be Included

In many situations, like at clubs or spanking conventions, there is no sexual intercourse. The sub may be partially or fully nude, and a woman may be experience an orgasm, but often there is no penetration or ejaculation allowed. Of course in private settings and some clubs and play parties, a sexual consummation can follow the play time.

Cured by Love?

In some books that explore BDSM relationships, either the hero or heroine is ‘cured’ by the love of the other, and abandons any of these practices. Most people who are attracted to BDSM encounters find it fills a need in them, and unless that need is somehow met another way, prefer to continue the practices that give them pleasure. Love by itself doesn’t do it. People who love each other work towards meeting the needs of both partners, as well as the needs of the relationship.

Who are Doms and submissives? What do they look like? And how do they see themselves? See Fifty Shades of Real Life – Part 2!

Also check out “What Six Words does BDSM stand for?”

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What Six Words does BDSM stand for?

BDSM Means SIX Things? Now that’s Kinky! The term BDSM actually stands for 3 interrelated but separate relationships. It is also used as an umbrella term for other types of kink, like fetishes.

BDSM Abbreviation

BDSM is actually an acronym for six words, with the D and the S each being an abbreviation for two words: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. In an encounter, any 1 or 2 or all 3 of these relationships can exist. Also, the terms Top and Bottom can be used to refer to the participants in all three of these scenarios.

Bondage and Discipline

Bondage and Discipline  (B & D) can include any situation where one person is bound, from simply having his or her hands tied together, to being handcuffed, to being bound to a chair, bed, cross, large web, etc. and then ‘punished’ in some way, such as paddling, caning, or flogging. Sometimes the focus is on just one of the two terms, such as in ‘spanking’ scenarios. Other times the bondage is the main goal, with the ‘punishment’ being playful and teasing. This ‘light’ bondage can be called ‘sensual bondage.’ Here is an example from my novella Power Play:

BDSM book cover showing BondageSergio stopped in front again, rose to his full height. Threading the silk tie through his hands, he contemplated her. She saw fire in his eyes, mixed with something else. Maybe a hint of uncertainty. What was he planning to do to her? The instinct to run tugged at her insides, and she jerked back a step.
The decision solidified in his face. “You like my power tie?” he asked with a sly smile.
The humor was clear, but there was an edge to his voice. She giggled nervously.
He spun her around, grasped her wrists and bound them behind her. Liz gasped, her blood racing through her body in tremors of anticipation.
One quick tug on the tie ensured that her hands were secured.
He whirled her back to face him and inspected the results. Liz felt off-balance and her breasts jutted out.

Dominance and Submission

Dominance and Submission, typically written D/s, is all about the transfer of power between two (or more) people. In taking control of a submissive, a Dominant must be certain of the sub’s comfort level and personal limits, so before beginning any scenario or play time, the sub lists which activities are acceptable and which are not. This can be in writing, or discussed verbally, but it is definitely a consensual agreement between them. The Dom is responsible for his or her sub’s physical and emotional well-being. Here’s an example of a power exchange from Power Play:

“Lock it,” a voice demanded in her ear.
She clicked the lock, turned, and found herself engulfed in his space.
Everything in her training and experience told her to take control. But everything about this sensual man had her wanting to give it all to him. “Look, Sergio. I just want you to—”
“Take off your clothes.”
The whispered command wrapped around her like a silk net. Her heart raced. She instinctively side-stepped to escape him, but his arm flew up and blocked her escape. He must have known she’d try the other way, because he immediately put both hands on the door behind her, his arms caging her in. As she considered ducking beneath them, he rocked his pelvis forward, his erection pinning her body against the door.
Her knees weakened and she could hardly catch a breath. If she’d been wearing a corset like women did in the old days, she’d have swooned. Her arms and legs were free, but with that one point of contact, she was captured.

Sadism and Masochism

Sadism and Masochism, S/M or Top and Bottom, are when the relationship includes pain (and perhaps humiliation) as a key part of the interchange between them. Typically there is a D/s power exchange, and the Top uses various devices to create sensation and pain for the Bottom. The Bottom can experience extreme highs as the endorphins convert pain to pleasure. There are strict rules of conduct in the BDSM world, and their credo is “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.” Here’s a snippet from Temptation’s Edge by Eve Berlin aka Eden Bradley:

Her body was simmering, a low, steady beat of desire. A thrum of anticipation so strong it felt like electricity in her veins. An acute awareness of Connor standing behind her, as if he were almost a part of her body, so that knowing he was there did nothing to pull her back out of herself, away from this inner exploration.
She felt beautiful. Turned on to an almost ridiculous degree. Lost in need.
She let out her next breath on a long sigh. And before her lungs had emptied there was a sharp snap in the air and an even sharper sting on the left cheek of her ass.
It was followed immediately by Connor moving in to cup his big palm over the sting.
He didn’t say anything, just stepped back after a moment and hit her again.
This time she was less surprised by it. More able to let her body sink into the sensation. A small crop, she thought, from the light weight of it on her flesh. He hit her again, a little harder this time, and for some reason it made her smile.
Oh, this is where we really get into it.
It was what she wanted. Needed.
Another stinging rasp, then another. He was picking up the speed, working in a criss-cross pattern over her buttocks and thighs. With each stroke pleasure rose, as though embedded in the stinging sensation itself. She was squirming just a little, just enough to absorb the impact, to ride out the surges of pleasure.

BDSM and Fetishes

Although fetishes are separate types of kink, there is a lot of overlap between them and BDSM practices, so they are lumped together under that term. Fetishes are extreme fascinations or obsessions with something like shoes or leather, or a particular part of the body, like a foot fetish.

BDSM and Sex

Although sensual and sexual in nature, many people engage in BDSM scenarios without having sex as a part of it. Often these scenarios take place with someone other than their spouse or lover, to fill that different need. Others extend this type of play to include sexual relations, or use it as foreplay for ‘vanilla’ (more traditional) sexual activities.

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