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:
As 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?”