Kink, or at least the paraphernalia surrounding it, has become cool. The last few years have seen a surge in the amount of this sort of material on TV, in music and art. This article is a look at some of the terms involved, a few issues in kink, and why people get off on it.
When talking about 'kinky' sex, the term 'BDSM' gets a lot of use. It's a collection of acronyms that encompass 'Bondage - Discipline', 'Sadism - Masochism', and 'Domination - Submission'.
Bondage is probably the most familiar; most people can identify with some degree of restraint in an erotic atmosphere. Discipline involves all manners of punishment from a soft spanking to a full fledged flogging.
Sadism and masochism are traditionally associated with intense physical play, overshadowing the power-based aspect. In sadism, pleasure comes from inflicting pain on others. Masochism is taking pleasure in being subjected to physical pain or abuse.
Domination and submission refers to the mental aspect of the transfer of power. Domination is taking control of the situation and making the decisions. Submission involves surrender of will; taking the orders that one is given.
When describing the people involved in BDSM, the terms 'top' and 'bottom' are often used the areas of Bondage - Discipline and Sadism - Masochism. Both participants are in control, albeit in different ways. While the top controls what is going on, how many lashes to administer, where the clothespins should go, etc., the bottom has control of how far things will go, and can stop the scene if they're uncomfortable. Dom and sub are the obvious abbreviations of dominant and submissive, referring to the partners involved and their roles. All of the above terms mean slightly different things depending on who you ask. Top and dom are often used interchangeably.
What hurts under normal circumstances can be pleasurable in the midst of S&M play. The physical arousal people feel in S&M play is very similar to a runner's high. The body's response to painful stimuli is the production of natural pain-killers called endorphins. Combined with the adrenaline rush from this sort of play, they can cause a sensation that often goes beyond the purely physical pleasures of orgasm.
This is no way is meant to be a comprehensive how-to, or psychological treatise of why people are into BDSM. If you're curious about finding out more about this sort of eroticism, try The Story of O by Pauline Reage, or Juliette by the Marquis de Sade. Resources on the web include EHBC, a Kitchener group that shares ideas and information about BDSM, at www.golden.net/~ehbc, as well as the AIDS Committee of Toronto's Safer SM Education Project's webpage at safersm.org/safersm.html.