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17. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM,anyway?

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This article is from the Bondage FAQ, by numerous contributors.

17. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM,anyway?

Sometimes on a.s.b, people will post wondering if what they do is
"heavy" enough to be worth talking about. How can a mere novice who
just got spanked for the first time presume to post about how it felt,
when there are people out there who wouldn't even have noticed it?

The answer to that is twofold. First, there are an infinite number of
ways to play. This is one of the reasons I like SM to mean Sex Magick;
Magick doesn't need to involve pain, or intensity, or bondage, or
role-playing, or anything at all. Sex Magick is whatever you do that
fulfills a fantasy of yours. **There is no right or wrong way to do SM,
as long as it is consensual.** If you agree to it, and if it feels good
(during and after the scene), it's the right thing for you to be doing.
This FAQ list is really just a series of suggestions; take them or leave
them, it's totally up to you.

(There are players out there who get way heavier than I ever will--into
realms that I personally consider unsafe and even a little insane. Heck,
for some people, being whipped is an insane idea. But the most
important thing is the consensuality and the mutuality of the play--that
everyone involved in the play _wants_ to be doing what they're doing,
and that everyone can call it quits if need be. What other people think
is not relevant; it is _their_ play, and _their_ choice as to what risks
they wish to assume.)

Second, the "intensity" of a scene has very little to do with the level
of "physical sensation" involved. Again, the magic is in the way it
makes you _feel_. We were all novices once; we all know the thrill of
trying something new, taking your dreams and making them real. _That_
is what makes SM intense and enjoyable--that ineffable rush of new
horizons unfolding, the incredible sensation of trusting someone else
with your body and your mind, or of receiving the gift of control over
someone else. It doesn't matter whether you get there through S or M or
B or D or none of the above; once you're there, it's fantastic! AND,
it's worth posting about!

Sometimes, discussion on a.s.b veers into a heated debate about what is
involved in "real" dominance and submission or "real" BDSM play. The
fact is, given the diversity of players and playstyles in "the
scene"--and in fact the number of _separate_ "scenes" in "the scene"--it
is hard to pinpoint any one behavior as the benchmark by which "real" is
defined. The principal common thread I can see is that people into SM
are seeking to explore their fantasies about power and/or sexuality, to
bring some of their dreams into their personal lives.

One thing is sure: attempting to set strict boundaries around what is
and isn't "real" SM, or what is and isn't "true" submission or pain play
or roleplay, is an endeavor fraught with peril. More often than not,
people who believe they know the definition of "true" SM are interested
in flaming others who disagree, rather than in honestlysharing their
perceptions while remaining open to the views of others. As with any
labels or preset "norms" of human behavior, one can debate
endlessly about whether the "norm" is really "normal", or one can speak
from one's personal experience. The latter generally leads to better
and more revealing discussions.

One topic that does come up in this context, though, is whether only
consensual SM is real SM--or rather, whether the term "SM" excludes any
behaviors that are not consensual. As I stated in the beginning of this
FAQ, I use "SM" here to refer to acts between consenting adults; most
a.s.b posters and people in the scene likewise use "SM" as short for
"consensual SM." There is no doubt that many people who practice
consensual BDSM enjoy fantasies involving acts of nonconsensual bondage,
dominance, submission, sadism, and/or masochism. But when it comes to
real life, consent is of fundamental importance. A story may include
nonconsensual acts and yet be an SM story; an SM relationship can become
abusive while remaining an SM relationship; but when people here on
a.s.b and in the larger scene talk about SM as it ought to be and should
be (and in my experience, as it usually is), they mean consensual,
healthy SM.

Some people state, "SM originally referred to the practices described in
the writing of the Marquis de Sade [to whom consent was irrelevant], so
modern SM people are lying when they say consent is important in 'real'
SM!" They're simply playing the "change the definition of 'real' to one
which I can flame about" game. Besides, if we _were_ all lying in order
to deceive people into playing with us (so we could then abuse them), we
would be doing ourselves a massive disservice by educating people about
consent and about negotiation--knowledge which would serve to protect
people from us! You'll need to judge whether we mean what we say about
the importance of consent.

A frequently heard acronym on a.s.b is "YKINOK"--which stands for "Your
Kink Is Not OK." a.s.b is largely composed of postings by people whose
sexual practices are considered unhealthy or at least weird by many
others. We recognize here that different people really do have
different sexualities, and different preferences. Hence, we try to
avoid blanket statements such as "Behavior X is WRONG!" or "Behavior X
is NOT OK!" or more generally, "_Your_ kink is NOT OK!"
We would instead say, "Your kink would not be OK _for me_. Here are
some of the risks I see in that kink. How do you deal with them?" From
that point, discussion and education can flow, as they cannot from a
flat YKINOK. (And conversely, we don't say, "Your kink IS OK!"--since
there are almost _no_ behaviors that _everyone_ enjoys. The OK-ness of
consensual practices is, and must be, determined on an _individual_
basis.)

 

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