Friday, September 21, 2012

Vanilla isn't the only flavor out there.

I've been meaning to blog about this topic for a long time because I keep hearing it brought up on both sides of the coin -- people in BDSM trying to explain to vanilla friends/family what it is they do, or someone who is vanilla trying to figure out why their friend/loved one would want to be involved in a BDSM relationship.

First of all, let me address the "vanillas" out there. By that I'm not using a derogatory term, by the way. It's just a way to define the non-kinky from the kinky.

So your friend or loved one is into BDSM, or a BDSM dynamic with someone. First of all, do NOT hie thyself down to a bookstore and crack open "50 Shades of Grey." PLEASE. That is sooo not what "real" BDSM is like.

Why would someone want to be involved in BDSM? Well, you need to ask the person that question, and you need to keep an open mind. The reasons are as varied as the people involved in the lifestyle. For some, it's an intrinsic part of who and what they are in the core of their being. Some people think it's a lot of fun. Some crave/need/use the pain or control in some way, if pain is an element of the dynamic. (It's not all about pain, and some people don't have any kind of "pain" in their dynamic.)

"Well, it's abuse!"

No. Consensual BDSM is to abuse what pineapples are to prostate exams. They are completely different animals. I personally cannot for the life of me understand why someone would want to climb an icy mountain for FUN. To me, THAT'S torture.

Just because something isn't in YOUR frame of reference doesn't mean it's not valid.

Consensual BDSM is as far from abuse as you can get and still be on the same interplanetary plane. It's about boundaries and limits and lots and lots of open communication. Consistent communication. Are there abusive assholes involved in BDSM? Well, sure. Just like there are pedophillic priests and abusive partners in the general population. In fact, it's more likely that someone who is involved in a HEALTHY, consensual BDSM relationship is a far more stable and trustworthy person in the abuse department than the average person on the street.

Why? Because someone who is consensually practicing BDSM is extremely aware of boundaries and limits and how not to HARM someone.

HARM is a key difference. Some people get off on hurting/being hurt. But there is a fine line between hurting someone consensually and harming them.

In consensual BDSM, there is no intentional harm being committed. (Yes, people are human. Accidents happen, people screw up, miscommunication occurs, but it's the exception, not the norm, in a healthy relationship.)

"But...but...WHY would she want him to spank her/tie her up/cane/control/her?"

You need to ask her. She (I'm using "she" generically) might or might not be able to clearly verbalize the reasons.

There are a lot of things about my personal BDSM dynamics that I can't fully "explain" to someone in a way that makes sense. Honestly? I don't have to justify it to anyone else. It's between me and my partners. I can tell you that when I started out in the lifestyle as Domme to my husband (at his request) I never thought my path would lead to where it has. I did NOT in any way, shape, or form consider myself a sadist. I did NOT want to "harm" or even hurt my hubby. I wasn't comfortable in the Domme role at first, but it was something he wanted from me and I was willing to do it.

When I started also playing with Sir as His Top, I found a different side of myself as a Top. He is a very heavy masochist, and He discovered that I had no trouble "not hitting Him like a girl." LOL The joke at first was that I was brought in as the relief hitter, so to speak, when He wore out His wife and another friend of ours who used to top Him, to finish him off.

I found that I reeeeally enjoyed topping Him. I discovered my sadistic side. I enjoyed the dance of a scene, of using different implements on Him and taking Him juuuuust right to the edge of coding, of learning His body language to know when to push Him harder and then back off, to keep Him just on the edge of his endurance and tolerance.

I had a real knack for it. And I started receiving a lot of positive comments after our scenes not just from Him, but from people who watched us play together.

Eventually, it led to me wanting to try the submissive end of the scale. And as He was a switch, and as we already had a very deep, solid rapport, not to mention a trust bond, He was the person I asked to do it.

The day after our first scene together, which was in a back room at a friend's house during a private party because I didn't want to be out in the open, I realized exactly why people enjoyed bottoming. This was just before my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (I thought I was just suffering from arthritis pain) and I felt FANTASTIC for several days. Pain levels practically non-existent, and energy through the roof. Later, I was to discover not only was I not alone in that, but that impact play, because of the endorphins it releases, is VERY therapeutic for my fibro pain.

Do that again? FUCK yes!

And our relationship evolved from there, with a LOT of boundaries at first on my part, until we reached the point where we are today. Our "default" is Daddy (or Sir in a heavy scene) and pet. (We don't do age play, it's just what I call Him.) But I still spend lots of time topping Him.

And above all, it's FUN.

So there's no way I can give a person a succinct, one-sentence reply as to why I am involved in the lifestyle. It is an ongoing journey with no end in sight.

So back to "why" would someone want to do this?

There are women (and men) who were raised, rightly so, to value equality. To consider women equal to men. I'm one of them. Fifteen years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of "submitting" to someone.

When women (or men) are abused, it is non-consensual. Sometimes (too often) it is violent. However, BDSM is NOT abuse when it's consensual. If women have truly achieved equality, insisting that they have to limit their personal and sexual choices to a dynamic determined by the mainstream masses does the opposite of empower them. To say that the only "right" way to have a relationship is one determined by politically correct people who often have NO first-hand knowledge of BDSM outside of badly-made TV shows portraying lifestyle folks as bad guys or the butt of jokes is total bullshit.

We have choices. We are FREE to choose to be slaves or submissives or bottoms or pets or whatever. We are FREE to choose to be sadists or Tops or Owners or Masters/Mistresses/Doms/Dommes or whatever. As long as our partner/s freely choose to participate in that dynamic with us, it's a choice.

Isn't that what equality is all about?

"'s against GOD'S LAW!"

I've got news for you, bucky, that's YOUR problem, not the problem of the person in the lifestyle. If you want to judge someone based on your religious views, that makes you a hypocrite. I know people in the lifestyle who are everything from athiests to Pagans to Christians and Jews and Muslims and everything in between.

Here are a few warnings for you: Do not threaten to "out" the person. That's the fastest way to ruin your relationship with them as well as possibly ruin their life if you do. I'm fortunate to be in a position, since Hubby's retirement, that I can be open with who and what I am. Others can (and have) lose jobs, lose custody of kids, be ostracized from friends and family, etc.

How would YOU like it if they walked into your bedroom while you were having sex with your partner and then spread a video about it to everyone? No? No takers? Because when you threaten to out someone, or when you talk to others about them behind their back, you're basically doing the same thing to them.

Their sex life and relationship is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Period.

"But...but...they have kids!"

So? If you have kids, do you go around having sex in front of them? No? well, why would you think people in the lifestyle would do that to their kids? If anything, they're usually even MORE careful not to expose their children to their lifestyle. Although yes, I do know people who have kids who do witness the more vanilla aspects of their dynamic, like the wife calling the husband Sir, but it's nothing worse than some strict fundamentally religious Christian homes would do.

Now, to my fellow people in the lifestyle: Sometimes, you aren't going to be able to convince your family/friends you haven't just joined a cult. You're going to have to either love them the way they are, or learn to ignore them, or limit your contact with them if they refuse to back the hell off. If they are rational people, they will, in time, likely come to see that you are a happier person by being able to be yourself. If they aren't rational, sadly, nothing you say or do will change their mind.

Your job isn't to sway people to your position. Your job is to live your life. No, you do not non-consensually involve others in your dynamic by being "in their face" with stuff. But you also have to do yourself a favor and give up the idea that you have to persuade people to your point of view. You might have people in your life with whom you have to treat BDSM like politics -- it's there, but you don't talk about it. 

Again, you have to respect the other side of the coin. For example, if your parents are uncomfortable with you addressing your Master as "Sir" in front of them in their home, then you two need to negotiate with each other to work around that. (In your own home, however, your rules.)

I know there are some who will want to say, "Fuck that, it's my life." Yes, it is your life. But how many vanillas go around treating you to what they do in the bedroom in regular, everyday life? Most don't. I'm saying use common courtesy.

But when confronted with someone vanilla who vehemently insists you're in an abusive relationship, keep in mind they probably have the best of intentions at heart. But you will have to learn to establish boundaries with these kinds of people if you want them in your life. You will have to learn to stand up to them and firmly, but kindly, tell them to butt the hell out of your private life because it's none of your business. You are under no obligation to justify your life choices to them.

There is so much more I could talk about on this topic, and probably will in future blog posts. Hopefully someone finds this post useful and can point someone they know/love to it to help them understand a little better.

So have you ever been in this position, either trying to understand someone's desire to be in BDSM, or trying to explain to friends/family why you're in BDSM?

(Tymber Dalton is a bestselling erotic romance author involved in a poly-N dynamic and is a BDSM switch. You can find her Siren-BookStrand releases HERE, and her website is


  1. This really hits home, I wish people could be more understanding about it.

  2. Thank you for this Tymber. You have answered so many questions in such a straight forward down to earth manner. I respect BDSMers, even if I'm not, and appreciate this viewpoint.

  3. Tymber, I love that you can speak so openly about it, not all of us are able to express it like you can. Fantastic post!

  4. Thank you for being so open and helpful.

  5. Thank you for a very well written and thoughtful post.
    Hugs xx

  6. Fabulous post, Tymber!

  7. What impresses me most, I think, is the trust and communication between partners in the lifestyle. I understand that it's not universal, that there are bad apples in every bushel, but I see a higher percentage of folks with open communication and trust. I envy that. I trusted my first husband, who turned out to be a sociopath, and I've never been able to trust that much again. As for communication....I hold my cards close.

  8. Right on, sista! You said it beautifully.

  9. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate the comments. :) I really think it's important to keep the discussion going now that "50 Shades" is out there and so many people see just that one small, fictional snippet that has very little to do with the "reality" of BDSM.

  10. well considered post, Tymber. You go a long way to helping 'vanilla's' understand and support for those in the lifestyle to stand tall and proud to be true to themselves. Just like wishing for world peace in some ways.. I would so like for all of us to reach an understanding to let others be.. as long as everyone has informed consent why is what anyone does anyone else's business.. So well said Tymber!

  11. Bravo. Superb post, Tymber.
    It does ultimately come down to showing respect for individual choice and the world will be a better place when we live that way. I'm lucky to have people around me who don't judge or try to change me but accept who I am and the lifestyle I choose to live.
    Before she passed away, my very religious mother informed me that in the book of Leviticus God instructs 'Masters to treat their slaves well.' Not that I'm a slave but I appreciated the sentiment in what she was saying.

  12. No matter how hard you try to explain I think there are just some people that will never get it. My mom's best friend got into a relationship with a Top, she told my mom about it and she freaked. She called me and I tried to explain the 'safe, sane, consensual premise' to her and I think it still flew over her head. It's shocking b/c my mom has always been open about sex (I found a sex swing in her closet when I was 14!LOL). Fortunately it hasn't put a strain on their relationship, but she still talks about it every so often and I have to tell her to hold her tongue :P

  13. Tymber,
    Very well said! I'm lucky to have such understanding family who would accept me no matter what.that being said it still doesn't mean I broadcast what I do or how I do it. Some folks just would t accept it anyways. What I like is being able to have my own acceptance within myself.

  14. Thanks for all the feedback. Yes, I do wish we had a world where it didn't matter what our choices were as long as it only concerned consenting adults. Would make life easier on everyone.