Bonding Through Bondage: Why BDSM is Good For You

Bonding Through Bondage: Why BDSM is Good For You

Maybe you've read about it in books or seen it practiced in TV shows or movies:  BDSM - Bondage play. "Kinky" sex with fetish wear, whips, and chains.  Spanking during a sex act.  Maybe you're already super into it yourself!  Maybe you're curious about it but don't know where to start...or why you should.  This post takes a peek under the covers of BDSM and explores the many health and relationship benefits you can gain from it.  If something intrigues you AND it's good for you, why not, right?  

If you're totally uninitiated in the concept, BDSM is a catch-all phrase for a range of acts & attitudes, including Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism.  Basically it refers to a wide range of concepts and practices centered around a power exchange within the context of sexual intimacy.

The practices involved in BDSM have been around in some way, shape or form, for centuries and across many cultures, however some still view these kinds of sexual and relationship dynamics as taboo.  We are experiencing a cultural shift, however, and BDSM is becoming more mainstream.  As it is becoming increasingly popular and more understood, that also means more doctors and scientists are researching it and its effect on the body and mind.  To the surprise of some naysayers, the researchers are finding that the outcomes are almost always very, very positive, considering the negative light that has been cast on it for years.

For some, even just the thought of engaging in BDSM can actually be a major turn-off.  It can even be triggering for those who may have experienced certain traumas in life or sexual abuse, so those individuals should steer clear.  For others, however, an attitude of "don't knock it 'til you try it" is generally a good one to have.  If you've been curious about it, read on to see more ways that BDSM may actually strengthen your bonds with your romantic partner and improve your overall health!

It Can Reduce Stress

Research has shown a notable biological effect of engaging in BDSM. It’s similar to a phenomenon most everyone – interest in BDSM notwithstanding – has heard of: the runner’s high. Submissive partners report a relaxed, peaceful sense of mind called “subspace”, similar to what one would experience after meditation or a successful yoga practice. Dominants experience their own endorphin-filled version, called “topspace” which is accompanied by an increased sense of control and success.

In a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, saliva samples were taken of people engaging in BDSM before, during, and after the act. In both submissive and dominant partners, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reported after participating in BDSM play. Another interesting discovery was that even during especially physically trying BDSM play, submissive partners still reported less stress.

Not only can a reduction in cortisol help us feel better mentally, but it can positively impact our physical health as well.  Lower cortisol levels protect us from a range of long-term health issues, such as high blood pressure, suppressed immunity, heart disease, and insulin resistance.  In our stress-filled world, that's some science we can get behind!

Benefits of BDSM

It Can Improve Your Communication

Good communication is one of the key factors in any successful relationship, but some people just aren't very good at it, honestly.  Incorporating BDSM into your sex life can change that.  Clear communication and setting firm boundaries is a must when engaging in any BDSM play.  Lisa Hochberger, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in sex therapy says, "Experienced BDSM practitioners usually exhibit high levels of sex education and communication skills.  People plan out 'scenes' using many forms of safety precautions, and involve a strong sense of assertiveness and negotiation as well as vulnerability."  

In other words, while someone may have a hard time speaking up for themselves in everyday life, when it comes to BDSM play, it is absolutely vital.  Being open, honest, and communicating clearly with your partner clearly before, during, and after a BDSM scene can help strengthen your communication skills in lasting ways.

It Can Increase Intimacy

Those that misunderstand how BDSM works may think exactly the opposite is true, but exploring aspects of BDSM with your partner can improve your sexual relationship and bring you closer together. BDSM, when done correctly, can make your relationship more intimate and fulfilling.

Exploring each other’s fetishes is an important part of any relationship; someone’s willingness to explore and act on their partner’s desires is of the utmost importance when establishing and growing that connection. Not only that, but the intense level of communication leads to a greater sense of trust in one another, and trust is the true foundation of honest intimacy.  And speaking of trust...

It Can Deepen Trust

Being sexual with anyone already requires a great deal of trust, but the special nature of BDSM requires participants to really double down on being vulnerable and trustworthy with each other.  Couples who consciously do the work of BDSM - such as talking honestly about what they want to explore, what kind of power structure they want to experience, what their darkest fantasies are, and what their hard limits are - are therefore brought closer together through their deepened sense of trust in each other.  

BDSM practitioners also need to establish a safe word and/or physical signal (for if they can't speak when gagged), and trust that when it is enacted, all play stops.  When all players can trust in this system and in their partner, it means edges can be explored without lines being crossed.  Each person can and should feel comfortable to set their own firm boundaries and must trust in their partner that those boundaries will be respected.  

It is important to remember here that BDSM play is just that...play...and that generally speaking, that play begins and ends when the scene does, in the context of the bedroom and the agreed-upon sexual acts.  The roles assumed in BDSM play are not equivalent to real, emotional relationship dynamics, nor do they equal relationship dynamics or power roles outside of sex play.  While some couples do carry out the dominant/submissive roles in their everyday lives, such as through checking in with their partner at all times and telling them what they can or cannot do, this is not typically the case, and this type of domination is often thinly veiled emotional abuse.  

It Can Boost Confidence & Mental Health

Researchers from the International Society for Sexual Medicine conducted a study specifically to measure the mental well-being of people who enjoy participating in BDSM by examining key personality traits of each person.  Those traits included their attachment styles in relationships, general well-being, and how sensitive they were to rejection compared to those in a control group.  While it was once assumed that BDSM practitioners must be "psychologically damaged" in some ways to enjoy that type of sexual play, the study showed that the kinksters were actually more well-adjusted on most measures compared to non-BDSM participants.

The study results indicated that people who participate in BDSM play with their partners may experience less anxiety and feel more secure in their relationships than those who do not.  Other positive mental traits found in the people who enjoyed BDSM related play included being less neurotic, less sensitive to rejection, and less sensitive to others' perceptions.  They were also found to generally be more extroverted, more open to new experiences, and more conscientious toward others.  

If all these emotional and health benefits have piqued your interest, and you don't already engage in BDSM with your partner, it may be time to explore it.  Pick out some kinky fetish wear and bondage gear together that matches your aesthetic and your darkest desires.  Have the deep and honest conversations about what you both want.  Do some research about the basics of BDSM and how to do it safely.  Then go have fun!  If you're already an experienced BDSM player, just let this article serve as reinforcement that what you're doing is good for you and your partner, and go on with your bad self!