In light of recent news events and the unprecedented popularity of books like 50 Shades of Grey, kink has suddenly become a mainstream topic of conversation. Terms like BDSM are being heard on the six o’clock news and it’s not only adults who are listening. Children and teens are also picking up on this very public story. If your kids are asking questions about BDSM, you may not be sure what to tell them. here’s some information and a few tips to help you with your answers.
First some basic BDSM terminology for anyone who’s wondering what the acronym stands for.
BDSM is an abbreviation that refers to six sexual practices which are often grouped into three pairs: Bondage and Discipline; Domination and Submission; Sadism and Masochism.
B/D or Bondage and Discipline: Bondage is consensual physical restraint of a partner. Discipline is consensual psychological restraint through the administration of consequences for violating agreed upon rules.
D/S or Domination and Submission: This practice generally involves one partner (the submissive) consensually giving control to another (the Dominant). It is important to note that the submissive never relinquishes their right to withdraw consent.
S/M or Sadism and Masochism: Sadism is inflicting pain for sexual pleasure. Masochism is experiencing pain for sexual pleasure.
Kink: A word that’s often used to describe non-conventional sex practices and sometimes used as a synonym for BDSM.
I think it’s important to note that many BDSM practices involve an unbalanced power dynamic; however, the participants assume or surrender that power voluntarily. And while every group/subculture has its jerks, on the whole people who practice BDSM have high ethical standards, insisting on mutual ongoing consent and open negotiation to ensure mutual pleasure and minimize the risk of harm.
So that’ BDSM in a nutshell. But what can you say about all of this if your kids ask you about it?
BDSM is a pretty sophisticated concept for little kids and I don’t think parents need to volunteer a ton of information about what it is. If your children have been listening to the news, they may ask what BDSM “spells” in which case, you can explain that it’s something called an acronym. (You may also get a follow up question about what “acronym” means, which means you get to turn this potentially awkward sex talk into a vocabulary lesson. Yay!)
If your child asks what BDSM means, don’t get into details. Something vague like, “It’s a way that grown ups sometimes play together,” is fine.
Tweens and teens are more aware. Most of them have at least a basic understanding of what sex is and if they’re following the news, they’ve probably picked up on the fact that BDSM is something sexual.
I always think it’s a good idea for parents to answer their kids’ questions about sex as best they can and I think it’s critical as they grow older. Denying your adolescent information is unlikely to put an end to their curiosity. Talking about something like kink, may feel especially challenging, but giving your child straightforward, truthful information about sex helps build trust and lets them know that they can talk to you, even about sensitive topics.
It’s also important because if teens don’t get answers from you, they can find out somewhere else. That somewhere is usually the Internet. Google is great but it may not be the ideal way for a high schooler find out what kink is.
If your teenager wants to know what BDSM means, you can tell them what the words in the acronym are. If they ask what those words mean, you can explain them using short simple definitions like the ones above.
If they want to know why someone might choose to do engage in BDSM, here are a few things you can say:
“Different bodies like different types of feeling/sensation. Some bodies enjoy being warm, others enjoy being cool. There are people who like being tickled and there are people who hate it. Certain types of pain can feel bad some folks but really good for others. ”
“People who practice BDSM know that it’s really important that everyone involved is enjoying it. Before you do anything with anyone, you have to sit down and talk a lot about what you want and what they want”.
“It is never okay in BDSM or any kind of sex to do something that someone doesn’t want. Ever. One of the most important rules for people who enjoy BDSM, is that anyone can say stop at anytime for any reason. And once they say stop, everything has to stop right away.”
For adults who want to learn more about BDSM some of my favourite resources include Jay Wiseman’s book SM 101 and sex/kink educator Andrea Zanin’s website Sex Geek (check out her Kink 101 page).
I want to touch on 50 Shades of Grey, since it introduced so many people to the concept of BDSM. I read it and I enjoyed parts of it, but it’s pretty inaccurate portrayal of BDSM relationships and how they work.
Christian Grey becomes enamoured with Anna. He proceeds to seduce and manipulate her into becoming his submissive, with his handsome face and mad skillz of sex. He tells her that as his submissive she has the power and that she can always say no. Except when she tells him that she doesn’t want to see him, or she doesn’t enjoy being spanked or she can’t accept aspects of his sexual contract, he totally ignores her and does what he wants. He does creeper things like stalking her at work and being jealous of her friends and telling her she wants things, she’s explicitly said she doesn’t want.
Meanwhile Anna states repeatedly that she does not want to be submissive in the relationship. She surrenders to his sexual desires not because she trusts him or the idea of relinquishing turns her on. She does it because she is powerless to resist the Christian Grey Sex Magiks (™) and because she hopes he’ll change and agree to an egalitarian relationship.
I know lots of people had a good time with 50 Shades and I don’t have any issues with enjoying as an erotic fantasy. It just doesn’t represent the dynamics found in real-life Dominant/submissive relationships at all.
Check out these other important talks to have with your kids: