BDSM, if you get beyond all the atmosphere and trappings, is really about mixing two ingredients–power and sex. Oh, there are some purists that would argue that it’s about power alone, and sex merely plays a peripheral role. However, I disagree. I believe that even when no sex act is explicitly performed, the exchange of power, the domination and submission, gain much of their magical attraction from the participants’ basic sexual urges. The fantasy of the dominant is that they are in control, and can do as they please with the submissive. They are very much aware (usually consciously, but sometimes sub-consciously) that they could, if they chose, require the submissive to give themselves up for sex. As a matter of fact, that’s where the euphemism “I want to ‘possess’ you” comes from–the idea of having sex is being equated with owning the other person. For the submissive, the fantasy is that they have given control to the dominant, and that they will do what the dominant directs them to. Again, the knowledge that this very likely includes engaging in sex occupies a prominent place in the forefront of their minds.

I suspect that this is true, by the way, even when rules have been established in advance that state no sex will be permitted. The sexual urge to possess/be possessed remains, even despite the knowledge that a scene will not include sexual acts. In fact, sometimes the idea that the rule is the only thing stopping sexual activity could actually ratchet up the sexual tension several notches higher than usual.

So I maintain that at its root, BDSM is a mixture of power and sex. Both ingredients have fascinated humanity since time immemorial. Is it surprising that mixing the two holds a fascination as well? And make no mistake–it does hold a fascination. How many romance novels involve the heroin being either forced or at risk of being forced to marry (which implies sex, of course) a man she does not love? Once you remove the decoration, isn’t this really a story about the heroine possibly being made to submit? And from the dominant side, how many times in old movies does the pretty maiden (usually wearing a nightgown) get carried off by the monster? What’s he going to do with her? Hmmm…I wonder… Isn’t this really just a story about a dominant taking the heroine captive, with the implied idea that he will force her to submit to him (and likely rip that nightgown right off in the process)?

Oh, sure, in both cases, it’s generally the bad guy who is playing the dominant role here, and it’s the pure heroine who is (at risk of) having to submit. And generally she gets saved before the rubber really meets the road. But that’s just so that humanity can pretend to rise above its baser nature. “How shocking!” viewers can think as the story unfolds, all the while secretly titillated by the situation.

The reason so many stories revolve around this theme is because so many people find it attractive! Many won’t acknowledge that they do, and even with those who admit that it excites them, most never do anything to capitalize on that excitement. But just about everybody, even the most prude, finds some level of attraction in the idea of having power over or giving up control to an attractive member of the opposite sex (or, if they’re gay, the same sex).

So, to the title question. Who enjoys BDSM? I submit that the answer is pretty simple. Just about everybody enjoys BDSM. Even if you’ve never tried it, look inside yourself–shine a flashlight back into the dark corners of your subconscious. Now be honest–don’t you see a few hidden fantasies there, perhaps locked away in dusty closets, but still alive, nonetheless?

Don’t feel bad–you’re in good company! Your neighbor, your friend, your ex-boyfriend, your teacher…almost everyone out there has some sort of BDSM fantasy that fascinates them.

And if you’d like to free your fantasies and feed them, rather than starving them behind lock and key, don’t let the idea that your wife is too conventional to give it a try. Don’t give up hope that you’ll be able to convince your straight-laced boyfriend to let you tie him up! Just approach the subject gradually, so that the buried attraction can overcome the “Oh, I could never do that!” reaction, and I suspect you might get farther than you ever thought you would. Given the right circumstances, just about everyone enjoys BDSM.

Enjoy yourself,

Jake

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