Opinion: Kink vs. BDSM

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As you have noticed, we are called KINK weekly, not BDSM weekly. Yet most of the articles and features on this site have been BDSM oriented. Of course, with the loosening of the moral – and legal – strictures on all alternative lifestyles, the line between kink and BDSM has been blurred. Enter BaadMaster to attempt to clarify this confusion.
As I see it – and this is simply my opinion – the difference is that BDSM has an implied power exchange; kink does not. It is really that simple. Even Christian, the “Fifty Shades” helicopter pilot/pervert, crosses from kink into BDSM when he offers Anastasia a “slave contract.

If one accepts my differentiation between kink and BDSM as simply that of the inclusion of a power exchange, a larger question presents itself – is there really such a thing as a power exchange?

There are kinky friends of mine who claim there “is no such thing as a power exchange.” They use the argument that, “You cannot legally consent to be someone’s slave.” This might be true in a legal sense; but I always counter with, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” When I see a slave serving his/her Master/Mistress, it surely appears that they are in an M/s state. I have yet to see a slave tell his/her Master/Mistress, “Get your own fucking beer,” as I have with kinky vanilla couples.

Of course, there are great variations in the levels of D/s in our lifestyle. It runs from 24/7 to a one night session to a weekend arrangement – and everything in between. But, in any relationship no matter how kinky, if there is a power exchange, it “graduates” from kink to BDSM. And that is the difference.

In our post “Fifty Shades” world, there is a lot of switching in the “New Guard.” Thus, there can be confusion as to who wields the power – a question that was easy to answer in the previous generation’s “black and white” Dom/sub approach. It is now more complex.

I think the actual power exchange is a twofold process; it is actually fluid. The first stage is the negotiation phase. Here, in my opinion, the submissive holds the power. The slave has the veto power and is the one generally stating his/her hard limits. This “veto power” is, by its very nature, not submissive and, from the Dom/me’s point of view, can be a bit unsettling. But, as I have stated in previous kink weekly articles, “Until you actually negotiate a D/s interaction, no matter how rudimentary, you are not anyone’s submissive.”

Even if the submissive is unconsciously acting in a “power positive” role by having the veto authority, I see no conflict here. It does nothing to bolster the argument that, “It is the submissive who has the power.” I would concede at this negotiation stage the submissive might be in the power position. But once we get to the second stage – the actual power exchange – the dynamic changes. As does the progression from kink to BDSM.
The Dominant is now given authority over a range of the submissive’s life – from sexual to lifestyle aspects. The degree of this power varies from couple to couple (and triad to triad!), but the power is clearly in the hands of the Dom/me. And “kink,” as the operational overview of this type of interaction, goes out the window.

In a strictly “kink based” relationship, anything goes. Obviously, this is a lot more exciting than any vanilla relationship can be. But without a power exchange, kink is just that – kink.

BDSM has a lot more structure – and thus it has greater “staying power.” In my opinion, BDSM is an exciting way to be kinky and to also have a sexy hierarchy.

And, no matter how kinky you are, order beats chaos any day of the week!

Comments

  1. That’s good. But how about those of us who want to try everything to find what it is we want to allow our D’s to be able to do? I know that I don’t want blood drawn but I once was with a D Who place needles around both my nipples and The with a scalpel and without drawing blood removed the needles. Was it exciting for me only in the knowledge that it made the D happy. I have lots to learn.

  2. BDSM actually stands for something: bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism. It is specifically constructed around sexual practices and can therefore be defined and limits can be drawn around what acts can be performed consensually under that rubric.

    Kink is a broad, faintly snarky slang that could be defined as “anything but missionary PIV intercourse. A term that all-encompassing applies to such a wide spectrum of behaviors it’s effectively meaningless. It’s popular use has led to a watering down of both BDSM principles and practices and provided a means by which anyone who wants to be considered “hip” can do so by simply identifying as kinky without telling anybody Thing One about what their real orientations might be. I understand that for an online publication with the legitimate goal of being as inclusive as possible such broad language is more inviting to more potential readers but it’s general usage can be seen as a sort of BDSM-shaming and a deliberate rejection of everything that existed before 50 Shades, which has very little BDSM in it and is, by it’s typically hackneyed locution, basically about kinky fakery, which means what I don’t know. I find it interesting and not a little disturbing that it’s become trendy to try and separate BDSM from sex and therefore from other forms of sexual expression so as to make it a narrow sub-set of the ambiguous thing some prefer to call kink. As an out and proud BDSM dominant of 40 years who is very much about the sexuality of what it is I do, I don’t care to subsume it under some more general description that might or might not apply.

    • Let’s start some debate happening here. It’s been too peaceful on kinkweekly.com.

      Ernest Greene states, “…I find it interesting and not a little disturbing that it’s become trendy to try and separate BDSM from sex and therefore from other forms of sexual expression so as to make it a narrow sub-set of the ambiguous thing some prefer to call kink….”

      Trendy…trendy my ass! When I first came to Cali and joined the fledgling BDSM scene (when the Lair was Conquest in the space above a Latin Wedding Hall), the first thing I was “taught” was that BDSM has nothing to do with sex! This concept has probably been around from the time the letters B,D,S,M were invented. (Well, not that long. I jest!)

      I repectfully state that I think you postulate that the “New Guard” gets up in the morning and thinks about ways to be trendy. Trends actually never start that way. Trends start when someone does something and other people say “that’s cool.” Or, in Internet shorthand, “That’s trending.” You give too much credit to the “New Guard;” They are not that devious or calculating, any more than Burning Man was invented as a quick way to make a million bucks.

      There are — and will always be — seminal movements; often they leave an “Old Guard” (in any social activity) behind — an “Old Guard” that revels in the Glory Days and does not see the light of the new order.

      Obviously, there are errors of ommission and commission in “Fifty Shades,” the publicity horn of the “New Guard.” But, as I see it — and this is only my opinion — I like where BDSM and kink are both going.

      It is fluid, it is not preachy — and, most of all — it is not illegal.

  3. Neil Martinson says:

    While I appreciate some of the thinking that has gone into this short essay, I take issue with the author’s definitions of kink and BDSM.
    In its general usage, the word kink refers to any number of practices that are outside the realm of ordinary vanilla sex, including bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism, masochism, anal sex, age play… It’s all kinky! I’ve been involved in the kink scene for many years, and never heard of this mutually exclusive distinction.
    What you are defining as BDSM sounds more like D/s play, or more specifically Master/slave role playing. The argument about power exchange has always seemed like a red herring to me. Of course there is no legal contract to make someone an actual slave. The issue is always simply one of consent (preferably enthusiastic, risk aware, and informed). If people define their power dynamic as Master/slave, that’s their business. If they actually think their contracts are legally binding, then they are deluded and may need help, psychological and/or legal.
    I’m also skeptical of your final assertion. While most of us prefer a bit of order, I’ve known plenty of kinky folk who switch gender roles, sexual preference, and power dynamics willy-nilly, and like it that way! Lastly, it also doesn’t seem “obvious” to me that all this is necessarily more exciting than vanilla sex. Obvious to whom? Certainly not to vanilla people!
    I appreciate the disclaimer that all this is just your opinion, but I feel this piece is misleading in numerous ways and some more thinking and different opinions need to be considered before such pieces see print.
    No offense intended. I always look forward to kinkweekly!

    • Neil Martinson states, “…Lastly, it also doesn’t seem “obvious” to me that all this is necessarily more exciting than vanilla sex. Obvious to whom? Certainly not to vanilla people!…”

      I can only observe what I observe. When I see TV ratings go through the roof with the “Mistress Heather” series of the original CSI shows, how many vanillas are going to see Fifty Shades (a half billion dollar gross cannot be generated by only BDSM lifestylers) and HBO’s near obsession with kinky shows, I can only conclude that alternative activities — for the most part — are titillating to the masses because it is more exciting. There is no other conlcusion I can draw. Clearly, this does not mean EVERY vanilla longs for kink or BDSM. But a hell of a lot do from what I see.

      I could be wrong (I was wrong about Trump winning!), but I stand by this assertion. And, as I state ad nauseum, this is only my opinion.

  4. “no such thing as a power exchange”? I have to disagree with that. No matter the legality of it, as a side note a LOT of things in the BDSM world are “illegal”, if there is no power exchange then what are we all doing besides running around and playing dress up?

    There is most definitely a power exchange and I like the attempt to differentiate between kink and BDSM in this manner. It doesn’t cover the entire spectrum but at least it’s an attempt.

    I’m with Mr. Greene when he, in summation, states that sex is definitely a part of the BDSM lifestyle. I CAN separate the two but in all honesty, I prefer the inclusion. If there was no arousal from BDSM practice I wouldn’t do it.

    There’s a few small debates in various groups on Fetlife that are essentially “Old v. New” wherein both sides are arguing that the other side is “doing it wrong”. I believe the finding a way to form a better definition of kink, BDSM, and fetish would help calm both sides.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to change minds these days.

    • mrmots…please re-read what I said. To quote:

      “…There are kinky friends of mine who claim there “is no such thing as a power exchange.” They use the argument that, “You cannot legally consent to be someone’s slave.” This might be true in a legal sense; but I always counter with, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” When I see a slave serving his/her Master/Mistress, it surely appears that they are in an M/s state. I have yet to see a slave tell his/her Master/Mistress, “Get your own fucking beer,” as I have with kinky vanilla couples…”

      It is clear that I state there IS such a thing as a power exchange; I have a live in slave so I obviously practise what I preach. The point was that there are many kinky and kinky vanillas who deny its existence.

      On your final point, I am very clear: there will always be a natural antipathy between the “Old” vs the “New.” It can be confusing to pick and choose the best of both orientations; ultimately that is what we should do! (Once again, my opinion only.)

  5. Hello, this conversation has intrigued me very much. Differing opinions is what life is all about.
    So, that being said, in my opinion there is power exchange in all relationships be it, work, mothers/children, wives/husbands, siblings, work environment etc. The power exchange happens continually.
    I have always believed that in bdsm the power is with the sub, using one word the playing or scene stops no questions asked. Now, in the slave/Master environment I have no personal experience, but from friends that do live 24/7 there is still on some level where the slave can ask a question or say no. I am thinking that is all discussed and agreed upon before the relationship is sealed verbally or by written contract. I saw the comments about the legality of the contract. I would like to think the Master/Dom/Domme is honourable and keeps to the contract, as a sub should always have a trustworthy Domme/Dom.
    Hmmmm.the issue of kink versus bdsm, from what I have seen and experienced so far is that kink seems to be used for a variety of platforms for people to break into the world of bdsm. Most of the people I have talked with seem to be looking for sex rather than the idea of bdsm, particularly men.
    I have lived in two different areas, the first place I lived in, the bdsm world was for the most part, not looking for sex, they wanted the excitement and pain of the bdsm. There were very few that incorporated sex in the mix.
    The second area that I live in, they for the most part incorporate sex with bdsm. Now the passing years could account for that, the first years were 15 years ago. For me the bottom line for me is, whatever makes one happy, safe, consensual is what they feel it is. I will continue to find and seek out those that make me happy!
    Thanks for reading.

  6. Isaac Kalder says:

    What I am about to write is from the opinion of a mostly Vanilla person. So do have mercy on my soul if I am wrong on anything.

    “Obviously, this is a lot more exciting than any vanilla relationship can be” Are you implying that Kink, and BDSM is superior to Vanilla, and that all Vanilla people secretly want to be BDSM, and Kinky instead, or just don’t know that are Kinky?

    Are you also implying that BDSM is superior to just Kink? What is it with you people having to categorize everything into what is superior, and inferior? Why can’t you guys just shut up, agree that everything, every sexual life style, etc is equal, and move on?

    Snobbish attitudes like that is a contributing part of the problem that causes BDSM, and Kink to have a bad abusive, and/or arrogant, snobbish image.

    “In my opinion, BDSM is an exciting way to be kinky and to also have a sexy hierarchy. And, no matter how kinky you are, order beats chaos any day of the week!” EW EW EW!!! Hierarchies, and Order are gross, and that is how you get snobbish people who want to rank everybody in BDSM: “My Kink is better than your Kink” “You;re doing it wrong” etc. How do you think the Catholics, and other Religions maintain such a strong choke hold over every bodies sexualalities (and still do)? People enter into Kink, and BDSM to ESCAPE the Order, and Hierarchies. BDSM, and Kink is ALL about embracing CHAOS, and letting your WILD side out! Why do you think BDSM people online compares it to your Sexual Animal Instincts, and Beasts, etc? Wild Animals, and Beats of Nature have no Order, or Hierarchy! It’s all absolute Chaos, and Anarchy out there!

    “But without a power exchange, kink is just that – kink.” But isn’t EVERY Kink out there technically a Power Exchange of sorts? I mean in any, and every Kink scene, or Private Activity, someone is the Top, and someone is the Bottom. How could it be any other way? Someone has to be the giver, and the other the receiver in any Scene, or Private Activity. It doesn’t have to be a Permanent Power Exchange as they can Switch roles whenever they want, and they can just be Kinky randomly, BUT there is still a Temporary Power Exchange during an actual Scene, or Private Activity. Most Scenes, and Activities involve some sort of Bondage, and so as soon as one is tied up, Power Exchange automatically begins. Because the one who is bound is now trusting the other person to do what is agreed upon as now the Top could easily rape, harm, or even kill the Bottom if they wanted to, and the Bottom could do nothing about it. Trust, and Power Exchange is the same thing. Hell, I’d even argue that Power Exchanges exist in VANILLA relationships as well whether the Vanillas admit to it, or not. After all, in most Vanilla relationships, only ONE of them Wears The Pants!

    What’s wrong with incorporating sex into Kink, and BDSM? Why does it HAVE to be separated? Sure, it doesn’t HAVE to involve actual sex, but don’t most people who are into Kink, and BDSM into it because it’s their “SEXUAL” Life Style? Do most people NOT get “Sexually Turned On, And Aroused” by being into Kink, and BDSM? Are most Fetishes NOT of a sexual nature?

    Even still, even if I am wrong on that, why is it the BDSM Communities business what consenting adults do to each other, and why, and how? You said in someone else’s reply that you were ““taught” was that BDSM has nothing to do with sex!” They need to STFU, and misnd their own f**ing business then, because nothing should be “TAUGHT” on how you “SHOULD” do it in the first place. It’s not their business if you go into BDSM to get horny, hard, and bust a nut from being spanked. You can do that if you want, and no one else has the right to tell you NO. The community needs to stay out of other people’s business.

    “The slave has the veto power and is the one generally stating his/her hard limits. This “veto power” is, by its very nature, not submissive and, from the Dom/me’s point of view, can be a bit unsettling.” Whoever thinks it’s unsettling is obviously an abuser who everyone should stay away from. That’s a MAJOR red flag. If they have a problem with a Sub, or Slave having HARD Limits, and Boundaries, then they don’t deserve their submission, or anyone’s for that matter. Any Dom/Me/Master etc who doesn’t fell their Sub, or Slave has the right to have any HARD limits, and Boundaries doesn’t deserve to be a Dom/ME/Master at all. This what we call Predators who use BDSM as their base of operations. If they’re unsettled, it’s only because they don’t respect the Sub, or Slave as a human being who still has rights, and just wants to use them in whatever way they want, abuse them in any way they want, no matter how damaging, and don’t care about their HARD limits, and Boundaries, and are just looking for easy prey to break them. If they can’t accept the VETO power that every Sub, and Slave has morally, ethically, and legally, then they can just STFU, and GTFO. Srsly.

    At the end of the day, my main point is that Kink, and BDSM SHOULD be teaching that consenting adults can do whatever the f**ck they want to, and with each other, and anyone else who has a problem with that can STFU, GTFO and mind their own damn business. That’s the only proper attitude to have in Kink, and BDSM. Any other attitude is snobbery, and is unacceptable, and inexcusable. That goes for anyone bashing on Vanilla as well, and thinking that Vanilla is lesser/inferior than/to Kink, and BDSM. They can also STFU, GTFO, and mind their own damn business as well. But what do I know? I am just mostly a Vanilla.

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