The classification of BDSM behaviors as "sexual disorder” does not take into account the positive, useful effects of this type of sexual interaction - and assumes that there is something wrong with it.
In Philip Miller and Molly Devon's "Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns", the general principles of BDSM interaction to the specific techniques and a body map of the best places for whipping and spanking are presented.
The work has served as support for studies and research that proved as harmful and erroneous the psychological community condemnation of sadism and masochism.
If you did not know, in the Manual of Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM) - an important resource of study in the field of psychology, sexual sadism and sexual masochism are considered as "paraphilia". Although the latest DSM (DSM-5) does not consider paraphilia as a disorder in itself, unless "it causes stress, impairment of the individual or harm to others," this still has important implications for BDSM practitioners and the BDSM community as a whole. Their inclusion in a mental health book can induce the idea that there is something wrong with what they like, with their lifestyle, which can create a bias in society.
If you feel the desire for spanking, does that mean you are sick? No.
Spanking is used here as an example, as it is the most common association when an outsider thinks of BDSM. However, spanking is only one facet of the BDSM world.
Safe, Sane and Consensual: would you like to be spanked?
The most important BDSM principle is: "Safe, Sane and Consensual", SSC. These may seem simple words, but like DSM to psychologists, they are sacrosanct in the BDSM community. A "scene" is what happens between two or more adults who intend to engage in this type of erotic game.
BDSM doesn't just mean that a person slaps their playing partner; interactions usually start with negotiation, where limits and preferences are discussed. Violation of the limits of a partner without consent is not allowed in the BDSM community, is considered abuse.
Since BDSM often explores intense erotic interactions, it is necessary to ensure that all participants are of legal age, i.e. they are major, to participate; that all limits are set in advance and that there is an agreed safety word if the game becomes too intense. If any of the participants utter that word, the game is stopped immediately. There are also safety signals if the partner who wants to stop is unable to vocalize the safety word, for example, because of a gag.
So it is pretty safe and healthy.
BDSM biases: why would anyone want to be slapped? Sounds crazy!?
Myths and prejudices about the BDSM community are present throughout the community of mental health specialists as well as in society in general. Such misconceptions have led much of the psychoanalytic community to pathologist BDSM. After all, it is easy to assume that a person who relishes a good spanking in a scene might not object to being spanked in the middle of a supermarket. In reality, those who enjoy BDSM enjoy it in a specific context, such as during a scene. These people are not addicted to pain. They are not crazy. They do not need therapy or a cure. And in most cases, they are not victims of abuse.
Sexologist Carol Queen wrote a fantastic article in the Journal of Women and Therapy offering a useful critique of DSM.
Although recently, the opinion of specialists has changed to an extent, - throughout history, DSM has viewed S/M as a pathological form of erotic behavior without regard to the consent or spirit of community affiliation. Nor did it take into account that the experience of being labeled as pathological by an important specialized institution can in itself be harmful to the emotional well-being of a client."
Psychoanalysis implements a type of social control through BDSM pathology. In other words, it subtly changes the way we perceive what is normal and abnormal. It also makes "normal" behavior something to strive for, and behavior considered "abnormal", something to avoid - and for which even a "healing" is to be tried.
They really say spanking makes me crazy?
Well, yes and no. In DSM-IV-TR (fourth edition of DSM), sexual sadism and sexual masochism were listed as paraphilia. DSM defines paraphilia as "recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, arousing sexual impulses, or sexual behaviors ... occur over a period of at least six months ... A little vague description. Of course, some of these concerns were addressed in the most recent publication, DSM-V, launched in 2014. The American Psychiatric Association website posted updates to paraphilia disorders and in fact said that "most people with atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder."
This is a beginning, but it is still a problem with this thesis: the word "atypical"." Although concessions have been made in the DSM-V regarding BDSM, the statement still creates a context in which BDSM is characterized not as part of the broad spectrum of sexuality, but as somewhat unusual, even abnormal behavior.
In her book Between the Body and the Flesh, Lynda Hart writes that one way to watch BDSM practice is to do sex" rather than "to have sex." While those who don't practice BDSM usually don't have much to think about what they expect to take place in a particular sexual encounter, scenarios are planned and negotiated in BDSM before the play begins. While the psychoanalytic community argues that these behaviors are problematic, it seems that it empowers the participants.
Some BDSM critics argue that power structures in BDSM relationships are an opressive manifestation of male and hetero domination - normality. What they fail to achieve is that by fulfilling sexuality, rather than simply by experimenting it, traditional power structures can be explored, reversed and changed in any scene. There is freedom to explore the power dynamics as a giver or receiver of sensations. It is best that it does not always have to be the same: in a play, I can be the one to slap my partner and later in the BDSM scene, or during the next play, he or she can slap me.
Spanking for everyone (but only if you want it)!
So if BDSM is really taking place safely with healthy and with consensual sex, shouldn't everyone do it? No, not really. That doesn't mean that people should avoid BDSM, but no, it is not for everyone. Not because it is weird or abnormal, but because really nothing in the sex world is for everyone. BDSM interactions are wonderful, they can significantly enrich our sexual experiences, but different people like different things and thus have to be.
When there is no consent or someone becomes so consumed by practicing the chosen fetish that they no longer participate in everyday life, they have exceeded the limit. That is not just a BDSM problem - it could happen anyway, including while practicing vanilla sex life. While DSM-V has taken steps to reduce bias, there is still room for improvement. So let's not let The DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) have the last word on BDSM...