The first annual Feminist Porn conference at the University of Toronto inspired discussions on a variety of topics, but really got me thinking about one: Negotiation.

BDSM is something that is often misrepresented in the mainstream, but its tenets come into play in our sex lives more than we realize.

Folks tend to associate BDSM with domination, and the perception of the role it plays in BDSM may be a bit skewed. Carrie Gray, long-time queer and feminist porn producer and star, couldn’t have said it better when they stated that BDSM is not about ownership, it is about negotiation. This got me thinking about how little I know about BDSM and how, perhaps, it has a relevance to my sexual and daily life that I had not yet recognized.

BDSM stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism. Mainstream dialogue often feeds an idea that BDSM is the seedy underbelly of sex and sexuality. But the truth is, BDSM has an important role in many of our daily relations and sexual encounters. As Carrie stated, it is about negotiation, and we negotiate much of our lives: We tell partners about our fantasies then discuss how we can make them come true; we meet people in bars, restaurants and bookshops and negotiate a time and place to get to know them better with or without clothes, and perhaps most importantly, we negotiate and establish important boundaries for our emotional and/or sexual relationships that combine comfort, safety and fantasy.

As I understand it, an important part of BDSM play is trust, respect and communication. Being with a partner who is open to hearing your fantasy and respecting your choices and boundaries is a large aspect of safe and healthy BDSM play and exploration. Communication is key, as it is in most of our relationships. Being open and honest with yourself and your partner is the best and most practical way to ensure a positive and fun experience, without unhealthily pushing any boundaries that may trigger or upset anyone.

In the duration of a panel discussion on porn and feminist porn and its ability to change the world, Carrie Gray suggested that interaction can lead to discovery, a discovery of self and our desires.

Being a self-subscribed vanilla (yes, it’s true!) I’ve come to realize that power play in my sexual relationships is also a form of BDSM. Switching up roles from being the dominant person on top, to being the submissive person who likes to be controlled is, though perhaps subtle, certainly a form of BDSM that has made its way into my bedroom. And, I mean…. I love it. Come on.

So where has BDSM come into your life? Or, more importantly, where do you want it to? 

In the words of Carrie Gray, once again, “[Life] is a playground and you can play with any type of equipment you want.”