A History of BDSM (Kinky)

Sex God Rihanna once said, “Chains and whips excite me.” This led to a huge conversation amongst North Americans about what that meant exactly. I’m sure you’ve heard of BDSM, but do you know what it stands for? Do you know its history and origins? Do you understand why people enjoy it? After asking a few of my coworkers and friends, it seems that there is still a ton of confusion and stigma surrounding the topic,(no one could correctly answer what the abbreviation stands for) so we thought we would delve in for an educational (and kinky) blog. 

The BDSM community has a long history that began in the 1600s and has evolved into what it is today: a consensual hub of sexual kinks, lifestyles, interests, and more. It’s an umbrella for all fetishes, as long as they are consensual.

As with all other sexual endeavours and interests, we want there to be an open and honest conversation surrounding the BDSM community and its members. Since we are in the business of sexual wellness and education, we present to you A (Quick) History of BDSM

Let’s begin by defining BDSM. It does not stand for “big dick slamming me” nor does it stand for “bondage, dildo, sex mannequinn” like some co-workers guessed. It is an acronym that is split into three parts: bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism. While it is an acronym, it is not limited to only what it stands for. Today, it encompasses anything and everything. It is an umbrella term that is inviting to all interests and fetishes, as long as there is consent. 

People have been kinky from the dawn of time (as they should be). In Ancient Mesopotamia, the fertility goddess would use whips to arouse her subjects and incite orgies. Flagellation was featured prominently throughout Greek art and The Romans had a room specifically for women to whip each other called the Tomb of The Flogging. In the 1500s, Pico della Mirandola wrote about a man who could only enjoy sex if it envolved being whipped to the point of bleeding by a vinegar soaked whip.

Beginning of the 18th century, the Marquis De Sade’s, Donatien Alphonse François, writings of sexual brutality led to the coining of the term “sadism,” a now prominent component of BDSM. That same year, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, a story about a man who finds sexual pleasure in being punished and enslaved by a woman, then thanking her for the joy she brings him, led to the term “masochism.”

    Flagellation was soon dubbed “The English Vice” as they were all in want of a little spanka-roo. 1800’s London saw explicit texts being written in secret and passed around between members. The Victorian Era saw an obsession with pornography in the medium of erotic texts and sexual images that explored all kinds of sex, very different from the prudish reputation it typically holds. Turns out Victorians were just as hony as the rest of us. At the time, this was all illegal and you could be sentenced to jail if found with illicit objects. Publishers had to take on fake names and addresses in order to publish and print stories and pictures of orgies, spanking, homosexual sex, ecclesiastial buggery and more. In a particular work titled An Experimental Lecture by Colonel Spanker, a lecture on flagellation and masochistic sex, a young girl is sadistically tied up, whipped, and penetrated. Hundreds of other stories like this that touch on themes within BDSM were popular.

    Just before WWII, there was a movement towards sexual progressiveness. There was less hiding and more enjoyment than the previous century. Just after the Second World War, the soldiers who came back home were different. The war had obviously changed them. The leather and bike clubs were starting to bloom, the gay community was beginning to grow and take form, and the war veterans were craving the hierarchy they they experienced overseas. This is around the same time that pin-up photographs were being produced and passed around. Women dressed up in leather and holding a whip were prominently featured in these photos; most famously known is photographer Irving Klaw for photographing pictures of females tied up in bodage gear. 

    In the next 20 years, sadomasochism broke into popular culture with novels like 1970’s Cruising being adapted into film with Al Pacino starring as the lead detective in a case surrounding killings in the gay commununity. Madonna’s role in the BDSM community is also large. She brought themes of sex and kinks in her art work. Kinks began to be introduced into films and tv series.

    Today, the BDSM community is wide and large. Everyone is horny and everyone is into something a little different. It is not only limited to what the acronym stands for, but is a community that is inclusive to all kinds of interests, kinks, and lifestyles. A notable theme in the community is consent. Movements like SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual), RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink), and PRICK (Personal Responsibility, Informed, Consensual Kink) are dominating the BDSM community working to establish it as a safe place. Consent and safety are extremely important when practicing any kinks or fetishes. Each abbreviation has a set of rules to follow in order to ensure you are being safe while ‘playing’.

It’s safe to assume that we’ve all dipped our toe into a kink or two, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of! It is with open and honest conversation that we can create a safe space for sexual wellness and education. So, as we continue to sing along to Rihanna and get our weekly dose of Fifty Shades of Grey in, we are opening up to more common conversations revolving around BDSM. Not telling you to strike up a conversation with your grandmother nor your father-in-law about spanking this weekend, but take the time to further explore this topic and maybe have a chat with your friends.