Sadism is a dirty word. It conjures thoughts of cruelty, ruthlessness, and violence. This invocation causes discomfort for a lot of people. The discomfort then becomes a projection of fears. When acknowledging BDSM, sadism tends to be cast in the most dubious light. The idea of dominance and submission has been made somewhat mainstream in its basic tenets. Masochism may garner a double take, but can be excused as only affecting the individual. But sadism… Sadism requires something to be inflicted upon someone. That’s a line that’s difficult for a lot of people to cross. There is a simple truth though – that you cannot have submission without dominance, or masochism without sadism.
Imagine for a minute that you have someone spread out under you. Your hands sink into their thighs, their skin is unnaturally, pleasantly, warm, and you can feel them squirm beneath you. They have your undivided attention. Your eyes are trained on them, watching how they move, listening to how their breath sounds, and tracking the tension or ease they hold in their body. Everything is about the interplay between you, them, and the crop in your hand. There is no room for anything else…
Consent, as always, is key. While many don’t understand consenting to pain, those of us who do gain access to a particular kind of intimacy. The inherent risk of pain heightens the expectations between each party, demanding a unique degree of focus. Every sound and sight must be given proper attention by the sadist; there shouldn’t be any distractions. Given how chaotic the world is right now, being able to shut off everything but what is directly in front of you provides a rich respite.
“Every sound and sight must be given proper attention by the sadist; there shouldn’t be any distractions.”
Rough rope plays between your fingers. You hold it steady in one hand, your partner’s hands held still in your other. They whimper underneath you as you wrap that rope around their wrists until bound. You slip two fingers between their skin and the rope handcuff. Your fingers fit perfectly underneath so you move on, yank at the tail end of the rope to jerk your partner back. You both revel in the play of power between you. You lean forward, smacking their ass, whispering what a pathetic, needy slut they are. They let out a desperate whine and heat pools in your stomach…
Subspace often gets discussed in terms of meditation, allowing the person to be wholly within their own body, yet able to float beyond day-to-day matters. Sadism can instill a similar state of being. Every moment you're scanning your partner(s) to determine any number of factors, including good pain versus bad pain, whether they need to relax their body more, or breathe more steadily. For many, this creates a sense of groundedness. As with subspace, there is no room for the quotidian, and the heightened stakes demand attention in a way many other forms of mindfulness can’t replicate.
So sadism can be meditative, though it’s not often defined as a meditation practice. That’s because it’s much more than that. For one, it’s also a process of catharsis. When it comes to impact play, that catharsis can be physical. A good impact play session is a workout, often bringing a rush of endorphins. Rope bondage, on the other hand, is a puzzle, where you place rope in very certain ways to create certain outcomes. BDSM scenes can be brain teasers. The play is not just about getting off, but about lighting up your brain with very specific scenarios. The more you engage with it, the more you can come up with complex combinations of different kinks to create new, freshly satisfying, outcomes.
There's pleasant buzzing noise and a warm glow coming from the glass tube in front of you. Your partner is laid out beside you looking at you with anticipation. You lean the wand down to hover just above their skin. A crisp zap buzzes between you. Their eyes widen, you smile. You do it again. You circle their nipples as little zaps buzz around them, causing their nipples to perk up. You glance down to their exposed thighs, and then run the wand along that soft sensitive skin, zapping them with a tiny-yet-intense beam of electricity. They struggle to keep still. Your eyes glitter as you enjoy the pretty sight of the violet spark arcing between you two.
At the end of the day sadism should be fun. In the same way you should be able to laugh at yourself when you’re having sex, you should be able to bring the same spirit of exploration and enjoyment to a BDSM scene. Sadism and masochism don’t need to be serious or scary to be legitimate and rewarding. Maybe you’re still learning your way around a length of rope and your knots look more like a tangled fishing net than a perfect spiderweb. That’s okay! Or maybe you have music on and are doing an impact scene to the beat of the music. It can be fun, silly and sexy to use someone’s ass as a drum. When we speak of kink and BDSM, we often use the word ‘play’ – and there’s a reason for that!
“Sadism and masochism don’t need to be serious or scary to be legitimate and rewarding.”
A door opens and your friend greets you with a smile and a hug. You put together some snacks, some drinks and get ready to move to the living room. You set the platter of snacks down on your sub’s back, as you continue chatting with your friend and turn on the TV. You turn on some fun reality show and chatter away as you eat and occasionally pet your sub’s hair. They stay still on their hands in knees. They enjoy the act of service, and enjoy the act of being largely ignored. You enjoy watching them, hanging out, and relaxing with your friends.
One of the great things about being an adult is that you can explore yourself, your boundaries, and what brings you pleasure. Sadism doesn’t have to be viewed in a reverent way to be acceptable. While sadism often provides some combination of catharsis, groundedness and simple pleasure, it doesn’t have to be anything other than something fun. When those three things combine though? That particular combination can open up new avenues to explore your own complexity in all its fullness. I say, if it calls to you, take that chance and run.