The term BDSM is a catch-all phrase for a range of concepts and practices centered on power exchange in the context of sexual intimacy. Other activities in BDSM may include controlled voyeurism, exhibitionism, and role-playing.

This article explores BDSM and how its practice can be used to cultivate healthy romantic relationships.

Perception of BDSM

The practices involved in BDSM have been around for centuries in many cultures, however, some still consider these types of sexual / relationship dynamics to be taboo. Many of these ideas may seem extreme, but for centuries various cultures have used these techniques as deeper ways to explore consciousness, power, and control, as well as the dynamics of male and female energies in relationships.

For example, in addition to the media sometimes portraying fetishists in a negative light, the mental health industry has condemned aspects of BDSM for many years.

Reduced stress level

Some research has shown that engaging in BDSM practices can trigger biological, Zen-like effects you might experience during or after a fulfilling yoga session. These activities can actually reduce the amount of cortisol (called the stress hormone) circulating in your body.

In a series of studies, researchers took saliva samples from submissive and dominant participants during sadomasochistic scenes and partners showed a drop in cortisol levels after the session ended. Not only can a reduction in cortisol help us feel better mentally, it can also have a positive impact on our physical health.

Better communication skills

While some might assume the opposite to be true, exploring aspects of BDSM with your partner can actually improve your sexual relationship and ultimately bring you closer together. Experienced BDSM practitioners typically exhibit high levels of sex education and communication skills. People plan “scenes” using many forms of safety precautions that involve a strong sense of assertiveness and negotiation as well as vulnerability.

These are the foundations of a successful relationship. It is important to know that sex is a game and that it is okay to be submissive or powerful in a consensual way. Additionally, it is important to note that sex play roles are not equivalent to emotional relationship dynamics, nor do they equal relationship power roles outside of sex play.

Deepens Confidence

In addition to strengthening your communication skills at all levels, those who have been practicing BDSM with their longtime partners can often experience a deeper sense of confidence.

When done consciously, practicing BDSM can be a very powerful experience for a couple, ultimately bringing them together. All good BDSM trips begin with an honest conversation about what both people want to explore.

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