WHAT IS SM?

SM is erotic play, based on deliberate roles of dominance and submission.
Often it is sexual though not always. Conventional courtship and erotic play
may use ploys of domination and submission, but in SM these roles are
deliberate and are played out as such.

By being deliberately dominant and submissive with one another, we give and
receive permission and power to enter the territory of our erotic fantasies
- a territory we can enter in no other way. It is an incomparable,
transcendent experience.

SM is an adult sex game, an erotic psychodrama, and a daring adventure into
human nature. It includes endless physical and mental games. Some people
like to think of it as "Post-Graduate Sex." Good SM can make almost any
fantasy come true.

SM is not for everyone. But it is done all over the world, by women as well
as by men, and in any culture. For many, many people, SM is the only way to
go. SM is not a trifling practice, nor is it an aberrant one. Regardless of
the myths, the truth is that good SM is mutual, consensual, loving, safe,
moral, healthy, and normal.

ISN'T SM CRUELTY AND RAPE?

SM roles of domination and submission are deliberately chosen by both
partners. In spite of appearances, fantasies and the little games we may
play, SM is always mutual. True SM is never rape, nor does it ever involve
the abuse of unwilling victims.

ISN'T SM SEXIST?

Sexism tries to impose roles of domination and submission based strictly on
our physical sex organs. SM people, on the other hand, choose domination or
submission (or both) according to their own inner feelings and desires. SM
is always an exciting way to honest, shared eroticism. Sexism is not.

ISN'T SM SEXUAL HATRED, THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE?

Real-life relationships have some hate along with the love. The psychodramas
of SM let us be "bad" with one another, as well as "good." Then we can
express both love and hate in a positive, erotic way. Then we can accept and
enjoy both ourselves and one another. This is a good basis for love.

ISN'T SM DANGEROUS?

For people without actual SM experience, the fantasies and appearances of SM
are often excessive and frightening. But real SM is not the same as SM
fantasy, SM porn, nor SM in the movies. Some SM people look rough, but this
is just a courtship signal for rough action. And some SM activities can be
dangerous, but they are based on careful techniques - and even more careful
practice. Good SM is as safe as swimming or driving a car.

ISN'T SM PROMISCUOUS, IMPERSONAL, OR ALIENATED?

Like many other people, some SM-identified people like a variety of partners
- but many also live in faithful monogamy. There are no statistics. SM
reflects only individual desire. But it is surely the opposite of being
"impersonal" or "alienated" that we find ourselves being able to share and
express our erotic fantasies together, rather than having to repress and
conceal them, as so many people do.

ISN'T SM IMMORAL, OR AGAINST THE SOCIAL ORDER?

Many people believe in higher religious or political ideals, existing above
all individuals, and under which they believe all individuals should serve.
SM does not serve any such higher ideal. SM offers power only for individual
fulfillment. Thus SM may seem threatening or willfully immoral to those who
rely on higher ideals for their sense of security and importance - even
though many SM-identified people see no necessary conflict between such
higher ideals and individual fulfillment.

SM opens kinky, weird, and scary places within us. Many people think that
such places contain sin -- that they are proof of inherent corruption and
should be kept shut in the dark forever. But in SM we can discover that
human beings are not vessels of evil. These strange places within us contain
important erotic energy, which we can learn to share with others.

Everyone has faults and weaknesses. If you feel that your own basic nature
tends to lean toward evil, then SM is not for you. But, if you feel that
underneath it all you are a good person, then you may wish to give SM a try.
SM-identified people are people who have learned not to be afraid of
themselves.

ISN'T SM SICK AND UNNATURAL?

Anything done to excess can be called a mental illness. But mental illness
is not something consciously chosen: it is uncontrolled, non-consensual, and
destructive. SM is consciously chosen, consensual, and integrating.

Don't be misled by words such as "sadist" or "masochist." Despite the myths,
neither the Marquis de Sade nor Leopold Sacher-Masoch were insane or evil.
Both were positive, creative people. Psychology only borrowed their names to
describe types of mental illness - not to describe our reality. SM is
healthy. It affirms our fantasies and reconnects them to real relationships
and to real people.

Many psychologists believe that civilization itself is based on erotic
repression - like Freud in his essay Civilization and Its Discontents. If
this is true, then SM is the only erotic play that taps into that repressed
erotic energy, and there may be SM potential in everyone.

HOW DO PEOPLE BECOME SM-IDENTIFIED?

If your erotic fantasies often involve having power over another, or another
who has power over you, then you have latent SM tendencies.

It may be terrifying at first to admit to such fantasies. But SM fantasies
of dominance and submission only mean that you need your partner's
permission to get into an erotic territory that is important to you.

In order to accept your SM fantasies, just realize that there are many other
people in the world who would like to give you that permission, and to share
your fantasy with you. Such people are as valid and as human as you are.
Then you can accept your own SM fantasies as valid and human, too.

HOW DO PEOPLE GET STARTED IN SM?

Learning SM is like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle. Expect some
wobbling or thrashing about until you get the hang of it.

Start easy. The fantasies of virgins are notoriously excessive and
impractical. SM doesn't have to be physically rough, nor does it require
pain, torture - or even sex. Try a blindfold, or "pretend" bondage. Even the
simplest things can communicate permission and power to enter the realm of
erotic fantasy, and can release astonishing amounts of erotic energy.

Probably the best thing would be to try SM with someone close - a spouse or
a lover. (It is amazing that people will contract a lifetime marriage, but
not trust one another - or themselves - to try SM sex together!)

Call your local sex information switchboard for information and advice.

Better yet, volunteer to serve on it! You'll meet nice people who can talk
about SM. Some may even be into SM themselves.

Take courses in sexuality. You'll meet more nice people. Even at medical
schools, such courses may be open to non-students.

Call the SM-related ads in the counter-culture newspapers. Ask for advice:
you'll be surprised at the variety of answers. Don't omit the gay ads (or
the straight ones) nor the commercial ones. Truth is where you find it.

Ask your friends whether they think sex play is more exciting if one partner
is dominant or submissive. Many sex partners play dominant/submissive games
with each other, never thinking of it as SM.

People who place sex ads have done something important: they have defined
themselves erotically for others. Can you do this? Try writing your own ad,
as a dominant, submissive, or both, regardless of whether or not you intend
to publish it.

Experiment on yourself with bondage, fetish clothing, pain, or whatever else
you're interested in. Watch yourself in a mirror. How do they make you feel?
Would you like to create that sensation in another person? Or have another
person create that sensation in you!

Take your fantasies seriously. What turns you on? Why? What does this say
about you? Define yourself as the mirror-image of your ideal partners. What
courtship styles can you invent to attract your imagined, desired partner!

In some large cities, there is an SM subculture, which may be difficult for
novices to enter. But after you've made one SM friend, others will follow.

Lastly, join an SM-related group, such as The Society of Janus. You'll find
friends, ideas, information, and - most of all - support there.
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