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Bondage and Discipline

Bondage and Discipline

Bondage and discipline refers to the consensual physical restraint of a sexual partner for the purpose of inflicting pain, punishment, or humiliation. Bondage and discipline is part of Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadomasochism (BDSM), a larger category of sexual activities based in erotic power exchange. Bondage is a common fantasy for both men and women, and it appears that many couples have at one time or another experimented with bondage. Bondage and discipline, however, is practiced by a much narrower portion of the general population and is commonly engaged in by men and women participating in sadomasochism and domination and submission activities.

For the person being bound (generally referred to as the submissive or bottom) bondage can generate sexual excitement from the vulnerability associated with being subject to the will of another and from the mental freedom of having given up control of the situation. Some people enjoy the sensation of struggling against bonds; others may enjoy and derive sexual pleasure from the pain and humiliation inflicted by their partner. Bondage may also incorporate an element of torturous sexual teasing that many find stimulating.

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For the partner doing the binding (usually called the dominant or top), the sight of a bound nude or seminude body may be particularly stimulating, as is the excitement of having a person sexually available and at one's mercy. The power exchange involved in having a submissive capitulate to the will of the dominant and in having the dominant take responsibility for the safety and pleasure of the submissive can be highly exciting to both parties, even when sexual intercourse or genital stimulation does not form part of the bondage and discipline play.

TYPES OF BONDAGE

Bondage may pull parts of the body together (as in the binding of wrists and ankles or some breast and genital binding); separate body parts (as with use of a spreader bar to keep the legs apart); bind a person to an object; suspend a person in midair; restrict movement; or completely wrap (or mummify) the body.

Bondage materials range from the commonly available to the homemade to the professionally manufactured and sold. The most basic bondage item is rope, which is both pliable and adjustable enough to perform a variety of functions. Leather cuffs, handcuffs, and chains are also often used to bind the extremities together or to a stationary object, to tie a submissive in a spread-eagle position, or to hogtie a person with the ankles and wrists both bound behind the back. Gags, blindfolds, ear plugs, and hoods may be used to enhance a sense of isolation, confinement, vulnerability, and helplessness in the victim, as well as to induce a certain amount of sensory deprivation. Eyebolts are often mounted both on furniture and on walls or ceilings to aid in tying down or suspending a submissive. Mummification, or the wrapping of the body in such materials as bandages, plastic wrap, or cloth, completely immobilizes the body and allows the dominant the option of leaving the submissive in a state of sensory deprivation or of stimulating him or her while immobilized. The binding of genitals or breasts is also common and may or may not be done in conjunction with other forms of bondage. Both genital and breast binding (in men and women) may be done so as to prevent or to facilitate access to the body part in question.

TYPES OF DISCIPLINE

The term discipline is often used to refer any kind of sadistic or dominant activity performed in a BDSM context. Such discipline might be as simple as the infliction of pain on the bound submissive. Alternatively activities that both parties consider pleasurable (such as oral sex) might be cast by the dominant as something the submissive must perform or undergo as punishment for some misbehavior. Discipline might also take the form of role-playing in which the dominant takes on authoritarian role (parent, teacher, police officer) and punishes the submissive for some infraction. Such forms of discipline act more as sexual titillation than as punishment per se.

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More specifically, however, discipline refers to the training or punishment of a submissive by a dominant. Because the role of the submissive is to please the dominant (whether as a part of master/slave lifestyle or as part of a specific scenario two people are enacting), it is generally accepted that the submissive will require a certain amount of training and discipline in order to best serve the dominant. This discipline might take the form of withholding of a reward, such as orgasm; demanding that the submissive perform a service or degrading act for the dominant; or inflicting physical pain, such as whipping, spanking, or beating. Bondage itself can also be a form of discipline, if administered as a punishment.

SOCIAL CONTEXTS

In the United States bondage seems first to have emerged publicly through gay leathermen, who imitated post-World War II biker culture. In the 1960s bondage began to move into heterosexual culture, where the forerunners of current-day BDSM clubs developed as a means of exploring bondage and the BDSM lifestyle. Western bondage has been influenced by shibari, a Japanese style of bondage that originated as a mechanism of restraining and torturing prisoners. Shibari techniques emphasize the aesthetics of the bondage and utilize binding that, rather than simply immobilizing the submissive, stimulates him or her sexually by applying pressure to the breasts or genitals.

Though scientific and sociological studies of bondage and discipline are scattered, evidence suggests that many mainstream couples take part in bondage. The fascination that bondage holds for the general population is demonstrated by its prominence in mainstream erotica and pornography and by its frequent mention in mainstream popular culture.

Bondage and discipline in the strictest sense, however, is much more likely to be limited to the BDSM community, a loose conglomeration of individuals and institutions that self-identify as participating in sadomasochistic sexual play. Within this community, bondage and discipline often forms part of a core of common BDSM sexual activity and tends to not be particularly distinguished from other types of domination and submission behaviors; some individuals, however, more specifically fetishize bondage and its accoutrements.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bean, Joseph. 1994. Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player. San Francisco: Daedalus.

Brame, William; Gloria Brame; and Jon Jacobs. 1996. Different Loving: An Exploration of the World of Sexual Dominance and Submission. New York: Villard.

Midori. 2001. The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage. San Francisco: Greenery Press.

Miller, Philip, and Molly Devon. 1995. Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism. Fairfield, CT: Mystic Rose Books.

Wiseman, Jay. 2000. Jay Wiseman's Erotic Bondage Handbook. San Francisco: Greenery Press.

                                        Maureen Lauder

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