Whether or not rough sex is considered BDSM is not always simple to define in a few sentences, and that’s because there are so many broad generalizations out there you can go blind trying to compare one to the other. And I want to state up front that’s not what I’m trying to do in this post. The only reason why I’m going near the topic right now is because of e-mails I’ve been receiving from readers who wanted to know my opinion. Without going into details or linking to anyone specific, something did spark this discussion recently and I thought it necessary to talk about it in a general, clinical sense.
But I want to make it clear that I’m not an expert, I’m not into the BDSM lifestyle personally, and I only know about BDSM from research I’ve done for a few books I’ve written that contained BDSM. And even then I’ve only written a few, like Jonah Sweet of Delancey Street. In that particular case I had to do research (G-rated; academic; not actual hands-on, so to speak) with someone I knew who was into the BDSM scene and has his own “playroom.” I’ve also done extensive research for an essay I wrote on BDSM in the non-fiction book, Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. So while I’m not personally into the scene, I do know a little about it from an outsider’s POV.
This is how Wiki defines BDSM:
BDSM represents a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who don’t consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community and/or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle, and there is debate over whether a BDSM or kink sexual identity also constitutes a form of sexual orientation.
I would suggest reading the entire article in full to get the most basic concept. It’s clinical, it’s impersonal, but it’s accurate from what I can tell.
It’s a very broad topic with a lot of gray area for those who are not really into the scene/lifestyle, and yet for those who are there are fundamental aspects that can’t be ignored. And I make no claims to define anything relating to BDSM right now. I wrote my books that contained BDSM with great care to make sure I followed the rules of those who are into the lifestyle. So far I haven’t seen any reviews that slammed it, and that was my biggest worry when those books were released, especially Jonah Sweet. It’s also why I don’t write about BDSM very often. I feel comfortable with the topic, but I don’t feel comfortable with my own lack of personal experience with BDSM. In the same respect, I’ve never been a fan of that old saying, “Write what you know.”
I do, however, think there is a difference between what’s considered BDSM and rough sex. To imply that there isn’t would be an insult to those who are into the BDSM lifestyle, and an insult to those who aren’t into BDSM but like rough sex. Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing a lot of confusion about this for a while now by those who speak without thinking, and I wanted to discuss it just so I have a point of reference where I can guide people when they e-mail me.
When I think of rough sex, like a scene I wrote in Fangsters: Clan of the Jersey Boys, I don’t think along the lines of BDSM or the lifestyle. If I were thinking along those lines I would make it clear and I would explain that it is BDSM just so it would be clear to readers that I’m not insulting those who are into BDSM and the lifestyle. As I said, I’ve written about this before and I’m not a complete idiot on the topic. You don’t have to know how to bake to enjoy a good cake. I found the reseach fascinating and I have absolute respect for those into the lifestyle. In the same respect, I also know that people engage in rough, pleasurable sex play without the structured elements of BDSM, and it’s usually something that just happens without talking, explaining, or getting into any detailed rules or regulations. At the most basic level, rough sex is NOT a lifestyle. Sometimes it just happens. As a side note, it can happen in bad ways, too. But I’m not getting into that because it’s off topic. I’m talking about people who enjoy rough sex, and where no discussion is needed to enjoy it.
Here’s a pg rated excerpt of a rough scene from Fangsters that’s not actually BDSM. Fangster is not now, nor has it ever been a BDSM book. Once again, I want to make that clear to readers: Fangsters is not a BDSM book. Take into consideration this is happening between two vampires and not real people, it’s been clearly established in the book that these vampires do get rough sometimes because of their superhuman strength, but never is it mentioned once they are into the BDSM lifestyle because that would be insulting people who are into BDSM:
Digger had always been easy to manage in this respect. Anton slapped him, punched him, pulled his hair, and lifted his bottom half off the bed. He choked him a few times and twisted his head. Digger didn’t speak much aloud, but he didn’t complain about being handled in such a rough way either. By the way he moaned and sighed, as if he couldn’t catch his breath at certain points, no one would have thought he was experiencing anything other than pleasure. Though all this only took five or six minutes, Anton caught a glimpse of Leo watching them in action, with one hand on his chest and the other over his mouth. The poor guy looked as if he’d gone into shock.
Notice how I underlined that one sentence above. Now, anyone can see that the evil vampire Digger is not in pain and he’s not suffering. He’s a vampire; he can’t feel pain and suffering like humans, which is also established in the book. That’s plain and simple. Did I need to talk about this and refer to this scene as BDSM? I could have played it safe and done that. But would that have been overkill? I don’t think it would have been authentic to a paranormal book, and I don’t think people who are into the BDSM lifestyle would have been happy about that. BDSM is real; the lifestyle is real. The character, Leo, who is watching, is only in shock because he doesn’t even know these two are vampires yet. He’s also very submissive and this is explained well in the book, too. I don’t consider this BDSM. I don’t think anyone who understands the basic fundamentals of BDSM would consider this BDSM. I consider this rough sex with vampires. And this aspect of rough sex, though I won’t go into detail about it here, is something I do know from personal experience. It happens sometimes. It’s not planned and there are no discussions about consent. And it has about as much to do with BDSM as a lifestyle as Mary Poppins.
In this article I found on the topic of the difference between rough sex and BDSM, the author explains it this way in a piece actually titled, BDSM Is Not Rough Sex.
In BDSM nothing happens during a session that hasn’t been discussed first. there are rules and regulations. Wynter describes what she does as a ‘craft’, anyone interested exploring BDSM should go back to school.
As you can see, BDSM is a far more complicated topic with rules and I would even go so far as to say it’s an art. And the one thing I learned from my experience in doing research about BDSM is that I never want to disrespect the people who are into the lifestyle because I also think of it as an art. I don’t paint or sculpt, and I think of that as art. I feel the same way about BDSM. I don’t do it, but I appreciate the art form. The problem is there are too many who don’t understand what BDSM is all about.
In this next article to which I’m linking, the author seems to get angry that people consider BDSM and rough sex the same thing. She gives good examples, and states why she gets frustrated about it because she’s not into BDSM and she is a fan of rough sex. I can’t post any examples here because of copyright violations. But I really do think this article is worth reading in full if you aren’t sure about the difference between rough sex and BDSM. You will have to sign up, but it only takes a minute and it’s just basic info. It’s worth the time.
And one of the reasons why it’s important to know the difference between rough sex and BDSM is because books like Fifty Shades of Grey have popped up recently and people who know nothing about BDSM have suddenly become ten cent experts. They think a slap on the bottom is BDSM, or a twist of the neck is BDSM, and it’s far more involved than that. The problem is they know nothing at all, and FSoG is NOT the book on which to base any serious BDSM examples. In fact, the topic of my essay in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey talks about this in more detail, and how people into the BDSM lifestyle were insulted by FSoG.
And then, sometimes, you just have to use your own good instincts and common sense. I do think most people know the difference between rough sex and BDSM, and I wanted to add that so I don’t insult them as well. It’s not a topic I ever thought I’d have to get into here on this blog, but sometimes things come up in this Internet age and you just have to address them for the sake of clarity…and piece of mind. I welcome any comments from anyone into BDSM. All comments are treated with discretion and absolute privacy.