BDSM is the type of thing people think they understand. After all, they’ve seen plenty of it on TV, in movies, or on their favorite porn sites. They’ve not only read Fifty Shades of Grey, but really liked it. They may even have friends that are into the lifestyle. What they don’t understand is just how much misinformation is really out there as far as what BDSM really is (and isn’t) about.

Here we’ll take a closer look at some of the most commonly held misconceptions the general populace has about BDSM. In the process, we’ll cover what it’s really all about, who’s into it, and why as well. How many of the following do you believe?

  1. There’s always sex involved.

If there’s one myth most people believe about BDSM at one point or another, it’s probably this one. For some people, BDSM is very much a sex thing, meaning it involves the physical act of sex to one degree or another. However, there are plenty of others for whom sex doesn’t factor into their preferred experience at all.

At the end of the day, it really just boils down to an individual’s personal preferences. There’s no one “correct” way or reason to be curious about BDSM or interested in exploring it for yourself. You can draw a hard line between your play sessions and sex, you can combine the two, and you can change your mind at any time.

  1. Pain and pleasure are complete opposites.

Most people tend to think there’s a huge, very well-defined difference between pain and pleasure. In actuality, the two sensations are pretty closely related. In fact, most people have had at least a few sexual experiences that totally blurred the remarkably fine line between the two.

When a lover nibbles on your neck or your ear lobe during sex or foreplay, it actually hurts at least a little, right? Yet if you’re into it, it can also be extremely pleasurable at the same time. For most people, pain can cause or greatly enhance pleasure to one degree or another and that connection is what makes BDSM so appealing for so many.

  1. It’s all about pain.

If you think BDSM starts and stops at pain, it’s probably because you know exactly what would come up if you googled a term like “bondage” or “fetish”. A lot of it would be images and videos that are more apt to make you wince than turn you on, right? Well, images like those are the result of a stereotype skewed by the porn industry and don’t necessarily have much to do with the realities of BDSM.

In fact, one of the main principles of BDSM and fetish play is that it’s all about what does it for you. For some people, that might be pain, but for someone else it might the light, teasing touch of a feather tickler or the delicious surprise of an experience enjoyed while blindfolded. The whole point is to open one’s self up to a power exchange between themselves and a play partner – something that might not have anything to do with pain whatsoever.

  1. BDSM only recently became trendy.

Fifty Shades gets a lot of credit for making BDSM trendy, but it probably shouldn’t. Sure, it got people talking about it and for some, it was the thing that triggered their curiosity for the very first time. However, BDSM first made its way into the mainstream as long ago as the 1940’s.

That’s when you first saw the rise of the pin-up girl and the introduction of the first fetish magazines. People were into things like leather subculture then as well. BDSM as a concept goes much further back even than that though. Human beings have been experimenting with this type of play to one degree or another for many, many years.

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey is a good example of what BDSM is all about.

As touched on above, a lot of people these days think they know what BDSM is all about because they read the Fifty Shades books or saw the movies. However, any person that’s really into BDSM will totally tell you that much of the storyline badly misses the point.

Although there are lots of things about the series that tick the BDSM community off, the most oft cited one is the fact that Christian Grey’s sessions with Anastasia aren’t as consensual as they should be. Both the books and the movies are packed with scenarios that occurred despite the fact that Anastasia clearly wasn’t comfortable and BDSM is never about forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. In fact, communication and mutual respect are considered absolute musts.

  1. BDSM is something only emotionally damaged people are into.

Christian Grey may have been emotionally damaged and psychologically scarred, but that hardly means everyone that’s into bondage and fetish play must be. In fact, according to recent studies, the average person that’s into BDSM or kink are incredibly well-adjusted as compared to the rest of the populace. Couples that have decided to make kink, roleplay, or bondage a part of their regular repertoire have been found to be happier on average than those that haven’t as well.

It’s also worth noting that contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to suggest those that are into kink have sick minds that are the result of childhood abuse or a dysfunctional family life. However, there are studies out there that link participation in BDSM scenarios to a marked reduction in anxiety, so by all means break out the handcuffs! They may actually be good for you.

  1. One partner is always dominant and the other is always submissive.

Yes, many couples that are into a BDSM lifestyle prefer being either dominant or submissive pretty much 100% of the time. However, there are plenty of people out there that really enjoy both sides of the equation and switch roles frequently, so again – there’s no one right way to approach the dom/sub dynamic.

It’s also a common misconception that in male-female relationships, it’s always the woman that’s the submissive. Women are just as likely as men to want to be the one to take charge in a BDSM scenario and men are just as likely to prefer being submissive. Again, it all depends on which side of the equation looks the sexiest to you. Your gender doesn’t have anything to do with it.

  1. BDSM always involves the use of props.

If you’re curious about BDSM, but shy away from it because you don’t like the idea of handcuffs, rope, leather, or vinyl we have good news for you. Although the right props can definitely enhance the experience if you’re into them, they’re hardly mandatory.

Again, an important part of entering the world of BDSM is sitting down with yourself and deciding what you do and don’t think is sexy or fun. You also have the right to change your mind at any time. You may be adamantly against the idea of being spanked with a leather flogger or blindfolded right now, but decide you’re willing to give it a try with the right play partner at some other point down the road and that’s totally OK.

  1. Submissives enjoy being treated badly on an everyday basis.

Lots of people think of submissives as people that more or less just enjoy being treated like garbage all the time and that’s not true. Many people enjoy playing a submissive role in the bedroom precisely because it’s the opposite of who they are in their day to day lives. In fact, the world is full of bedroom submissives that are likely to take you straight to school if you attempt to tell them what to do outside of an actual BDSM scenario.

Even hardcore lifestyle submissives don’t necessarily live up to this stereotype. Most have a designated master that they’re devoted to pleasing or serving and won’t tolerate “bad” or “degrading” treatment at the hands of anyone else.

  1. BDSM is something only young, wild, single people are into.

If you’re new to concepts like bondage or fetish, you probably have a really clear picture in your head as to what people that swear by BDSM are like. The chances are also really good that you’re dead wrong. There’s no one type of person that BDSM and kink appeal to.

Sure, there are BDSM enthusiasts that like to hint at their interests with the way they dress, talk, or carry themselves. More often than not, you’d never be able to pick one out of a crowd. Many, many married couples are into kink and occasional bondage play. BDSM appeals to people of all ages and from all walks of life as well. That potentially includes your mild-mannered neighbors, your mailman, and maybe even your grandmother.

That said, you don’t have to be a certain type of person to “have permission” to explore kink, bondage, or BDSM. If it sounds like something you’d enjoy, discuss it with your partner. Shop for some basic gear together or experiment with some of the lighter fare the next time you’re in the bedroom. You just might discover a whole new side of yourself you really like!