I think that differs from one participant to the next, +Maryanne Smith
. It can
be about pain, just as it can be about service or being granted a space where one is suddenly exempt from the decision-making that comes with adulthood. The why is very individual.
One thing I worry about in terms of explaining BDSM to a vanilla audience is the question of consent. BDSM did a lot to shift the conversation about sex toward a greater understanding of the role of consent, but it's not true that BDSM is an antidote for coercion or nonconsensual situations. The practice has a huge foundation based on consent, but violations and predatory behaviors can and do happen. BDSM have us tools to talk about it and a space to think about boundaries but that doesn't mean all BDSM is safe.
Indeed, some of the biggest issues within BDSM right now have a lot to do with that problem and the silencing of victims of consent violation, whose accounts are swept under the rug because it's become so important to continue to parrot this line about how important consent is, a situation that's made a lot of BDSM spaces the perfect place for predators to operate.
This isn't necessarily a problem for couples exploring BDSM, but people approaching their communities in their areas for play are made vulnerable by the refusal of sites such as Fetlife to allow users to warn others publicly about predatory behavior. That means that if you enter a scene, unless you know people who can tell you who's safe and who isn't, you're on your own. That's a huge problem, and articles that don't put emphasis on learning how to negotiate and check-in, and ignore the importance of getting references for a potential play partner, don't really help newcomers.