|I missed this thread by about a year the first time it came around, so I'm glad you reintroduced it, Tom. |
What I like about BDSM is its ability (for me) to "get at" the emotions connected with intimacy in a bigger, bolder, and more vivid way than other forms of intimacy. This has a large component of psychodrama to it, in that by making the emotions I associate with intimacy hyperreal, I can explore them more easily and to a greater depth. The particular emotions I enjoy experiencing this way are dependency, trust, fear, strength/resistance, and submission (in the sense of stepping out of the way and letting things happen, as well as in the sense of being humble before someone whom I have given a greater status than myself). I prefer bottoming, but when I top, I enjoy feeling capable and trustworthy. It is an immensely humbling experience to be trusted with another person's well-being in that way, and that is also something I like about BDSM.
I think this leads into self-actualisation, because by exploring these psychological phenomena writ large, if I see something that is a problem with how I react, I can change it or refine it. Exploring BDSM has given me more power over myself and my own life. For example, it has helped me come to the realization that I have a right and a responsibility to ask for what I want, and to communicate my needs clearly with my partners. I could have internalized that lesson in some other way, but it so happens that BDSM worked well for me.
BDSM overlaps with sacred sex and ritual for me as well.
I'm pretty doubtful of the claim that BDSM, in and of itself, supports the dominant heteropatriachy. It can be used as a tool that way, sure, just as non BDSM sex can be used as a tool that way, but I'm similarly skeptical of the claim that all PiV sex is rape. The stereotypical dominant is a powerful femme woman, in the circles I've traveled.
BDSM can also be an alternative means of sexual expression for people who are ambivalent about using their genitals (or want to do other kinds of sexual things than use their bits). That's an important path of empowerment for some folks, including trans folk and some survivors. (Many survivors would prefer to never have anything to do with BDSM. Obviously that is a valid choice. I wanted to emphasize that not all survivors who choose to engage in BDSM activities do so in order to reenact abuse, which seems to be a claim many anti-BDSM people make; for some, it may have to do with avoiding genital sex, which might be more triggering to them than other kinds of sexual activity.)