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Pop culture has exploited S&M, or sadism and masochism, and fetish practices in a variety of media outlets, including music videos, film, art and song. Exploitation may not necessarily be in a negative connotation though. The exposure to these images and ideas can plant the seed for healthy experimentation or even a personal acceptance of one’s own attractions.

From Rihanna singing about whips and chains, to the 450 million copies sold of the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” our pop culture is screaming at us, sometimes literally, that we should pay attention to this kinky lifestyle. Housewives across the country are secretly reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Nerdy men have been fantasizing about slave Leia for decades. “Eyes Wide Shut” showed a stylish and secret fetish society. Bettie Page has been widely popularized and had a resurgence of popularity in the past few decades regarding her fetishized images with heels, stockings and bondage, as a damsel in distress. In 2009, real life dominatrix Isabella Sinclair was shown cracking a whip in a national ad for Pistachio nuts.

Lady Gaga has sold 23 million albums with a repetitive fetish and S&M theme, imagery and lyrics. Madonna in the 90s was a living and walking fetish with her Erotica album imagery and her Sex book. Agent Provocateur is one of the leading designers in high end women’s lingerie and markets their products with a fetish theme.

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Dita Von Teese, a fetish model, has become the national face for Target brand lingerie, Jean Paul Gautier, MAC Cosmetics and Swarovski. Even in the animated show “Family Guy,” the main characters are shown in leather and talking about a safe word.

In 1941, Wonder Woman made her first appearance in comic books, depicted as bound, tied, gagged and tortured, but she always broke free. Most people do not know that Wonder Woman was created by a psychologist that had a passion for fetish and the roles of the dominant and submissive.

When you start saying to yourself, “What has this world come to?” consider that even the 18th century philosopher coined the term for sadism, from his name, Marquis de Sade. Sade wrote a number of novels, plays and philosophical writings that were known for expressions of sexual freedom, blasphemy against the Catholic church and sexual adventures.

In fact, his writings were the cause of his arrest and imprisonment. In 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the writer of “Justine and Juliette,” two of Sade’s most celebrated and popular works, resulting in an institutionalized sentence that lasted until his death in 1814. S&M is clearly not a new topic, nor an underrated one.

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Alfred Kinsey in 1948 published “Sexual Behavior of the Human Male” and stated that sexuality is a spectrum, or a continuum, rather than only two concrete options. This was one of the first times that sexuality was encouraged to be looked at as an open-ended question, rather than through the dichotomous eyes of the conservative mainstream. Not only can we look at sexual orientation as a spectrum, but we can also apply that concept to all ideas regarding sexuality.

S&M practices should also be looked at as a spectrum. It is important to understand the concepts in this subject, so that one doesn’t fear these ideas. Many people, whether in a true S&M lifestyle, or people that are interested in some light experimentation, may feel intimidated about their attractions, sometimes even having a fear of others finding out about their preferences. Some individuals have even been discriminated against for these behaviors. Behaviors such as fetishized preferences and S&M are legal, victimless and consensual.

An article by Weinberg, Williams and Moser (Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Moser, C.A. (1984). “The social constituents of sadomasochism.” Social Problems, 31, pg. 379-389.), explains five features present in most S&M interactions:

Dominance and submission: the appearance of rule and obedience of one partner over the other;
Consensuality: a voluntary agreement to enter into S&M “play” (interaction) and to honor certain “limits” (ground rules of how involved and in which direction the play can proceed);
Sexual content: the presumption that the activities have a sexual or erotic meaning;
Mutual definition: the assumption of a shared understanding by the participants that their activities are S&M or a similar concept;
Role playing: the participants assume roles either for the interaction or for the relationship that they recognize are not reality.

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According the the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom, S&M is defined as “behaviors involving the consensual exchange of power, and intense erotic stimulation and/or mental and emotional discipline to produce sexual arousal and satisfaction.” Given this definition, feel free to examine the back log of your own personal experiences for any time that you have any arousal over even a simple power exchange.

Is it time for you to grab the handcuffs, blindfold and call your partner for a wild night? Consider the benefits and possible risks of engaging in the world of S&M. Many people report that even light use of these behaviors can not only be sexually gratifying, but also a bonding component between themselves and their partners. Safe and communicative exploration is a healthy way for sexual bonding.

S&M for couples can be about love, pleasure, stimulation, sensation, and exchanging power. Exploring what works in a relationship, and sometimes what does not work, can be an emotionally bonding experience for both individuals. Some ways to introduce this concept into your own bedroom may be as simple as starting to make behavioral commands of your partner, or using light bondage such as silk ties and satin blindfolds.

After experimenting, be sure to communicate clearly with your partner about both of your experiences with the introduction of this, or anything new. For more ideas, look up places in your community that have workshops and education situations regarding sexuality. Sex positive shops such as The Pleasure Chest and Toys in Babeland both offer workshops and a friendly staff to assist individuals and couples in making the best choice for their new bedroom adventures.

There are also some great books for couples to explore together that are available on Amazon.com, such as “Screw the Roses,” “Send me the Thorns.” These behavior choices only become a problem when safety is not implemented or when it causes significant distress in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.

In that situation, there are professionals to help. The National Coalition of Sexual Freedom provides a directory of professionals that consider themselves knowledgeable in these lifestyles and non judgmental.

– via Elite Daily