If meditation doesn't work, try BDSM

“There’s this ripple through your body. It’s like a drug” said Sophie, 23, who was tied up recently by her partner, Eric, an investment banker.  He had wound rope around her waist and then in a tight pattern down her leg. They practiced Kinbaku, or Shibari, a form of Japanese rope bondage. 

Sophie’s ecstatic state is a common experience during Shibari. This feeling of bliss can happen during any type of bondage, but it’s most easily achieved through rope. “It’s very tactile, very sensual, more so than say handcuffs or other forms of bondage,” according to Michelle,” an international-relations expert at a large NGO. “I do a lot of yoga and meditation. I think rope can have the same effect. When you’re tied up it’s like you’re not responsible for anything else. There’s a sense of freedom in that. It’s one of the few moments where I don’t have to worry about all of my responsibilities.”

kink meaning

“It’s an opportunity to completely let go and be present at the same time,” said Georgia, a 22-year-old Shibari model.  “There’s a release from anxiety. Some people do it by drinking. They are looking for something that is going to take them away from themselves,” she said. "With bondage, the high is clearer and perceptions can become sharper — closer to a state of mindfulness than intoxication."

Kink Meaning
Kink: a clever unusual way of doing something / eccentricity / unconventional sexual taste or behaviour 

 

BDSM Meaning
BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission. Sexual preferences and behaviours involving physical restraints, an unequal power relationship, or pain, including the practice of bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadomasochism.

 

This might sound crazy, but hear us out: BDSM as a therapy tool

It’s a popular belief that people who like BDSM are traumatized, mentally ill, or damaged. In reality, BDSM, or “Bondage, Discipline and SadoMasochism,” is a normal thing to be into. A study published in the Sexuality and Social Research Journal found that people who participate in BDSM have the same levels of childhood trauma as anyone else. Practicing kink is normal and healthy, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and everyone is being mindful and safe.  

bdsm pics

But that being said, some people do use BDSM to heal from trauma. “BDSM can be a way to help people explore their own sense of agency and safety, which can be haling when it comes to trauma,” explains Pam Shaffer,  a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Trauma comes from events that happen outside of our control. In BDSM, partners communicate closely with each other beforehand and they can stop the action with a ‘safe’ word.”

People enter kink not realizing the benefits it can have for their mental health. “Our normal associations with kink or BDSM is that it’s about receiving pain or causing it for others. This is just a portion of the benefits which include increased intimacy with your partner, stress release, improved confidence, reclaiming your sexuality, and entering subspace, which like meditation, provides the body and mind with needed moments of focus.” 

self love quotes

It’s really not that crazy, hear us out part II: BDSM for a more intimate relationship with your partner 

“Kink can give you those feel-good endorphins and release stressful cortisol hormones. A good ‘scene’ can be therapeutic in your relationship with your partner as you learn to build trust with each other, knowing that you have your best interest in mind. It improves your communication skills as both the dominant and the submissives learn to ‘use their words’ to be open and honest about their kinks.”

“BDSM is the safest kind of sex a person can have because it involves explicit communication and boundaries around what the experience will and won’t entail,” she explains. “By creating a space where they know their wants and needs will be respected—and their boundaries won’t be violated—trauma is soothed and they can relax into pleasure,” says Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a somatic psychologist, and certified sex therapist

BDSM emphasizes the need for care and nurturing. There is always a stated and practiced duty to respect the person you are playing with. Once play is done, partners engage in aftercare: the practice of checking in, cuddling, and/or talking through what just happened. It allows for closure and space to bring everyone back to a state of equilibrium. Everyone can benefit from this kind of care, especially when we get so little in our everyday lives. “Delving into kink can help people practice self-acceptance as they have to be vulnerable with other people and foster safety for everyone’s emotions,” Shaffer says. “Essentially, kink is all about exploration and growth, which is obviously great for mental health and well-being.”

kink meaning

"BDSM practitioners are happier" - backed by science 

Research found out that BDSM practitioners report being happier than the general population. Compared to control participants, they were:

  • less neurotic
  • more extraverted
  • more open to new experiences
  • more conscientious
  • less sensitive to rejection
  • had a higher sense of wellbeing

Indicating that people who practice BDSM are calmer and more comfortable in their relationship than people who don’t.

In both a 2014 experiment and another pair from 2009, Sagarin and his team took saliva samples from participants as they engaged in BDSM activities. Even when their physical stress was high, subs reported low psychological stress. The out-of-body experiences and sensations of floating and time distortion that people report explains the disconnect between mental and physical stress. Sagarin’s team also reported a heightened sense of control, focus, and accomplishment, or “flow”: Doms experienced a mental state called “topspace”. Both doms and subs said that they felt closer and more emotionally attached to their partners after engaging in BDSM.

kink test

Self love, but then different 

Joy (29, Shanghai) "A common theme I personally see is an escape. It’s an escape from school, work, and general adult life. Stress is a bitch and having to keep track of so many aspects of your life is overwhelming to some. People cope with this in a variety of ways. A great vanilla example is yoga. People find their zen and become mindful. It allows them to focus and calm their mind.

I will argue that you can do the same thing with kink. At first, the impact captures your attention and everything else seems to disappear as you focus on the pain. After a while, the endorphins kick in and you notice the flogging seems to become less and less prominent in your head. It becomes a constant rhythm that plays second fiddle. As it fades away, nothing fills that void in your head. This becomes your zen. Your meditative state. It’s bliss.

You can do the same thing with rope. It captures your attention as you focus on your body. You no longer have to worry about what to do with your limbs. Those decisions have been made for you. You no longer have to worry about what to do. You are constricted. You are tied. You are bound.

It comes back to this mindfulness. You’re completely in your own head. Your body no longer being a distraction and your attention has been captured and released with the help of rope and endorphins.

You hit zen.

This form of meditation takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Do you like silence or music? Blindfolded or not? What ties work best for you? All of these things can be tweaked from person to person to help get them there.

Alice (32, London): "When I tie, I go in a certain level of trance and it empties my mind. Every bit of rope running through my fingers and seeing ties coming together in front of me is really wholesome. I also have done shibari for friends as "therapy". They can empty their mind and surrender for a while. I can recommend it as assistance for coping with mental illness but not as "the cure".


Of course, BDSM is just one of the ways I look after my mental health. I don't think it should be the only form of self-care, or considered as a replacement to therapy, but it definitely offers a lot of potential to process issues in a constructive way."


Rochelle (36, New York)  has been part of the kink community since 2015. "When I started out, my perception of BDSM was very wrong. I thought it was just a way for women to be used and abused by men. But really, it’s a way for me to communicate what I want and what I like and what I need. I’ve had depression and anxiety for most of my adult life but recently my mental health has been much better and BDSM is one of my coping strategies."


*Names have been changed to protect identities

My interest is piqued. What do I do now? 

For International Mental Health day we wanted to show you a different view on taking care of your mental health. While BDSM does not replace traditional talk therapy, it can be used as a tool. If you are interested in Kink, bondage and BDSM, make sure you are doing this with full consent. Try out a Kink test to see what you're into. 

For Kinktober, we created a Starters Prompt Kink list. Use this list to integrate a little bit of Kink every day this month. 

If you look closely it will also give you a hint about our next event. 

Starter's Prompt Kink List

The first 3 people who can locate the secret “hint” (let us know through a direct message), will get free access to our next event. 

Kink & Bondage in Shanghai

If you are working with a professional, be sure it is someone who knows what they are doing, is well-regarded, and is known for their safe BDSM practices. 

One Shibari artist we love is Hua Hua from Borderline Shanghai with whom we have organized a previous Shibari Workshop

Another Studio to check out in Shanghai is Studio K.

If you liked this article - give us a like, share it with that friend who “this-is-not-crazy-but-you-should-hear-this-out” and check out our latest collection that cater s to your intimate wellness.  

Sources: Refinery29: "Kink helped my mental health." The healing benefits of BDSM | Swell: How BDSM can aid in healing from trauma | The Cut: Can bondage reduce anxiety | Kinktober prompt list 2021 | Imagery by Thomas Duval

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