Sometimes people who are attracted by some aspects of SM worry that they will immediately go from enjoying spanking and light bondage to fisting and golden showers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
SM is a blanket term for a huge variety of alternative ways to make love. This FAQ list has outlined some of the possibilities. No one I know enjoys _everything_ on this list; _everyone_ has their own preferences and levels of tolerance. Some like bondage but dislike pain; some like latex but dislike leather; some enjoy piercing but not whipping; some like tickling and nothing else!
This means that negotiation is always important in SM; you never know what someone’s tastes will be until you ask. It also means that whatever your level, however hard the play that you enjoy, there are people out there who share your tastes. Be a dabbler or be a lifestyler, or be anywhere in between! And don’t worry; the operative word with all of these practices is _pleasure_. If you don’t like it, you won’t enjoy it, and you won’t do it!
Some people have fantasies about heavier SM trips than they would enjoy in real life. To those people, I say this: fantasies are not reality. It is well documented that many women have rape fantasies from time to time; this does not mean that those women want to be raped. SM can involve playing on the edge between fantasy and reality, using that fantasy energy to create something fantastically strong and passionate in the real world; but this does not mean that fantasies are anything but imagination, or that fantasies will become real without your choosing to make them so.
If you feel that doing SM might make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, or make it harder for you to maintain your sense of self-worth and pride, those are excellent reasons to avoid doing SM–or at the very least to only do those sorts of play that don’t tear you down but instead build you up. SM is an intense form of relating, and not everyone is ready for that; if you don’t think you are, don’t do it that intensely–and if you’re not sure, go slowly. What’s the rush? Do what you honestly want to do, and what you feel ready for.
Some people getting into the scene almost have a mental checklist of stuff they want to try. They spend a year or two burning through the checklist, having a great time, always desperate for the next experience. Then they get to the end of the list, and suddenly they don’t know what’s next. This can be a very empty feeling. SM is not an end in itself, but a means to connect with others; it is ultimately about relating, and about developing yourself.
If you are worried about getting “too into SM”, it means that you are sensitive to your spiritual and sexual development, which in itself means you have less to worry about. Trust your instincts. SM is nothing but opening up the the powerful energy within us all, and being willing to experience that energy with and through others; it is intimate and loving. Even a hard scene, involving ruthless domination and serious pain, is an act of love, and a very deep one at that; it takes a lot of trust and a strong connection between the people involved to create such a scene. The more aware of Sex Magick you are, the better a communicator and lover you will likely be–and you don’t have to be a heavy player to understand Sex Magick.
People who think that all BDSM behaviors are unhealthy or destructive sometimes come out with a claim like, “Just you wait, you may start off by enjoying being spanked, but before long you’ll be liking being bruised, dismembered, flayed, and murdered!” This is, simply, ridiculous. While many people do find their tolerance for pain increasing as they do BDSM, many others find no such effect, or even have no interest in experimenting. It seems that for most people, their internal “thermostat,” the level of stimulus which makes them hot, is pretty much constant. And certainly I know of no one practicing consensual SM who perpetrates serious injury on their lovers. The SM scene is rife with information about how to inflict intense sensation without causing permanent or unintended damage of any kind. Recognize these kinds of alarmist claims about BDSM as the scaremongering that they are.
And finally, after all is said and done, you may _still_ have some fantasies that you recognize as too intense or too contrary to your nature to actually perform in a real-life scene. This is quite common, as well; we all have desires which we recognize are not safely fulfillable. Do not do anything that you feel you should not or cannot do, even if the desire remains strong; or at least, if you do choose to explore that desire, go very carefully and be prepared to back off if you find your suspicions confirmed. If it hurts not to fulfill the desire, that’s part of what maturity is about–rejecting desires that pull you into things that are no good for you, while choosing that which will affirm you. And in any case, the process of introspection, of asking yourself what you want (and what you will permit yourself) and why, can be vital to your growth and your sense of yourself. Life is change, and every choice carries _some_risk… decide for yourself what path you want to walk.