Sometimes on a.s.b, people will post wondering if what they do is “heavy” enough to be worth talking about. How can a mere novice who just got spanked for the first time presume to post about how it felt, when there are people out there who wouldn’t even have noticed it?

The answer to that is twofold. First, there are an infinite number of ways to play. This is one of the reasons I like SM to mean Sex Magick; Magick doesn’t need to involve pain, or intensity, or bondage, or role-playing, or anything at all. Sex Magick is whatever you do that fulfills a fantasy of yours. **There is no right or wrong way to do SM, as long as it is consensual.** If you agree to it, and if it feels good (during and after the scene), it’s the right thing for you to be doing. This FAQ list is really just a series of suggestions; take them or leave them, it’s totally up to you.

(There are players out there who get way heavier than I ever will–into realms that I personally consider unsafe and even a little insane. Heck, for some people, being whipped is an insane idea. But the most important thing is the consensuality and the mutuality of the play–that everyone involved in the play _wants_ to be doing what they’re doing, and that everyone can call it quits if need be. What other people think is not relevant; it is _their_ play, and _their_ choice as to what risks they wish to assume.)

Second, the “intensity” of a scene has very little to do with the level of “physical sensation” involved. Again, the magic is in the way it makes you _feel_. We were all novices once; we all know the thrill of trying something new, taking your dreams and making them real. _That_ is what makes SM intense and enjoyable–that ineffable rush of new horizons unfolding, the incredible sensation of trusting someone else with your body and your mind, or of receiving the gift of control over someone else. It doesn’t matter whether you get there through S or M or B or D or none of the above; once you’re there, it’s fantastic! AND, it’s worth posting about!

Sometimes, discussion on a.s.b veers into a heated debate about what is involved in “real” dominance and submission or “real” BDSM play. The fact is, given the diversity of players and playstyles in “the scene”–and in fact the number of _separate_ “scenes” in “the scene”–it is hard to pinpoint any one behavior as the benchmark by which “real” is defined. The principal common thread I can see is that people into SM are seeking to explore their fantasies about power and/or sexuality, to bring some of their dreams into their personal lives.

One thing is sure: attempting to set strict boundaries around what is and isn’t “real” SM, or what is and isn’t “true” submission or pain play or roleplay, is an endeavor fraught with peril. More often than not, people who believe they know the definition of “true” SM are interested in flaming others who disagree, rather than in honestly sharing their perceptions while remaining open to the views of others. As with any labels or preset “norms” of human behavior, one can debate endlessly about whether the “norm” is really “normal”, or one can speak from one’s personal experience. The latter generally leads to better and more revealing discussions.

One topic that does come up in this context, though, is whether only consensual SM is real SM–or rather, whether the term “SM” excludes any behaviors that are not consensual. As I stated in the beginning of this FAQ, I use “SM” here to refer to acts between consenting adults; most a.s.b posters and people in the scene likewise use “SM” as short for “consensual SM.” There is no doubt that many people who practice consensual BDSM enjoy fantasies involving acts of nonconsensual bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, and/or masochism. But when it comes to real life, consent is of fundamental importance. A story may include nonconsensual acts and yet be an SM story; an SM relationship can become abusive while remaining an SM relationship; but when people here on a.s.b and in the larger scene talk about SM as it ought to be and should be (and in my experience, as it usually is), they mean consensual, healthy SM.

Some people state, “SM originally referred to the practices described in the writing of the Marquis de Sade [to whom consent was irrelevant], so modern SM people are lying when they say consent is important in ‘real’ SM!” They’re simply playing the “change the definition of ‘real’ to one which I can flame about” game. Besides, if we _were_ all lying in order to deceive people into playing with us (so we could then abuse them), we would be doing ourselves a massive disservice by educating people about consent and about negotiation–knowledge which would serve to protect people from us! You’ll need to judge whether we mean what we say about the importance of consent.

A frequently heard acronym on a.s.b is “YKINOK”–which stands for “Your Kink Is Not OK.” a.s.b is largely composed of postings by people whose sexual practices are considered unhealthy or at least weird by many others. We recognize here that different people really do have different sexualities, and different preferences. Hence, we try to avoid blanket statements such as “Behavior X is WRONG!” or “Behavior X is NOT OK!” or more generally, “_Your_ kink is NOT OK!” We would instead say, “Your kink would not be OK _for me_. Here are some of the risks I see in that kink. How do you deal with them?” From that point, discussion and education can flow, as they cannot from a flat YKINOK. (And conversely, we don’t say, “Your kink IS OK!”–since there are almost _no_ behaviors that _everyone_ enjoys. The OK-ness of consensual practices is, and must be, determined on an _individual_ basis.)