There are so many different ways to practice BDSM – not just a wide, wide range of kinks and fetishes, but also numerous levels of kink activity – if you’re on fetlife, these options range from “just curious” to “just in the bedroom” to “I live the lifestyle when I can” to “I live it 24/7”.
What do these options mean? What’s the difference between playing in the bedroom, being in the “lifestyle” sometimes, and being in in 24/7?
Someone who practices BDSM (“just in the bedroom”, for eg) is a person who enjoys kink. They may engage in BDSM some of the times they have sex, or all of the time, but isn’t usually a major aspect of their life outside of sex.
Someone who is a “lifestyler”, like me, is someone for whom kink is a large, significant part of their life. While there is no singular definition of what someone needs to “do” to count as a lifestyler instead of a practitioner, the following is a list of examples of things that are characteristics of lifestylers:
- May attend a lot of munches (casual gatherings of kinksters)
- May be well known within the community
- All or many of their relationships, including their romantic ones, have a kink dynamic to them
- Might work in kink fields (pro dominant or submissive, kink educator, kink pornster, maker or seller of kink products, run workshops, etc)
- Kink is likely a part of their day-to-day life
- May be a part of a BDSM/leather “family”
- May participate in leather circuits, bdsm conferences, or kink events
Now, a person doesn’t need to fit all of the above criteria (I don’t!) to be a lifestyler. The important aspect is that kink (or fetish or leather) is a part or your daily life, not an occasional interest or hobby.
Someone being a lifestyler does not mean that they know more about kink, have more experience with it, or are a safer person to engage in than those who only play at home. Someone being a “public figure” or being someone who is “know for __” does not mean they are safe or trustworthy, it just means they have a reputation – and reputations can be great things to hide behind.
Approach a lifestyler and a practitioner in the same way – as a person who may or may not have the skills that they claim to have. I can teach workshops on spanking but still be an unsafe, abusive person, just as I can be teaching unsafe spanking methods. Try not to let “notoriety” sway you into accepting behaviours that would normally be red flags for you and remember that someone who only practices at home with their partner is just as likely to be good at what they do as someone who is well-known and has a scene with a new person every other day. Quantity and quality don’t tell you anything about the other.
Practicing kink doesn’t need to be a game of “leveling up” where you go from casually engaging, to regularly practicing at home, to venturing out sometimes, to living it 24/7. All levels are good and valid, and you’re not any more or less valid a kinkster based on your level of activity.
That said, what does it really mean to live in the lifestyle?
According to my fetlife profile, I live it 24/7.
No, I don’t walk around in bondage cuffs or swinging a flogger. I don’t even get read as a kinkster by the average person walking down the street. Well, sometimes I do. But how strangers read me is mostly irrelevant in this case.
So if you don’t think that I “look like a kinkster”, what makes me a 24/7 lifestyler?
For me, that’s simple.
Kink isn’t something I can opt-out of and still be happy. I thrive on dynamics and on power exchange, and I don’t form romantic or sexual relationships without those components. It isn’t a matter of what kind of sex I’m having (to me), it’s a matter of how my life is structured. If I don’t have dynamics, I don’t feel like myself. If my brain has submitted to you, I’ve fallen half in love with you already.
Kink and dynamics are things that provide immense relief for my mental health; engaging in these activities brings all sorts of good things to my brain – from a sense of comfort/connection to helping me overcome fears to pushing me to better myself, kink has been a great asset for my brain.
But out of the context of my personal relationships, my entire livelihood is built around sex, sexuality, and kink. My porn is BDSM-based, I teach kink workshops, and I write about fetish content. I offer pro-switching services.
I have a hanging array of impact toys in the bedroom, shelves of explicit books directly on eye-level to the couch, pictures of naked people in leather with penises on the walls.
When I leave the house, I’m often flagging (fisting, left; SM, both; dildos, both; hustler, left). Maybe I have my tall Doc Martins or pleather thigh harness on. I definitely have my collar locked around my neck.
But regardless what is on my body, regardless what you think when you look at me, kink comes with me throughout the day.
And I love it. I love that kink is a part of me and my life even when I’m not actively engaging in it. I love that, last Thanksgiving, a cousin just causally assumed I’d be able to give him tips on how to be fisted. I love that I can reach up and fiddle with the links on my collar when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. I love that events like #BirthdayBruises are postponed so that I’m in town for them and that delightful gifs such as this are…rather easy to find online. This wasn’t always my life, but it is now, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
What does the lifestyle mean to you? What causes you to live within or without it? What barriers are in pace stopping you from living it to the degree that you would like?
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