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Is SM Sexual Orientation or Behavior

SM is a sexual orientation or behavior among two or more adult partners. The behavior may include, but is not limited to, the use of physical and/or psychological stimulation to produce sexual arousal and satisfaction. Usually one partner will take an active role (top or dominant) and the other will take a passive role (bottom or submissive). SM practitioners can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transgendered or intersex individuals.

 
SM is not easily defined; the range of behaviors are quite broad and most participants do not enjoy all of the activities or roles. The problems with the definition are discussed at length in an article by Weinberg, Williams and Moser. They found five features present in most SM interactions they studied:
  • Dominance and submission - the appearance of rule and obedience of one partner over the other
  • Consensuality - a voluntary agreement to enter into SM "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 SM or a similar concept;
  • Role playing - the participants assume roles either for the interaction or for the relationship that they recognize are not reality.
 Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Moser, C.A. (1984). "The social constituents of sadomasochism." Social Problems, 31, pg. 379-389.
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Why You Should Care

Because your sexual expression...
  • Can result in discrimination, prosecution, and even violence against you
  • Can cause you to lose your children
  • Can cause you to lose your job or your income
  • Can lead you into a maze of antiquated laws and regulations you never even knew existed
  • Is arbitrarily criminalized by state and local authorities
  • Is used by the radical right to marginalize minority groups
  • Can result in the invasion of your privacy by the government, both within your own home or in educational, social and group environments 

How You Can Help

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    • Support the right of adults to express their sexuality, gender identity and orientation freely and openly without fear
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