So you’re writing D/s romance? Isn’t that BDSM? Why don’t you label it BDSM?

Some people have asked me that question when looking at my website and reading that I classify my romances as D/s romances instead of BDSM. And since understanding of BDSM is still very superficial in the general population, I want to dedicate this first blogpost to explaining the difference and why I chose not to label my romances BDSM.

If you browse BDSM communities on the internet, you will find that even among members of the subculture, there’s a lively discussion about the differences between BDSM and D/s. In this article, I will give you my view of the issue, because that view is responsible for how I classified my stories.

What does D/s mean?

In short, D/s means Dominance/submission, and it refers to the power dynamic between a couple. In a D/s relationship, one partner will usually take on the dominant role, the other partner will take on the submissive rule.

Isn’t that the same as in BDSM?

No. BDSM doesn’t require a certain power dynamic to work, and therein lies the key difference. BDSM is much more about the practice—the kinky stuff, if you will—whereas D/s happens on a much deeper level.

BDSM, as the title suggests, is about whips, and chains, and bondage, and pain. It does never have to be about all. But it is possible to practice BDSM without being in a D/s relationship. Couples can simply take on different roles without the power dynamic.

You can get whipped or chain your partner up without identifying as being in a Master/slave relationship. Many couples do that—especially those who get off on the kink.

D/s is first and foremost about control

D/s couples can also be into BDSM, but their aim is first and foremost the control aspect of their relationship. One partner will usually take on the dominant role, the other one will submit to him or her. These relationships may well include BDSM elements, but it’s important to understand that they function independently from each other.

You can be in a D/s relationship without ever engaging in BDSM activities.

Likewise, you can be into BDSM and not be involved in a D/s relationship.

So why did you label your novels D/s?

Almost all of my novels put their main focus on the power dynamic between the couple. And while some of my stories might involve occasional BDSM activities, the main conflict is derived from both partners finding their role within that power dynamic.

What’s more, in some novels, such as my historical D/s romance The Slave’s Secret, you won’t find any scenes comparable to modern BDSM at all. There are no whips or chains, no bondage or the use of other kinky toys. The relationship is about dominance and submission—in a sexual context, though not exclusively.

Labeling it a BDSM romance felt oddly misleading. I suspect many people reading Cherise Sinclair’s novels, or even reading 50 Shades of Grey would expect something entirely different when reaching for a book labeled BDSM Romance on the shelf. They’d expect classic BDSM “scenes”, and the use of some accessories attributed to the lifestyle–such as whips or bondage.

While The Slave’s Secret does not include any of that, it does have steamy sex scenes which put the focus on the power dynamic between the couple. The story really is about submission and dominance.

In order to avoid confusion, or worse, frustration, I decided to label it differently.

So what’s your opinion? Do you think there is a difference between BDSM and D/s, or can they be safely thrown into the same pot?