S/M is a form of fetishism. When people act of a S/M scenario, they are taking whatever fetish they have and giving it a story. For example when someone has an S/M skit that involves the man being chained up and the woman in a dominating role, it signifies that the man enjoys losing the power that he deals with everyday and wants to be submissive and allow the woman to take charge; this gives the man time to sit back and let things come to him. He no longer has to be in a “go getter” position. Another example is looking at the S/M skit that makes the women wear high black boots while acting out the skit. The man clearly has a fetish with boots and this allows him to partake in the fetish and also create a skit for it.
The example I think of when I think S/M comes from the societal phenomenon of S/M and horse play or animal play. Couples will go on retreat type vacations in which one person will act as a horse and the other will be the owner. This is what Anne McClintock in her book Imperial Leather would refer to as the master and slave (McClintock 143). These couples are transformed from human beings to animals, usually horses. The origins of this play world most likely come from costumes and myths (Wikipedia “Animal Roleplay”).
It gives one partner the power of being in control, the horse trainer, and the other partner is in a submissive role as the animal. This is a type of fetish. Someone who has a fetish with leather or chains or even hair could be seen acting out this S/M skit. The trainers are expected to comb the “horses” hair and ordain it with ribbons. The horses wear leather much like a leather saddle. Whips are used for the same reason they are used by actual horse trainers: to get the horse to do what you want. This type of play is most likely to be erotic which is why it is an S/M role play (Wikipedia “Animal Roleplay”). This control is what most couples are looking for.
– Stephanie Banas