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New Guard vs Old Guard in BDSM

Updated: Apr 3

What is the old guard in BDSM?

The Old Guard in BDSM refers to a traditional and often hierarchical approach to BDSM practices and relationships. It emphasizes established protocols, rituals, and roles, often characterized by strict rules.

New Guard vs Old Guard
New Guard vs Old Guard

Evolution of BDSM: New Guard vs Old Guard

BDSM has undergone a significant transformation over the years. Within the BDSM community, there's a noticeable distinction between the "Old Guard" and the "New Guard." These terms refer to two different eras of BDSM practices and ideologies, each with its unique characteristics, rules, and perspectives. In this article, we'll delve into the evolution of BDSM, comparing New Guard vs Old Guard to better understand the changing landscape of this subculture.

The Old Guard: Tradition and Protocol

The Old Guard, often referred to as "Leather" or "Traditional" BDSM, originated in the mid-20th century. This era was characterised by strict protocols, a strong emphasis on hierarchy, and an adherence to a rigid set of rules and rituals. Some key features of the Old Guard include:

Mentorship and Apprenticeship

In the Old Guard, newcomers, known as "novices" or "newbies," were required to find mentors, or "Old Guard" dominants, who would teach them the intricacies of BDSM. This mentorship often included a formalised apprenticeship process.

Leather Culture

The Old Guard is closely associated with the leather subculture, which places significance on leather attire as a symbol of BDSM identity. Leather vests, chaps, and boots were commonly worn at BDSM events and clubs.

Protocol and Titles

The Old Guard introduced a complex system of protocols, titles (such as "Master" and "slave"), and etiquette to maintain order within BDSM communities. These titles were earned through experience and service.

Discretion and Secrecy

Privacy and discretion were paramount in the Old Guard, with BDSM practices often shrouded in secrecy due to societal stigma and legal issues.

Old Guard vs. New Guard
Old Guard vs. New Guard

The New Guard: Diversity and Inclusivity

In contrast, the New Guard represents a more contemporary and inclusive approach to BDSM. Emerging in the late 20th century and gaining momentum in the 21st century, this era reflects changing social norms and an increased emphasis on diversity and consent. Key features of the New Guard include:


The New Guard embraces a broader range of gender identities, sexual orientations, and relationship dynamics. It actively promotes inclusivity and diversity within BDSM communities.

Consent and Communication

Consent and open communication are central tenets of the New Guard. Negotiating boundaries and desires is a fundamental practice, and consent violations are not tolerated.

Online Communities

The advent of the internet has allowed the New Guard to thrive through online communities, discussion forums, and social media platforms. This has made BDSM more accessible and educational for newcomers.

Fluid Roles

Unlike the rigid roles of the Old Guard, the New Guard encourages fluidity in BDSM roles. Dominants and submissives may switch roles, and power dynamics are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Education and Safety

The New Guard places a strong emphasis on education and safety, offering workshops, classes, and resources to ensure that BDSM is practised responsibly and consensually.

BDSM has evolved significantly over the years, with the Old Guard and New Guard representing two distinct eras within this subculture. While the Old Guard upheld strict traditions, protocols, and secrecy, the New Guard embraces inclusivity, consent, and open communication. Both eras have contributed to the rich tapestry of BDSM, each leaving its mark on the community.

Ultimately, the choice between the new guard vs old guard is a matter of personal preference. Some individuals find meaning and fulfilment in the structure and tradition of the Old Guard, while others appreciate the openness and adaptability of the New Guard. Regardless of which era one identifies with, it is essential to prioritise consent, safety, and respect in all BDSM practices, ensuring a positive and consensual experience for all involved.

Kaylie Louise Bond 28/08/2023