The difference is consent. You are not harming someone, because you are acting with their consent. When you refuse to take no for an answer, THEN it becomes harm. You have to make a distinction between "hurt" and "harm".
I had to accept that I, as a unique individual, have needs that aren't exactly like every other person on the planet--I have unique needs, and the person next to me has unique needs, and the person next to them has unique needs. None of us are "bad" for having these needs, just different. I get to decide for myself what is healthy for me. It makes me feel safe and calm to be restrained. Sometimes this takes the form of bondage--but bondage is not a need for everyone, and that's okay. Giving me what I need to feel safe is not harming me--denying me what I need to feel safe is harming me.
When you give pain to someone who enjoys it, you're fulfilling a need for them. In this case, hurting them does not equal harming them, it's helping them in some way, even if it's just helping them get turned on. (Because, face it, sex is a primal drive and it's very necessary for the moods of a lot of people to achieve sexual release in some way. That is not bad, it's nature.) If you had to achieve the same end by taking them out to coffee, you'd do it, right? Because there's no harm in coffee, and everyone wants their loved ones to feel good. How about a good massage? Trust me, a massage done right can leave me in more tears than a good flogging. It's painful, but it's okay because it's socially acceptable. The pain is a means to achieve something else--breaking up scar tissue, releasing toxins, relieving pain. So is the pain that you cause your bottom(s), even if the only thing you achieve is to make them happy. Happy is good, right?
Boy I hope I made sense and didn't just ramble. I never feel more inarticulate than when something is important to me.
ETA: I was disturbed for a long time because (among other reasons) I didn't see how a woman who believed in feminism could want to be a submissive, so I get what you're saying. I had to find a way to make myself see that saying that I wanted a Dominant to have power over me was NOT the same thing as saying all women should be controlled. Also, allowing someone power over me was not the same thing as saying that I was inferior.
Last edited by Lemondrop; 07-28-2011 at 11:02 PM.