Because I run a sex chat service, I have the opportunity to talk to lots of people, many who are curious about BDSM and kink in general. I try to do my best to provide a gentle introduction to activities, relationships, etc. But what seems to trip people up, both online and off, is the idea that when I talk about play, I mean sex.
Play isn't sex.
I love sex, and I love play, but the two aren't always linked, and if they're not with someone I have a romantic interest in, they're not linked at all.
And at many BDSM clubs or events, sex is not allowed at all.
So what's the harm in conflating the two?
The problem is that it effects folks perceptions both internally and externally of what BDSM is. People who might be interested in the experience of being tied, or being spanked, or just being told what to do are going to be less likely to take the risk of coming to a BDSM gathering if they feel they'll be under pressure to have sex with someone. This is a fear I hear a lot from young women who have a lot of interest in BDSM but are scared of being predated, especially sexually.
So the first step in helping support these newcomers is reassurance that they can explore their kink without being expected to do something they're not comfortable doing, and that kinky spaces are safe place to explore.