A Beginner’s Guide to BDSM

Here's how to make all your roleplaying fantasies come true.

A Beginner’s Guide to BDSM
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Thanks to E. L. James‘ Fifty Shades of Grey, most of the world’s population is now familiar with everything from nipple clamps to bondage belts. But while many people fantasize about stepping into a Red Room of Pain, most are still unfamiliar with the realities of BDSM, or Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission. If you and your partner want to add this new and exciting aspect to your sex lives, it’s imperative that you first familiarize yourself with the most common guidelines espoused by those with experience in kink. Enter: Our beginners guide to BDSM.  Herein, we did some digging and distilled 20 tips to make your foray into kink as enjoyable, consensual, communicative and safe as possible. So strap on—or, oops, in—and explore a whole new world of pleasure.

1. Check your expectations.

Whips and floggers and ropes—oh my! While these are some of the accouterments that come to mind when we think about BDSM, experts point out that the most distinctive quality is an open mindedness about sexuality. “BDSM doesn’t have to follow any pattern,” sex expert Gloria Brame told BuzzFeed. “And there is no one model for what a BDSM relationship can be.” So don’t spend too much time thinking about certain off-the-rack BDSM tropes, and choose your own adventure in kink.

2. Use common sense.

This is crucial. A good rule of thumb used in the kinky community is that, if you’re too intoxicated to drive, you’re too intoxicated to engage in BDSM. For a safe and satisfying session, it’s essential to make sure that you and your partner are in a good mood and aren’t exhausted after, say, a stressful day at work. As with getting your flog on while drunk, being tired and cranky dramatically increases the likelihood of someone getting physically or emotionally hurt. Another safety tip: Do it with someone you know well. Like your partner, for example.

3. Keep it unreal.

Unless you specifically agree to it ahead of time, a BDSM scene is neither the time nor the place to work out your real-life frustrations with a partner or otherwise punish somebody for something they did or were supposed to do but didn’t. If Gary wants feels that his failure to take out the trash should result in some just CBT (cock and ball torture), you need to hear it from him first. Speaking of which…

4. Discuss everything that you’re going to do.

Really hash out the details about the tone of your play, physical and emotional limits, safer sex precautions, the type of restraints you’ll use (and the tightness with which someone is prepared to be restrained), and stay within these limits while you play. If you find that you’d like to crank up the intensity, there’s always the next time. But remember: the toothpaste is impossible to put back in the tube if you cause your partner or yourself harm.

5. Take it before you dish it out.

Typically, if two people are in scene, one is in a dominant role, while the other is in a submissive role. However, a good dominant partner—called a “dom”, or a top—will have subjected themselves to whatever they are planning to do to their submissive partner. Having had that experience themselves means they can employ empathy when they’ve restrained their partner or are subjecting them to pain or humiliation.

6. Always be prepared.

Injuries can happen in any place at any time but the potential for injuries is BDSM play is, well, a lot higher given that physical, mental and emotional boundaries are often being pushed.  Prepare for emergencies by having a first aid kit nearby and, if BDSM becomes something you engage in often take a First Aid and CPR course.

7. Agree upon a safe word or two.

In The Sex & Pleasure Book, sexologist Dr. Carol Queen writes that, when practicing bondage, where the capacity to “injure as well as arouse” is possible, you should employ the use of safewords, or codes for when you really want to stop. Safewords are particularly important if and when the submissive’s ignored pleas for mercy are a component of the scene. Try something that’s easy to remember but incongruous, like “tomato,” or “intervention .” A note: If a dom fails to stand down once a safe word is used, that’s very serious misconduct, and can even be a crime.

8. Add safety contingencies.

Getting whacked, suspended, being called evocative names or deprived of their senses can sometimes mean that the sub has a hard time remembering or using their safeword. As you can no doubt imagine, having a gag in their mouth is going to make their safeword exponentially more difficult to hear and act upon. That’s why the dominant should periodically to “check in” with the submissive. One check-in trick is for the dominant to give the submissive’s hand two light but firm squeezes. If the dominant gets two squeezes back, it means that the submissive is okay to continue.

9. Use a blindfold.

One of the simplest BDSM activities is sensory deprivation, and the arguably simplest type of sensory deprivation is using a blindfold. A blindfold is a great way to begin trusting your partner to dominate you while heightening your sense of touch, smell, taste, and hearing. A good dom will use techniques to enliven the four remaining senses of a blindfolded sub.

10. Use this rubric for pain.

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, a doctor may ask you to rate the intensity of what you’re feeling from one to ten so that he or she can get a sense of what’s going on with you. In BDSM, the sub and dom can use this scale: Think of “one” being a very light touch and “ten” as a full-power stroke.

11. Beware of sharp edges.

A journey into BDSM doesn’t require toys but, should spanking and restraints have you interested in exploring this area of your sexuality farther, you may want to incorporate some hardware. Whether the things are designed for kinky purposes or are just things from around the house, avoid implements that have sharp edges or corners.

12. Use the clampdown.

Clamping is a form of sensation play. Clamps work by creating erotic sensations by cutting off circulation. Mistress160’s BDSM blog asks people playing with clamps to keep the following things in mind: “Start with a low clamping pressure and work up; start with what your sub can endure, then work up to higher endurance slowly; don’t leave pegs on more than twenty minutes – keep a clock or timer in your play space; the longer the clamping time, the more fierce the sensation caused by removing the pressure.

13. Stay on target.

Heads up, doms: strokes from whips and paddles are best delivered to fleshy, muscular parts of the body. The best target in that regard is the lower buttocks. With a smaller instrument, such as a crop, less forceful strokes can be delivered elsewhere, yes, but it’s important to be aware that striking a play partner near their kidneys, liver, spleen, or tailbone is very dangerous. Ensure that your strokes are accurately placed.

14. Don’t get your fingers–or anything else–burned.

Wax play is a type of temperature play practiced in BDSM. It’s regarded as a moderately advanced activity. If wax play is something that interests you and your partner, you need to be familiar with the type of candle you’re using as, depending on what they’re made of,  candles’ melting point can vary significantly. Soy candles which commonly melt at around 130 °F, while paraffin Candles typically melt at around 135 °F and beeswax Candles melt at around 145 °F. However, additives such as dye, oils, and scents may increase the melting point. If you’re just dipping a toe into wax play for the first time, try these low heat bondage candles from Amazon.

15. Breaking? Bad!

Unless you’re qualified to so, do not attempt to do piercings or other activities that involve breaking the skin. Failed attempts can cause serious infections.

16. Bondage means a dangerous level of vulnerability.

Being restrained is a big part of many people’s kinky play but don’t let it’s popularity cause you to think that bondage isn’t powerful and potentially dangerous. Before you tie someone up, or let allow them to tie you up, it’s a very good idea to have had at least two successful kink scenes with them under your belt. Someone tie you up, blindfold you, or gag you only after you have first done at least two successful BDSM scenes that involved no bondage. Spanking or tease and denial play for example.

17. Loosen the bondage.

There are countless examples of people tying up their partners only to have parts of the body “goes to sleep.” If this happens, loosen the bondage. As you’ll know from waking up with a floppy arm, the feeling is unpleasant. But more importantly, tying straps too tight, especially during rope suspension, can cause serious, sometimes permanent nerve damage.

18. Do not leave a person alone.

A general rule used in the kink community is to never, ever leave a bound person alone. Always keep an eye on them. And if you’ve gagged them, stay even closer. A gagged person can’t call out to in the event that something goes awry.

19. Get out quick.

Another general rule is that, if a medical emergency occurs or if someone faints during a bondage scene, you should be able to free them from any and all restraints in less than 60 seconds flat. Seasoned players have special “paramedic scissors” to cut someone loose as quickly as they possibly can.

20. Try erotic asphyxiation.

Erotic asphyxiation—or breath control play—is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for the purposes of sexual arousal. (A person engaging in the activity is sometimes called a gasper.) Strangulation play can easily be deadly, which is why hanging edged-out crucifixion to be the go-to method of execution for the last 2000 years. Needless to say, proceed with extreme caution if playing in this area!

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