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BDSM for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide

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Image by Espressolia from Pixabay

When you think of BDSM, you’re likely overwhelmed with pop-culture images. It’s especially hard not to think of Fifty Shades of Grey, which actually kinda popularized the term when it came out in 2015. But, as you may have already guessed, there’s actually much more to BDSM than what the film portrays In fact, critics have said that it actually grossly misrepresents what BDSM is about. (Hint, it’s not just about consent, although that’s a definite must.) So, let’s just say this film isn’t really BDSM 101 or BDSM for beginners type of thing.

But it’s normal to hold on to a cultural product representing a controversial topic in the mainstream. I mean, when you can’t really get much info about it in any other place, that’s the first place you go, right? 

Yes, BDSM is still controversial. But, I do think people are opening up to it more and more. I think they’re seeking more ways to bring sexual novelty in their relationships and explore their sexual natures. 

What will you read in this article on BDSM  

There are a couple of reasons why I decided to write an article about BDSM. It might seem like a scary word, but it’s actually not. BDSM for beginners sounds rather harmless when you think about it, doesn’t it? 

It just tells you that you can begin from somewhere and that there’s stuff to be learned along the way. Anyone can become an expert in BDSM with enough practice and communication. 

So, here I’m going to talk about several perspectives concerning BDSM for beginners: 

  • What is BDSM, what does it include, and the different types of BDSM;
  • Common myths and misconceptions about BDSM; 
  • Introduction into BDSM and how to get your partner/wife safely into it; 
  • Resources on BDSM – articles, tests for BDSM types and boundaries, advice from professionals, etc. 

What Is BDSM and What Does it Include? 

BDSM is an acronym that stands for “bondage and discipline” (that’s the B&D part), “dominance and submission” (D&S), and also “sadism & masochism” (and the last S&M part). 

So what does this tell us? It tells us that BDSM actually stands for a bunch of things. It’s basically a set of practices that have a varying degree of significance to different people. This means that not all people who’re into BDSM will also be into all its categories. Sometimes, they may like to practice only one or two of them. 

What Are the Different Types of BDSM?

There are plenty of BDSM play types. Obviously, I can’t list all of them, nor can I go into much detail, mostly for reasons of brevity. But it’s definitely fun to know some of them. And I suggest you do a small research of your own if it sparks your interest. 

Here are some of the types of BDSM play: 

  • Spanking – pretty self-explanatory, I think;
  • Tickle torture – excessive tickling where the person being tickled can’t really resist it; 
  • Suspension bondage – a form of sexual bondage where a person who is bound also hangs from one or several suspension points;
  • Wax play – when you get off from being poured hot wax from a burning candle on your body;
  • Age play – when you or your partner pretend there’s an age gap between you; 
  • Sexual roleplay – when you and your partner take on particular roles (professions, movie, book, video game characters, etc.) as a form of sexual play;
  • Erotic electrostimulation – when you stimulate particular body parts with the help of electricity for sexual arousal;
  • Dominance & submission – a number of practices that allow one person to be the dominant and the other to be the submissive;
  • Pegging – when the man enjoys being penetrated by a woman wearing a strap-on;
  • Foot fetishism – when you get off from, well, everything that has to do with feet;
  • Gagging – putting something in the mouth of your partner to prevent them from talking or shouting;
  • Voyeurism – watching somebody pleasure themselves in front of you.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About BDSM

BDSM practices have been subjected to countless controversies and badmouthing in online and in print. And, to escape the fabrications surrounding BDSM, I’d like to cover some of the most common myths and misconceptions about these practices. 

Myth #1 – BDSM Always Includes Sex 

Lots of people think that BDSM is strictly about sex when, in fact, it isn’t. It actually has more to do with the experience of the body. It’s not limited to the sexual bodily experience, but rather to a certain intensity and sensuality that springs up from the practice itself. 

Think about having a massage – you don’t usually get off at having a massage, right? Or maybe you’re the type that always gets aroused when they receive a massage? Well, it’s pretty similar to BDSM when you think about it. What it comes down to is individual preferences that may or may not have to do with sex. 

Myth #2 – People Who Are into BDSM Are Psychologically Damaged or Unstable

There is another false presumption about people enjoying BDSM practices. People sometimes think that they’re somehow damaged or unstable or deeply/inherently immoral… But nothing can be farther from the truth.

Research done by scientists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands concludes that we should consider BDSM a “recreational leisure” rather than something that’s pathological or sick. They also note in the research how BDSM practitioners show “favorable psychological characteristics”, how they’re “less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being.” 

Wanting to engage in BDSM practices doesn’t mean that you’re carrying some mental and/or physical trauma. Being a victim of domestic violence and another type of physical and mental abuse doesn’t make you more prone to engaging in BDSM practices. 

BDSM is just one part of a person’s life. It doesn’t take a porn star or a goth to practice it. Everybody can be a fan and a practitioner of BDSM. Your next-door neighbor who’s an accountant by day, or your sister-in-law who’s a high school teacher; it’s just regular people from all walks of life. 

Myth #3 – BDSM Is a Dangerous Practice 

Like any type of play, BDSM has its own rules as well. When you’re well informed about the practices you want to exercise with your partner and know and respect the rules, then BDSM is a really safe practice. 

The number one thing you need to do when you engage in BDSM is to have thorough and open conversations about safety and consent. And here we see a big difference between BDSM sex and BDSM activities and regular, plain old “vanilla” sex. In regular sex practices, boundaries are outlined much less than they are in BDSM. 

Myth #4 – In BDSM, Men Are Always the Dominant Ones and Women Are Always Submissive 

This is also a very uninformed opinion on BDSM. In fact, there are just as many women dominatrixes (or mistresses) as there are men dominants. BDSM is about power play. It’s not a reflection of the patriarchal roles we see women and men take on in our daily realities. 

So, men can be submissive and women can be dominant, and it’s not like you have to choose one role and stick with it for the rest of your BDSM “life”. There are lots of people who like to switch – sometimes they’re the dominant ones and sometimes they’re submissive. They’re commonly referred to as ‘switches’. 

Myth #5 – BDSM Is All About Bondage and Whipping

BDSM includes a wide variety of practices and whipping and bondage are just a part of them, not exclusive to them. 

Different people have different levels of involvement in BDSM practices. Some people only enjoy dressing up in latex or leather. Others enjoy the magic of sensation play, which includes rather light stuff such as using feathers and silk, as well as massage oils. And a third kind enjoys sensory deprivation, such as using a blindfold, for example. 

It can also get heavier and more extreme. Needle play and erotic electrostimulation or wax play (pouring hot wax from a lighted candle on someone’s body) are some of the examples for heavier BDSM.  

Intro to BDSM for Couples: How to Get Your Wife Into It/How to get into BDSM SAFELY

As I mentioned a couple of times throughout this article, the most important things you need to cover when you’re getting into BDSM are:

  • being in the open with your partner, 
  • mutual consent, 
  • paying extreme attention to safety measures. 

Basically know and follow the rules of BDSM and you’ll both be fine. 

Do (Plenty of) Research Before You Begin Practicing BDSM

Okay, so you’ve already done some very mild BDSM such as blindfolding. If you’ve used your wife’s scarf you know that there’s not much research to be done. The same goes for store-bought handcuffs.

But, if you want to enter deeper into BDSM territory, then you definitely need to get some research done beforehand. Want to get involved with the more complex and trickier stuff? You have to learn how to do it safely. A whip or a rope may seem like simple tools to use at first glance, but they’re far from harmless. If you don’t learn how to properly use them on your partner, you may end up seriously injuring her.

Safety First

The same goes for sexual acts, such as fisting, for example. When it comes to fisting, you can’t just shove your hand into somebody else and be done with it. You need tons of lubricant, for starters. You need a careful approach. And you need to start slow with one-two-three fingers and then gradually insert the whole hand inside. 

You can do research by reading books about BDSM practices, joining an online community and discussing it with experienced BDSM masters and practitioners. You can also follow message boards and groups where people share their experiences, knowledge, and opinions on the topic. 

And if you want to get practical right away, I recommend joining a BDSM workshop or a class. I’d also recommend checking out some fairs and events happening across the US and around the globe. 

At the end of this article, I’ll provide a bunch of different resources you can check out concerning introduction into BDSM. You can find info on social networks and apps to get in touch with the kink and BDSM community; you can find associations that give official info on BDSM practices and the meaning of BDSM worldwide, books on the subject from a variety of aspects, etc. 

Gloria Brame, who’s one of the leading sexologists and sex therapists that have a lot of experience with BDSM topics, says that the “BDSM education” is in large part a way to learn how to “minimize risk” and “maximize ecstasy,” and how to fulfill your fantasies in a safe way.   

But be careful of the sources you get your info from and make sure you use a variety of them 

Since BDSM is a vast field of practices and experiences, it’s a good idea to approach it from different angles by using a variety of sources and a variety of ways to become more knowledgeable on this topic. 

So, for example, if have an interest in the topic of bondage and spanking, make sure to read a couple of different books on the subject. Try to read different opinions on websites that deal with safe and consensual BDSM. Also, take classes, or visit workshops that include your BDSM niche or are specifically oriented towards it. 

Communicating It to Your Partner 

Once you do initial research on BDSM, next comes the part where you need to communicate it with your partner. If you’re both familiarized with each other’s desire to try BDSM, then you can, of course, do part of the research together.

But the key thing here is to find out what each of you likes, individually, which means you’d have to have solo research sessions as well. Explore a wide variety of practices and fantasies and find out what floats your boat. Once you know this, it’ll be easier to share with your partner and be specific about it. 

How to start? 

Well, this, in part, depends on the way you usually communicate “heavier” topics in your relationship, and also it requires a bit of tact. 

If you’re the kind of couple who likes to get straight to the point, then you can start the conversation more straightforwardly, like: 

  • “Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something I’d like us to try in the bedroom…” 
  • Or, you can also tell them: “Have you ever thought about BDSM? I was thinking you might like us to try something new and fun together, and I’ve been having this on my mind for a while now, what do you think?” 

And if you want to be a little less direct… 

If you usually need more time to discuss these kinds of topics, and you find it harder to introduce them lightly or directly to your partner, you can try the following: 

  • “Hey, you know I had the wildest dream yesterday! We were ___, and I have to admit… it looked kinda fun. Have you ever fantasized about something like that?” 

You could use the mediatory help of dreams. You can also introduce a film that involves a BDSM (related) topic into your film repertoire, and see how your significant other reacts to it. You can do the same with an erotic book. 

Don’t give up if your partner is initially against it

If you notice they’re putting an opposition, don’t give up immediately. Some people just need more time to absorb these kinds of things. Heck, maybe they also have fantasies they’re ashamed to admit.

Just give it a little bit of time and try again. Ask them how they feel about it after a while, if they’ve maybe changed their minds. Offer a safe space where you can both familiarize each other with the topic together. Show her that there’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Tell her that lots of couples like yourselves do it and there’s nothing wrong with them. 

Going to a sex-positive therapist is also a good idea if one of you is really uncomfortable discussing the subject at length. Sometimes a person outside your sex nest can really help you learn how to fulfill your fantasies. They can also help you get rid of any self-censure you might be having. 

Start slow, and start small

But you can also start small – if your fantasy is on the more extreme spectrum, first suggest a lighter version of it, and then, if there’s room, with time, try to introduce the more extreme variant of it. 

Like, for example, if you’re into domination and role-playing, suggest spanking the next time you’re about to have sex, and afterward, you can introduce role play as well. 

… however, don’t be pushy 

But, whatever you do, don’t be too pushy. This might have a counter-effect on your partner; also, they simply might not be into it at all, even after a series of conversations. 

If this is the case, you can maybe try and have a deeper conversation about why this is the case, maybe even visit a sex therapist together or just drop the issue altogether. 

If this is a huge issue for you and an important sexual fantasy you want fulfilled, you should tell that to your partner. 

If your partner’s not against it, maybe you’ll come to an agreement for you to try it alone, visit a workshop or a class, and go to a club or a BDSM party where you’ll get the chance to experience it. Remember that your partner is not obliged to be your everything, nor do they have to fulfill each and every one of your fantasies. But it is fair to talk about it and give each other space, if possible, to fulfill them elsewhere. 

And What Happens When Your Partner Agrees to Do It? 

Well, then you should have another series of conversations revolving around three central things:

  1. Consent
  2. Safewords
  3. Aftercare 

Consent

This is a big word in the BDSM community, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. When somebody agrees to do something or to endure something, they have to be fully conscious or aware of what that entails. They have to know the the potential consequences of the act. 

Whatever it is that you’ve agreed to do to each other, you have to talk it out in detail. And make sure you’ve covered every aspect of it. 

And one of the great “consequences” of engaging in BDSM is that it’ll teach you how to talk about sex. This isn’t half bad, since a lot of couples (new, casual, or long-term) don’t really talk much about their sex lives in general, even when they’re having regular (vanilla) sex. 

There’s simply no point in skipping the “pre-negotiation period” in BDSM. It’s the period where the partners discuss their preferences and fantasies and where they establish their boundaries. Here couples tell each other how far they’re willing to go, what they’re willing to tolerate, and what they will absolutely not do or tolerate. 

And another thing you can do is use the help of scripts, as well as checklists. You can also have informal discussions. 

Safewords are really important (at least in the beginning) 

You’ve probably heard about safewords before – they’re also one of the most important elements in BDSM. 

Safewords are words or phrases that BDSM partners agree on which serve to halt the play once one of the participants feels uncomfortable, unsafe, panics, is in pain that they don’t want to endure, etc. 

Basically, they’re used anytime somebody wants to stop the game. 

Now, safewords aren’t always used by people in the BDSM community, but it is very advisable that you do use them, especially in the beginning of your journey into BDSM territory. 

They can be any kind of word, but make sure to choose something you wouldn’t usually say while having sex, so you don’t confuse it with regular talk and just let it go unnoticed. 

Alternately, you could use something else than a word – it can be a sound, a whistle, a movement, or a type of touch – basically whatever works for you and as long as you’re both able to notice it and articulate it properly. 

Aftercare 

Aftercare is the period that comes after you’ve had your first scene, that is, when the scene has ended. 

BDSM can be an intense form of sex play that’s capable of producing extreme emotional experiences for certain people, which is why the “aftercare period” is almost as important as the period before the scene. 

In this period, you should be able to discuss what you did in the scene – how you felt, and share your reactions to it. Partners are usually really vulnerable after the scene ends. And that’s why I strongly suggest you go through the aftercare period as well. What’s more, the aftercare period gives you a bonding space, very important after an intense session of (sometimes) extreme power play between the partners. 

There’s never enough communication when it comes to BDSM – whether it’s before or after, and sometimes even during the acts (or what we call “scenes”), talking about what you’re going to do or what you’ve done helps you have more control over your actions and makes you better BDSM-ers each time you do it, and it also helps build emotional security. 

Source: Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

A List of Resources You May Find Useful for BDSM 

And so, because the world of BDSM is so vast, there’s tons of resources on it. 

Here I tried to do a small selection of BDSM related resources to help you navigate your journey in these practices more easily. 

BDSM Social Network Sites 

  • Kink Aware Professionals – this is a site, part of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) that provides you with info on doctors, shrinks, lawyers, and other similar medical and legal service providers that don’t really have a problem with practices like BDSM and actually know what they’re doing. 
  • FetLife – “a social network for the BDSM, fetish, and the kink community”, is what you’ll read on their landing page. Counting more than 8 million members, this is one of the largest (if not the largest) BDSM online communities out there. It provides a platform through which BDSM enthusiasts can find like-minded people and get to know each other and connect, share experiences, fantasies, and fetishes.
  • Kink.com – a website that features BDSM porn with consenting models in a variety of videos.
  • Fetish.com – a site somewhat similar to FetLife, Fetish.com is another platform for BDSM enthusiasts. There is a forum area where you can discuss your favorite fetishes with similar-minded people on the web, and there are also options for dating kink-positive people and locating kink-related events near your area. 
  • Society of Janus – is a San Francisco based organization oriented towards being an education and support group for BDSM enthusiasts and practitioners. Through this site, you can meet with other people like you, as they say, in a “safe, relaxed atmosphere.” 

Professional Educational Resources: 

BDSM Checklist

BDSM tests 

Here’s a variety of BDSM test that can help you determine your boundaries and also help you determine your BDSM archetypes

BDSM Books: Non-fiction – Introduction into BDSM practices 

  • Gloria G. Brame – Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission – Gloria Brame is a sex therapist and sexologist that has won numerous awards for her writing and practice. Different Loving is considered a classic among the BDSM community, but also among people who have a general interest in the immense variety of sexual experiences and practices. 
  • Jay Wiseman – SM 101: A Realistic Introduction – an introductory book about consensual sadomasochistic practices: bondage, spanking, erotic role-playing, and more. The second edition also features a chapter on starting and running sadomasochistic organizations and events for consenting adults.
  • Jay Wiseman – Erotic Bondage Handbook – “If you can tie your shoelaces, you can create an erotic masterpiece!” This is the kind of sentence you can find in the book about erotic bondage. Practical and simple, easy to follow advice, abounding with illustrations, on how to safely tie your partner, but also ways to do it to yourself as well. 
  • Mistress Lorelei – The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl’s Guide to Female Dominance – if you’re more inclined towards submission, and your wife or partner likes to be the dominant one, and you want to have a little fun with it, but don’t know where to begin, then this book is for you. It’s a book that deals with the basics of female domination. 
  • Lady Green – The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners – another book on female dominance you can introduce to your lady is this one. It’s a good starting point for a woman inclined towards erotic power play. One part of the book covers the basics of bondage, control games, and sensation games. It features a script for the first time you try your BDSM game. And it also contains info on the possible emotional effects of female-dominant play. 

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