It’s no secret that the recent Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon has sparked a lot of interest in BDSM. The first question everyone asks is, “how do I get into this stuff?” quickly followed up by, “how can I do this stuff safely?” So I came up with 5 steps for getting started in the wonderful world of BDSM:
1. Get clear about your desires!
So, you want to get into BDSM. That’s awesome! You’ve already taken a huge step towards making your fantasies real by recognizing that this is something you’d like to explore! I’m not saying you need to know everything you’ll ever be into before you start. Actually, a lot of people notice that their desires change a little bit once they’ve been in this lifestyle for some time. What I’m saying is that it’s important to have some ideas of what you want to try or do, and a baseline expectation of what you would like your relationships and/or play to look like.
Some questions you can ask yourself include:
• What types of play do I want to engage in?
• What do I hope to gain from my experiences in BDSM?
• What is my ideal relationship structure in relation to my kink?
o Do you want a monogamous partner to explore with, a variety of people to play in various ways with?
o Do you want to be in an ongoing Dominant/submissive (D/s) or Master/slave (M/s) dynamic, or just play with kink sometimes?
• What are the baseline expectations I have for my partner(s) and myself?
• What are my boundaries or “hard limits?”
• What do I need for aftercare after a scene?
If you’re not sure of what you want to try, or want some ideas to think about, consider using a yes/no/maybe list. There are plenty of them online, but this one is my favorite because it comes with detailed instructions and is extensive and editable.
2. Get educated!
Once you’re clear about what you want to explore, it’s time to educate yourself on how to engage in those practices in ways that reduce the risk of harm to you or your partner. There is a wealth of information out there on BDSM best practices. There are books, websites, and forums for those who like to self-teach, practice, and/or play at home*. If you prefer in-person support and education, there are workshops in a variety of settings such as sex toy stores, community centers, dungeons, and other kink events.
Continue educating yourself as long as you engage in kink. Whether it’s to learn new skill sets or just to get a refresher on old material, you will be a much better player when you continually learn new techniques and ideas.
I placed this one in the middle of the list, but really, communication should be sprinkled throughout all of the other steps as well. This may in fact be the most important step of them all.
You know what you want to do, now tell your partner all about it! I recommend bringing up your desires in a non-sexualized setting. It’s hard to remember everything you want to say when you’re focused on… other things. So it’s usually easier to start the conversation in a non-sexualized setting, such as over lunch or when you’re just relaxing at home. I DO NOT recommend bringing up your new interests in a moving car that your partner is driving, especially if they are really not expecting you to suggest something like this. Communication doesn’t have to be dry or clinical sounding. Make it playful! Ask in a way that isn’t pressuring or anxiety-causing. A question such as “what if we tried ______?” will generally do the trick! Use your yes/no/maybe list as a communication tool! Show your partner what you’ve checked off or both of you fill one out and compare notes.
Communication shouldn’t stop there! Start all of your scenes by talking about the types of play you want to engage in, toys you want to use, and asking how you’re partner is feeling that day. Once you’re in the throes of play, check in with your partner throughout your scene. If you’re the top, ask your partner how they’re doing, if they need you to stop or slow down, or if they want you to go harder. If you’re the bottom, don’t be afraid to use your safe word(s)! You are in control of the scene and what is happening to you at all times.
4. Practice, practice, practice!
BDSM and kink are comprised of a lot of different activities that require particular skill sets. Like any skill, you need to take the time to practice and get comfortable so you can execute it safely. Like any skill remember that practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. So make sure you are checking in that you’re practicing your kink correctly, so you commit the right movements or information to memory.
If you’re interested in more physical types of play like spanking, rope bondage, or sensation play make sure to practice on inanimate objects before trying on a real person! For impact especially, I recommend using a pillow. Take an old pillowcase and draw an “X” on it, then aim for the center of the “X” when you swing. The pillow will hold indentations where the toy hit it. That way you can see how precise your aim is. Bonus: It’s also a good idea to try bottoming so you know how it feels to be on the other side.
5. Find your tribe!
I know what you’re thinking when you first read this one, but don’t worry, I’m not saying you need to play publically or shout that you’re kinky from the rooftops. However, it can be a bit difficult to be going through a big, exciting, personal journey when you don’t have someone you can freely talk to about it without judgment. It can be vitally important to have support when you set out on your journey into BDSM, and often, the best support comes in the form of people who understand what you’re going through.
If you are up for meeting people in real life, most local kink communities hold events called “munches.” These are meet ups at coffee shops, bars, restaurants or other public vanilla spaces, and are designed for non-kinky socialization time. Because these are such great events for newbies, you’ll often find that you’re not the only new person there.
If you’re not there yet, or never plan to be involved in the public scene**, there are online communities like Fetlife.com where you can connect with other kinky folks all over the world. Looking for information and advice on a particular topic? Chances are likely you’ll be able to find plenty of threads of people discussing your kinks. Like any forum, the quality of information may vary. Remember to do your research, and if something just doesn’t sound right, it’s probably the best to keep searching for better information.
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*Check out a short list of some of the best BDSM resources HERE
**It is more than ok to only want to play privately and not be a part of the public scene. Don’t let anyone tell you different.