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Experimenting with BDSM? Here’s What You Need to Know


If you’re new to BDSM, this guide has you covered from safety to ideas for exploration  Intro to BDSM Rihanna famously declares in her song S&M...
Experimenting with BDSM? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re new to BDSM, this guide has you covered from safety to ideas for exploration 

Intro to BDSM

Rihanna famously declares in her song S&M, “chains and whips excite me.” BDSM has flooded mainstream culture, yet there are parts (mostly around safety and consent) that pop culture eludes (thinking of the infamous 50 Shades.) Contrary to what pop culture shows, safety and consent form the backbone of BDSM culture. If you’ve ever been curious about trying BDSM, this guide will help you safely learn how to experiment so you can enjoy all the succulent benefits. 

BDSM might conjure all sorts of associations for different people: ball gags, whips, and chains, paddles for spanking, spreader bars, or cages for delicious torture. If some of this sounds like too much, take a deep breath and know that it’s recommended to only experiment with what you feel comfortable with at first. Just imagine BDSM is a sport; you’d definitely want to learn how to swim before high diving, right? 

BDSM is a vast landscape for alternative sexual practices, and there are limitless ways to play. So...if you’re new and wondering, do I have to turn my bedroom into a dungeon to get started? The answer is no, but it’s certainly not discouraged. 

Understanding vocab

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism, and masochism. 

Sadists usually receive enjoyment from inflicting pain, and masochists enjoy receiving pain. It’s easy to associate dominants with sadists, but not all Doms like to inflict pain, and not all sadists identify as dominant. 

The same is true for submissives; not all submissives are masochists, and not all masochists are submissive. There’s a place in BDSM for many different kinks and ways to play with power and pain. Just because you’re into one kink doesn’t mean that you have to enjoy or practice others. 

Playing with power: dom and sub roles

BDSM has a sexual connotation attached to it, but for some, the mental effects produced during play can be even more exciting than the physical rewards. In dominance and submission, the kink is in the exchange of power. 

The dominant or Dom typically takes control, makes choices, decides the role of the submissive to which the submissive partner obeys. For any act of power exchange, consent must be given. Some examples of Dom and sub exchanges can be:

  • Following instructions: the submissive must follow the rules
  • The sub can’t speak unless spoken to
  • The Dom might instill punishments for rule-breaking like spankings or not being allowed to orgasm
  • The sub proves their devotion and that they’ve learned their lesson by activities that please the Dom like oral sex or household chores
  • The sub gets rewarded with oral sex for following the rules


Everything you need to start

It’s essential to make clear boundaries before a BDSM scene so that the lines of playtime/fantasy versus real life are not confusing. For example, you might use language in a BDSM roleplay that you’d steer clear from in real life. To avoid any confusion, you might have a clear space and time devoted to a BDSM scene. 

Talk to your partner about what kinks you are interested in experimenting with. It’s ok not to know or be open to switching roles as you become more comfortable with BDSM. For the first time, it’s easiest to decipher roles beforehand and any activities you might try. It’s also paramount that you and your partner can discuss fantasies and desires honestly so that you’re on the same page when it comes to playing and both parties have a good time. 

Musts for safety

Experienced BDSM practitioners know that one of the most vital elements to make the experience safe is consent. You and your partner might make a list together of hard yeses, nos, and maybes. This is a fun way to decide what fantasy or kink you will play with and have been itching to try. Sexy roleplaying high on both of your lists? Better slip into that doctor or nurse costume! You both get to decide and communicate what you would and would not like to experiment with. 

Leave drugs and alcohol out of the picture. Because BDSM is a nuanced practice, it’s important to be attentive to everything your partner might be communicating. This means body language, words, pain, or pleasure. BDSM requires your full attention, and this is imperative for some more dangerous practices like choking. 

As always, ensure you have protective barriers in place, like condoms and plenty of lube

You can always change your mind about what you want at any given moment, and for this reason, it’s crucial to have a safe word or gesture. This is a word you and your partner decide beforehand that means stop everything. 

You can use a safeword at any time, for any reason, and it must always be respected. Ensure that your safeword is different from the word “no,” and it is clearly communicated and agreed upon with your partner before you play. 

The goal for experimenting with BDSM should always be pleasure and communication. Anything that feels otherwise or where you feel you can’t discuss what’s not working should raise a red flag. 

Ideas to explore BDSM

To gain more knowledge around what you like, start with lighter forms of play. You can always increase gradually. You might experiment with: 

  • Blindfolding your partner and letting them feel the warmth of your touch, kisses, or bites
  • Restraints like handcuffs, a scarf, or a tie work well 
  • Biting, light spanking, or hair pulling (be sure to start spanking gently, you can always increase pressure later)
  • Roleplaying 
  • Using words that evoke respect and power like “Sir” and “Madam” for Dom/sub scenes


BDSM aftercare

Aftercare is a way of providing tending and closure for yourself and your partner after an experience. BDSM might be vulnerable for some, so it’s important to end with an activity that provides some way to check in and recalibrate, whether through physical contact like cuddling, ordering takeout, or taking a shower together. You also might want to share your reflections about how the experience was and what worked and didn’t so that the next time is even more titillating. 


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