How to Start Exploring BDSM

How to Start Exploring BDSM: A Beginner’s Guide


While fetish fashions like leather corsets and collars are fairly common in mainstream culture, BDSM — the subculture that created these fashions — remains a mystery to most people. Our customers questions range from "Doesn't that hurt?" to "Am I normal for wanting to do this?" We'll answer these and a host of other common questions about BDSM in this beginner's guide.

What’s BDSM Stand for, Anyway?

First, let's define BDSM. It's a fairly recent term that encompasses consensual explorations of sensation and/or power dynamics. Categories like Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism are part of BDSM and can include acts like biting, spanking, tying up your partner, wearing nipple clamps, playing with sensations like ice cubes and hot wax, making use of blindfolds and gags, and role-playing, such as partners taking on dominant and submissive roles.


The most common question we hear is "But why would anyone like pain?"  Remember that BDSM is an exploration of erotic sensation. Being blindfolded and tied up while your partner massages your shoulders and then drips hot wax on your back is a very different experience than visiting the dentist for that long overdue cleaning. When aroused, our bodies process sensations differently, and sometimes a bite or a spank can suddenly feel exquisite.


People love BDSM because it gets their motors revving. It's fun, exciting, and it feels good. It can be an emotional thrill, a great way to reinvigorate a relationship, or to connect with a partner and create intimacy. BDSM isn't just a different kind of sex. Elements of BDSM that make you hot can be incorporated into your current sexual repertoire.

"Safe, Sane, and Consensual"

That’s the motto of the BDSM community. While a BDSM exchange can look intimidating, it's important to know that the people involved have talked beforehand and decided what they would like to experience together  It's this process that clearly separates BDSM from abuse. Communication and consent are the tools that people who enjoy BDSM use to keep themselves and their partners safe.


Some people are afraid that if they consent to some aspect of BDSM play, they'll never be able to say “no” if they decide they don't like spanking or bondage after all. Remember that you are in complete control of how you act on your desires. And you have a right to use your safeword (see safety tip later on), change your mind, or re-negotiate at any time.


Other people are afraid that once they experience stronger sensations, they will want more and more. That might happen, but it's unlikely that trying out a set of nipple clamps will be a one-way ticket to the dungeon and a full-time master/slave relationship.

Let’s Get Going!

So how do you get started exploring BDSM?  For many people, the biggest obstacle to introducing BDSM into a sexual relationship is bringing up the subject with a partner. It's scary to express your desires about something that some folks consider "sick" or "perverted."  First, congratulate yourself for being in touch with your fantasies. It's hard to even know what we like in this sex-phobic culture. Then, take a deep breath and consider these suggestions:

  1. Talk about it. If you and your partner don't routinely talk about sex, get into the habit. You don't have to blurt out "We need to talk about our sex life!" to get the ball rolling. Using sentences like "I love it when you ________" and "You’re so sexy when you ________" is a great way to start conversations about sex. Find vocabulary that seems right to you. It's guaranteed that the first few sentences of your first conversation will be the hardest, but rest assured—it will get easier.
  2. Make a list. One of our favorite Babeland tips for kick-starting conversations about sex is the Yes/No/Maybe list. Together you and your partner write down every dirty, naughty, far-fetched sexual act you've ever heard of, and then each person categorizes these acts under the headings "Yes!  I’d love to!", "No! I’d never ever do that!" and "Maybe, if the conditions were right."  You may have sexual interests in common that you've never explored! 
  3. What turns you on? Explore what turns you on by reading erotica or watching porn. If you find a BDSM moment that gets you going, share it with a partner. Marking a story in a book or magazine and saying, "I thought this was hot!" can be easier than bringing up the subject independently. Check out the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, or pick up the Fifty Shades of Grey Book and Bondage Kit.
  4. Educate yourself. Check out The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book or any other of our books on bondage, BDSM, and SM. All of these resources offer reassuring encouragement about exploring BDSM.
  5. Safety first. When partners negotiate, they usually designate a safeword. A safeword allows you to withdraw consent at any time if the action gets too intense. Some common safewords include "red" to mean "stop now" and "yellow" to mean "slow down" or "let's check in with each other."
  6. Start small. If you want to re-create the ideal BDSM fantasy you’ve been having for years, what do you do if the fantasy involves elaborate costumes, exotic scenery, and multiple actors?  Keep it simple. Isolate one part of the fantasy that makes you hot—like a particular power dynamic or a specific action like spanking—and try out that part.
  7. Get all tied up. If you want to restrain your sweetie in a snap, it's worth a small investment in a pair of nice Cuffs. While silk scarves or metal handcuffs are tempting, both can tighten unexpectedly and restrict circulation. If you like the look and feel of rope, search for something soft and sensual at the hardware store. Don't let your lack of a knot-tying merit badge keep you from tying each other up!  Make sure that knots aren’t too tight by using the two finger rule. You should be able to slip two fingers comfortably between the rope and your partner’s wrist or ankle.
  8. Brand spankin' new. Spanking is a great BDSM tool to incorporate into a current sexual relationship. The best way to start is with your hands, so you know exactly how hard you are hitting. Aim your strokes for the fleshy areas of the body that have large muscles to absorb the impact. The butt and thighs are popular choices. Avoid the kidneys, joints, feet and hands. If your hands get tired easily or your sweetie yearns for different sensations, the Lollipop is an excellent impact toy for beginners.
  9. Clippity clamp. Nipple clamps (also known as nipple clips) are a great way to add stimulation while keeping your hands free for more fun. And they're not just for nipples! You can use clamps anywhere you can pinch an inch of skin. Look for adjustable clamps like Clover Clamps and Tweezer Clamps which allow you to control the amount of pressure exerted. If you're using clamps on someone else, it's good to remember that the most intense moment is when you remove the clamps and blood comes rushing back to the area.

Practice Makes Perfect! 

Remember to give yourselves permission to laugh or quit if the perfect dream scene is silly in reality. Check in with your partner the day after you play together to see how things went. Talk about your experiences and incorporate what you learn into your future dates. Browse Babeland's BDSM toy collection for lots of inspiration!

Also Recommended

All BDSM Toys

How to Play with Nipple Toys

How to Spank