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How to Start Exploring BDSM: A Beginner?s Guide
by Alicia Guinn
While fetish fashions like leather corsets and collars are fairlycommon in mainstream culture, BDSM ? the subculture that created thesefashions ? remainsa mystery to most people. Our customers questions range from "Doesn'tthat hurt?" to "Am I normal for wanting to do this?" We'll answer theseand a host of other common questions about BDSM in this beginner'sguide.

What?s BDSM Stand for, Anyway?

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

The most common question we hear is "But why would anyone likepain?"  Remember that BDSM is an exploration of erotic sensation.Being blindfolded and tied up while your partner massages yourshoulders and then drips hot wax on your back is a very differentexperience than visiting the dentist for that long overdue cleaning.When aroused, our bodies process sensations differently, and sometimes abite 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 wayto reinvigorate a relationship, or to connect with a partner and createintimacy. BDSM isn't just a different kind of sex. Elements of BDSMthat make you hot can be incorporated into your current sexualrepertoire.

"Safe, Sane, and Consensual"

That?s the motto of the BDSM community. While a BDSM exchange canlook intimidating, it's important to know that the people involved havetalkedbeforehand and decided what they would like to experiencetogether  It's this process that clearly separates BDSM fromabuse. Communication and consent are the tools that people who enjoyBDSM use to keep themselves and their partners safe.

Some people are afraid that if they consent to some aspect of BDSMplay, they'll never be able to say ?no? if they decide they don't likespanking or bondageafter all. Remember that you are in complete control of how you act onyour desires. And you have a right to use your safeword (see safety tiplater 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 thattrying out a set of nipple clamps will be a one-way ticket to thedungeon and a full-time master/slave relationship.

Let?s Get Going!

So how do you get started exploring BDSM?  For many people, thebiggest obstacle to introducing BDSM into a sexual relationship isbringing up the subject with a partner. It's scary to express yourdesires about something that some folks consider "sick" or"perverted."  First, congratulate yourself for being in touch withyour fantasies. It's hard to even know what we like in this sex-phobicculture. 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 aboutour sex life!" to get the ball rolling. Using sentences like "I love itwhen you ________" and "You?re so sexy when you ________" is a greatway to start conversations about sex. Find vocabulary that seems rightto you. It's guaranteed that the first few sentences of your firstconversation will be the hardest, but rest assured?it will get easier.
  2. Makea list.One of our favorite Babeland tips for kick-startingconversations about sex is the Yes/No/Maybe list. Together you and yourpartner write down every dirty, naughty, far-fetched sexual act you'veever heard of, and then each person categorizes these acts under theheadings "Yes!  I?d love to!", "No! I?d never ever do that!" and"Maybe, if the conditions were right."  You may have sexualinterests in common that you've never explored! 
  3. Whatturns you on? Explore what turns you on by reading erotica or watchingporn. If you find a BDSM moment that gets you going, share it with apartner. Marking a story in a book or magazine and saying, "I thoughtthis was hot!" can be easier than bringing up the subject independently.
  4. Educate yourself. Check out The Topping Bookand The Bottoming Book or any other of our books on bondage, BDSM, and SM. Allof these resources offer reassuring encouragement about exploring BDSM.
  5. Safety first. When partners negotiate, they usually designate asafeword. A safeword allows you to withdraw consent at any time if theaction gets too intense. Some common safewords include "red" to mean"stop now" and "yellow" to mean "slow down" or "let's check in witheach other."  Dip into any of the Toybag Guides for other suggestions.
  6. Start small.If you want to re-create the ideal BDSM fantasyyou?ve been having for years, what do you do if the fantasy involveselaborate costumes, exotic scenery, and multiple actors?  Keep itsimple. Isolate one part of the fantasy that makes you hot?like aparticular power dynamic or a specific action like spanking?and try outthat 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 leather cuffs like Kookie Cuffs (or Under the Bed Restraints for a vegan alternative.) While silkscarves or metal handcuffs are tempting, both can tighten unexpectedlyand restrict circulation. If you like the look and feel of rope, searchfor something soft and sensual at the hardware store. Don't let yourlack of a knot-tying merit badge keep you from tying each otherup!  Make sure that knots aren?t too tight by using the two fingerrule. You should be able to slip two fingers comfortably between therope and your partner?s wrist or ankle. Two Knotty Boys Showing You the Ropes cangive you concrete advice on rope bondage.
  8. Brand spankin' new.Spanking is a great BDSM tool to incorporate into a current sexualrelationship. The best way to start is with your hands, so you knowexactly how hard you are hitting. Aim your strokes for the fleshy areasof the body that have large muscles to absorb the impact. The butt andthighs are popular choices. Avoid the kidneys, joints, feet and hands.If your hands get tired easily or your sweetie yearns for differentsensations, 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 formore fun. And they're not just for nipples! You can use clamps anywhereyou can pinch an inch of skin. Look for adjustable clamps like Clover Clamps and Tweezer Clampswhich allow you to control the amount of pressure exerted. If you'reusing clamps on someone else, it's good to remember that the mostintense moment is when you remove the clamps and blood comes rushingback to the area.

Practice Makes Perfect! 

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

Also Recommended

The Black Glove and Elegant Spanking (video)SM 101 (book)Penetration Station