My partner and I are considering experimenting with BDSM. Neither of us have ever done it before. Where do we start?

co-authored by Anthony Mbarak and Sarah Bethune

It can be difficult to create a BDSM scene for the first time; however, when practiced carefully, BDSM can increase intimacy within a committed relationship.[1] BDSM covers a wide range of different erotic activities.[2] When you “play” you are engaging in one or more of the following erotic activities: bondage, pain, and domination. A “scene” is referred to as a meeting between two or more people for the purpose of erotic activity.[3] In BDSM play, there is much emphasis on verbally negotiating a pre-arranged agreement, and understanding each other so deeply that the scene unfolds smoothly. In fact, some participants practice BDSM on occasion as a type of sexual role play, while for others, it is a lifestyle that may not involve sexual play at all. BDSM is an acronym that encompasses a variety of activities. B/D stands for bondage and discipline. D/S stands for the role you choose as either a dominant or a submissive. S/M stands for sadism and masochism.

 

One of the main resources you can utilize is the BDSM community itself. Many people have found comfort and support in being accepted by like-minded individuals.[4] Being involved in the BDSM community can offer you further knowledge on what to try, what to expect, and how to make “Safe, Sane, Consensual” sexy. If you are interested in getting involved, it might be advantageous to do further research on the types of groups and events that may interest you as well as shops that can offer you resources and information.

 

As beginners it is recommended that you start by choosing one basic activity (such as spanking) and gradually build to more complex activities that require more knowledge and experience.[5] BDSM support groups are a great way to learn the basics, and develop your skills from experienced members.[6] To dig deeper, you and your partner will find more detailed information about BDSM in such books as Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon.

 

Many people are excited by the idea of being immersed in their fantasies. The notion of fantasy seems to be a big part of what makes BDSM interesting and arousing.[7] After all, one of the biggest reasons people decide to engage in BDSM is purely for fun.[8] Experimenting with some of these ideas and coming up with your own variations is a great way to introduce yourself to BDSM.

 

There are two types of roles couples consider in a BDSM scene. There is the role of the dominant and the submissive. A submissive is someone who obeys orders from the dominant.[9] As a submissive it may appear as though you have no control; however, a dominant’s behaviour in a scene depends on the feedback given by the submissive. As a submissive you are responsible for communicating your needs to the dominant prior to BDSM play, and ensuring that during the scene you are not being passive by giving little or no feedback to your partner.[10]

 

The dominant’s role involves being in charge S/M play.[11] Furthermore, it is the dominant’s responsibility to never ask or demand anything from the submissive that will result in physical or emotional damage.[12] During play a wise dominant will regularly check in to make sure the submissive is getting what they want out of the erotic experience, and to monitor the physical safety of the submissive.[13] Some dominant characteristics include being attentive, responsible, empathic and nurturing towards the submissive’s feelings.[14]

 

BDSM can offer a beneficial experience if you follow some simple rules and guidelines. Many people in the BDSM community agree that it helps strengthen connection and trust with their partners, allowing them to build better relationships.[15] It can also improve relationships by allowing people to please their partners whether they are submissive or dominant.[16]

 

There is a great deal of negotiation throughout the whole process of becoming ready for BDSM play. Each step requires consent and discussion. Further negotiation involves establishing a safe word. This word signals to the dominant that the degree of stimulation received or the general atmosphere of the scene is beyond the submissive’s limits.[17] For beginners, it is also recommended to test a safe word during a pilot run of BDSM play to make sure the dominant will honour it in the future.[18] Consider using two safe words: one for lightening up the stimulation and another for completely stopping the scene. Make sure to choose an easy safe word that can quickly come to mind.[19]

 

Keep in mind that as beginners you are experimenting with the basics of something very complex. Although BDSM can be a risky activity, you and your partner should now realize that you have a choice in all matters relating to your experience. For now, focus on keeping your experience simple, safe and enjoyable.[20]


 

[1] Nichols, M. (2006). Psychotherapeutic issues with “kinky” clients: Clinical problems, yours and theirs. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), 281-300.

[2] Pillai-Friedman, S., Pollitt, J. L., & Castaldo, A. (2015).      Becoming kink-aware–a necessity for sexuality professionals. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30(2), 196-210.

[3] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[4] Bezreh, T., Weinberg, T. S., & Edgar, T. (2012). BDSM Disclosure and Stigma Management: Identifying Opportunities for Sex Education. American Journal Of Sexuality Education, 7(1), 37-61. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.librweb.laurentian.ca/10.1080/15546128.2012.650984

[5] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[6] Miller, P., & Devon, M. (1995). Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism. Fairfield, Connecticut: Mystic Rose Books.

[7] Turley, E. L., King, N., & Butt, T. (2011). ‘It started when I barked once when I was licking his boots!’: a descriptive phenomenological study of the everyday experience of BDSM. Psychology & Sexuality, 2(2), 123-136. doi:10.1080/19419899.2010.528018

[8] Turley, E. L., King, N., & Butt, T. (2011). ‘It started when I barked once when I was licking his boots!’: a descriptive phenomenological study of the everyday experience of BDSM. Psychology & Sexuality, 2(2), 123-136. doi:10.1080/19419899.2010.528018

[9] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[10] Easton, D., & Hardy, J. (2001). The New Bottoming Book. Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[11] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[12] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[13] Easton, D., & Hardy, J. (2003). The New Topping Book. Oakland, CA: Greenery Press.

[14] Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 49-62. doi:10.3138/cjhs.2467

[15] Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 49-62. doi:10.3138/cjhs.2467

[16] Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 49-62. doi:10.3138/cjhs.2467

[17] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[18] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[19] Wiseman, J. (1998). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (2nd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.

[20] Other references include Faccio, E., Casini, C., & Cipolletta, S. (2014) Forbidden games: the construction of sexuality and sexual pleasure by BDSM ‘players’. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 16(7-8), 752-764. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.librweb.laurentian.ca/10.1080/13691058.2014.909531; Kleinplatz, P., & Mosser, C. (Eds.). (2006). Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures. Binghamton, New York: Harrington Park Press; and Warren, J., & Warren, L. (2008). The Loving Dominant (3rd ed.). Gardena, CA: Greenery Press.