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What is BDSM? Here’s our Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Disclaimer: This article is for those who have ever wondered what is BDSM. If you would prefer not to read about this subject or if you believe this article is not appropriate for you, then we recommend reading no further.

BDSM was brought into the public eye and the minds and bedrooms of mums everywhere when 50 Shades of Grey went viral. Almost every mum, from “The Housewives of Wherever” to the lady next door, were clamouring to get their hands on these books.

* FUN FACT * Did you know the 50 Shades trilogy started out as Twilight fanfiction? It was originally called Master of the Universe and featured Bella and Edward. After concern about the sexual nature of the fanfiction, E.L James renamed the characters as Anastasia and Christian, rewrote the works as original pieces and 50 Shades was born.

50 Shades received a lot of valid criticism for its inaccurate representation of what a BDSM relationship looks like. Christian and Ana’s relationship is very unhealthy from the get-go and the way BDSM is portrayed in the books is dangerous and sends the wrong message about these types of relationships. In fact, much of the mainstream media tends to misrepresent BDSM to the public.

So, what is BDSM?

BDSM stands for Bondage and discipline, Dominance and submission, Sadism and Masochism. It’s an umbrella term used to describe relationships that involve a consensual exchange or relinquishing of control for pleasure.

According to some sex therapists, BDSM sex is the safest sex you can have when done the right way. Why is that? Because the basic elements of BDSM are communication and consent. It’s heavy on boundary setting and respect.

Here is a quick breakdown of what the different BDSM subcategories mean.

Bondage/discipline:

Bondage refers to physical restraint. Discipline refers to agreed-upon rules and punishment.

Dominance/Submission:

One partner is dominant, one is submissive. This can be an agreement you make for one night of play or it may be a 24/7 arrangement.

Sadism/masochism:

Sadism is enjoying giving pain. Masochism is enjoying receiving pain. If you like both? You’re a sadomasochist.

Why do people enjoy it?

People enjoy BDSM and kink for a variety of reasons. Some like the exchange of power. Some like the intimacy it provides. Some simply don’t enjoy ‘vanilla sex’. Some like the darker elements.

For some people, giving up control of their body to a trusted partner helps with stress. For some, it provides a relief from their everyday life.

A woman holding handcuffs. what is BDSM?
Source: Bigstock

Some people just want to try it out.

For some, being dominate in the bedroom helps them feel safe by being in control. The reasons are as different as people’s personalities.

BDSM for beginners

If you want to see if BDSM is a kink you will enjoy, it’s super easy to incorporate things into your everyday sex life. Start by making a yes/no/maybe list of things you’ve read, seen, or heard.

Some things you can do:

  • Hair pulling
  • Light bondage (tying wrists together) or using under-bed restraints.
  • Light spanking with velvet paddles, hands, gentle floggers, soft whips.
  • Incorporate some agreed-upon vulgar language.
  • Try edging (stopping and starting stimulation to hold off orgasm).
  • Watch porn together.
  • Call each other Sir/Madam/Master/Mistress in the bedroom, or during foreplay.
  • Role playing.
  • Nipple clamps/pegs.
  • Drip candle wax on each other.
  • Bring a sexy boardgame or sexy dice into the bedroom and follow the rules.
  • Use a very light grip or squeeze on the throat. Do not restrict air flow.
  • Give them control to call the shots for the night.
  • Have sex with the curtains partly open and the lights off.

There are some key components to making a light or hardcore BDSM session a success. And again, the most basic and equally most important are communication and consent.

Here are the do’s and don’ts for BDSM

  1. Do get consent. Every time. Without consent, it’s not BDSM.
  2. Do have a safeword*. It has to be something you wouldn’t normally say during sex.
  3. Do your research or talk to people who regularly do BDSM in person or via online chat.
  4. Do talk about what will happen in the scene and set your limits.
  5. Do have an aftercare plan. Check-in emotionally, keep them warm, provide food & water.
  6. Don’t attempt a scene with someone you’ve just met. It takes trust.
  7. Don’t ignore the safeword*.
  8. Don’t lie about injuries or what caused it.
  9. Don’t psych yourself out. With the right person and plan, it’s a wonderful experience.
  10. Don’t forget the aftercare plan.

* Alternates to a safeword: traffic light system (green go, yellow slow, red stop). Use a drop item (especially helpful if the scene is using gags) once the item is dropped, everything stops.

Final thoughts

As I’ve said, 50 Shades is not a good depiction or guide to proper BDSM. But, if darker romance is your thing, and you prefer to read your BDSM than participate, there are so many wonderfully written romance novels with BDSM as a component. There are many lists online with good BDSM romances, like this list from Goodreads.

Enjoying BDSM or other type of kink is nothing to feel shame about. It’s up to you how secretive or open you are about your passions with other people. Just take care not to expose them to your kink without their informed consent.

It’s your body and your sex life and you get to enjoy it however you want.

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Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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