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BDSM: A Beginner's Guide

An interest in BDSM can be difficult to talk about with a partner, much less a complete stranger. So how about we make this easy on you? Here is a transcript of our imaginary conversation for you to peruse in the comfort of your own home! 

And look at the bottom for links to our favorite resources that are available at out shop and online.

You: I’ve always called it S & M. Is that the same thing? What exactly is BDSM?

Early to Bed: BDSM is an inclusive term for all the activities and behaviors related to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, as well as sadism and masochism. It includes spanking, biting, playing with sensations–like hot wax or ice cubes, using restraints and blindfolds, and role-playing. BDSM is a broad and varied practice.

You: Am I a sociopath/burgeoning murderer/rapist for wanting to engage in BDSM behaviors?

EtB: There are many difference, but here’s the biggest difference between sociopathy/murder/rape and the practice of BDSM–BDSM is a consensual arrangement between two adults who enjoy and get off on it. There is nothing consensual about rape. Or murder, for that matter.

You: Okay fine. But why would anyone normal want to inflict or receive pain during sex?

EtB: Getting spanked by someone you’re wildly attracted to whilst wearing a silk blindfold and getting a root canal are two very different things, yes? Our bodies process sensations in different ways depending on context. We are wired to feel and process all kinds of sensations, and a variation of intensity during sex can enhance your sex play and bring in a whole new element of excitement and anticipation. Not to mention, BDSM isn’t only about pain! It’s also about restraint, power play, and other physical sensations.

You: Well, where do I start? I’ve seen BDSM images on TV and in movies and it looks scary/intimidating/complicated.

EtB: True to their nature, Hollywood, and actually, a lot of people in real life often sensationalize and exaggerate BDSM play, portraying it as addictive and dangerous. BDSM is not dangerous if done in a safe, communicative, and consensual environment, and as far as being addictive, that’s just plain silly. It’s no more addictive than any other hobby or activity that you enjoy. These people are mean-spirited haters who probably are not getting laid. Pay them no mind. But where to start is an excellent question. The variety of BDSM play can be overwhelming! A good idea is to start small. Another good idea is to make a yes/no/maybe list. The book SM101 has a checklist in it, or make your own! Sit down with your partner and come up with a long list of BDSM activities you’ve heard of, and then decide individually whether you would definitely do them, maybe do them, or definitely not do them. These lists can change over time, so check in periodically with each other!

You: Hey, that was fun! I didn’t know she was into that stuff! So do we just start smacking each other around or what?

EtB: Ah ah ah! Hold your horses! Before you jump in, it’s of the utmost importance that you communicate your desires and expectations before each BDSM session. I mean it! Sit down beforehand and lay out who will do what, what won’t be done, and what you will do if someone isn’t having a good time anymore. This is where the “safe word” comes in. Come up with a word or two that you will both remember that mean “slow down” or “stop.” This can be as simple as “stop,” or something like “red light” “yellow light”. This will be your indication to the other person to back off and try something else. It isn’t only the submissive or bottom that can use the safe word either. BDSM play can be intense and sometimes everyone needs a break. It is also important to check in with each other after your session, physically and emotionally, to make sure you both feel happy and healthy and to build on your play for the next session!

You: Boy, that’s a lot of prep work.

EtB: Sure is. But now comes the fun part. Since you’re just starting out, you might want to begin with our favorite sex toy–your hands–before hitting the leather shop. Spanking is a great way to ease into BDSM play, and so is scratching, pinching, and biting. You can use household objects–ice cubes and candles are readily available, but do yourself and your partner a favor and try them on yourself first so you know what it feels like and what might be too much. Feel free to check out our collection of floggers and paddles as well as other cool sensation toys like the Pinwheel and Nipplettes. If you want to experiment with restraints, avoid using metal handcuffs and silk scarves because they can tighten too much and cut off circulation. Soft, safe restraints are readily available and can actually be pretty inexpensive.

You: You make it sound so easy! But what if I’m too shy or embarrassed to talk so openly about my BDSM proclivities?

EtB: There are definitely ways to ease into discussions of BDSM. The first is “crossover” activities–starting out by role-playing with your partner and slowly adding more power dynamic elements to the play. For example, maybe you and your partner decide to play teacher and student, and then the student just happens to do something naughty and need a spanking! Or you could just tell your partner to take off her/his clothes, or imply that you would like her/him to tell you what to do. If being that forward makes you woozy, let someone else do the work! Throw in a sexy BDSM porn, read a spanking story, or if you’re feeling adventurous, check out a local “play party” and enjoy your role as voyeur. It can be easier to point to something you’re interested than to describe it to a partner.

There is so much more to talk about, but only so much room on our server! We hope this gives you a little taste of how to open discussions of BDSM with your lovers and friends in a way that can make even the most skeptical give it a second glance. Happy spanking!


The Erotic Bondage Handbook

Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink

SM 101

The New Topping Book

The New Bottoming Book

Nina Hartley’s Guide to Erotic Bondage DVD

Midori's Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage DVD