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​How To: Explore BDSM

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Whether your interest was piqued by the infamous 50 Shades of Grey or you’ve always been curious about getting tied up and spanked, the world of BDSM can be an intimidating one to get a start in. The sheer variety of dynamics, labyrinthine communities surrounding the practices, and levels of involvement ranging from fuzzy handcuffs in the bedside drawer to lifestyle BDSM and kink… it can be incredibly intimidating to know where to start. It is impossible to cover everything in one blogpost, but you can find a multitude of tips, suggestions, and safety advice all over the internet.

BD = Bondage and Domination, D/s = Dominance and submission, and SM = Sadism and Masochism. These are the basic philosophies encompassed by BDSM, and they’re things you’ll likely play with at differing amounts and frequencies. Not everyone who's into being tied up is a masochist, for example. The ways in which you’ll touch on these different aspects of the practice will really depend on what your preferences are.

I will say that before you try anything, especially anything that could potentially harm someone if done properly, you should read up on safety. You should also wrap your mind around concepts of consent: learning how to voice what you want, how you want it, and encourage your partner or partners to do the same. BDSM practice should be fully aware of the risks involved, physical and mental, so you don’t accidentally go too far. BDSM often plays on the lines of physical and mental boundaries, testing how far we can push ourselves. It’s best to start simply and really research something before you move forward with something new; never assume you know everything about the safety and practice of a particular skill without years of experience; never trust someone who tells you they’re an expert unless they’re widely known within the community and can be vetted by multiple people. Most experts won’t tell you they’re “the best” at something, but if you’re dipping your toes into Kink communities as part of your exploration, you’ll likely find more than a few people talking themselves up.

But when it comes to beginner BDSM, it’s primarily about two things: exploring sensation and exploring mind states. It’s also very much about power exchange. It’s learning what makes you tick… and then learning as much as you can about whatever that is, the complexities of how you experience it, and honing a specialty if you like it.

A good place to start is trying out different dynamics to see if one fits: it’s easy to describe the different kinds of relationships a Daddy and little might have, or a Master and pup, or Nurse and patient. For some people, these dynamics and others are what BDSM is about, but for others they’re a good starting point and a tool to communicate what sort of power exchange you’re interested in. BDSM is invariably about the exchange of power from one person (or sometimes persons) to another (or others). Another good starting point is you and your partner(s) creating individual Yes/No/Maybe lists – there’s a guide for how to do that linked below.

Some people stick with the fuzzy handcuffs and that’s just fine, but many move on to leather restraints, rope, or other forms of bondage with time because of how different implements add to an experience. Some might feel better, others might make the mental aspect all the more thrilling. If you’re really into role play, the right tools can make it all the more immersive, like speculums and other medical equipment for those who want a visit from a naughty nurse. Spend some time exploring the scenes that really get you going, and then start working up a small collection of corresponding implements as you go.

Still confused where to start? The best beginner toys I’d recommend include:

  • A blindfold. Taking away one sense can heighten the others, and heighten the experience of a carefully placed ice cube, feather tickler, or spank.
  • Bondage tape. It’s really easy to use, reusable, and far more versatile than cuffs. It’s also inexpensive; you won’t feel bad cutting it if you have to get out of something quick.
  • Under the bed restraint systems are a good first step for beginners looking to try out bondage. Usually comfortable, easy to get out of if things go wrong (snafus are likely to happen when you’re new, there’s no point in saying otherwise), and far less expensive than high-end leather restraint systems. If you’re into it, you can always upgrade.

There are plenty of other beginner options, but these are the kinds of things I usually recommend to people who don’t know where they want to start. There are a plethora of directions you can go as a beginner, but it’s best to start simply. And much more importantly, get your learn on. Some recommendations for products and further reading can be found below:

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