So, You Think You Can BDSM?

So...you’ve heard about BDSM from some source or another, and you've found that it interested you. You might be excited by spanking or being spanked, tying someone up or being bound, submitting to someone or dominating, or somewhere in between on all of these. These three examples barely scratch the surface of all of the kink that falls under the BDSM label, but whatever your interest, you know the idea excites you.

Perhaps we should start with what BDSM means. BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism. Those three categories include a wide variety of kinks and a million ways to play with them. There are Masters and slaves, Dom/mes (Dom or Domme) and submissives (subs or subbies), brats, Daddies, Mommies, and littles, sadists and masochists, tops and bottoms, topping from the bottom, switches, all sorts of character roles and scenes, and entire lifestyles that fit under the BDSM umbrella. It can be overwhelming for the beginner, so let’s start at the beginning.

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The first thing you need to know involves all the learning you will do, and all of the ways you can learn. Start with your fantasies, your interests, your desires, and find books and articles that deal with these subjects. Learn about risk and how to minimize it. Learn about safety. Learn about first aid. Learn about the different ways to play out the things you fantasize about. Look on the Internet for your interest and learn about it. Join a BDSM group on social media. Your journey should always begin with learning. You’ll have a leg up on some of us who went through trials by fire, who jumped right in and made mistakes when we were young. Oh, you’ll still make mistakes, but at least you’ll be informed enough to prevent some of them.

The next thing you should understand is that reality and fantasy are vastly different. In your fantasies, the idea of being put over someone’s knee and spanked doesn’t cause you physical pain. In your fantasies, being tied up and helpless might be hot, but it might trigger panic attacks. Breath play might be hot in your fantasies, but it definitely carries risks, and the least of these is panic. On the dominant side, you may have all kinds of confidence in your fantasies, but when you are with a sub for the first time, you could end up being nervous. Worse, you could want to do everything that’s possible in one scene, which can be overwhelming or confusing for a sub, as well as disruptive to the continuity of play.

Finally, you should become part of the community. I suggested above that you try a social media BDSM page, or several pages, then groups, on Facebook, or elsewhere. There are also sites like Fetlife.com and Alt.com that allow you to explore kinks, join groups about those kinks, and become friends with people in the lifestyle. That’s just online. There are also live communities and events to join. There are a few cautions I have about these groups. One, don’t let them tell you how to play. There is no right way, as long as the partners involved are consenting adults. Two, even if you are dominant, approach a new group as a humble observer. Leave your ego at the door, and approach your hosts with deference. I’m not saying you should submit to them; I wouldn’t. I am simply saying that you should treat them like hosts, and understand that you’re an outsider, and they have a right to be cautious around you. Three, realize that you could network online, and never be part of a live group. It’s not necessary. You can network online these days. If you aren’t comfortable in a live setting, stay home.

I’ll leave you with a list of things you should and shouldn’t do.

You should:

  • Negotiate hard limits and soft limits. Hard limits are things that you are not even interested in trying. Soft limits are the limits in the intensity of play with those things that do interest you.
  • HAVE A SAFE WORD. Make sure that you have a distinctive word or phrase that will stop play if it gets too intense. If a potential partner scoffs at the idea of a safe word, walk away.
  • Constantly learn. Listen to other people’s experiences. Get a mentor if that suits you. I didn’t have a mentor, but I learned from experienced submissives who knew a lot. I also read, interacted with the community, and read some more. You will never stop learning in this lifestyle.
  • Understand the difference between SSC and RACK. SSC is safe, sane, and consensual. RACK is risk-aware, consensual kink. Not every kink is safe. Hell, the vast majority of them come with risks. Some people are intoxicated by risky play, and they will forego safety to get their kicks. Breath play is one example. Blood play is another. The key is that it’s still consensual. If you don’t get consent, it’s sexual assault/rape.
  • Make sure you have someone do a safety check with you at a designated time, the first time you’re with a partner. If you are in an unsafe situation, let them know. Have a code word. The first time we met, my wife had her grandma call her. I was okay with that, because it’s understandable. If someone is not okay with it, that’s a red flag.
  • Learn reactions/body language/signs of pleasure and distress. On the dominant side of things, these signs from your partner can do so much more than words. You will find that you use your safe word less and less if you understand your partner’s breathing and body language...that is, of course, unless you’re a sadist like me, and you get a safe word out of your partner on purpose.
  • Provide aftercare. Aftercare is essential. BDSM play can - and often does - get intense. Aftercare smooths the edge and makes your partner feel safe and secure.

You should not:

  • Let anyone bully you. Never let anyone tell you that their way is the only way to live the lifestyle. Never let them tell you that everyone has to be only dominant, submissive, or a switch. Never let anyone tell you that all subs must submit to all dominants.
  • Allow someone to violate your hard limits without consequences. Your hard limits should be respected, and if they aren’t, you should get away. Far away.
  • Allow anyone to isolate you from friends and family. People who isolate other people from friends and family are often doing it to make abuse easier and escape more difficult.
  • Refuse to say your safe word out of fear of losing your partner or fear that you will be seen as less of a submissive. If something makes you uncomfortable to the point where you can’t take it or it turns you off, stop the play.
  • Coerce anyone into anything. Dominants have rules, too. Respect hard limits. Always, always, ALWAYS have consent, and if it’s withdrawn, accept it.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Greg R. is a contributor to LTASB, and can be emailed directly at masterreveler@gmail.com.