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Nice To Meet You, I’m A Slut!: A Rough Guide to BDSM

CW: consent, BDSM

BDSM: bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism – a fun little acronym for “spicing things up in the bedroom” (if you err on the side of euphemism). Let me begin by gently reminding you that BDSM is more than just gear; there’s more to it than floggers, cuffs, rope, and elaborate costumes. Admittedly, the shopping list can get pretty daunting (and expensive), but there’s far more to BDSM than equipment. What follows will be a rough guide on how you (partnered or otherwise) might ease yourself into the wonderful world of BDSM, safely and without breaking your bank.

TERMINOLOGY: “am I a dom, a sub, or a switch?”

The semantics of BDSM can be tricky to navigate and it’s easy to get lost amidst all the labels. Understanding the language surrounding BDSM is not the most important thing, but is helpful in navigating it once you introduce it into your sex life. A good place to start with this is actually the BDSM test online. Not only does this helpfully define a lot of the terminology (once you get your results), it is also a great opportunity to reflect on your sexual preferences. It could be that you’re entirely new to it all – and so imagination is required – or you’ve tried some things with some partners, but weren’t entirely sure if it was for you; now is the time to think about it. There’s also no pressure to ‘get it right’ first time – like most other aspects of sexuality, BDSM roles and kinks are pretty fluid. For example, you might have had yourself pinned as submissive until a specific sexual experience which changed your mind, erring you more towards ‘switch’, or even the more nuanced ‘brat’.

!!! CONSENT !!!

Once you’ve done a little research and had a little think about how you might like to put BDSM into practice, be sure to discuss it with partner(s). Obviously, your kinks are your own but it’s no good cuffing/flogging/doing anything to your partner without asking first. BDSM can be quite psychologically intense, particularly if you’re roleplaying, so ensure that both you and your partner are comfortably in the right headspace before you begin. If you’re unsure on how to navigate these conversations, please see my previous article on kinks, communication and consent. If you’re not ready to have a candid conversation about BDSM then you’re probably not ready to practise it.

TRIAL & ERROR: “was it okay for you?”

I suppose the best way to figure out if your dom, sub, or switch, rope bunny or rigger, brat or brat tamer is to try out the things you feel most comfortable with – or the things that had you ooing and ahhing during the BDSM test. There are bound to be things that are a hard pass and that’s okay! To be “into BDSM” doesn’t mean you have to love it all and it’s absolutely 100% to  say no to anything that you’re uncomfortable with – whether it’s because it’s a trigger, or it simply gives you the ick.

In the event that you do try something new and it doesn’t quite hit the way you’d expected it to, then communicate this with your partner. For such instances, it is useful to have a safe word (in fact, you should always have a safe word – it’s good sexual practice) so that you or your partner can stop as soon as anything stops being fun! Again, see my previous article for tips on safe words!

A trial and error approach also facilitates a gradual escalation in intensity. For example, if you try spanking and decide that you enjoy it (giving or receiving) then you might consider investing in a paddle or flogger. If you enjoy being pinned down, or pinning someone else down, you could add bondage tape, rope, or handcuffs to your shopping list! Be aware, however, of your own pain thresholds – sometimes the line between pleasure and pain can be a little too fine for comfort. But once you find one thing that you like, this will often reveal other things until you slowly develop whoever your BDSM persona is – be they dominant, submissive, or a switch.

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Of course, like every other thing I write about sex and sexuality, these aren’t hard and fast rules (apart from the bit about consent!!!!), but merely a rough guide for people who are interested in BDSM, but perhaps haven’t experienced it. Most people’s journey into the wonderful leatherbound world of bondage is not as linear as I’ve outlined here. I stumbled into BDSM by a chance encounter during a one night stand when I was asked to spit in my partner’s mouth. I took a minute to consider it and thought “why not?”. I (surprisingly) enjoyed it and so my relationship with BD(ominance)SM developed from there. Such chance encounters are not possible at the moment, but I hope this piece enables some introspective (s)exploration into bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism.

With illustration by Emily Perkins (@emp3_art)

Alice is our resident sex columnist whose interests include pints, pink, and all things love-related. When she's not evangelising Singledom she's busy hyping up her East Midlands home town, demystifying bisexuality, and writing for other publications such as Lithium Magazine and Adolescent Content.