Want to Try BDSM? Here's the Ultimate Beginner's Guide - Women's Health

Want to Try BDSM? Here’s the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

With tips from a sex therapist.

by | Aug 3, 2021

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The world of explorative sex can be a daunting one: it’s one thing to have great “regular” sex, let alone to start bringing in ropes and chains into the mix. But the thing is – once you understand each of these subcultures, you realise that it was just all a big misunderstanding – they’re really not as daunting as you once thought. And of all of them, there’s nothing more misunderstood than BDSM.

The sex practice is often accused of being physically or mentally harmful, something that only survivors of abuse embrace, or abnormally kinky. But it’s important for beginners to understand that it’s actually none of those things.

“BDSM is an all inclusive term given to sexual behaviour that might be considered kinky – think pain, restraints and servitude (dom and sub relationships). These practises are consensual and engaged in by both parties for mutual satisfaction,” explains Lovehoney’s resident Psycho-Sexologist Chantelle Otten.

BDSM is an umbrella term for three categories: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (more details on those in a minute).

  • B&D: Bondage and Discipline
  • D&S: Domination and Submission
  • S&M: Sadism and Masochism

They might each sound scary in their own right, but because they rely on a judgement-free zone where communication about your desires and boundaries come first, BDSM can actually be the safest (and most fun) kind of sex you can have.

“BDSM refers to a lot of different sexual fantasies and practises, and people might only be interested in one or two of them. But it allows individuals and partners to explore their sexuality and fantasies,” explains Otten. “Being open minded and trying new things enables you to discover different types of pleasure and what turns you on.”

If you’re a BDSM beginner, it can be tough to imagine BDSM as anything but a Red Room (thanks, Fifty Shades) with chains and whips to excite you (à la Rihanna). And though the practice typically does involve props, they don’t make an appearance right off the bat. Instead, as a beginner, you’ll want to take things slowly until you figure out what BDSM looks like for you and your partner(s), since someone else’s methods won’t necessarily get you going.

Below is everything you need to know if you’re thinking about trying your hand at BDSM so that the sexual encounter will leave you pleasured and empowered. As it should.

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For those that aren’t sure exactly sure what BDSM stands for it can be broken down into three main areas or six different acts:

Bondage

“Bondage is the act of being physically restrained during sexual activity usually with scarves, rope, chains or handcuffs. This is the most common and popular BDSM activity – it provides your partner with a feeling of constraint, plus anticipation and also teaches them to lie back and enjoy what you’re doing,” explains Otten.

Discipline

“Involves the submissive or ‘bottom’ in the relationship requiring punishment by the dom for breaking the rules. The rules should be discussed and set, prior to any sexual activity commencing and can be as light-hearted or strict as you like. The punishments can vary from spanking with a paddle, whipping, through to caning, or it can be psychological like humiliation. Open communication on rules, boundaries and the safe word should be agreed upon prior.”

Domination and Submission

“These two go hand-in-hand. Domination is a series of behaviors that allow consensual exercising of control and power over a partner. In the bedroom, this might be using discipline and bondage to control a partnerSubmission is the other side of the coin, submitting to your partner and performing tasks they ask,” adds Otten.

“It can also involve the dom taking control away from the sub through the use of props like a ball gag to prevent them from speaking or using ankle and wrist restraints to stop them from being able to touch. The power exchange in this type of play can be very sexually fulfilling and emotionally rewarding.”

Sadism and Masochism

“Sadism refers to people who enjoy inflicting pain on others and masochists are those who enjoy having pain inflicted on them. A natural fit in BDSM play.”

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Why should we try it?

“As BSDM is such an umbrella term, it’s likely there will be an element of or sexual activity that appeals to everyone.

“Many people are curious about power play – many couples love being able to let go and be submissive or dominant during lovemaking. These roles can be intertwined whereby the submissive or bottom becomes the dom / top. This is known as a switch in BDSM terms, someone who enjoys playing both roles.

“And as with everything, there are levels of how far you would like the play and activity to go. From wearing blindfolds, to being restrained, to temperature play and punishment – the important thing is safe sexual play is a MUST!”

What’s the best way to start?

“First, bring it up with your partner. “I’d love to try a few new and naughty things, I’m vibing kink and activities outside the box.” Then you can discuss what your preferences are. A good way to start is to have a little brainstorming session, separately writing down things you would do, wouldn’t do and might try. Then swap and check out each other’s lists. Doing research or looking for inspiration is a great way to start if you are unsure – I recommend starting slow and working your way up.

“Also investing in a kit like the Lovehoney All tied Up Bondage Play Kit, featuring eight products to experiment with, is a great way to start your kink journey.”

What are the things to know if you’re thinking about trying BDSM?

“The most important thing to remember during any BDSM activity is that it should all be safe, consensual and enjoyable! If you’re not both into it and having fun, why are you doing it?. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with. I recommend approaching any type of BDSM play with an open mind and to not judge – you may discover something new that turns you on.

“Another essential item of BDSM is to ensure you have a safe word or action that can be used by either partner during play. Make it something abstract that isn’t likely to be used as part of the erotic play are the best so they easily stick out. Basically this works to immediately stop the activity and play at that moment.

“Be sure to discuss rules and boundaries so you are both comfortable before you begin – don’t assume you know what your partner wants. Have clear conversations about the activities and props beforehand so all participants have consented to what is about to happen.

“And finally, don’t forget about aftercare. Take some time with your partner to enjoy a kiss and cuddle, or a soothing massage, and discuss what you’ve just experienced and how you both felt about it.”

Additional types of play

Collaring

Whilst many will understand the notion of wearing a collar around your neck, in the BDSM community the collar is more symbolic and a solemn act similar to the exchange of engagement or wedding rings. Offering a collar is a ritual known as collaring.

Orgasm control and denial

Orgasm control also known as edging is the act of bringing yourself or a partner to the brink of an orgasm but abruptly backing off, staving off an orgasm. Orgasm denial is the act of keeping your partner (or vice versa) at a heightened level of arousal but purposefully not pushing them over the edge.

Edge play

Not for amateurs, this style of play ventures into the SM part of BDSM and focuses on Sadism and Masochism – the enjoyment of giving (sadist) and having (masochism) pain inflicted. This can then be scaled based on your experience and preferences by pushing the pain and sexual encounters to the edge of the conventional. Taking your partner to extremes, strengthens the bond of trust. This play is not for the faint hearted and should be practised very carefully with safe words, gestures and open communication.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the new web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she has a mean punch inside and out of the ring. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

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