Safe Kink and BDSM for the Newbie

 

Hello, friends! Full disclosure - I’ve only been immersed in the kink world for about two years, so I’m hardly an expert at this point. On the other hand, it wasn’t that long ago I was a newbie myself. So, I remember some of the pitfalls and pratfalls I went through, and I’d love to save you folks some aggravation, if I can. Also heed the usual warning - what applies to me may not apply to you, so don’t take this as gospel. I’m definitely open to hearing differing opinions, too!

Quick trigger warning - my eighth point touches on consent violations!

Before we start, here’s a quick glossary of terms I’ll be using below:

  • BDSM - short for “Bondage, Dominance (or Discipline), Sadism and Masochism.” This term is often used interchangeably with “kink” but should be considered a subset of it.
  • Kink - Including BDSM, “kink” is an umbrella term for intimate activities of a sexual or quasi-sexual nature that would not be considered straightforward “vanilla” sex. These include bondage (tying people up), various forms of role-playing, more violent acts (slapping, hitting, choking), and many others. Kink is vast and far from simple!
  • Play - Engaging in kink activities is commonly referred to as “play.”
  • Play party - There are whole parties where kinksters get together to play! They can be a lot of fun. I’ll do a guide in the future on how to find such events.
  • Negotiation - A discussion held before a play scene in which the participants agree on what will happen, including what is off-limits and what is explicitly allowed.
  • Scene - A scene is an instance of kink play involving one or more participants. Think of it like a scene from a TV show or stage play: it has a beginning, and it has an end.
  • Munch - Many kinksters go to these regular gatherings at restaurants to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Some planning of future events often comes out of these.
  • Polyamory - The practice of having multiple romantic and/or sexual partners at the same time. Importantly, all partners are aware of one another--otherwise, this is simply cheating!
  • Top/Dom - These terms mean different things but are sometimes used interchangeably. Simply put, this person is the dominant person directing the action of the scene, the one who will tie up or beat or x/y/z the bottom/sub. Dom/Dominant usually also implies a deeper D/S dynamic with their Sub, though this is not universal.
  • Bottom/Sub - The bottom or sub is generally the recipient of a dom or top’s attentions in a scene. Although the dom/top is ostensibly in control, in truth it’s the bottom/sub who decides whether to cooperate, and whether a scene will ultimately continue.
  • Switch/vers - In the kink world, people tend to be pigeonholed (or self-identified) as top/dom or bottom/sub, but there are those who change it up or feel comfortable in both roles, and “switch” or “vers” is the equivalent term for them. I don’t talk about them in much detail, it’s just good to know that these are people who top/dom sometimes and bottom/sub other times, and don’t necessarily have a preference.
  • Power Exchange - This is often what the interplay of dom/top and sub/bottom dynamics is called: one party is surrendering control over their body and actions to the will of another.
  • Safeword - A word or phrase - or even a signal - used to signal to a partner that you want to stop or slow down the current activity.
  • CNC/Consensual Non-Consent - This is sometimes called “rape play” or “rape fantasy” but those terms are not accurate, as rape is fundamentally non-consensual. CNC is a type of play in which one party role-plays that they are not consenting, but it is understood by all involved that this is only play and not an actual lack of consent. This is a controversial topic even within the kink world, and not a simple matter to discuss - but it’s something you should be aware of, as you will almost certainly encounter it as you delve into the world of kink and BDSM.
  • Hard limit - An act you do not want to do at all, no exceptions
  • Soft limit - And act you may consider doing, with some caveats

 

Some usual rules apply - communication is key, and do as much research beforehand as your brain can muster. Knowledge is power - and to some, quite sexy.


Pinwheel - 7 Rows

Here are some things to keep in mind before starting your journey into BDSM:

  1. Kink and BDSM are dangerous

That’s not to say I’m discouraging you from getting your kink on - if you’re interested, please do! But given how the media represents BDSM, it sometimes seems like things are safer or easier than they really are. If things don’t go as well for you as they do on screen, you can feel pretty lousy. I’ve been there. You may have heard the saying, “sane, safe, and consensual” when it comes to sex. One of my partners was quick to tell me that BDSM, by its nature, is NOT safe, and some people have also said that “sane” is questionable, too. I’ve heard RACK, or “risk-aware consensual kink,” as a good alternative - because this activity IS risky. So, be aware of the risks and don’t get too frustrated when things don’t go as smoothly as they did in Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh boy, do I have opinions on that!

  1. Aftercare is important (and tops sometimes need it too!)

Aftercare can be a lot of things to a lot of people, but a quick description is the things you do to “come down” after a session. This can be things like getting a snack or drink to help your blood sugar recover, to cuddling with your partner, to talking about the session together, to going off by yourself for a while. Basically, anything that makes you feel grounded after a session. Playing can be exhausting mentally and physically so I often like to cuddle or talk to my partner for about 5 minutes after we play to help me settle down and get ready to go out again. Aftercare looks different for everybody and you may need time to learn what works for you. Heck, some people don’t even need aftercare, or at least prefer to do it alone, without their partner. As always, communication is key - if you’re not big on aftercare but your partner is, you may want to ask them if you can have a mutually-agreed-on friend to come over and take over for you.

 

Another thing people forget is that tops can also need aftercare. I’ve heard this complaint from tops a few times, and I’ll admit my bottom self sometimes forgets tops can have a tough time and get worn out, too.



Madame's Mystique Paddle

  1. Physical pain isn’t the only limiting factor, or at least, not the way you expect it.

You may think your first session will end when your body can’t take the physical pain or being beaten up any more - and sure, this can happen. But sometimes, people are caught off-guard by other things - sometimes, the position you’re in while getting whipped isn’t comfortable and you need to stop the proceedings to adjust. This is a reason I’ve seen questions about injuries and physical ailments on many a negotiation list.

Play is also a big mental exercise and you may have some less pleasant things come up in your mind, whether you planned for it or not. Be kind to yourself, especially when you’re new to kink, and if you’re having a tough time in your mind you are fully within your rights to cut the scene short and do some mental self-care.

All of us were new once and we had to learn our limits and what we like, what we don’t like, and what we sort of like. These things take time to learn, so be patient with yourself and your partners, within reason.



Shibari Hemp Bondage Rope

  1. Some quick rope tips

I’m a rope bottom and I love being tied up. But I’m going to start with the most important thing to know - NEVER LEAVE YOUR PARTNER TIED UP AND ALONE. That’s one thing that’s worrying about rope - as lovely as it feels for everyone involved, it can go sideways and even fatal quickly. I’ll spare you the details, but a quick google can show you many news articles about things going tragically awry. Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the risk, such as being nearby while your partner is confined, and having a handy pair of rope scissors nearby. Yes, I know, cutting your expensive rope can be heartbreaking, but your partner is worth more. I’ve never had to have someone cut rope on me, but I always make sure my partner has scissors and is willing to use them.

This is ropes 101 (you’re still learning the ropes, after all! I’ll show myself out) but still worth the reminder - a far more likely danger than death for rope is nerve damage. Constricting blood flow in certain parts of the body can cause injury. Both the top and bottom need to be aware here, so if you’re a rope top make sure to learn a little anatomy and pressure points (eg. parts of the wrist and neck are no-nos or at least should be done very carefully). The first thing I was taught as a rope bottom is to pay attention to when you feel your limbs getting tingly or falling asleep - this can be a bad sign or at the very least a sign things need to be adjusted. Another tip I’ve heard is to test your reflexes occasionally (touching your fingertips to each other is popular) and just make sure you can feel sensations in the right places.

That said, I’ve heard from many rope bottoms that most people in the scene eventually get some damage. I’ve been lucky to avoid it so far, but I’ve been in it for a relatively small amount of time. Accidents happen and it doesn’t make people bad people, but it’s something to be aware of and prepared for.

Rope tops, also known as “riggers,” have a great responsibility and need to educate themselves on safe rope play. Attend rope shares, take classes at kink events, and find other riggers to help you learn how to tie people up properly. Practice on yourself, as well - if it’s uncomfortable or painful for you, it probably would be for a partner, as well.

  1. Choking, slapping, and those other fun things in porn can really hurt someone if you don’t know what you’re doing. And when you’re just starting, you don’t know what you’re doing, period.

I’ll admit I’m not a face-slapper or slappee, so I’ve included some guides down below.

You may have seen some more extreme acts in porn (or more extreme than in vanilla porn) like slapping and choking and then saw the actors walk away fine. While I’m sure you know that porn isn’t quite realistic, sometimes we can forget that. Just like with rope, you can hurt someone or be hurt if you don’t learn the ins and outs of things like face-slapping and choking. I highly encourage you to do some reading before attempting more extreme acts, and when you practice them, go slow.



Suede and Fluff Mini Flogger

  1. We have safewords for a reason, damnit!

Sorry guys, but for this I’m going into mom mode and will be very direct here. I’ve seen people bemoan safe words often, especially for things like consensual non-consent play. “It’s not hot/realistic with a safe word” is something I’ve seen too often. Let me be frank.

That’s dumb! 
That’s really fucking dumb! 

I’m not saying you must have one unique safeword every time you play, but at least have the stoplight system in place (red - full stop, yellow - check in/slow down, green - good to go) or something equivalent. I know having a safety measure in place can seem unsexy, but both you and your partner are safer for it. If things go wrong you want to be able to stop the action. A good play partner sure as hell doesn’t want to actually assault or hurt you and keeping ambiguity to a low can only help. If someone doesn’t respect your safewords on either side, they are not safe partners, period.

Having safety protocols in place makes everyone safer, especially when you’re new and still learning the limits, but I know I’m going to keep using the stoplight system even when I’m 80 having cybernetic sex with kinky androids.

  1. Vetting

I can do a whole article on this. Admittedly, if you’re just exploring with your monogamous partner, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you’re polyamorous or single or open to multiple play partners or what have you, it’s important to know who you’re playing with - again on both sides. Since last year the kink community has caught up with the rest of the world on #metoo and consent issues, but things aren’t always perfect, sadly. If you’re a newbie, I highly recommend making some friends in a non-sexual context (munches, casual meetings of like-minded kinksters at diners or restaurants are great for this!) and learning from them. If you can, try to ask around before playing with someone, heck some more seasoned members of the community may point you in the direction of past partners. Don’t be shy, this is a common practice and doesn’t mean you don’t trust your partner. Most people understand that safety comes first. And if they don’t understand, or they get offended, you don’t need to play with them. Remember, there are other people out there who will play with you AND respect your boundaries.

  1. Shit happens, sadly. Bad shit.

There are bad people out there - people who use kink as a way to prey on people. I don’t know any fool-proof way to prevent this. Neither does the kink world, judging by how many supposedly blacklisted people still get into certain events. This isn’t to say that there are wolves everywhere - there are a lot of wonderful lovely kinksters.

Just know that if something happened, something bad, if someone violated your consent, it is NEVER, EVER your fault. If you feel comfortable, you may want to tell organizers of events you’ve played at if a consent violation has occurred, but you are under no obligation if you feel uncomfortable with that as well.

  1. Negotiating a scene

There’s a lot of variables to this so I’m going to link some sample questionnaires at the bottom to cover a bit more than I can here.

Before you play with a new partner or someone you’ve played with before but haven’t seen in a while, or even when you play with a familiar partner and want to try something new,  it’s common to do what’s called negotiation. This is going over the different things you want from your time together as well as things you don’t want. “Hard limit” is the term for things you do not want at all, no exceptions. It’s not all physical or sexual stuff either, some people may also ask things like what you want to feel like after and during the session as well as aftercare requirements.

You don’t need to be perfect at negotiation - god knows I’ve not got it down pat and still use checklists - but it’s a good idea to do some research beforehand to figure out what all parties need to sort out. That’s not to say that you have to treat it like a job interview (unless that’s your kink, no judgements) but having an idea of what to ask and discuss beforehand can make your scene more enjoyable.

  1. Explore to your heart's content - but don’t do anything you don’t want to

When you’re new, it’s tempting to try everything there is out there to be tried in kink, and as long as you and your partner(s) are exploring safely the sky’s the limit. On the flip side, you are under no obligation to do things you don’t want to. Again, I’m coming at this from a bottom’s perspective, where there’s a bit of a push by some tops and even some other bottoms to be the biggest pain slut ever who doesn’t even dream of complaining and/or stopping a scene. And if that’s you - great, no shame there, go have fun. But if that’s not you, that’s fine too! Your limits are valid, and if your partner has an issue with that and they’re being a jerk about it, I’d say it’s better to cut and run.

There’s also pressure on tops to be the ‘domliest dom’, to never crack a smile or have a sense of humor. Again, if that’s you - great, have fun! But if it’s not you, that’s fine, too. As long as you are willing to learn when you make a mistake and listen to your partner(s) go out there, explore, and have fun. Everyone is welcome in kink, and everyone’s perspective and differences make the scene more interesting.

I hope this was somewhat helpful. Thanks for reading!

Here are those helpful links I mentioned. Check ‘em out, they have more in-depth info than I could’ve covered:

 

https://sluttygirlproblems.com/guide/bdsm-101-top-10-frequently-asked-questions/

https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/sex-and-relationships/bondage-for-beginners-14125

http://theartofsubmission.com/lesson/face-slapping-101/

https://sexualityandthecity.com/2016/01/01/how-do-i-choke-my-partner/comment-page-1/

https://dominationsubmission.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-importance-of-safewords/

http://www.makesexeasy.com/consent-accidents-consent-violations/

http://apolyprincess.com/index.php/2017/10/11/how-you-handle-shit-matters-on-consent-violations-mistakes-and-kindness-in-kink/

https://atouchofflavor.com/kinksters-guide-negotiating-bdsm-scene/

http://www.kinkweekly.com/resources/resource-bdsm-negotiation-checklist/

https://www.devianceanddesire.com/2016/04/not-checklist-negotiation-checklist-bdsm-bottoms/

By Alice Wyman

Editing and Glossary by James Huffman