A beginners guide to BDSM from someone in the scene | Lioness

A beginners guide to BDSM from someone in the scene

woman blindfolded

By Ena Dahl

When I first ventured into the world of BDSM, almost three years ago, I’d come crashing and burning out of a decade long abusive relationship and I was pining to explore and reclaim my personal and sexuality sovereignty.

I immediately saw the obvious irony in the situation, and joked about it myself: “Woman leaves verbally abusive relationship; finds comfort in sexual domination and spanking”.

Why would anyone come out of an abusive relationship and seek out sexual practices that, to many, are viewed as violent?

While BDSM tends to spark associations to ball gags, blindfolds, and restraints, there’s much more to it than that. And though the image of a person, tied up and unable to see, move, or speak may not immediately allude to trust and open communication, those are the exact ingredients required to create such a scene in the first place.

In my case, BDSM became a way to heal, and while I started out by giving up power, it was hugely empowering.

Happy woman

What is BDSM?

The four-letter acronym stands for Bondage, Domination/Submission, Sadism, and Masochism, and involves a variety of erotic practices composed of one or more of these elements.

The exact form it takes depends on the individuals involved; no two dynamics are the same. Imagine two people coming together to create a meal with what’s in their fridge, combined with their individual cooking skills, experience, and creativity. This is true for any intimate and sexual relationship, but especially in a BDSM setting.

The ‘Ingredients’ Explained

There are levels of intensity within the various activities. To some, elements are brought in as a sprinkle of spice to an otherwise vanilla relationship—to others, it’s a lifestyle.

BDSM is, to an extent, about pushing boundaries, but it’s not a competition: It’s not about how far, deep or painful you go, but about where you go together. It’s always wiser to take it slow and build up, rather than nosediving into the deep-end.

Below is the acronym explained. For a full ABC of kink and BDSM, check out this handy guide!

Bondage and Shibari Ropes

Bondage

This is anything involving restraints and ranges from basic handcuffs to the ancient Japanese bondage practice referred to as Shibari.

Those who seriously practice Shibari treat it as an art form and spend years honing their skills through rope-jams, workshops, and festivals.

For entry-level bondage, soft leather cuffs are a good place to start — or you can hack it with silk scarves, ties, or whatever you have lying around. Even there, it’s important to pay attention to safety by frequently checking on the ‘rope bottom's’ blood flow and making sure they’re comfortable.

Feet cuffed

Domination & Submission

D/s is roleplay that involves power exchange; one person, ‘the Dom’, assumes a leader-role, while the other, ‘the sub’, follows.

As with sexuality in general, some natural lean one way or the other, and always assume the same role. Those who are somewhere on the scale and can switch between roles are referred to as a switch.

In ‘mild’ versions of powerplay, the dynamic involves few formalities and rules. Some like to address their Dom as ‘Sir’, or even ‘Master’ and incorporate strict protocol, asking for permission, kneeling, and so on.

Powerplay can be physical, and use force, but more often it’s a psychological play where the Dominant decides what the submissive can and can’t do. They can, for example, assert orgasm-control where they tell their submissive when they’re allowed to climax.

Daddy/little girl (or Mommy/boy) relationships, is a D/s relationship involving ageplay, while petplay is where the submissive roleplays as a pet, such as a kitten or a puppy.

Some submissives act completely obedient, while others, referred to as brats, enjoy the game of fighting back and challenging their Dominants.

Primal play is also powerplay, in which the Dominant is the Hunter, and submissive is the prey. It allows both parties to get in touch with their raw, untamed and animalistic sides.

Blindfolded

Sadism & Masochism

Sadomasochism is the practice of deriving pleasure from either receiving or administering pain.

Traditionally the Dominant gives pain, while the submissive receives, but it’s not always the case: Some play with elements of pain without adhering to power dynamics and others engage in powerplay without involving pai n whatsoever.

Sensory play is a type of sadomasochism that involves either over-stimulating or depriving the senses. This guide gives a more in-depth look into sensation play, but briefly, it can range from playing with temperature, using ice cubes or hot candle wax, tickling with feathers or pinwheels.

Blindfolding or sound isolation headphones are examples of sensory deprivation.

Bondage and sensory play combine well: Being tied up and blindfolded while slowly tantalized in various ways can be incredibly thrilling and erotic.

Impact play is anything related to spanking, whether by hand or with tools, such as floggers, crops, paddles or whips. While many draw the line at impact play that leaves marks, others genuinely enjoy the aftermath of a really hard spanking that creates welts and bruises.

Holding Hands

Trust, Communication & Consent

In the end, regardless of what toys, tools or other elements you decide to experiment with, trust, communication, and consent will always be the most essential ingredients in a BDSM dynamic.

The terms RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) and SCC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) are community guidelines that emphasize the importance of these concepts.

Because BDSM does involve certain risks of harm, both physically and mentally, the guidelines underline recommend that involved parties are aware of the potential hazards and take appropriate measures to minimize any chance of harm.

In my own experience, practicing BDSM didn’t just help me become a better person between the sheets, but in all of my interpersonal relationships. Learning to identify my needs and communicating them to a partner; establishing a safeword, defining boundaries, and setting limits, also taught me more about myself than any other experience ever did.

A healthy BDSM-dynamic is a delicate dance on the edge of power and surrender, and often, pleasure and pain. Done right and taking the appropriate precautions, it has the potential to be one of the most intimate and profound ways to connect with a partner—as well as with yourself.

 

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