By Brianne McGuire
SAFETY DISCLAIMER: Please note that there are risks associated with the activities described and this site and authors are not responsible for any accidents.
The fact that you have clicked on this article demonstrates an interest in exploring some BDSM activities, fantastic! This stuff is totally normal and by no means deviant behavior — engaging in BDSM is just one of a million ways to take advantage of all the sensory experiences available to you. Think of this piece as a primer on what to expect and how to begin.
A brief review of BDSM terminology and dynamics
BDSM is an acronym and may stand for any combination of the following: bondage and discipline (B/D), dominance and submission (D/S), sadism and masochism (S/M).
There are defined roles, meaning someone is giving (tops, dominants/doms) and someone is receiving (bottoms, submissives/subs). The giver may appear to be in control, but really it is the receiver, as they set the rules and stopping points — this exchange of power is what makes things so exciting. And finally, BDSM activity is known as "play," and any planned act as a "scene."
In addition to the physical thrills of choking, restraining and spanking, BDSM also involves the discussion of consent, desire and boundaries. If nothing else, exploring this type of activity will teach you how to have the mature, this-is-what-I-want, this-is-what-I-don’t-want conversation that should be a part of EVERY SINGLE SEXUAL encounter.
In addition to the physical thrills of choking, restraining and spanking, BDSM also involves the discussion of consent, desire and boundaries.
Important questions to ask
So you have a partner (or partners) to play with, great! Before you go any further, ask yourself (and your partner[s]):
Do I trust this person?
If you do not know or do not truly trust your potential partner(s), then STOP NOW. Nothing beyond this question means anything if the answer to this question isn’t “yes.” If you are a beginner, BDSM is not something to try during an encounter with someone new. Also, your partner should trust you right back.
With trust established, here are some other questions that all parties should answer before moving forward.
Who is going to be the top (or dom) and who is going to be the bottom (or sub)?
Remember, the person in the role of receiver is the one dictating the action! Play around with switching roles, you never know what you may discover about yourself or your partner(s).
What is your experience level?
References and training are important, especially with any breath play or rope play (aka choking and bondage, which we’ll get into later). You are literally putting your life in another person’s hands. Tops need to know what their bottom can handle so they can establish a reasonable and safe starting point and activity plan. Bottoms need to know that their top is not going to cause any irreparable harm and that they have real-life practice doing the things being discussed. Being a beginner is not a deal breaker, but it does mean that all parties need to be extra cautious and mindful when navigating each step of play.
You are literally putting your life in another person’s hands.
How would you like to indicate boundaries?
Safe words and “traffic light language” (green for keep going, yellow for this is getting a little tricky — keep going but cautiously, red for stop immediately) are most common — but some activities call for more creative, nonverbal solutions. Think through the desired activities and choose indicators accordingly. For instance, if you are going to have your mouth or face covered, a safe word won’t do you any good, but a snap of the fingers or thumbs up/down will.
Do you have any injuries or medical conditions?
Be absolutely transparent about your physical needs and history so your partner(s) can mitigate any possible harm to your precious body. Information is key to avoiding injury; if you have arthritis, or you broke your ankle once — bring it up! You may be “playing,” but the possibility of lasting damage from being bound for too long or smacked in a sensitive area is very real.
What are your concerns?
Get vulnerable. Tell your partner you’re afraid of and what you do not want. If you have been through any trauma, suffer from claustrophobia, anxiety, etc., your partner needs to know. If there are materials, scenarios or words that are triggering for you, speak up.
What are your goals?
Subspace? Arousal? Exploration? This is the part where you get real about WHY you are doing this. If you don’t know what you want, then pause and figure that shit out. PSA: this is stellar advice for all manners of life stuff.
If you don’t know what you want, then pause and figure that shit out.
What type of aftercare would you like?
BDSM can be therapeutic and/or arousing, but you may still be left with some surprising feelings. Regardless of expectations, plan an aftercare routine that involves comfort, support and attention. This can mean being held, covered with a blanket and left to rest, enjoying some hot tea or talking through what just happened. You may require additional care after a scene, so having a base plan and an open dialogue ensures that all parties are attended to properly.
Regardless of expectations, plan an aftercare routine that involves comfort, support and attention. This can mean being held, covered with a blanket and left to rest, enjoying some hot tea or talking through what just happened.
Let's get down to business
Now that you have the basics established, here are some starting points for three popular BDSM activities. BONUS: these suggestions do not require the purchase of any special equipment!
Choking (Breath Play)
Another disclaimer: choking is the most dangerous of the three activities described here, and there is always the possibility of lost consciousness or death. So let me reiterate my earlier points: do this with someone who has experience and whom you trust.
Once that’s sorted, you need to decide if you prefer an air choke or blood choke.
An air choke blocks the airways and can be achieved by sitting on a face, covering the mouth and pinching the nostrils, or smothering with an embrace or body part.
A blood choke is the application of pressure to the carotid arteries on either side of the throat, under the jaw. The easiest way to perform this is by facing your partner and holding your hand in a “V” to apply pressure with the thumb on one side, and remaining fingers on the other.
Again, your partner may pass out, so watch and listen for signs of this so you can stop before that happens. Leave the use of equipment (belts, bags, scarves, masks, etc.) till you and your partner(s) have some experience and more advanced training under your belt (pun intended!).
Bondage (Rope Play, Tying, Rigging, Shibari)
A scarf is a great restraint; it’s soft, long and fairly strong. Some other options include buckle belts, rope, twine, even shoelaces. Make sure the device is comfortable, i.e., be mindful of friction burns and breakability. The binding of wrists above the head or behind the back is a classic, so begin there before moving on to additional binding of legs or arms, etc. Pay close attention to the time spent restrained to reduce the risk of nerve damage.
Spanking (Impact Play)
Begin by determining the type of impact desired: stinging or thudding? The device used should be in line with this choice. Try an assortment to see what your partner enjoys best. Hands are the obvious start — everyone’s got ‘em — but also try belts, wooden spoons, paint mixing sticks, ping pong paddles, rolled up newspapers, fly swatters, etc.
BDSM is a much wider area of play than what I’ve included here, but with this information, you can begin exploring. The more you try, the more you will discover, not only about yourself but about the vast spectrum of pleasure that BDSM can offer.
Brianne McGuire is is a writer, designer and podcaster living in New York City. She is the founder of GRAPHICPAINT, a platform for explicit creative media, and host of the podcast SEX COMMUNICATION, which features audio recordings of real sex, personal histories and weekly confessionals. By presenting honest accounts of sexual experience alongside common lifestyle themes, she is normalizing the taboo and creating a cultural shift towards the free expression of boundaries, desires and identity. You can follow her at @graphicpaint on Instagram and Twitter.