How To Begin Playing with BDSM

July 30, 2009  |  advice

Recently, this came into my inbox:

I’m in a relationship now with a wonderful person and I’m really intrigued and turned on by BDSM, but have very little idea of where to start. I’ve put up a plea on my blog for help from people who know more about these things, you can read my post for more background, but basically, where do we start? How can we segue into BDSM play? Dominance, submission, pain? How can we bit by bit, toe first, test the cold water and then gradually get used to it and then eventually just dive in and revel in it? I just have no idea. I live in San Francisco, so I don’t expect you to know of any local resources, but do you know anyone in San Francisco who I might be in touch with? Anything like that? Internet resources? Early blog posts of yours about your first forays into BDSM?
Alphafemme

So I figured I’d write a little about it, tell you what I think, then also open it up to you lovely readers who might have specific San Francisco resources, your own stories, or more suggestions to share in the comments.

How do you start playing with BDSM? You jump in somewhere that feels exciting and hot, you talk about what you want to do, at least a little, then you do it. I don’t actually have any early blog posts about BDSM because I’ve been playing with it for a very long time – my first high school boyfriend and I used to do some light BDSM, like spanking, a little bit of topping & bottoming, and tying-to-the-bedpost kinds of bondage. My “kinky queer butch top” identity labels are roughly in order, actually, of when I came into them; I’ve been playing with kink (albeit lightly) for a long time.

I do suggest starting out light – though “light” for some people is heavy play for others, so just pick something that seems accessible and doable and try it out.

Some more specific suggestions:

  • Take a class on something (like spanking) from Babeland or your local feminist sex toy store. In San Francisco, I’m sure Good Vibes has events all the time.
  • Read The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. Both of you should read both of them, even if you already know which role you are more likely to occupy, since learning about the other will teach you even more about yours. These books significantly changed and formed the ways that I think about dominance and submission and many incarnations of BDSM. Highly highly recommended.
  • Fill out the BDSM checklist and compare answers. Highlight the things you are most excited about and see what you have in common! (Hopefully you’ve already been talking about this kind of thing, you might even have an idea of what each other would like to explore.
  • Make a shared Google doc and brainstorm a list of what you’d like to try. (Kristen and I actually have one of these … )
  • Check out the BDSM section of the Sugarbutch Amazon store for more books you might want to pick up, or check out of the library, or borrow.

There are some more simple, less risky, very playful, and safe things you might want to try if you’re new to BDSM to begin to whet your appetite, such as:

  • Spanking. Don’t worry, your hand is WAY more delicate than her ass – think of all the little tiny bones in there, as compared to the lovely muscle & flesh. Her butt can take way more you’re your hand can give, actually – your hand will hurt and get tired and sore way before you will do any real damage. But, you still should be a bit careful – here’s how to start: 1. start out slow, make sure to warm up her flesh (and mind) so she can take deeper, harder slaps. 2. DO NOT slap or hit her sacrum, that triangle bone above the crack of her ass. That can bruise and be very painful. Keep it to her ass cheeks and thighs, the fleshy parts. 3. Make sure she is relaxed, and keep going softly until she starts writhing and moaning and liking it.

  • Bondage. Try some light bondage with whatever you’ve got lying around the house – clothesline, men’s ties, scarves … you can look up Two Knotty Boys on youtube for MANY great videos on how to tie knots, but really you can just tie with a plain ol’ granny knot, like you tie your shoes. Don’t leave her tied up for extended periods of time, however, and make sure to get the rope tied tight enough so that she can’t escape, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.
  • Dirty talk. Sometimes adding speech to your sex play is incredibly erotic, highly sexually charged, and very dirty. Sometimes you can keep going with whatever you “normally” do, but add some verbal descriptors of what you’d like to do, and it adds a great element of play and gets the minds going. Whisper in her ear while your fingers are inside her: “You know what I’d really like to do? I’d like to tie your ankles to the footboard so you can’t move your legs. I’d like you to struggle against the ropes so you can feel how you’re opened up for me. I’d like to feel how wet that makes you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Yeah, I thought so …” and ask her about it later, outside of the moment, and see if it’s something she’d like to perhaps try.
  • Power & Surrender. Hold her down, pull her hair, hold her wrists above her head, bite her shoulders, bite her breasts, hold your knees on her thighs to force her legs open, push her onto the bed, get a little rough with her. Maybe she wants to fight back and see if she can take YOU down, instead – wrestling for who gets to be in control could be fun, too.

For me, things like elaborate role play – and even dirty talk – was a lot harder than some of these basics. And these are practically endless – I’m sure one could play with various elements of just these four things and have a very exciting sex life.

A little bit about safewords: Unless you are playing with non-consensual play, you probably don’t need a safeword. That is to say, you can use, “slow down,” “wait,” “back off,” “hold on a minute,” “don’t,” and “stop,” and things like that to indicate that something’s going wrong, instead of negotiating one special specific word which would stop the scene. Unless you want “no” or “don’t” or “stop” to be part of the play, those words will work just fine.

So, what do you think? What is your advice for beginning to play with BDSM? Anything you’d like to add or correct from my list? Any suggestions you have? Are there resources in San Francisco you’d like to recommend? Let her – and all of us! – know in the comments.

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9 Comments


  1. When I first started exploring BDSM about 6 years ago my ex-partner bought me the book: SM 101 by Jay Wiseman, which I thought was a great place to start. After that I read both the Topping and Bottoming book, and throughout all of this reading we began to explore in play and learn and grow. I'd agree with Sinclair that reading and trying things out are wonderful ways to start.

    Some great (simple) advice I got from a friend early on in my play was to make sure there is communication. Try things, explore, see what works and doesn't work. Don't be afraid to tell her what you don't like or what you do like or what might work better. Talking about it afterwards or the next day is hot – you get to see what your partner loved and what it did for her (and vice versa) and it turns you on and gears you up for next time (at least for me it does ;)

    To go along with the bondage and spanking, something "light" and easy to try is sometimes blindfolding her while you are doing this. I REALLY enjoy being blindfolded – I love not knowing what is coming, where I'm going to be spanked or flogged or whipped. When you're blindfolded your other senses are magnified – to be touched (by her hand, the whip, etc) is so much more explosive. You focus on sounds – where she is walking, her breathing, your breathing, hearing her adjust the chains or ropes, hearing her talk dirty to you – what she's going to do, what she likes to do, etc. I love to be blindfolded and my top loves to blindfold me – for us, it adds a sexy element to play during those times when we use it.

    Most of all, have fun with it! Good luck :)

  2. I just found your blog and find it so intriguing. I am almost certain I need BDSM in my life. I'm married and we have a pretty great sex life. He ties me up to the bed, spanks me, put clamps on my nipples, etc. I just so get off on the roughness and teasing. I would like it to be more mental and more pain. I want to go deeper into it. I don't know to talk about it with him. Because if he knows I like it, wouldn't he push some of the pleasures further. It's been pretty much the same type of acts. Would love to introduce more.

  3. Thanks a lot for this article. I really enjoyed it. I had lots of more adventurous friends who did all this stuff but for a long time I had no personal experience. Thus I once I finally got into a relationship where I wanted to experiment with BDSM I had all the 'book smarts' so to speak from what I had learned from my friends but neither me nor my boyfriend had any real experience with it. I t was tough because I wanted him to just take control but it took a little work with both of us in order to feel comfortable with it. Also just wanted to let you know, I officially added you to my blogs I read list!

  4. Hey Alphafemme, you may want to check out some of the Exiles' programs: http://www.theexiles.org/

    They are a SF women on women bdsm group that often runs programs catering to beginners and women curious about kink.

  5. In addition to Good Vibes, another good local resource for classes is The Citadel: http://www.sfcitadel.org. They have classes on a range of kink/BDSM topics, as well as discussion groups. The Center for Sex and Culture (http://www.centerforsexandculture.com/) has classes, too, on a broader range of topics than just kink.

    Enjoy!

  6. Thanks for answering a question I was too chickenshit to ask. This advice ought to get me started.

  7. The femme top beat me to it, so I will second her in saying the place for women who want to find out more about BDSM and meet other women in San Francisco is definitely The Exiles!

  8. Here is a general calendar of kinky events and workshops in the Bay Area http://soj.org/calendar/

    And The looking Glass in Oakland has monthly workshops and women's parties. Ask to get put on their mailing list to get updates http://www.myspace.com/thelookingglassdungeon

  9. thanks so much for the tips, sinclair, and others! I will definitely check out the exiles, and I've already gone ahead and ordered the topping book and the bottoming book. I think reading's a great place to start. and definitely some light bondage is in order.

    it's like a whole world is opening up…

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