“Do you have specific resources that you would recommend for me to share with someone who is new to the kink scene? Books, and also digital resources. Mainly tips and introduction writing that you trust.”
There are a lot of sub-categories within kink, BDSM, and fetish. Are you looking for books about bondage? There are dozens! Or books about the intersection of sex and spirituality? Quite a few there too. How about books on power dynamic relationships? That’s a whole other list! Generally, people tend to include all kinds of how-to sex books in beginning guides, too — particular topics like anal sex, threesomes, and strap-ons that are sometimes considered kinky, but sometimes not, depending. Then, all of that opens the doors for topics like open relationships, healing sexual trauma or trauma in general, porn, the ethics of desire and fantasy, embodiment, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.
So I’m narrowing it down and focusing on more general kink community, culture, concepts, and getting started with kink play. If you still want more, I put together an Amazon list which has many more books in some of those related-but-not-exactly-kink topics that I’d also recommend.
1. Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Navigating and Exploring the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities, by Mollena Williams-Haas & Lee Harrington
This book is essential reading to someone new to the communities of kink, leather, and BDSM. It will give you an excellent overview of consent and negotiation, as well as many of the basic concepts for different kinds of kinks, different ways to explore, and things that are unique to the kink community. It’s such a good primer for anybody new to kink, or anybody who feels like there are kink protocols or conventions that you might not know about or understand.
See also: pretty much all the other books by Greenery Press. Most are very specific kink topics — books about flogging or fisting — so they aren’t general overview, but if you see titles that pique your interest, they are run by kinky people and they have excellent kink theorists and educators as their authors.
2. Kink Academy (website)
This is a kink smorgasbord! There are videos about pretty much every kink, fetish, or interest on this site, from negotiation and communication to figging and pegging and more. They have things about kink, things about relationships, things about sensuality, and things about general health and wellness — over 2000 videos and more than 140 presenters! There’s multiple pages of free videos, too (including a couple by me) so you can go check out what the format is like and see if it suits your style of learning before you sign up for a full Kink Academy membership. It is absolutely worth it — one month of unlimited classes is cheaper than most in-person classes!
3. >50 Shades of Kink, Tristan Taormino
Tristan has been writing and educating about sex and BDSM for a long time — she used to write a column in the Village Voice in the 90s and 00s that I read religiously, and she originated the Best Lesbian Erotica series in 1996. She’s a queer femme femininst, devoted to women’s perspectives and centering women’s sexual pleasure in her porn and her writing and exploring. Lately, she has a podcast, Sex Out Loud, which covers a broad range of sexuality topics.
50 Shades of Kink is an excellent primer for all things BDSM. It’s aimed for folks who have read Fifty Shades of Grey and who want to understand kink better, to figure out what they’re into and start playing. She starts with dismantling myths, breaks down all kinds of terms, roles, and principles, explores dominance, submission, and role play, and then talks about all kinds of sensation play, bondage, impact play, and rough sex. It’s an excellent primer to get a sense of what kink is all about and the kinds of things that are available in the kink world.
See also: If you read this and like it, and want to go deeper, check out the anthology Tristan edited called The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play, and the Erotic Edge, also published by Cleis Press.
4. The Topping Book & The Bottoming Book, by Dossie Easton & Janet W. Hardy
Classics! They were recommended to me over twenty years ago when I was first coming out, and they are still excellent books to start learning about doing things to people and having things done to you. I love how open these books are, they are written from the perspective of a loving aunt or mentor who is just so excited to share all their wisdom with you.
See also: The Ethical Slut, also by these authors, one of the first books published about open relationships, polyamoroy, and nonmonogamy, and still one of the essentials to read.
5. Authentic Kink: Create Your Best Experience (Workbook), by Princess Kali
Princess Kali is a force in the kink communities! She literally wrote the book on humiliation and embarrassment play, she creates amazing resources for sex workers, and she deconstructs mainstream notions of what it is to be a ‘bitch’ and the hetero-patriarchal systems that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. This workbook is a master class on creating the kink experience that you want, based on her dozens of years as an educator and thought leader in the kink world. It holds many of her best theories and ideas that you’d find in her captivating live classes, all in a handy-dandy workbook form. Watch out for her live classes or online classes, too — she teaches tons and is well known as an inspirational powerhouse in her teaching style.
6. Workshops & Classes
After you get a little bit of knowledge under your belt through those books, you’re going to want to actually get out into the community, meet people, and attend classes in person. Currently, in May 2021, COVID is still a factor and things are re-opening slowly and cautiously, so it might be a while before there are regular meetings in your town or city. But meanwhile, there are quite a lot of things happening online.
How the heck do you find them?
Join Fetlife. You’ve probably heard of Fetlife — it is an amazing tool, but also can be really awful, particularly for femmes and women, because it is possible to receive all kinds of unsolicited and unwanted messages there. But it is an essential place for finding your local community. rife says, “There’s lots of creeps on there, and it’s a big hole, but it’s the best way to find events near you.” You don’t have to share much about yourself there — create a completely anonymous profile with an anonymous photo and no personal information, if you don’t want to share anything — but do make a profile so you can join some groups and keep an eye on the events that are happening, both online and in your community.
Identify your local kink community center. Most of the major cities have a kink center of some kind, and many of the medium-sized cities do, too. If you already know that you have a local feminist queer sex toy shop, you could just call them and ask what kind of local kink resources they recommend. Lots of cities have groups and leather clubs which put on kink workshops, some of which are specifically focused on serving the needs of women, nonbinary, and trans folks, some of which are queer, some of which are POC-focused, and some of which are more broad.
Check out Wicked Grounds. Wicked Grounds is a (the only??) kinky coffee shop based in San Francisco, and they have an Annex classroom space where they hold classes. When COVID hit in 2020, they moved their classes online and have been hosting dozens of different educators. Some of my favorite teachers have taught for them, and they are well connected and well curated. Check out their list of upcoming classes through Eventbrite, or get on their mailing list. They also keep their Fetlife updated with their events.
Kinky Summer Camps are absolutely worth checking out for 2022 and beyond. There are dozens of kink retreats, and my personal favorites are the ones that take over an outdoor venue where you can attend classes during the day, see performances at night, and meet friends or play with people. Here’s a short primer about kinky summer camps. There are many other kink event weekends in hotels and retreat centers, too — someday I’ll write about those!
Sometimes you’ll hear kink educators refer to a “yes no maybe list” or a “BDSM checklist” as something you could “do” or fill out. These lists are worksheets or spreadsheets of long lists of different kinks where you mark down your interest in each of them. Sometimes it’s as simple as answering yes, no, or maybe to each kink, or sometimes you might rate your interest on a scale of 1-5. You can download one that I made at D/s Playground here if you’d like to check it out. They’re fun to do every few years, as your interests can (and often do) change over time; they can also point out new areas where you might want to explore more. Princess Kali also makes a very elaborate Yes No Maybe Workbook based on this idea, if you’d like a thorough paper version in a book form.
This might be for after you do a bit more research into what kink is and what the vast variety of fetishes, practices, implements, and pursuits can be … or, you could treat it as a vocabulary list and just search around for the ones that are yet to be familiar.
8. People to check out
Patrick Califia — Patrick has too many books to recommend just one, and they’re all good and valuable in different ways. I love his erotica, particularly the anthology Doing It For Daddy which is full of amazing erotic Daddy stories (if you’re reading Sugarbutch, you might be into this kind of thing). I also love his theory — Public Sex has some amazing sociopolitical analysis and connections about sexuality, kink culture, and marginalization. I was so highly influenced by ALL of Patrick’s works when I was coming out in the late 90s, so I think all of his work is essential and highly formative of the sexuality and kink conversations people are having in the kink communities today. He defined and formed the queer sexuality movements in the 90s and 00s, and a lot of writers and kink theorists (like myself) are highly influenced by his work.
Andrea Zanin, list of kink 101 resources you could take a look at, but generally, she’s brilliant and I highly recommend meandering through her archive of w britings.
Lee Harrington is a kink educator and enthusiast who has been involved for a long time, authored many books, hosted a long running podcast, and is currently teaching a lot online. He is very well known for expertise in bondage, and if you ever have a chance to attend his bondage classes on gender-affirming bondage or bondage for every size, I highly recommend them. He is teaching classes for Wicked Grounds and other places often, and sometimes exclusively for his patreon.
9. Don’t forget about fiction!
While all this how-to and what-is can be really fun to read (and hot!), don’t forget about diving in to excellent fiction. Often, kinky fiction follows someone’s kink awakening, which can be illuminating and inspiring for folks new to kink. Here’s some of my favorite erotic novels of all time, and here’s ten erotic films that are better than 50 Shades Of Grey. I also made an Amazon list of many of my all-time favorite erotica books here.
10. D/s Playground
This is my own work — a four-unit online course that takes you through videos to watch, nonfiction and erotica to read, interviews, mini-workshops with educators, and gives you experiments to do on your own or with a friend or partner. There are reflective journal questions for each piece, and you can either do it on your own, self-paced, or you can take it 1:1 with me, or, occasionally, I host each unit with a corresponding live class through my Patreon.
A few to warn you about
1. Kink: Stories, edited by R.O. Kwon & Garth Greenwell
This was published in February 2021, and has quickly become a bestseller. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it would be a good introduction to kink. Take a look at Daemonumx’s review of the book, The Commodification of Kink, to hear some of the breakdown of the stories and why people who are in the kink communities are critiquing it. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ll review it when I do.
2. 50 Shades of Grey
Yeah, yeah, you probably know about this already. It might actually be worth reading, just so you can say you did, and you’ll be able to talk about it with knowledge when someone says they love it or hate it. But beware that the dominance and submission that this book portrays is generally not a reflection of the kink communities, and many people in dominant/submissive relationships even think shows an abusive dynamic.
Hope that helps!
Here’s an Amazon list which has all these resources and a few more that I’d also recommend.