Complete Guide to Bondage and BDSM

Many people start out pretty vanilla in their interests. There’s nothing wrong with it — it can be a great way to start exploring what really gets you going. But eventually, some people want something a little more titillating. At that point, you may be looking into kinky play.


One of the first things many people learn about kinky play has to do with bondage. In fact, even people who would probably describe their sex lives as pretty vanilla can use bondage to enhance their sexual encounters. It stretches across a variety of intensities and experiences.

But if you’ve never tried bondage, or you’ve gotten all your BDSM knowledge from porn and secondhand anecdotes, you probably don’t know the first thing about it. Whether you’re just interested in starting with some light bondage or you’re ready to really get into BDSM, you need information about it. To get you started, here’s the rundown.

What Is BDSM?

BDSM is the basis of most kinky play. It stands for different things, depending on who you ask — Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, and Masochism is one popular interpretation, while some people also believe that the D stands for Discipline and the S stands for Submission.

Regardless of what it stands for, at its core, BDSM is about one thing: power dynamics. These dynamics, in and of themselves, are enticing, since some party is willingly given power over the other. How BDSM is performed varies from person to person, but, typically, kinky play is part and parcel.

woman in cuffs and leather outfit

Why Do People Try BDSM?

For some people, BDSM is just something they’re curious about. If you’re a particularly open person who likes new experiences, you might just want to try it out and see whether you like it.

Some people find that they’re interested in those power dynamics from porn or secondhand knowledge. Although porn and erotica aren’t exactly reliable sources, they can be helpful to introduce you to new concepts like BDSM and bondage.

Lastly, some people get into it from a partner who’s already interested. If you have a partner who’s tried something more kinky than you, it might have opened you up to the concept in your own life.

What Are Dominant and Submissive Roles?

The crux of BDSM, and even light kinky play like general bondage, revolves around dominant and submissive roles. Dominants — often called Doms or Dommes — are the ones who take control of the situation, while submissive — often called subs — are the ones who give up control. When the two are put together, it’s called a dom/sub relationship or dynamic.

Dom/Sub Relationships in Bed

Dom/sub relationships are intensely sexual for many people. Even just light bondage has a dom/sub dynamic to it — the person being tied up has to give up some control over what happens to them, while the other person takes that control.

In more intense situations, Doms can control the entirety of a sexual scene. Whether it’s restraining someone so they can’t move at all or creating a dynamic where the other obeys every word they say, that control or lack thereof can be intoxicating.

bdsm couple

Dom/Sub Relationships as a Lifestyle

Sometimes, people take the dom/sub dynamic even further into their everyday lives. A sub will tie themselves to a specific dom, and may even allow themselves to be “collared” literally or metaphorically to signify their dedication.

It’s important to note that a 24/7 dom/sub relationship isn’t easy or simple. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to pull off. Even if you’re invested in BDSM, you should wait for quite some time before venturing into that territory.

Types of BDSM Play

There are different ways to experience BDSM. Some of them are exclusively sexual, while some, especially for those who have made BDSM part of their daily life, are nonsexual expressions of control.

Explicitly Sexual BDSM Activity

The first thing your mind probably goes to here is bondage. No matter how you’re using it, bondage is a great way to intensify your sexual experiences.

Although that’s a great expression of BDSM, it’s only one facet. Impact play includes any form of impact, whether it’s with your hand or another object. Sensation play creates brand new sensations during sex, which can be achieved with ice, pulling hair, and any variety of other options. Breathplay has to do with controlling a partner’s breathing.

There are also other ways to express these power dynamics during sex that don’t necessarily have specific names. Restraints are popular, as are costumes to enhance a scene.

Nonsexual BDSM Activity

For people who make dom/sub dynamics part of their daily life, BDSM activities can stretch into nonsexual territories. A dom may pick out their sub’s clothing, determine their meals, or impose any number of other restrictions.

Being Safe in BDSM

It’s incredibly important that you always keep safety in mind when practicing bondage or BDSM, no matter how light or intense.

Dispel Porn Myths

Although many people are introduced to BDSM through porn, remember that it’s a highly produced version of BDSM events. Lots of safety requirements are cut out of the final product. Porn producers don’t generally consider it sexy to show someone checking ropes and confirming a sub’s emotional and physical safety before proceeding with a scene, but it’s vital.

Even if you know nothing about BDSM, you’ve probably heard of 50 Shades of Grey, a book that purported to be about a BDSM relationship. In fact, there are a lot of unsafe practices in the book, and it’s much more akin to an abusive relationship than a dom/sub one. Do research on genuine BDSM guidelines, and never rely on porn for your information.

Consent and Sobriety

Everyone needs to give consent before and during any BDSM activities. If someone rescinds consent, which can be done at any time, even in the middle of a session, everything stops. Even if you’ve arranged a scene beforehand where someone will pretend to hesitate before giving in, if that hesitation becomes real, you have to stop.

Consent has to be given freely and with understanding. That means you can’t give consent if you’re high or drunk. Don’t push someone to do something new or different when they’re intoxicated, because they’re less likely to really understand what they’re getting into.

Use the Right Equipment

A huge myth surrounding BDSM is that you can use just about anything for it. You may have heard people suggest using rope from your house, duct tape, or saran wrap for bondage. Doing this is extremely dangerous.

Whether you’re looking into light bondage or you’re really getting into some kinky stuff, you need quality equipment. Buy some kink gear, and you’ll thank yourself for investing just a bit into your sex life.

blindfolded woman

Boundaries

Although BDSM is all about power dynamics, it’s just as much about boundaries. The sub has to willingly give up control in order to get pleasure out of the situation, and the dom should be taking pleasure in handling that control responsibly.

Hard Limits

“Hard limits” are any limits that should never even be touched upon. Both doms and subs can have hard limits. A dom may be willing to flog their sub, but be uncomfortable with striking them using a hand. A sub may take pleasure in calling their dom certain terms like “master,” but be uncomfortable with their dom calling them anything other than their name.

You can have a hard limit for any reason. Many people have hard limits because of past trauma; maybe a previous partner made you uncomfortable with that behavior, or maybe someone close to you experienced trauma due to it. Sometimes, it’s just because you’ve tried it before and you didn’t enjoy it. But no matter why you have that hard limit, no one should ever pressure you to change it.

Soft Limits

“Soft limits” are limits that someone’s not sure about, but might be interested in pushing. For example, if someone doesn’t usually like anal sex, but wants to try it again, they may list it as a soft limit.

When approaching a soft limit, be much more careful and check in regularly with your partner. If they even seem to be uncomfortable, ask them whether they want you to stop. Respect soft limits just as much as hard limits.

Safewords

Safewords are the core of BDSM safety. For some people, giving up control includes scenarios where they ostensibly don’t have a choice in the matter. They may protest or resist, but have determined with their dom that they’re going to continue the session despite that. But a safeword, which takes the place of “no” or “stop” in BDSM culture, is sacred and should never be violated.

Especially when you’re first starting, you may want to try out tiered safewords. Traffic light colors are a common way to tier safewords. In this system, “green” means that you’re doing okay and want to keep going, “yellow” means you’re starting to get uncomfortable and need your partner to back off a bit, and “red” immediately stops the scene.

If your partner’s very good at understanding your natural cues, you may just have one safeword that shuts the whole thing down. This should be a word you’d never say in a normal scene — something like “pineapple” is easy to remember and immediately signals that you need to stop.

You may decide on a scenario where you’re gagged or otherwise unable to speak, and in this case, you still need safewords. A hand gesture, certain sound, or special movement can be the perfect safeword if you’re not able to speak during a session.

Aftercare

This is another essential part of BDSM that you may have never even heard about. In essence, aftercare allows you to remain calm and cared for throughout the scene.

Mid-Session Care

Although the word “aftercare” naturally implies something that happens after a session, it can also have an important place in the middle of one. The dom should always check in with the sub a few times during a scene just to make sure they’re still doing alright. Even if it’s a scene you’ve played out dozens of times, you never know when something will come up.

This check can be verbal or nonverbal. A verbal check can be wholly outside the scene, like a quick “Are you doing okay?” or seamlessly integrated into it, like a sexy “Do you like that?” Nonverbal checks may start happening if you’ve been together for a long time. It can be as easy as locking eyes, raising your eyebrows, and waiting for a nod.

Care After a Scene

Scenes can bring up incredibly strong emotions, and it’s important that you calm down after a scene with your partner. This is a part of BDSM that porn doesn’t show, but it’s one of the most important parts.

Post-scene aftercare can look different depending on who’s doing it. Maybe you want to be freed from the various bondages you’re in and spend some time cuddling with your dom. Maybe you want to make some food for your sub to bring the power dynamics back into balance. Whatever it is, establish that need before the scene and follow up with it afterward.

bondage and bdsm

How To Bring Up BDSM With Your Partner

If you’ve always been in a fairly vanilla relationship, BDSM may be a difficult thing to bring up for the first time. Introducing BDSM actually isn’t as hard as you might think it would be.

As with anything in life, there is value to exploring with someone who knows what they are doing. Many BDSM professionals are actually highly trained and may have years of experience with everything from bondage, to flogging, to needle play. Some aspects of hard play can be potentially dangerous if attempted without the proper toys, tools, or expertise. It's worth considering exploring your fantasy with a professional Dom or Sub whose job it is to respect your boundaries and limitations, and whose expertise might allow you enjoy your play for longer durations or multiple sessions.

Sites like Slixa offer BDSM Verification, which shows the practitioner is recognized within the BDSM or Kink community and has completed training that will help them care for those who engage them. Slixa is available worldwide, but Slixa New York and Slixa Las Vegas both feature a high number of BDSM Verified Providers (who – unlike your partner – aren't going to look at you sideways for asking to be spanked). 

Start in a Nonsexual Context

You don’t want to bring up BDSM concepts when you’re already doing foreplay. That can make your partner feel like you’re springing it on them when they’re unable to really think it through, and can make them less receptive to the concept in the future.

Instead, sit down with them after dinner or on the weekend and let them know you’re interested in a specific BDSM concept. Consider something simple: “I’ve been reading about BDSM and I think I’m interested in the power dynamics at play. Have you ever considered it?”

If you’re more interested in a specific kink, address that specifically. Don’t be afraid to come right out and talk about it; you deserve to have your specific needs met. Bondage enthusiasts, for example, could try something like, “I’ve always had an interest in bondage, and I read a HUSTLER® Hollywood article about getting started with it recently. What are your thoughts?”

Be Gentle

Especially if you think you’re interested in something pretty intense, don’t jump right into it at first. Coming out of the gate with “I want to try anal fisting” is difficult for anyone to take, much less someone who’s never considered themselves kinky. Lead into the conversation gently, and try to let them express their feelings as frequently as possible.

Understand Your Partner’s Boundaries

Boundaries are a cornerstone of BDSM, and if you’re interested in the kinky lifestyle, you need to understand when someone else isn’t. Your partner might not be receptive or interested, and that’s okay. Your interests don’t need to perfectly align with your partner’s; try to find a compromise that works for both of you.

If your partner is cautiously interested in kink, but still just wants to test the waters, that’s perfect. Grab a bit of kink gear and start playing around during sex. Go slowly and make sure they feel comfortable, and you’re more likely to be able to move into something more intense later.

Some people don’t feel completely fulfilled without someone attending to their kinks, and that’s fine. Talk to your partner about finding a dom or sub in your area and meeting with them every so often. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it can be very effective.

If you really can’t connect on a solution, weigh your options carefully. Sometimes, sexual compatibility isn’t very important; if you can feel fulfilled just fantasizing, have at it. But compatibility in sex to a degree is very important, and you do deserve to have your needs met in some way.

Conclusion

BDSM is a huge community full of people with vastly different interests. The one thing that ties them all together is their interest in power play. Whether you just want to let your partner restrain you a bit and play around with that or you want to visit a dungeon and try some things out, you can find a way to do it.

Don’t let preconceived notions of what BDSM is weigh you down. Buy kink gear at HUSTLER® Hollywood to get your foot in the door today.

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