Step One: What am I into?
Nobody was born doing this, or at least, I REALLY HOPE no one was born doing this. We all started somewhere. Some of us had dreams of bondage dancing in our heads before puberty, and kept secret longings all throughout our adolescence, until we were old enough to do it in real life.
Some of us had no clue any of this was real until we met someone who told us that it was. And some of us didn’t give it a second thought until we came across something kinky that suddenly made us feel extremely horny, and probably very confused.
If you are peeking behind the curtain to see what the world of kink holds for you, chances are you have felt at least somewhat aroused by something kinky. It can be hard to know exactly what you want to do for real versus what is better kept as a fantasy.
The first step is admitting to yourself what it is you find arousing or intriguing. Many people get hung up on this because it may mean challenging your identity. If you have never been unusual in any way before, or have grown up thinking that there is something wrong with “those people,” it is likely to be more difficult. I assure you, many thousands of people are into whatever it is you are into, and they are just fine. They continue to lead fulfilling lives and engage in things like gainful employment, long-term relationships, and familial togetherness. Most of them would not appear at all unusual to you if you saw them outside of the context of kink and BDSM. If you happen to be one of them, you are okay, whether you choose to act on those interests or not.
There are a number of myths about sex, relationships, and kink that are common in the non-kink, or vanilla, world. It is useful to examine and challenge these if one wishes to be an active kinkster.
Just because you find something arousing in the abstract doesn’t necessarily mean you will enjoy doing it in real life. This is a question that only you can answer, but you will most likely want some help. To that end, find an experienced person that you can talk to about your interests. Please do not look to simply engage in fantasy with someone who is looking for a real life partner. Talk about your interests honestly. If fantasy fulfillment without personal connection or real life engagement is what you seek, you are probably better off paying someone for their time. Pressuring someone into what amounts to unpaid sex work is not cool.
If you think you have an idea of what you might be interested in, but want more information on what other people with similar interests do, there are many fine books on the subject. Reading some of them is a great place to start.
Step 2: I want to try this in real life. How does that work?
BDSM is an acronym that stands for Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism.
Bondage and discipline is the practice of restraining a partner and applying verbal and/or physical discipline.
Domination and submission is a relationship style in which one person controls the other, to varying degrees.
Sadism is the infliction of pain for personal enjoyment, and masochism is the reception of pain for personal enjoyment.
A fetish occurs when a person experiences sexual arousal in response to something that is not normally sexual in nature. Shoes and feet are common fetishes, but people have been known to fetishize all manner of things, including cars, bridges and statues.
The word “kink” is used in a variety of ways. It can refer to all manner of unusual, alternative, or non-normative sexual practices, including, but not limited to, those listed above. It can refer to an individual preference or interest, which may or may not be tantamount to a fetish.
When two people engage in BDSM, it is generally referred to as play. A BDSM encounter is sometimes referred to as a scene. If two people have an ongoing relationship in which one person is Dominant and one is submissive, this is referred to as a D/s relationship. If two people engage in scenes but do not have a D/s relationship, whether they are partners, friends, or acquaintances, they are often referred to as the top and the bottom in that scenario.
Although sexual arousal and gratification is a common motivator for individuals who engage in these practices, it is far from the only one. Some people do not experience kink as a sexual interest at all. For many, feelings of connection, release, and personal satisfaction are just as, if not more, compelling, when compared to the satisfaction of sexual needs.
Although everyone experiences kink in their own individual way, there are some things that are central to practitioners, as a community.
Consent is the primary foundational principle of kink and BDSM. To do any of these things without explicit, freely given consent is unethical, and unwelcome in the kink community. Just as engaging in sexual contact without the consent of one’s partner is sexual assault or rape, engaging in BDSM without consent is assault and abuse.
Outside of the kink community, it may be considered normal to “make a move” on a partner, and initiate sexual activity, in the hopes that they will acquiesce. This is not acceptable in kink. If one were to follow this logic when engaging in spanking, for instance, this amounts to striking someone without their consent – an act of violence. Not a great way to start an intimate relationship.
The means to establishing consent is negotiation. This is a process of dialogue in which the parties involved express their interests and desires, as well as their limitations. There is no requirement that one must accept activities one does not enjoy in order to experience others that they do enjoy. Negotiation is how we establish these boundaries.
One way of establishing boundaries that is commonly included in negotiation is the use of a safeword. A safeword is a word agreed upon by the participants to mean “stop”. It is meant to replace “stop” “don’t” or “no”, so that there is no confusion between playful “resistance” and genuine lack of consent. It is not strictly necessary to have one, if you simply agree that if a bottom tells the Top that they want to stop, play will stop. However, inexperienced players may find it helpful to have a specific designated safeword anyway, to avoid confusion. If any safeword that means “stop” is uttered, a responsible Top will stop play immediately.
Many people use stoplight safewords: Red for stop, yellow for slow down or take a break, and green for go ahead. This can be a useful tool if a Top would like to check in verbally by asking the bottom to say what color they are currently feeling. Again, specific safewords are a tool – the important thing is that the bottom retains the right to stop at any time, that there is a way to communicate this clearly, and that any revocation of consent is honored.
Safety is an important concern for anyone engaging in BDSM. Exactly how to go about that is a subject of some debate, but in general, we want to avoid causing lasting injury or unintentional pain. One important way to maintain safety is for all parties to educate themselves on the specific activities they want to do. Knowledge about how to do kinky things without causing injury is commonly passed around the community in the form of writing, demonstrations, and personal mentoring. In short, find other people who have successfully done it before, and learn what they do. Look to a variety of sources, not just one.
Step 3: Finding partners
You know what you want, and the basics of how it is done. Now you want to do it.
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to finding a compatible partner for kink. There are kinky social networking and dating sites. There are local groups and kink events. The only way to find someone is to get out there and look, and expect that the process will take some time. Do not give up just because the perfect person does not appear immediately.
Local groups will often get together for what is called a munch, an informal social gathering held periodically in a public place. This is not meant to be a speed dating or hookup event. It can be difficult for a newcomer in this situation, especially if everyone else knows one another already. Be patient, and focus on getting to know people. The more people you know, the greater your chances of finding someone compatible.
There are reams and reams of advice written on how to avoid potential partners who are unsafe. To keep it brief, consider the following:
- Keep your personal information private. Do not disclose your full name, phone number or address until you feel you can trust someone.
- Always meet potential partners in a public place first. Use the public meeting as a way to assess their trustworthiness before agreeing to meet in private.
- Ask a lot of questions. What is their level of experience? What have they done before? What are their interests? What are their views on consent and safety?
- Always trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about someone, follow that feeling. At the very least, insist on more conversation and negotiation before going any further.
- Do not trust anyone who does not respect boundaries, or who rejects the principles of consent and safety. If someone pressures you to do something you are uncomfortable with, stay away.
When you do find someone who seems compatible and safe, the next step is to communicate with them. Tell them about your interests and your limits. Discuss what you will do with them. Seek explicit consent.
You may want to complete a checklist. This is a tool to generate discussion and facilitate negotiation between partners. Most of it is meant to be filled out by the submissive partner, but anyone can use it.
It’s generally a good idea to start slow. Try mild activities before you get to extreme ones. Again, don’t allow anyone to pressure you to do things you are not ready for. If you are uncomfortable, speak up and let them know. If they don’t respect that, they are not someone you want to play with.
The process of exploration can be challenging and frustrating. Try to relax and take it as it comes. Like any experience, it may be nothing like what you expected, but still well worth your time.