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10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started BDSM #guestblog

When Graham reached out to me on Twitter about sharing his kinky view with you, I was intrigued. When he sent me his post and a link to a page on his website, I was blown away. Graham Marsden, of Affordable Leather, has a checklist on his website that is about as comprehensive as they get - in terms of explanations and the sheer amount of activities you can think of. We all come at this thing we do differently but we all could have used some good, solid advice like this when we were starting out.

I've been into BDSM for around 25 years now and making and selling leather bondage gear and BDSM toys for a little less than that and things have changed massively in that time with, for example, the advent of the Web and the availability of many good books about BDSM.

But when I started, there was very little information available. Unless you knew the right people or found ads in the back of contact magazines, there was no easy way into the scene. This meant that, like many others, my partners and I were left to figure it out as we went along.

Ok, we had lots of fun experimenting, but there were some things that it would definitely have been useful to know and it seems that, even today, from looking at comments on forums etc that this information is still not as widespread as it could be.

So here's a list of 10 things I wish I'd known when I started in BDSM...

BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism, but none of these are mandatory.

Just like a buffet, you can choose the bits of BDSM that you like. You don't have to tie people down to be dominant, you don't have to be a masochist to submit and you can enjoy a bit of fun with spanking or flogging without having to do it as part of a D/s relationship.

You shouldn't allow yourself to be pressured into doing something you don't like the idea of. The most important thing in a kinky relationship is that all activities should be consensual or, if you're into "consensual non-consent" that what is or isn't going to happen is discussed beforehand.

Talk to your partner, discuss what they want and what you'd like to do and, if there are differences, try to find some middle ground which brings me to point number 2:

Negotiation and communication are the keys to an enjoyable kinky relationship.

You might think that some bondage with leather wrist and ankle cuffs, followed by a good whipping with a riding crop is the greatest thing since sliced bread. There's nothing wrong with that, but what if your partner feels that sensation play with candle wax and pinwheels is where it's at and doesn’t want to be tied up or hit? If you just go ahead and do what you enjoy, they might get upset and not want to play or, even worse, go and find someone else who does the things they like and respects their choices.

So talk to your partner, discuss Soft Limits (things you don't like, but will do if your partner really wants to) and Hard Limits (things which you will absolutely, definitely not do, full stop) before you trip over them in the middle of a scene.

For more experienced players, there are BDSM Negotiation Documents available online which contain lists of most practices you might like to try. On one of these, you can detail whether you've done the activity, if you'd like to do it and how much you'd like it done. Not only does this help with the discussions and negotiation and let you suggest things that you might prefer not to talk about out loud, but they also give your partner a good "menu" of ideas to try, especially if it's something that they might have wanted to do, but didn't think you'd like.

Safewords are not obligatory, but they're a good idea.

I recall one of the first times I spanked my partner as part of a Boss/ Secretary role-play and her saying "Oh! Ow! Ouch!" and so on. This made me pause to ask if she was alright and if I should stop. Her response was "Don't you bloody dare!" but because we didn't know about Safe Words, we had no way of communicating whether to continue or stop without breaking out of character.

It wasn't until we saw a documentary on TV featuring an American Dominatrix that we actually found out about the idea of safewords and thought "Hey, that's a good idea!" as they mean that you can play a scene with minimal intrusions from real world concerns.

These days I recommend the Traffic Light system of Green for "Go ahead", Amber for "Getting close to a limit" and Red for "Stop doing that please". There's also "Red, Red, Red" for "Emergency stop", e.g. if someone's getting scared or has cramp or really isn't having fun and just wants the scene to end and be cuddled and cared for.

Having said that, however, if saying "could you flog a bit harder" or "I'd like it if you did..." or "please can we try something else" during a play session works in the dynamic of your relationship, then feel free to do so.

There are those who might frown on this as "Topping from the Bottom", but, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that if it works for you. Some people may even declare that this is wrong and that there's an absolute right way and wrong way to do things but this is really just based on their opinion which brings up point 4:

There's no "One True Way" of BDSM.

Sometimes you'll read posts in forums and online discussions or, as has happened to me in the past, been told by certain people that "If you don't say this, if you don't do that, if you don't behave in this way, then you're not Doing it Right".

These people are, of course, free to hold these opinions, but the fact of the matter is that what works for them is not necessarily what will be fun for you or anyone else.  By all means take advice from other people, but unless it's a matter of safety, don't let anyone tell you that how you choose to enjoy yourself is automatically wrong.

What you may see in films or read in books or view on the web is not necessarily a "How To" guide.

When I started out, there were no easily available books such as Jay Wiseman's "SM 101", Molly Devon's "Screw the Roses Send Me the Thorns" or "The New Topping Book" and "The New Bottoming Book" by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.

The only thing my partner and I had to go on were books like The Story of O and the (just appearing) Black Lace imprint, but of course these were written for the purposes of fantasy and arousal more than as instruction manuals. This meant that whilst some of the ideas in there might be fun, others were definitely not and could even be hazardous.

One example was to tie your partner up and then leave them alone (possibly even leaving the house). This might make for a good fantasy, but imagine coming back and finding that there's been a fire and they had no way of freeing themselves. Ok, that's an unlikely scenario, but it could happen and is something you should consider simply from the point of safety.

These days there's lots of good advice out there, however there are also still stories such as 50 Shades of Drivel (I have a very low opinion of that book!) which have insinuated themselves into the public consciousness but are definitely not good examples of Safe, Sane and Consensual play.

Not everyone wants to be a Dominant, not everyone is cut out to be submissive

For some people, the idea of being a submissive just doesn't suit them. Similarly, there are those who prefer not to exercise power over someone else as a dominant. Of course, by the same token, there are those who switch and are happy to play both roles.

When I started, both my partner and I were pretty much submissive, which did lead to some interesting arguments: "I tied you up!" "Yes, but I spanked you." "A couple of smacks isn't a spanking...!" We both learned to switch simply because otherwise there probably wouldn't have been much play and eventually we both learned to do it and enjoy it, mostly because it made the other happy.

This doesn't mean that switching is necessary, as with everything else in BDSM, if you don't like the idea of it, you don't have to do it.

If you're a Dominant, it doesn't make everyone else a sub and certainly not your sub.

Unfortunately there are some people who call themselves dominants who don't understand this concept and think that they can order everyone else around.

Regrettably I have seen (and experienced) examples of this sort of behaviour, but not only does this demonstrate a lack of knowledge on the part of the so-called dominant, but also it shows a lack of respect for others since it assumes they consent to accept that dynamic.

BDSM doesn't have to finish with sex nor, indeed, involve sex at all.

There is a common misconception, especially on the part of those who don't have experience of it themselves, that BDSM is the "starter" and that sex is the main course. There is nothing wrong with playing that way, but it doesn't have to be the case.

A perfect example is some years ago when I contacted a play partner who wanted to try bondage. She came to visit, undressed to her underwear and then I spread-eagled her on the bed with leather straps and wrist and ankle cuffs. For the next couple of hours we just chatted, not only about BDSM and related areas, but also just in general.

Finally she said that she'd like to be untied, so I freed her, she got dressed and left. No sex was involved, indeed, no other play at all happened, yet we were both happy, she because she'd tried bondage and me because she was satisfied which is fine by me.

It is perfectly possible to have a good time whilst keeping your clothes on, for instance if you have a Domme/ sub style of play, it could be the sub's greatest pleasure to brush and comb his Domme's hair and please her by doing a good job.

As long as all the participants are consenting and have fun, that's all that's needed.

You can play with as many or as few partners as you want

By its nature, BDSM stands a little way outside the conventional forms of relationship especially since, as I mentioned above, sex doesn't have to be involved. As such, this gives opportunities for play with others than may not be available in everyday monogamous relationships.

On several occasions I have played with the female half of a married couple because the woman was interested in BDSM, but the man wasn't. We had already established the ground rules of no sex, no genital nudity or touching, which I was perfectly happy to abide by, but it still allowed for the use of bondage gear, suede floggers, rubber ball gags and much more.

Of course all such play should be done with proper negotiation and informed consent of all the parties involved so there's no concerns about "cheating", indeed, I wouldn't play with one half of a couple if the other wasn't in full agreement that it was ok.

Having said this, naturally, if you want to keep your play just between yourself and your partner, there's no obligation to get anyone else involved. The choice is yours.

It may not be what you were thinking of when you started, but it should always be fun!

When I started in BDSM my ideas were somewhat colored by images of thigh-booted, corseted, single tail whip wielding Dominatrices from the media and from various (mostly male fantasy) magazines I'd seen.

Of course it wasn't really anything like that in reality and, as this article suggests, there were a few bumps and problems along the way, but it's certainly been enjoyable experimenting.

When it comes down to it, BDSM is whatever it means to you, so have fun, buy some bondage gear, explore and try things, just never forget the importance of consent and communication and you should do fine!

About Graham Marsden

Graham Marsden is the owner and Director of Affordable Leather Products,  a UK based manufacturer of Leather Bondage Equipment and BDSM toys for over 20 years. He can also be found on Twitter @affordableleath or selling his wares at the London Alternative Market on the first Sunday of every month.

About the author

Kayla Lords

I am an erotic author, sex blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, and an opinionated marketer. I'm also a masochistic babygirl submissive with an amazing and sadistic Daddy Dom. Welcome to my kinky corner of the internet!

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