Hugh Crothers
06.06.21
Stimulation

Gateway BDSM: dipping your toe in the kinky pool

BDSM might feel like an inaccessible blanket term or way outside your regular sexual repertoire, so we’re going to break it down for anyone that’s looking to dabble. Of course, there are the extremes you’ll see at Folsom Street Fair, but before we get to the deep end, let’s explore how you and your partner can dip the toe in. We’re not experts or life-long practitioners; our take is based on our own experiences of how to introduce BDSM into your sex life.

THE BACKGROUND

Before we begin, let’s clear up some definitions. Firstly, kink vs fetish. A kink is really anything that sits outside the ‘norm’ of sexual practices whereas a fetish is arousal or fulfilment based on the presence of a specific object or subject. So, you might have a fetish for feet or redheads (I can say this because I’m a redhead), which means you most likely need these things to get off. However, if you simply feel like tying a redhead up and licking their feet, that would be categorised as a kink. BDSM comprises both kinks and fetishes, and there’s certainly overlap, so how you define these terms depends on what you find necessary, or just fun.

A kink is really anything that sits outside the ‘norm’ of sexual practices whereas a fetish is arousal or fulfilment based on the presence of a specific object or subject.

Now, ‘BDSM’ itself is an umbrella term for different kinds of erotic behaviour between consenting adults, encompassing a whole range of subcultures, that focus on power and pleasure. Here’s the basic terminology:

Bondage is the physical controlling of someone (think: ties, ropes, cuffs, chains, weights).

Discipline is the training of people to obey rules and punishing them when they don’t (kind of like old school parenting or teachers in the 60s).

Sadism is about deriving pleasure, especially sexual, from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others (this is a little darker and yes, its entomology is German).

Masochism is about deriving sexual gratification from one’s own pain or humiliation (the reverse of sadism).

The D and the S in BDSM can also refer to Dominance and Submission. Essentially, BDSM involves one person agreeing to assume the role as a top/dominant (dom), holding the power and control, while the bottom/submissive (sub) is the one that consensually gives up theirs. Sub and dom shouldn’t be confused with insertive versus non-insertive sexual roles (insertive = the person who puts something in; non-insertive = by default, the person who receives). While they sometimes apply, these roles can have very little to do with being a dom or sub.

Your role can also change easily and you’re not locked into one role if you choose it. It can be different each time you practice or change with each partner – just like how your preferred ice cream flavour might change – which is why it’s important to experiment. The role you fulfil is based on communication with your partner, preference, desire and fantasy, all of which might change based on mood, setting or timing.

Essentially, BDSM involves one person agreeing to assume the role as a top/dominant (dom), holding the power and control, while the bottom/submissive (sub) is the one that consensually gives up theirs.

GETTING STARTED

Sex stores are full of all sorts of whips, slings and toys, but before you go spending thousands there’s plenty of ways to explore BDSM with stuff you already have access to.

1. Communication

As with everything, the key to a successful relationship – and sexual practice – is communication. Talking to your partner about your desires is a great place to start. Discuss each other’s ideas and preferences, be specific about what you’re interested in and then find a fun way to start exploring them together.

2. Erotica and porn

Whether you’re into the arty stuff or an XXX experience, porn and erotica can be great to see what floats your boat as you start on your kinky expedition. Seeing BDSM practices explicitly can be eye-opening and help you or your partner work out what feels good.

Whatever your own preferences, it’s important the subject matter matches your comfort levels. This is true of all porn and erotica, but particularly for BDSM content, which can include some pretty gnarly stuff that can take working up to for some people. Look for lighter material if you’re feeling your way around and be aware that you may be a few clicks from a total turn-off. Many paid porn sites guard the more extreme visuals behind paywalls, so this can help you explore on your own timeline.

And remember, ethical porn is the way to go. We like Else Cinema and Noel Alejandro Films but Google can help with more options.

3. Safe is sexy

Before we go any further we need to cover your safe word. It’s a code word or words, or a signal (when words aren’t possible), used to communicate your physical or emotional state when you are approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional or moral boundary during sex. Mine is pineapple. Your safe word lets your partner know to stop and check in with you.

It helps to choose something that can’t be confused with any other word. You might not be approaching these boundaries when you’re starting out, but it’s worth establishing a safe word from the get go to help all parties feel comfortable. A safe word is the ace up your sleeve – play it at any time to renounce consent and let your partner know to hit pause.

4. Verbal/word play

Word play is a super simple and accessible BDSM practice. It only requires your voice, your imagination, and consent (always consent). Verbal role play as a dom or sub can also help you gauge your appetite for either role. Establish terms you might enjoy playing with and then try them in the moment, remembering your safe word is always in your back pocket, even if you’re naked.

Some of the more classic terms for dom partners include master, mistress, miss, daddy, sir, captain or boss. On the flip side, subs can be affectionately referred to as girl, boy, son, or pup. Using these types of loaded nouns imply a socially constructed power dynamic, a key part of BDSM.

You can then add more profanity and passion to the verbal play if you’re comfortable – no examples here; remember it’s all about using your imagination. Language can create narrative and power with a single word, so once you start building out sentences it can be incredibly potent and arousing.

5. Visual blocks

Restricting sight is another way to add some light kink to your repertoire. This can be as simple using a tea towel, scarf or any other makeshift blindfold. Limiting sight reinforces trust with your partner and enhances your other senses. That makes it a great way to release inhibitions and focus on pleasure.

6. Light bondage

The same towel or scarf can also be used to restrain hands or feet together, or to tie someone to an object like a bedhead, chair, sink, washing machine – anything that feels safe and right. No need to tie anyone up to the tree in the backyard if that’s not your thing, starting in familiar spaces will help you ease in comfortably. Light bondage is also a great way for newbies to test out sub and dom roles.

7. Light spanking

If you’re checking in and everyone is feeling good then spanking can be another way to increase intensity as you explore BDSM. You can use the palm of your hand or even a kitchen utensil. We’re talking wooden spoon not potato masher (unless that’s your fetish, no judgement here). A reminder that if anything feels uncomfortable or unpleasant at any stage, just reach for your safe word.


BDSM can build a stronger connection, even love, if practiced in a safe, equal and pleasurable way.

BDSM can build a stronger connection, even love, if practiced in a safe, equal and pleasurable way. So, if you try out our above tips and things are feeling safe and exciting, then it’s time to do your own digging. Connecting with communities or retailers in the space can be a great way to explore further. There are plenty of forums, groups, shops and events by and for the BDSM community, so get out there. Leaning into your fantasies with your consenting partner can make you feel sexier, more satisfied and fulfilled, which can make you a better lover, partner and person.


The fundamental principle of BDSM is that those who practice are consenting adults. Anything outside of enthusiastic consent isn’t BDSM. The drip(feed) team aren’t doctors, lawyers, or sex therapists, so if you’re seeking medical, legal or sex advice you’d best speak to a professional. We’re here to explore themes of sex and intimacy to promote education, stimulation and conversation.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS


Dom: dominant – the partner in control

Top: another word for dominant

Sub: submissive – the partner who gives control over consensually

BTM: bottom, another word for sub

Switch: someone who can be both dom and sub. Also referred to as versatile or vers for short

RACK: risk / aware / consensual / kink – your BDSM needs to meet this requirement

SSC: safe / sane / consensual – another way to frame the requirements of BDSM

Safe word: a phrase, word or sign/signal that stops everything and lets your partner know to check in