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Couples Play

What is BDSM?

Does the (in)famous acronym BDSM stir thoughts of spike-tipped whips, heavy-duty chains, and a stony medieval dungeon lit by torches that illuminate an array of ancient torture devices? If so, you're not alone. But depending on what sort of kinky folks you speak to, this sort of outrageous fantasy could be right on the money, or so far from the truth that your kink-friendly conversation partner bursts into laughter.
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2022

BDSM, which stands for Bondage, Domination/Submission, Sadism, and Masochism, is a broad-reaching category of bedroom play that can range from the mild to the wild, depending on what each couple finds a sexy, hot turn-on.

The BDSM label can apply to many types of sexual play that fall outside of the "vanilla genre."

What is Vanilla BDSM?

"Vanilla" generally refers to sexual intercourse in the most simplistic manner — sans even the most beginners' sort of kink toys, like furry handcuffs or a silky blindfold. Yes, this means that if you've ever blindfolded your partner with a soft tie or used your lacy panties to bind their hands above their head, you've engaged in a light version of BDSM.

What is BDSM

Some couples actually enjoy the full Hollywood-style dungeon, complete with a wooden St. Andrew's Cross to tie up their partner spread-eagle while they excitedly await an endorphin-releasing whipping. That's because BDSM hinges on negotiation and consent, and the sexual variations can vary wildly from couple to couple.

What is Domination & Submission?

The big D in BDSM stands for Domination, one of the core aspects of kinky play.

As you might have guessed, someone who identifies as a sexual dominant - referred to as a Dom with a capital D. The S stands for submission, and unsurprisingly still, these folks like to be on the receiving end of domination. Some submissives - are called "subs" (with a lowercase "s") for short - simply like a partner that enjoys being on top or tying their hands to the bedposts.

Others need something more extreme to get off, like engaging in breath play or being bent over and spanked. Dominants can be just as expansive in their play preferences, and their favorite sex acts can range from using a sex toy on their partner while they writhe in ecstatic orgasm, or tightly cuffing their wrists and ankles and screwing them silly.

No matter how dominant and submissive partners choose to play, consent and proper communication underline everything that goes on from the moment both people decide that their play session, commonly called a "scene," begins. The key is to only engage in BDSM play with a partner you can trust and feel comfortable communicating exactly how you feel.

What is Sadism & Masochism?

Now, you might assume things get scary, but again, remember that nothing bad can happen when you play with a partner who listens to your needs and cares about your well-being.

sadist - usually the Dom - feels sexually turned on by watching their partner squirm and wriggle from the metallic bite of a Wartenberg wheel or the crack of a paddle.

masochist - played by the sub - gets off by having those sorts of intense acts done to them.

Just like any other part of BDSM, the level of discomfort or pain inflicted is pre-determined by both the Dom and sub before the actual play begins. Lighter forms of masochism and sadism can involve tickling, using a vibrator to tease your partner while they're tied up, or lightly scratching them with your nails. More extreme forms can involve intense tickling until your partner begs you to stop, turning the vibrator up to its highest setting, and 'forcing' your partner to orgasm until exhaustion, or scratching your partner's back until you draw blood.

Because BDSM play can involve more than just the usual sexually bodily fluids exchanged between genitals - like blood, urine, or anal mucous - it's imperative that everyone involved gets regular STD tests and discloses their test results with every single partner. The only folks who can get away with a one-off visit to the doctor are fully monogamous couples who remain committed and honest to their partners.

BDSM for Beginners

1. Fantasizing - The First Step to Your BDSM Journey.

Understanding each person's drives and fantasies helps create the perfect BDSM experience. If a person loves to show how tough they are and likes activities with elements of physical endurance, holding a tough position might be exciting for them.

If a person loves to show submission and obedience, create a game where they must follow instructions carefully and precisely. Making "Simon Says" games into a sex game is a form of predicament play.

If a person is not motivated by obedience, following instructions for the sake of it might not be that effective.

For someone else, if they love to solve their way out of a difficult situation and they get a kick out of outwitting the other, set up a complicated game, like putting someone in a complicated bondage position with a pair of scissors just out of reach. But if they reach for the scissors, another rope or clamp might pull against some tender body part.

Being fully informed of your partner's fantasy and being fully open about your fantasy are the first stepping stones to your BDSM experience. Making sure you and your partner have desire and consent is paramount to continuing any further exploration into the realm of BDSM. If either party is uncomfortable or doesn't truly have a fantasy to engage in being a Dom or a sub, then exploring other fantasies such as roleplay or new toys might be more in the cards.

BDSM for Beginners

2. Consent and Communication - How to Introduce BDSM into Your Relationship.

When couples practice active consent, it means they never attempt a sexual act without asking first, and they listen closely to their partner during sex just in case something that usually feels good happens to feel bad.

In BDSM, part of practicing consent involves negotiating the terms of the sexual encounter before any clothes come off and candles are lit.

These negotiated rules can be as firm as, "I don't like being spanked, so please don't ever span me on any part of the body," or someone can decide to give certain activities a try with the option to stop the scene if they become uncomfortable, either physically or mentally, like "Sometimes I like being penetrated with large sex toys, but I've never tried vaginal fisting before. Please go slow, use lots of lube, and I'll tell you to stop if I don't like it."

Because exhilarating, consensual BDSM can take many forms, let's look at some common aspects of this often misunderstood sexual niche that debunks all those scary and untrue stories you've probably heard over the years. Once you get past the rumors, you open up your partnership to a whole lot of kinky fun!

3. Pick the Right Setting - Where Do You Intend On Exploring?

For BDSM play, the right setting is the safest and most comfortable setting. While some fantasies might verge into public masturbation or outdoor play, the best place to experiment is in the safety and comfort of a bedroom, or in a dungeon under the mentoring of a dominatrix.

Safety and consent is the rule for any type of BDSM play, so making sure you are in a familiar space with easy access to first aid or aftercare comforts is paramount to making the experience as safe and pleasant as it is pleasurable.

4. Shopping for Your Dungeon

Now, as we've mentioned, your "dungeon" doesn't need to be a literal dungeon, but merely the location where your BDSM gear and, typically, the play takes place.

For safety, it is import to always default to products that are specific designed for kink and BDSM play, as these typically have built-in fail-safes to avoid any accidents or discomfort. We recommend visiting our friends over at Lux Fetish for premium bondage & BDSM accessories. Restraints such as handcuffs or silk ties should have either escape buttons or be fragile enough that, if you actually try, you can free yourself. The same goes for any floggers or whips as the type generally found in the barnyard are not designed for human skin.

BDSM Sex Toys

Apart from obvious BDSM toys, more traditional toys, such as a wand sex toy, can be used in your BDSM play as well and are fantastically tantalizing options for edging and tickling. Depending on your or your partner's preferences, getting fully filled with a weighted butt plug or tickled with a mini vibe can activate your fantasy for submission.

5. Safety and Aftercare

Anytime something isn't working in a fun way, anytime it feels too much, or unsafe, remove it. This does require all the partners to communicate clearly in ways that work for everyone. This might be via safe words or safe signals. Auntie Midori has a fantastic video on safe words and symbols for optimizing safety during BDSM play.

You should also be sure only to use items that are designed for BDSM experiences during any type of torture or pain play. Using real or items not specifically designed for BDSM play, such as real handcuffs, bull-whips, or restraint devices that have no built-in failsafe is an instant negatory.

Should injury arise, or when it's not fun anymore, the scene is over, whether or not you've done the things you planned.

Once your play is over, you should always engage in meaningful aftercare with your partner. This is the part where you can break down what felt good, and what felt bad, and make sure that everyone is feeling well with no boundaries being crossed and that no actual injuries were induced.

Aftercare can be a conversation, but can also be meaningful physical contact, embracing, or caressing to ensure safety and comfort are in place before fully leaving the experience. This is also a major time to express what areas could be pushed further in future play, or if future BDSM experiences should be further explored at all.

Different Types of BDSM

1. Impact Play

A popular part of BDSM is impact play, which is a fancy term for spanking and slapping.

Impact play can be dialed down or turned up depending on what feels good. There's a reason spanking feels good, besides making you feel like a naughty school kid. When you smack or spank any part of your body, whether lightly or with force, blood rises to the skin's surface, which then intensifies any sort of touch applied afterward.

To test this fun little theory, give yourself a light (or hard, if you prefer) smack on your arm or leg a couple of times, allow the blood to flow into the area, and then use something tactile, like a feather or a hairbrush, to drag over the engorged area. It feels pretty amazing and sensitive, doesn't it? If you're not a huge fan of typical spanking fantasies, you can still use this aspect of BDSM play to add another dimension to your sexual sensations.

2. Power Exchange

Power exchange is the consensual use of different levels of power. One of the most common power exchange scenarios comes under the label of domination and submission (the DS of BSDM). This does not mean that the dominant person delivers whatever they want to the submissive person. In fact, the one "giving up power" does so in exchange for pleasure (however they define it) and actually controls the prearranged play session, or "scene." Clear communication is paramount in order to discuss what is and is not permissible. In safe, consensual scenes, the submissive will have a safe word and/ or gesture to warn the dominant when the play is eliciting unacceptable sensations and needs to stop.

Power exchange in BDSM usually refers to two roles being played in a kinky session - a role that's submissive, and another that is dominant.

3. Edging

One suggestion would be to use a blindfold for the receiver (for the rest of this article, the receiver is in the submissive role, and the giver is in the dominant role). The giver then stimulates the receiver's body with Le Wand, gradually building erotic tension to the point where orgasm is imminent, then backing off. This is known as edging.

Depending on the agreement, the receiver may be required to beg for release, or may be instructed to remain quiet and await permission to orgasm. Sometimes orgasm will be denied altogether.

4. Forced Orgasm

Forced orgasm is when the receiver is trying not to orgasm while being stimulated by the giver. Typically, the receiver is bound while the giver either personally uses Le Wand to deliver the erotic stimulation, or the wand is secured in such a fashion that the receiver cannot move away from it. Le Wand is exceptional for this activity since its strong vibration encourages explosive orgasms and the inability to move away from the stimulation results in highly intense sensations. Keep in mind, though, that the receiver has consented to certain actions before the play begins, and can stop the activity at any time.

5. Bondage and Restraint

The B stands for Bondage, and it plays an undeniably huge role in most lifestylers' playbooks. Bondage can range from a loosely-wrapped tie around the wrists to those gorgeously intricate Shibari rope designs that you might have seen on the internet.

A popular part of BDSM is impact play, which is a fancy term for spanking and slapping. If you're new to bondage, start simple with silk ties, easy-release handcuffs, or super-soft rope. If you're both dying for more and want to make art with your rope work, get in touch with a professional rigger -- a person who has had years of experience in safely tying and binding with a working knowledge of how anatomy plays into the whole thing.

If done incorrectly, super tight or otherwise, body-bending bondage can cause serious injury and long-term nerve damage. We recommend staying away from the rougher stuff until you really know what you're doing and have been supervised by a pro.

6. Predicament Bondage

Predicament Bondage is when a partner's mobility is limited or controlled through intentionally setting up a situation of conflicting desires.

Sometimes people will describe predicament bondage as being stuck between a rock and a hard place or stuck between two unpleasant options. This isn't exactly so. If all the options were disagreeable, there wouldn't be much of a motivation to play. Playing is a keyword here, as this is all about setting up a sexy bondage game of body, wits, desire, and above all, fun.

Whether giving or receiving, people who enjoy Predicament Bondage are often creative folks who enjoy playing games with others. They are often folks who enjoy making and solving puzzles. Oftentimes, they also enjoy pushing their own capability and thrill in taking on challenges with reward and consequence.

Reward means getting something yummy and desirable. It could be something directly erotic or sexual, but it might also be other pleasures such as your partner's favorite delicious donut hanging from a string.

The Reward could also mean affirmation and celebration from one's partner. It might also be granted something they really want for completing a challenging game.

Consequence means a penalty or something opposite of yummy. Make sure that these are not detrimental to body or spirit, keeping these in the realm of fun game design. The game should be designed around you and your partner's physical capability and not beyond that. If there were injuries or bodily limits that made the position harmful the scene would not go well, nor would it be good predicament design. For every person's bodily configuration and limitations, there are excellent and realistic predicament designs to provide wonderful potential rewards and consequences.

The whole point of BDSM is about fun for everyone. If one person is no longer having fun, it's time to move on, change elements, or just stop the scene. Every erotic or sexual encounter is an experiment in pleasure, especially with Predicament Bondage. Sometimes things don't work out as planned. Sometimes it works out even better and at other times, not. Be a good sport, loving and kind to each other in your pleasure experiments and devious games.

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