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BDSM and Kink: What It Is and How to Safely Explore It

Thanks to mainstream media you likely have heard of BDSM or kink. Without this exposure, many people wouldn’t have been exposed to the idea of experimenting with boundaries in the bedroom.

Also, it is likely beneficial for those who experienced desires for kinkier sex at an early age to see references to BDSM and kink in movies, books, podcasts and other forms of media.

While the terms BDSM or kink may bring up visions of taboo practices that very few participate in, it is much more common than you might think. According to a 2015 Sexual Exploration Study in American, more than 22% of sexually active adults engage in role-playing and more than 20% have engaged in bondage and spanking.

Interestingly, a 1993 research study done by Janus and Janus showed 14% of men and 11% of women in the US had experienced sadomasochism. Similarly, an online survey conducted by Durex in 2005 found 10% of Americans (5% worldwide) have experienced sadomasochism.

There is also a growing body of research that shows BDSM can be beneficial in various ways.
 

 
 

What is BDSM and Kink?

Both BDSM and kink include a wide range of erotic activities consenting adults engage in to explore their sexuality and desires. Both BDSM and kink are umbrella terms. However, the term kink is a broader term in the sense that people tend to use it for a wider variety of activities, such as polyamory, swinging, voyeurism, exhibitionism and other fetishes.

BDSM stands for a sexual and/or a relationship identity in which one or more of the participants play together, typically sexually, but not always, in areas involving any or all of the following: bondage, domination, submission (D/s), sadism, masochism (SM) or authority exchange arrangements like Dominant/submissive.

These could be temporary arrangements or a lifestyle.
 
 

The Benefits of BDSM and Kink

It might be surprising to learn kinky sex can help you feel better and more mentally balanced, but it is true. Brad Sagarin, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, and his team have conducted research studies on the effects of consensual BDSM activities on its practitioners.
 

Both BDSM and kink include a wide range of erotic activities consenting adults engage in to explore their sexuality and desires.

 
Sagarin and his team collected surveys, saliva samples, and cognitive tests before and after BDSM activities. Results showed BDSM activities can result in reductions in stress, increases in intimacy and the facilitation of pleasurable altered states of consciousness.

A 2013 study conducted by Wismeijer and van Assen set out to dispel the idea that BDSM practitioners are less mentally well than the average non-BDSM practitioner.

Their results showed both dominant and submissive BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious and less rejection-sensitive than non-BDSM practicing control groups.
 

BDSM activities can result in reductions in stress, increases in intimacy and pleasurable altered states of consciousness.

 
The Wismeijer and van Assen study also showed BDSM practitioners had a higher subjective well-being compared to the control group. The researchers suggested two reasons for these results. Either people with these traits are attracted to BDSM activities or engaging in BDSM activities can help you grow and gain confidence.

A 2009 research study supported the later hypothesis. A study done by three researchers from the Science of BDSM team showed couples who engage in positive and consensual sadomasochism had lower levels of cortisol and reported greater feelings of relationship closeness after their BDSM activities.
 
 

6 Tips to Get Started with BDSM and Kink:

 

1. Keep an Open Mind

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You don’t know until you try it?” It really can be true.

While we often have a good idea of what we like and don’t like, there are times when we are wrong. This isn’t to say you should say “yes” to every kinky thing you have the opportunity to try, but keep an open mind and pause and truly consider something before saying “no”.

Also, be careful to not “yuck someone’s yum.” Meaning, if your partner asks you to tie them up and spank them hard on their ass, don’t respond with “No way, that’s gross, you weirdo!” Just because it isn’t one of your fetishes or desires, doesn’t mean it is weird, wrong or gross. It simply isn’t your cup of tea.
 

 
 

2. Communication

Open and honest communication is the key to a healthy relationship. It is vital when you and your partner are exploring BDSM and/or kinky sex. It can be intimidating and embarrassing to share your kinky desires, but being vulnerable will help build trust and intimacy.

It is important to talk about boundaries and hard limits when it comes to BDSM. You want to ensure your partner knows what is ok and what isn’t before you begin because this is when your mind is clear. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of things.

10 Practical Tips to Express Your Sexual Desires to Your Partner
 

3. Consent

It is vital you obtain enthusiastic consent before engaging in any sort of BDSM or kink. Planned Parenthood has developed an acronym to help make obtaining consent clear and easy. Their saying is consent is easy at FRIES:

  • Freely Given – Consenting to sexual activity is YOUR choice to make without pressure, manipulation or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Reversible – Consent can be withdrawn at ANY time. It doesn’t matter if you’re already naked or if you’ve had sex with this person before. You can always withdraw your consent
  • Informed – Consent is only consent if the person giving their consent has all the information. A good example is, if your partner says they will use a condom and then they don’t. This isn’t full consent
  • Enthusiastic – You should only engage in sexual activities you WANT to participate in. Avoid feeling pressured to say “yes” to something your partner wants when you don’t want it
  • Specific – Saying “yes” to getting spanked does not equate to consent for sexual touching. Be very specific to what you’re asking consent for and giving consent to

Let’s Talk Sexual Consent: Here’s What You Need to Know
 

4. Safeword

A safeword is a a pre-determined code word used to indicate that BDSM activity or sex needs to slow down, change or stop. Your safeword should be a word that would never naturally come in during sex or BDSM activities.
 

It is important to talk about boundaries and hard limits when it comes to BDSM.

 
For example, my safeword is “purple.” It is my favorite color and, thus, a word I won’t easily forget but also a word that isn’t likely to come up during sex, spanking or other BDSM activities.
 

5. Aftercare

Aftercare is a post-BDSM activity check-in between partners. During aftercare, partners give each other time and attention to make sure everyone is feeling safe, comfortable and secure. Aftercare can and will look different for everyone. There isn’t a “right way” to do aftercare.
 

When it comes to BDSM and kink, there isn’t a right way or wrong way (other than with consent) to do things.

 
Some will need to be cuddled, talked to softly and be in a warm and cozy space. Others may need food and a casual chat. The bottom line: aftercare is a time for each person to check-in with the other and have their needs and desires met.
 

6. Community

When you’re first starting to explore the world of BDSM and kink it can feel overwhelming and intimidating. It can be incredibly helpful to find and join a community of people who are exploring these things too. Talking with others who have been through, or are going through, what you’re going navigating can help you to learn, grow and feel less isolated.
 

Engaging in BDSM activities can help you grow and gain confidence.

 
I recommend searching clubs and organizations in your area that focus on BDSM support and education. Many local organizations offer classes and support groups to help newcomers safely explore this lifestyle choice. Continue reading below for more information on resources that can help you find your community.
 
 

Resources to Support Your BDSM and Kink Journey

Exploring BDSM and kink can feel intimidating and overwhelming at first. Fear not! There are lots of resources available to help you navigate this journey in a safe and supported fashion.
 

Couples reported greater feelings of relationship closeness after their BDSM activities.

 

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is a non-profit organization that focuses on creating a political, legal and social environment in the U.S. that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions.

It is their goal to advance the rights of, and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing and Polyamory Communities. They do so by offering direct services, education, advocacy and outreach. Their website has a wealth of resources available to all.
 

Books

There are a huge number of books on BDSM and kink. The four books listed below are the best place for someone who is brand new to BDSM and kink to read.

 

Podcasts

Just as there are a lot of BDSM books available, there are also many BDSM and kink focused podcasts. Below are my favorites for those new to the lifestyle. Each of them focus on not only entertaining but also educating.

  • The Rocket Review
  • KinkyCast
  • Erotic Awakening Podcast
  • Off the Cuffs: A Kink and BDSM Podcast
  • Kinkyboys Podcast

 
 

Remember, There Is No One Way to Do BDSM and Kink

When you begin to explore new territory, it can be easy to feel like you must do it the “right way”. When it comes to BDSM and kink, there isn’t a right way or wrong way (other than with consent) to do things. It is right if it feels good to you and your partner enjoy it. If it doesn’t feel good and you don’t enjoy it, then don’t do it.

You and your partner are the only ones who need to approve of what aspects of BDSM and kink you bring into your relationship and the aspects you don’t. It doesn’t matter if others think the way you do things is weird. If wearing a pair of underwear on your head is your kink, so be it! Run wild with a pair of underwear on your head.

Have fun and be safe.

This article has been read 1K+ times. Feelin’ the love!

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Elisha Thompson

Elisha Thompson is a yogi, an academic, and an author. She is a registered yoga teacher with 400 hours of training. Aside from yoga, Elisha’s greatest passion is writing. Her new book, Yoga for Kink, will be published this year. In her spare time, she loves to travel, spend time with loved ones, eat good food, and cuddle with unicorns.

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