BDSM: Scary or Super-Hot? What You Need to Know

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4 Little Letters. Compelling possibilities. 

  

BDSM can bring to mind a lot of feelings. For some, it can seem intimidating. For others, thrilling anticipation. 

  

So, what does BDSM stand for?

BDSM is an acronym that stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism. Others adhere to bondage, discipline, submission, masochism. However you define those four letters, it encompasses physical and psychological sexual power and role play activities between consensual partners.

  

BDSM can cover a wide range of activities. On the mild side, BDSM can include tickling, blindfolds, silky restraints—all involving no pain, discomfort, or force. This is the gentle, playful side of BDSM that many beginners start with. 

  

At the other end of the BDSM spectrum, activities can include whipping, hot wax, verbal demands, pain, domination, and testing personal boundaries. Because of what can be the extreme nature of BDSM activities, communication between partners is very important. Also important, both partners need to have the ability to consensually choose to participate in these activities of their own free will. 

 

Is BDSM for Me? 

No one can tell you if BDSM is right for you, since it’s a personal decision, but here is some information to help you with your decision. 

 

#1 – People are Naturally Drawn to BDSM

According to research by the Institute of Clinical Sexology of Rome, BDSM is a healthy expression of sexuality and many practitioners consider themselves traditional. Their study found that many people want to explore sexual boundaries and are curious about the liberating aspects of BDSM.

 

 

#2 – Some BDSM Fans are Seeking More Intense Sexual Experiences

As with anything in life, our tastes and preferences change and evolve throughout our lifetimes. Often, we require more exciting stimulation in order to fulfill our sexual desires. 

 

What fulfilled our fantasies in our 20s, may not complete our sexual cravings in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. And this is natural. 

 

#3 – Is it Normal to be Interested in BDSM?

Normal is dependent on your views. Normal is defined as conforming to a certain way of doing something. For many, as an example, the missionary sex position is normal. For others, it’s boring. 

 

Normal can also mean a large number of people are doing that particular activity, which makes it more common—i.e., considered “normal”. 

  

According to a survey on BDSM participation, 36 percent of adults regularly use BDSM accoutrements. These could be masks, blindfolds, and restraints. And from the people I've spoken with, BDSM is a popular activity. 

  

Where Should I Start?

You’ve made the decision to dip your toe into BDSM. So, how should you begin?

 

Here again, this is a personal choice, but allow me to share some information that may give you an idea of what to try first (or next). 

 

Find Inspiration

Look to movies, such as 50 Shades of Grey or Secretary for inspiration. 

 

Do Your Research

Consider reading up on the subject. Seek out books, such as BDSM Basics for Beginners, to find out best practices. 

 

Start Slow

It not suggested to run out and buy a dominatrix outfit or build your own St. Andrew Cross. Start slow and give you and your partner time to learn personal preferences. 

 

Talk to Your Partner

BDSM is very much a partnered activity. This means it’s important to set boundaries with your lover. When you agree to spanking, be specific about it to the degree of heft that will be used and if a hand, paddle or flogger will be delivering the spanks. 

  

Do I need a Safe Word? 

That depends. 

 

Consent plays a big part in BDSM. Many BDSM activities are called “Scenes”. This is where the activity is negotiated between partners before the scene takes place. Negotiating the scene is when you let your partner know your limits—such as breathable ball gags only or floggers are okay but no canes. 

 

But, a key element in BDSM is also feeling safe with your partner. For that reason, it may be a good idea to make sure that you have an agreed upon safe word in place. 

 

Do not use words that could be misunderstood, such as “no” or “stop”. Use a distinctive word that you wouldn’t normally use in conversation or use the traffic light system, where green makes go, yellow means pause or proceed with caution, and red means full stop. 

 


What Every BDSM Beginner Should Keep in Mind

You’ve established what BDSM activity you would like to try, you’ve discussed expectations with your partner, and now it’s over and you’re feeling a mixed bag of emotions. 


Was it everything you had hoped for? Do you feel guilty for liking it too much? Or are you disappointed for not enjoying it more? Was it strangely pleasurable and you aren’t sure how you feel?


BDSM can bring out new, unique feelings, so it’s understandable that you may be processing quite a few emotions. 

 

First, of all, remember that aftercare is important. Reconnect with your lover and make time to cuddle and share your thoughts. Discuss the experience for both of you and how it can be improved next time—if there is a next time. And talk about what else you may like to try. 


Make BDSM a bonding experience for both of you. Allow each other to feel secure, so you can safely explore and share your feelings. 

 

BDSM can be beneficial for opening up avenues of intimate communication. 

 

One last thought to keep in mind, be willing to explore. Whether it’s handcuffs that are metal or fur, floggers that are rough or soft, the world is filled with plenty of BDSM-inspired sexual accessories to enhance your exploration. 

 

And if you’re picking out accessories for your first foray into BDSM, check out the vast selection available on PinkCherry

 

Are you ready to try BDSM? Have you ever tried BDSM? Please send me your questions and comments. I would love to hear from you. 


Dr. Sunny does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.