BDSM is so vast it can feel overwhelming to beginners. It’s also important to avoid doing BDSM when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as this can impede your ability to give or take consent.

A good way to begin is by trying out blindfolded sensation play. This involves lightly restraining your partner, blindfolding them and then using various objects to tease them into orgasm.

1. Know Yourself

If you’re new to BDSM, it’s important to know yourself and what kind of play interests you. Filling out a want, will and won’t list can be helpful. Also, researching safety practices and learning about the different types of kink can be helpful.

You should figure out whether you identify as a Dominant (playing dominance with another person), a sub (playing submission to someone else) or a masochist (enjoying pain). This is not necessarily a definitive statement for the rest of your life, but it’s important to decide which of these roles feels like the right fit for you.

You should also decide if you’re into flogging, spanking, tying up, oral sex and/or bondage. Knowing your kink and what kind of sex you enjoy will help you choose toys, make a playlist for masturbation or find a partner with similar interests. It’s also important to learn about aftercare, which is a form of physical and emotional comfort between partners after an intense experience. It can involve things as simple as offering water or a snack and tending to cuts or bruises.

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2. Know Your Partner

It’s important to know your partner as you start to explore new areas of your kink. This means establishing a level of trust and communicating openly about your interests, what turns you on, what doesn’t turn you on, and any limits that may apply to BDSM activities like bondage, choking, or humiliation.

You should also discuss the role you want to play and determine if you and your partner are both into playing in the same way, or if you prefer to switch it up. You can find all kinds of things around the house to use as kinky toys, such as a wooden kitchen spoon for spanking and a pair of panties or stockings to make handcuffs.

Another good idea is to establish a safe word during BDSM play, so that you can stop the scene at any time if necessary. It’s helpful to come up with a non-sexual word that both of you will understand, such as “giraffe” or “eggplant,” or even something more subtle, such as a visual cue or a specific physical gesture.

3. Go Slow

If you’re a newbie, start slow with light BDSM. Spanking and other forms of dominance-submission roleplay can be surreally exciting, but it’s important to always remember that BDSM must be safe, sane, and consensual (or SSC). “If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being yanked around by someone else’s hands or having them put you in a position where your body can be used as a tool, don’t do it,” Jenna suggests. “You should ask yourself what it is that’s making you feel uncomfortable and try to find ways to go around it.”

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If your kink involves established power dynamics, then you may need to practice communication with your partner and discuss the boundaries of what’s going to happen, says Good Vibrations staff sexologist Carol Queen. She recommends using a safety word or a green, yellow, and red system that tells your partner when it’s time to keep going, slow down, or stop the scene altogether.

It’s also a good idea to talk about aftercare, which means what will be needed after the play session is over. This can include things like cuddles, talking about what happened, or a massage.

4. Know Your Boundaries

It’s important to have a conversation about limits with your partner. This can be a very intimate and intense conversation, but it is also important for everyone’s safety. Some BDSM activities can be extremely dangerous and/or painful. This is especially true if a person does not understand their own boundaries.

For example, someone may not realize that they are highly sensitive to pain and cannot handle even light spanking. This person should not be allowed to play with anyone who does not respect their sensitivity or safety.

It is also helpful for new BDSM enthusiasts to talk about their “hard” and “soft” boundaries. Hard boundaries are things that you will never want to do, while soft boundaries are those that can be pushed with the right partner under the right circumstances. These discussion can be very useful in establishing a relationship with someone who practices safe and consensual BDSM. You can also establish a safeword, or a word that will stop the scene immediately if either partner feels uncomfortable. This can help prevent a situation from escalating out of control.

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5. Talk Dirty

The language of BDSM can feel daunting for newcomers. But it doesn’t have to be — the words themselves can be powerfully erotic, especially when spoken in a specific tone.

Aside from sex, BDSM also encompasses play and other activities that involve pain and power. As such, it’s crucial to know your boundaries and communicate them clearly with your partner. This includes using a safe word, which should be something non-sexual that signals to your partner that you need some space.

For example, if you know that your partner likes being choked during play, it’s important to discuss that beforehand. Doing so helps prevent any uncomfortable or painful moments.

Similarly, it’s important to let your partner know whether you want them to use their feet or latex during play. Doing so can make the experience more intimate and can even build up sexual tension. BDSM can be a lot of fun and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just remember to go slow and listen to your body. You may find that you and your partner end up in a completely different place than where you started.