A Beginner’s Guide to BDSM

Now, I’m not saying sex education in schools should start off with someone in a gimp costume walking through the door and slamming a ball gag on the table – far from it. Not only would that terrify adolescents, but even now, that’d be a pretty fucking sinister tone to start a lecture on.

My sex education classes were just like that clip in Mean Girls. We spent a lot of time looking at pictures of diseased penises, and I suddenly felt a lot better about all the sex I wasn’t having. Conservative Americans ought to use this method to teach celibacy – I don’t care if God tells me not to, show me a decaying cock and I’m off it for a while.

What I’m saying is, I was never explicitly taught about sex. Life does not come with instruction manuals, and while I was aware what heterosexual sex was supposed to go like due to being an avid consumer of the media, I also know how governments are run but I don’t fancy a pop at being First Minister.

During the typical discovery of your sexuality amidst your teenage years, I knew I liked more than just the vanilla stuff. This is a little weird when you can’t even find much out about the vanilla, which you at least know is “normal.” At 15 years old you can just about manage a chat about sex to your more mature pals, but when is it okay to say you want someone to sit on your face so you can’t breathe? Or, that you like being verbally told off in a demeaning way? That you think ball gags are cool? And you reckon handcuffs are nice, but let’s not forget rope?

The vanilla to me was a) handjobs, b) blowjobs, c) sex. This was ‘normal’, everything else was ‘other’. I now know that elements of the ‘other’ involve BDSM – bondage/disicpline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism.

Through a combination of discovering the internet, and me somehow meeting one or two folks open to discussing sex in a very grown up way, I slowly discovered that I wasn’t abnormal. All of a sudden people were openly talking about being spanked, licking bums, pulling hair, and being tied in ways that I never knew imagineable – and it was wonderful. And this was just the tip. People got the psychology – it wasn’t that facesitting was just a different way of performing oral sex, but there was so much power play involved!

I learned more about my interests from porn, but I know this can be dangerous. I was curious to see if I could affirm what I was interested in, and I did, but imagine what that could mean for highly impressionable people. A lot of porn is violent towards women, and a lot of what goes on is not consensual.

When it comes to BDSM, I can comfortably fit into a number of roles – something which labels me as a switch. Imagine then a video of a man violently ramming his cock down a woman’s throat, tugging her hair, and her looking up at him as if she likes it. It’s a rough scene, and with no more info than what you’re shown, a dangerous one. Impressionable folks could think that that is how women want to be treated when having sex. It isn’t.

At the same time, a submissive girl might love the hell out of that – in porn you simply do not know. In a healthy BDSM relationship, and it is a healthy community, the whole scene is talked over first and consented to. If someone is going to make you do anything, then at some point prior to that, they know it’s okay to make you do it, and there’s a safeword for if it ever becomes not okay.

50 Shades is also poisonous for what people think of BDSM. Christian Grey is a controlling character who seeks to own Anastasia, keeping tabs on her, wanting her to change her name to show she is his, and flying across the country to tell her off for not listening to him. None of that is acceptable. She wants to try his “kinky fuckery” because she wants to please him, not because she thinks she would enjoy it. He even guilt trips her for using a safeword. This is not BDSM, it is abuse.

Abuse is never tolerated – learn the rules of the community. Scenarios in BDSM are for everyone involved – the submissive might receive unfair or harsh treatment, but it’s because they’ve said aloud that they enjoy it and it’s been agreed upon. BDSM or not, you should be talking about sex with your partner anyway – this is an extension of that.

This helps you know your limits. Just because you like some S&M doesn’t mean you need to like all S&M. A girl once told me to slap her across the face, and I wasn’t into that idea at all, and that was fine. We spoke about it, I did not consent to it, so we moved on.

I have no Red Room of Pain. If my sexual partner wanted to watch TV and forcibly decided to use my mouth as a seat, she’s only allowed to pop her ass on my mouth because we’ve discussed it. If I said a safeword, she’d stop. It’s all very sensible, mature, and most of all, fun for everyone.

The acts themselves are often outside of the vanilla category, and there’s a huge amount of psychology involved that makes people feel dominant and submissive. Let me explain, using a very common fetish – feet. Fetishes don’t go hand in hand with BDSM. I personally can take or leave feet. They’re not particularly sexy or unsexy, they just exist. However if a dominant told me to kiss her feet then it’s sexy because of the psychology behind it. I tend to see fetishes and BDSM as separate, but understandably, they can overlap.

The psychology and acts of BDSM make for a wonderful sex life. In my teens, I would never admit to anyone I liked something a little different from the norm. Even now I would hesitate to reveal some details until I knew the other person was not the judgemental type. But I am comfortable with myself now, and that, when it comes to sex, is the most important part.

[Alex Caldon]

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