Photo: Ian Reid. Goddesses: Mistress Darcy and Goddess Aviva. Slaves: random white dude and Bob Revolver.

Super Beginner BDSM

If you’re sick of boring dates that end in normal sex and are ready to jettison your dating life into warp speed, take a few hours to spruce up your photo collection and read the below. You’ll be kink-functional in no time. If you’re still vanilla-leaning and want to take it slow, just hint that you’re kink-curious on OKC, Tinder or Bumble (which is great for females who like to swipe but hate being inundated with idiotic messages). If you’re ready for the deep end, then sign up for some of the kinky dating and social networking sites out there like Fetlife and Whiplr.

Take note: there are a few terms you should know before you banter. There’s no shame in being a newbie. (It’s kind of hot, actually.) But these kinky phrases will fast-track your flirting and make sure you don’t look like a vanilla dork.

Just remember the golden rule of consent. If it’s not consensual, it’s not cool! Know the difference, educate yourself, and don’t break your playthings. Above and beyond that, pretty much anything goes. There are too many online dating sites available now for anyone to feel their sexual interests are singular. You name it, someone else is into it. Best of luck to you, and if you want to explore further after reading this article check out my advice for Finding Your BDSM Soulmate.

BDSM – The most politically correct and comprehensive term for kink. B stands for bondage, D stands for discipline, and SM stands for sadism and masochism. There’s an additional acronym within the term: DS means Dominance and submission. BDSM doesn’t have to involve sex or sex acts, though it’s usually erotic in some capacity.

Consent – The permission to receive or administer some form of BDSM activity, be it physical or nonphysical. Consent just means permission. It can be accomplished with something as simple as, “is it okay if I touch you/spank you/hug you/take off your undies?” Let the person give you a verbal “yes” to be 100% safe.

Scene – An erotic BDSM exchange of some sort. It can happen in private or public, with two people or dozens, and does not need to include sex. Scenes can vary greatly in intensity and are the kink equivalent of a hook-up.

Dominant – A person in power in a BDSM context. Also called a Dom or Domme. There’s a necessary psychological control or power hierarchy involved in Domming that extends past physical activities. Sometimes used interchangeably with topping.

Submissive – A person who gives up power in a BDSM context. Also called a sub or slave. Subbing is the flip side of Domming, and there’s a necessary psychological surrender involved. Sometimes used interchangeably with bottoming.

Switch – Someone who likes to both dominate and be dominated. It literally means being able to “switch” between the two roles. You can switch with the same partner, or be a Dom/me with one person and a sub with another. Preferences can depend entirely on whom you’re with and what you’re doing.

Top – A person who enjoys the physical aspects of giving BDSM without engaging in a great deal of psychological control. You can top someone while still viewing them as an “equal” when you’re topping them. Often related to sensual, service domination, or physical sadism without the psychological control.

Bottom – A person who enjoys the physical aspects of receiving BDSM without giving over to the psychological surrender of submission. You can bottom without viewing your top as “superior,” for instance, or be solely a masochist with no psychological surrender.

Bondage – The restraint of your partner’s body in an erotic or aesthetic context. Rope, chains, tape, and leather or latex accessories are common, though any object used in a restrictive manner is technically bondage.

Discipline – The act of controlling a submissive’s behavior with rules imposed by the Dom/me and subsequent rewards and punishments when those rules are obeyed or disobeyed. It can also be a catchall term for impact play, including spanking and corporal punishment. Discipline can refer to either a psychological or physical practice of disciplining someone, or both in one.

Sadism – Deriving stimulation from giving someone physical pain. People who enjoy inflicting emotional wounds or engaging in psychological edge play are sometimes called emotional sadists. (Yes it’s a thing, and when done properly can be very hot.) Most sadists identify as dominant in some capacity.

Masochism – Receiving stimulation from feeling physical pain in an erotic context. Masochists don’t necessarily identify as subs or bottoms—some dominants are masochists as well: it can be a purely physical pleasure.

D/s – Dominance and submission, capitalization for effect. This is a kind of relationship dynamic based on a mutual agreement of power exchange. The act of submitting to another mandates a consensual participation in a hierarchy of power with (temporary) inequality at its core, for the sake of the experience. The greater the difference in power, the “greater the high” for both partners. D/s can involve physical activities, but can also be completely psychological with no physical contact.

Limit/Hard Limit – Anything you or your partner absolutely does not want to do, or an activity that, for whatever reason, you “can’t handle.” By and large, hard limits should be honored 100% and never violated. No explanations need to be given for why something is a limit: It is simply taken as fact. Dom/mes can have hard limits as well as subs.

Safeword – A word (sometimes substituted for a gesture or sound) that indicates a submissive has reached his or her limit. Dominants can safeword as well, though it is much more common for a submissive to require a safeword as they are usually on the receiving end of the activity.

Aftercare – The period after a scene in which both parties recover from the activities in the scene. Typically a submissive will need more aftercare, but a dominant can and should receive attention as needed. Aftercare can last anywhere from a few moments up to a few months, depending on the intensity of the scene.

Unicorn – Any rare combination of erotic circumstances/traits. Traditionally an unattached, attractive female sought out by a kinky couple looking for a third partner. Everyone has their own version of a unicorn based on their interests.