Perhaps you’re happy leaving things as just that – a fantasy – or perhaps you’re prepared to take the all-important step from merely curious to actively investigating the BDSM scene.
No matter where you are on this scale of interest in all things kink, your journey begins with a first step.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind when feeling you’re ready, willing, and able to delve into exploring your kinky side.
What does it even mean to be “kinky” though?
Just for reference, I tend to use “BDSM” and “Kink,” to reflect on how practically anything beyond so-called vanilla sex can be part of the scene. Even then, the lines can be delightfully fuzzy as there are no set rules for what is or isn’t kinky.
“Fetish” is another example, as the technical term is one thing, generic use of it is quite another. The former is if something is 100% needed for sexual arousal while the latter is typically whatever anyone finds especially singularly arousing.
Dream Some Little (Hot) Dreams
It’s so important to understand the big difference between fantasies – and how it’s shown in erotic literature and porn movies – versus the realities of the BDSM world. Whilst I go into more detail about what the difference is in my piece BDSM Basics Everyone Should Know, it remains true that a fantastic way to begin your exploration is by allowing your imagination to run wild and free.
As long as it remains a steamy daydream, there’s nothing wrong with whatever gets your mind and body worked up. Nothing’s forbidden, illegal, or bad – as long as it stays in your head and doesn’t touch someone else.
After playing around with your freely wanton imagination, think about stepping back to analyze your fantasies. Think about what it is that you return to fantasise about frequently, make notes if something unexpected surprises you with its erotic potential. It might help to write things down, so you can see recurring patterns or ideas. The purpose of this is not to make yourself feel bad about your fantasies, but to work out what it is in these fantasies that you find exciting. This might hold a clue to where you could go and what you might be into when it comes to real-life interactions with other kinky people.
This may or may not take a considerable amount of time to explore and discover. When any of us unleash our sexual ids, we’re releasing a potential tidal wave of rampantly erotic images and ideas. This can be overwhelming, and has the potential to stir up distressing emotions such as shame or guilt.
The important thing is not to judge or shame yourself, either for your thoughts or for your emotions. Be patient and try to accept these moments as part of the process, and eventually you’ll be able to isolate a few common themes. A tendency towards service, a longing for adoration, a fetish or two (or twelve), a desire for intense sensations or a longing to be tied up are just a tiny selection of some of the fantastic things you may discover about yourself that you can then begin to explore. Check out this article on common kinks to help you work out what your fantasies might be telling you.
Learning and Sharing
For four little letters, standing for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism, the world of BDSM can feel knee-knocking and head-swimmingly vast. And, to be honest, it is, as it involves everything from power exchange play all the way to getting suspended from metal hooks.
It can be a lot to consider even for seasoned BDSM kinksters, making it doubly intimidating if you’re a total newbie. To try and make it slightly less overwhelming, you can start to engage with the world of BDSM a bit more via kinky books and stories. Again, whilst not everything in erotica or porn is truly representative of how BDSM functions in real life, it can help to give a greater sense of what might actually be possible. A great source of ethically-made porn is Erika Lust, who has collections of videos under titles such as fetish and role-play which are well worth checking out if you want to get a broad sample of some different kinds of kinky play.
Sure, not everything’s going to make you go “Oh, myyyy” and slap a big, goofy grin on your face. But the stuff that does is worth further investigation and may aid you in your deep dive into your erotic subconscious.
Exploring Kink With A Partner
If you’re in a relationship where communication is free and easy, and one where everyone is on board for kink investigating, mutually sharing fantasies can help. It could provide an insightful sounding board, getting you some much-needed support and encouragement. That, and hiding your sexual desires isn’t good for you or those you’re involved with. Open conversation can benefit your partner(s) too, as they are then also able to have their fantasies heard without judgment.
One of the bravest things anyone can do is speak their sexual truth, and if you want a relationship where that’s possible and even encouraged, begin by talking, talking, and more talking. But instead of dumping everything out at once, try baby steps like exchanging how you each enjoy something non-sexual the other may not know about. Then, as you get mutually comfy, you can progress to talking through small kink things – perhaps a sexy scene from a film you enjoyed – and on from there to your bigger turn-ons. When everyone feels safe opening up, and is listened to with kindness and respect, relationships are made stronger and healthier.
How Can I Start The Conversation?
Most people aren’t used to openly discussing their particular fantasies of squeezing themselves into a too-tight cheerleader’s outfit before getting whopped with a pizza peel and being forced to listen to Abba’s greatest hits – or whatever it is that stirs your cup of tea. So if, like most people, you’re wondering how to get this ball rolling, an excellent way to open a dialogue is to write down your fantasies and share them with your significant other(s).
Is this going to be easy? Not necessarily, as getting a relationship to this level of comfort requires patience, self-examination, and a lot of honest communication, not only with your partner(s) but also with yourself. It can feel scary to open up, especially to someone you love or care about, as fellow KK writer Ralph Greco Jr. discusses in his article on sharing fantasies with a lover.
Getting into BDSM is a process, so there may be times when it feels too much to handle your own kinks and feelings about them, let alone trying to understand your partner’s. And, alas, some people will react less-than-positively when you mention your sexual interests. Whatever happens, resist putting yourself down as that’ll do nothing but make trying to work through it all the more difficult. If things get highly challenging, my advice is to seek a therapist or counsellor with expertise in polyamory or kink, and until you do, strive to make an acceptable peace with your partner and never try to push the issue.
On the flip side, if your partner shares something you don’t like, unless it’s dangerous, unethical, or illegal, keep your opinions to yourself. Yes, you should be open about your feelings, but there’s a big difference between having a constructive dialogue with someone and shaming them.
It’s all-but-impossible for a couple to share precisely the same turn-ons: and for everyone to have an equal opportunity to explore them will probably require negotiation, more than a few trade-offs, and a shared commitment to making your kink and non-kink relationships work.
But, just like using your kinky dreams to understand yourself better, if and when you do get to a place of honest, open communication, you’ll probably end up looking back in wonder at how much your relationship has grown.
Embrace Your Sensual Side
To the uninitiated, BDSM may appear to be anything but sensual, with those four letters often immediately conjuring up the classic tropes from the Rihanna song about whips and chains.
But for a lot of scene folks, BDSM most assuredly is just that. There’s often something about whatever turns people on that involves how it looks, feels, tastes, sounds, and so forth.
You can explore this fundamental aspect yourself – potentially uncovering some of your kinks in the process – by indulging in some good, old-fashioned sensory hedonism.
Like chocolate? Try immersing yourself in its darkly luscious aroma, its firm yet silken texture. Take off your shoes and feel the soft textures of the carpet under your feet. Notice when you’re reading erotica or watching porn whether certain descriptions turn you on – is there something about the crack of a whip or the squelch of squashing cake that gives you shivers? By being alive to sensory information, by indulging in it, you can train your senses to be alert to pleasure at all times.
You can then translate this more directly to your kink of choice, getting your eager mitts on some wearable kit, if that’s what interests you, in addition to anything else BDSM-related you feel is particularly sensual. Investigate the appearance, textures, flavours, and noises of your newfound objects of fascination. You can do this totally on your own time or introduce pieces into play with a partner. The key is to be extra-present in your body during these explorations, to notice what effect things are having on your arousal and enjoyment.
With the barest smidgen of hyperbole, there are as many unique varieties of BDSM play as are the multiple millions of people into it. And with all these kinks, it can feel like there’s little or no room for anyone taking their first, hesitant steps into the scene.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. Every dominant, submissive, switch, fetish fan, or the rest of the blue and purple BDSM rainbow had to start somewhere. Even if your personal kink journey isn’t about becoming a flag-waving member of the community, you share with all these kinky people the same willingness to investigate what turns you on, and to open yourself up to new erotic experiences. Exploring kink is an opportunity to take a journey through your sexual fantasies, to go where you’d previously only dreamed of going.
Things might get scary now and again, and you may discover thoughts and feelings that challenge you. BDSM, kink, kinky sex – they’re not for everyone. They can bring up unexpected thoughts, disturbing fantasies, or barely-forgotten traumas. If, for whatever reason, you don’t like how things are going, there’s no shame in rethinking, taking a break, or deciding it’s not something you’d like to pursue.
Everyone should be willing and prepared to seek help, be it with mental health professionals, understanding friends, or a kind and conscientious partner.
Always practice emotional caregiving, and repeat to yourself that the pleasure is in the process. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself living in a brightly shining world of near-infinite sexual possibilities.
M. Christian (they/them) has been a writer, editor, publisher, and teacher for all things sex and kink-related for over 25 years: having written six novels, 12 collections, edited 25 anthologies, M. Christian is also a columnist for numerous publications and sites, and has lectured at various events all across the country.