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BDSM 101: Figuring out, and communicating, what yo...

BDSM 101: Figuring out, and communicating, what you're into

This week I’m blogging about kink up to the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yesterday focused on finding out more. Today I’m covering how to figure out, and communicate, what you’re into.

Figuring out what you’re into

There’s a sense in Fifty Shades that the kind of ‘kinky fuckery’ that Ana finds herself enjoying is fine, but that the kind of ‘real’ BDSM that Christian is after is not okay. Please put these kinds of distinctions from your mind! People are always trying to draw lines between what kinds of play are okay and what kinds aren’t. For ages it was that missionary penis-in-vagina man/woman sex was fine and nothing else was. Then it expanded a bit to any kind of sex involving genitals was okay, but other stuff wasn’t. Now, after Fifty Shades, we’re told that a bit of light spanking and fluffy handcuffs is okay but anything ‘more than that’ isn’t. All this focus on what counts as normal, right, proper sex (and what doesn’t) takes us aware from far more important questions such as what the people involved actually enjoy, and how to do it ethically.

Fifty-Shades-Grey-Trailer

So the first step is to try (as much as is actually possible) to step away from all the things you’ve learnt about ‘normal sex’ and all the pressure there is right now to have ‘amazing sex’ with all kinds of toys and techniques, and just tune in to what you’d actually like to do. Importantly that might involve bringing kink into your sex life, or kink might be something you explore without linking it to sex. Many people enjoy things like role-play, sensation-play, bondage, and impact-play without necessarily involving genitals or orgasms.

Another key thing is to remember what a big umbrella kink, or BDSM, is. People are into all different kinds of things and for all different kinds of reasons. For example you might enjoy playing with power (bossing people around, or serving someone) and never go near pain or strong sensations. Or vice versa. Or you might enjoy mixing those things together. People sometimes use D/s to refer to the more power-based forms of play, and SM for the more sensation based. Even for any one activity, people get different things out of it. So, for example, if you like the idea of hitting someone with a riding crop to humiliate them you might not fit so well with someone who wants to be hit as a form of physical endurance. Again, nobody should ever tell you that your motivations or preferences are any less valid that anyone else’s.

Research suggests that around equal proportions of people prefer being the top or dominant person, the bottom or submissive person, and switching between different positions at different times. You could think which applies best to you, as well as recognising that it often changes over time.

Communicating what you’re into

Fifty Shades isn’t a great example of how to communicate about what you want. Ana is just presented with a list of Christian’s interests and told to say which she’ll consent to and which she won’t. This means that their play is entirely based on what one of them wants rather than both of them. Also it often seems like Christian telepathically knows what will give Ana multiple orgasms with no communication whatsoever. Real people don’t work like this!

Ana

If you’re not sure what you’re into it is worth you – and the person or people you’re thinking of playing with – doing a bit of self-exploration. Check out some kinky videos, erotic fiction, or books of popular fantasies and see what piques your interest. Many people in BDSM communities suggest ‘yes, no, maybe’ checklists. These are lists of all imaginable activities which you can go through saying which you’re up for and which you aren’t. There are many versions online – here’s just one of them.

Of course these are worth revisiting from time to time because our preferences and desires often change over time, and with experience. Some people write, and update, a kind of ‘user manual’ for themselves to give partners a longer explanation of how they – and their body – works. One particularly important thing to get across is any ‘hard limits’ and ‘triggers’ you’re aware of so that partners know what they really mustn’t do or say.

Sometimes people have the idea that talking about these things is unsexy or unromantic. A good rejoinder is that non-consensual play is a lot less sexy and romantic. Also, my friend Hannah gives a great analogy:

When you choose a restaurant based on the type of cuisine you like, read the menu, discuss dish choices with your companions, ask the waiter some questions about the specials, and tell him how you like your steak, does it ruin your appetite or spoil your enjoyment of the meal?

It is worth being very cautious about playing with somebody who isn’t up for some form of communication, and it can be extremely sexy and romantic to share fantasies or plan out a scene in advance. You could even put aside an evening specifically for that purpose, with all of the delayed gratification that involves. If face-to-face is hard then writing things down (online or offline) can be easier and equally exciting (although with the proviso that online communication is not completely private).

Of course Ana has a hard job telling Christian what she wants because she has zero experience of sex or kink. It can be very hard to communicate what you’re into if you haven’t actually tried things. In such cases communication might be more a matter of letting each other know how to tell if you’re enjoying something or not. For example, are you somebody who is very noisy when enjoying things or do you go quiet?

Safewords like in Fifty Shades are obviously a good idea but ideally there should be a lot more going on than that. If you’re just starting to try out some stuff it’s worth going gently and slowly, and checking in regularly with each other how it’s going (where’s this for them on a scale of one to ten, for example). Don’t assume that the way something feels for you will be the way it feels for somebody else. People are all different and what is gentle for you may be near the limit for them. You can always try out something you’re curious about in a much more light and playful experimental context before bringing it in more seriously.

Checking in is important for everybody involved. Tops and dominants can struggle just as much as bottoms and submissives, with the added pressure that they are often the one who is expected to orchestrate or control everything.

The absolutely essential thing with all of this is to create conditions under which whatever you do is most likely to be consensual for all concerned. Whether you’re playing with an existing partner, or somebody you’ve met through kink community who has good word of mouth as a trustworthy person, the next post will cover the kinds of things you really need to consider in order for play to be consensual.

Tomorrow: Consent, consent, consent.


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    Reblogged this on Pink Therapy Blog and commented:
    Very helpful advice

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