With Fifty Shades of Grey being the best-selling paperback of all time, BDSM is the acronym on everyone’s lips right now. As I argued in my article in the November edition of Raw Attraction, Fifty Shades of Grey is not a good way for this beautiful form of sexuality to go out into the world. So I’m delighted to share my own introduction to BDSM with you, in the home that it’ll encourage you to overcome any doubts and fears you have, and take the first few steps towards your kinky desires.

Firstly, let’s get clear on what we are talking about here. BDSM is a composite acronym that stands for 6 things: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. BDSM replaced ‘SM’ as the kinky acronym of choice for two reasons: one, because it includes more the kinky stuff people like to do; and two, because it has less stigma attached to it. Given that ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ were only recently declassified as disorders in psychiatric circles, it’s not surprising that kinky folk want a different term.

BDSM is always a consensual activity. If we’re talking about acts of sadism with an unwilling victim, or bondage designed to capture a hostage or restrain a criminal, we’re not talking about BDSM. If it’s not consensual, it’s not BDSM. Simple as that.

The First Cornerstone of BDSM

Consent is the first, and most important cornerstone of BDSM. Consent is important in every area of life and in all aspects of sexuality. When we are in a space in which we are all fully consenting, we open up more and go deeper in our exchanges – whether this is a conversation between friends, sex or a business deal. This is just as true for vanilla sex as it is for BDSM; but in BDSM it becomes more important because we’re playing with darker, scarier stuff.

The Second Cornerstone of BDSM

This leads to the second cornerstone of BDSM: communication. I notice that experienced kinky players are excellent at communicating their desires and their boundaries. This is be- cause it’s really important for us to be clear about what we want when we start playing with edgy stuff. My idea of being a good sub might be to sit quietly in the corner waiting for the next instruction. Your idea might be for me to crawl around on all fours being humiliated and wiggling my arse provocatively before a room full of people. It’s not that one is better than the other – they’re both perfectly valid forms of kinky pleasure – but unless we communicate clearly about what we want, where we want to go and where we don’t, it can go wrong pretty fast.

The Third Cornerstone of BDSM

The third cornerstone of BDSM is love. I really enjoy helping people to understand this because it’s often confusing for them. The simplest way to understand it is this: what you see on the outside and what we feel on the inside are wildly different. You might see brutality, cruelty, abuse. We may feel those things, but they are cushioned by love and this makes a huge difference to how they feel. By suffusing our play with love, we transform these ‘dark’ things into something magical.

The Fourth Cornerstone of BDSM

Love is important precisely because we are playing with darker things here. It’s not that we CAN’T do this safely and consensually without love; rather that it all feels much better when we love each other while doing it. Love is the magic ingredient, that special half teaspoon that makes the whole dish tastier.

(Side note: we don’t need to be in love with someone to love them when we play together. In this case I mean love as something we share in the moment, not something that de- fines our Facebook relationship status or whom we share a mortgage with.)

The fourth cornerstone of BDSM is awareness. This is a tricky one because it means different things to different people. In this case I use it to mean remaining in touch with what’s going on for us, moment to moment, as things unfold.

Like the other cornerstones of BDSM, awareness is important in all forms of lovemaking. How many times have you suddenly lost your turn-on and carried on because you felt you should? When we remain aware and al- low ourselves to communicate honestly and openly about where we’re at, we have deeper, more intimate experiences with ourselves and with others.

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