Including BDSM play in relationships: getting started

You might think of BDSM as something way out on the fringes of sexuality, but, chances are, if you’ve been having sex long enough, you’ve already experimented with this type of play without realizing it. BDSM is about adding a new dimension to your sex play, and partners should always enjoy what’s happening during a BDSM session.

BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, domination, submission, and sadomasochism. BDSM is short-hand for a spectrum of sexual behaviors that emphasize eroticized power-dynamics and focus on creating body sensations.

A few vocabulary words

“Scene”

BDSM has been described as “mostly theater,” so it makes sense that a BDSM session is called a scene. The details of a particular scene depend on the desires of the participants; all scenes must be negotiated ahead of time.

“Bottom”

The role of the “bottom” is to set the boundaries and content of the scene.

“Top”

The “top” is responsible for making sure all the activities that make up a scene stay within the boundaries of the bottom. It is said that “The burden of safety is on the top.” Acting as the top requires a great deal of time, energy, and focus in order to create a scene based on the limits and desires of the bottom.

Consent in BDSM

Giving consent means that those involved freely agree to participate in a sexual scenario. Because of the nature of BDSM, a great deal of communication and negotiation needs to take place before a scene begins. Partners should communicate specific details about the type of situation they desire as well as the boundaries of play. Be sure to discuss any fears, uncertainties, and any “hard limits,” which are activities that you will not participate in.

Consent continues throughout the play

The focus on consent doesn’t end once limits are established but continues throughout the play. Tops constantly check-in with their bottoms throughout a scene by stating boundaries and seeing their bottom’s reaction, such as, “Can you take seven more for me?” Resistance can be part of the turn-on, so tops must be very attentive to indicators of limits, especially when increasing the intensity of play. If your partner starts holding his breath or tensing her body, these are indicators that your partner is not okay and it’s time to back off or stop. If there is any question about whether your partner is having difficulties stop the scene.

Safety words

Safe-words are words stated to signal a limit or to end a scene. Agree on a safe word that will not be confused as part of the action, such as stating your full name. Another popular method is using colors, such as “green” to indicate all is good, “yellow” to indicate “caution, I’m approaching my limit.” And “red” to indicate “stop.”

But what if I’m gagged?

You might be thinking, “But what do I do if I’m gagged?” If you are negotiating a scene where you won’t be able to speak, there are a number of “safe signals” that you can use. A bottom might hold a ball (or other objects) in one hand and drop the ball if a scene needs to stop, for example. Or you may choose to hold a bell and ring it to signify a limit. A hand signal can also be used as long as your scene doesn’t inhibit the use of your hands.

Alcohol and other drugs

Participants should never consume alcohol or other drugs that alter consciousness before or during BDSM. BDSM requires a great deal of trust and attention to limits. Drugs and alcohol can make it difficult to be in touch with personal boundaries and the boundaries of others. The focus and awareness it takes to communicate limits require all the facilities of everyone involved.

Setting a scene

BDSM is a type of performance art. Actors work to engage all the senses to create a psychological situation that plays with the edges of our sexuality. A scene is set up like a stage, the contents of which depend on the participants. The more senses you can engage during a scene – the smell of scented candles, the feel of the fake fur flogger – the more you will be psychologically immersed.

Costumes are crucial

Like any theater, production costumes are crucial to the performance. What self-respecting slave doesn’t wear his dog collar? The specific type of attire depends on the fantasy you’re trying to create. You and your partner can have all kinds of fun choosing from an array of stockings, heels, gloves…

Use common sense and creativity

The line can be thin between what scares us and what turns us on. In BDSM, a good top will never put a bottom in real danger. Instead, use common sense and creativity. If your partner wants to include a knife in a scene, for example, you might show your partner the knife, blindfold him or her, then use the edge of a credit card to create the feel of a blade. Or, you might use an ice cube to create the sensation of being burned by fire. Remember BDSM is about performance, not harming others.

Bondage for tops

When tying up your loved one make sure to use materials that allow for good blood circulation and don’t cause rope burn. Different materials have different burn speeds, so try out materials on yourself first. Using nylons or nylon rope is not a good idea and never use rubber bands for bondage. Check a bottom’s hands and feet throughout a scene to make sure s/he is getting good circulation. If hands or feet change color or become cold, these are indicators that circulation has been cut off and untie your partner immediately.

A word about candles wax

Burning candles are often used in scenes and sooner or later you’ll probably get the idea to drop some hot wax on your partner (be sure your partner consents to this activity). Be aware that different candles burn at different temperatures and some materials, such as bee’s wax, can actually burn the skin.  Use candles that are specifically designed to be dripped on the skin.

Ask questions and communicate

BDSM plays with our fantasies and our psychology. Ask questions and communicate the details of your desires. Take time to plan a scene. Have fun collecting your costumes and props.


This article is written by licensed urologist Dr. Lorie G Fleck who is a highly qualified specialist. If you have any questions you can ask us through the feedback form and Dr. Lorie G Fleck will answer you within a working day. We care about every patient.

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