Bondage 101 (Part 1)

Q: I’d personally love a good 101 type article on light bondage. Toys, where to start, how to set boundaries, that sort of thing.

A: This is one of our favorite subjects, and we’re so excited about it that we’re going to make this a two-part series. This week we’ll talk about boundaries, communication, and figuring out what you want, and next week we’ll focus on all the accessories that will help you explore your new interests.So, what exactly are you interested in? Before you can begin discussing your desires and boundaries with your partner, you need to have some idea of what those desires are and what you hope you and your partner can do together. You don’t need to have a definitive list of activities to try – your interests can and most likely will change the more you get into BDSM, if you do – but it’s helpful to start by considering generally what sorts of acts and scenarios you are curious about. Do you want your partner to tie you up? Do you want to handcuff your partner to the bed? (Or both?) What do you fantasize about doing or having done to you? Do you want to have sex like you usually do, with the only difference being that one of you is restrained in some way? Are you interested in giving and/or receiving pain? Or in dominance and submission? Do you want to roleplay different scenarios or stick to being the two of you? All of these things certainly don’t have to go along with bondage but they often do, and if this is completely new territory for both you and your partner, it might be helpful for you both to have a general idea of what you’re interested in trying and what appeals to you. And if you have any more specific fantasies, by all means share those, too.

Your interest in bondage may be somewhat apparent in the ways that you and your partner have sex – if you love to be held down, for example, it probably won’t come as a surprise to your partner that other ways of being restrained appeal to you too – but if you don’t really have sex that gets into kinky territory, how do you bring it up? You might mention it when the two of you are snuggling in bed, the same way you’d mention any other sex-related idea or preference. “So I’ve been thinking…” If your partner doesn’t immediately get enthusiastic about it, don’t be discouraged and don’t take that as either rejection or judgment; we’ve mentioned this in past columns, but when paperispatient and future Mr. got together, he had much more experience with BDSM than she did, and although she was very excited to begin trying new things, she was also a little intimidated and needed some time to work up to and really embrace certain things.

The very first step in actually incorporating any aspects of BDSM into your bedroom activities is choosing a safeword. You’ll want to pick one that you’ll both remember easily, but that you won’t accidentally say when you don’t need it. (Huge nerds that we are, we initially considered “library” as our safeword before realizing that, with the kinds of scenarios we like to play out, it’s likely to come up inadvertently when one of us is, say, a stern and sexy librarian looking for creative ways to punish the other for overdue fees.) For many couples, a simple “no,” “ow,” or “stop” will suffice when something goes too far, but if you’re interested in really exploring your limits with regards to pain, restraint, or domination, you might want the action or scenario to continue even after such words are uttered. Some people like to use different “levels” of safewords – red, yellow, and green (think traffic lights) are common – to let their partners know their relative level of comfort. And depending on what activities are going to be taking place, you may need different ways to express your safeword – hand signals or other gestures will obviously be needed if you’re playing with gags, masks, or anything that might muffle or obstruct speech, and some people even hold onto a bouncy ball or bell to ensure their safety while being choked. Once the safeword/signal has been agreed upon, you are both under an obligation to respect each other’s use of it – uttering your safeword constitutes an immediate withdrawal of consent for whatever activity is taking place. You may never need to use it, but you need to have it at your disposal just in case.

Something else that might help you with communication and setting boundaries is a checklist. You can find them on various BDSM-related websites, and they offer a handy way to show your partner what your limits and interests are. The ones we’ve linked you to are pretty long and likely offer a lot more than you may be interested in right now, but you could take the parts that do interest you or use them as a general guide to inspire discussion of your hard limits (absolutely positively not interested in) and soft limits (not interested in right now but open to that possibly changing) and what you’re curious in doing and having done to you.

Another thing that has worked really well for us when trying something new is showing each other exactly what we want before we do it during sex. When paperispatient wanted future Mr. to be a little rougher and push her around more, she showed him the kinds of things she wanted him to do, and he felt more confident when it came to doing it himself later. You can show your partner how you want to be held down, how you imagine pinning them up against a wall, how hard you want your hair pulled, whatever tickles your fancy.

Finally, we want to recommend a couple books. The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy are really great resources; they discuss roles, ethics, safety, emotions, and toys in a very accessible and conversational way. You might know beyond a doubt whether you’re a top (generally, the person in charge or taking most of the action) or a bottom (generally, the person in the receiving role) or a switch (someone who enjoys both topping and bottoming), but if you’re unsure or if you’re just curious, having a look at both books could be very helpful.

Next week, we’ll get into the really fun details – what kinds of toys and accessories can you use for bondage? What safety concerns should you keep in mind? (Okay, maybe that’s not all that fun, but it’s important.) And what kinds of things can you actually do once you or your partner are bound to the bed and ready to go?

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Got a ques­tion you’d like us to dis­cuss, myth you’d like us to bust, or general topic you’d like us to talk about? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com, and we’ve also set up a Tum­blr for the sole pur­pose of receiv­ing com­pletely anony­mous ques­tions at paperispatientsexqanda.tumblr.com.

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paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

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