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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Column: Tie me up

Happy UC Davis Generation Sex Week, everyone! In honor of this occasion, today is a crash course in BDSM (bondage & discipline / dominance & submission / sadism & masochism). BDSM encompasses a wider range of behaviors, lifestyles and subcultures than can fit into one column. So, we will be focusing on two aspects: Basic bondage techniques and introducing just the right amount of pain into your pleasure.

Before you begin, you and your partner should discuss what aspects of BDSM are appealing. Is it the feeling of giving up control? A specific sensation that comes from pulling against restraints or being hit? The answers will help you determine exactly what you and your partner can do to heighten the pleasure of the exchange, as well as what kinds of materials to incorporate. For example, if it’s just the idea of being spanked that appeals to you, all your partner may need to do is hit you lightly with something soft while talking about how bad you’ve been. But if what you’re after is the sting, then they are going to have to be a bit more forceful.

It’s also important to clarify any boundaries (e.g., if there are places that are not to be hit); make sure no memories of abuse will be triggered (sometimes you won’t know this until you begin, so be prepared to stop immediately), and pick a safe-word. A safe-word is very important, as it is a signal to the dominant (dom) partner that the subordinate (sub) needs the action to stop, or at least needs a break. Since some people enjoy pretending to struggle, the word “stop” is not ideal. A good safe-word is easy to say and unrelated to the exchange so that it’s not uttered accidentally. A common choice is to use colors. Yellow for “ease up” and red for “stop.” If the sub has been gagged, the dom should give them something to hold that they can drop to call “stop” (keys work well).

The most important thing to remember when engaging in a BDSM-type exchange is this: The sub is in charge. Their use/non-use of the safe-word is controlling the speed of the action. The dom should not push the sub beyond their boundaries or ignore the safe-word.

After the safety talk, it’s time to select your bondage. The recommended type is a restraint cuff or collar, since they can be easily adjusted to fit any partner and will not tighten when pulled upon so there is no risk of circulation cut-off as there is with ties or pantyhose. These types of restraints also have a loop that you can run a rope through and attach to the furniture. If you don’t have the money to spare for this type of toy, there are some cheap options that are still safe. One that is accessible at a place such as UCD is vet wrap. Just make sure you have some safety scissors nearby in case it needs to come off in a hurry.

“Wait,” I hear some of you saying. “What about fuzzy handcuffs? Surely those are the best kind of bondage?” The answer is, well, not really. Handcuffs are narrow, which puts a lot of pressure on the wrist, and they can tighten and damage the nerves and blood vessels in the hand. So, if you have other options, it’s best to use them.

Now, on to spanking. Spanking is a good way to introduce a little bit of bite to your sex life, especially if you have no BDSM experience (biting itself can also be fun, but that’s for another day). The typical target area of spanking is well-padded, so there is less chance of accidental damage. Just remember to avoid the lower back area, as you can hit the kidneys, which is bad. If you’re the spanker, it’s good to gently rub the target area to help warm it up. Begin to spank, starting with light taps and then building in intensity. Pause every so often and massage their skin, adding in a vibrator or lotion if you like.

Whether you and your partner choose to use hands or bring a toy into the mix depends on what kind of sensation you’re after. Toys generally create a more intense feeling than hands do. Paddles are a good choice for beginners because they are straightforward. Just be sure to hit with the center of the paddle, as hitting with the edge is the wrong kind of painful.

Now, go forth and have a happy, dirty, sexy Valentine’s Day.

SAM WALL is so Method that she wrote this article while wearing restraints and a blindfold. Ask her for details by contacting sewall@ucdavis.edu.


  1. Sex advice columns are a mainstay of college newspapers, and for good reason: undergraduates want and often need clear, accurate, non-judgmental information about sexual practices. Many college students have been in the dark about sex for most of their lives because of the prudishness of popular culture; the secrecy or outright prohibition of parents; the sexism, heteronormativity, neuroticism, and misinformation of teenage gossip; and the puerile or unrealistic nature of most sexually explicit material. So, young adults can either remain ashamed or ignorant of sex, fearing for their imaginary censorious mothers, or they can inform themselves and take advantage of the new found freedoms of independence. I think any healthy person past the age of consent should choose the latter and this column, which is thoughtful and well-written, is a good place to start.


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