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Sunday, September 26, 2021

In charge

There’s a book whose name I will not mention, as I’ve seen it so often that I’m tired of reading it. All I’ll say is that it’s title involves the words “50” and “Grey,” and that it involves graphic depictions of BDSM sex. Once it came out, there was a surge of interest in BDSM. Unfortunately, the book itself does a terrible job of representing what real, healthy BDSM sex looks like.

BDSM, for those of you who may not know, stands for bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism and masochism. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors and lifestyles, so giving a comprehensive how–to guide is a heavy task for a column. Instead, I want to focus on one of the aspects of BDSM that the aforementioned book really gets wrong: how to do dominance and submission in a safe and consensual way.

Today’s advice is primarily aimed at vanilla folks who have some BDSM inclinations but aren’t sure how to get started. Now, there are a few main things that need to happen before you begin your BDSM adventure. I covered some of these items in last year’s column on bondage, but they are critical enough to merit restating here.

First, the motto for BDSM is, “safe, sane and consensual.” So, if you think it’s acceptable to just pounce on your partner and restrain them (or spank them) without asking, I’m going to have to ask you to step away from the handcuffs.

The other key thing to remember is that it is the submissive (sub) partner and NOT the dominant (dom) partner who is in control of the interaction. The dom may act out the fantasy of being in charge, but it’s the sub who sets the limits of the action.

It’s good to get a sense of both you and your partner’s preferences around dominance. Are you more aroused by the idea of being controlled, or controlling someone? Does one of you have a stronger preference while the other feels like they could do either (this is referred to as being a “switch”).

After that, you need to establish some rules. Is there anything the sub absolutely does not want done to them or the dom is positively uncomfortable doing? Be as detailed and explicit as you can in communicating these boundaries.

Next, establish a safeword that the sub can use to end an interaction. Avoid words such as “no” and “stop,” especially if your fantasy involves a fake struggle. Colors work well (“green” for good and “red” for stop), as do silly words that are unlikely to come up in your fantasy such as “aardvark.” If the sub is in a position where they can’t speak (such as gagged), they need to hold something (like a bell) that they can drop or ring to signal stop.

When it comes to instigating the interaction, when you’re first starting out it’s easier if the sub makes the suggestion. Saying something along the lines of, “Honey, treat me rough right now” lets your partner know you’re ready for them to be in charge (doms, this is your cue to ask “Anything specific I should do to you?”).

If you’re learning how to be the dom, there are few tricks to help you on your way. Sometimes it is easiest to start out with text messages where you flirt with and compliment the sub, but make it very clear that they are “yours.”

In the bedroom, get bossy. Tell them exactly what you’re going to do them or what they’re going to do to you, ask them to praise you and ask them things like, “You like that?” Pay attention to your sub’s responses so that you can gauge whether you need to increase or decrease intensity. If you’re the sub, it’s important to reassure the dom that you’re enjoying yourself. Moan, lick your lips and use your words to show how much you like what’s happening.

Once you’ve had your fun, aftercare is really important. Sit in your partner’s lap, kiss them, cuddle them or whatever you need to do to express that you love/care about them. Reassure one another that you like what happened and maybe even talk about what you’ll do or not do in future interactions.

If you’re interested in learning more about BDSM, shops like Good Vibrations and Babeland carry great books on the subject. And, of course, there’s always the internet (I find fuckyeahsexeducation.tumblr.com is a great place to start). Just promise me that, whatever you do, you won’t use the adventures of Christian Grey as your guide.

SAM WALL wants you to check theaggie.org for her previous column on bondage, “Tie me up,” or email her for questions at sewall@ucdavis.edu.

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