KinksSex & SexualitySunday School

Sunday School: On Kink for Beginners

I’ve recently become interested in exploring BDSM. My partner is somewhat kinky, and I think he’d be into experimenting, too. What resources can you recommend for BDSM beginners to learn more about getting started? Do you have any suggestions for starter “equipment” one can buy on a budget? –Newbie


But before you get excited about any of the stuff I’m about to point you to, you really, really should talk to your partner first and make sure that the two of you are on the same page about “experimenting,” and not just in general terms. There is a lot of stuff under the kink umbrella, and when you ask “Hey, want to try some of this stuff out?” you need to make sure that the “stuff” you’re thinking about is the same “stuff” he’s willing to try.

Find out if there is a play group in your area that holds public events. Here is one directory of groups (also useful: a list of venues and play spaces), and you can also join Fetlife as a couple to search for events in your area. If you’re unwilling or unable to explore things with the local scene, get your hands on some quality porn ( is pretty much the gold standard) and watch it together.

The goal here is not so much to look to other people for ideas as it is to give both of you a more concrete idea of what’s involved on both sides of what you’re interested in. If you’re into receiving pain, for instance, that doesn’t mean that your partner will be willing or able to inflict it in every one of the myriad of delicious ways your lizard brain craves. Gathering information together can help you figure out how your kinks overlap.

Without knowing precisely what you want to do, it’s difficult to point you towards any specific resources, but here are some good general tips before you get started.

1. Decide on a safe word, and understand that it’s inviolable when either of you says it, regardless of who’s topping or who’s tied up. Pick something that both of you can remember easily, and something distinct that doesn’t sound like any word you normally are inclined to use during sexytimes. (Mine is “daffodil.”)

2. If you’re interested in rope bondage, get and memorize a good book of knots. This is a nice place to start. Buy a seatbelt cutter or a pair of shears with blunted tips, so that you can get rid of ropes in a hurry if necessary. A pair of long gloves are good for preventing rope burn on wrists.

3. Speaking of rope: get it at a hardware store, not an adult toy store. Generally speaking you want something lightweight, flexible, and soft; make sure that your shears or cutter can slice through it easily.

4. There are a pretty dizzying variety of props for impact play, but do not ever hit your partner with anything you haven’t examined thoroughly for rough or sharp edges and tested on yourself. A couple of good thwacks to your own arm or thigh will give you a much better idea of how to use a crop, paddle, or cane than any number of practice swings through the air.

5. If you are going to use gags, make sure before the clothes come off that the gagged person can either safeword intelligibly through it, or decide on an alternate safe action–dropping a set of keys or other similarly jangly object is pretty common.

Any kinksters in the commentariat who have some good suggestions for resources, please share! I consider myself a woman of the world in this arena, but there’s still a lot of stuff that I don’t really know enough to be comfortable giving advice. Maybe your area of expertise is exactly what Newbie and his partner want to try!

If you would like to submit a question to Sunday School, please use our contact form. We won’t publish your real name (unless you want us to), and creative pseudonyms get bonus points!

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Rachel is a queer lady from Texas who currently resides in southeastern Wisconsin. She studied history at Texas A&M University and has spent more time than she cares to admit arguing social justice with junior Republicans. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood and enjoys knitting, media criticism, and comic book slash fiction.


  1. March 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm —

    I disagree slightly on the point about memorizing a book of knots: while you certainly can, you can do a lot of rope bondage with surprisingly few knots and many knots that are useful in other contexts aren’t useful (and can even be dangerous) for bondage. I’d recommend picking up a book like “Showing You The Ropes” by the Two Knotty Boys, which is specific to rope bondage, instead of a more general book on knots like Budworth’s.

    I think the rest of your advice is spot on, though!

    • March 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm —

      Showing You the Ropes has an excellent reputation, and probably Newbie can’t go wrong picking it up. I learned my tying when I learned to sail as a kid, though, so that’s what I think of first. 🙂 One of the things I like about Budworth’s is that it tells you when not to use certain knots, and it has good advice on untying and untangling, too. Plus it’s safer to read in public, if that’s a concern!

      • March 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm —

        Good points! And yeah, there certainly are plenty of different ways to learn knots… I know a ridiculous number of people in the rope bondage community who were once Boy Scouts and learned there, for example! 🙂

  2. March 5, 2012 at 12:19 am —

    I wouldn’t agree so much with buying rope from a hardware store. Rope can vary a lot and you don’t want to accidentally wind up buying the wrong sort. It may cost more but you can at least be reasonably certain that the stuff you’re getting from the sex shop is the real deal. People spend good money on silicone dildos and well constructed restraints, I really don’t think rope is a good place to start cutting corners.

    The rest is pretty good advice, as far as safewords go, we use the traffic light system. If one of us calls “Red” it means stop absolutely everything right now, this isn’t working and “yellow” means let’s pause for a second, something isn’t quite right, my shoulders are getting sore, let’s rearrange, or something similar. It allows for slight breaks and communication without grinding the entire scene to a halt and for a differentiation between slight discomfort and incredible feelings of terror (though with practice they’re pretty rare). There is also a “green” which can be used if the top wants to check in with the bottom, but it feels really forced to me, so we never use it.

    Communication is a massive part of the whole thing, you shouldn’t be afraid to describe what it is that you’re after. You may not know specifically what you’re after, but even trying to describe how you feel is helpful. One of the best kink blogs I read is you’ll really want to take a look through it.

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