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If you’re keen to explore BDSM but don’t know where to start—or if you’re just curious to know exactly what people do with those feathered ticklers you see in adult stores—read on! We’re about to break it down and make BDSM something that you can easily try at home, no Christian Grey vibes necessary.


BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism

These four elements don’t always need to be incorporated into every BDSM-related activity you try—plenty of people enjoy the bondage part but not the sadism bit, for example—but they’re often put together into the broader category of BDSM.

Here’s a deeper look at each:


A word on consent…

As we’ve said so many times before, sex can’t happen without consent, and sexual activity without consent is assault. 

Consent is just as important in BDSM as it is in any other type of sexual activity. No matter what kind of activity you’re engaging in—whether it’s spanking, restraint, tickling, or anything else—everyone involved must be consenting at all times. And although it might feel counterintuitive to ask for consent if you’re in a BDSM situation because there may be a dynamic of dominance and submission, think about it this way: your partner might be submitting to you, but they’re consenting to submit. You might be whipping your partner or tying them up, but they’re consenting to you doing that. They can withdraw consent at any time, just like you can withdraw consent and say you’d like to stop spanking them or untie them and finish play for the day. Here’s a great explainer on consent within BDSM, written by someone who regularly hosts orgies—although it does carry a content warning for discussion of assault.

It’s vital to receive ongoing, enthusiastic consent during BDSM play, and here are a few popular ways to do it:


Where to begin?

If you and your partner—or partners—like the idea of playing with some different BDSM dynamics, there are a few ways you can begin.


Don’t forget the aftercare

Within BDSM, ‘aftercare’ refers to the time you spend with your partner after sex or play. If you’ve just done something particularly intense, both you and your partner might be feeling exhilarated but a bit vulnerable afterwards. This is often referred to as ‘subdrop’ or ‘domdrop’, named after the emotional ‘drop’ you might experience after submission or domination. You can counter these feelings with some aftercare, where you can debrief with your partner, snuggle and give each other physical affection, or just chill out and watch TV with some snacks. It’s bad manners to end sex by immediately rolling over and tuning out at the best of times, but particularly so after BDSM play. Use this time to be intimate with your partner, check in on them, and make sure you’re both comfortable and happy with how everything went.

To learn more about the foundations of great sex from acclaimed sex coach Georgia Grace, check out NORMAL's online video masterclass The Modern Guide to Sex.