BDSM 101

We communicate every day. With our baristas, the bus driver, our partner, our friend-- we communicate what we need and want, even if it’s just requesting a nonfat latte. It’s important. Without communication, it would be like trying to operate in a strange country where you didn’t speak any of the language.

However, sometimes our wires get crossed. We think we’ve communicated what we need and the other person thinks we meant something else, or just doesn’t hear us. Operating on two separate tracks, so to speak. Communicating clearly is always important, but it is especially important in the BDSM/Kink world, and, for this article, specifically within the D/S relationship. 

No matter how you play, it preferably starts with negotiation, agreeing to wants and limits and deciding safewords. If the Dominant and Submissive don’t negotiate, it can make for a very awkward situation. The Dom can feel like he’s walking on eggshells so he doesn’t do anything that would be a hard limit for the Sub-- without knowing those, he’s at a disadvantage. On the otherhand, the overzealous Dom can get carried away, having never considered limits. In general, the chances of something going wrong is much higher. 

A checklist can work wonders, especially if the dom or sub are new, either to each other, or just in general new to BDSM. You can download ours here. Ours is not simply a yes or no checklist, but a detailed and comprehensive color coded spreadsheet, that, when filled out, will show the user’s experience, knowledge, interests, hard limits, levels of enjoyment, and identities, as well as having space for comments and questions. Not only will you learn about your play partner, but you may find you learn a lot about yourself. The hope is that the color coding allows quick analysis of a completed checklist, observing the loves and limits, but other details are also available to learn more about the specific person.

The checklist can seem overwhelming or clinical to some people, but one of its purposes is to stimulate a dialogue between play partners. Sometimes one will be too shy to speak aloud of something that they want to do/receive, specific toys they want to use, etc., but they can show it on the checklist. This one step of removal is also why using online chat or SMS to converse can often be a great way to start; many people find it much easier to say what they want online rather than in person. There are times when it isn’t practical, however, such as at a play party, when to bring out a sheaf of forms or synchronize phones is more time consuming than helpful. 

There is an art to in person negotiation. You don’t want it to take too long, but you want to make sure everybody in the scene has their interests addressed. You also don’t want to come across as creepy, such as asking about extreme acts right from the start. Evaluation of the situation at present can help the direction of the negotiation. For example, if you’re at a play party and the only furniture available is a spanking bench, that’s what you’ll be negotiating about, not the nonexistent rack or bondage table. Another consideration is that typically people in a private situation will be more intimate, i.e. sex, penetrative or oral or what have you; in contrast, people at a play party tend to be more reserved in their scenes.  

While the checklist can be helpful, safewords are more of a necessity. Safewords are words or actions/gestures that Subs use to communicate limits being reached or that they need to stop the scene altogether. This way, for instance in a rape scene, the Sub can say “no” “Stop!” but does not really mean it. Standard safewords are RED YELLOW GREEN. RED signals “stop” for real, and the full scene is stopped. YELLOW is to signal “enough!” of what is happening, and to take a break, but to still keep going. MERCY is sometimes used, which is usually the equivalent of YELLOW. GREEN is “give me more!”, but is rarely used. Between us, we think GREEN is redundant and a tad unnecessary. If asked how I’m doing, shouting GREEN is quite an unsexy way to say I’m enjoying myself.  Some people will substitute their own personal safewords, like BURRITO to substitute for RED, or any other words that will never come up in the scene. It’s a good idea for the submissive to pick it, if they’re willing, guaranteeing that they can pronounce it and it’s in their brain. In general, you want to try not to pick safewords that are too elaborate or difficult to pronounce, so that everybody in the scene can use it. 

There are times, however, when alternate means of communication are needed, such as if someone is gagged. Obviously they cannot speak, so some sort of signals should be decided upon before the scene starts. Some examples are hand signals, such as snapping fingers, deliberate opening and closing fingers, jazz hands; hum singing (something easy to remember); three grunts/mmphs in rapid succession; stomping or kicking. It’s good to have more than one, so if the sub is unable to perform one action, there is a backup. We prefer hum singing, because it’s easy to notice, and a very slim chance of being confused for a normal scene behavior. The song doesn’t matter, because just the very act of singing is so noticeable. It should be something the sub already knows, but if they can’t decide ( a common sub problem), the dom should assign them one that they know. Classic song ideas are Mary Had a Little Lamb or Happy Birthday. All suggestions aside, preferably the dom would be observant enough to intervene before the sub has to use a safeword or signal, but it’s always good to prepare for the worst.

The hope is that the information here both assists and enhances your entrance into the BDSM world. We think vanilla people would do well to consider these ideas as well. We all have our kinks and preferences, some are just more common than others. Communication is always a good idea in general!  

Checklist Links:
Google Docs - <Save a copy to edit>
Excel 2003 / File Drop - http://discerningspecialist.com/checklist/

 

 

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