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What is Kink and BDSM?

What is Kink and BDSM?

Let's think Kink!

So, you’ve been thinking about exploring kink practices but you’re not quite sure how to start. BDSM may seem scary at first, but rest assured, when practiced consensually and with risk awareness, it can be incorporated into sexual practices in a healthy and fun manner!

What exactly is BDSM?

BDSM is an umbrella term for a wide variety of practices that consensually play with power dynamics, sensations, and fetishes. The acronym stands for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism. It could involve role-playing and/or pain and might take place over a short period of time in a single scene or a longer-term relationship. Some practitioners have specific roles that they identify with. For example, those who enjoy receiving more power or inflicting sensation play may call themselves Dom(me)s or tops, while those who prefer relinquishing power or receiving sensation may identify as submissives or bottoms. Some prefer both depending on the scene and may call themselves switches. None of these preferences are wrong and depend entirely on individual desires.

Do some research!

There are so many different practices to try. Each are accompanied with a unique set of considerations and risks that you should be aware of before diving in. There are also some basic guidelines to keep in mind. For example, with sensation play that involves impact (e.g., spanking, flogging, caning), the body needs to be warmed up. Start slowly on meaty areas like the thighs or butt and avoid risky areas that can cause permanent damage with force like the spine, head, and kidneys. Bondage and restraint involve a different set of concerns, including nerves and circulation, all of which can be permanently damaged if practices aren’t safe. If you are interested in trying something and don’t feel practiced enough to do so safely, consider attending a workshop if available in your area. These are great places to meet like-minded kinksters and learn about fun new things to do. There are also websites and books, but these are not created equally, so be mindful of where you are obtaining your information. As with other sexual practices, porn is not typically the model you want to emulate. A great introductory resource is Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction.

Where do I start with play?

First and foremost, have a conversation with your potential play partner(s). This means articulating what you would like to do and finding a mutually agreeable course of action for your practices. Respect limits and know that kinks and desires are as different as individual personalities. Sometimes you won’t know what you like (or don’t like) until you try it and that’s okay too. Part of negotiating should be committing to “safe words” in a scene. Colour codes are easy to remember: yellow means slow down or something isn’t working, and red means stop. Consent is an ongoing process. If something isn’t working for you in any role in play, trust that you can freely communicate that during a scene. After any play, it is important to debrief with your co-player(s).


We don’t always know how our bodies and emotions will be affected by new experiences. Strong sensations can have a variety of physiological responses, but often endorphins are created as the nervous system sorts out new messages its receiving. After a scene, players may experience what is known as “drop” as a draining feeling. This can occur for anybody in the scene regardless of the role. There may also be unexpected reactions to the intimacy and vulnerabilities created by play. Be prepared with aftercare for a scene. This could be basic like cuddling or having a blanket for warmth, or more scene specific like having first aid ready for wounds that may be expected in play (e.g. skin breaks). Plan ahead in your negotiations and base all practices around strong frameworks of consent.

Now go forth kink padawan and may the force be with you—if that’s your thing.

About the writer

Morgan Oddie

Morgan (they/them) is a labour activist and academic based in Katorokwi/Kingston. While their PhD thesis was broadly on the cultural politics of kink, they are also interested in SFF fiction, working class history and politics, and revolutionary socialism. They also like to consensually beat up humans. Sometimes this happens in the MMA circuit.

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