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BDSM Tip Sheet for Beginners

This is a copy of Lady Green and Jay Wiseman's "BDSM Tip Sheet for Beginners".

You can find this and several other informative articles by Mr. Wiseman at on this site. He is also the author of SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (Greenery Press: San Francisco,), an excellent book for those interested in BDSM.

Lady Green is the author of The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners (Greenery Press: San Francisco,.)

The following material is very closely based on the handout we give to the audience when we are invited to give an "SM For Beginners" presentation at a location such as a college campus, erotic boutique, or similar location. It assumes that the reader has some basic interest but no prior education or experience in this matter.

BDSM Tips for Beginners
by Lady Green and Jay Wiseman

NOTE: Greenery Press publishes many educational non-fiction works dealing with bdsm and other areas of sexuality. Several new titles are published each year. For more info, e-mail a catalog request to verdant@crl.com, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to

Greenery Press,
3739 Balboa # 195,
San Francisco, CA 94121
or go to http://www.greenerypress.com/

BDSM is one of several overall names given to a collection of behaviors that involve bondage, spanking, domination, and other activities that are done in a safe, consensual, non-abusive manner and in an erotic context. BDSM is a form of erotic play that involves significant physical and emotional risks, and thus requires instruction in order to do so with reasonable safety. Accordingly, we make the following recommendations for beginners. Please understand that the tips below do not provide, nor are they meant to provide, complete instruction.

  1. Do BDSM only with people you know well and are on good terms with, and when both of you are in a good mood. Trying to do it with strangers, or when either of you is tired or upset, dramatically increases the degree of risk. Avoid significant use of intoxicants. If you're not in condition to drive, you're not in condition to do BDSM.
  2. Keep "reality" out of it. Unless both of you specifically agree to it ahead of time, BDSM play is not a proper occasion to "punish" someone for a "real world" offense. Unpaid parking tickets, dirty dishes left in the sink, and so forth get handled outside the BDSM play.
  3. The more empathy you have, the better you'll be at this. If you reasonably and safely can, experience something yourself before you do it to another person.
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  5. Prepare for emergencies. Have needed supplies close by, including a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and flashlights. Take training in First Aid and CPR at least once a year.
  6. Play with a "silent alarm" in place. When you play with somebody new in private, tell a trusted friend where you'll be and who you'll be with. Make sure, diplomatically, that you tell your prospective partner ahead of time that you will be doing this, and encourage him or her to do the same.
  7. Negotiate what you'll do ahead of time. This is not the time to have a mismatch of expectations. Handle such matters as sexual behavior, safer sex precautions, type and degree of bondage, physical and emotional limits, and so forth before you play. Stay within these limits while you play. If your session goes well, there's always next time. Check in with each other afterwards, perhaps the next day. Discuss what did and what didn't work, and what you might do next time.
  8. Agree upon a safeword or two. These are special phrases used to indicate that the activity "really" needs to be slowed, changed, or stopped. Refusal to honor a safeword is very serious misconduct; it can even be a crime.
  9. It's a good idea for the dominant to "check in" with the submissive several times during the session. (Sometimes submissives find it difficult to use their safewords, even when they should.) One good non-verbal check-in is for the dominant to give the submissive's hand two light but firm squeezes. If the dominant gets two squeezes back, it means that the submissive is basically all right.
  10. Avoid toys that have sharp edges or corners. Instruments used for spanking, whipping, and so forth should be carefully rounded off.
  11. Start lightly and build slowly. A too-rapid increase in the physical or emotional intensity of the play is the direct cause of many problems.
  12. The submissive can use the "one to ten" technique to indicate they're ready to feel a paddle or whip stroke, and its intensity. "One" is a feather-light touch; "ten" is a full-power stroke.
  13. As a rule, strokes from whips and paddles are delivered to fleshy, muscled body areas such as the lower buttocks and the "lower half of the upper half" of the back. It's very dangerous to strike your partner over their kidneys, liver, spleen, or tailbone.
  14. Use only soft, plain paraffin candles for hot wax play. Harder candles, such as beeswax candles, have a melting point high enough to cause burns.
  15. Spring-loaded wooden clothespins can work well as erotic clamps on the nipples, the genitals, and other locations. Various clamps found in office supply stores can also work well. Keep in mind that clamping an area shuts off its circulation. Experts vary regarding how long clamps can be left on, but most express their opinions in terms of minutes. Clamps hurt most when coming off. Self-experimentation is recommended here.
  16. Do not attempt to do piercings or other activities that involve breaking the skin unless you have studied under, or are being supervised by, an knowledgeable individual.
  17. Bondage creates dangerous vulnerability. We recommend that you let someone tie you up, blindfold you, or gag you only after you have first done at least two successful BDSM scenes with them that involved no bondage.
  18. There is never any need to tie some part of your partner's body so tightly that it "goes to sleep." If this happens, loosen the bondage.
  19. Do not leave a bound person alone. As a general rule, stay as close to a bound person as you would to an infant left in your care. (If you gag them, stay even closer.)
  20. Another general rule is that you should be able to free a bound person within one minute of an emergency occurs, even if they have fainted. Wise BDSM players keep special "paramedic scissors" or similar items handy to help with this.
  21. We advise caution when playing with any form of self-bondage. See point # 18 above.
  22. After extensive medical consultation, we have been unable to discover any form of suffocation or strangulation play that is not unpredictably life-threatening.

Where to Learn More

There is much more to be learned. We strongly suggest that you contact your local BDSM club for further instruction. The "thrive" "LeatheronQ" areas on AOL have much to recommend them. If you have access to the internet, we recommend that you look over the soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm, soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm.femdom, and soc.sexuality.spanking newsgroups. A web search on the phrase bdsm will yield almost too much information.

The following books are some, but not all, of those that contain good introductory material regarding BDSM:

  • Learning the Ropes by Race Bannon
  • Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon
  • Sensuous Magic by Pat Califia
  • SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman
  • Safe, Sane, Consensual, and Fun by John Warren
  • Consensual Sadomasochism by William Henkin and Sybil Holiday
  • The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners by Lady Green
Greenery Press: Reading for the Sexually Adventurous

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