In the middle of a sex session, your partner starts spanking your butt. Or they capture your wrists in one hand and hold them overhead. Or you tie a scarf across their eyes and order them to lie still and await your next move. So long as you both consent, these are all forms of a type of sex play called BDSM—or bondage, dominance/discipline, sadism, and masochism.

Thanks to the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, people have a very skewed vision of what BDSM is, sex and relationship educator Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, tells Health. Rather than a kinky and shadowy sex practice, BDSM is more about mutual pleasure-focused power and/or pain exchange. It puts one person in the dominant role and the other person becomes submissive; having total control can be arousing, and having no control can be as well.

bdsm-positions

“BDSM encompasses a wide range of sexual activities, but all activities are underscored by the consent of all parties involved and can part of a healthy and pleasurable sex life,” says Dr. Jess.

The best thing about giving BDSM a try (or exploring what you already know) is that you don't need to learn a whole new set of sexual skills. “Almost any old sex position can kinked up with a prop like scarf, ice cub, a blindfold, or verbal exchange of power,” says Dr. Jess. Establish a safe word with your partner, set boundaries and limitations, and give these BDSM positions a go.

Tied to the bed missionary 

This modest missionary upgrade is the easiest way for beginners to get a taste of BDSM. Grab a scarf, then lie on your back with your arms stretched overhead. “If you have a headboard with slats or a four-poster bed, your partner can secure your hands to the bed with the scarf,” Gigi Engle, certified sex coach and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Lifetells Health. Otherwise, they can use it to tie your hands together, she says.

Make sure two or more fingers can fit between your wrists and the fabric (so the scarf isn't so tight it starts to hurt), then have your partner get on top of you, using only your body and voice to guide them. If it feels good to not have total control, keep going and enjoy the pleasure. If the idea of being tied up during sex freaks you out but you still want to sample that lack of control, keep your untied hands behind you and resist the urge to use them or even sit on them, suggests Engle.

Rough rider

This woman-on-top position kicks things up a notch in the pain department. “Fingernails, teeth, and toenails are a non-threatening way to introduce some pain and sensation play into the bedroom,” says Dr. Jess. Hop on top of your partner face to face, then get into a sexual rhythm that feels good.

As you ride, encourage your partner to run their nails up and down your inner thighs or across your breasts...or lean into them so they can nip your outer ear, nick, or nipples. Have them start off with just a slight pressure, then increase things to the point where you feel a little pain mixed in with the pleasure of getting closer to orgasm.

“Teeth and nails are great because your partner can vary the level of intensity—from barely there to deep enough to leave possessive marks on their body,” says Dr. Jess. (But if things start to hurt and you don't like it, use your safe word to stop them.)

Oral without orgasm

This oral sex position involves you partner going down on you and working you up to the precipice of a big O...then dialing things down so you don't actually climax. Also known as edging, it's a BDSM sex move requiring no sex toys or accessories and is all about teasing your partner to the brink of orgasm but denying that release, Kait Scalisi, MPH, certified sex educator and founder of Passion by Kait, tells Health.

How to start: Lie on your back or belly, if you prefer getting oral from behind, and have them go down on you. Let them know you want them to bring you to the edge but not actually climax, and enjoy submitting to their control of your pleasure. (At some point you'll need that release, but try to hold out as long as you can.)

Blind doggy

Blindfolds are the perfect BDSM prop. “The simple sensory deprivation creates a cauldron of erotic anticipation and will keep you guessing as to where your lover will plant your next kiss, lick, or spanking, says Dr. Jess, putting them in control. If you're not ready to invest in an actual blindfold, a tie, stockings, or bandana are all good substitutes.

While blindfold sex can be hot in any position, Engle recommends trying it via doggy style. Climb onto the bed, then get into position on all fours. “Your partner will be able to tease and touch you from any direction, but you won’t be able to see them coming, which adds an anticipation and a stranger-danger element to the play...which can be very exciting,” she says.

Sensation-al spooning 

"Sensation play" is about using different textures, temperatures, aromas, sounds, sights, flavors, and moisture levels to “arouse the brain and body in new ways," says Dr. Jess. The props and toys you can use vary a lot but include “anything from fur, feathers, silk, satin, and cotton balls to leather, hot wax, water, and ice cubes,” says O’Reilly. The goal is to either dominate your partner sexually by driving them wild with these new sensations...or submitting to your partner's control and the pleasure these new sensations bring to you.

After discussing props you're both okay with and taking them into the bedroom, lie on your side in the spoon position—so you won't see your partner but they have access to your front and back, depending on where they plan on teasing you. Await the sensations that are about to come, and enjoy. Whether it's an ice cube running across your nipples or feathers teasing your vulva, you'll start to feel shivery and excited. Then, turn the tables and surprise your partner with a whole different kind of sensation, and relish being dominant and in charge of their pleasure.

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