Bondage & BDSM FAQs

Dominant lady carrying a whip

Bondage is only one aspect of BDSM

BDSM is an umbrella term for a variety of (often erotic) practices or roleplaying; it is an acronym representing three components:

  • BD: Bondage & Discipline (playing with physical restraints, training, punishment, etc.)

  • DS: Dominance & Submission (playing with obedience, power exchange, service, humility, etc.)

  • SM: Sadism & Masochism (playing with pain, degradation, fear, etc.)

More often than not, other 'deviant' sexual practices are also considered to be part of BDSM.

BDSM is a consensual activity respecting the fundamental rights of every human being involved; this separates it from sexual and domestic abuse.

If You're a Total BDSM Beginner...

Curious about the consensual, erotic power play of BDSM, but don't feel ready to invest in a full-scale dungeon just yet? We have good news: You can add BDSM moves to your partnered sex life without spending a mint on new accessories or mastering dozens of different rope ties.

Even in a post-Fifty Shades world, there's no shame in being new to BDSM. And while investing in kink gear and sex toys can be fun, this kind of play is ultimately about you, your partner or partners, and consensual power exchange, not capitalism. "BDSM doesn’t require any money," kink-friendly sex therapist Michael Aaron tells Allure. "Much of it is psychological, and if you are looking for impact play, many people feel like no toy beats their hands anyway, and that’s free. Likewise, various household items such as rope and clothespins can be used in scenes, and they hardly cost anything at all." (A "scene" is how people commonly refer to a period in which the kinky play goes down.) From safely restraining your partner to experimenting with role-play, here are eight ways you can explore BDSM with your partner tonight.

Talk through your interests and boundaries

When we talk about dominance and submission in BDSM, we're talking about consensual power exchange: That means that even if a submissive partner is tied up and allowing the dominant partner to dictate what happens in a scene, the terms have been discussed and agreed upon by all partners beforehand. In fact, the sub can even be thought of as the one in control, since it's the dominant partner's responsibility to always respect their limits. Before trying anything new, talk it over with your partner to make sure you're both into whatever's about to go down. You may be interested in choosing a safe word that stops play if needed. Learning your turn-ons and boundaries (and your partner's) is all part of the fun of BDSM, and discussing your encounter before it happens can be its own anticipation-building form of foreplay.

Try out some dirty talk

Are you a submissive who likes being reprimanded? Do you want to be told that you're a bad girl and that you're going to do what daddy wants? Ask your partner to talk dirty to you. Anyone can engage in dirty talk related to BDSM themes, whether you are dominant, submissive, or both (someone who plays both roles is referred to as a switch). Dirty talk allows you to express your desires. Verbal cues also help you visualize hot fantasies. Say you have a fantasy of being restrained but for now just want to hear your partner tell you about how they're going to tie you up and (consensually) use you, or you'd like to see how it feels to call them "sir." Dirty talk lets you explore fantasies before physically trying them.

Add a blindfold

Adding sensory deprivation to your sex life is an easy and tantalizing way to build tension. When you temporarily subtract stimuli from one sense, you can heighten others: For instance, when you can't see because you're wearing a blindfold, a whisper in your ear or the taste of your partner's mouth may seem all the more intense — and exciting.

If you want to buy a blindfold, start with a comfy silk one such as this satin mask. You can also use a sleeping mask or the silk tie of a bathrobe. Depending on what role you want to play, ask your partner to blindfold you or ask if you can blindfold them. Once the blindfold is on, the partner not wearing it can tease and tantalize the wearer, leaving them guessing what's coming next by kissing all over their body, whispering dirty talk into their ear, or tickling erogenous zones with a feather.

Explore orgasm control

Orgasm control, especially when done to a person with a penis, is usually referred to as "edging." This involves bringing someone nearly to orgasm and then abruptly stopping the stimulation, then repeating as desired. If you're new to orgasm control, you probably already know that delayed gratification can make the end reward that much sweeter. You don't have to have any sort of rigid edging routine to explore orgasm control: If you're the submissive partner, simply relax and give your dominant partner permission to take your orgasm into their hands. Have them use their mouth or a sex toy to bring you close to climax, stopping right beforehand. When you can't wait any longer, let them help you cross the finish line and prepare for the most intense orgasm you've had in a while.

Buy a massage candle

Candles are useful for more than just creating mood lighting. They can also be used for temperature play, or using hot and cold to provoke arousal during sexual play. (This technique can feature in both vanilla and BDSM encounters.)SKIN

In the case of candles, you can have a partner drizzle hot wax on your body, but don't just use candles you picked up from the grocery store: The wax from those can be a little too hot. Companies such as Jimmyjane make massage candles designed for sex, in erotic scents such as pear  & cedarwood and vanilla and creme de cacao. These sex-specific candles burn at lower temperatures than most conventional ones and also melt into luxurious oil that you can use for erotic massage. Since role-play, especially anything that involves power dynamics, is great BDSM fun, try role-playing as a massage therapist and client — complete with a happy ending if you so choose.

Learn the ropes

Restraint is the crux of many BDSM scene. After you and your partner discuss what activities are on the table when one of you is tied up (perhaps that's spanking, nipple biting, and oral sex are) and what's off-limits (maybe you're not too keen on spitting or face slapping), the tying can begin. There are many great books out there to teach you some basic knot-tying skills, such as The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage by Midori, but you don't have to get fancy; just make sure the knot or tie is something you can undo when you're ready. You can buy some specialty bondage rope or even use a scarf or a bathrobe tie. Pro tip: Lay whatever material you're using flat against the skin so that it doesn't bunch up and threaten to cut off circulation. If you use rope, keep some safety shears around so that if one of your knots becomes stuck, you can simply cut through the rope.

Slip on a pair of handcuffs

Handcuffs are another common restraint tool, and they tend to be quite user-friendly. While ropes are highly versatile, you don't have worry about your tying skills with handcuffs, and since you can also use cuffs to ensure the submissive partner is unable to touch themselves, they're handy for experimenting with orgasm denial. Start with some comfy Velcro cuffs, or if you want a realistic-looking pair, try these metal handcuffs from the Fifty Shades of Grey line on for size.

Play dress-up

Role-playing can help you get into a kinky mood as you take on the personas of people with power dynamics you want to explore, such as a boss and secretary or student and professor. Dressing up is a creative, liberating way to explore hidden desires, so if you're turned on by being dominant or submissive with your partner but feel a little nervous, the right outfit could help.

It can be as simple as something you already have at home, such as a tie or a plaid skirt, but sites like Lovehoney offer a dazzling range of affordable costume options. Do you want to be the patient who asks the hot doctor to examine them and test their orgasm? Have your partner throw on a stethoscope. Turned on by cheerleader role-play? Put your hair in pigtails and lean into the fantasy. Costumes help us step into the dominant or submissive roles we want to act out in bed. Even if you throw on a costume and end up having vanilla sex, who doesn't love an excuse to play dress-up as an adult?


BDSM Archetypes

Everyone is different, and finding two kinksters with the exact same preferences is probably impossible. There are however a few common 'archetypes' that people can identify with to varying degrees (from 0% to 100%). Curious to what extent each archetype suits you? Take the test! The list below is by no means complete but it should cover the most common ones.

Dominant

Dominants like to be in charge. Some like to have their partner obey them without questioning, others like some resistance while taking it their way. Some are dominant only in the bedroom, others are dominant throughout their daily life as well (usually with limitations). Unlike the top roles (giving pain/bondage/degradation), being dominant is more about who decides what happens (and takes the responsibility that comes with it) than about the contents of what happens.

Submissive

Submissives like to follow. Some like to give the control away to their partner(s), some like to have it forcibly taken from them. Some are submissive only in the bedroom, others are submissive throughout their daily life as well (usually with limitations). Unlike the bottom roles (receiving pain/bondage/degradation), being submissive is more about who decides what happens (and takes the responsibility that comes with it) than about the contents of what happens.

Sadist

Sadists enjoy inflicting (certain types of) pain on their partner(s), usually in a sexual context.

Masochist

Masochists enjoy receiving (certain types of) pain from their partner(s), usually in a sexual context. Masochism is independent of pain tolerance: it is purely about the ability to enjoy (or get aroused by) certain levels of pain.

Rigger

Riggers like to tie up and restrain their partner(s), using rope and/or other attributes (chains, cuffsspreader bars...). Whether for sexual enhancement, for art or just for fun, they enjoy having their partners completely at their mercy.

Rope bunny

Rope bunny likes to be tied up and restrained, using rope and/or other attributes (chains, cuffs, spreader bars...). Whether for sexual enhancement, for art or just for fun, they enjoy being totally at the mercy of their partner(s).

Master/Mistress

Masters/Mistresses receive complete control over the life of their slave(s), and all responsibilities that come with it. They go a step further than dominants in the sense that their power exchange is present 24/7 and in all aspects of their life (except for negotiated exceptions such as during their office jobs). Their primary focus is to create a stable and safe environment for their slave(s), to allow optimal servitude.

Slave

Slaves completely hand over the control and responsibilities over their life to their master/mistress. They go a step further than submissives in the sense that their power exchange is present 24/7 and in all aspects of their life (except for negotiated exceptions such as during their office jobs). Serving their master/mistress is their primary focus in life and they rarely have limits for them.

Degrader

Degradation givers like to degrade and humiliate their play partner(s), either by acting upon them in a degrading way, or by or by forcing them to do things they consider degrading.

Degradee

Degradation receivers like to be degraded and humiliated by their play partner(s), either by being acted upon in a degrading way, or by being forced do things they consider degrading.

Owner

Owns and takes responsibility over a pet, on a 24/7 basis. Sexuality is not necessarily involved. Often provides in animal role play attributes (e.g. puts pet in a cage) but not necessarily.

Pet

Is property of their owner in daily life. Sexuality is not necessarily involved. Often combined with some form of animal role play (puppy, kitten, etc.) but not necessarily.

Brat tamer

Brat tamers are, in essence, dominants who enjoy handling bratty submissives. They find disobedience a form of playfulness from the side of the submissive, rather than a form of rudeness. They will take no offence to it, but will still teach the sub a well deserved lesson (because, of course, that is why the bratty sub shows such behavior in the first place).

Brat

Brats are, in essence, naughty submissives. They find disobedience a form of playfulness rather than letting their dominant down, and require a compatible dominant who will not only teach them a lesson, but also accept that any number of lessons might still not necessarily change this behavior.

Primal (Hunter)

Primals are mainly focused on their natural instincts and they enjoy letting their inner animal out during sex. The key part for primals play is that the participants show their raw, emotional sexual feelings during play. All of the labels, roles, and protocols go out the window, and the prey can become a snarling, growing, clawing animal hell-bent on getting away from its predator (you).

Primal (Prey)

Primals are mainly focused on their natural instincts and they enjoy letting their inner animal out during sex. The key part for primals play is that the participants show their raw, emotional sexual feelings during play. All of the labels, roles, and protocols go out the window, and the prey (you) can become a snarling, growing, clawing animal hell-bent on getting away from its predator.

Daddy/Mommy

Daddies/Mommies take on a caretaker role in the relationship, being a guide as much a dominant. Daddies/Mommies dominate their little treasure submissives with an iron fist in a velvet glove: much cuddly and affectionate on the outside, while being as sturdy and hard on the inside as other dominants. Using subtle psychological mechanisms rather than brute power, they nurture their littles into obedience.

Boy/Girl

Littles (girls/boys) are submissive spirits that mix childlike innocence with naughty sexual curiosity. They long for a nurturing loving dominant who plays a guiding, almost parental role in their lives. While they require a softer approach to be dominated than most other submissives, their submission can go a lot deeper and sometimes rival those of slaves.

Ageplayer

Ageplayers like to play with age as part of their kink. They typically take on a much younger or older age than they actually are, or prefer playing with a partner that does so. Attributes and behavior changes (such as pacifiers, coloring books, speaking in more childlike language, etc.) are commonly paired with this, to enrich the context and make it more appropriate for the played age.

Exhibitionist

Exhibitionists enjoy showing their naked body or a sexual activity to other people. Definitions vary with respect to whether those being shown this, should be looking for such encounter or not.

Voyeur

Voyeurs enjoy watching the nakedness or sexual activity of other people. Definitions vary with respect to whether those being watched should be aware of this, or not.

Experimentalist

Experimentalists want to have tried it all. An open mind and an insatiable curiosity are their key features, and they will rarely form an opinion before they have gathered first hand experience. They often have plenty of fantasies and will actively pursue to try them out. Non-monogamist

Non-monogamists do not see sexuality as necessarily a 1 on 1 thing. Whether this means they will have several relationships or just see other people outside their relationship (or have even more exquisite constructions) depends entirely on the person and the situation, but they all have one thing in common: their sexuality is more than just between them and one fixed partner.

Switch

Switches like to... well, switch. Always taking a dominant or top position is not for them, neither is always taking a submissive or bottom position. Some prefer to switch with the same partner or partners, others have a dominant play partner and a submissive play partner, but in either case they do not fit on one end point of the spectrum.

Vanilla

Vanilla people enjoy regular, standard sex and relationship models. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you're having fun!


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