Newbie guide to BDSM (101)

The following guide is our interpretation of some aspect of the lifestyle. It is by no means the law of the land, nor are you required to follow what this guide suggests. We have explored these topics at length, talked with lots of vets in the lifestyle and have compiled what we believe is a safe and productive way to ensure your exploration in the lifestyle is a positive one.

The Terminology

These are the most popular terms that are used in this lifestyle. Hopefully, they will help you begin to understand the basic concepts.

DOMINANCE/SUBMISSIVENESS – Dominance/submissiveness is a human trait that is in every person to one degree or another. It is built into the DNA much like hair color. Every human being ever born has both of these traits in them. This is a characteristic described outside the lifestyle using terms like leader/follower, team captain/team player, etc.


VANILLA – The term vanilla is a term that was coined to mean anyone who lives outside the lifestyle. Simply put, those who do not practice the art of BDSM.


SCENE – A scene is an activity which has a definitive start and finishes time. A scene may take place anyplace at any time so long as all parties involved are in agreement. A scene generally involves a submissive surrendering themselves to a dominant for the intent on reaching subspace. Scenes may include a flogging session on a cross, needle play session, rope tying, domestic service, etc…

  • POSER ALERT – Be wary of who confuses scene play as the lifestyle! A scene is based on a limited timeframe whereas the lifestyle is 24/7 all the time.

TOP – A top is a person who is in the position of dominant during a scene only. A top may be a submissive any other time and just prefer an occasional opportunity to dominate another. The key to note about this term, however, is that it is temporary and it is for SCENE only.


BOTTOM – A bottom is a person who is in the position of submissive during a scene only. A bottom may be a dominant any other time and just prefers to submit to another every once in a while. The key to note about this term, however, is that it is temporary and it is for SCENE only.


PLAY PARTNER – This is an individual who is a regular participant of scenes with you. This person may TOP or BOTTOM you depending on the scene. The big difference between a play partner and a dom/sub is that a PP is during scenes only. Outside of the scene, they are not a partner to you at all.


LIFESTYLE – The lifestyle is a compilation of protocols, rules, practices, disciplinarian actions, and procedures which are established between a submissive and a dominant. This is far more than just scene play. This is an ongoing dynamic practice that is established between a Master and a slave. Practices include things like having a slave make the bed first thing in the morning, shave and shower daily, cooking meals, kneeling next to Master’s bed waiting for permission to enter the sheets. Rules may include requiring a personal toy bag on them at all times or calling their Master, Master or sir. The protocol could mean when a slave is in house he/she sits as Master’s feet.

  • *POSER ALERT — Anyone that considers the lifestyle to be nothing more than sessions in a dungeon or the chance to flog or whip another, is a poser. Anyone who believes all you need to know is a submissives hard limits and little more is NOT living the lifestyle, they are preparing for a scene at best. The lifestyle is 24/7, continual through a variety of means… *

DOMINANT – Within the lifestyle, a dominant is one who embraces their dominance trait and refers to the aspects of controlling a submissive, administering pain and pleasure, as well as being the person in charge. They are willing to assume responsibility for a submissive in their care and trains submissives in what they want and desire. Generally speaking, this is not a 24/7 thing, though it varies among individuals. A dominant is not gender-sensitive and may be male or female and may have a submissive who is male or female. A dominant may only desire to show this part of themselves at play parties, or only in the bedroom, etc…

  • POSER ALERT Be wary of anyone who claims to be dominant and only cares about hard limits and kinks of a submissive. A dominant is a person who wants to learn all aspects of a submissive. Consider a dominant/submissive as someone you are dating. You date before you get engaged. In this lifestyle, you must learn as much if not more about your submissive than he/she knows about you. Anyone who only cares about the hard limits and kinks, generally tend to only be interested in their own personal wants and needs and not those of the submissive. Those kinds of people are dangerous to be around and can often lead to abuse or neglect.

SUBMISSIVE – Within the lifestyle, a submissive is one who embraces the submissive trait and prefers the aspect of submitting to another. They prefer to allow another to administer pain or pleasure and are happy to follow the commands of a dominant. They find their pleasures in serving as well as bringing pleasures to a dominant. These individuals have a unique ability to go into a mode called subspace and crave and desire to be there often. This is generally a 24/7 thing, though it varies among individuals. A submissive is not gender-sensitive and may be male or female. The main difference between a submissive and a slave is a submissive has the right and duty to say no when they do not desire to perform activities. A submissive is still their own individual who may at any time tell their dominant no.


SWITCH – A switch is an individual who embraces both submissiveness and dominance. They may dominate or they submit depending on the individuals involved and the situation as required. They are individuals have learned and embraced all parts of the lifestyle.

  • POSER ALERT It has been my experience that many switches I have encountered fit into one of two categories. They either are too inexperienced to understand which side of the lifestyle they prefer or they use to title of switch as a means of protecting themselves due to some hardship they encountered in the past, such as being abused by a dominant. This is NOT to say that this is the case entirely and there are true switches out there to simply love every aspect of the life, but my experiences had shown me those are far and few in between.

MASTER/MISTRESS – The Master/Mistress (M/M) is an individual who has given a collar to a slave or slaves. They are the caregiver, the owner, the leader, the trainer, and the disciplinarian of those whoever wear there collar. This is a 24/7 obligation meaning your responsibility of the collared is always ongoing and not limited to scene play. This is a duty not to take lightly.

  • POSER ALERT anyone that calls themselves a Master or Mistress ( or variations of the word like empress ) and have no slaves collared to them, are not truly M/M. They are wannabes or posers. They are dominants. Worse than that, they could be just people looking to harm or abuse others.

SLAVE – a slave is an individual who has received a collar from a Master/Mistress. A slave has given the M/M the right to decide on almost all things for them. These things include daily tasks, domestic duties, where to work, what to wear, who they have as friends, their finances, their properties, they day to day life questions. This is a 24/7 obligation. They have given up all right to privacy, property, choices, and responsibilities to their M/M. They are still human beings subject to rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and through their slavery, they achieve it. The main difference between a slave and submissive is that a slave has given up their right to say no to their Master. The slave is obligated to do as their Master requests without question. They one tool that a slave has to use is their slave safe word.

  • POSER ALERT anyone that calls themselves a slave and has no collar are not truly slaves. They are submissives at best. Most likely they aspire to be slaves, but at the most any non-collared is submissive. Also, any person who claims they want to be a slave to complete themselves will not find what they seek here. If they are not completed prior to accepting a collar, they will never be while wearing it.

SLAVE CONTRACT — A slave contract is something that a M/M and their slave establish prior to accepting a collar. A slave contract will include topics such as what a slave may control and what an M/M controls. The areas of control should include hard and soft limits, what is expected of the slave ( domestic duties, protocols, procedures, etc ), and what is expected of the Master. This contract should be written out on paper and signed as an agreement between a slave and M/M prior to any collaring.


HARD LIMITS — Hard limits are defined as activities that a sub/slave/dom/Master/Mistress will not do under any circumstance. A few common hard limits include fecal play, urine play, bestiality, child play, incest, homosexual activities, blood play, etc… These limits are set in stone and may not be challenged by anyone else. In the event that a hard limit is violated, any individual involved could and should use the hard limit safe word.


SOFT LIMITS — Soft limits are defined as activities that a sub/slave/dom/Master/Mistress will not do under a general principle. It is something that an individual may be curious to explore in a controlled setting. A few common soft limits may include homosexual activities, knife play, blood play, needle play, forced sexual fantasies, crossdressing, etc… Anytime a soft limit is reached, any individual involved should use the soft limit safe word.


COLLAR — A collar is a physical object that is given by a Master to a slave. Usually given during a collaring ceremony, a collar indicates that a submissive has chosen to surrender completely to a M/M. A collar indicates that this slave is now the property of their Master. Contrary to popular belief, a collar may not be exclusively an item worn around the neck though generally, it is. It may also be a bracelet, a tattoo, or mark of some kind.


SUBSPACE — This term is one of the hardest things to define as there is no actual definition for it. My best explanation of subspace is a mental state in which a submissive has channeled the sensations of their body into a state of bliss. They transform pain and pleasures into form of euphoria. Many describe it as an out of body experience and once they reach it, crave for it again and again.


BONDAGE — This is a term which is a part of the lifestyle as defined by the use of restraints for the purpose of sexual gratification. This could be something as simple as a pair of handcuffs, rope, chain, leather or metal shackles. This kind of restraint may be applied to the arms and legs and even the neck. The purpose to strictly limit the movements of the person in bondage.


DOMINATION — This is a term used to define the control of another person’s actions through the use of rituals, rules, and customs. This may include subtle practices such as controlling what a person wears, what a person does, what a person eats, etc… Physical contact is NOT required and domination may happen by text, email, or phone. Domination MUST be agreed upon by both the dominator and dominated.

  • POSER ALERT — Use caution when allowing others to dominate your real-life through cyberspace. Many submissives have become victims of mental and psychological abuse as a result of this. Domination is best practiced in real life by real people, rather than a few words on a computer screen.

SADISM — Sadism is a term used to define the infliction of pain and discomfort for the end purpose of sexual gratification.

  • POSER ALERT — Bear in mind, sadism can only happen when and where a submissive allows it to happen. Sadism without permission is sexual assault… bottom line!

MASOCHISM — Masochism is a termed used to define receiving pain and discomfort for the purposes of sexual gratification. This is a NORMAL part of the human psyche to transform pain into a form of pleasure.


BDSM — BDSM is the combination of four various parts of the lifestyle to include bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism.


** HARD LIMITS ** — This is an absolute no go limitation that either you or your partner have in the lifestyle. Some common hard limits include children, animals, excrement, blood, and non-consensual activities. HARD LIMITS should always be associated with a SAFE word or action of some kind, even if it is never used.

  • POSER ALERT — Anyone who ignores an established HARD LIMIT Safe Word is breaking a cardinal rule of the lifestyle! At that moment, the consensual play has stopped and it has become a sexual assault. If you don’t believe a person will abide with your safe words, DO NOT PLAY WITH THAT PERSON!!!

** SOFT LIMITS ** — A soft limit is an area of the lifestyle in which one or both of you wish to explore under controlled conditions. It is an area in which you desire to learn more about under safe conditions. For example, if you fear anal sex but want to get past it, you can explore this concept with your partner slowly. Think of trying to get past a phobia… you introduce it slowly into your life so you can handle it. Eventually, you either accept the activity into common play… or you slate it as a hard limit.

A soft limit is almost always associated with a soft limit safeword of some kind. When that safeword is spoken, your partner should slow down, stop, or talk about the activity while you explore it.

There is an experience curve that comes into play with soft limits as well. As you explore your soft limits one at a time, you eventually push them into common play or hard limit them. Eventually with experience with a particular partner, all your soft limits will no longer be in play. At this point, many who have been in the lifestyle with a partner will practice the lifestyle with no safe words, meaning giving up your ability to stop play of any kind. Though this is an acceptable act, please note that it should only be done with someone who you absolutely trust with your very life.


SAFE WORDS — Safewords are the keystone of the entire lifestyle. It gives the submissive and dominant the ability to either stop or slow down play immediate with no repercussions. If a submissive has a panic attack, then they can call a safe word or give a safe action to indicate stopping play immediately. The safe words MUST be honored at all times! Failure to honor safewords could quickly lead to sexual assault.

There are generally three kinds of safe words that are practiced. The HARD LIMIT safe word, the SOFT LIMIT safe word, and the ALL CLEAR safe word. The ALL CLEAR usually indicates that play can resume back at a normal fashion.


 

The Phases of the Lifestyle

OBSERVATION STAGE: This is a phase of the lifestyle that a frightening number of vanillas seem to sit at and never move forward from. Basically, this is a non-invasive phase of the lifestyle in which you watch others live it. You may read stories, look up pictures on the internet, watch bondage movies. You start to understand the basic concepts of the lifestyle through viewing of what is typically referred to as a scene.

If this is the lifestyle you wish to pursue, you will begin to realize the vanilla world becomes less and less appealing. Sexual gratification becomes harder to achieve if it is achieved at all without use of the lifestyle media. People tend to be afraid of moving past this stage of the lifestyle, because of the very same scenes they see in the media. They are afraid of rejection of family and friends, of having something ‘wrong’ with them, or because they believe the scenes they watched on the internet is the actual lifestyle itself, rather than just a small part of it.


  • TRANSITION – The transition point comes when a conscious decision is made to actually make contact with others that live in the lifestyle.

EXPLORATION STAGE — This is the stage of the lifestyle which the second largest cluster of people seems to sit at. Generally this consist of going to munches, or talking to others online, perhaps to dominate or be dominated online-only, attend coffees or seminars, start building friendships with lifestylers, etc. The purpose of this phase is to cultivate your confidence in the lifestyle, continue to learn about how the lifestyle works, what the different techniques are such as how to actually ‘play’ in a scene, etc.

You are what is considered a passive participant of the lifestyle, meaning you are there and watching, but not actively participating.


  • TRANSITION POINT – The transition point to the next phase is when you make the conscious decision to actually dominate or be dominated by another person.

APPLICATION STAGE— This is the stage in which you actively begin to participate in the lifestyle itself. You literally start applying this lifestyle to yourself on a limited based through scenes. Perhaps you pick up a flogger or use handcuffs on someone. Perhaps you let yourself be tied up or flogged. During this phase, you generally limit yourself to one or two people who you trust enough to tie up or be tied up by. You develop play partners here to explore with. During this stage, people tend to limit themselves to scene play only, though that is not the hard written law.


  • ** TRANSITION POINT** – You have located one for which you wish to explore the lifestyle with beyond the realm of just scenes and make a conscious decision to do so.

** SUBMISSION STAGE** – This is a phase which focuses on living the lifestyle outside of just scene play. This may or may not be 24/7 depending on how your life revolves around you. Rituals, customs, and rules are really developed at this point of the lifestyle stage with the partner or partners you choose. Rituals may be something as subtle as requiring a submissive to make a bed in the morning first thing to something as noticeable as requiring a submissive to kneel at your feet. The rules may be as subtle as requiring a submissive to open the door for their dom at all times to as noticeable as requiring a submissive to memorize a list of house rules or to ask permission to sit on the furniture.

The point is of this stage of the lifestyle is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You and your partner spend time evaluating your life and determine how to apply the lifestyle to you. Perhaps you limit your activities to just the bedroom or just parties. Perhaps you want to apply small customs to your life, such as allowing the dominant to always order for you at a restaurant. There are really only three rules to building a safe lifestyle that is compatible with you.

Rule 1 is that you and your partner must consent to the rituals, rules, and customs. Once you both openly and willingly consent, rule 2 applies which is… Apply the lifestyle to life, not the life to the lifestyle. If you have children, then apply the lifestyle accordingly. If your partner is not home often for whatever reason, then consider applying the lifestyle. Finally, rule 3 is to always communicate with each other and be aware of each other’s circumstances. Know when the other is feeling sick or ill, had a bad day at work, or excited about a new job promotion. Be aware.


  • TRANSITION POINT– As you build in the lifestyle with your partner, more often than not, the Submission stage tends to morph into the SLAVERY STAGE. Usually, this transition occurs when a submissive officially accepts a collar from a dominant.

SLAVERY STAGE– At this stage of the lifestyle, it IS 24/7. At this point in your transition to this phase, a collar has been passed from dominant to submissive transforming them to Master and slave. This stage of your lifestyle can be as intense as you want it to be. Essentially whereas a submissive still retains the right to say no, a slave gives up that right. A slave is in every sense of the term becomes the property of their Master. A slave gives absolute trust to their Master even to the point of forgoing the use of safewords. This practice of not using safe words, however, should only be done after you have come to know your partner through and through.

From a Master’s perspective, they have completely taken charge of the slave. They dictate to them the terms of their expectations including whether or not the slave works, what the domestic duties are, what daily tasks they are required to complete, as well as many other things.

From a slave’s perspective, they have given absolute trust to their Master knowing they will always do what is in the best interest of the slave. They give up their right to say no. There sole focus as a slave is to honor their Master day and night, in front of vanillas or in private.

BIG note to mention here is that just because you reach the Slavery stage, doesn’t mean that you are forced to wear leather and PVC and call each other “Master and slave”. It can be as subtle as a slave wearing a simple necklace or bracelet. It is about the mindset. Do you honor your Master or slave in all you do? Are your rituals and customs serving a purpose in your relationship?

 

Limitations, Safewords, and the Experience Curve

One of the most common questions that I hear a lot is what exactly are safe words? This little guide is here to help offer our interpretation of what safewords are and how they are applied to the lifestyle.


LIMITATIONS

First, we need to talk about the Limitations of play. Specifically, we refer to the terms of hard limits and soft limits. When you enter into a scene with another person, it is imperative that you establish what your hard limits and soft limits are prior to actually playing anything.


HARD LIMIT is an activity that you will under no circumstances participate in. You will not consent to any hard limit activity under any circumstance. Many common hard limits include play with children ( which is a felony ), play with animals, dismemberment, fecal play, urine play, blood play, and more. Hard limits are generally established with one of a number of means. Either there are laws against it, like activities with children, it is socially unacceptable ( like animal play ), or it makes a person react in a negative way. If you have a serious phobia of needles, then needle play will probably be a hard limit. If you were raped in the past, then it is possible that forced rape fantasies is a hard limit for you.

Bottom line is that a hard limit is your personal boundary of play. To go over that limit would me you are going into play that you do not consent too and therefore, stops being play and becomes a form of sexual assault and therefore it is a CRIME!


SOFT LIMIT would be more closely defined as an activity in which you are willing to explore under controlled conditions. It would be an activity in which you are uncertain about, but wish to explore.

For example, If a submissive is afraid of giving oral sex to their dominant for whatever reason, but they want to try and overcome that fear, then it is considered a soft limit. The dominant will gradually ease that submissive into the activity at a pace the submissive is comfortable with until one of two things happens. Either the submissive begins to enjoy the act of oral sex and she decides to put into regular play or the submissive realizes she can’t do it and/or won’t do it again and makes it a hard limit.


SAFE WORDS

Now that we have established what our limitations are, we need to talk about safe words. Generally, safewords come in three categories, a hard word, a soft word, and a go word. It is relatively customary at parties to use words such has ‘Red’, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Green’ as de facto standards.

HARD WORD generally is used when one of two events happen. First, if a hard limit is reached. Play must cease immediately as a result. Second, if a submissive has a panic attack or some kind of medical emergency. Either way, the play should come to an immediate end and the issue at hand should be resolved immediately.

The SOFT WORD is used when you and your partner or partners get to a soft limit activity. When this word is used, it is then that those involved should slow down their activity, check on the one who used the word to ensure they are okay, and then gently press forward. This does NOT mean you automatically end play.

The GO WORD is a word sometimes used to inform your partner that all is well and to continue pushing forward.

*** This next part is critical so pay attention!!!!! USING YOUR SAFE WORD… DOES NOT MEAN YOU FAILED IN ANY WAY!!! DO NOT LET ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU FAILED BECAUSE YOU EXECUTED YOU SAFE WORDS!!! SAFE WORDS ARE PUT IN PLACE FOR YOUR OWN PROTECTION!!! ***

  • In addition, a safe action should be executed instead of a safe word in the event that you are unable to speak during play. Examples of actions would include holding a small bell that you ring, snapping your fingers three times, or some hand gesture.

EXPERIENCE CURVE

Many of you may wonder what the experience curve is that I refer to? The experience curve refers to increasing knowledge of yourself and your own personal limitations during play. When you initially begin in the lifestyle, you set a series of generic activities that you are not entirely certain about but want to experiment with as your own personal soft limits.

For my example I shall use is the activity of cell popping. You may have heard of the activity are were uncertain about it however after watching the someone perform cell popping on another, you may decide you want to try it. As you start to experiment with the activity, you realize that you either like it or you don’t. If you like the activity, you may consider it a fair play for your dom to use on you at his or her leisure. If you don’t like the activity, you decide to make it a hard limit and thus off-limits at all times.

Eventually, as you explore the various activities with your partner and decide whether to make them fair play or hard limits, you eventually end up with only hard limits. Not only are you very much aware of your hard limits, but so is your partner. This is why when you reach the phase of being a slave, your partner knows you so well that you may consider yourself a NO LIMITS slave to your partner.

Being a NO LIMITS slave should only be considered however, once you and your partner have so much absolutely trust in each other that the very idea of crossing a HARD LIMIT is alien to them.

BOTTOM LINE is this… we all have things that with like and don’t like in a play. That is what makes us human. In order to play safely within the areas we enjoy, limitations are established and safe words are communicated when needed.

 

The ‘Scene’ versus the ‘Lifestyle’

One of the most common misconceptions that I have observed, particularly from newbies, is when the term ‘SCENE’ is confused with the term ‘LIFESTYLE’. I hope this brief guide will help you understand that there is a significant difference between the two…

When people begin to look into the BDSM lifestyle, the first thing they generally turn to is the internet. The internet is safe and you can explore relatively easily. Most might type in BDSM into the search engine and wind up and one of the nearly countless sites filled with images of women in chains, being gangbanged, whipped till they bled, or any number of hundreds of scenes. After hitting those sites over and over, many people tend to start believing that the scene itself is the lifestyle. It is one of the most common misconceptions that newcomers make.

This guide is here for one reason only… and that is to decipher what scene it, what the lifestyle is, and how they fit together.


There are two main characteristics of a SCENE. First and foremost, it has a fixed time, meaning it has a prearranged start time and end time. Second, it involves one or more specific activities that are consented upon by all parties of the scene.

For example, a submissive may ask a dominant to give them a hand-spanking and the dom agrees. The scene takes place in a room of a dungeon for 30 minutes… then the scene ends. Another example would be a submissive wanting to be kidnapped, cut out of her clothes and gang banged for 6 hours. As long as all members of the scene have agreed prior to the activities taking place, then it is considered a scene.


LIFESTYLE is much greater than a SCENE. Choosing to live the lifestyle, means you are actually making BDSM a part of your life outside of just scenes. If you choose to accept a collar by a dominant to become his/her slave, then you are choosing, in general, to practice the lifestyle day today. This does not mean you are forced to wear leather and PVC and call each other Master/slave… however, it could be that if you choose it to be.

The crossover from just playing in scenes to living the lifestyle begins when you decide to allow rituals, customs, and rules guide yours and your partners daily life. A few simple rules could be calling each other by specific names, wearing certain clothes and jewelry representing your choice, domestic duties, etc. It must fit whatever your current life is like in order to be successful. If you have kids, then being made to walk nude in the house while they are there is no going to happen. If you work in an environment that frowns upon, ‘abnormal’ behaviors, then you may choose not to let rules apply to you while you work.


The GOLDEN RULE of BDSM is this… The Lifestyle must fit around your life, not your life around the lifestyle.


Finally, a member of this lifestyle will understand how a scene plays in with the day to day. A slave may live with their Mistress full time, do domestic duties, and prepare meals for her. Then at night, is put on a cross for a flogging. This flogging will only take limited time and when it is over, they will go back to their day to day duties. Remember this… the SCENE is PART of the LIFESTYLE, not the entire thing!

I hope this guide helps those of you learning about life! May your journey into the lifestyle be a successful one…

Last Updated on