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Bondage for Beginners

Michael Charming  |  Jan 06 2021

Bondage for Beginners

An exploration guide for bondage written by Michael Charming, an expert Orgasm & Relationship Coach, .

What is Bondage?

Bondage refers to an act of consensual physical restraint, binding, or tying.

The practice of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission or Sadism and Masochism), includes the practice of bondage. Many people tend to have a lot of negative judgments about this sexual discipline and the people who are involved in exploring it.

These judgments are generally based on how BDSM is portrayed in the media, especially in porn where it is often portrayed as torturous, painful, humiliating, disrespectful, harmful, non-consensual, and damaging. Movies such as 50 Shades of Grey, in which the person who is leading is abusive, mentally unstable, and carries historic trauma, don’t do any favors to the perception of BDSM. 

But we all know sex in porn is not the same as sex in reality with a loving partner. Similarly, the practice of BDSM by responsible kinky people concerned with the wellbeing of their partner(s) is not like it is portrayed. 

It is practiced by loving partners for various reasons that differ in every individual situation. For example, people may wish to explore bondage to fulfill a fantasy, explore power dynamics in a relationship, trigger fear and grow through that process, inflict consensual pain or punishment, let go of control so that one can feel relaxed and enjoy pleasure, or to experience eroticism or other forms of somatic stimulation

Bondage for Beginners

If you and your partner wish to explore bondage as part of your consensual lovemaking, this article will give you some introductory concepts to ground your play and explorations in the key principles of responsible BDSM: safe, sane, and consensual. 

bondage for beginners

Concepts Key to Responsible BDSM and Bondage

Just like any other art, BDSM (and bondage more specifically) has its own language and practices which have been developed in the kinky community over the last several decades to protect the safety and health of those who chose to explore this edgy kind of sexual practice. If you are considering exploring on your own, understanding the importance and meaning of a few key concepts is critical to making sure that your play is safe, sane, and consensual.

Power and Surrender

The whole concept of BDSM is based on power and surrender. One person, often called a submissive or sub for short, is letting go of their power for a certain time period and within certain agreed to constraints. The person who is holding the power is referred to as the dominant or dom. 

With power comes responsibility. It is the role of the dominant in safe, sane, and consensual BDSM play of any kind to create and hold a space that feels safe for the submissive to come out to embrace the experience and dive deeper into what many BDSM practitioners call “subspace.”

This relationship between power and surrender can take many different forms, unlike the monolithic image of bondage often portrayed in porn. For example, in some cases, the power dynamic of sub/dom transcends the sexual space into a relationship dynamic predicated on the same. In other cases, it may be limited to the play space where bondage or other BDSM sexual practices live. In some cases, people identify exclusively as dom or sub, while in other cases people choose to switch between these two categories in different contexts. To truly understand the importance of each of these roles, it is important to experience both roles at least once, even though we might have a preference for one over the other. 

Consent

Perhaps the most important aspect of safe, sane, and consensual bondage is the notion of consent, a topic that is discussed regularly in kinky communities devoted to the education of people who want to learn more about ancient and contemporary kinky practices. At first glance, many people think consent is cut and dry. A person either says yes or no, right? Wrong. 

In fact, consent is complex. The standard for consent in the responsible BDSM community is “enthusiastic and sane consent.” This means that consent is not only given, but it is given without any coercion of any kind. Coercion may include factors such as peer pressure, the threat of violence, the threat of being outed, emotional blackmail, etc. Any external pressure that pushes a potential sub or dom towards giving a “yes” to certain kinds of kinky play violates the sanctity of consent. 

Besides, consent can only be given by sane adults capable of fully weighing the risks and benefits of such play in the context of their own well being. For example, someone who is intoxicated cannot give sane consent. This includes the intoxicating effect of “subspace,” an altered state of consciousness that many kinky players can achieve through BDSM play. 

Finally, consent needs to be given within specified boundaries, often called limits, that players agree on before engaging in any BDSM play, including bondage. 

Negotiation: Preparation, Limits, and Safewords

In order for any act of BDSM to become a process that allows everyone to be able to completely relax and surrender to the experience, it is important that each person’s boundaries are 100% respected. In order to be sure of the boundaries of your partner, every play session (also sometimes called a “scene”) that will explore bondage should include negotiation in advance. 

Preparation for a scene goes a long way in creating a favorable experience. This may involve both the submissive and dominant making sure they are physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually prepared and ready for the experience. The experience of bondage does not start from the moment the rope comes out of the bag, but rather when we first agree to experience bondage with our partner in the future. Because, as soon as we consent to begin exploring bondage, it is possible that we might start going through a lot of mental, physical, and emotional blocks. Thoughts like, What have I signed up for? What will happen during the session? What if it gets too painful? What if something gets triggered? and Am I physically ready to experience this session or do I suffer from any physical injury that will prevent me from this exploring bondage safely? are best addressed before play begins. Otherwise, they can become a block to the kind of surrender and power required to successfully navigate a scene. 

During this negotiation, important aspects of limits also need to be explored. For example, perhaps the submissive consents to bondage on the torso and legs, but not on the hands or face. Maybe they have an old injury site that needs to be avoided. Or, perhaps they have a limit that they do not want to be lifted off of the ground once tied, etc. It is generally considered the responsibility of the dominant to make sure to get consent for certain types of acts before engaging in them rather than assuming that they have consent because a limit was not explicitly spelled out. 

Violation of even the slightest of the boundary can result in a traumatic experience for the sub, in some cases ruining this form of exploration forever as well as potentially creating other serious mental health issues for the person whose limits were violated. So, it is important that all parties involved share and respect limits.  

Limits and boundaries can take various forms. For example, a physical boundary might include what parts of the body are allowed to be touched and those which are “off-limits.” Emotional boundaries might include protocols for what needs to happen when a certain emotion surfaces or limitations on certain types of narratives such as using shame in the context of a roleplay session or scene. 

While experienced kinky people often find playing around limits (usually called soft limits) very exciting, it takes a good deal of skill to safely engage in this risky type of play. Beginners are better off staying securely within the boundaries of even soft limits to avoid the potential of harming their partner emotionally or physically.

Trust and Safety

trust and safety in a bondage activity

For any kind of sexual exploration to provide a heightened experience, it is important that all the parties involved feel safe with each other. Respecting each other’s boundaries is one way of making the other person feel safe, but only the beginning.  

Trust is at the heart of any BDSM play, including bondage. This can be done by developing trust through various exercises involving vulnerability and intimacy like looking deeply into each other’s eyes for a few minutes, practicing consensual touching in various parts of the body, sharing vulnerable life experiences, etc. 

Every specific discipline within BDSM play has its own safety practices, and bondage is certainly no exception. For example, it is best to avoid binding near the joints of the body, numbness or tingling is a warning sign that bonds are dangerously tight which can result in permanent nerve damage, and risky practices such as elevating a person in bondage should be practiced only by those who have devoted time and energy into learning the art of bondage through qualified and experienced members of the BDSM community. And, a pair of safety scissors tested in advance to quickly cut the materials you are using must be on hand at all times in case knots become difficult to untie and the submissive needs an immediate release from bondage. 

Luckily, there are some excellent resources available for people who want to learn the various safety concerns as well as advanced bondage techniques such as Shibari, a Japanese form of artful bondage. Beginners are encouraged to do some research to learn more about safety and techniques that will make play more fun, safe, and exciting for everyone involved. An excellent starting point is booked by Two Knotty Boys, such as Showing You The Ropes. Or, check out video tutorials by The Twisted Monk on Youtube. 

Clear Communication

Regular check-ins throughout a bondage experience are as important as strong communication skills during the negotiation before a scene. Check-ins with each other allow a dominant to know where to take the play. For example, if the intensity needs to be increased or reduced or if someone needs to stop and build an emotional connection, etc. During regular check-ins, space should be created to share physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and if possible, spiritual information.

As a dominant gains experience both with bondage in particular, and even more importantly, with a submissive they are working with, they can learn to pick up many nonverbal cues that they can use to tailor the experience. However, this takes time and excellent communication to develop this skill set. At no time should nonverbal cues be taken to supersede the use of safewords. That is, “red” means stop regardless of any nonverbal cues that may suggest the submissive is in a state of pleasure. 

Triggers

Many people who practice responsible BDSM, including the art of bondage, have a heightened understanding of the notion of emotional triggers that can surface during this edgy kind of sexual practice. In some cases, players want to take their play to the point of a trigger as a means to find ways to process them in the body through bondage play. For example, some submissives may actively seek out a play where they will be triggered to a point of panic and learn to work through that with a dominant they trust. 

On the other hand, for some players and beginners, this is more the norm, triggers are to be avoided and limits are often expressed around known triggers. 

In some cases triggers otherwise unknown will show up during the scene. For beginners, the safest course of action is to dial back the play to avoid the trigger, provide an immediate check-in, and make sure that emotional support is available during and after the play to process the trigger. Only experienced dominants and submissives should deliberately explore triggers during play once they have the proper tools, often learned from more experienced players in the responsible BDSM community or with the help of an experienced Orgasm Coach and Bodyworker.  

Aftercare

Aftercare refers to the acts of bonding, emotional and physical support, and extra care that happens after a scene has been completed. Just like preparation is important for creating the possibility of an amazing experience, so is aftercare. The act of BDSM play doesn’t stop as soon as the session is finished but it actually continues for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months after the session, depending on the experience and the individuals involved.  

Aftercare involves sharing compassion, love, physical comforting such as a soft warm blanket, healthy snacks, and doing some sort of check-in with each other to make sure emotional needs are met. Although often framed as an activity that is necessary to ensure the well being of the submissive, the truth is aftercare is often also needed by dominants who need to know that their actions during the scene did not harm the submissive, created an overall positive experience, and that consent was respected so they can continue to feel good about themselves and their part of the power/submission dynamic as responsible dominants. 


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