Bound Together
One couple’s insights into BDSM

The Biggest BDSM Beginner Mistakes 

Blocks that spell out "Dos" and "Don'ts"

Once you realize you’re kinky, it can be tempting to dive headfirst into BDSM without taking the time to learn some basic do’s and don’ts. We certainly made our fair share of missteps in the beginning! We’ve grouped some of the most common BDSM beginner mistakes into four categories: basic misunderstandings, too much too soon, unsafe practices, and fear of failure. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Basic Misunderstandings

There isn’t one way to do BDSM, but there are some key concepts that are important to understand. These types of BDSM beginner mistakes have to do with misunderstanding fundamental ideas about BDSM dynamics and dom/sub roles.

  • Not understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. At its core, BDSM is role play, and most experienced kinksters understand this. If BDSM is preventing you from being and doing in the world, then it’s time to reevaluate the line between fantasy and reality. Being someone’s full-time live-in slave might be your ultimate fantasy, but it’s not realistic for most people. BDSM shouldn’t interfere with your job, kids, or any of your dreams and goals.
  • Thinking that 24/7 is the only “real” form of BDSM. If your only exposure to BDSM is from reading about it online, it may seem like everyone is in a 24/7 D/s dynamic. Online spaces attract 24/7 enthusiasts, but most kinky people enjoy BDSM privately offline. There are lots of ways to engage in BDSM and D/s, and one isn’t better than the other. If 24/7 appeals to you, great. But it’s also totally legitimate to only want a bedroom-only dynamic.
  • Believing that “dom” is synonymous with “asshole.” A dom who is creepy, domineering, and pointlessly aggressive is predatory, clueless, or from erotic fiction. These behaviors aren’t a turn-on and demonstrate poor judgment.
  • Believing that “sub” is synonymous with “doormat.” Just because someone identifies as a submissive does not mean that they forfeit the right to be respected and valued as an equal.
  • Thinking your BDSM dynamic or role needs to look like everyone else’s. There is no quintessential BDSM dynamic. Each one is unique and tailor made to fit the needs of the people in it. Don’t get hung up on labels and fitting yourself into a specific BDSM category. You do you. When Mimsy was first discovering her submissive side, she wasn’t sure she even fit under the BDSM umbrella because she wasn’t a masochist. It took her a while to realize that there are many types of subs and being a masochist isn’t a prerequisite.

Too Much Too Soon 

As a newbie, it can be easy to get carried away and forget to slow down. This batch of BDSM beginner mistakes is related to trying to do too much too soon.

  • Getting too granular too fast. It can be exciting to learn new skills in BDSM, and you absolutely should! But first, focus on grasping the larger concepts of consent, negotiation, and safety that underpin BDSM. Once you understand those, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build your kinky skills, like rope bondage, spanking, CNC, breath play, and more.
  • Doing too much in one scene. It’s best to focus on a couple of activities in a given scene rather than trying to incorporate every kink or toy you’ve ever heard of. For instance, if you want to do a disciplinarian scene, you could include spanking and a lot of verbal discipline. There’s no need to throw in rope bondage, knife play, hot wax, and a violet wand. It’s too complicated and takes away from the bottom’s ability to focus on what’s happening. We remember watching a rope suspension scene at an event years ago where the top kept pulling countless toys out of a bag like a kinky Mary Poppins to use on the bottom once she was suspended. It wasn’t clear what the point of it was except perhaps to show off how many toys they owned.
  • Succumbing to sub frenzy. Sub frenzy is a mindset that new subs sometimes experience that involves seeking out as many kinky experiences as fast as possible, often at the expense of personal safety. Sub frenzy is dangerous because it can cloud your judgment and make you less risk averse than you would be normally. If you find yourself tempted to engage in a parade of weekly kinks you never imagined yourself doing, take some time to catch your breath and consider the mental and physical risks.
  • Going from 0 to 100 overnight. Similar to sub frenzy, it’s common for couples who are just starting out on their kinky journey to want to immediately jump into an over-the-top dynamic that takes priority over everything else in their lives. Even if turning your home into a dungeon and living the lifestyle 24/7 does legitimately appeal to you, it’s not advisable to rush into it. Learn how to crawl and walk before you decide to run a marathon.

Unsafe Practices

BDSM practitioners take safety very seriously. Some activities require more safety precautions than others, but most forms of BDSM carry some level of risk—physical, emotional, or both. That’s why it’s essential to avoid some of these safety pitfalls.

  • Thinking that just because something is popular, it’s safe. This is probably one of the biggest BDSM beginner mistakes. But activities that look easy and are ubiquitous aren’t necessarily low risk. For example, choking and breath play are quite popular among kinky and so-called vanilla people, yet it’s one of the riskier activities out there. Rope bondage is another kinky activity that can look safer than it is. It’s crucial to know how nerve damage can happen and how to avoid it. Does this mean people shouldn’t do these things? No. Edge play is popular for a reason—it’s exciting to take risks. But it’s important to truly understand the risks that are inherent to whatever you’re doing and learn enough anatomy and technique to mitigate them.
  • Overreliance on safewords. Almost every beginner BDSM guide will tell you that safewords are necessary. What they often fail to mention is that safewords should never take the place of check-ins. If a bottom goes into subspace (the extreme endorphin rush some scenes can cause), they may not be aware of how much pain they’re experiencing and may lose the ability to make decisions. In fact, they may forget their safeword altogether. It’s the top’s responsibility to be aware of these factors and check in to see how the bottom is doing. Unless otherwise negotiated, extended silence from the bottom means “STOP.”
  • Ignoring aftercare. Many subs (and doms!) need aftercare following a scene to make sure they are physically and emotionally cared for. What it looks like varies from person to person, so it’s something that should be discussed beforehand as part of negotiation. Some people might need very minimal aftercare. For us, it usually consists of checking in to briefly talk about how hot the scene was and anything specific we did or didn’t like. But for a lot of people, aftercare is more involved and may include eating, hydrating, warming up under a blanket, affection, and positive reinforcement, to name just a few.
  • Playing under the influence. A lot of BDSM events do not serve alcohol for a reason. It impairs judgment and deadens sensation: two things that should be in working order to engage in BDSM. We’re not going to suggest that kinksters never drink or do drugs, but it’s not smart to overindulge and then do a scene. The second someone’s ability to give informed, enthusiastic consent is jeopardized, your scene is already in trouble. Beyond that, impaired judgment can lead to sloppy or uncontrolled topping and might impede a bottom’s ability to safeword or know when enough is enough.
  • Playing while angry or overly emotional. Sometimes we’ll read posts online from subs who want their doms to take their anger out on them during scenes. This always makes us cringe. While this might sound hot in fantasy land, it’s a terrible idea in reality. The entire point of domming is to take control, not to be a raging asshole. Being angry is the opposite of being in control. Much like being drunk, being angry impairs judgment—not a desirable state of being in a dom.   

Fear of Failure

It can be easy to think that because you’re new to BDSM, anyone with more experience must be an expert. But sometimes people who purport to know it all don’t know as much as they think. Or worse, they’re predators in disguise. Don’t let these common BDSM beginner mistakes related to fear of failure or rejection stop you from trusting your instincts.

  • Being afraid to say you’re new. Do not lie about your experience level—as a top or a bottom. Trust is key in BDSM, and misrepresenting yourself destroys trust from the get go. If someone is interested in trying an activity you’ve never done before, be honest about your lack of experience. You can always say you’re willing to learn if it’s something that interests you. When we first started dating, Mimsy didn’t have a ton of experience with impact, which she told Vagabond. This was important information for him to have because it helped determine the level of intensity of some of our early scenes.
  • Being afraid to set limits or use a safeword. There are countless stories about unwitting subs who are approached by “doms” who insist on no limits or safewords. No matter how experienced these people claim to be, these are unacceptable demands. Everyone has limits, so you should never feel bad for expressing and standing by yours. Similarly, it’s a bad idea to allow a scene to continue just because you’re afraid to safeword. Imagine the guilt your dom will feel if they find out later that you wanted to stop the scene but didn’t. Not safewording when you should have isn’t doing either you or the dom any favors. It’s just another way to erode trust.  

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Bound Together
One couple’s insights into BDSM