Why BDSM Education Is Essential 

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What’s one of the main things that separates good BDSM players from bad ones? Education! Learning as much as you possibly can about how to do various kinky activities is crucial not only for safety but for maximizing pleasure. We might all have different kinks, but we doubt you’ll find a partner who wants to see you fumble around in the bedroom or make a careless yet dangerous mistake. And even if you already have great chemistry with the only play partner you’ll ever want to fuck, we’ll explain why education is not only necessary and fun, but can take your BDSM life to the next level.

BDSM Education for Safety and Fun

The most obvious reason to educate yourself about BDSM before trying it is safety. This is especially true for activities that could cause physical injury if you don’t know what you’re doing, such as bondage, knife play, and impact. Even things that may seem self-explanatory, like face slapping or punching, can easily go awry without some guidance. The same is true for psychological BDSM skills, like humiliation, mind fucks, and CNC.

In the early days of our bondage experimentation, Vagabond tied Mimsy’s legs together with a gap in between. She then spent 20–30 minutes straining pretty hard against those ropes, putting a lot of pressure on her thighs in the process. The next morning, the tops of both thighs were numb. She could move her legs, but couldn’t feel anything despite repeatedly jabbing them in the hopes of reinvigorating the nerves. When there was no improvement after a couple of days, she messaged an experienced bondage player we knew who explained that the kind of tie we used probably caused temporary damage to sensory nerves in Mimsy’s legs. Had we done more research ourselves, we would have known how to avoid this. Fortunately, Mimsy’s legs were back to normal within a week, but it was still a scary reminder that rope play is categorized as edge play for a reason. From that point on, we did our research and were much more careful.

While it might be obvious that tops should learn various skills before using them in a scene, bottoms should do their share of research and make it a point to become educated as well. For example, if you plan to participate in a rope scene, the top should be knowledgeable about rope safety, nerve damage, various types of ties, and so on. Although a rope bottom is less likely to be deft at tying knots, they should absolutely familiarize themselves with rope safety. For instance, they should be able to identify a dangerous collapsible knot and how nerve damage can be caused, as evidenced by the story above.  

In general, preparing for scenes is important because it not only helps mitigate risk, but it makes sex and BDSM more fun and spontaneous. Enhancing your BDSM skills through education should be a part of this preparation. Think of it as a hot form of professional development. Education makes scenes more seamless and allows for greater spontaneity because you don’t have to worry as much about accidentally hurting someone. It frees you up to focus on pleasure.

Ways to Learn about BDSM

Classes

One of the best ways to learn about BDSM is by attending classes. Before the pandemic, in-person classes were the norm, but many educators turned to a virtual format during COVID and have continued it even as in-person life has resumed. This means that no matter where you live, you can likely access an array of BDSM classes taught by the best instructors in the world. That said, if an in-person class opportunity arises, try to go. Here are some reasons BDSM classes are worth attending. 

  • Amazing demo scenes. Classes, especially in-person ones, are a great way to see demonstrations of kink up close. The first class we ever attended together was a basic rope class taught by Midori that featured an incredible scene between her and a bottom she’d played with before. She asked him what kind of mood he wanted the scene to have, and he said “playful.” The ensuing scene was not only playful but totally free-flowing and improvisational. Midori quickly and beautifully subdued the bottom (a much larger man) with a single length of rope and a clever use of tension—no knots whatsoever—proving that knowledge of complicated knots isn’t necessary to create an incredible scene with rope. It was gripping and emotional to watch and taught Vagabond how to play more spontaneously with rope. 
  • Invaluable science. Some of our favorite classes have tackled the science of BDSM and sexual health. Dr. Aerabelle, an epidemiologist, leads a class with a focus on cleanliness in public play. The class we attended was early in the pandemic, and Aerabelle’s perspective was incredibly helpful. They demonstrated how easy it can be to break a sterile field, for example, by merely scratching their chin with a latex glove, which caused the glove to no longer be sterile.
  • Sex-ed Surprises. Fascinating sex-ed facts often pop up in other courses that aren’t even science specific. For example, the brilliant presenter and nurse Shay Tiziano brings her medical expertise to all of her classes with jokes and memes. Additionally, we didn’t expect to learn so much about the ways to irrigate one’s crack as we did in Rain DeGrey’s two-part series, “Preparing Your Ass For Anal Play,” including how to choose a butt-blasting shower attachment. 
  • Core BDSM principles. BDSM classes can also provide insight into relationship dynamics and guiding principles. In an online talk by Mollena Williams-Haas and her husband Georg Haas, Mollena explained their particular brand of M/s and why it works for them. At its core, it’s about giving each other what they need in the relationship and fulfilling each other’s desires. To do this effectively, Mollena emphasized the concept of the prime directive: “It is the primary responsibility of the slave to protect the master’s property at all times, up to and including protecting the property from their master.”
  • In-depth exploration. Classes are excellent for providing in-depth knowledge about particular kinks. For instance, Princess Kali is an expert on humiliation and teaches a variety of classes about it that elaborate on concepts in her book, Enough to Make You Blush. Although we were already using humiliation in our scenes before we took her classes, her insights helped us think through the art of erotic humiliation more thoroughly.
  • Personal stories. Personal anecdotes help illustrate important BDSM concepts, and BDSM educators often have a lot of them. In an amazing edge play class we attended taught by Shay and Stefanos, Stefanos told a memorable story about a race play scene another dom asked him to be a part of as a co-top. Even though the bottom was clearly into the scene, it made Stefanos intensely uncomfortable, so he safeworded and ended the scene. He also described how being humiliated as a part of play has helped him overcome being bullied as a kid. 

Here are some organizations that regularly offer BDSM classes. FetLife and Eventbrite are also handy resources for finding classes that are offered either virtually or in person.

  • Boundless Events: A San Francisco-based kink community, Boundless offers online classes. Topics have included interrogation scenes, mindfulness for BDSM, and creating amazing scenes.
  • Kink Positive: “A project designed to help spread information, experience, and knowledge in all things related to kink and sex positive thinking,” Kink Positive offers numerous online classes on topics such as pet play, edge play, and scene negotiation.
  • TES: The oldest BDSM organization in the country, TES offers online classes every Tuesday. Topics have included better bottoming for submissives, pegging, and extreme degradation.
  • Wicked Grounds: Wicked Grounds offers a combination of online and in-person classes at their San Francisco event space. Topics for their online classes have included advanced negotiation, dating while kinky, and determining your risk profile.

If you like classes, BDSM conferences and conventions may be worth checking out. They’re great for sampling topics you’re not sure you’re interested in or finding new ideas to explore. There are dozens held in various locations across the U.S. (and globally) every year.

Books, Articles, and Videos

In addition to classes, books, websites, and videos about BDSM also offer a wealth of information. Books and articles (like the ones on this blog!) are great for learning about the psychological aspects of BDSM. They can also provide useful information about physical activities, but supplementing what you read with videos is a good idea for skill building with things like rope and impact play. Here are some of our favorite resources. You can find more in our BDSM Resources section.

  • Enough to Make You Blush: Exploring Erotic Humiliation: In this excellent guide, the fabulous Princess Kali walks readers through all the ins and outs of humiliation and degradation. A must-read for novices and experts alike.
  • Evie Lupine: Lupine’s videos on all aspects of BDSM are thoughtful and insightful educational tools for BDSM newbies, experienced kinksters, or anyone in between.  
  • Flogging: This extremely thorough guide to flogging by veteran BDSM educator Joseph Bean covers everything you need to know about flogging techniques, negotiation, flogger care, and more through sample scenes and detailed explanations.
  • How to be a Happy and Healthy Submissive: In this essential guide for novice female submissives, Kate Kinsey covers all the ins and outs of submission and clearly separates fact from fiction. In her second book, What Submissives Want to Know: Real Questions, Real Answers, she gives advice to real-life subs.
  • How To Make Your First BDSM Scene Amazing: Although this short book is directed at dominant women, the practical, solid advice author Sharyn Ferns offers is relevant to anyone who’s new to constructing BDSM scenes.
  • Kink Academy: A comprehensive kink library of video tutorials on everything from negotiation and safer sex to rope bondage and pony play. Many of the tutorials are free, but members get access to all 2000+ videos. There are some great instructors, including Rain DeGrey, Orpheus Black, and Topologist.
  • Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: One of our favorites, this classic and charming book by Molly Devon and Philip Miller imparts realistic wisdom about BDSM, and D/s in particular, based on the authors’ decades of experience. Although the book is especially useful for people in a male dom/female sub dynamic, the information is pertinent to anyone looking to engage in BDSM.
  • The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage: The famed Shibari instructor Midori explains step by step how to tie a number of beautiful Japanese bondage poses. She also provides helpful background information about the history of Shibari, rope selection, and other related topics.
  • Shibari Study: Gorgone and other instructors use their world-class shibari artistry to teach a series of beautiful floor and suspension ties that pay particular attention to the comfort of the rope bottom. Available with a subscription.
  • Spanking for Lovers: This thorough guide to spanking by Janet Hardy includes tips on positions, techniques, safety, and more.
  • The Toybag Guide to Playing with Taboo: This slim volume by Mollena Williams explores some kinks that are considered to be taboo even within the BDSM community (e.g., religion, race play, bodily fluids, etc.) and what to consider if you want to venture into this territory.
  • Twisted Monk: Twisted Monk’s free videos use spoken instruction and focus on ties that can be learned quickly by a beginner. As an added bonus, they sometimes include the fabulous rope artist Midori.

Practice

No matter how many classes you take, books you read, or videos you watch about BDSM, all the knowledge you gain will be purely theoretical until you put it to use. Practicing what you learn is the only way to see what works and what doesn’t and learn from your mistakes.

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