Bondage for Beginners – (I)

In celebration of Kink Month, we present the second of a three-part exploration guide for bondage written by an expert Orgasm & Relationship Coach, Michael Charming.

In celebration of Kink Month, we present a three-part exploration guide for bondage written by an expert Orgasm & Relationship Coach, Michael Charming.

Bondage for Beginners

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

These judgements 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 favours to the perception of BDSM. 

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

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

It is practised by loving partners for various reasons that differ in every individual situation. For example, people may wish to explore bondage to fulfil 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

If you and your partner wish to explore bondage as part of your consensual love making, 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. 

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 off 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 “sub space.”

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. In order to truly understand the importance of each of these roles, it is important to experience both roles alteast 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, threat of violence, 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. 

In addition, 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 intoxicated effect of “sub space,” an altered state of consciousness that many kinky players are able to 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 which allows everyone to be able to completely relax and surrender into 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 a negotiation in advance. 

Preparation for a scene goes a long way in creating favourable 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 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 limitation 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 exiting, 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 in order to avoid the potential of harming their partner emotionally or physically.

Stay tuned for the next part releasing tomorrow!

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