July 24th is National BDSM Day. In order to celebrate, I wanted to take you on a tour of a virtual “Kink Exploratorium”.
Envision yourself in a sex-positive, safe, and comfortable space; a large room, surrounded by practitioners of all the kinkiest stuff you can think of. Situated at individual stations around the room like a museum, these kinksters have brought out all the tricks and tools of their trade and plan to scene with each other in all the best ways they know how, knowing full well that they will have an audience. Don’t worry, they don’t mind that you’ll be mingling around watching their scenes; they know you are here to learn, and they are excited to pique your interests and delight your senses.
While not all “kinks” are considered part of BDSM, many of them do fall somewhere under this umbrella term, due to it encompassing Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism. This Exploratorium of options is in no particular order, and this “display” is by no means exhaustive of all the possibilities out there in the realms of BDSM and kink, but it’s still a great place to start if you’re interested in opening your mind to new options and expanding your pleasure horizons.
Consent, consent, consent:
Before you engage in ANY kind of BDSM play like the ones we’re exploring below, remember that it is absolutely vital to obtain the enthusiastic consent of anyone who will be participating. If you are playing in a public or group setting, you should also always ask consent to watch a partnership’s or group’s scene, too. Some may love it, others don’t. Remember that consent must be offered freely and voluntarily, without coercion, and also that it can be revoked at any time. If your play partner invokes their safe word at any time, all play stops immediately until they give consent for it to continue.
Rope is an amazing tool for all sorts of kinky play and sexual exploration. There are many different ways to play with rope and numerous styles of rope application, and getting started is as easy as learning a few basic ties and knots, then practicing on your partner. New rope practitioners can play on the floor or the mattress, tying up their lover in more and more elaborate patterns once they’ve gotten the hang of it.
Use ropes to restrain your partner by tying their hands or feet together, or even bond one body part to another (i.e. arm to thigh in a seated or curled-up position). Tie them up to a bed frame or piece of sex furniture; many folks prefer rope over restraints because of the more adjustable nature of the ties and positions you can achieve.
In this section of the Exploratorium, you watch an advanced rigger (the one doing the tying) decorating their rope bunny’s (the one being tied up) torso and legs with a beautiful and elaborate harness pattern in a Japanese rope style known as Shibari, and then using this harness to suspend her from a frame. You think it may be uncomfortable, but she looks to be in absolute bliss, known as subspace. You also see some more novice rope players. The rigger is tying a simple chest harness onto his rope bunny, then using it to move her around, pull her close, and control her movement during their sexual encounter…and it’s obvious to you that they both LOVE it. Before moving on to the next display, you pick up some literature about rope play and how you can learn through local classes, by watching instructional videos, or even teach yourself with books about the beautiful and strict knots you’re seeing.
This area showcases what most people probably first picture when they hear the term “BDSM”. Ropes are just one way to tie up or restrict a lover…restraints are another fun way for one lover to be in control while one surrenders. Here you see couples with one lover handcuffed to a bedframe, or with a dominant tying up their submissive with underbed restraints so they can have their way with them. Hogties with cuffs, spreader bars, and door slings are other fun ways to keep your partner right where you want them, and this can create very erotic and sensual encounters for everyone involved.
In an even more intense form of bondage restraint, the players in the mummification area are wrapping or being wrapped like mummies. Using bondage tape, fabric, or even saran wrap (never near the face, of course), the dominant member of each partnership is wrapping up all parts of their partner’s body…except the parts they may want to play with later! You notice that the bottoms or submissives being wrapped or mummified find it easy to drop into subspace as they close their eyes and let their top bind their body, limiting their movement and putting them in complete control.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and impact players love to push that boundary…some even find true pain intoxicating and arousing. In the other part of BDSM play most frequently pictured when thinking about the term BDSM, impact play involves spanking or hitting one’s body. In this exhibit, you see one person tied up to a St. Andrew’s Cross while their lover takes a flogger to them, gently at first with sweeping and swinging motions, then ending with an occasional hard thwack for excitement. There’s also someone bent over a spanking bench receiving open-hand spankings and sometimes taking blows from a paddle or two, of varying styles and hardnesses, of course. Submitting to the pain and handing over trust to their partner can be very arousing for the subs in impact play, and the doms often enjoy seeing their lover at their mercy and enjoying the pleasurable pain they are providing.
The lights are dim around this display so you can see better…and to set an exciting sensory mood. The players here are using devices such as Violet Wands that emit safe, low-voltage electric pulses to deliver buzzy, slightly zappy sensations to their partner’s body, including their erogenous zones. It looks fun and intriguing, so you scan a QR code posted at the display which takes to to this post, where you can learn more about Electrosex, toys to use for it, and how to do it safely.
As you approach this area of the Exploratorium, you wonder why you hear squeaking…then you see it. A bunch of folks wearing some combination of masks, ears, collars, tails, or full bodysuits giving them the look of a dog, cat, or other animal, are having the time of their life tossing around a squeaky dog toy. Some “owners” are walking their “pets” on leashes, lavishing them with scratches and snuggles, or commanding them to do a trick for their pleasure and giving them a treat when they do it well. The pets communicate nonverbally, for the most part, and the owners provide them simple commands and care for and play with them in the way they would a real dog or cat. Pets and owners alike seem to enjoy setting their regular responsibilities aside to have fun playing and caring for each other in this way. Some participants seem to like to involve impact play here, too, and you may see an occasional pet get a swat from their owner…don’t worry, it’s part of their training…and part of the fun!
Pet play is sometimes more an erotic role play activity the participants enjoy rather than one that is always sexual in nature, but it often mirrors and enhances the power dynamic of a couple in a sexual relationship.
Pony Play is another popular activity where players take on the roles of horse and rider or owner. Pony play is often considered a subset of pet play, but it has a little more of a life of its own and even more subsets within it.
Role play is any kind of negotiated scene or scenario where the participants simply take on the role of being someone other than who they really are. Here you see role players dressed up and participating in some of the well-known role play tropes, like nurse and patient, naughty schoolgirl and principal, boss and employee, or even just pretending to be strangers to each other. Costumes, props, and wigs often enhance role play scenes, and taking on a different name and personality to go with each look seems like a fun way for you and your partner to always keep sex fun and exciting.
Sensation play is anything done to excite the senses, setting the scene for an intimate encounter. You see sensation players in this exhibit tickling their partner with a soft feather, brushing it gradually closer to their genitals, or sensually feeding their lover chocolate to set the mood and get their mouth watering for more. Touch is the easiest sense to experiment with, including by introducing new temperatures. Everything from ice to hot wax can be used to play with temperature sensations, and sensual foods such as strawberries or whipped cream can be used to entice the sense of taste, too. Not all sensations used in BDSM play are pleasant of course. Some players are showing off their enjoyment of more “hurty” sensations, like wearing pinchy nipple clamps, or having clothespins attached to their body and rapidly pulled off with a Firecracker Body Zipper.
One way to make any form of sensation play even more intense is to add an element of sensory deprivation. A blindfold to block out sight makes everything more surprising and titillating, and earplugs or playing ambient music through earbuds makes everything harder to hear. Touches and sensations are more exciting if you don’t know what’s coming!
Pegging, or strap-on sex, is a fun way to play with the power dynamic in a relationship. Here you see women wearing strap-on harnesses and using the dildo to penetrate their male partner’s anus, and there are also female couples using strap-ons for vaginal penetration. You can read more about the possibilities for pegging pleasure here.
While chastity devices may seem like something more out of a medieval torture chamber than the bedroom of today, chastity play still has a big role in the modern bedroom of many kinksters. Chastity play in the context of BDSM involves making sure your partner stays chaste and keeps their sexual urges only for you. It is a form of control and release that many people get off on. The practitioners here are modeling their chastity devices – often in the form of locked penis cages or female chastity belts only their partners have the keys for…and they are excited for when they can take them off next. Some of the models tell you their orgasms are even more intense and exciting once they can finally get that sweet release.
Cock & Ball Torture, or CBT for short, is a form of genitorture (the torture of one’s genitals) involving delivering gradually more painful sensations to the penis and/or testicles. You see some guys in this exhibit enjoying their partner applying pressure to their genitals with devices like ball stretchers or strong, stretchy c-rings with built-in ball splitters. Urethral sounding seems painful at first (and may be considered more torture-like for some), but guys seem to enjoy stimulating their urethra in this way; it’s a whole new way to reach the prostate, too! CBT may also be done with vise-type devices, vampire mitts for a spikey sensation, or cages that restrict the erection. If voluntary pain is your thing but you don’t have a cock and balls to torture, don’t worry…torture of the female genitalia is a thing, too, if that’s what you’re into!
Forced Orgasms/Orgasm Denial:
On opposite ends of the spectrum from each other, these two are all about controlling when (or if) your partner climaxes. The dominant partner may use toys or techniques they know their partner can’t resist to bring them to multiple, rapid orgasms without being able to stop it, or they may use edging techniques, getting their partner just to the brink, and then stopping all stimulation, forcing the delay of their much-desired climax. Orgasm denial can also be used to make a scene or encounter last longer, and may or may not include bondage.
We’re not talking about jet skiing or knee boarding here; watersports is the wet & wild name given to the other somewhat kink-shamey sounding name of piss play, or erotic play activities involving urination. While it’s definitely not for everyone, the desire to at least give or receive a “golden shower” (peeing on/being peed on by your partner) is much more common than you might think! The piss players in the Exploratorium are all set up near a floor drain and with a rubber sheet and towels nearby to contain the mess and make for easy cleanup. The desire to feeling their partner releasing their warm urine all over their body requires an extremely intimate connection and a high level of trust, but you can tell they find it a very provocative concept and can’t wait to enjoy.
Pretty much anything you haven’t already seen is on the darker and more dangerous side, and lies behind a black velvet curtain inside the Exploratorium. These BDSM activities fall under the category of “edge play”, and this area isn’t for the faint of heart. Here, you see some experienced kinksters doing intense but intimate scenes involving things like knives, needles (yes, you may see some blood), and fire – such as with fire cupping or flash cotton. You also see a some couples using gentle chokes or masks to restrict one’s breathing in displays of breath play, or erotic asphyxiation. These types of play obviously require high levels of trust and communication, and doing it safely is on the minds of the players at all times. They want to get off, not get hurt.
No form of edge play should be engaged in without some serious discussion about consent, ground rules, and SAFETY. If you don’t know how to do something safely and don’t have a way to learn from someone who is trained and well-versed in the tactics, you shouldn’t try it. A sexy night of play should never lead to the ER.
Don’t forget the Aftercare:
Since you’ve only been watching all the steamy, sexy action in this setting, you may be feeling like you just need a cold shower, but when you’re the one doing the BDSM activities, you need to remember the aftercare. Aftercare involves taking time after any kind of BDSM play or scene to check in with each other about how things went. It’s a good chance to talk about how everyone is feeling, if they really liked or disliked something that just happened, and if there’s anything they would not want to do again. Drinking plenty of water to rehydrate, snuggling under soft blankets while chatting, or giving each other gentle relaxing massages can be part of aftercare, bringing a serene ending to an intense erotic evening together. Do it however works best for you, just make sure you do it!