Authors: Tristan Taormino
Other people may love erotic role play—and their scenarios can include corporal punishment, bondage, or mindfuck—but they don’t consider what they do BDSM. There is plenty of overlap between erotic role play and BDSM: roles, scenarios, props, power dynamics, and, of course, getting off on all of it! It’s entirely up to you. Many of the same principles adopted by BDSMers are also practiced by erotic role players and vice versa, which is why there are several chapters in this book about role play.
IN THE DARK
I’m blindfolded and gagged on a pillow in a cold basement. I can feel the cool air and hear water dripping. I hear high heels coming closer and I’m struck across my ass and chest, slowly increasing in intensity. She straddles my shoulders after a good flogging and orders me to pleasure her. Right before she is about to come, she moves away and finishes herself off while all I can do is listen to her moans and screams.
sight deprivation, sound deprivation, scent deprivation, gagging, mummification, breath control and play
blindfolds, hoods, earplugs, nose plugs, ball gags, mouth bits
Fantasy role play gives folks a chance to be someone else, even if it’s only for an hour or two. You can shake off your real-life stern, responsible school principal and become a pampered princess with a doting babysitter. Role play creates a space for fantasy and make-believe, where you can explore your inner cocky jock, naughty schoolgirl, or bored-but-horny housewife. It can add another layer to your sex life, where you explore the many facets of your own personality, different dynamics with a partner, sexual taboos, and scenarios limited only by your imagination.
Consent—explicit, informed verbal approval after negotiation, a confident and secure “Yes! ”—is the bedrock of sex and relationships, and one of the most significant elements of kink. It’s what separates kink from abuse. It is something you will read about repeatedly in this book. Securing consent from a partner is a necessity, and this holds true whether the person is brand-new to you, you’ve played together more than a dozen times, or you’ve been in a relationship for 10 years. Never assume anything. When you ask for consent, you clearly speak your part in the exchange: I need to know you’ve agreed to this before we begin. Giving your consent to a partner prior to a scene is absolutely critical. It establishes that you’re ready, willing, and able to proceed: you’ve discussed what’s likely to happen, shared any concerns, talked about your limits, and agreed to dive in. When you give consent, you do so willingly, without pressure, coercion, or reservation. You agree to play, communicate during the scene, and stop if you need to.
Giving your consent and receiving a partner’s consent is part of the process of negotiating a kink scene. Negotiation creates a space for everyone to talk about their needs, wants, limits, fantasies, and fears before they play. One way to begin the negotiation process is to identify what role or roles you will take on: top/bottom/switch, Dominant/submissive, sadist/ masochist. Together you can go through some possible activities; for each one, you can decide if you are interested in doing it and whether you want to give or receive or both.
People sometimes make a “Yes–No–Maybe” list, marking “yes” for the things they’d like to do, “no” for the things they definitely wouldn’t like to do, and “maybe” for activities that fall in between. A “maybe” can have multiple meanings; for example: maybe since I am curious but have no idea if I’ll like it; maybe after I’ve had more experience with some other things; maybe if we get to know each other better and it feels right; maybe if I learn to get over my anxiety about it; or maybe because it’s not a definitive “no,” I’m open to the idea. It will serve you well to discuss why something ends up in the “maybe” column and will give you insight into your partner. The activities listed in the sidebars are a good place to start the conversation.
In addition to negotiating your wants, needs, desires, and limits for BDSM, you should also decide if there will be sexual activity as part of your play. You can write up a similar “Yes–No–Maybe” list. Will there be genital contact and stimulation? Masturbation? How about penetration, oral sex, sex toys, ejaculation? As part of the negotiation process, you should disclose when you were last tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and decide on safer sex practices. (See
for a sample Yes–No–Maybe list and an STI/safer sex guide.)
Making a list of activities is like drawing the outline. Now it’s time to fill in the details and get more specific. Erotic desire is in the details, so it’s helpful to you and your partners to flesh out your fantasies and figure out exactly what you want. Say you like the idea of bondage. Do you crave being restrained into submission or do you like the idea of struggling to get out of it? You enjoy dominating. Do you prefer to give orders, create predicaments, or use someone for your pleasure? You know you’re into sex-for-money fantasies where you’re a prostitute—but are you a streetwalking hustler or a high-priced call girl?
THE ART OF RESTRAINT
As I stand there and each piece of rope gets laid across me, my focus changes. I get calmer and breathe deeper, and I can feel each fiber of the rope against my skin. With each layer, he controls more of my body. I bend as he wants me to, my flesh manipulated by his hands and the rope. It is no longer about voluntary compliance. As he taps my inner thigh to indicate I should move it, I hesitate. I know the moment I do move, he will know just how turned on I am from the scent between my legs permeating the air around us.
rope bondage, cuffs, metal bondage, Japanese bondage, suspension, chastity devices, predicament bondage, mummification, confinement
rope, belts, ties, leather restraints, metal cuffs, bondage mitts, chastity belts, collars, leashes, athletic tape and wraps, bondage tape, plastic wrap, arm binders, sleep sacks, body bags, spreader bars, straitjackets, cages
As you fill in the details of your desires, decide on and communicate your limits within a certain activity; for example:
You love to be slapped and spanked, but not on your face.
You’re excited to have hot wax dripped on you, but you don’t want it on your breasts.
You checked “yes” under clips and clamps although you have one caveat: no clothespins.
You’re game to try sensory deprivation if your partner promises not to put a gag in your mouth.
Caning is fun, but no marks on your body that people could see when you wear shorts.
Now is also the time to tell your partner all relevant information he or she should know about you. Is there anything in your medical history that is serious or will affect the type of play you do? For example, you should let a partner know if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, diabetes, or allergies. You should talk about medications you take, a sensitivity to hot or cold, if you’re prone to dizziness or fainting, how well you can see without your glasses. Do you have bad knees and can’t kneel for more than 20 minutes? That’s vital information to tell a Dominant before a scene!
Although it can be difficult, you should also share any specific elements that you know can trigger a negative reaction in you; these may be based on phobias, negative experiences, past trauma, childhood abuse, or strong aversions. They can be about a specific body part, an activity, an implement, a certain word or words. For example, I have a friend who cannot be spanked with a hairbrush because she has awful memories of being punished as a little girl with a hairbrush by her mother. Another friend likes to be called names like
in a scene, but draws the line at
. I know a guy who has an intense fear of being strangled, so even hands around his neck can send him into a tailspin. A woman had a bad first-time experience with nipple clamps and now they give her tremendous anxiety.
This is important information to know as you decide if you’re going to play with someone, what you’re going to do, and how to construct a scene. This information sharing is part of giving and receiving
consent; it also helps prepare you to assess the risks and determine how to play safer.
Safety, Risk, and Responsibility
The issues of safety and responsibility have been vital for kinky people both personally and politically. People who practice BDSM have long emphasized the importance of mentoring and education so newcomers can learn proper skills before picking up a paddle or a piercing needle. When SM groups first became more visible, and as they continue to grow and get more politically active, kinksters want nonkinky folks to know that they aren’t whip-toting lunatics.
In 1983, the phrase “safe, sane, and consensual” (abbreviated
) appeared in a committee report of Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA) in New York; it is widely credited to David Stein, a member of GMSMA.
The concept of SSC was promoted to accomplish two goals: to articulate the values of a growing community and, as the practice of SM became increasingly visible, to raise awareness among the larger gay community that SM was not the same thing as abuse. Other SM communities and players embraced Stein’s phrase with gusto as a kind of motto, and it quickly became a much-used catchphrase.
I think I have the classic “businessman syndrome,” where being in control all the time and having to make decisions all the time makes you crave someone else’s control and want to submit. For me it is very freeing to know that my only obligation is to please someone else. Usually I am the one in charge of everything. It’s great to have someone doing that for me.
Scene or relationship dynamics:
master/slave, domestic servitude, sexual service, personal service, 24/7 D/s
A decade after it was so widely embraced, some people began to interpret, critique, and debate the concept of SSC; they questioned whether it sanitized SM and was used to shame people who did more “risky” activities. Sex educators encourage people to practice safer sex, by using barriers, testing regularly, and developing other strategies to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Educators emphasize that it’s
sex—not safe sex—to make the point that all sex comes with some risks. Likewise, critics of SSC wanted to acknowledge that one can take steps to be safer, but there is some kind of risk in all forms of BDSM.
In 1999, a new phrase was introduced: “risk-aware consensual kink” (RACK).
RACK continues to emphasize the consensual nature of BDSM while acknowledging that some of its practices are inherently risky (and, in fact, exploring the risks and edges are part of what draws people to them). You can make an informed decision to acknowledge the risks, take steps to reduce them, and proceed. Stein himself later clarified the context and intentions behind the creation of SSC and acknowledged some of its limitations:
What we meant by “safe S/M” back in 1983—as the full GMSMA statement of purpose implies—was the opposite of careless, irresponsible, or uninformed S/M. We meant doing your homework and taking reasonable precautions. We never intended to promote only G-rated S/M or to turn the leather scene into a risk-free playpen where pain doesn’t really hurt, bondage isn’t really constraining, and dominance is being ordered to do what you want to do anyway.
One way to reduce risk is to use a
. Although you negotiate and discuss limits, boundaries, and triggers before a scene, you cannot prepare for everything. It’s simply impossible to predict how you’ll feel during a scene, what will push your buttons, or how something will affect you.
A safeword is a word—usually one that you wouldn’t normally utter during a scene—that you and your partner choose. Your safeword is your safety net. If you don’t like something that’s happening and you want the scene to stop right away, simply say your safeword. Words like
, which we commonly use to communicate this sentiment, may be part of the dialogue of a scene where the bottom wants to resist or be forced to do something. So they are not ideal safewords. The most common safeword is
. Sometimes people pick two different words; for example, red means “stop right now!” and yellow means “please slow down.” If the bottom can’t speak (he has a gag in his mouth or she is supposed to perform oral sex until you tell her to stop) or the music is really loud in the dungeon, agree on a safe signal instead. For instance, you can have the bottom hold something in her hand during a scene; if she drops it, that means stop.