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BDSM: a beginner’s guide

As the Fifty Shades of Grey movie premieres,  real-life BDSM enthusiast Sophie Morgan, author of the brilliant (and bestselling) book The Diary of a Submissive: A True Story brings you a tool kit and how-to on getting started

BDSM-tinged chat is everywhere. Erotic fiction trilogies fill the shelves at WH Smith’s. My mum even came back from her slimming class giggling at a discussion about safe words. It’s all a bit surreal, not least cause the latest big thing is something that’s been important to me for most of my adult life (although my mum doesn’t know that).
The 50 Shades Of Grey movie is released on February 14th, 2015


I am a submissive. When you put it that way it sounds terribly big and significant, not least because if everything you know about BDSM comes from Fifty Shades of Grey then you’re probably assuming I spend most of my life connected by a digital umbilical cord to my dominant, only a helicopter ride away from fulfilling his every whim. But being submissive is only one facet of the person I am – and not even the most important. I’m a girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, journalist, feminist, Scrabble fiend, caffeine addict and dozens of other things besides.

For me dominance and submission, and the sex it inspires, is incredibly hot and also encourages a closeness between me and my partner

And, despite what you might have read to the contrary my sexual urges don’t overshadow every other aspect of my personality and life. While my partner and I have a lovely, filthy sex life, it sits within our wider relationship – complete with loving support when work or family life gets a bit frustrating, obsessions about DVD box sets, good-hearted banter and occasional grumps about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher.

For me dominance and submission, and the sex it inspires, is incredibly hot and also encourages a closeness between me and my partner. To have him do these things requires trust and good communication which bleeds out to the rest of our life. It also means we know each other incredibly well. We’re living proof you can live the fantasy without all the associated micromanagement and paperwork, and even with the sexual power differential it can still be as affectionate, loving and supportive relationship as any other.

But if you want to spice up your sex life where do you start? Here are some ideas. Pick your favourite from the list and give it a try – be sure to lay the ground work by broaching it with your partner before the big moment (if nothing else you want to ensure they are into it too – not all surprises are good surprises). If you’re too shy to talk about it in person send an email or a flirty text.

Sex and the City brought the Rampant Rabbit into women’s consciousness, now E.L. James has done epic things for cable ties (B&Q must be thrilled) blindfolds, butt plugs and jiggle balls

You’ll be able to read the signals in response and get a good idea whether this is a route you both want to explore. Just remember to take it slowly, settle on boundaries together before you get into the heat of the moment and agree a safe word which can be used to stop (or even just slow down) if either of you feel things are going too far too fast.


Give it a try for an evening – whether you choose roleplaying and outfits or something more informal and light-hearted, sometimes putting your destiny in someone else’s hands for a little while, being on the back foot and reacting can be fun. Just remember to talk about what you’re happy to do or would rather not do.


If you’re dipping a toe into BDSM this is a lovely place to start – not least because if you’re not sure you want to get into intense power play yet it can be as sensual as it is controlling. It can also start very simple – a silk tie or dressing gown cord is easily grabbed when coming home from work or just before bed. If you want to go the full Fifty Shades route and use cable ties make sure they’re not too tight – suffice to say that awkward moment where you’re trying to get the tip of the scissors between tie and skin to snip them off can be rather unalluring. If you’re going for rope, beware the DIY shop – while you can buy rope there it’s often itchy and unyielding. For decadent comfort buy specialist bondage rope – made from cotton, silk or hemp – you’ll find it easier to work with if you’re doing the tying and much more comfortable if you’re not.

for decadent comfort buy specialist bondage rope – made from cotton, silk or hemp – you’ll find it easier to work with

Just remember that in reality people don’t bend in all the exotic ways of fiction – keep scissors close to hand in case of difficulty) and avoid joints and dangerous areas like the neck.


It can be wonderfully erotic and in the right mindset cathartic, but with pain as with all things starting off slowly is the way to go. If you’ve not done it before a simple hand spanking can still be really effective. As any physicist would tell you it’s all about the force, even a riding crop or whip if you decide to graduate up to using such things can be endured by newbies if it’s wielded with sensitivity.

if you go to Decathlon or another similar big sporting goods shop you can pick up a well made whip or crop for half the price you would in your average sex shop

If you are tempted by such things, a word to the wise – if you go to Decathlon or another similar big sporting goods shop you will pick up a well made whip or crop for half the price you would in your average sex shop for something of similar quality. And rest assured, a lot of the other couples lurking round the display sheepishly waiting for you to make your choice are probably doing the same thing. The Olympics hasn’t bought about THAT much of an equestrian renaissance.

couple in bdsm, beginner's guide to bdsm by


While a red room of pain is fine in fantasy, the fact is if most of us had a spare room in our house we could use for whatever we wanted we’d think of a dozen things to use it for before we thought to install the sex swing (a home cinema gets my vote, although I might still have naughty plans for what happens in the back row). You don’t have to spend a fortune on sex toys to spice up your love life – and gone are the days of sex shops being the natural home of men in polyester coats you’d actively cross the road to avoid. Coco de Mer, Ann Summers and shops of that ilk mean walking into an erotic emporium on the High Street is no longer something seedy, and if even the thought of that makes you blush there’s plenty of places you can buy online who’ll deliver to your door. If Sex and the City can be credited with bringing the Rampant Rabbit into women’s consciousness and subsequently their bedside drawers, then E.L. James has done epic things for a host of other toys. Everything from those cable ties (B&Q must be thrilled) through to blindfolds, butt plugs and jiggle balls.

Experiment with what you fancy – and take the opportunity to discuss with your partner anything they fancy trying too, it needn’t be a po-faced conversation and communicating about what’ll happen when whatever you’ve bought arrived isn’t just good practice, but will help build anticipation for when it does. Just remember there’s plenty of potential in things around the house if you use your imagination – from wooden spoons and clothes pegs to cling film too. Just remember to start slowly and be safe.


If you don’t want to spend a fortune on accoutrements, why don’t you instead take the opportunity to literally heat up your love life? Temperature play can be really fun and involves minimal cost. Blindfolding someone as you run ice around them – and even inside them – can be very intense and (forgive the pun) quite hot, although make sure you’re not starting straight from the kitchen – it’s safe to say freezer burn isn’t sexy.

Blindfolding someone as you run ice around them can be very intense and (forgive the pun) quite hot

If you fancy going hotter then playing with candle wax is a good option. Just remember to take it slowly, don’t let the candle burn for too long and don’t use coloured ones unless you know they’re specifically designed for rudeness (usually the colour pigment means the candle burns at a higher temperature and is thus likely to burn). Also, potential dom/mes remember: Holding the candle far away from the body you’re dripping it on gives the wax a little longer to cool before hitting the body. Your submissive will thank you, especially if it’s the first time they’re experiencing wax. Also, and don’t judge me for saying this, the pleasure of peeling dried wax off the body is up there with peeling Copydex glue off your fingers while doing arts and crafts in terms of (an admittedly different kind of) satisfaction.

diary of a submissive book by healthista.comSophie Morgan is a journalist and author of The Diary of a Submissive: A True Story and its sequel No Ordinary Love Story: Sequel to The Diary of a Submissive Follow her on Twitter at @mssophiemorgan.

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