Speaking from my own personal experience, there is no perfect path down the kinky road when you start on a BDSM journey; Everyone's route is different and is driven by different needs and desires.
For example: I found kink by accident. I was minding my own business one night when suddenly I found myself on Craigslist. Ha. Okay, so I wasn't very careful. I was so eager to seek adventure and so excited that I forgot about the danger. I missed some very important steps in the beginning because as soon as kink had me, I went straight into a sub-frenzy.
Over a decade later, I'm an active supporter of my local BDSM community, a lifestyle player, a BDSM educator, and even an occasional Pro Domme. I've helped many vanilla people cross over to the "dark side," usually after they discovered "that book" or another person somehow ignited their curiosity.
Back in 2005, I was a new divorcée who encountered a man's sexy photo and ad on Craigslist; the rest is history. Whether you're going solo or bringing a curious consenting partner along for the ride, I'd like to share my guidelines with you. Before you buy all the toys, before you watch dozens of YouTube "how to" videos, here are some simple, easy first steps you can take to learn about this adventurous world, and hopefully replace your newfound kink-frenzy with a well-informed and healthy mind that will last you well throughout your upcoming adventures.
When I met my first Dom, he wasn't very adept. Yes, he had a jaw for days and great talent for tease and denial, but no actual skill set. Worse, I realized he was misogynistic and dangerous. Luckily, there was no true connection; I grew restless and we drifted apart. I knew we didn't fit, but I was hooked on kink and had no idea how to find the right partner. I started writing my own Craigslist ads with titles like "Looking for a Loving Dom." As I went through an inbox full of insults and dick pics, I heard from another submissive woman online who was looking for the same thing. She loved my ad and the similarities we shared, so she introduced me to another male Dom she'd been speaking to. He gave me some really good advice:
"Rather than snatch you up for myself," he said, "I'm going to be a good guy and steer you in the right direction. Pick up the book SM 101."
Rather than acting like the Craigslist guy, this kind man gave me some useful directions to take on all by myself. I immediately ordered a copy of Jay Wiseman's guidebook and read it every chance I got. I learned the various vocabulary terms and basic protocols on how to safely interact with others. I was hooked on the possibilities of BDSM as a lifestyle and suddenly realized that I had put the cart way before the horse in those first interactions. All those visits to that first Dom's house were bad for my physical health and emotional well-being. I was lucky to get out of that situation in one piece. (I hear similar stories from other people quite often, by the way). I began to take the time to educate myself so I could have better experiences in the future.
1. Read Books
There are countless novels about D/s or other kinks out there, but your priority should be to focus on education. The reality is very different from the fantasy, and requires training that's simply absent in most fiction.
Set aside those gushy erotic novels for now (sorry, but Mr. Grey isn't real) and wrap your brain around some true Kinkucation! Aside from Mr. Wiseman's SM 101 training wheels, Midori's Wild Side Sex is a great starter book that combines personal narrative with straightforward advice. I also highly recommend Back on the Ropes by the Two Knotty Boys for your collection of resources on how to tie people up.
Goodreads also has a great reference list of nonfiction books about kink based on the votes of their users. That one list gives you an excellent overview of the classics in the field.
Erotica is great, but for your first year of BDSM, nonfiction reading is going to be one of your best ways to build skills for emotional and physical safety. And of course, when you're ready, the best next step in your education would be going to local classes.
You may have heard of a place called Stockroom University.
PHOTOS OF HUDSY HAWN BY SHAWN FLINT BLAIR
2. Attend Events
That second, kinder Dom also told me to get out and mingle: "Get off the computer and start going to play parties to meet real people. Passive Arts is a great place to start."
So in addition to educational reading, I encourage novices to go to clubs and other events where you can meet fellow explorers in the flesh. Passive Arts is now called Sanctuary LAX, the most well-known play space in Los Angeles for numerous gatherings and theme nights. From leather competitions to role-specific private parties like Club FUK (Females United in Kink) and GIC (Gentlemen in Charge), there's something for everyone if you just look around. One should always be respectful and courteous when inquiring about these events. There are rules and high protocols in place at these types of venues for good reason.
PHOTO COURTESY GIC
All of these are in my own stomping grounds of Los Angeles, but you can find similar places almost anywhere. If you're not in a major city with its own scene, you can utilize a free membership through Fetlife.com and do a search for the gatherings happening in your own area. Fetlife is the most popular online gathering spot for BDSM communities and while it has many good resources, you need to exercise the same caution that you would on any other website. Be careful of people trying to push past your stated hard limits (this should ALWAYS be a major red flag) or telling you that their way is the only way.
HUDSY & FRIENDS POSE WITH ROBERT FLUTY, KINKEVENTS.COM
The great part about becoming a part of your local community is the friendships that you can make. Attending play parties is a great way to study others. Not only will you learn from watching people play during scenes, you may actually meet some people who could end up becoming your greatest teachers or play partners. There are also less pressure venues like Bar Sinister: A weekly theme night that takes place every Saturday at Boardners Hollywood. Sir Paul and Master Feenix host BDSM scenes up in the Purgatory Loft. The entire nightclub comes alive with dark decadence and lush attire as some of the most skilled BDSM Professionals and Life-stylers come out to play in voyeuristic style, and due to it taking place in a public bar, the scenes are shorter, tamer and in a more relaxed, first timer setting. You can quietly watch in a lounge atmosphere and find out later if the skilled players you admire are open to training or playing with you in a one-on-one private scene or paid session.
PHOTO OF FEENIX BY BAR SINISTER
3. Meet Mentors
Reading (#1) led me to Events (#2) which led me to Mentors (#3). The greatest thing I've experienced in the BDSM community is the amazing amount of unintentional mentorship I have received over the last decade. I've been influenced by amazing people at the nightclubs I have frequented, the parties I have scened