50 Shades of Grey has taken the country by storm, now Bo Blaze is here to tell you how it’s done (and not done) in his guide on BDSM for beginners.
Piggybacking off the popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, Bo Blaze, an alternative life coach on the kink scene in New York, recently published his similarly titled “50 Shades of Curious”—a BDSM guide for beginners. Even though the book is meant for novices, I’d highly recommend it to anyone at any stage of their kinksploration, as we could all use a refresher or two on how to practice kink and alternative relationships safely and ethically.
Bo, who has traveled around America teaching kink and alternative lifestyles at universities and conferences, reminds readers that BDSM is a contact sport. While it doesn’t always have to hurt or involve some sort of hitting or methods of torture, it most often does. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating here when I say: your partner’s life is in your hands,” he writes. And while the chances that you’ll actually kill someone with BDSM (the blanket term for bondage, discipline and sadomasochism, where the middle “DS” part also stands for dominance and submission) play are unlikely, they’re still there.
Right off the bat, Bo says that healthy kinky relationships are all about communication. You might be thinking, “Well, duh, all relationships are about communication.” But how many of us are actually good at clearly and effectively relaying what we want or need to our partners? Especially when it comes to sex, as there is still so much stigma around it in America? Probably not many.
So, yes, communication, communication, communication. (Got it yet?). Towards the beginning of the book, Bo presents his “triangle of communication.” One part is simply talking to your partner about what their kinky interests might be, while another is negotiation forms, which are common on the BDSM scene and usually involve a long list of kinky activities that you could rate from “yay” to “nay” before engaging in play with a new partner.
I filled out one such form for a Dom I was starting to play with last year and initially thought it was really silly (like, I’m not applying for a job, there shouldn’t be so much paperwork). I begrudgingly filled it out (including some bratty, tongue-in-cheek answers) and we went over it at a party some time last summer. Bo, in his treatise on negotiation forms, also suggests you go over them together to iron out some details, such as why certain things are off the table, whether the person filling it out knew what was meant by each term, etc. When my Dom and I went over it at The Powder Room, which is a monthly fetish party hosted by the Fetish Tribe’s Powder, I ultimately found it helpful in sorting out what were definitely hard limits for me, while being introduced to new things, such as caning, that I actually wound up liking.
Homework completes Bo’s triangle of communication, by which he means the Dom checking in with the sub some time after they’ve played to see what they might or might not have liked about the scene. He suggests that while you may have spent days learning some complicated rope trick, the other person might have been turned on by something much smaller, like being tickled or being called “daddy’s little girl.” Everyone’s kinks and triggers are different, after all.
In addition to this advice, Bo suggests that BDSM newbies get a profile on FetLife.com, which is basically the Facebook for kinksters, to connect with other like-minded individuals or events near them. He also outlines the many flavors of play that people can engage in and the types of relationships they might want to pursue in that context.
Regardless of the type of relationship or play you pursue, the most important thing you need to know is that it must be consensual. If it’s not consensual, it’s abuse. The kinksters have a motto, that the play must be “safe, sane and consensual.” And while consent is pretty straightforward, safe and sane might mean different things to different people. But in his book, Bo explains it as such: Safe means that it wouldn’t cause permanent physical of mental damage and sane means that either one of you should be ready to use a safeword or otherwise opt out if the other person no longer appears to be in their right mind while playing. In the beginning of the book, he gives a humorous example of this. He says that if a sub is in what we call “sub space” (a sort of high from all the chemicals rushing to your brain from pain or repeated hitting or some other form of play), the Dom might say, “I’m going to cut your leg off.” And because of the sub space state, the sub might reply, “yes, please, cut my leg off!” Under no circumstances are you to actually cut anyone’s legs off.
Whew, glad we got that out of the way! While Bo’s book offers many insights into specific types of play, how to use various toys, how to start out as a Dom, etc., what I love most about it is the fact that it’s grounded in reality. While Christian and Anastasia, the main characters in “50 Shades of Grey,” had a 24/7 D/s relationship, Bo says that this is highly unlikely in the real world and that if you come across such relationships, they’re most likely abusive. No one can be so “in character” all of the time; it’s tiring for both parties and prevents them from being equals in a healthy relationship.
Bo also reminds readers that, “There is no right or wrong way to practice BDSM as long as it’s consensual.” Go at whatever speed or range or variety you like. You don’t need to be the most kinky person in the room that’s swinging from chandeliers with five partners and every toy imaginable. If you just like a little spanking before sex, that’s fine, too. I find this advice particularly refreshing, as I do sometimes feel like there is that (real or perceived) pressure to try everything and be as kinky as possible once you get onto the scene. We live in a culture of excess, after all. “Go big or go home.” But excess is not always necessary, nor is it what we actually want or need in most cases.
What we need is personal growth. And to that end, Bo’s motto, which he sprinkles generously throughout the book, is: “when you stop growing, you start dying.” He encourages his readers and students to be open and honest with themselves about kink, as well as pursue other channels of growth, be it music, art, yoga, spiritual exploration, whatever floats your boat. If you want to swing from chandeliers, go ahead, but don’t forget to grow in other ways, too.
To purchase a copy of Bo’s book and get all the juicy little scuttlebutts, go here.