Few things in life are as misunderstood as BDSM. The sex practice is often accused of being physically or mentally harmful, something that only survivors of abuse embrace, or abnormally kinky. At its most basic, BDSM is an umbrella term for three categories: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism more details on those in a minute. They might each sound scary in their own right, but because they rely on a judgement-free zone where communication about your desires and boundaries come first, BDSM can actually be the safest and most fun kind of sex you can have, says Holly Richmond, PhDa somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist. Think about it: Your work schedule, rent payments, and ugh taxes are all set by external forces. BDSM offers a world of freedom to play, experiment, and allow someone else to take the reins—at your consent. Or on the flip side, if you're the one who likes to do the controlling, you get to call the shots for once. And though the practice typically does involve props, they don't make an appearance right off the bat. Instead, as a beginner, you'll want to take things slowly until you figure out what BDSM looks like for you and your partner ssince someone else's methods won't necessarily get you going.
It makes sense that as we carry on to become more sexually progressivepleasure-positive, after that inclusive of diverse sexual interests, BDSM is finding its way into the public consciousness. But what exactly does wading into the world of BDSM actually look like for an individual? I spoke with 10 people who shared how they got into BDSM and what exactly happened during their first-ever experience with it. I was introduced to a few things by the Folsom Street Fair, and I ended up practicing it with a guy I was hooking up along with. It felt really great!