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BDSM for Vanilla Couples Is Easier Than You Think

Stefanie Iris Weiss is the author of Eco-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable and 8 other books. She keeps her carbon footprint small in New York City, where she writes about sexuality, sustainability, su...

You can try BDSM without needing a red room


Every long-term relationship faces its ups and downs, and few are more feared than the dreaded sex lull. Most couples will face it no matter how strong they are. While frustrating, it's pretty normal, but how you deal with it will make all the difference.

Traditional monogamy has been ingrained in us since we were born, but it's actually just a myth manufactured by the patriarchy to keep naturally sexual women in line. But this doesn't mean you have to abandon our societal traditions and start opening up your relationship to other partners. If you truly love your partner and sex is the only thing missing from the equation, you can easily shift the dynamic of your sexual connection with BDSM.

More: When It's Actually OK to Seek Sex Outside Your Marriage

For some couples in need of newness, BDSM light turns out to be just the thing. Don't misunderstand — for many, this is a serious lifestyle. Luckily, there are plenty of generous and wise BDSM experts out there willing to share their expertise with the vanilla set.

As with all things related to your sex life, communication reigns supreme. Knowing what turns you on, listening to your body and sharing that with your partner is key. And when the time comes that you’re ready for something new — either because you’re bored, craving more intimacy or just curious — you can’t just lay it on him/her without warning. This is especially the case with BDSM.

More: What 'Vanillas' Can Learn About Consent From Kinksters

If you somehow avoided the Fifty Shades of Grey hype in 2015 (and I hope you did) you can still create your own feminist Christian Grey fantasy. And even if you plunged all the way in, devouring the series, but never tried it yourself, there is no moment like the present.

Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples is a great place to start. Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, this quick-and-dirty collection of short erotica will hit your kinky sweet spot — even if you think you don’t have a kinky sweet spot. And if you’re the BDSM-curious partner to a rather vanilla lover, just leaving this book on the nightstand could be the perfect entryway to some healthy experimentation.

More: Do Aphrodisiac Foods Actually Work?

Here’s a mini-primer on what BDSM actually is. BDSM stands, loosely, for “Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism.” But really it’s whatever it ends up meaning for you — as you explore, you’ll learn more about your own desires, likes and dislikes and whether you even fit into the wide spectrum of BDSM at all.

Your first mission: choosing a safe word. Even if you’re only planning for the most innocent of kink initiations, it’s important to discuss this word. A safe word is something that you or your partner will say when you’ve had enough — when you no longer feel safe. That's when your partner must stop whatever he/she is doing, stat. Both of you should have a safe word.

Tips for BDSM beginners:

  • Start slowly; after Fifty Shades of Grey came out last winter, there were many reports of burns (from candle wax), paddling injuries, nipple-clamp damage and other newbie mistakes.
  • Visit a sex shop together and don’t be shy about asking, “What’s this for?” It might feel safer to shop for toys on online, but sometimes an open dialogue with an expert is better than grabbing that box from the FedEx guy and hiding it before the kids see it.
  • If you don’t innately know whether you’re a domme or a sub, safe play will help you figure that out. If you want to be in control, directing the scene, telling your partner what to do, tying him/her up, etc., you’re more of a "domme." (This is the spelling for a woman who is dominant. Male dominants are "doms.") If you want your partner to tell you what to do, you’re more of a sub. Some people are a bit of both! Figuring out what you are, unrestricted by gender roles, is half the fun…

The stressful holiday season might seem like an odd moment to initiate your own BDSM-light date night, but it’s actually ideal. There’s a ton of red ribbon lying around, right? After you finish wrapping presents, you can always use what’s left over on the spool as a makeshift restraint.

A version of this article was originally published in June 2016.

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