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BDSM sex tips for ‘vanilla’ couples, no red room needed

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...

Yes, 'vanilla' couples can enjoy the benefits of BDSM without getting a red room


Every long-term couple’s sex life needs a bit of shaking up, no matter how thrilling it once was. After some time together that inevitable itch will come — it’s not a matter of if, but when. Whether yours needs to be scratched at six months, two years or seven depends on you — and your partner.

Effortless monogamy, it turns out, is pretty much a myth manufactured by the patriarchy to keep naturally promiscuous women in line. This doesn’t mean that rekindling your sexual spark must include swinging. On the contrary — if you have no interest in opening up your relationship to other partners, you don’t have to push yourself to be poly.

More: When it's actually OK to seek sex outside your marriage

What if you love your partner but your sex life was always a bit meh? That’s the case for plenty of people who have prioritized other reasons to be coupled — love, companionship, children, financial security. If you fit into any of these categories, you’re certainly not doomed to a sexless relationship — you can shift the dynamics of intimacy whenever you’re ready to go there.

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: The secret to enjoying him 'down there' is really pretty simple

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: 9 Reasons feminist men are better in bed

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.

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