It’s a winter's day, I’m 23 years old, and shaking.

Not from the cold, but from the thoughts flying through my head, all unspoken wants; and I'm with a girl with bright red hair and the bluest eyes that I've ever seen. She is sitting across from me. She is sipping a cup of coffee. She smiling at me. And I'm scared out of my mind. Because I want very desperately to ask her something, but am terrified that once I do, she will run off and never speak to me again. We had only recently started dating. We were already beginning to bring up physical intimacy, but what I wanted from her ... well, it had been drilled into me time and again that you did not bring it up. Ever. Because such things were revolting, and just not done.

But all I want to do is take this girl back to my place, strip off some of her clothing, and tie her up. Nothing bordering on severe BDSM; no whips or chains, candle wax, or even penetration. No, in my 23-year-old head I just see her lying down on my bed, wrists and ankles firmly tied, and smiling back up at me as I explore her. A most basic fantasy, and yet one that I could not vocalize. At all. This was, in part, because I feared her reaction, and in part because I could hear the voices of my family pointedly reminding me that such things were disgusting, and that I should be ashamed of myself.

Looking back a good decade later, I can see how foolish I was to overreact in such a way. But I'm hardly alone. For a lot of people, bringing up the introduction of bondage, even light and playful forays with silk rope and luxurious blindfolds, can seem a daunting task. Whether it's fear of rejection, fear of being labeled as somehow perverted, or even fear of accepting and voicing our dreamed-up scenarios with others, the topic of indulging fetishes can make even the best of us blush, laugh nervously, or shake like a teenager trying to talk to their crush. Even in the wake of popular fiction like "50 Shades of Grey," bondage talk still gets pushed to the side on a regular basis.

What Talking About Bondage Really Means

Breaking that shell of worry and speculated fear can often be the hardest part of the entire experience. Confidence is important, especially with someone you love and trust. When bringing up the subject of bondage, you are literally asking someone to give you their trust, their freedom, and potentially their idea of safety in exchange for sensual/sexual pleasure, power-play, and a possible re-evaluation of your own relationship. By asking someone you care about to let you dominate them, even in the most respectful and safe of ways, you are asking for their trust, and showing that you feel you’ve earned the right to explore it.

So, imagine for a moment that your partner is asking you to take part in an exercise where they want to restrain you. Do you want them to be scared, sweating, breathing heavily, or dodging around the subject, or would you prefer something straightforward, respectful and, above all, aware of what they are asking? How would you react to either situation?

Now, I know that’s easy to think about, and infinitely harder to vocalize when the moment arrives. To this day, it’s the hardest part of finding new partners or introducing the idea of bondage to my current partners. However, I’ve learned a few things along the way that I hope will make the experience easier for all of you. Feel free to give them a try. You can even ask my partner, Lily, because she got a lot of these thrown her way when we first met.

It’s Just Elaborate Foreplay

That’s really all it is. Once you come to grips with that, it becomes easier to bring up. We surround fetish play with such an air of mystique and power that we tend to forget that it's really just another part of being intimate, and it's one way that many prospective partners are more than willing to experiment with. So, bring it up that way. Be open about what you want to do, and why you want to do it. You’ll be surprised how easy being straightforward can be.

Start Slow

This is a cardinal truth about any experimentation, and it goes double for bondage. While it is just part of foreplay, it still carries powerful connotations of dominance, submission, loss of freedom, and the potential for pain. Those thoughts are always there in new participants, even if they insist they’re fine with it and not scared or intimidated. You need to take that first session slowly, and be mindful of your partner because they will definitely let you know if they enjoy what's happening ... or not.

Nothing kills a mood faster than moving too quickly or misreading signs. I learned that the hard way with one of my partners. Rather than giving her a simple tie, I dove right in with multiple ropes, cloths, and biting. Needless to say, I scared her off pretty fast, and it is something I regret to this day. (Get more beginner tips in Why Bondage Can Be So Much Fun.)

Ask Them What They Want

This is a huge “duh” comment, but you’d be surprised at how often this gets ignored. Maybe you’re elated that your partner agreed, or you’re taking their assent as license to indulge your deepest desires, but take the time out to see what they know about bondage, and how best to blend your desires with theirs. Maybe they’d never thought about it before, or maybe they were keeping a similar secret from you, but you need to set that common ground before ever acting on it. Everyone comes from a different standpoint, and balancing your mindsets will save you a ton of emotional upheaval later on.

Fear Is the Mind Killer

This timeless line from "Dune" applies universally to a lot of things, but especially to the subject of bondage. Fear can kill any desire, destroy any semblance of trust, or transform something lovely into something uncomfortable in no time flat. Fear in bringing up the subject will either twist its significance in you and your partner’s head, or cause them to back away slowly because you’re acting weird. Fear in the act of tying can cause you to miss cues your partner is giving you, or cause pain via bad ties/positioning. Believe me when I say that fear can cause you to completely tune out everything around you, and that paranoia that you’re doing something wrong can very easily lead you to doing something very wrong because you're focused on the wrong things.

Be Desire-less, Be Excellent, Be Gone

This tidbit of advice was given to me by a friend when I was back in college. He used it as a central dating philosophy, but I feel that it comes in handy here as well. Don’t over-hype things in your head. Don’t have unreal expectations. Certainly don’t blame your partner if their expectations are not the same. When it comes to introducing something like bondage into a relationship, all you can do is ask, listen to your partner and perform alongside what they want. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. That’s it. There’s no magic bullet that can make everything happen the way you want it to. So, all you can do is be your absolute best, give your partner the best experience you can, and be prepared for what happens afterwards.

Remember, you are asking them to open up to another world, one that has significance to you. You respect them enough to ask if they want to be part of it. That goes a long way in establishing the trust necessary to create something beautiful. Everything else flows from there. Be open about it, and you might surprise even yourself.

When I first brought the idea of bondage play up with Lily, we were sitting in a hotel room in Portland in between events at a conference. I wanted to see her kneeling, with her wrists tied behind her back. After two false starts, I just came out and said it. She looked at me, blushed (I think), and the next thing you know, I was kneeling behind her in the midst of an energy transfer that was intense beyond belief. A month later, we were spending a weekend together and exploring more instances of rope and play. Two years after that, we have developed an intense relationship that is only enhanced by bondage play. Although we were both scared at the time, we were open to the possibility, we were straight with each other, we defined our boundaries, and then we shattered them as we realized we trusted each other more than either had expected.

Remember, it’s just bondage.