BDSM has become a fixture in mainstream culture. "Fifty Shades of Grey" opened the floodgates, leaving increasing numbers of consumers eager to dip their toes in the kinky waters. Unfortunately, a lack of clear information, an overwhelming number of product choices and apprehension about the unknown can make it difficult for many people to take that first kinky step.

One big hurdle that often prevents people exploring their kinky fantasies is misinformation. Here we'll dispel a couple of big myths about BDSM and help you get a little more curious about your kinks.

Myth: BDSM Is Weird

In fact, BDSM is not that weird. Broken down in the simplest terms, BDSM isn’t as intimidating or severe as it seems. Many sexual activities “vanilla” folks engage in can be considered kinky. Consensually tying someone’s hands with a necktie, being domineering in bed, wearing costumes and hair pulling are all aspects of BDSM that A LOT of people enjoy. In other words, many of us are kinky without even realizing it.

The acronym BDSM stands for: bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism. These words represent most activities included under the kinky umbrella. But it’s rare to find a kinkster who likes everything the acronym represents. For instance, if you only like bondage, you’re still considered a practitioner of BDSM. Although pain can be one aspect of kink, it’s very possible to get your freak on without it.

Myth: The Purpose of BDSM is the Same for Everyone

Some people enjoy BDSM because they like playing with dominant/submissive power dynamics. Others love the endorphin rush that results from pain. For some people, being kinky gives them the permission they need to shed sexual inhibitions. Some people believe new sensual experiences create a deeper intimacy with partners.

BDSM is appealing for many different reasons. The one thing all practitioners have in common is that they engage in BDSM for the mutual and consensual enjoyment of all involved. Think about what you wish to achieve by exploring kink. BDSM has different benefits for different people; you get to decide how you'd like it to impact your life.

The Key Types of BDSM Play (and the Toys to Use)

If you're new to BDSM, you may not be familiar with the key types of play you'll see here. These will also give you some ideas of where to start experimenting with kink.

Sensory Deprivation
For sensual players, sensory deprivation is a wonderful start. The premise is simple: if you remove one or more of the five senses, the remaining senses become amplified. Putting on a mask, for example, makes every touch and sound seem more intense. More daring kinksters can opt for a ball gag or cuffs, or add sensation play, bondage or pain into the mix.

Sensation Play
Sensory deprivation and sensation play go hand in hand. Running a Wartenberg wheel over the skin, teasing with an ice cube or drizzling a feather crop across a blindfolded partner’s sensual areas will kick their sense of touch into overdrive. This type of play can be tender or adrenaline-packed, depending on the participants’ preference and style.

Bondage
Some submissives feel closer to their lovers when surrendering all control, or when switching things up by reversing roles. Use restraints on the dominant partner, allowing them to lie back and enjoy the ride. Try out some soft wrist and ankle cuffs with simple Velcro closures. They can be used in conjunction with ropes or attached to other objects for advanced play.

Pain Play
Pain in sexual scenarios can be very pleasurable. Spanking the butt and thighs with a paddle increases blood flow to the erogenous zones aiding in arousal. Nipple clamps can be used on the nipples, labia or scrotal skin for a similar effect. After a few minutes of even mild pain, the body releases “feel good” chemicals known as endorphins. Analogous to a “runner's high,” endorphins cause us to enter a mildly euphoric state. This is especially pleasurable when combined with sexual activity and sensory deprivation. (Read:You Don't Have to Like All Types of Pain to Call Yourself a Masochist.)

Overall, it’s important to remember that BDSM isn’t something alternative people practice. It’s normal, healthy and most of us already engage in it to some extent. Kicking it up a notch doesn’t require fetish clothing or expensive BDSM gear. With a few simple items, a little creativity, and some encouragement, anyone can explore their kinks.

This article was written by Sunny Megatron and originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of StorErotica Magazine. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission from StorErotica.