You read a blog post that describes a woman handcuffed to the bed, blindfolded, and with a ball gag shoved in her mouth. The only thing that turned you on was the blindfold. Then, you saw an image of a woman bound by rope, hanging upside down. The rope looked interesting, but the fear of passing out in that position was a turn-off. You like a bit of light spanking, but not with a riding crop like the last book you read. That just sounds painful. You like some kinky things, but not others. Is that normal? Actually yes, it is normal.

Welcome to the kinky buffet that is BDSM.

What is BDSM?

BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism. Basically, if it's kinky, it probably falls within this spectrum. Let's take a quick look at what these different terms mean.


Bondage and discipline are about restraint. Bondage involves physical restraint through rope, chains, silk scarves, and practically anything else that you can tie someone up with in a safe manner. Discipline involves restraint of the mind through behavior. Punishment is the consequence of a lack of discipline.

Dominance and submission go hand-in-hand. A Dominant partner controls the submissive partner through a power exchange that is negotiated and agreed upon by all parties for either a specific set of time or under specific circumstances.

Sadism and masochism involve the pain aspect of BDSM. Sadists enjoy inflicting pain while masochists enjoy receiving it. There's an old joke about the masochist who begged, "Hurt me, hurt me!" The sadist's response? "No."

One Size Doesn't Fit All

It would be impossible for me to list all of the varying types of kinky play you can do as part of BDSM. There are as many kinks and fetishes as there are people in the world. Every kink has a spectrum from light to heavy.


In bondage, there are people who are tied up, suspended from the ceiling, and left to hang in full view of an audience. On the other end of the spectrum, some people prefer to have their hands tied to the bedpost with a silk scarf. Both are valid ways to play with bondage. With discipline, you may be told to remain in one position for a certain amount of time or you may be tasked with giving up certain foods or habits.

Dominance and submission range from occurring only in the bedroom and only with certain partners to full on Master and slave 24/7 relationships where the slave must ask permission to do the most basic functions, including using the bathroom.

Sadism and masochism sound scary if you're not into being hung from a hook in the ceiling and whipped with a bullwhip. If a light, bare-handed spanking sounds good to you, you're still within the spectrum.

Figuring Out What You Like

The best way to figure out what you and your partner want to do is to read and ask as many questions as you can. There are tools that can be found online to help you along the way. Memes have risen up over the years to help people figure out who and what they are.


There are checklists for Dominance and submission that let you go through a plethora of activities and mark whether you are interested, unsure, or definitely not interested. There are memes like 30 Days of Kink, 30 Days of Submission, and 30 Days of Dominance that have you answer a specific question each day to help you on the path to self-discovery.

Use these resources as guides on your journey. Understand that, over time, your preferences can and will change. It's a good idea to look over the checklists and re-do the 30 day series every so often.

The practice of BDSM is one of constant learning. There are always new kinks to discover, new toys to play with, and new things to try. There is only one hard and fast rule in BDSM: consent. Without consent, anything that happens is abuse. Once you and your partner are in agreement on what to try, what to do, and how to do it, the rest is a kinky buffet. Try a little of everything that sounds good, come back for what you really like, and leave the rest behind.