The BDSM community has a number of different niches and subcultures that make it unique. Whether you’re a sadist, a masochist, or any of the shades in between, there’s probably a spot in the community for you. A lot of people who are new to the scene may have only heard of the two most-often mentioned types of kinksters: sadists and masochists. While that does warrant discussing, it should be noted that these two categories are far from the only ones out there. There are a ton of other choices that you should explore. Here are the five main types of kinksters on the scene - and what you should know about them.

    Sadists and Masochists

        I wanted to start here because this is the most well known category. However, it is also the one that bears the most clarification, especially for someone coming from the "vanilla" world into BDSM. Many people, mostly religious pundits, would call sado-masochism a sin that is strictly prohibited in the Bible. Within the realm of psychology, sadomasochism has a history of being seen as a sexual disorder. However, recent studies show that people who enjoy sadomasochism are pretty well adjusted. So, what exactly is sadism and masochism, and how do you know where you are on the spectrum?

        Sadomasochism is a person finding pleasure in either inflicting pain on others (sadism) or having pain inflicted upon them (masochism). A Mistress I used to know gave me a piece of sage advice that should help you determine whether or not you fit in one or another category. She once said, “Imagine yourself being spanked, beaten, tied up, whatever you’re into. At that point, take the perspective of either the sadist or the masochist in your imagination and see which one turns you on the most.” If both turn you on equally, you could be what’s called a "switch." This is someone who gets turned on by both sides of the equation; sadism and masochism. In either case, you’re bound to have fun once you figure out where you fall on the spectrum. Of course, you could fall nowhere on this particular spectrum. If this is the case, where exactly do you go? Some of the niches below could give you some avenues to explore.

        Hedonists

        I had the opportunity to speak with Angie Williams, a 29-year-old veteran in the BDSM scene who identifies as a switch. Williams told me about a number of things, namely how she came about how she came to identify as a hedonist.

        "Hedonism is fluid. It can encompass a wide range of things," Williams said. "For me, I just realized that I was willing to try anything, and I was into anything as long as it was pleasurable.”

        This is a perfect example of hedonism; and often, this is a good niche of exploration for most new-comers in BDSM. By experimenting with a number of different things, you’re bound figure out what you’re looking for.

        Fetishists

        This is actually the group of people that we hear the most about and the one that’s the most sensationalized. Who hasn’t seen an episode of "Jerry Springer" where a man or woman admits to a foot or heel fetish? To provide a working definition, a fetishist is any person who’s turned on by a particular object or part of the body. This object could be anything and makes for a very interesting twist for various scenes. Dominants can use or withhold the fetish as a form of control, and manipulate the fetish in a variety of ways. As long as consent is involved, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. This niche actually makes up a significant part of BDSM culture. (Learn more in Dating a Fetishist: What's That All About?)

        Primal-Predators and Prey

        Before I speak about the primal dynamic, I wanted to include a slight caveat: by predator and prey, I don’t mean sexual, physical, or emotional abuse that occurs without consent, nor am I advocating a predator-prey relationship with those under the age of consent. (In the BDSM community, this is most commonly the age of 21. At 18 you’re still considered a teenager, and you haven’t yet found your footing as far as finding out what your kinks are.)

        What I am talking about is a subset of the community who considers themselves primal. People who are primal identify with an animalistic, or "bestial" aspect of themselves. Sometimes this can be an animal "spiritual guardian" with which they identify. Other times, they don’t feel truly human, opting instead to fully embrace the animal within, even to the point of it bleeding into their day-to-day life. They may feel that they are wolves, cheetahs, or even cats.

        People who identify as primal take one of two stances: predator or prey. The former idealizes the hunt. Usually this involves fantasies of take downs, stalking prey (think an adult version of hide and seek), fear play and a number of other acts from rough sex, biting, and everything in between. Primals who identify as prey may enjoy being hunted, stalked, and everything else mentioned. Sometimes this may include teasing their predators as "bait" so that they can be "hunted" or "punished," much like a masochist.

        Rope Bunnies

        A rope bunny is someone who, as the name implies, gets turned on by being tied up. This could range from employing a simple set of silk scarves to complex ties and rope corsets. As it turns out, Angie Williams (the young woman mentioned in the “Hedonist” section) had a number of choice words about being a rope bunny, specifically around the issue of trust.

        “You have to trust the person you’re with, " Williams said. "if you think about it, you’re giving this person complete control of your body. You need to read books, and make sure you study everything carefully.”

        I couldn’t agree more; this is quite possibly one of the most technical of the niches listed. You can’t just grab any rope and tie someone up. There are different types of ropes, as well as ways to tie them. There are also a number of things that rope bunnies like to explore, such as suspension and even wearing rope corsets.

        As with all of the paths mentioned above, safety is the No.1 prerequisite. However, it’s my hope that by checking out each of the paths above you’ll be more apt to test the waters. Each of them will help you find a more fulfilling and pleasurable BDSM experience.