Americans are probably more educated, informed, and enthusiastic about sex today than we’ve ever been, and yet we can still sometimes feel closed or uncomfortable expressing our sexuality in certain ways. BDSM — a world I stumbled into, learned to understand, and have grown to love — is definitely one of those uncomfortable areas.

Before the Internet, many people assumed that fantasies and fetishes beyond “vanilla” sex were only for the perverted and abnormal. People who felt such desires rarely or never expressed them, and many must have felt completely alone. Today, though, we are more honest with each other and with ourselves — we know that most fantasies and fetishes are actually quite common. What’s more, the online world has empowered revolutionary sex positive movements and entire communities of people who are interested in exploring sexuality in previously forbidden and taboo ways.

Enter 50 Shades of Grey, a romance novel that has launched an enormous interest in bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM).

Now, many people I speak with are curious about BDSM, but don’t know how to get started. Others are afraid of it, thinking it is all about pain. So what is BDSM? How do you do it? Do I have to wear a corset? How do you even get into a latex bodysuit?!

Today, I want to give you some expert tips for how to turn your bedroom into the Red Room.

First of all, don’t panic. Remember that this is about giving yourself permission to experiment and play, and you should be enjoying yourself, not stressing out.

Let’s start with a good working definition of BDSM. (Spoiler alert: It’s not actually all about pain.)

Generally, BDSM is about dominance and submission. One person plays the “top” or dominant role, while the other plays the “bottom” or submissive role. These roles often coincide with each person’s natural tendencies or come from a particular desire they feel to dominate or submit. It’s also possible to be a “switch,” which means that you can play both roles naturally. Sometimes it’ll be easy to figure out which roles will work best for you and your partner, while other times it will require a little bit of experimentation — and that’s okay! Give yourself plenty of time to figure out what feels best. You might be surprised by what you find sexy and exciting, but you have to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and adventurous first.

DAMON DAHLEN

The first step toward incorporating BDSM into your sex life, then, is communication.

It is absolutely necessary to talk with your partner first, before you ever start online shopping for bondage rope or floggers. Spend some time thinking about fantasies you would like to explore, and then tell your partner about them. Ask them to share theirs. Be honest. This kind of authenticity, by the way, is often the scariest part of the whole process, but it’s also an amazing exercise in trust.

Once you’ve talked about your fantasies (ideally over champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries), do some research. Read up on what other people have tried, and come up with a plan that sounds like fun to both of you. Think about what mood you want to create, be it raunchy, lighthearted, or dark.

Discuss what your boundaries are, and it’s important to have a “safe word” to make sure you don’t cross the line. Good communication is necessary, as is respect.

Then buy the bondage rope.

When you’re first experimenting, start out small. Try a little name calling, some spanking, or light bondage and then work your way up from there. Whatever you decide to try, make sure to practice safely and use common sense. For instance, when tying someone up, be sure not to constrict their circulation, and remember that spanking is to stimulate rather than harm.

If you’ve read this much and are still at a loss for how to get started, here are some ideas to inspire your research.

BARBARA NITKE

A role play using elements that excite one or both partners is always a great place to begin. Your role play can involve:

• Light elements (you pretend to be complete strangers or forbidden coworkers who risk it all for one wild night of passion) • Dark elements (spice it up with props like warm wax, smoking, gags, or an edgier role play narrative) • Tying up (scarves and neckties can both work as restraints and blindfolds) • Spanking (with your hand is best or with a paddle that fits the scene you’ve chosen) • Caning and/or whipping (once you’ve had a lot of practice on pillows and such as in training, training, training) • Name calling (using names that your partner has told you make them feel sexy, powerful, or at your mercy) • Body worship (using hands, nose, lips, tongue, and any other body parts you can think of to caress, massage, and “worship” part of your partner’s body) • Tease and denial (make them want it so, so bad) …And so much more.

For lovers, BDSM can be an amazing experience and, really, anything goes as long as it’s consensual. Nothing can make you more vulnerable than revealing your deepest fantasies, and the acceptance that follows will strengthen your bond, giving you a stronger, deeper connection than you ever thought possible.

Sandra is an expert in personal and professional reinvention, authentic living, communication, and bridging the gap between sexuality and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the CEO of Attainment Studios, a sex positive business directory website designed to bring together members of the sex-positive community, and for finding solutions for your professional and personal needs. Her recent book Switch: Time for a Change, is a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55-years-old after losing everything, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra and receive your FREE eBook “5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex, and Happiness (Did I mention better sex?) visit http://sandralamorgese.com/