KC (kc_anathema) wrote,

Essay: BDSM Tutorial

KC's Tutorial on BDSM


So you want to write a bdsm lemon (if you don't know what that means, go back to sucking vanilla). And you want that lemon to be satisfying and accurate (if you don't care about accuracy, go back to sucking abuse fics). You specifically want some bdsm porn that's a good read both in terms of detailed props and yummy sex. Okay, I can help. But first, you have to put down the rope.

Yes, put down the rope. Get rid of every thought you gots of rope, chain, leather, latex, plastic wrap and dungeon furniture. Don't worry, we'll come back to those later, but right now you must learn one all important fact. Restraints don't make the bdsm scene. Dominance and submission (D/s) does. In fact, every good bdsm fic is just an exploration of D/s, a parade of variations on that theme.

For bdsm, like the Sith, two are there always, a master and a submissive. The master is the one giving the orders, tying the knots and working over his/her submissive. The submissive, or slave or toy or whatever you call him/her, is the one being tied, being ordered, receiving everything the master gives. Take note: the submissive does not receive pain (we'll cover accidents and non-con later). The submissive is the one receiving sensation. This can be as fulfilling as sex, as teasing as a feather, as hard as a whip, but several rules apply.

Safe, Sane and Consensual

First, no blood. Controlled bloodplay is a whole 'nother fetish which only occasionally mixes with bdsm, and no, it does not fall under non-con except in rare instances, despite what all the badfics would have us believe. Bdsm is not about bloodletting, nor is it about bringing up welts or screams or endangering the slave in any way.

Second, bdsm is not about rape. Rape can happen in any fic, fetish or no fetish, and is applicable only in the extreme non-con. It doesn't matter if you characters are in chains and expensive gear when they're raped, expensive gear does not make the fic bdsm. It might merge the two, but non-con should not be confused when presented with the trappings of bdsm.

Third, and most important, the submissive calls the shots. I know this may seem counter intuitive for some readers, but many fics run right over the pre-scene work where the slave and master will discuss what each wants. The sub will draw the line at some ideas, insist upon others. Remember, the master works for the sub's pleasure.

These three Rules combine to make up the bdsm motto, "safe, sane and consensual."

So, if the sub calls the shots and the master follows, why call the master the Dominant and the slave Submissive when the roles seem opposite? Because of what turns them on. Bdsm is essentially one big fantasy where the Master can arouse, tease and enjoy his control over his partner, while the sub can enjoy being played with while utterly helpless. They are master and slave because of what they want and the responsibility they are willing to shoulder. Hence, the rules of safe, sane and consensual. The person being made helpless must be safe at all times. ALL TIMES. Repeat it aloud, safe at all mother-fucking times. A rope in the wrong place and you could lose circulation, pull a muscle, dislocate a joint, fall and break something, even hang. A ruined scene is the least of your problems. ALL FUCKING TIMES.

That's where the "sane" comes in. Dangerous play is only done by professionals with a film crew present, safe words at the ready and emergency procedures already worked out. Even the extreme fetish of hanging is done with careful film editing so that there is never any danger. If there is a risk of injury, most people would not try it. (Of course this depends on your characters, but right now we're focusing on sane.) As for consensual, for fictional purposes, optional, but again, non-con later. A scene is usually much more fulfilling when everyone's enjoying themselves.

All right. You have the groundwork. Now let's start with your characters.

Power Play

Anyone can be dominant. And anyone can be submissive. (I'm not talking about switches, people who can be both.) Each character is subject to interpretation, so each character can be seen by various audience members as one way or the other (or as Scarecrow said, "some peole go both ways"). What matters is the characters' need for control and how well the author (you) conveys this need. Essentially you have two characters coming together to satisfy each other's needs, and because of the nature of dominance and submission, they fit together like a hand into a glove. The submissive needs to let go of control and take pleasure, and the master needs to take it.

The submissive does not have to be weepy or weak or pathetic. He can be strong, control his emotions, lead his class/troop successfully. But later, when he's alone with his lover who knows his needs, he can kneel, be restrained, blindfolded, give himself over completely. And he can do this both violently and gently, depending on how he releases his passions. He can be in denial and give in only under a lover who knows exactly when and how to push and wrest control from him. Or he can accept it, softly, hesitatingly, and allow his lover to dominate him, embracing his vulnerability and enjoying the trust he gives to his lover.

Similarly for the dominant, who need not be cruel, confident or controlling. He can be soft, kind, loving. All masters are different. You can have the stereotypical accoutremens of whipping, clamping, spanking and gagging, but what matters is *how* the whip is applied, *how* the gag is administered. A dominatrix is full leather straps and stilletto heels will use the flog with a zest that a gentleman with cotton gloves and a rose in his lapel will not feel. The dominatrix is out to evoke pleasure through pain. The gentleman may evoke pleasure through soft, almost distant touch. The dominatrix will use unforgiving chains and tight knots to bind her slave, and a barked command to demand love. The gentleman uses a word to bind his submissive, and a touch to evoke love. One is not better than the other. Both are suited to the particular character, and how they intereact with their submissive.

Power Made Manifest

Once you determine the dominant and submissive characters, now you must work your power play and bdsm into your story. There is no set way to do this, save the need to make it believable (a mandate for every story you write). Let your characters work for you, writing the story themselves. Abstract notions of fear, vulnerability and trust will manifest concretely in straining against ropes, being naked in the presence of a fully dressed partner, allowing the flat of a knife to play over the throat.

The relationships between the characters will dictate how they take bondage with each other. You'll find that with well-developed, part of your work is already done for you. Let's take the example of Seto Kaiba, YuGiOh's boy billionaire. Bound up by Yami Yugi, canon Seto from the anime will not take his predicament happily. He'll threaten and curse unless gagged and struggle until he finds a way out. Or hold absolutely still and give his captor no satisfaction. This can be your entire scene. Or you can add your own interpretation of the two character. Seto can start out defiant and break by the fic's end. Or break by the middle of the fic and play it out from there.

Make it even more interesting. Kaiba is still fully clothed. If Yugi wants, he can strip off the coat and leather pants. If Yugi wants, he can strip himself, and let you play around with the mechanics of power and nudity. Heck, you could play with their outfits, leaving Kaiba in pants, or with his shirt, or with the always-delicious gloves, boots, straps, fishnets, bandana, everything but the kitchen sink and yet no real coverage. You have room to play and make your story grow into something unique that stands out from the other bdsm fics out there, yet still coming up from the same seed, a little rope and helplessness.

You *really* wanna play? Let Seto be in control of the whole thing. A master is still a master, even when bound. A slave is still a slave, even when free. That's not saying they can't switch easily and that a sub must always remain a sub, but the whole bdsm fantasy is in the mind. If Yugi acts submissive, even if he's the one holding the whip, he's still submissive to Kaiba's will. Should Seto order Yugi to whip him? Should Seto use this opportunity to hammer into Yugi just how much stronger he is, that he can control him even when bound? There's a dangerous game, where an angry sub can easily turn the tables. Or maybe they're in love, and this is a totally benign thing. They've already gotten through all that "accepting control" issues. Maybe Kaiba's not in denial but is actually a SAM, a Smart Ass Masochist who likes doing his nails during a spanking, clamping his lips shut so Yugi can't get a gag in, and just when Yugi decides to use rope instead of chain, he discovers his "slave" has put the ropes in a mess of knots.

These two characters can still be "in character" while acting in completely opposite manners. It's all up to you. The only thing you have to keep in mind is what's in their minds. If the two are in love, they will interact differently than if they are bitter rivals. Or you could make them both in love and bitter rivals, and enjoy where the conflict takes you. Your bdsm lemon is less a generic "A ties up B and uses him up" fic than an exploration of two characters through their sexuality. And believe me, that exploration will be far more sensual and satisfying than the generic fic.

Avoid the Trap

Okay, enough freakin' character. Let's get to the fun stuff. What are all the toys we can play with?!

There are plenty of types of items, and in reality, just about anything can be made into a type of restraint and toy, but the more commonly seen items are: arm sheaths, ballet boots, cages, candles, canes, chastity belts, cock cages, collars, corsets, cuffs, handcuffs, paddles, pillories, spanking ponies, straightjackets, blindfolds, clamps, gags (dental, ball, bamboo, cleave, cock, harness, pony, pump, ring, wrap), shackles, tape, whips (cat-o-nine-tails, bullship, flogger, riding crops), wooden ponies, wooden horses, and X-frames. Oh, and ropes and chains.

You're probably not gonna use all of that, not unless you have a long bdsm story planned over the course of several days. Even then, you probably won't use all of that. One or two larger items, like the cage and pony, with a blindfold and gag, will more than suffice for one scene. It all depends on how you use them, of course. The main thing we wanna discuss here is how to describe them without falling into the trap of being overly descriptive.

Many bdsm writers, fanficcers or not, often become too descriptive and lose the erotic tone of their story. This happens when they want to give you exact measurements and visuals ("he was six foot three with wavy auburn hair, green eyes, toned abs, muscled shoulders,a five hundred thousand a year salary, zzz..."). Fortunately in fanfiction, we can avoid this mess altogether, save for Mary Sues, and Mary Sues should all die hideous deaths anyway.

What *we* want to avoid is getting bogged down in too much detail about the ropework or hardware being used. A good rule of thumb is that if you're taking more than two sentences to describe one tie or restraint, then you're getting bogged down. And I mean reasonable sentences, not rambling, paragraph-long sentences full of semicolons. Ideally you wanna convey the image quickly without worrying about the exact techniques and mechanics of restraint. Don't worry about the types of knots, the size of the cage, the exact exact exact way Seto's bound into a pretzel or even lectures about "safe, sane and consensual" in your story. You are not teaching in a story. You are exploring your characters. So explore! Just don't take all day with one tie.

The exception is when you want to sacrifice speed for sensuality. You're gonna put Seto in chains in a tight spread eagle against the dungeon wall. Yugi puts the manacles on Seto's wrists gently, closing them with a metallic clink and securing each one with a heavy padlock. They might look into each other's eyes as Yugi begins to take Kaiba's control away. They might even be sitting on the floor. Then Yugi gets up and takes the end of the chains and pulls slowly. The chains clatter and rattle through the bolts on the wall, taking up the slack and then drawing Seto back. He stands up, then steps backward as he's drawn against the bricks, finally extending his arms out until Yugi has the chains pulled as far as possible. Yugi might draw them a little tighter to make Seto wince or cry out, and then he locks them in place with his lover spread out nicely. If written out, this could take several pages. The anticipation will have everyone leaning close to their screens watching the scene play out.

What you also want to avoid is being *too* quick. "Yugi bound Seto's hands behind his back," rather than "Yugi drew Seto's hands back and crossed his hands at the wrist, then wound rope over and around and tied them with a thick knot." A pair of handcuffs or behind-the-back ties do not a bondage scene make. If the tie isn't mentioned again or the sex is just as vanilla as without the tie, then it's not bdsm. Remember your power plays! A lemon with a pair of handcuffs has as much spice as one grain of salt. A proper bdsm has enough to make a margarita.


Accidents happen even in vanilla sex. When you get into complicated bdsm, how much more trouble can you get yourself into? Accidents occur mainly when someone gets stupid and/or overestimates their abilities. The master thinks he can handle wax play and accidentally burns his slave. The slave thinks he can take more whipping than he actually can and can't give the safeword because he's gagged, and they forgot to set a non-verbal safe word before the whipping started. The slave is locked in the cage when the house catches fire and the master won't be home for another hour.

Chilling? Should be, as much as in fiction as in real life. Bad things can happen and your characters should have a safe word. Even if they never use it. Even if it's never mentioned in the fic. You'd be surprised what a difference it makes simply for your own mental focus on the story. When you know all the angles of the story, you can often write a little more freely. It takes a bit of the stress off.

Abuse can happen in any relationship. Depending on your characters and how you interpret them, you may or may not run into this. Just remember, while abuse is a good tool for angst and revenge, abuse is not erotic. ABUSE IS NOT EROTIC. Repeat it aloud, abuse is not mother-fucking erotic. A dominant whipping off skin and drawing blood down a submissive's back is no longer bdsm. It's torture. It's abuse. It might be a fantasy, but there's nothing sensual about it unless one of your characters is an evil sadist. Malik and Frieza fans, this Bud's for you.

Non-consensual should automatically remind you of the consensual part of the bdsm motto. If it's not consensual, it's abuse (see above) and probably rape. Rape is a crime and not part of bdsm. It's a good tool for angst and revenge, (actually it's a cliche tool for angst and revenge), but it is not erotic. RAPE IS NOT EROTIC. Repeat it aloud, rape is not mother-fucking erotic. As before with light ties and once-mentioned handcuffs, it's not bondage. It might have the trappings of bondage, but it's not bdsm.


Finally, when everything is done, the slave is spent and the master has the satisfaction of a job well done, the bondage is not yet over. Unwrapping your slave is just as important as wrapping him up was. Consider it the cuddling after sex. Depending on how worn out the submissive is, the master may let them catch their breath, may have to carry them to bed, or maybe carry them off to their next bondage. Like light stretching during a workout, one scene with a wooden pony might be followed by putting the slave in their cage or tying them on their back in the yard under a shady tree to rest, before returning in half an hour to suspending the slave from the ceiling and working them over again. The submissive has no choice if he isn't released and doesn't say no (ironic, ain't it?). The master can do whatever he wants if the slave doesn't put his well-bound foot down. This is a relative short section of your story, but it can be vital for leaving the reader with a nice afterglow.


Don't limit your bdsm to the ties you know. There's a lot of different accessories and equipment and clothing beyond leather. You have the entire internet at your disposal; go find new creative ties and hard information. After a little practice (on paper/screen!), you'll be ready to win that bdsm award in the latest fic contests. And maybe apply a little of what you've learned in real life...
Tags: essay
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