Your First BDSM Experience Can Be Life-Changing, According To 5 People

As is the case with vanilla sex, your first BDSM experience can be wonderful, awkward, or literally just OK. But typically, first times experimenting with BDSM practices are sexual "aha!" moments,, according to the five people I spoke with for this story. Some people find that things just click. If you do end up trying BDSM sex and you find out it's a turn-on, it's important to note that it might takes some time to work out the kinks (pun intended).

BDSM preferences do look different from person to person. It can be a dash of choking during an otherwise vanilla hookup session ("vanilla" referring to sex that's conventional, and free of kink or fetishes). Or it can be graduating from a few firm a** slaps to a paddle or riding crop in the bedroom. For some, BDSM-tinged sexual encounters blossom into a full-blown dominant-submissive relationships. And fortunately, BDSM in practice doesn't always look like E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey series.

For starters, not only can BDSM can include more vanilla sex than Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey's encounters would have you believe, but it's not always about pain. Upping your foreplay game with a blindfold or a dominant partner edging a submissive one with a vibrator are prime examples of kinky sex that are all about pleasure.

Sonja Lekovic / Stocksy

And of course, Grey's controlling, abusive behavior is the opposite of what BDSM sex and relationships should be built on: healthy sexual boundaries. A go-to phrase in the BDSM community is "safe, sane, and consensual." This slogan ensures comfort, security and consent to what's taking place between partners. Another saying that comes up in BDSM is RACK a.k.a. "risk-aware, consensual kink." Are you aware of the risks? Are you consenting? Do you know what kinks are about to be indulged? Have a conversation before getting down.

More realistic than 50 Shades (but with all the spice and wonder that kinky sex can bring), here are five women and non-binary folks sharing their first times with BDSM.

A sensual adventure

Wizemark / Stocksy
[My first] real BDSM [experience] was with a boyfriend and it was about trust and pleasure, compared to what I was doing before — which was about just roughness, you know. I also have a very specific memory of being tied up and blindfolded, and having hot wax dripped all over my titties and then being f*cked senseless.

— Charlotte, 22

Follow the leader

Bonnin Studio / Stocksy
We met in New York at a meeting for an event we were both part of. I remembered he walked into the room and I felt the energy shift. He sat right in front of me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. At the event, they share our contact with everyone involved, so we had each other’s contact without asking. Once the meeting was over, he called me and said he could give me a ride home, and I couldn’t and didn’t want to say no.
Our first time was a regular vanilla date. We went to eat and watch a flamenco show. It was intoxicating being around him, everybody looked at him with such admiration that I felt knocked off-center. That date was the first time I heard him speak about dominance, which piqued my interest. So, I asked lots of questions.
Our first session was nerve-wracking. He had given me specific instructions as to what to wear, how my hair should be, makeup, scent, shoes. We spoke about safe words (traffic light system: green = go, yellow = something bothers me, but if corrected we can continue, and red = stop completely and do care). It was by far the most times I had ever come (with his permission). I felt so free, and the aftercare was everything.

— Olivia*, 33

Spank you very much

Bonnin Studio / Stocksy
My first experience with BDSM was with my old boss — experience past my ex-boyfriend choking me during sex, I mean. I worked at a dispensary and when it got raided and shut down, [my boss] let me come work at his grow house. One day while he was teaching me how to properly water the plants — there’s a whole wild system to it — I felt this surge of energy. Not adrenaline, but there was a sudden sexual tension.
I had my back turned to him and next thing, I knew he grabbed me by the arm and kind of swung me around in one fluid motion so he could bend me over his knee. And he then started spanking me something fierce. It was one of the most organic, beautiful moments of my life. After he finished the spanking, he roughly pulled me back to face him, held my face to make dead eye contact, then kind of shoved me along — a 'finish your work' kind of gesture. It was electric. I had never felt so seen, I guess you could say.
It truly woke up something inside of me that’s led me to further explore that side of myself and brought me a sincere sense of... I don’t even know what to call it. Relief? Pleasure? Confidence? Healing? That experience led to our entering a dom/sub relationship. I learned so much about boundaries, what to ask for, when to speak up. Again — one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

— Val, 26

A game of cat and mouse

Chelsea Victoria / Stocksy
There was a girl who I was really close virtual FWB with (sexting and phone sex). She introduced me to BDSM! It was all very cutesy and as innocent as BDSM can be. She liked mild pet play — like to be called 'kitten,' wear cute lil collars and stuff, and light bondage. I didn’t even realize this was kinky until later on.
In retrospect, I think it’s interesting how natural and normal it felt to me before I even knew what BDSM and kink where. Even check-ins and aftercare felt really instinctual to me (even though I didn’t know what they were called).

— Jordan*, 18

All chokes aside

Aliaksei Kaponia / Stocksy
Basically, this guy I’d be seeing had talked to me earlier that week about being exclusive and dating, and I’d said no (typical over-thinking, work-addict Virgo, didn’t want to lose precious time in feelings). Obviously, common sense prevailed. I realized I was being dumb and decided to tell him — when I met him out at one of the college bars we all used to party at — that I would give it a shot. These places are messy, packed, hot and sweaty (not very romantic I know.)
I was quite sober when I found him and went up to him, he wasn’t sober at all. So, when I told him, he immediately kissed me and it was all in public. But we had been trying for so long to come together that I didn’t really care if we were surrounded by people... It was just a lot of emotion and a lot passion. And in front of everyone he pushed me against the window, which looked out right by the entrance, and wrapped his hand around my neck.
At first, I was like this is a lot. But then it became this wide-eyed, 'Wait a minute, I like this a lot.' It went from 'Wow, I enjoy this makeout, to 'Wow, I think I’ve been set on fire.' And I think that moment led to biting and scratching, and a curiosity to go further into proper BDSM. But it made sense to me... I’m not into accessories quite yet, but it helped dismantle the idea that sex or hookups had to only be a certain way, vanilla, etc. — which is fine, but so is this.

— Kira*, 23

Just as each person has their own preferences as to how far they'll go with BDSM, each person has their own reasons why they kept coming back for more after their first time. For some, it's the pleasure from the pain. For others, there's a healing and catharsis that comes with getting kinky. If you are feeling adventurous and want to try BDSM, again: It might take some time to work out precisely what you like, what kinks you feel comfortable indulging, and what kind of relationship to BDSM you want to have. But if it feels right and if it's with the right person, you're bound to know that BDSM is a good fit for you.

*Names have been changed.

Editor's note: Some quotes have been condensed for clarity.