I helped launch Chicago's first digital LGBTQ news and entertainment source, GC Magazine (or Gay Chic Magazine) in which I wrote a monthly sex and dating column. Sadly, the publication lost funding and shuttered in 2016. This piece was published in January of 2015. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Bondage

The first time I did bondage was not very glamorous. I was on a stranger's bed in a small, hot coastal town in the South. He tied a bandanna around my eyes and told me to focus on my breathing. 

Losing power gracefully is hard to do. Submission is the opposite of everything our culture teaches. We shake hands firmly, manage schedules, meet deadlines, and so on. Control is the lifeblood of living in America, and surrendering it is stressful. My body tensed up, unwilling to let go. 

He coached me through it: “Breathe slowly. Inhale for four seconds through your nose. Exhale for six seconds through your mouth.”

That session and the many sessions that followed taught me a truth about sex: mental barriers, not physical ones, are hardest to overcome. Your body knows what it wants. Your mind is the hurdle. Your mind pushes against your body, combating it. 

That man became my first dominant, my first Sir. During those early conversations, he once told me, "You will never feel as you do when you’re tied up." 

It’s true. Bondage opened the gateway into my greatest and most liberating sex experiences. 

None of this may be very surprising. BDSM has experienced increasing visibility in recent years. Middle-aged straight women have discovered whips and paddles in Fifty Shades of Grey, and every teenager with internet has, unwittingly or otherwise, clicked on kinky porn. But for most of its history, BDSM and its related practices were unlabeled, unlawful, and heavily tabooed. Artifacts from the ancient world show bondage, whipping, and hair-pulling as sexual acts, but our modern concept and culture associated with these acts are only as old as the Victorians. 

In the years leading up to WWII, kink experienced a blossoming. With the advent of gay leather culture in America in the late 1960's and early 70's, kink and BDSM became a globally interconnected community, one that still orients itself around leather (leather boots, leather biker jackets, and so on) and, to a lesser extent, rubber. 

Gay leathermen were among the first to be devastated by AIDS in the 80's. In response, our community was one of the first to react to it. This is why HIV outreach and fundraising remain vital parts of being kinky. Because we deal in sexual communication and practice "extreme" sex, we become de-facto sex educators and wellness advocates. 

Today, the scene has evolved into countless smaller fetish communities. Regardless which ones you eventually find yourself belonging to, you will likely try bondage at some point. Bondage is a core part of kink. It's the first letter of the BDSM acronym, which stands for Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism. As a sex and art form, bondage has been around for thousands of years, and it's still something that most (if not all) kinky people can speak about with passion. 

Before you start, you must know the rules. The first rule applies to all BDSM: Only play with people you know and have developed some trust and rapport with. This is important, since most kinky people today find each other on websites, apps, forums, and other digital spaces. You will likely meet your first kinky playmate online. Before playing with them, have a series of conversations. Meet in a public place. 

At these conversations, discuss what you both want and are looking for. Discuss your "limits" (sex acts you will not do, no matter what). Discuss your "safe word" (a code word you can say in a scene, particularly a role-play scene, which means “stop right now"). Make sure you both understand SSC and RACK. 

SSC stands for “safe, sane, and consensual," and RACK stands for “risk-aware consensual kink." Both safety mantras stress the importance of consent, which is the boundary line between kink and abuse. As long as your sex is consensual, it’s accepted by the kink community. Non-consensual sex isn't kink — it’s rape, and rape is never tolerated. SSC was the standard mantra until the 90's when RACK emerged as a more precise version, because some people with extreme kinks concluded that, although their sex is consensual, it wasn't “safe," at least not in the strictest sense. Fans of RACK say that as long as you’re aware of the risks and do everything you can to minimize them, your kinky sex gets the green light. 

When you're looking for playmates, make sure you are seeking people with ample bondage experience. Good bondage requires safe knot tying techniques and extensive safety protocol. If you want to get tied up, find a bondage top who’s been doing it for a while. If you want to tie people up, learn from a master. Start easy, with simple hand and ankle tying, before working up to more extreme forms of bondage like suspension, sleep sacks, breath play, and so on. 

You will learn where to go from here. Everyone has different sexual triggers, and not everyone into bondage is submissive or dominant; many people like both. And above all else, have fun! That's truthfully what this is all about. 

 I will discuss other kinks in the coming posts, so stay tuned for more Kink/BDSM 101. 

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