Content warning for mention of trauma and sexual assault.
Written by Chaney Williams (she/they) @theintersectionaldoula
I began my BDSM journey because it found me. There was no way around it. I had always had kinky, specifically submissive and bratty desires, wants, and needs in the ways I engaged in relationships. I’ve known my body intimately from a young age, and kinky tendencies just made sense to me. As I began exploring my sexuality, I knew what was missing in my romantic and sexual relationships, but didn’t realize it was outside the spectrum of society’s norms, or even considered kinky.
That was confusing, especially coming of age in the early 2000’s when there were little to no healthy kinky or BDSM portrayals in the media, let alone my small southern town where I felt constrained by my body and my neurodivergent brain.
I lacked a sense of control in my life growing up, as a teenager I wound myself tightly as I could to control my sexuality. I didn’t see myself as worthy of attention, validation, or physical touch, so I abstained from sex for the majority of high school. The idea of letting another person know me intimately was terrifying.
Instead, I found freedom through experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t imagine being seen or loved by anyone because to me, love was something that wasn’t consistent and needed to be earned on a day-to-day basis. I was so afraid of my budding sexuality that I wouldn’t give myself room to explore these desires until I was in college and finally had space to breathe and just be.
I slowly found my way through research — a process of unlearning old beliefs while learning new ones — and I found the words for what I needed and craved, and ways to explore those kinky desires safely
Kink / BDSM is About Learning As You Go
So much of Kink and BDSM is about learning as you go, especially so you don’t unintentionally inflict physical or emotional harm to others. Back then, there weren't a lot of resources for folks like me. There were Tumblr and Livejournal communities, a few well known books, and less than reputable websites.
Jaclyn Friedman’s book What You Really Really Want opened my eyes to start prioritizing what I craved and needed when it came to my sexual desires. I was 20 years old, and no one in my life had asked me that question, especially when it came to sex and intimacy. That book completely changed my perspective. It was soul-shifting. Somehow, I had randomly found a book club where a facilitator and the rest of the group worked through Friedman’s book together, and ultimately ended the discussion with a group phone call with her.
READ MORE: how to explore our desires, our pleasure, and our sex lives with a little more intention.
A particularly eye-opening experience I wrote about in my journals from that time was a prompt from What You Really Really Want where it asked you to define your sexual likes and dislikes, hard or soft limits, which, in laymens terms are boundaries that are either unbreakable (hard) or negotiable (soft). Making these distinctions is normal in kink and BDSM culture, but as a rural femme, it had never crossed my mind. I’d never thought to write down my desires, or boundaries or even begin to conceptualize what I wanted from an ideal partnership dynamic.
Ask yourself what are your likes? Dislikes?
What are your unbreakable boundaries?
What are you willing to negotiate?
There in that book club, and in my journaling, I built the foundation of what I needed and slowly grew into who I am today. I had to unpack and process what I had been taught by society through discussions with fellow kinky friends, online resources, reading, and taking classes. I realized that the basis of kink is knowing that kink and BDSM lifestyles have no set requirements other than mutual respect, informed consent, and trust.
There is no one size fits all for kinky relationships. At the end of the day it's about remembering to be a respectful human being in all interactions whether it’s on dating apps or with a partner. That includes setting boundaries that feel hard sometimes, having clear, open, and honest communication about what you as the individual needs, wants, and desires from a dynamic which is crucial for all relationships, kinky or not.
Tailor Your Relationship
There is no wrong way to have a kink dynamic as long as it's consensual to all parties involved.
The only way these dynamics thrive is by making a uniquely tailored relationship for you and your partner/s so everyone feels safe and supported. There is no wrong way to have a BDSM/ kink dynamic as long as it's consensual to all parties involved. You have to ask questions if you don’t know a phrase or concept, do self education as you evolve whether it’s taking an online workshop on informed risk and consent when it comes to breath play or listening to a podcast. It’s all about what works for you and all involved with your dynamic. I eventually learned how important it is to me as an individual to be slow and intentional when forming dynamics because that’s how I build trust which for me as a survivor of sexual assault is crucial.
As a young submissive, I was so afraid I had to be perfect. I was terrified of making mistakes. But out of the fear, I grew autonomy and knowledge as I self-researched. I have a supportive community of folks in my life who “get it” and urge me to ask those questions, constantly learn and unlearn, and hold myself accountable as my journey evolves.
Other than the unique dynamics inherent in a kind/BDSM relationship, one of the most thrilling aspects is knowing that this journey I’m on with my sexuality is a lifelong one.
As I grow closer to unpacking, processing, and learning more about my relationship with myself because of the model that exists in kink communities, I am a more authentic version of Chaney. In this lifestyle, I found a place for myself to be seen, to practice setting healthy boundaries, prioritize my needs, wants, desires, and most of all, finding and building trust not only with others, but with myself.
11 Tips to Remember Before Tying Yourself Up in BDSM Relationship/Dynamic
The basis of kink is knowing that these lifestyles have no set requirements other than mutual respect, informed consent, and trust.
Ask yourself what your sexual likes, dislikes, and hard or soft limits (boundaries you have that are either unbreakable or negotiable)
Be a respectful human being in all interactions, whether it’s on dating apps or with a partner.
Be slow and intentional when forming dynamics to build trust (which is important for everyone but especially crucial for sexual assault survivors)
Set boundaries, even when it feels difficult.
Have clear, open, and honest communication about what you and your partner/s need, want, and desire.
Ask questions if you don’t know a phrase or concept.
Listen. Hearing the other person is a crucial part of communication in all relationships, kinky or not.
Self educate. Take an online workshop on informed risk and consent when it comes to breath play or listen to a podcast.
Tailor your relationship for you and your partner/s so everyone feels safe and supported.
There is no one size fits all for any relationship. There is no wrong way to have a BDSM/ kink dynamic as long as it's consensual to all parties involved.
Meet the Author
Chaney Williams (she/they) @theintersectionaldoula is a queer, biracial, intersectional feminist, budding herbalist, radically soft witch, and full spectrum doula who has an MFA in Creative Writing: Poetry from Murray State University. She currently resides in Kentucky and has been a southerner since birth. They strongly believe that “the political is always personal.”
What Boundary Setting in BDSM Culture Can Teach You About Life Outside of the Bedroom an interview with Lina Dune @askasub