Here is the giant list of resources.
There is an entire community for people who love Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, and/or Masochism. Because there are a lot of us. BDSM can mean very different things to different people, and there are a lot of activities that can fall under the BDSM umbrella; such activities might include spanking, Master/slave role-playing, handcuffs, cages, rape fantasies, razor blades, or all kinds of other things.
The BDSM subculture is an interesting place with its own social mores, ideals and pitfalls. If you’re new, then I advise you to be cautious. Don’t believe everything you hear or read — get second, third, and fourth opinions on everything you can.
BDSM is often colloquially referred to as S&M, so I often call it S&M myself in order to be more accessible. Other people have called it bondage, leather, B&D, and kink.
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First and Foremost
If you are seeking medical, legal or other professional help for a BDSM-related problem, I recommend glancing over the Kink Aware Professionals list hosted on the website of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. When I was going through my own complicated and difficult BDSM coming-out process, I tried two therapists from the KAP list. One of them didn’t really get me, but the second was wonderfully helpful — so, if you’re looking for a therapist, don’t be afraid to shop around until you find the right fit.
Want more information about how BDSM interfaces with the psychiatric establishment? I’ve got a whole post about that.
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In 2012, the legendary educator Tristan Taormino released The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge. 2012 also saw the release of Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring, and Navigating the Kink, Leather, and BDSM Communities by Mollena Williams and Lee Harrington. They’re both great resources.
However, my favorite books are unavoidably influenced by what I found when I came into the community. So my personal favorite beginner BDSM books are The New Topping Book(here’s the Kindle edition) and The New Bottoming Book, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. If you look for those books on Amazon.com, you will also see a lot of interesting related books in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section. I remember liking Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction, although I know some people who have mixed feelings about it; a number of people recommend Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon, but I’ve never read it myself.
If you’re thinking of coming out to a loved one, I recommend the book When Someone You Love is Kinky by Dossie Easton and Catherine W. Liszt. I’ve also heard good things about the “Parents of Alternative Sexuality” pamphlet by Dr. Amy Marsh.
If you, like me, are particularly attracted to the idea of needle piercing, there’s a great book called Play Piercing by Deborah Addington.
If you’re more interested in getting a feel for common BDSM philosophies and what the BDSM community is like — an anthropological perspective, one might say — then there’s a book by Mark Thompson called Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, and a newer one by Staci Newmahr called Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy.
And there is a really great zine by Chicago activist Simon Strikeback called Bound To Struggle: Where Kink And Radical Politics Meet. All the issues have been produced in recent years. (That link allows you to download electronic versions of back issues for free!)
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I don’t want to list all the fiction films out there about BDSM — but there is a spectacular annual film festival called CineKink that collates sex-positive films from all over the world, including many BDSM films. CineKink covers all film genres; I don’t always love the films I see there, but every year there’s at least one film that makes me laugh and one that makes me think. CineKink is based in New York City, but it tours (when it visits Chicago, it plays at the Leather Archives & Museum). 2013 was “Ten Years Of CineKink,” and the website is unsurprisingly available at CineKink.com.
Having curated a sex-positive documentary film series, however, I do have opinions about the best BDSM documentaries. In the first year of my series, we screened BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!, a cute half-hour documentary from 2008 that confronts some basic BDSM stereotypes.
I also like the 2003 documentary Writer Of O, which covers the life of Anne Desclos, author of the famous French BDSM novel Story Of O. The Story Of O is not a good representation of BDSM safety or good communication; nor would I personally enjoy having relationships modeled after Desclos’s relationships. But the book is an intensely written classic, and some of the author’s thoughts resonated with me.
And hands down, one of my favorite films is the 2009 documentary Graphic Sexual Horror, which chronicles the development of an extreme BDSM porn site. It contains testimonials from people who had very bad experiences and from people who had very good experiences, as well as a chronicle of how the site eventually got shut down (it wasn’t for the reasons you’d think).
And! Here’s the most recent film list for my sex-positive film series.
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I usually direct total newbies to this BDSM 101 page by Franklin Veaux. (The same writer has a good Polyamory 101, too.) And here is an example of a webpage on basic, practical BDSM advice. There are a lot of those, though, and they aren’t all carefully edited or moderated; so if you can manage it, then I suggest you try to get hold of one of the above how-to books rather than online how-to resources.
That said … overall, one of the best online BDSM resources is FetLife.com, the kinky social networking site. Once you have an account, you can join a huge variety of discussion groups about BDSM. FetLife is not a dating site; it’s more like a kinky Facebook (seriously). There have been various controversies around how the site conducts itself, and keep in mind that it’s just a social networking site. FetLife is an open conversation, not a reliable source of expertise. But it has succeeded at becoming a huge gathering place.
Another good online resource is the amazing sex education site Scarleteen. Scarleteen offers a ton of advice on a ton of sexual topics, and has its own message boards.
The site Kink Academy has received some good reviews, and features video tutorials by some people who are pretty well-known in the community. You have to buy a membership, though.
The BDSM writer Ranai from Germany has labored long and hard to make an amazingly comprehensive, international, multilingual directory of kink resources. I haven’t gone through it extensively, but every time Ranai comments on my blog she’s brilliant, so I’m sure her directory is brilliant too.
And in 2012, Bitch Magazine ran a series by Catherine Scott that examines S&M and culture from a feminist perspective. (Full disclosure: Catherine consulted me during the series and promoted my book as well.)
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If you’ve decided that you want to start attending workshops, discussion groups, parties, or other BDSM events in person, please keep in mind that not everyone is going to mesh wellwith their local BDSM groups. If you don’t like your local BDSM group, then don’t force yourself to participate! That said, I generally encourage people to get into their local community, because it truly can be an amazing resource — it’s way more than just a place to meet partners.
If you make an account on FetLife.com, you may be able to join groups for your area (for example, if you live in Chicago, then you should look for Chicago groups), where local issues or events will be discussed and publicized.
For those aged 18-35, many major cities have branches of The Next Generation, a.k.a. the local “kinky youth group”. Here’s the website for The Next Generation in Chicago.
Otherwise, just Google around. It’s much easier these days than it was for our parents. Good phrases to Google include “BDSM munch [your city]” and “BDSM dungeon [your city].” One person has done her best to compile a directory of munches at FindAMunch.com.
Oh, and the world’s only BDSM museum is in Chicago, too!The Leather Archives & Museum is located in the northerly neighborhood of Rogers Park. It was started by gay leathermen, so it’s got an undeniable focus on the gay leather subculture, but they make specific efforts to do outreach to all other fetishists. They have a killer library with tons of books from all kinds of BDSM people. I’ve done some volunteering there, and when I was first writing my blog, I highlighted neat stuff I found in their collection. My personal favorite historical item was the fake “book review” from a 1991 April Fool’s Day edition of an S&M newsletter, which posited an alternate reality in which BDSM is the societal default and vanilla is the “weird, underground deviance.” Or maybe my favorite was the passage about Lawrence of Arabia — who was apparently a heavy masochist.
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You’ve already read all my archives and you want more BDSM blogs? Oh my goodness, there are so many.
I’d like to highlight Kink Research Overviews because he’s got the best perspective on actual research about BDSM; other than that, I’d rather not specifically mention other BDSM blogs because it feels like playing favorites.
If you want something more focused, I used to link to interesting BDSM-related stuff on my old Time Out Chicago“Love Bites” blog. (Here’s the archive for BDSM-related materials posted at Time Out’s site — not just stuff posted by me, though most of it is. Note that at one point that blog moved and the formatting on a lot of old posts got screwed up. My apologies.)
Good luck and have fun!