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Maybe you loved everything about 50 Shades of Grey, or maybe you suffered the terrible writing just for the titillating sex scenes. But if EL James’s bestseller was your first foray into the spicy world of BDSM (a condensed abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadism and masochism), and you liked it, we have good news. A world of kink awaits, and none of it requires reading bad novels.

We spoke to Carey Gray, trans bondage equipment designer and BDSM educator, and Viktoria Kalenteris (aka Lady Viktoria), sexuality and relationship coach and counsellor. Both sexperts at 13spicynights.ca, Gray and Kalenteris are here for all the questions that have been keeping you up at night (so you can stay up even later with the answers).

What does a typical BDSM client look like?

Carey Gray: “My typical client is a sexually adventurous person of any age, gender, ethnicity or profession.”

Viktoria Kalenteris: “It’s everybody. Anybody who is looking to expand their knowledge base, anybody who’s looking to get more comfortable with who they are, anybody who’s looking to connect with themselves so they can better connect with a partner.”

ana grey

Is real life BDSM anything like 50 Shades of Grey?

CG: “When it first came out, I was very, very excited that this BDSM book was gaining all this readership and attention – it’s fantastic! And then I start reading it and you find out in the first few pages [that] Christian Grey makes Anastasia sign a contract. Like, off the bat. And that’s so unrealistic. You don’t sign a 24/7 contract with somebody right off the bat. She didn’t really understand the full degree of it. And the fact that Christian Grey is into BDSM because he was abused as a child, which is this really common stereotype, it’s like ‘Why would you want to be a sadist unless something bad happened to you?’ So it perpetuates negative stereotypes of BDSM. But on the other hand, as it goes on, it’s revealed that [Anastasia] does have control over what’s happening in her sex life with Christian Grey. And I think the popularity of it comes from the fact that it’s written from the point of Anastasia; she’s having this sexual revelation with Christian and a lot of that involves BDSM. And she likes it.”

VK: “The writing was atrocious. The storyline is interesting. I don’t think [EL James] did all her homework on the BDSM aspects, so I don’t think it’s properly represented. The best thing 50 Shades has done is brought to light kink and BDSM as a conversation for people. Everybody’s talking about it, which gives everybody the comfort level to speak about the taboo of BDSM and kink in a more relaxed fashion, because now it’s mainstream.”

Where do I start?

CG: “Number one, I would say focus on what your desire is. And where to find that would be in your own favourite fantasies. So you may have a fantasy about being restrained, so you’re into bondage. Or you may have a fantasy about getting spanked or spanking someone, so you might be into spanking.”

VK: “I always tell people, ‘Let’s have a conversation first’, because first of all we need to make sure that we’re a good fit. And second of all I need to find out where you want to take this, what your intention and your goals are, to see if I, in my personal offerings, can work with you, and to say ‘This is what I bring to the table, and this is your goal and your intention and we can work through that together as a team.’”

dita

What beginner resources do you recommend?

CG: “Look at simple kits like the Kink101 Bondage Kit. That has a pair of cuffs, a connector so that you can connect the cuffs and do bondage, and a blindfold. Blindfolds are really terrific for beginner play, because [if] you’re wearing it, you can relax. You can’t see, so your other senses are going to be heightened. And for the person who’s topping, your bottom can’t see you, so you can kind of relax and know that the sensitivity of touch is really heightened, your voice is way more present…And if you want to get into spanking I would recommend an Aslan slapper paddle or a pocket flogger and just play around with that.”

VK: “First of all, I suggest you come to the workshops – the workshops are the best way to start because you can work within your comfort level….my Thursday night weekly classes are all about practice, play and pleasure, and connection with yourself and the people around you.”

What do I need to know before trying BDSM?

CG: “The number one thing is learning to talk about your desires to your partner. And also learning that you have a right to all your desires, and you have a right to say to people [that] you don’t want to play anymore. Learning how to talk about consent and negotiate with your partner are totally key.”

VK: “Couples need to assess and gauge their level of conversation. ‘What do you do when your partner feels sad, what do you do when your partner feels angry, or feels anxiety? Or feels joyful and giggly, off the wall? How do you interact with your partner? I emphasize that if the communication is at a very high level, anything we do that’s in the sexual, sensual realm, will be a piece of cake.”

How do I ensure a safe experience?

VK: “My mantra is ‘Keeping yourself in mindful awareness, and always within the boundaries of safety, consent, and comfort level, with respect, honour and trust being built reciprocally.”

ellen

My sex life is fairly vanilla. Why might I like BDSM?

CG: “Generally we’re not taught to say ‘Yes I want this’ or ‘No I don’t’. [But] as consensual adults we have desires that may lie outside regular vanilla sex. And that’s okay. You’re allowed. We’re allowed to play, we’re allowed to fantasize, we’re allowed to go to places that general society may not say that’s an okay place to go. We have that choice…No one’s going to tell you you can’t be Spiderman when you’re 10-years-old. So no one’s allowed to tell you you can’t be an army sergeant when you’re 35.”

Are their side benefits to a healthy BDSM relationship?

CG: “Kink is about pleasure…and your erotic life is basically an investment. And making an investment in your erotic life, by paying attention to your desires and pursuing your desires is going to be beneficial in all other parts of your life. So what’s not to love?”

VK: “If you say ‘I want you to tie me up’, that means I’m the holder of your sacred space. You, who decided to be tied down, for example, are now going to become vulnerable to the process of whatever’s going to come up and to allow yourself to receive as I give to you. And eventually, those energies blur, so the person who’s receiving is giving the gift of receiving, and the person who’s giving is receiving the gift. All of a sudden it becomes a synchronistic energy. You become one, the singularity that we talk about in tantra. Two become one.”

What will the neighbours think?

CG: “In my opinion, I would say, like, 99.9% of the population has kinky fantasies, it’s just about whether they choose to pursue them or not.”

For introductory resources on BDSM, Gray recommends Passionate U and Kink Academy as well as Tristan Taormino’s 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM, while Kalenteris suggests FetLife for finding like-minded kinksters in your area. For more on Carey Gray and Lady Viktoria’s work with 13spicynights.ca, see 13spicynights.ca.