• Michell Reddy

Kink & Connect: Intro to BDSM and Kink for the South Asian Community

As far as my parents know, I’m still a virgin. The sex talk went about as far as my mum asking me if I had “accidentally” had sex with my boyfriend, whom I’ve lived with for 6 years, because “accidents” happen. It was awkward and, feeling entrapped by the question, I didn't reply.


It's safe to say that many of us haven’t had conversations or education about sex with our parents. Sex wasn't normalised, and we weren't taught the fundamentals of communication, safety, and consent. Even in Western countries that went through the sexual revolution of the 60s and 20s, sex for pleasure remains a controversial issue. Yet we are bombarded by media that uses sex to sell us anything from cheeseburgers to beauty products.


Schools do a disserve to young people by teaching abstinence-only programmes, and seem to try and gross you out rather than educate you. They might use jargony medical terms and focus exclusively on sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). For me, my sex education was like this. It leaves you feeling anything from confused to disgusted. Rather than discussing consent and self-love, or normalising masturbation and sexual diversity, you end up with a room full of repulsed 14 year-olds.


Compound this with colonial cultural norms, like parents not outwardly showing affection or push controlling narratives like “sex happens after marriage” and “masturbation is a sin.” Anything to do with sex and pleasure is usually accompanied by intense feelings of guilt and shame.


BSDM may seem like a level of sexual inhibition inaccessible to us. If you’ve never had a conversation with someone who can give you frank, accurate, information about sex, kink can be intimidating. Wherever you are on the kink spectrum, you deserve pleasure and accurate information.


Even though I was often the only person of Asian descent at kinky events or meetups, kink is not only for white people. Kink can be enjoyable regardless of your cultural identity as long as you know how to do so safely, so let's dive right in.


In this article we're going over the following points:

  • The basics of BDSM and consent

  • Identifying your limits: hard and soft

  • Communication systems

  • Knowing the safety risks

  • Checking in and affirming consent

  • Aftercare

  • Connecting with other kinky people

  • Red flags in partners


The Basics: BDSM and Consent

BDSM is an acronym that covers practices that play with Bondage, Dominance, Submission, and sadoMasochism. It can be non-sexual or/and involve a sexual dynamic role-playing, and different types of fetishes.


Usually, this involves a dynamic where a person(s) identifies as Dominant or Submissive. Dominant roles may also be known as Tops and Submissives as Bottoms. Some people identify as Switches, meaning they switch between Dominant and Submissive roles. Any gender can play either role.


A BDSM scene/session is an allocated time where a Dominant plays their role, assuming control of what happens in the scene and inflicting different sensations and forms of discipline to a Submissive partner. Different sensations can include, blindfolding, spanking, flogging, playing with different temperatures such as ice and candle wax, and using sex toys such as nipple clamps, vibrators, and sex itself.


Consent and communication are key in kink, just like in non-kinky sexual activity. If your partner is hesitant to try something it is vital that you accept and honour their limits. BDSM can bring intense emotions and requires vulnerability and honesty. At the end of the day, no one is obliged to say yes to any sexual or kinky activity and it is absolutely your right to say no to any form of BDSM or kinky sex.


While a Dom exercises power in a scene or relationship, at the heart of any BDSM activity is consent. A Dominant may only exercise power and inflict pleasure, pain, or sensation with a submissive’s consent. BDSM is, at its core, consensual exchange of power involving Limits.


Identifying Your Limits: Hard and Soft

With BDSM, you might be completely comfortable with certain activities, while feeling tepid or absolutely uncomfortable about others. This is completely normal and unique to everyone. Before you jump into a scene with your partner(s), you need to have an honest conversation about your limits, what you both enjoy, and how to maintain and affirm consent during a scene.

Limits are boundaries and they are important to identify and communicate with your scene partner(s). Everyone, Submissive AND Dominant, has limits to what they are comfortable doing and what they find pleasurable.


There are two types of limits: Hard and Soft.


Hard Limits: “I'm uncomfortable and/or unwilling to engage in this activity.”

If you have a hard limit, then you are completely uncomfortable or unwilling to engage in a certain activity. This can stem from personal trauma, a dislike for the activity, or simple disinterest.

For example, a Sub may have a hard limit on degradation in a scene or namecalling (i.e slut, bitch etc.) Conversely, a Dom may have a hard limit in engaging in pet play.


You do not have to explain why you have certain limits. Hard limits should be respected by your partner(s) without question. If someone pushes against and disrespects your limits, this is a big red flag. Everyone is different and into different things, but no one has to engage in any type of play that they do not want to.


"A hard limit is unbreakable and must be respected by both/all partners no matter what. It may protect an area of trauma or something which is sacred to one or all partners. It may also designate an activity which is simply not appealing for any reason." | Dr. Celina Criss

Soft Limits: “I'm curious and open to try this activity if if we discuss it fully."

If you have a soft limit that you want to explore it is important to have a discussion with your partner beforehand to discuss what this may look like, to agree on your safe words and how you will communicate during your scene. We call these soft limits.


For me, I need to develop a relationship and trust with a Dom before I agree to certain things. This is normal and this is okay. I, personally, want to know and discuss beforehand if I am going to be restrained in any way or gagged. I also only play with rope with a trusted partner who is skilled in rope. This is a soft limit, it’s something I’m interested in but with certain conditions.


Unsure about your limits? This quiz from Sexual Alpha can help you identify if you're into some of the more common BDSM play. The second part of the test allows you to think about your limits and then email them to your partner. When discussing limits with a partner, you can even use a checklist to help start the conversation.




Knowing the Safety Risks

Kink involves a certain amount of risk, so it's important to discuss the safety risks of a scene with your partner before engaging in it. Risky activities in BDSM can include, but aren't limited to, rope bondage, breath play, flogging, and wax play.


When it comes to safety there are three BDSM philosophies that are foundational to start the conversation around consent and safety. This is the start of a conversation you must have when engaging in kink.


Safe, Sane, and Consensual

Before you engage in a scene or play have a discussion and think independently about if an activity is safe, sane, and consensual. However, there could be misconceptions and you and your partner may have different understandings of what “sane” and “safe” mean.


Questions to Ask:

  • Is our kinky activity safe to engage in?

  • Is it sane?

  • Do we both consent?


RACK: Risk-Aware, Communication, Kink

You and your partner are fully aware of the risks and should know how to prevent them and know what to do if a scene goes wrong.


Risk-Aware: What are the risks, and how will you handle them during your scene?

Communication: Can you affirm and maintain communication in the scene?

Kink: Have you had conversations with all parties involved about the activity so that everyone understands what will happen?


For example: If you are playing with rope, there is a danger of cutting off blood circulation. It's important to know where numbness could occur, how your partner will communicate that, and having safety shears nearby to cut the rope if something goes wrong.


PRICK: Personal Responsibility, Informed, Consensual, Kink

Actively engaging in BDSM requires personal responsibility for the activities as well as the consequences. The acronym PRICK makes us consider our own personal responsibility to educate ourselves and be well informed about the activities we're engaging with. PRICK is also considered a variation of RACK.


For example: Before a sexual activity, inform each other of any tests and results for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Discuss options for protective sex, such as condoms or if any of the parties are on birth control.


While this shouldn’t be the only form of communication, it can start a conversation on what you are interested in and what you’re really not interested in. There may be a lot of kinky activities that may not speak to you or you may feel like you don't know enough to engage in. This is totally fine and okay. The important part is recognising your feelings, researching and communicating to your partner.



In summary, here are the basic questions to ask

  1. Do all parties take personal responsibility engaging in kink?

  2. Do all parties have a shared understanding of the activity they are engaging in?

  3. How will all parties affirm consent before, during, and after a scene?


Generally, if all parties have a shared understanding of the activity and all are adults (18+) who consent to said activity, it is not our place to put down others for whatever they’re into.


Checking In and Affirming Consent During a Scene

Consent and trust-building are vital when exploring and practicing kink. While consent may have been given at the beginning of a scene from either party, this does not guarantee ongoing consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, including during a scene. Therefore, it's important to check in with your partner and affirm consent during a scene.


Safe Words

While asking questions such as "Are you okay?" can suffice in some situations, it's important to have an "abort" function at the ready. You use a safe word when you indicate that you want the activity to stop, immediately, no matter the reason.


Your safe word should be one that doesn’t come up in role-play scenes. If you're playing with power dynamics in a scene, the word "stop" is not appropriate, as this could be confused for roleplaying. Be as random as you want with your safe words. Some suggested safewords: broccoli, apple, potassium.


When someone uses the safe word, it usually means that they want to end the scene immediately, limits have been crossed, or they have been triggered in some way. Sometimes limits and triggers are discovered in the middle of a scene, so it is vital that you stop all activity when someone uses a safe word.


Communication systems

When you are exploring BDSM for the first time, especially any element of pain or bondage, there needs to be a system in place to communicate during a scene. There are different types of communication systems, and they should be discussed and agreed upon before engaging in any activity.


Traffic Light System/"Stoplight safe words"


Example of the traffic light system

  • Green: Yes, this is great! Keep going!

  • Yellow: Slow down, less intensity

  • Red: Stop immediately.

Stoplight safe words are a set of safe words that are popular due largely to their clarity and brevity. They aren't just used to end a scene. Rather, they are used to communicate throughout the scene. Stoplight safe words give submissives a universally understood set of signals for staying on the same page as their dominant. | Kinkly

Scale System


Example of a scale system

  1. More intensity

  2. This is good, but I can handle a little more

  3. Yes, this is great! I’m enjoying this.

  4. Slow down, less intensity

  5. Too hard, need a break, stop impact play.

A great example to use the scale system would be a scene that involves impact play (flogging, spanking, etc).


Nonverbal communication