• 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

In situations that restrict your ability to speak, it's important to have a system that involves nonverbal communication. Examples of nonverbal communication include gestures, successive taps, or blinking.


For example, a submissive might use a gag that prevents them from talking. It is agreed upon that if they want the gag to be removed, they will blink three times or tap their partner three times. This means the Dominant needs to be aware, present, and checking in regularly.


However, this probably isn’t the place for beginners to dip their toes into BDSM. Start small with easy and clear communication. Get the basics of safety and consent right and continue to educate and learn more about different types of BDSM.


Both the Submissive and Dominant should be checking in during the scene to affirm consent and to check in to see if their partner feels comfortable.


Remember: Consent is not stagnant, it is active and all parties can say no at any point in a relationship or scene.


Aftercare

Playing with domination, submission, pain and other sensations can be an intense emotional, physical and spiritual experience. For some people, they need care that helps them manage the endorphin drop that happens after a scene. This is called Sub and Dom Drop. You may feel physically or emotionally low after a scene, some people may feel deep feelings of shame and this can happen straight after a scene or a few days later.


Think about what you might need after a scene, and tell your partner.

You can choose what you would like your aftercare to look like and have this conversation before engaging in play. Take some time to think about this, because everyone's needs are different.


Practical elements of aftercare could be a massage and soothing lotion for impact play sites, or First Aid if you’re playing with blood or piercing skin in any way.


Emotional aftercare needs include having a conversation afterward about what you enjoyed, what you didn’t, assuring your partner that you love and care for them, spending some time together, or having a meal together. Some people may need a text or phone call the next morning/ night to check-in or even three days later.


Conversely, you may or may not want your partner involved with aftercare and prefer to have alone time to recharge on your own. This is completely up to you.


Connecting with Other Kinky People

There are a few ways that you can connect and learn from others, many of which are through online spaces.


Keep in mind that you should approach these online spaces with the same caution as if you were partaking in a book club or language exchange with people you've only met on the internet.


It is important to think about anonymity when uploading photos, showing your location etc. If you have a tattoo or other kinds of markers that could out you as being part of the kink community, you may want to reconsider posting photos that show these.


While kink has become more “mainstream” it still isn’t widely accepted and you may want to think about who you want to share this part of your life with. You should also think about what you’re okay with sharing with a kinky partner ie: your work details, phone number etc.


Dating sites such as Tinder and Bumble may be another place you can meet people as well. Facebook has a growing number of groups for kink. Reddit also has a significant community under r/BDSMadvice. People tend to use Kik to maintain anonymity instead of directly text messaging.


Fetlife: "The Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community"

Fetlife is like the intentionally NSFW Facebook of kink. You can set up your own profile, and look into events in your area, join communities, and connect with others who share the same interests.


In urban areas, there are usually workshops on rope and other different types of play which I would highly recommend checking out! This could be a nice date night activity or just a way for you to be taught the basics from people who are experienced.


Munches: Public meetups

Most areas have meetups once a month in public spaces called munches. These are usually people in their everyday clothes meeting new people and discussing kink in a safe way. This could be a good place to meet someone safely and talk to more experienced kinksters. Oftentimes, to be invited to a Munch you may have to meet with the group organiser beforehand. Some groups/people may want others to vouch for you or have a conversation first before inviting you to their Munch or play events. Munch groups are also good places to ask about others to gauge their experience and safety.


Safety measures when meeting others

If you are meeting someone off Fetlife (or any other internet site) it is important to ensure your own personal safety. Like any other dating/meet-up site it definitely comes with risks so it’s important to have a safety plan until you have developed trust with this person.


An example of a safety plan could be telling a friend that you’re meeting someone and that you’ll check in via message or phone call at certain times, or share your location.


Check-in with yourself and ask if what you’re doing is safe and sane. If you are meeting someone for the first time you should think about meeting in a public area, having rules like no sexual/ intimate contact the first few times you meet. You are allowed to set boundaries and say no, especially if you're meeting someone new.


If the meeting goes towards an unwelcome direction, prepare a go-to phrase that lets you leave the situation as soon as possible.


"Hey, I’ve just had something important come up at work I need to leave."


"My friend/partner/family member is really unwell. I need to leave."


You can also send a quick text to the person/people you've notified earlier to give you a call and help give you an out.



Red Flags

Red flags are behaviors or actions that allude to manipulative, controlling, or generally harmful behavior. When you are new to kink and the kink community, you might be unaware of some common red flags.


Sub Frenzy

Getting into the world of BDSM can be exciting and thrilling even. This rush of wanting to dive head first into kink and all the experiences it has to offer is called Sub Frenzy. For many Submissives, they enter a physiological and psychological state called “Sub Space.” After experiencing this, many Submissives might look to intentionally replicate this feeling, even if it's against their better judgement.

Subspace is common in two key scenarios. The first occurs when a submissive experiences pain administred by their dominant in a BDSM scene. Instead of using the safe word, the sub may begin to disassociate and step out of their body. In this experience, the sub’s body fights the pain with hormones and endorphins. In the other, more psychological scenario, the sub’s mind alters due to intense pleasure caused by interaction with the Dom. A surge of epinephrine, endorphins, and enkephalins combine to create a euphoric sensation that numbs any pain. | Kinkly

For newbies, it can be life-changing to enter this space and to be part of a community that openly discusses sex and kink. However, remember your safety framework. Is it safe? Is it sane? Have you discussed limits? Do you know all the risks with whatever activity you’re about to do? How will you communicate consent during the scene? Are you playing with someone experienced?


When you're first starting out, it's best to take things slow. Start with types of play that are least risky for beginners, such as using a blindfold with a trusted partner or using restraints with velcro instead of elaborate knotwork. If you've just finished a scene with someone, take a week to process it and discuss what you liked or disliked. Explore but explore in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you and allows you to reflect.


Dangerous Dominants

Like every other internet community, there are people who try to excuse abusing and manipulating others. Dangerous Dominants are people out there who use Domination and Submission as an excuse to abuse others and not take the other person’s safety or wants into account.


Often, newer kinksters are looking for partners they can trust, learn from, and can invest emotionally. In all honesty, there are people who use BDSM forums to falsely lure someone into playing under the pretense of a relationship and then ghost them. This is not the same as setting up a one-off play session where both parties understand that this is one-off.


Refusing to discuss limits and safeword or partake in aftercare.

This is a giant red flag. If someone scoffs at you for bringing up aftercare and limits they aren’t someone you want to play with. These conversations are to discuss your needs, wants, and dislikes so you can play safely with the least possible risk.


If someone wants to engage in a scene but doesn’t seem able to for whatever reason to have a frank conversation about the activity, limits, communication, safewords, and aftercare, then they are not a person you should play with especially if you’re a beginner or new to kink.


Don’t ever feel like you have to give up your boundaries/ limits just to play with someone.

If you have a play session and the other person engages you in an activity that you did not consent to this is a form of abuse and is not okay.


Refusing to meet in a public space

You never have to forgo your safety checklist, ever. Even if it’s been a while or it’s been difficult to find someone to play with, it is important to take your time and fully scope out someone that you are going to practice BDSM with.


Some people may message you to meet in half an hour at their place, would this be sane? Would this be safe? Would you be okay with knowing a friend was going to meet someone after a five-minute text conversation? Probably not.


Inexperience

Being inexperienced is nothing to be ashamed of. However, if someone opens with a conversation that is overtly sexual, jumps right into how they’re going to dominate/serve you instead of approaching you as a person, this is not okay. This red flag is often a sign that someone is unlikely to respect your needs and communication.


Start slow, research, meet more experienced kinksters outside of scenes, make friends! If someone messages you on Fetlife and says you’re the first person they’re thinking of playing with, it is your right to say no.


Fetishisation of people of colour

Yes, this happens, a lot. As women of colour, you might have experienced fetishization, which can feel dehumanizing. Some warning signs that someone is fetishizing you can include quickly stating how they find Asian women attractive because they believe that Asian women are submissive. Or, their first few sentences might all be about your skin colour, how they’ve never met/had sex with a person of your ethnicity.


These people do not usually see you as a whole person. If you’re into that, this could be discussed in a scene using the communication techniques we talked about earlier. But again, remember to ask yourself is it safe and is it sane, will this person be able to communicate consent, or are they so obsessed with your skin colour and “exoticness” they don’t see you as a person?


Conclusion

For some people, all they want is to be spanked, or be confined by rope, or explore different sensations. Kink does not have to be sexual, you do not have to engage sexually with anyone. Kink and sex don’t go hand in hand for everyone.


If you are going to engage in sexual activities or any kinky activity that requires the exchange of body fluids, think about safety precautions such as condoms and birth control. It's your right to voice and uphold your boundaries. For some people, they only have sex if they are using condoms. If you get a lot of pushback on your boundaries, it's a red flag to not engage with that person. You are also within your rights to ask someone about their STI/STD status (or other diseases transmitted via blood if you’re into needles etc) and when they last were tested. It's important to communicate the risks of any activity or form of play with your partner and take steps to mitigate them.


You always have the right to say no to any activity or withdraw consent. When practicing BDSM, communication, recongnising risks, and doing further research is vital. While this beginner's guide covered a lot of information, it's meant to be a springboard for people interested in kink. Continue to educate yourself with other resources!


Play safe, have fun, communicate and explore.


I wish you the very best in your kinky adventures!


 

More resources


Evie Lupine is a Youtuber who creates educational and entertaining content surrounding BDSM. Her content includes discussing various forms of play/ dynamics and what’s happening in the kink scene. View channel.

Recommended video: The Top 5 Best Types of BDSM Play For Newbies


Kat Blaque is a Youtuber who also speaks about her experiences with BDSM, sexuality, gender, and more. View channel.

Recommended video: Is BDSM Always Sexual??

The BDSM Kink Test from Sexual Alpha can help you learn what you're into and provide suggestions. You can even email you result to your partner.


Short video about the BDSM community in India.


 

Michell is an artist, writer and activist based in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is a second-generation immigrant of Fijian-Indian descent who lives with an invisible disability. Michell holds a Masters degree in International Studies and BA (Hons) in History. Her areas of interest include mental health, the intersection of gender violence and trauma, postcolonial studies and intersectional feminism. She is enthusiastic about South-East Asian women connecting and working together to support each other and rise together to have our voices heard. You can check out her work on her Instagram @memo.does.art.