Bondage for beginners: A step-by-step guide

Hannah O'Neill

Bondage: Thinking Of giving It A Try? Here's Everything You Need To Get Started

If you’ve ever entertained fantasies of engaging in a bit of mutual tying-up-and-teasing with your partner, you’re definitely not alone. A Yougov poll carried out in February this year found that 12,727,272 of Brits have been tied up for sex, and that Penrith in Cumbria had the biggest per capita sales of BDSM equipment in the UK (who knew?!).

Bondage has been a fixture of erotic literature and art for centuries, from Rembrandt’s Andromeda Chained to the Rocks in 1630, through to the release of Fifty Shades of Grey which took the publishing world by storm.

A staggering 100 million copies of the Fifty Shades trilogy were sold worldwide, allowing countless women to indulge in fantasies about BDSM that they might not otherwise have owned up to. Suddenly, S&M was everywhere.




But why is bondage so alluring? Well we're into bondage for a variety of reasons. Play-struggling against restraints can build an exciting adrenaline rush, while being blindfolded heightens the senses in the rest of the body. Think of all the times you’ve closed your eyes during a massage – feels much better, right?

So what exactly is bondage? Well, the B in BDSM involves consensually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic and/or somatosensory (tactile) stimulation. But how do you introduce something that conjures up images of leather fetish gear, gimp masks and twisted rope, into a bedroom that rarely hosts anything riskier than Reverse Cowgirl?

First things first: experts recommend that you don’t embark on your first bondage experience with a near-stranger. So new Tinder dates are out.

Drop some hints.
Many people are put off experimenting with bondage because they don’t know how to broach the subject with their partner. This is something that Lovehoney’s bondage expert Jess Wilde is used to: ‘Never mind not knowing what to buy, a lot of our customers don’t necessarily know how to say to their partner, ‘Oh hey, honey, can you tie me up and spank me tonight?’ – it’s not the easiest thing to throw out there.’ She recommends getting hold of some erotic fiction, or maybe a DVD to watch in the comfort of your own home. ‘That’s the very first step, before you even look at products. Plant the seed in your partner’s mind that it might be something you want to try. Getting them used to the idea might change their perspective a little bit.’



Don’t be put off by misconceptions about bondage. Bondage has something of a reputation, but it can actually be a very romantic way of enhancing a relationship. According to Jess, ‘the world of bondage is like the world of curries. When you say ‘bondage’ to someone, they think ‘whips and chains and scary stuff’. In the same way, when you say ‘curry’ to someone then they might think, ‘oh my god, that’s hot and spicy and I can’t stand spicy food – it’s vindaloo’. And yes, that does exist, but there’s still korma. Beginner’s bondage is like the korma of fetish play. There’s no reason why when you’re in a curry house, anyone’s going to force you to have a vindaloo. If you want to stick to korma, that’s fine. And just because you’ve tried something once, that doesn’t mean you have to keep trying if you don’t like it – no one’s going to make you eat a second korma!’

Trust and communication is key. Bondage bedroom games require and imply a surrender of control, by the restrained partner to the active partner. Jess says that it’s important, therefore, to establish a safety word before you begin: ‘It means everyone knows that there’s complete trust in the scenario, and you know that just saying one word will stop play immediately.’

The concept of a safety word can be daunting: ‘Some people who are complete novices might think, “If I need a safety word, this must be some really scary play”, but it really isn’t. We have a safety word for all kinds of sex, and that’s usually ‘No’. But when it comes to fetish play, ‘No’ might not be enough because it might be part of the play, so that’s why we talk about safety words. You know that if you say ‘Pineapple’ midway through play, things are going to stop immediately.’

This is where bondage and fetish play can even bond a relationship and create trust. ‘You’re giving yourself to your partner’, says Jess, ‘so it’s not just about sensation – it can be really quite romantic’. Relationship counsellor Cat Williams agrees: ‘The couples that stay together in the most enriching relationships are the ones that can be really honest. So if they feel secure enough to say, ‘let’s explore what you really love’, one of them might say, ‘I would actually really love to explore role-play’. So then it’s about deciding what roles, and then they might say, ‘can you be a police officer and tie me up?’ and it’s sort of like, ‘why not?!’’




Picking a position. When couples are broaching the subject of bondage, they often feel pressure to label themselves as either the submissive or the dominant partner. Jess says that for first timers, this is irrelevant. ‘A lot of people think, “I’ve got to pick one”, or “I’m the guy so I have to go on top”. Throughout experimentation, you might well find that you favour one over the other, or quite dramatically hate being a sub. But when we’re talking about absolute beginners and novices, I would say sample both at the beginning.'

‘I know people tend to reference sub and dom, but there’s a third category entirely, which is ‘switch’, and some people might be a switch for their entire sex life. That’s just somebody who likes to flip back and forth, depending on their mood and partner – in one relationship they might always be a sub, or Saturday they’re a sub and Sunday they’re a dom. There’s nothing wrong with being a switch.’

Be the first to jump in. According to Jess, the best way to make something non-intimidating is to volunteer to do it first: ‘I might say, "I’m going to wear a blindfold tonight, I’ve got this great idea – I really want to try you massaging me while I’m wearing the blindfold", and once you’ve done it, tell them how great it was. It’s almost reverse psychology. Show them what a great time you had while you were tied up, or whilst you had the blindfold on, and they’ll be gagging to try it later’



Keep it simple. When it comes to bondage essentials, Jess recommends starting out simple. ‘Don’t start bringing in loads of tools – that can be intimidating, or overcomplicate things and become more of a distraction than an enhancement.’ Which is why blindfolds are so handy. Most of us have one lying around.

‘As soon as you block off someone’s vision it heightens all of their other responses, so they’re going to become really sensitive to touch. Bondage is this idea of heightening both psychological and physiological response, and playing with what your body already does. If you’re slipping a blindfold on to your partner and massaging them, they’re going to be really sensitive to every touch and get more pleasure from the simplest of things. Plus blindfolds are non-intimidating because you can usually get them in satiny materials.’ Jess says that a lot of Lovehoney customers have been put off exploring bondage by the materials usually associated with it: ‘People conjure up this idea of leather and chains and metal and spikes, and I think that in itself can be quite off-putting – especially if you’re someone who likes a bit of lace or satin in the bedroom. What’s changed over the last few years is that we’ve got a lot more gear that appeals to people who want to keep things soft and sensual, so it feels more like lingerie. It’s not about being hard and intimidating.’

She adds that a blindfold can also be a confidence boost: ‘You might be in control for the first time, and it can feel like there’s a spotlight on you and you’ve got to perform. Covering your partner’s eyes gives you the freedom to think a bit more and not worry too much about facial expressions. By creating a barrier, you’re actually getting closer to them. It's about exploring the way things feel, and listening to each other’s body language. You can watch your partner and see how they respond to various touches, and you actually become closer by removing that eye-to-eye contact, believe it or not.’ If you don’t have a blindfold lying around, a silk scarf, shirt tie or a pair of tights is a great alternative.



Play it hot and cold.
Once you want to explore a little further, there are things around the house you can use. ‘Ice cubes are brilliant for temperature play’, says Jess, ‘and you don’t need to buy anything except an ice cube tray. Warm honey is also great, and you’ve probably got it in your kitchen cupboard already, so you don’t need to run out and start buying loads of sex toys. You can start sampling all of this without actually going into a sex shop at all, because that can be scary enough as it is.’



Learning the ropes. When you’re ready to move into ‘official bondage territory’, restraint can be as simple as holding your partners arms where you want them. If you’re on top, try pinning their arms to the mattress. ‘If they like that, you’re ready to take it to the next level’, says Jess. ‘Suggest something like, ‘let’s do this again but maybe we’ll use handcuffs this time, and then my hands are free to do other stuff to you while your hands are above your head’. It’s the same with spanking – just use your hands to explore and see if you like where you’re going psychologically with your erotic play.’

When it comes to tying your partner up, Jess recommends against using a shirt tie: ‘We get a lot of people who are trying bondage for the first time and will rummage around in their drawers and go, ‘Oh we can use this stocking, or shirt tie’. Although both those items are great for a blindfold, they’re not ideal for actually tying someone up for the first time, simply because you could tie a knot that someone might struggle to get out of. No one wants to be panicking because they can’t undo a knot in a tie, and with things like tights that have nylon in them and are stretchy, and can get tighter whilst it’s tied – it’s a recipe for disaster’. Jess says steer clear of knots, and got for Velcro: ‘You can pull and twist and tug and it won’t come free, but your partner can pull you out of it in a snap if they need to. The same goes for anything with an easy-release clip – something that’s easy to undo in the heat of the moment. Chances are that people won’t ever want to take advantage of that benefit, but knowing it’s there can help you relax and enjoy the situation more.’



If you really fancy using rope, sexpert Girl On the Net recommends SexToys: ‘They have bondage rope for less than a tenner, and it works really well. Just make sure you practice the knots you want to use, know how to undo them quickly, and make sure you have some safety scissors on standby.’

For her, bondage means being able to get into sex positions you couldn’t otherwise. ‘My fave thing is when he uses the rope to tie my ankles together, and then pulls them back over my head (so my head is by the bedposts, and my ankles are by the bedposts too - I'm folded in half). Then he loops the ropes round the bedposts, and pulls on it while we're having sex. It gives him something to grip onto, and means I can stay in that position for much longer without getting cramp. It also gives super-deep penetration too, which is a bit of a win! Bondage is also brilliant for teasing and edging: having your wrists and ankles tied while the other person teases you with your favourite sex toy (mine's the Doxy Massager). Tease, stop, tease, stop, until they're struggling to get free and deliciously horny. If it's the guy tied up, I like to go on top, do the teasing, then have sex - get him just to the point before he comes, then stop, and keep doing that. Then pull on the knot, release him, and let him go for it - it makes for a pretty amazing horny/rough shag!’



A good place to start if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by products are Bondage kits from sites like Lovehoney. Jess says, ‘You can just go, ‘right, I’ll spend 25 quid on this, and it comes with a bunch of stuff to explore’. And there might be one thing in the kit that you think, ‘oh I’ll never use that’, but in 12 months you might! We have a lot of people who have bought the kits from us, and they’ve said, ‘I really just bought this kit for the handcuffs and blindfold, but it came with a gag and I’ll never use it’, and then they went on to write a new review 12 or 18 months later, going, ‘oh my god, I tried the gag and it’s great!’  Its about taking baby steps. No one’s expecting you to suddenly own a dungeon or a crucifix.’

Don’t take it too seriously – respect each other and take each other seriously, but have fun! If you don’t have a smile on your face in the bedroom then you’re not doing it right.’

What if your partner has some experience with bondage but you don’t? ‘Ask them to explain what they’ve tried and what they haven’t, and why they liked it’, says Jess. ‘And if you’re the one who is interested in fetish play, it’s important to communicate that you don’t need this to get off – it’s just an enhancement, like having ketchup with chips.’ And whilst she would encourage everyone to be open minded and try everything once, maybe twice, ‘You must be prepared for your partner to say, ‘I’m not into it’. Mutual respect comes into all aspects of a relationship, including bondage.’

Some Essentials

Lovehoney.co.uk offers a wide range of products for couples looking to explore bondage, and their products are delivered in discreet packaging – so no knowing looks from the postman.


Tease by Lovehoney Furry Handcuffs


Lovehoney Lovers Romance Kit


Bondage Boutique Beginner's Soft kit

Bondage Boutique Beginner's Soft kit gag


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