Bondage for beginners: What is bondage and how to get started

Curious about bondage, but not sure if it's right for you? Here's everything you need to know and more...

Bondage
(Image credit: Getty Images / Westend61)

Think bondage might turn you on? You're not alone. A new survey by OnBuy.com found that 44% of Brits want to be tied up in the bedroom. And it doesn't matter what with, as the study also found that ribbon, tinsel, fairy lights and even Santa's belt were options lying around the house that could be used. That's because now it's easier than ever to give it a go. Sometimes it can be as simple as picking up one of the best vibrators or sex toys and seeing what you can do with it. 

Intrigued? Then you've come to the right place. We asked Jess Wilde, bondage expert at Lovehoney, to share her tips on how to get into bondage if you are a beginner. Turns out, bringing your Fifty Shades fantasy to life doesn't have to be scary at all. Unless you want it to be!

Here's everything you need to know about bondage, but might have been too afraid to ask...

What is bondage?

Not sure what exactly bondage is? It's often confused with rough sex, but it's actually very different. "Bondage is the sexual practice of restraining someone during sex," says Jess. "It falls under the umbrella term Power Play. Power Play is where one partner takes on a dominant role (the Dominant/Dom) and one takes on a submissive role (the Submissive/Sub)."

This is why most people think of being tied up when they think about what bondage involves. "Restraint includes anything from holding the Sub’s hands in a certain position, to using restraint tools like handcuffs."

In fact, bondage can be romantic. "Bondage and rough sex are not the same thing," says Jess. "In fact, lots of bondage play is not rough at all, and is often extremely slow and sensual. The only similarities between bondage and rough sex are that both acts should be explicitly discussed with clear boundaries agreed upon before play, and you should always settle upon a ‘safe word’ before either type of sex."

Bondage has been around for centuries, but it's talked about more openly nowadays, especially as it's seen more regularly in mainstream TV and films.

"Bondage sales have definitely increased since the release of Fifty Shades of Grey," says Jess. "With more people talking about bondage with their partner, and being more open to the idea of trying something new in the bedroom, we’ve seen a marked increase in sales of bondage items, particularly from our official Fifty Shades of Grey Pleasure Collection. After reading the books, it makes sense that so many people want to bring their fantasy to life."

What are the rules of bondage?

Not sure how to start? The most often asked questions when it comes to bondage include: "Do you need a safe word?" and, "Do you take it in turns to be dominant?". Many people often worry about actually hurting their partner and whether "fake" restraints should be used.

"Bondage, by definition, stops the body from doing something it usually could, for example, prevents a certain movement," says Jess. 

To keep play safe and fun for everyone, Jess has a few rules everyone should follow:

  • Always use a safe word.
    "
    A safe word is something the submissive partner (the one who’s restrained) can use at any time to stop play immediately, and tells the Dominant partner (the one doing the tying) that they want to be released. Your safe word can be anything you like as long as you’ve both agreed on it before play. The best ones are short, easy to say and easy to remember. Your safe word should also stand out like a sore thumb in the middle of sex. A personal favourite is “GANDALF!”"
  • Never leave a restrained person unattended – even for a moment.
    "If the Dominant needs to leave the room for any reason (even for a quick wee) always release your partner."
  • As with all sex, bondage should be completely consensual.
    "
    If one or both of you isn’t enjoying the experience, use that safe word and stop immediately."
  • Always follow up with aftercare.
    "During bondage play, one partner dominates the other, which is super arousing and exciting in the moment, but can leave one or both of you feeling uncertain after it’s all over. Known as ‘sub-drop’, sometimes the submissive partner can feel a wash of sadness when playtime has finished and the endorphins wear off. Bondage aftercare is the process of reassuring your partner that you care for them. Lots of hugs, loving touches and an open chat about the experience you’ve just shared are great ways to do this."

Bondage: how to use restraints and which ones beginners should avoid

There’s a whole host of toys and tools on the market for exploring bondage play, so knowing what to choose can be tricky. But, as with anything new, starting slowly is always best. And this is the same when it comes to which restraints to use.

"For beginner’s bondage, avoid advanced tools like rope or bondage tape which can dig into the skin and cause lasting damage if used incorrectly," says Jess. "Instead, opt for soft, Velcro-fastened wrist cuffs that offer comfy, reliable restraint, and can be removed in a jiffy if required."

In the same vein, positions where the submissive partner is comfortable are always best, so being laid down somewhere comfy (probably your bed) is ideal.

"Although it can be tempting to dive in with both feet and buy something like an under-mattress restraint for your first-time, this can be a little overwhelming for new Subs," says Jess. "Start small, and focus restraint on one area of the body to begin with (eg wrists OR ankles). And, if you both like that, then you can build to more advanced restraint where arms and legs are cuffed at the same time."

How do you pick who is dominant?

"When it comes to who dominates and who submits, some couples like to take it in turns (known as ‘switching’) while other couples are only turned on by being Dominant, or only being submissive," explains Jess. 

"How you play is a matter of personal preference. To figure this out, talk with your partner before play and remember: the Sub is the one who’s actually in control at all times. Although the Dom may guide play, the Sub calls the shots, and decides when play is over."

Favourite bondage activities - for women

Like to know what everyone else is doing when it comes to bondage in the bedroom? A survey by Lovehoney found these to be the favourite bondage activities for women:

  1. Spanking 
  2. Tying each other up
  3. Blindfolds
  4. Nipple play 
  5. Biting

Favourite bondage activities - for men

Meanwhile, men preferred these bondage activities:

  1. Blindfolds 
  2. Spanking 
  3. Tying each other up 
  4. Nipple play 
  5. Biting

The UK's top 10 towns for bondage

Want to know what your neighbours are up to? These UK towns were found top in a study by Lovehoney.

  1. Southsea, Hampshire 
  2. Dagenham, East London 
  3. Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk 
  4. Waltham Cross, Herts 
  5. Huntingdon, Cambs 
  6. Sidcup, South London 
  7. Ely, Cambs 
  8. Bathgate, West Lothian 
  9. Aberystwyth, Ceredigion 
  10. Cheadle, Greater Manchester 

Best bondage buys for beginners

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What's next for your sex life after bondage?

Enjoyed bondage and want to try something else? "For couples who want to take the next step in bondage, you could try adding a little sensory play to the mix," says Jess. This could be in the form of spanking.

"Falling under the umbrella term “Sensory Play”, spanking is a different sex act to bondage," says Jess. "Spanking can be enjoyed with or without bondage (in the same way bondage can be enjoyed without spanking). Because spanking is still a form of Power Play, it has many of the same rules as bondage in order to keep play fun and safe."

Want to give it a try? "For couples who’ve agreed they’d like to try spanking, it’s important that you build intensity slowly," says Jess. "Start with a light tap, and build how hard you hit to find the right sensation for your sub. Some people like their spanking with some pain, but for many, spanking isn’t painful at all. Lots of people enjoy spanking for the psychological thrill of being dominated or dominating someone."

Just make sure you are careful at first. "For beginners, always experiment by using your hand to spank first, before you bring any tools into the bedroom," says Jess. "Using your hand enables you to control how hard you spank as you can feel the impact too. If you’re both happy with this, and decide you’d like to try using a spanking tool, a beginner-friendly spanking paddle is the best place to start."