Your sex coaching client is kink-curious and has decided they’d like to venture into the non-vanilla world. Because both “kink” and “BDSM” are umbrella terms encompassing a vast array of behaviors, dynamics, and/or relationships, it can be hard to know where to begin in discussing kink with your curious client. 

With so much information and so many terms, how can you guide them and help them stay safe without overwhelming them? You want to actually coach them, not sound like a kinky textbook, throwing facts and lingo at them, right? Use these four questions as guideposts to make sure you don’t miss the essentials, while keeping your focus client-centered and evolving to meet them wherever they are in their discovery. 

Question 1: What appeals to you about Kink/BDSM? 

Ask them what they’ve heard about kink or BDSM and how it attracted their attention. Maybe a new partner wants them to experiment with something and they’re trying to have an open mind or get their questions answered. Maybe a friend told them about an experience and it piqued their interest. Maybe they read or watched something extra hot. Maybe they’ve always had kinky fantasies and, now that they’re working with a sex coach, they’re able to talk about it.

This is also a good start to helping them think more specifically about what aspects of BDSM they might be interested in exploring. As we know, the term BDSM stands for different things (bondage & discipline, Dominance & submission, and sadism & masochism). It’s such a broad term in itself, and there’s so much lingo for people who haven’t been exposed to BDSM at all before. Even if you memorized a dictionary full of lingo, the same word can mean vastly different things to different people. 

Here’s a short list of basic kink terms.

Now that we understand the appeal, we’re ready to ask question number two to help us get more specific about what they want.

Question 2: How do you want to feel? 

Give your client space to get more specific about what they want to give in the experience and what they want to receive. For example, maybe your client tells you they’re interested in spanking. Do they want to give or receive a spanking? Or both? And what else do they want to feel with that? Obedient? Punished? Naughty? Not in control? Irresistible? Maybe they just want the sensation of it, and aren’t sure what else, if anything, they want to feel related to that. That’s okay, too. 

If we’re talking about just the sensation of spanking, there are still all kinds of different ways to experience it. What position would they like to be in? How rhythmic might they want it? How much force/what level of pain might they like to experience? Do they only want a bare hand, or are they open to other implements? Only on the butt, or would any other body parts be options for impact, as well?  

This is a great discussion question to use in order to highlight the importance of (ongoing) consent, communication, and negotiation. Read some other basics about that here.  

Hold space for your client to explore where their interest lies without having to label it neatly or know exactly what their kinky identity is. You could start narrowing it down by asking things like, “Are you more interested in playing with power dynamics, in playing with intense sensations, or both? What sensations would you like to give? To receive? What kind of role(s) do you want to play? What else do you want to feel, or to feel like? How do you want to be treated? What do you have to offer to your partner, and what do you want to receive and experience?” 

The answers to these can focus your discussion, and questions can get more specific as they move along in the exploration process.

Question 3: What type of knowledge and experience do you already have related to the kink you’re interested in, and what other type of research, education, and practice might be needed to engage in this safely?

This is a good moment to talk about concepts such as Risk-Aware Consensual Kink. How much they might need to learn will vary depending on what they are interested in. For our spanking client, for example, they may just need to learn some basic anatomy for now, and they can expand into learning spanking techniques. Even if they only plan to be the one receiving the spanking, it’s still helpful to know the basics. 

What work do they need to do related to their boundaries, and the boundaries of their partner? Of course, you want to talk about this in terms of what types of behaviors they might want to engage in, and what behaviors are a definite “no” or a “maybe.” But you also want to discuss other physical and emotional concerns that might arise. Do they have a bad knee, so maybe they can’t be in certain positions? Will they panic if their partner puts their hands behind their back? Would a certain word or type of play gross them out or shut them down? Could they need to let their partner know what it would look like if their blood sugar drops because they’re diabetic?

It’s a good idea for your client to ask this question of their (current or future) partner. It’s also okay to keep things very simple and light to start off, so that they can have an experience to try out without going too deep. Maybe they start off with some good dirty talk about what they want to do.

If myths and misinformation your client has about BDSM haven’t surfaced from the previous questions, then some probably will now. Clear up any that come up, and be sure you are directing your client to further resources that you trust to provide accurate, kink-positive information. If they want to expand their skill set beyond what you offer, of course that is the perfect time to refer out. 

Acknowledge that even with great communication, research and planning, they might feel emotions or sensations that weren’t what they were expecting, for better or for worse. Encourage them to debrief afterwards, both with their partner and with you. Of course, make sure they know about aftercare, too. And speaking of care, that brings us to question number four. 

Question 4: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your partner?

Communication and aftercare are essential for kink safety

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

The most important part of BDSM safety is about ongoing consent, communication, and negotiation, so talk in more detail about that here. For those in long term relationships, remind them that just because they know their partner well doesn’t mean they can skip all the communication. I often hear fears that the level of communication expected in BDSM will diminish the passion of the moment. Usually that fear stems from people feeling awkward when they first try talking about it, and from general myths about sex. 

We often battle against the erroneous idea that spontaneous sex is better than planned sex, that good lovers are somehow inherently good instead of people who have put in effort to become a good lover to their partner. 

Or your clients may have heard, “If you have to ask if it feels good, you’re doing it wrong…” Dispelling these myths, addressing these fears, and giving them tactics and practice to create this communication (and make it sexy, too) can all be part of your action plan. 

Yes, safety preparation in BDSM means having a safe word. Safety also involves simple practical aspects, such as making sure everyone is hydrated and having a first aid kit on hand. 

If they’re looking for a partner or planning to play out and about in the community, some of their needs are going to be different than playing in new ways with an already-established partner in private. Regardless, help your client discuss safety related to partners and spaces, based on their desires. Are they looking for a Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationship, or looking to play and experiment with new people? Are they meeting others in a vetted, established kink space, or are they meeting up with people from an app? 

They also might need to consider other identity aspects that could affect their play and how they feel about it, such as gender and race dynamics. Check out this podcast episode for some dialogue and thoughts about BDSM and race.

These four questions can be asked again and again throughout someone’s journey into the kink world. Your client’s interest in BDSM can lead your sex coaching in so many different directions, including lots of topics that you’re probably already discussing with vanilla clients. Maybe they need to work on figuring out what they want. Maybe they need to work on being able to say no to the things they don’t want, or being able to communicate about what they do want. Maybe they need help finding partners, or finding a BDSM community in their area. Maybe you need to help clarify misinformation they’ve gotten from social media sources about kinks, or from friends who may be misguided or not as knowledgeable as they’re claiming to be. 

By following this basic guide, you can help educate and guide your client in their exploration, while also giving them the information they need to stay safe as they venture into this new world. If you’re new to kink, too, be sure to have someone more experienced in your professional referral network. You can either refer out to this person, or use them as a resource to help deepen your own understanding of kink and BDSM.

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