If “beginner” is the best way to describe your experience in the bedroom, then BDSM—even the term alone—can be a bit daunting. For starters, BDSM doesn’t mean just one thing. Those four little letters encompass a wide range of boudoir behaviors relating to bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism. D&S can also refer to discipline and submission. Before you go hide in your closet, remember that kink comes in many flavors.

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When you jill off (oil the oyster, pet the pussy) what do you think about? If your fantasies run toward kinky behavior, pay attention to the imaginary scenarios that turn you on the most. Do you see yourself submitting to a partner? Or are you all about sliding into latex and playing the role of the domme? The images that bring you ecstasy are the ones to explore.

Erotica is an easy way to amp up your erotic aptitude. What better way to learn about your desires than to read stories spelling out sizzling situations? Titles such as The Big Book of Bondage, Love At First Sting, and Hurts So Good all feature erotic tales of BDSM play. Novels such as Dark Secret Love and The Delicious Torment take the kinky lifestyle to a higher level.

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Forget your P’s, and Q’s, mind your X-rated movies. Some people are visual animals. If you want to see how things work, have a porno with your popcorn. But there are so many! Where do you start? Check out Violet Blue’s The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn for advice. Ms. Blue, an expert on all erotic topics, will steer you toward the top erotic films to watch.

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If you and your partner have never delved into kink before, begin by having an open discussion. Explain that you’re looking to try something new. Ask your lover to be a participant in the planning of the event. Then tell him (or her) what you want, and listen to the response.

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This isn’t a race. There are no winners. Only comers. If you want to try bondage, but aren’t ready for handcuffs, rope, or leather ask, your partner to hold your wrists over your head while you make love. If even this feels a bit too confining, begin with verbal commands alone. Statements such as “Don’t move. Stay exactly in this position,” can be extremely arousing—especially if your lover is working in a sexual manner to make you lose your cool.

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As you work up the ladder in your kinky repertoire, consider adding a sex toy to the mix. You can incorporate handcuffs, rope, a blindfold, or other bondage devices. To be on the safe side, learn how to play from an expert. Tristan Taormino’s 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM is a great way to start.

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You don’t need to break your bank account in order to play dirty. Use ties, stockings, scarves, rope. Looking around your house should give you a slew of filthy ideas. Check out Bondage on a Budget for stories that feature all sorts of suggestions on how to use household items into new ways.

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When you’re engaged in any sort of BDSM play, you want to have a word that means stop or no—aside from “stop” and “no.” Because sometimes in the heat of the moment “stop” only means “oh, wow, that’s intense.” Be clear with your partner ahead of time that when you say your safeword all activity will cease immediately. Safewords are generally unusual, such as “asparagus,” “aardvark,” or (in the case of a character in Those Girls) “misogynist.”

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Perhaps this sounds like odd advice when entering the real of kink, right? But if this isn’t enjoyable for you, there’s no reason to do it. If you take small steps into the world of BDSM, you can control exactly how hot you want to set your scene. As you become more comfortable, you can turn the volume to eleven.

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Note: Some links are affiliate links, which help support the site. Most books mentioned are written by the author of this post, Alison Tyler.

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