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We're bringing you this Q&A from the Sex Files in our Winter 2020 print issue, featuring advice from sexologist Dr. Carol Queen.

I’ve started dating a submissive man with experience seeing professional dommes. I’m a switch who has had kinky fantasies forever, but I rarely get to a place romantically where I feel safe enough to act them out. I’m excited to explore my more dominant side IRL, but I’m intimidated and self-conscious. Also, what if I occasionally want to switch places? –View From The Top

Fortunately, there’s lots of room in kink. It’s a super-big tent with many, many kinds of play and varying degrees of intensity. Talking and negotiating is considered big, hot fun in BDSM, so you two should be talking up a storm. What does being topped mean to him specifically? What kinds of roles are involved, if any, and what kind of implements does he like (again, if any)? What are his no-go zones? 

You’re also going to have your own boundaries, so what you’re looking for is the fertile ground in between both of your limits. This is also the time to say you’d like to switch sometimes. I’d also encourage you to tell him that you haven’t had as much topping experience as some of his other partners, but that you’re hot to learn. Just state what you don’t feel you know—that way, his consent can be fully informed. Follow up by conferring with him to determine limits; you can also do some research on your own. 

When you discuss a particular kind of play, ask what his specific safety limits are; getting specific will help address your concerns about whether you know enough about safety. Enlist his knowledge—just because you’re the top doesn’t mean you’re solely responsible for these decisions, and his experience base is a valuable source of information for both of you. 

These discussions will also help you plan out a preferred way of initiating play. You can exchange emails or texts beforehand to fully plan out a scene or just establish some baseline rules. Playing doesn’t have to end in sex, either; some folks skip the fuckery altogether.

Don’t forget that your home is full of pervertibles—things you can use as toys in a scene. You won’t have to go toy shopping till you figure out what you like to do together, if ever. A great friend of the beginner domme is a blindfold, which is super sexy even if, while your partner wears it, you’re pacing back and forth trying to psych yourself up for your next move. Not doing things can also be really hot; you can explore various kinds of restriction and withholding to make him (consensually) squirm.

Two great resources are Janet W. Hardy’s book The Sexually Dominant Woman: An Illustrated Guide for Nervous Beginners and Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely by Sybil Holiday and William Henkin. 

Your journey right now isn’t just about how to keep your pal safe and happy as you explore his fantasies. Your task is to do those things in the context of coming into your own pleasure as a dominant, so make sure you spend as much time learning what kind of domme you are, as you do figuring out what you’re going to do to and with him. Good luck, and enjoy coming into your power!

Top photo by Lucas Favre / Unsplash

Carol Queen’s latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone. This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!  

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