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Action Potential: BDSM 101 - Re-educating the General Public after 'Fifty Shades'


Good Vibrations should win an award for “Most Open and Friendly Atmosphere of any XXX Store.” Not that I’m any judge of sex shops (I’ve only been in one other), but the fact that they give sensual workshops throughout the month on top of their bright environment personally clinches the title for them in my mind.

In honor of “Hump Day,” Good Vibrations stores around the city offer one such erotic workshop free of charge. The topic is different at each location, so after perusing the available topics, my partner and I decided to take this once-a-month opportunity to delve into the often misunderstood world of BDSM.

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, I’ll recap the brief vocabulary rundown the workshop started off with: BDSM stands for Bondage, Domination or Discipline, Sadism or Submission, and Masochism.

Our workshop took place at the Polk Street store, in the Antique Vibrator Museum. Our teacher was a spunky and enthusiastic store employee who had decided to cover BDSM in honor of the recent Folsom Street Fair.

When engaged in properly, it is a SSC (safe, sane and consensual) intimate practice. People often associate it with pain, which can be involved, but is not necessarily always a part of play, and the lifestyle has been gaining in interest since the recent popularization of a work of BDSM fiction that should only be used as cow fodder.

Even then, I wouldn’t eat the hamburger that comes from that steer; our instructor recommends Anne Rice’s take on BDSM if you want some actual and accurate literature.

She stayed true to the introductory nature of the workshop, covering all the basics in terms of types of play and the tools of each, as well as specific safety issues to keep in mind.

When engaging in bondage, always think of blood circulation. For “impact” play for beginners, target areas for flogging, whipping, paddling or caning should be the butt or upper back.

And sensory-deprivation “sensation” play can make use of items you already have in your dungeon — I mean, bedroom — like headphones or a pillowcase twisted into a blindfold.

Overall, our instructor was very conscious of presenting BDSM play as something that any pair could engage in, even if they weren’t going so far as to suspend each other from the ceiling by chains (Advanced BDSM 101 for another night).

She made sure to mention tons of resources for those that wanted to further educate themselves, and we all received 15 percent off coupons at the store in the event we were tantalized enough to buy any of the toys she had showed us.

For the sake of this article (but really for our libidos) my partner and I decided to try out a few things we’d learned after the workshop — you know, to provide accurate feedback on how it effects bedtime fun time.

We didn’t want to start off with anything too intense (besides which much of the equipment is a little pricey for a UCSF student budget), so we used our coupons to buy a small rubber tickler-flogger combo and some sexy fishnets so I could play dungeon mistress with style.

We are definitely on the vanilla end of the BDSM spectrum, but even the little bump in intensity we achieved with sensory deprivation, courtesy of a blindfold, and the use of the tickler, to provide stimulation to otherwise unreachable parts of my body while my partner was helping himself to the *ahem* Taco Special, was ah-mazing.

After our trial romp, we decided we wanted a bigger taste of BDSM-style intimacy. Amazon kindly provided us with a significantly less expensive Under the Mattress Bondage Kit for the couple that wants to tie but lacks the necessary headboard. Depending on how everything works out, the experience may have to be the subject of another week’s column.

Be daring but safe, Mischiefs! And be sure to check out Good Vibrations’ website for information on upcoming workshops.