Has your sex life run out of steam? Why not try something new this Valentine’s Day? Here’s your cue: Fifty Shades of Grey, the controversial movie based on the erotic novel by the same name, will release around the same time (February 13). For better or worse, the Fifty Shades trilogy first introduced many people to the world of BDSM — a catchall term for practices that fall under Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism—or simply kink.

Most people who have regular sex – known as vanilla couples in BDSM circles – squirm at the idea of using ropes, belts and whips during lovemaking, but BDSM conferences and events are already a trend in big cities. “If you’re not into it, there’s no reason to force it,” says sex educator Jeana Jorgensen, Ph.D. “But if you’re looking to try something new and adventurous, then BDSM offers a lot of tools and strategies for people to have new kinds of intimate experiences.”

Here are some topnotch tips to help you get kinky:

1. Experiment with senses: Blindfold your partner and then tease and tantalize them. The unpredictability of your touch will send them into a tizzy of anticipation. “When you take away one of the senses, the others are all heightened,” says Allena Gabosch, kink expert and executive director at the Center for Sex Positive Culture, Seattle. In fact, go an extra mile if you want: rub ice or drip hot wax over them. Gabosch recommends soy candles for play involving wax.

2. Make it a power game: Try the heady mix of role and power play. “Role play lets us step into other roles that in our everyday lives we may never get to be,” says Cassie Fuller, the co-founder of Touch of Flavor, an organization that holds BDSM classes and conferences. “By allowing your partner to take control of your body and what activities you two are doing (within your limits) for an evening, you can learn a lot about what your partner enjoys,” says Fuller. Power play can take place both in and outside the bedroom. For example, you can call the shots when it comes to deciding what happens between the sheets, and your partner can take over more mundane stuff, such as where and what to eat.

3. Talk before you leap into bed: It’s important for the individuals involved to talk and plan a scene before acting it out. “Communicate. Communicate. Communicate,” says Brad Sagarin, professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, who studies the BDSM lifestyle. “While you’re doing it, let your partner know if something isn’t working for you (or if something is working for you).” A BDSM rule of thumb is to utter an accepted safe word if things spin out of control. When you are through with the act, take some time to discuss what happened and what you plan to do the next time around.

4. Rope of love: If you want to go beyond the basics and take it to the next level, try tying your partner. “Tying your partner spread eagle and then having your way with them can be very exciting,” says Gabosch. “Teasing them with your mouth, hands, even feathers and them not being able to reciprocate is hot.” Don’t forget to read up on tying safely. A copy of Two Knotty Boys Back on the Ropes would be helpful.

5. Educate yourself: You may be tempted to take your lessons from kink porn sites. But beware. “Not only are those folks experienced professionals, there’s a lot that happens off camera to make those movies,” says sex coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D. “Learning BDSM from porn is like learning to drive from watching a car-chase movie. It just doesn’t work.” Turn instead to books. SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman can be a good place to start. Alternatively, you can also drop in to any of the BDSM conferences or events in your city.

So, shed your skepticism about alternative sex practices and embrace a brave a new world of intimacy with an open mind. “We only think that certain kinds of sex are strange because we’ve been socialized to believe it,” says Jorgensen. “It’s important to remember that people’s sexual tastes change over time; an adult in their 50s probably likes different things than when they were a teenager.”

Click here to see Rose’s tips for healthy and happy relationships

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