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15 of the Best Books to Get Caught Up on Kink and BDSM

For something that’s such a ubiquitous reference in our culture as a kind of shorthand for the taboo or scandalous, it can be difficult to find reliable and helpful information on kink or BDSM. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s fearmongering, or where to look if you want something constructive and concrete as opposed to vague and abstract. It’s a big topic, and it’s hard to know who to trust to guide you through it.

While there’s (increasingly) tons of information on the internet and social media about BDSM and kink, finding the resources that resonate with you can be a challenge β€” that’s why I’m here with recommendations for vetted, reputable books that guide you through what you need to know with care and authority.

Learn What You Like

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Kink (and sex in general) can be almost anything to anyone β€” you could read the most comprehensive, best-reviewed kink resource cover to cover and still walk away discouraged because it’s just not something you’re into. From sadism/masochism to Daddy or Mommy play to humiliation, there’s an enormous amount encompassed within “BDSM,” and knowing what element(s) piques your interest is a good place to start. Try these beloved kinky erotica offerings β€” from novels to series to anthologies β€” to see what’s out there and pay attention to what turns you on. Dating a new person who’s interested in exploring kink for the first time? Offer these to them so they can get a sense of their interests too.

Learn How to Do Kink (and Be Done To)

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You can understand your inner desires to the moon and back, but the question on many peoples’ minds when it comes to BDSM β€” and sex in general, really β€” is “how do I actually DO it? And do it well?”

While cornerstones of communication, consent and trying things out is always going to be the magic recipe for success in bed, there are some skills and competencies specific to kink that you’ll want to learn more about. Some stuff β€” like tying (and untying!) ropes around people β€” is complex to execute well and you’ll want to learn carefully and practice. Some important areas are more “soft skills,” but no less important β€” how do you cultivate a cool, calm, aloof Dominant persona in the bedroom when you’re excruciatingly aware of your own anxieties and insecurities in real life? If you have an idea of what you want and are looking for resources on the how, these books are the place to start.

Get Caught Up on Culture and Community

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Kink and BDSM are more than just fun activities to explore with other consenting adults in the privacy of your own home β€” they come from a complex history and subculture, one with deep ties to queer communities in the US and the ways they’ve navigated both persecution and assimilation. The “leather” subculture is distinct from but ultimately tied to contemporary “kink culture,” and even if you have no intention (right now) of ever visiting a leather bar or going to Folsom Street Fair, the responsible and respectful thing to do is to educate yourself on the lineage your interests belong to. These books, read together, do a good job explaining the historical roots and context of the leather and kink communities, and how people entering the scene today might navigate its contemporary realities.

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