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[A note for our readers: The following article, "The Beginners Guide to Bondage and Domination" by Master James and Slave Sandi, was an original posting on AOL message boards for several years. It was included in the "newbies" info pack that is given out to newcomers to the AOL D/s and BDSM chat rooms. This insightful article has often been copied and altered by many others but this is the original version.]

The Beginners Guide to
Bondage and Domination

Master James, assisted by Slave Sandi
Copyright laws protect the authors' rights.


This is a handbook for people to learn more about a type of relationship known as Bondage and Domination. We do not pull punches or try to soften the language used. If you are easily offended, do not continue reading this Guide. We are writing this from the experiences of others and our own experiences. This is by no means an endorsement of this lifestyle. It is meant as a guide to those who seek a greater understanding, or who are interested, but don't know how to start. The usage of "him" and "her" are from our own experience. Do not take it to mean the male must be dominant every time. There are many successful B&D relationships where the female is the Dominant, or in same sex relationships where one is dominant and the other submissive regardless of gender.


Bondage and Domination (B&D) is an alternative relationship in which a Master or Dom controls the actions, emotions, and will of the slave, or submissive, often referred to as "sub". B&D does not necessarily refer to the sex act itself. B&D is more akin to a seduction. The Master seduces the slave with his power, the slave seduces the Master with their willingness and servitude. Sex does occur in the relationship, but in this Guide, we are discussing the lifestyle, not sexual practice. "Slave" and "sub", as well as "Master" and "Dom" are not directly interchangeable titles. The differences will be gone into later in this guide. A B&D relationship consists of two people who are mutually consenting adults who agree on a direction for their relationship. They agree that one of the partners will take the dominant, controlling role, and the other partner, the submissive, controlled role. Just like in any other relationship, it is a two way street, though to outsiders, it may not seem so. The Master relies on the slave as much as the slave relies on the Master. They are dependent on each other to satisfy their own needs. Each partner has different needs, as defined by their role as Dom or sub, but each is satisfied, though in different ways. Each couple will have their own set of agreements. This Guide talks about ours, but every B&D relationship is different. However, there are some basic rules that are universal.

Chapter 1 - Basic Definitions

Bondage and Domination are not to be confused with Sadomasochism. To make this more clear, we are including these basic definitions. They are taken from the American Heritage Dictionary.

Bondage - 2) A state of subjection to a force, power or influence. It comes from the Old English word bonda, which means husbandman (farmer)

Dominant - 1) Exercising the most influence or control; governing. 2) Most prominent in position or prevalence; ascendant. Comes from Old French and Latin dominans, to dominate.

Dominate - 1) To control, govern or rule by superior authority or power. Comes from Latin dominari, to rule - dominus, lord.

Humiliate - To lower the pride or dignity of; mortify. Comes from Latin humiliare, humiliat, to humble - humilis, humble.

Submissive - comes from Submit.

Submit - 1) To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another. 2) To subject to a condition or process. 3) To yield to the opinion or authority of another; give in. 4) To allow oneself to be subjected; acquiesce. Comes from Middle English submitten, Latin submittere, to set under: sub-under + mittere - to cause to go.

Sadism - 1) The perversion of deriving sexual satisfaction from the infliction of pain on others. 2) Delight in cruelty. 3) Extreme cruelty. Comes from Comte Donatien de Sade (1740-1814)

Masochism - 1) An abnormal condition in which sexual excitement and satisfaction depend largely on being subjected to abuse or physical pain, whether by oneself or another. Comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Austrian novelist (1836-1895)

Sadomasochism - 1) The perversion of taking pleasure, especially sexual gratification from simultaneous sadism and masochism.

If you ignore the terms "perversion" and "abnormal" in the above definitions, you can still see that nowhere in the definition of dominate or submit do you have pain as an integral part. However, in Sadomasochism, the pain is the pleasure. In B&D, pain is a tool for correcting improper actions by the sub. In B&D, no actual injury occurs, or should occur. In Sadomasochism, or S&M, there is usually no such barrier. A spanking in B&D for the purpose of correction would become a flogging primarily for the purpose of pain for sexual delight in S&M. It is a difference in gradients and intent. In B&D, the Dom rarely, if ever, punishes the slave for the sake of punishment alone. S&M, however, revolves around the act. We are not saying that S&M is wrong, bad or undesirable. It is just a much higher gradient than B&D, and may be too intense for the beginner. Some people may confuse heavy B&D with S&M. They are two very different things.

Chapter 2 - The Players

Although it may seem through outward appearances that all the power in the relationship flows from the Dom or Master to the sub or slave, this is somewhat misleading. The players in a B&D relationship, no matter which side they are on, are equals to a certain degree. Both sides have power, but in different ways. The Dom may have ultimate authority, but the sub is the one who initiates most actions. To prevent any misunderstanding between players, they should understand the difference between a Dom and a Master, and a submissive and a sub.

The Dominant, or Dom.
"Many inexperienced Doms believe that all that is required is simply ordering your sub around as you choose. It's not. There's much more to be said about what being a good Dom requires" (Rex99, 07-21-95, AOL). Domination is not just giving random orders. A good Dom will find a way to cause the sub to desire pleasing the Dom. A Dom, or Dominant, is the protector, teacher, and lover to the sub.

As the protector, the Dom must be a) stronger than the sub, and b) stronger than other males in the life of the sub. This does not mean that he has to be physically bigger or stronger. We are talking about character and personality.

As the teacher, the Dom must be wise and, above all, right. The Dom should not arbitrarily punish the sub on a whim. There must be a reason. To do otherwise will break down the trust and security of the sub. The Dom has to be respected by the sub. Respect is a quality that is earned by the Dom being right, and issuing swift, correct justice and reward to the sub. The Dom is not there to inflict pain and degradation on the sub, but to give the sub a goal and a direction on how to love and please him.

As the lover, the Dom is loving and, when appropriate, stern. He must recognize that he is the only source of pleasure for the sub. He must see to it that this area is not neglected. The Dom should, when appropriate, be gentle, supportive, and tender to the sub. A Dom/sub relationship is not just about overpowering. It is about the Dom caring for the well-being of the sub. If punishment is required to stop a destructive action by the sub, then it comes from the Dom. On the other hand, when correct action has been noted by the Dom, love and caring should come from him to the sub.

The Master.
The Master is a higher gradient of control in B&D. The Master follows the same rules as a Dom, but in a stricter sense. The Master has a slave, not a sub. The slave is owned or "collared" by the Master. The Master considers the slave a possession, but a highly valuable and loved one, the most valuable thing he owns. Offenses against the rules laid out by the Master are dealt with more severely, in most circumstances. Still, the Master, when pleased, flows great love and caring to his slave. The Master is also more protective of his slave because the slave is totally dependent on the Master.

The Submissive, or sub.
"To be sure, the slave serves; the Master receives. But that does not mean that the slave has no sense of self, or self-worth. Her needs are real, and she should leave a relationship where her needs are not met." (Rex99, 07-21-95, AOL). The role of the submissive appears to be somewhat simpler, but in actuality, the sub plays a large role in shaping the B&D relationship. The sub's primary role is to follow her Dom's directions and to please the Dom. Being submissive does not mean that the sub is a doormat for the Dom. The sub is the Dom's companion, his student, and his lover.

As a companion, the sub is treated with respect and dignity, is allowed to voice opinions, and allowed to share in the Dom's activities. This is the area where the sub is the most equal with the Dom.

As a student, the sub learns how to please the Dom, and when done, expects to be rewarded by the Dom. Likewise, when not done or done incorrectly, the sub expects to be corrected and shown the right way to act.

As a lover, the sub goes out of her way to please the Dom because she genuinely cares for his well being. The sub does this, not out of fear of pain or retribution, but because she wants to give the Dom pleasure. The sub does not want the Dom to be disappointed with her. The sub takes pleasure from the fact that the Dom is pleased.

The slave.
The slave is a higher gradient of submissiveness in B&D. A slave's primary purpose in life is to serve the needs and desires of the Master. The slave relinquishes all control to the Master, because the slave knows the Master has her well-being totally at heart. The slave is marked by her Master in some fashion to show ownership. This can be done with a tattoo. I have collared Sandi with a tattoo on the back of her neck that means "Respectful and subservient". The Master/slave relationship tends to be more of a lifetime commitment to each other than a typical Dom/sub relationship. The slave is held to a higher standard of conduct and compliance than a typical sub, due to the fact that the slave has given control of her life to the Master.

Chapter 3 - Bondage and Domination Rules

Note: In this chapter, and henceforth, I will be referring to Masters and Doms as Doms. Likewise, slaves and subs will be called subs.

In order for any venture to be successful, there must be basic guidelines. We understand that every couple is different, and no two B&D relationships are the same. Nevertheless, basic agreements exists, or else you go outside the boundaries of what is considered a B&D relationship. Every couple will have their own set of agreements, however, I feel there are some that are universal.

1. No actual injury should occur to the sub. That does not suggest that spankings, discipline and correction do not occur, they just are not calculated to produce real injury, either to body or mind. In B&D, pain is sometimes used to correct behavior. It is not the central focus of the relationship.

2. Pre-agreed limits. It is simply an agreement on what the Dom and sub will and will not do. These limits are different for all couples. A pre-agreed limit is simply the boundaries established by the relationship. As an example, we have an agreement on not bringing in outside people to our bedroom. It is important to discuss honestly with each other what your personal limits are before beginning a B&D relationship. These are lines that are not crossed without at least some discussion beforehand. These boundaries do change with time as the relationship progresses.

3. The sub should have a "safeword", or something they can say to halt the present time activity. The safeword is a word that is understood by both parties to mean that action needs to stop. It could be that the sub is in great pain, or the Dom wants to clarify a situation outside of the action he is engaged in. Usually, it is that a line is being crossed that was not discussed in the pre-agreed limits, but just now came up. B&D is supposed to be enjoyed by both parties. Limits and safewords are type of guarantee that things don't get out of control on either side. If a Dom decides that a nice caning would be needed, and the sub has a major problem with it, the safeword would be used here to ensure the Dom does not misunderstand the sub. This does not mean the caning would not occur, it means the Dom would have the opportunity to consider the opinion of the sub before continuing.

Communication between the Dom and sub is crucial to a successful B&D relationship. The sub must be willing to talk about her feelings and the Dom must be receptive. The Dom also must be conscious of the non-verbal cues the sub gives. For a satisfying B&D relationship, it helps to have an underlying affinity for the other partner. The Dom is attempting to perfect his sub to his ideal of what the sub should be. The sub must want that goal, too. If either of these points do not exist, the B&D can degrade into an abusive relationship, or the partners go off, dissatisfied. B&D is for the mutual enjoyment of both partners. Limits and safewords assist in ensuring both parties experience pleasure, and neither gives up all control. Over time the use of safewords and limits may diminish, however many couples in a long term relationship still use them.

Chapter 4 - Reward and Punishment

This point is where many B&D relationships fall to pieces. Overpunishment for minor infractions, non-acknowledged good deeds, and ignoring blatant wrong action cause the affinity in the relationship to break down. The roles of both Dom and sub are fairly rigid; the duties of both well understood. When a Dom doesn't punish major infractions, or ignores correct action by his sub, the agreements made at the beginning of the relationship are broken. It is here that a Dom shows his true colors. The Dom should be in control not only of his sub, but himself as well. At the beginning of a B&D relationship, the Dom and sub may agree on a long list of correct and incorrect actions, but if the Dom does not remember them, the sub is "getting over" on the Dom, and in the process, losing respect for him and his power. It would be better to have only a few rules at the start, then as time progresses, expand them as the relationship grows. Overcorrecting [Image]is also poor. If the Dom is cruel or vicious, the sub will only do what is required out of fear of punishment. Over time, the sub will have no desire to please the Dom, and the Dom will suddenly realize he has no real control over the sub. Punishment is a tool to correct wrong or no action by the sub. IT SHOULD NEVER BE DONE IN ANGER! This is a very important point. When you punish in anger, real injury can occur, safewords are nullified, and limits do not exist. This is a very dangerous situation. The Dom who punishes in anger is moving into the area of abuse. In B&D, the Dom cares about the feelings of the sub. It is very difficult to have empathy when you are angry. Pain is not the end all and be all of a B&D relationship. It is just one more tool at the disposal of the Dom to guarantee his rules are complied with. Punishment does not even have to include pain. Movement restrictive bondage, humiliation, harsh words, or even a look can punish the sub. Privileges can be removed such as not being allowed to sit on the furniture, or by the Dom forcing the sub to sleep at the foot of the bed. There are many ways to punish incorrect actions. Save the severe stuff for major infractions. If you beat a dog every day, all you get is an angry, uncontrollable dog. The same goes for a sub, and an angry sub is much more hazardous than an angry dog. Punishment is always followed by reward when the sub corrects the infraction. The sub must be allowed to make up the damage, and then it is forgiven. Rewards show the sub that the Dom is pleased. It is a tangible show of love and caring from the Dom to the sub for a correct action. This is the true power of the Dom. The reward can be a kiss, a caress, flowers, a short note, or even a long, tender session of lovemaking. Rewards given to the sub shows that the Dom is thinking of them, and cares for their well being. It acknowledges their proper behavior and reinforces it. This is how the Dom creates in the sub the willingness to please him. A happy sub will do anything to ensure the happiness of the Dom, and will avoid actions that disappoint him.

Chapter 5 - Bondage

Bondage is a tool used by the Dom to restrict the movement of, or to immobilize the sub. Binding is normally used for correction, but can be used for pleasure, depending on the particular B&D relationship. During bondage, the Dom has complete control over the sub, but this depends on the type of binding used. There are a variety of restraints you can purchase at your local adult bookstore, or through catalogs. Each one has its own use and purpose. Regardless of the style of restraint, they should all be somewhat comfortable to wear but restrictive, and should not cut off blood circulation. If the sub is extremely uncomfortable, they will have attention on their body and not fully on the Dom. During bondage, the Dom has almost complete control of the sub's body, and can use the time for instruction, punishment, teasing, or can bring the sub to orgasm at the Dom's wishes. In order to be bound, there has to be a deep level of trust by the sub for the Dom. It is at this time more than any other that the Dom needs to be very perceptive of the cues the sub will give. When a sub is bound, the chance for injury jumps drastically, and the sub is not in a position to defend or assist herself. It is an act of total submission to allow yourself to be bound, and the sub is trusting the Dom to do the right thing. Therefore, the Dom must be in complete control of himself while handling a bound sub. Drinking or taking drugs before bondage is not recommended.

Rope bondage is the most common. This includes rope, scarves, neckties, belts, or any other multi-purpose item used to restrain the sub. Usually, the hands are bound to each other, but they can be bound to the thighs, waist, behind the back, or above the head. The sub can also be bound to another object such as a chair, shower curtain rod, hook in the ceiling, and many other places where you can tie off a rope. The feet can also be bound together, or apart. Care must be taken with rope. It is very easy to cut off circulation, or cause rope burns. Use a soft, large diameter rope, such as nautical rope. Check your sub frequently. The more the sub struggles, the tighter the rope becomes.

Normally, these are special items made of nylon webbing or leather. These are items that go a step beyond mere binding of hands or feet. They are much more difficult to get out of, and are more restrictive. One example is a setup that goes around the neck and waist, and binds both hands closely behind the back of the sub. Used with ankle restraints, the sub is almost completely immobilized. Some strap items bind the wrists to the thighs, or to the ankles. Strap bondage items tend to be for a single purpose.

Cuffs are mainly used for wrist and arm restraint. When referring to leg and ankle restraint, they are normally called shackles. They can be made from many different materials, from nylon with Velcro closings, to leather, to metal. Care must be taken in using cuffs since a tight fit can cut off circulation. Cuffs can be used to bind the hands to the sub's waist, ankles, thighs, or to other objects. Usually, when hand or thumbcuffs are not used, the cuff is a specialized item that binds an extremity to another object, one or two at a time.

We do not recommend police-style handcuffs for bondage. They do hurt, and can cause skin and tendon damage. Use a wrist strap device made for the purpose.

Since chains can cause injury to the skin, they are normally used to support cuffs, or to hold up a suspension device. However, some Doms use chain directly on the skin because it will not tighten accidentally. Choose a smooth, finished chain, and use quick-release clasps.

Suspension Devices.
Suspension devices are used to raise the sub off the floor. These devices are more advanced, and are best left alone if you are inexperienced.

Specialty Items.
These items include padded boards, gymnastic horses, racks, crosses, benches, stocks, and many other items. These items are expensive and normally take up large amounts of space. Before purchasing these, make sure you have room for them in your home. They are also advanced bondage items.

For the beginner, I would suggest using what you have in the house. Gym equipment, the dining room table, chairs, shower curtain rods, placing a hook above the door frame, or a four poster bed work very well for training purposes. A Dom does not need a fully equipped dungeon to properly train a submissive. As you acquire more specialized bondage items over time, remember to inspect the item carefully before placing it on your sub. If the item is frayed, cut, or has broken clasps, throw it away. It is dangerous to use damaged items. At best, it is an unnecessary interruption of play. At worst, your sub could be injured. These are the Dom's tools. Keep them in working order.

Chapter 6 - Training Items

There are many types of training items. Usually, they are used for punishment, but when used gently, can be very erotic. These items should serve no other purpose than for the administration of discipline. They are symbols of power and authority for the Dom. They must be treated with care and respect. Do not wield an item unless you are prepared to use it. These items are more than just another tool. They should instill awe in the sub, and effect an immediate change in their attitude. They are tangible evidence of the Dom's role as the administrator of justice to the sub. Therefore, they should not be overused or misused.

Belts can be used to discipline the sub. Folded in half, they are very effective for spanking. It is easy to get out of control with a belt, though, inflicting more pain than is necessary. Of course, the intensity of pain is at the discretion of the couple. Riding crops are also very effective. The head of the crop, run up the inside of the sub's thighs, is very erotic, and a strike from the crop is quite impinging on the sub. Flails are items that have many long thin straps attached to a handle. They can actually break the skin if wielded too strongly, but with a light or medium touch, can get your sub's attention quickly. They cover a larger area of skin, giving many defined areas of pain. Paddles come in all shapes and sizes. They are used for spanking large areas.

These items should be used for higher gradients of discipline, since they do cause higher degrees of pain than the flat of your palm, and can cause injury if not used with caution. An inexperienced Dom should use the item on himself before using them on the sub. This way, the Dom will get an accurate estimate on the amount of force needed with each item to produce the desired effect.

There are also items like gags, ball gags, and face masks. I do not suggest that the beginner utilize those items. When gagged, the sub will have a difficult time getting a safeword out, and may be injured inadvertently.

Chapter 7 - Training Techniques

Respect for the sub is very important in this phase. As a Dom, you are attempting to bring out the best in your sub, not break her spirit and turn her into a robot. Even in training, there are certain guidelines that are useful:

1. Never strike a sub in the face. A light to medium open-hand slap is normally sufficient to handle the job. You can also place your hands on the sub's face to make them look at you.

2. Never break skin on purpose. If you do, handle it immediately after punishment is finished. Soothe the scrapes with lotion, talking softly and gently to your sub.

3. Never leave a bound sub unattended. Accidents can happen, and the sub is in no position to assist themselves.

4. Never discipline in anger. That has been covered earlier.

5. Never discipline under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This goes for the sub as well as the Dom.

6. Always explain why the discipline is occurring to the sub. Discipline must occur for a specific reason. To arbitrarily discipline a sub breaks down her trust in the Dom.

7. The punishment should fit the offense.

8. Discipline should always be followed with tenderness and love. The infraction has been dealt with, and is in the past. As a Dom, do not hold a grudge against the sub. Allow the sub to be forgiven.

There are a large number of techniques that Doms use. These vary from couple to couple. When my slave has been bad, in accordance with our previous agreements, one technique I use is to bind her hands above her head, bind her feet together, and, with the flat of my hand, spank her from her shoulders to her ankles, front and back. For my slave, this is a very effective way of getting her attention. I find it more personal to use my hands. However, from time to time, when she deserves it, I will bring out the more intense items. My favorite is the riding crop. It is very intimidating, and will cause my slave to instantly change her attitude even before it is used. Another technique I use is when my slave is turned away, or has her face down. I will take her hair in my hand and pull backwards, bringing her face back to meet mine. I grab as much hair as I can at once to keep from pulling it out. Again, these are techniques I use on my slave. They work well for me. You must learn your sub, and discover for yourself the techniques that work best.

Reward is also very important. Correct actions must be rewarded by the Dom, otherwise the sub has no incentive to obey the Dom's instructions. I will give my slave a single flower, a note left on the computer, or a loving caress. The reward will depend on the sub and the action which pleases the Dom. Once in a while, a Dom will find a sub to whom a spanking is a reward. This is why the Dom must know the sub, totally. Every sub is different, just as every Dom is different.

It is very difficult to give step-by-step instructions on how to discipline or reward a particular sub. Some subs are totally submissive, others have a very strong will. My slave is a very strong-willed person, so my discipline/reward for her will be much different than yours. In any case, the discipline is for correction, the reward is for compliance. If more correction is needed, do not hesitate in escalating your actions. Use the amount of correction necessary to punish the infraction. Do not threaten punishment. Apply it. The sub will respect the Dom to a greater degree. If the sub complies above and beyond what you expected, reward her accordingly. Remember, the strength of the Dom lies in his love for the sub.


This has been a labor of love. I wish to thank the many people I and my slave have talked with for their input. This booklet was written to answer some of the many questions we are asked about our relationship, and in our life we have met many people who were interested in B&D, but knew nothing about it. I hope after reading this information you are left with the understanding that the Dom is not only about discipline. He is about love. Also, the sub is not the doormat for the whims of a Dom, but a valuable addition to the Dom's life. B&D is not for all couples. It worked for me and Sandi, and we want to share the information we have learned through years of practice.

Special thanks go to:

Craig - Thank you for all your questions which precipitated writing this booklet.

Rex99 - Thank you for your concisely communicated views on B&D and S&M.

Tina - Thank you for your viewpoint on S&M and tools. You are truly special.

Dave and Sue - The two of you have become part of our lives. We both appreciate your candor.

All others who have read and communicated their feelings on the information in this booklet - You have my gratitude. Be well, my friends.

A very special thanks goes to my companion, student and lover of six years, Sandi. Your personal power is beyond measure, and to give it willingly to me is the greatest gift a Master can ever receive.

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