Diving into the deep end of the pool is never recommended, but when it comes to BDSM a lot of people crave just that. Thankfully, you’ve decided to do some research first into how to figure out what you might like and just how much of a kink it is to you. Using a BDSM checklist is one of the better ways to explore not only what possibilities await you, but also gives you a tool to use when you are talking to a potential play partner about what to do and the things you might enjoy.

What is a BDSM Checklist?

A BDSM checklist is an exploration tool developed by BDSM practitioners to help them organize their kinks, fetishes and interested activities, as well as provide them with a negotiation tool for playing with others. It is often a long, extensive list of likes and dislikes, things to try and things to never ever do. Whether your checklist is long or short, it is not a measure of how kinky you are so start where you are and build from there.

BDSM checklists all live under different names. You can call them limit lists, negotiation lists, negotiation checklists and perhaps ones I've never heard. They are all based on a similar idea. If you make a list of the things you enjoy or don't enjoy you can easily share them with the person you want to play with to find out if you can build a scene that will satisfy both of your needs and desires.

The kind of list that I really like is the Yes/No/Maybe list. It doesn't require you to look up terms you don't know or try to figure out if you'd be into something you've never heard of. This list is a living document and can go in your training resume or portfolio to be updated as you grow and develop in your submission. I feel that this list will give you a better view of your desires and limits than a list where you rank things by number or leave you questioning if you really are kinky by the number of question marks you put down on things you don't know.

The YES/NO/MAYBE List

Today I'd like you to get your Yes/No/Maybe list together. Even if you have a limits list already written up; start fresh. See what you can come up with on your own.

First, take a big piece of paper and make a list of all the sexual and BDSM activities you can think of, including the ones you wouldn't choose for yourself. You can come up with things you’ve read in erotic novels, seen in movies or heard about from conversations. This is not meant to be a list to end all lists; only a list of the things you are aware of.

Let me get you started:

  • Submission
  • Bondage
  • Spanking
  • Flogging
  • Nipple clamps
  • Gags
  • Blindfolds
  • Rough Sex

After you finish with the big list of all possible activities, take a regular piece of paper and make three columns. At the top mark them YES, NO and MAYBE. In the YES column, write all the items that you know you like or that you definitely want to try. The NO column is for the things that are out of your limits at this time or things you definitely don't want to do. The MAYBE column is for things you might like to do with the right person or if you were turned on enough or interested in but not sure of the safety around it. This is the exploration list.

And just in case you didn't think of them, here are a few things that end up on the NO list of many experienced players:

  • Temporary marks
  • Permanent marks
  • Play with urine or feces
  • Play with guns or knives
  • Sexual or genital play or penetration
  • Unsafe sex
  • Breathing constriction
  • Use of drugs and alcohol
  • No touching areas or sensitivities
  • Triggers ( like "Don't use belts, they remind me of childhood abuse.")

Now that you have the lists finished take some time to look at the YES column. Go through each item and mark it with an 'N' if you need it to have a good play session. You can mark the rest with 'W' for want, including some in the MAYBE column. These are the icing on the cake items, the things that make play fascinating and challenging and fun.

If you wish to take your thought process a bit further you can rewrite the MAYBE column and add a rating to each of the items. Ask yourself just how interested you think you might be and rate them 1 to 5 with five being “most interested” and 1 being “not that interested but might with the right partner.”

Now that you have this list you can look for a negotiations checklist from online or in books. These lists have important information areas like health issues, triggers, medications you are on and so forth. Each list ranges in detail so find one that meets your needs. You can use the lists you find to help you fill out your own list, but don't add anything so out there that you forget what it is.

Using Your Checklist for Negotiation

An important part of negotiating a scene is discussing what you want out of the scene. Sure there are a lot of really thorough BDSM checklists that you could fill out if you don't want to really think about what turns you on and drives you crazy with pleasure. But since you have made this checklist yourself you are more aware of what’s in it and more invested in getting what you want and need out of play.

So, you have a potential partner and you are discussing play activities, you can pull out the checklist and go over it together, making note of things you both want to explore and might want to explore together. You can also cover your safety and health issues that you have mentioned.

Checklists for negotiation can be overwhelming if you are both new to each other so one of the things you can do is to just pull out your YES list and go over that together - after all you likely wouldn’t do any of the MAYBE list with a new partner (and in my opinion you shouldn’t). IT might make it easier on both of you to know specifically what you definitely enjoy or are interested in.

Whether you make your own checklist or you use one that is readily available, there’s no question that using one is helpful to your own exploration and for your play encounters. Look at it from time to time and update it when you feel you’ve had some changes in things or you have more to add! Growth over time is expected and encouraged. Your checklist is part of your BDSM toolkit and should have a prominent place there.