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Can the traditional dating scene take some tips from the BDSM world?


As a therapist specializing in relationships and sex therapy, I work with a lot of adults that are not always satisfied with the dating world. Some of the common complaints I hear are: “they ghosted me,” “the dating pool is awful and I just don’t want to have to go back to it,” "I know this relationship isn't working but if I end it, I would have to start dating again," and “why couldn’t they just tell me what they wanted from the start.”

Now we all know dating has changed more than we could have imagined over the past few years. Be it due to Covid, the use of dating apps, better understanding/ acceptance of our sexuality, or our needs of instant gratification; many people report difficulties with dating, specifically communication. So what does the BDSM community have to do with this? For those that are not aware, the world of BDSM involves a high level of communication to develop and enjoy each scene. No matter if you are engaging in light kink scenes, rope play, consensual non content, or pup play, (just to name a few) there are some very structured conversations taking place to ensure safety and satisfaction. There is a flow of communication that is common to help structure interactions.


So lets look at what some BDSM communication looks like.

  1. Negotiation: What are you into? What is a yes and what is a no? What are your turn on’s and turn off’s? Expectations and needs throughout the sexual interactions and relationship. Detailed safety conversations.

  2. Warm-up: Discussing what your wants, needs, and expectations as things start to build up

  3. “Playing”: The main event.

  4. Cool-Down: Discussing what your wants, needs, and expectations as things start to fade or come to an end.

  5. Aftercare: Taking time to address and care for your emotional and physical needs follow a scene

  6. Clean-up: Think of this like a debrief or a way to check in and discuss what you liked or didn’t like, what do you want to change for the future, do you want to play again?

Now in the BDSM community we are looking at specific sexual experience or lifestyles but the traditional dating scene should take note and look at what communication can do for a relationship. What would it look like to go into the dating scene where everyone actively and truthfully expresses their wants and needs, like and dislikes, and expectations? How would it feel if as a relationship started to build or fade you and your partner actually had conversations about what this was like for you both? How would you feel if ghosting was no longer a thing? What if after a date you both followed up with each other to see what went well, what you would like to change for the future, and directly address if you wanted to meet again?

Does this need to be such a wild communication concept or can we take a page from the BDSM community and create a better dating experience for everyone?


If you are in the dating scene, take some time to explore your wants, needs, and expectations. Practice communicating these wants, needs, and expectations in relationships that you feel safe in, then bring that level of commination to your dating world. It is okay to require clear and mature communication in your relationships without cutting potential partners out of your life; give a little bit of education on your communication expectations and encourage growth.


Written by Jessica Moran; LMFT and CST



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