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Q&A: Dating expert Sarah Louise Ryan answers your questions about sex and BDSM - Part 1


Dating expert Sarah Louise Ryan has partnered with Vivastreet to share her advice and answer your questions on all things dating and relationships. Have a comment for Sarah Louise?

Q: I always feel embarrassed during and after sex. What should I do? S: You’ll be able to enjoy sex more when you’re relaxed. If you’re focusing on your inner chatter during sex, then you won’t be able to fully lean into pleasure and be present in the moment. To become more confident in the bedroom the first place to start is to figure out what’s making you feel embarrassed.

Things that hold people back can be anything from trying something new they haven’t explored before, to lack of body confidence or being intimate with someone new. Getting to the “root cause” of whatever it is that’s making you feel embarrassed will help you to work on it so you can eradicate any shame you may have and become more sex-confident. Figuring out what turns you on (and what turns you off) during sex by exploring things solo will be empowering for you to set boundaries and communicate your wants and desires when you’re in the act with someone else.

Q: What can I do to prepare when trying new kinks? S: Make sure when it comes to exploring kinks that you operate from a place of informed consent. What that means is two people not just agreeing to explore something they haven’t tried or want to do more of, but for play partners knowing exactly what it is your consenting to do. If you’re not sure about a specific kink don’t feel pressurised to say yes. You could instead say, “Maybe next time, I don’t know enough about it”, and go away and do your research. However, if you know a little about it set your boundaries from the onset about what you do know and would like to try.

BDSM is a massive range of kinks, fetishes and polarisation in power play. To ensure you feel safe, in control and empowered in the bedroom, get really specific about what you want to do, how you want to do it, where you want to do it and when you want to stop doing it. Your play partner needs to know the rules. People can take advantage of sexual situations when specific and clear boundaries aren’t communicated or set. When in doubt, ask the person you’re about to have sex with to reiterate what you’ve agreed to ensure you’re both on the same page. Sometimes we think we’ve communicated ourselves clearly, but ensuring we have been understood goes a step beyond communication – it’s informed, empowered consent when it comes to exploration.

When you give your consent to exploring a specific or multiple kinks you want to feel excited and enthusiastic about it. If it feels like something you aren’t sure about or don’t know if you’ll like it, wait until you feel good about getting to it. Take every new sexual exploration slow or let the person know you might want to stop at any time if it doesn’t feel good or right. With certain kinks, there may be times you can’t speak, so you might also have to consider a bodily movement or hand gesture to let your play partner know that you don’t want to continue. They should feel empowered too and fully looped in on your boundaries. The best way to get clued up on different kinks and fetishes, so you don’t feel caught off guard before or during sex, is to do your research. Knowledge is power in all things we do in life and with our bodies. Kink is a broad term for many ways to explore sexually – it might be scenes, activities, positions, power dynamics, sensory activation/deprivation, impact play and sharing fantasies.

When it comes to kinks just know that not everything might be for you and that’s okay. Come from a place of knowing what it is and don’t yuck someone else’s yum as you too won’t want to be judged if you have something you’re into sexually.

Q: I want to try erotic massage with my partner, but I’m not sure where to start. How can I approach my partner with the idea? S: Firstly, start with setting the scene. Erotic massage is all about activating the senses and building arousal before you even get to the “touch” part. Think about the ambience in the room, the smells and what you can both hear. There might be some music that helps set the scene to get you both in the mood and into a place of relaxation before you begin. I would recommend taking some time to decompress from any busy mind beforehand so you can both lean into it. For example, taking a little time between work and the massage, so you can both fully enjoy and explore each other. Avoid any caffeinated or sugary drinks so you can allow your body to fully relax and slow down – it’s not about speeding up or high pressure. It’s about physical connection and activation of all of the senses. Think about what oils you might use, for example, water-based, oil-based, natural or artificial and scented or non-scented. It’s a good idea to check what your partner may be happiest using as they may have allergies or skin conditions to consider when using products in play.

Q: I’m a beginner at BDSM. What toys can I use as a newbie? S: I advise you to start slow with toys and work your way up as you feel more comfortable with exploring. Consider opting in for items such as blindfolds, small non-penetrative toys such as nipple clamps and feather teasers to activate the nerve endings. You could even work in some temperature play as a way to start exploring BDSM such as introducing ice cubes to each other’s bodies or placing toys in lukewarm water to tease along the body. Work your way up gently into anything that is restrictive and restraining and perhaps even then consider one body part at a time (don’t go full Shibari). This way you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t and it will help you set your boundaries when exploring new toys.

About Sarah Louise Ryan Sarah Louise Ryan has over a decade of experience as an international matchmaker, dating, sex and relationship expert. Sarah is also a relationship counsellor in training who owns multiple dating brands. As one of the UK’s leading experts in her field, she is BBC Radios’ go-to dating expert and has been featured in the likes of Vogue, GQ, CBS News and Forbes. You can find out more at sarahlouiseryan.com.