21 Books For Kink, BDSM, And Poly Beginners

If you’re diving into a new subculture, it’s always a good idea to do your research. If you want to become a Scientologist, you should probably start reading the works of L. Ron Hubbard and if you want to become a Furry, you’ll probably need to do some serious googling and join more than one online community. And just like an obscure religion or costume-based community, the kink, BDSM, and polyamorous communities all have some good go-to books and resources for people who are interested in getting involved.

You might be thinking: Why do I need books to figure out how to tie my girlfriend up? Well, friend, it's a bit more complicated than you think it is. When it comes to BDSM play, for example, there are a whole host of rules around negotiation, communication, and consent that you need to know before you break out the whips and chains. And they're there for a reason: To make sure that no one gets hurt in a bad way when you're hurting each other in a fun way.

My poly friends tell me that it's good to have a certain canon under your belt because, well, there are a lot of ways to "do" poly. We all know how to do monogamy, right? But polyamory is quite a bit more individualized and comes with a different set of complications. However, there are certain books that help guide people in their interactions in their polyamorous lives and give them tools to do it ethically. That's what I want to share with you today.

Vincent, 30, is a Vermont-based BDSM and poly educator who is all about sharing knowledge about alternative sexual choices far and wide. Because I myself am not really involved with any kink or BDSM or poly communities, I figured he was a good person to turn to for an expert opinion on what books and websites people who are interested in crafting their own BDSM 101 or Poly 101 course should turn to. Now, of course, this list is not exhaustive but does come from Vincent’s 12 years in the scene, a good portion of which he has spent as an educator. All that to say: You’re hearing from an expert here.

Books For Improving Your Communication Skills

1. Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton

'We all lie like hell,' Dr. Blanton says. 'It wears us out…it is the major source of all human stress. It kills us.' Not telling our friends, lovers, spouses, or bosses about what we do, feel, or think keeps us locked in that mind jail. The way out is to get good at telling the truth, and Dr. Blanton provides the tools we can use to escape from that jail of the mind. This book is the cake with the file in it.

Click here to buy.

2. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Through vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence, and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being. What emerges is an entirely new way to talk about being smart.

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3. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg and Arun Gandhi

In this internationally acclaimed text, Marshall Rosenberg offers insightful stories, anecdotes, practical exercises and role-plays that will dramatically change your approach to communication for the better. Discover how the language you use can strengthen your relationships, build trust, prevent conflicts and heal pain. Revolutionary, yet simple, Nonviolent Communication offers you the most effective tools to reduce violence and create peace in your life—one interaction at a time.

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4. Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward

Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.

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Poly Relationship Books

1. The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

For anyone who has ever dreamed of love, sex, and companionship beyond the limits of traditional monogamy, this groundbreaking guide navigates the infinite possibilities that open relationships can offer. Experienced ethical sluts Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy dispel myths and cover all the skills necessary to maintain a successful and responsible polyamorous lifestyle--from self-reflection and honest communication to practicing safe sex and raising a family. Individuals and their partners will learn how to discuss and honor boundaries, resolve conflicts, and to define relationships on their own terms.

Click here to buy.

2. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino

Relationship expert and bestselling author Tristan Taormino offers a bold new strategy for creating loving, lasting relationships. Drawing on in-depth interviews with over a hundred women and men, Opening Up explores the real-life benefits and challenges of all styles of open relationships — from partnered non-monogamy to solo polyamory. With her refreshingly down-to-earth style and sharp wit, Taormino offers solutions for making an open relationship work, including tips on dealing with jealousy, negotiating boundaries, finding community, parenting and time management. Opening Up will change the way you think about intimacy.

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3. Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan

Ryan and Jethå's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.

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4. Pagan Polyamory by Raven Kaldera

The term “polyamory” describes non-monogamous relationships based on honesty and affection. Presenting a fascinating peek inside the polyamorous lifestyle from a Pagan perspective, Raven Kaldera offers practical insight and spiritual depth into a vastly misunderstood way of life.

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5. Group Marriage by Larry L. Constantine

6. Plural Loves: Designs For Bi And Poly Living by Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio

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7. The Myth of Monogamy by David P. Barash Ph.D. and Judith Eve Lipton

Applying new research to sex in the animal world, esteemed scientists David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton dispel the notion that monogamy comes naturally. In fact, as The Myth of Monogamy reveals, biologists have discovered that for nearly every species, cheating is the rule — for both sexes.

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D/S (Dom/Sub) Books

1. The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

Tens of thousands learned the emotional and ethical skills of BDSM topping from the first `Topping Book.` Now, in addition to the sage advice and good humor that made the first edition a classic, the authors tackle some of the issues that have come up for tops in the last six years: on-line domination, the challenges and rewards of `lifestyle` relationships, ensuring our own and our partners` safety, and more.

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2. The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

Almost a decade ago, the first `Bottoming Book` taught tens of thousands of people that bottoming — being a submissive, masochist, slave, `boy` or `girl,` or other BDSM recipient — is as much an art as topping. Since then, the growing popularity of BDSM, and the blossoming of the Internet as a source of information and connection, have created a whole new universe of possibilities for players. Now, the completely updated revised `New Bottoming Book` gives even more insights and ideas, updated for a new millennium, about how to be a successful, popular bottom! New sections on dominance/submission play, bridging the gap from on-line to real-time relationships, the four stages of a scene, and more. Plus, Fish`s hot illustrations of bottoms in action, many moving and funny anecdotes, and an extra-large helping of the realistic wisdom for which these authors are known.

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3. Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon

The classic guide to sadomasochism by two experienced players. This unabashed, entertaining book strips away myth, shame and fear, revealing the truth about an intense form of eroticism too long misunderstood and condemned. It is fully indexed and includes over 225 photos and illustrations, a 250-plus word glossary, appendices with over 650 contacts for SM related clubs, stores, craftspeople, and literature.

Click here to buy.

Rope Books

1. Jay Wiseman's Erotic Bondage Handbook

If you can tie your shoelaces, you can create an erotic masterpiece! From the author of our bestselling 'SM 101' comes this compendium of sensible, sensational advice about how to tie up your sweetie, or get tied up yourself. Everything from simple hands-behind-the-back experimentation to immobilizing spreadeagles and hogties — all presented with Wiseman's trademark humor and responsibility. Simple and easy-to-follow, with no complex knots and plenty of illustrations to guide you on your way to bound bliss.

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2. Two Knotty Boys: Showing You The Ropes

When Two Knotty Boys, Dan and J. D., began teaching rope bondage together in 1999, they discovered that most people learn best when they're shown — close up, step by step, and repeatedly — how to tie basic knots and combine them into bondage techniques. It is this learning process that they duplicate in this book. With the help of world-renowned photographer Larry Utley, they use over 750 photos and captions to explicate the soup-to-nuts techniques for turning great knots into great bondage that is safe, sensual, attractive, and effective. Readers can learn at their own pace, review whole techniques at a single glance, or even lay it flat on the table (beside their blindfolded partner) and follow along as they tie. Two Knotty Boys Showing You the Ropes appeals to those interested in improving the quality of their sex lives, not to mention aficionados of bondage and discipline/sadomasochism (BDSM), both curious newcomers and serious players alike.

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3. Two Knotty Boys: Back on the Ropes

Tying down a load of lumber is one thing; tying up your partner is another thing altogether. In this book, famed bondage riggers the Two Knotty Boys show readers how to tie basic knots and use them in sensual bondage techniques. With the help of renowned photographer Ken Marcus, the Boys use more than 750 full-color photos to illustrate the techniques for turning rope into rope bondage. Easy-to-follow captions and clear, step-by-step images allow readers to learn at their own pace, review entire techniques at a glance, or lay the book flat on a bed or table and follow along as they subdue their partner. Written in a playful style that makes rope bondage safe and approachable, and covering a wide range of techniques from basic ties to decorative ropework pieces, Two Knotty Boys Back on the Ropesis the perfect bedside companion for curious newcomers and serious players alike.

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4. Complete Shibari: Land by Douglas Kent

Complete Shibari Volume 1: Land explores the essential ground-based ties and forms of shibari. With short, clear explanations and over 440 lavish, step-by-step illustrations and photographs, Douglas Kent introduces the basic “building blocks”, then guides you in applying those basics to create a full range of beautiful and exciting ground-based shibari ties.

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5. Complete Shibari: Sky by Douglas Kent

Complete Shibari Volume 2: Sky builds on the material from Volume 1: Land and explores the spectacular techniques of erotic rope suspensions. With short, clear explanations, and over 340 lavish, step-by-step illustrations and photographs, Douglas Kent takes the intimidating world of shibari suspensions and makes it practical and straightforward.

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6. Shibari You Can Use by Lee Harrington

Japanese rope bondage and erotic macramé look complicated and intimidating, but you can learn the basics of this beautiful and sexy art form today. Bondage artist and educator Lee "Bridgett" Harrington takes you step-by-step through a variety of concepts and ties, giving you the tools to make aesthetically rewarding rope work. Each tutorial is broken down into easy to follow photographs by Circle23 with detailed descriptions, including how to tie all those knots (first secret of Japanese bondage revealed- there are only a few simple knots). From restrictive poses that limit movement to decorative rope work that accentuates the human form, Shibari You Can Use includes instruction on creating: - Shinju (Chest Harnesses) - Gyakuebi (Asian Style Hogtie) - Ebi or Kuri (Shrimp or Ball ties) - Rope Corsets - Strap-on Harnesses and Crotch Ropes - and much more! Shake off your fears of looking silly the first time you tie someone up, get some rope, and you too can learn Japanese rope bondage.

Click here to buy.

7. Better Built Bondage by Douglas Kent

Tired of overpriced, poorly made sex toys? Can your wallet not keep up with your desires? The Better Built Bondage Book is the only guide you'll ever need to create high-quality sex toys yourself. You'll learn how to make toys by following easy-to-understand directions that let you succeed the first time. And all toys use only easy-to-find parts.

Click here to buy.

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Images: Patrick Mölley/Flickr; radicalhonesty.com; danielgoleman.info; Amazon(3); Openingup.net; Amazon(4); Macmillan; Amazon (3); twistedmonk.com; Amazon(2); completeshibari.com; Amazon(2)