An Intro to BDSM Checklists: What Are They and Why Do I Need One?

If you’ve ever scheduled a trip abroad or moved to a new place, you will know that checklists can be incredibly helpful. Not only can you stay organized, but it also serves as a reminder of the things you’ve done and “checked off” your list. 

You can have checklists for everything...groceries, vacations, hardcore BDSM activities…

Alright, that last checklist may look a little different then the rest...but it can still be every bit as helpful! 

What is a BDSM checklist, anyway? 

A BDSM checklist differs from the other checklists you may have made in that it’s not to be used as a “bucket list”, but more of a guide on how you feel about certain BDSM-related activities. An organized, kinky list where you can outline what you want to try, what’s a hard no, and what’s open for debate. 

Simply put, a BDSM checklist is an exploration tool used by BDSM practitioners (both experienced and inexperienced) that can help them organize their kinks, fetishes, and BDSM-related activities. These checklists can also be very helpful in discussing boundaries and scenes with new or existing partners.

How do I even use a BDSM checklist? 
There are many, many different variations of these checklists, but all have the same goal: to help you organize your thoughts, emotions, limits, and boundaries for BDSM related activities all in one location. 

This “location” can be really anywhere: on a Google Docs sheet, in a journal you keep in your naughty drawer or even on an app on your phone. 

What a BDSM checklist is (and is not) is important to note here...
A BDSM checklist, ultimately, is a tool. It’s something you can go through, point by point, discussing how you feel about certain activities, what you’re willing to try, what you’re not willing to try, and other important information (like safewords, for example). 

What it’s not is an excuse to skip “the talk” with a new partner. 

BDSM checklists are a great “starting point” to have these conversations. You know the ones: what’s your safeword, are you into hardcore bondage, how hard do you want me to spank you, and with what tools...all of these questions can be answered by referring to the BDSM checklist you’ve made and discussing each point with your partner(s). 

Why use a BDSM checklist? 

If the BDSM checklist is a tool to use in communicating properly about BDSM safety, wouldn’t it be easy to forego the list and just communicate with each other? 

Well...yes and no. 

Communication is tricky, especially when you’re dealing with something as complex as CNC (consensual non-consent) or heavy bondage. These conversations can be difficult to navigate and many people find it easier to write things down so both partners have a reference point. 

BDSM checklists for couples and singles alike. 
As a couple, having a BDSM list is a great idea because you can constantly update and reference it. As a single person, having your own BDSM checklist can be really helpful when pairing with new partners - making communication effective and to-the-point. 

It can help you set soft and hard limits. 
Sometimes we don’t know how we feel about something until we’ve thought it over. As a writer, my “thinking” process involves a lot of journaling to sort through my feelings on a subject. This is actually a very common therapy technique as well - to journal your way through your thoughts and feelings about a certain event or topic. 

BDSM checklists can do much the same - they help you sort out what your hard limits are, what you’re open to, and what you definitely want to try.

Creating a BDSM checklist is a helpful tool in communicating your desires. 
One of the most interesting parts about creating a BDSM checklist for me (which I did as research for this article) was going through all the different BDSM activities I could find and really thinking about how I felt about each one of them. 

Not only that but writing these things down also gave me a “starting point” to be able to bring up new kinks and fetishes with my partner. 

It can help promote honesty and communication. 
The great thing about going through an actual list of sexual activities is that it makes you think. It promotes honesty (with yourself and with your partner). This can be incredibly helpful when it comes to kinks and fetishes that are a bit more “extreme” and/or commonly judged. Sometimes we carry shame with us about things we like sexually - and sometimes we have no idea that shame is even there until we’re confronted with it. 

It helps you get to know more about yourself. 
Along with being honest with yourself and your partner, you can also learn a lot about yourself through BDSM checklists. There are specific checklists for people who are in D/s relationships, there are checklists that can be kink-specific or exceptionally broad. 

Going through (or creating) a BDSM checklist of your own can be incredibly helpful in finding out more about yourself and exploring your sexuality. 

You can discover your BDSM role pretty easily with a BDSM checklist…
When you’re scrolling through some of the BDSM checklists you can find online (which I’ll link to later in the post), it becomes very apparent which BDSM role you identify with more. Submissive BDSM checklists will focus on limits and safewords, things you will allow your dominant to do with you, and things that you will derive pleasure from doing for them. Dominant BDSM checklists can explore things like responsibility, navigating domspace, etc. 

Sharing your checklist with your partner can allow you both to understand where the other person is in terms of the role(s) they identify with and what their limits are. 

Create your own YES/NO/MAYBE BDSM checklist…

When creating your BDSM list, you can start with a “YES/NO/MAYBE” list. Even if you already have a list of some kind started either on your own or with a partner, start fresh. 

How to create a YES/NO/MAYBE checklist: 

  1. Get a notebook, journal, or a blank piece of paper. I prefer to use a notebook that is going to be dedicated to keeping track of things like this.
  2. On one page, make a list of any and all sexual/BDSM activities you can think of, even ones you’re not interested in. Just keep jotting down ideas until you can’t think of any more.
  3. After you’ve finished compiling the list, go to a new page and create three columns - “YES”, “NO”, and “MAYBE”. 
  4. In the “YES” column, write the things from your first list that you know you are interested in trying. Only write down things you know for certain you want to do in this column - because remember, there is a “MAYBE” column as well.
  5. In the “NO” column, write the things from your first list that you know are off-limits. These are things you have no interest in trying. 
  6. In the “MAYBE” column, write down the remaining things that you couldn’t really decide “yes” or “no” on - however many there are. These can be things you’d maybe try if you had the right partner, things you’d try if you learned more about it first, or just things that you haven’t decided on yet. You may have a lot of “MAYBE” tasks or you may have none. 

Consider this list as your starting point. This is the beginning of your BDSM checklist. You can expand on each of the topics, breaking it down into safety precautions, safewords, hard and soft limits for each activity, etc. 

Something else you can do, that is just really helpful to know about yourself, is going through your “YES” list and put a little mark next to the ones you feel are essential. These are things you need in order to have a good time. Really, these could be considered your fetishes - things that you need in order to get off. You can, if you’d like, put a different symbol next to the things that are just intriguing to you but not absolutely necessary for you to have a good time.

As an example (and for fun), I thought I’d do a small example of some of the things on my YES/NO/MAYBE list: 

YES: 
Spanking 
Bondage
Submission *
Choking * 
Slapping *
Degradation *

NO: 
Age Play/Roleplay
Watersports

MAYBE: 
Breeding Fetish (only with a long-term partner/birth control needed)
Spitting (very new to this, but the idea is exciting)
Mouth gags 

As you can see, there are things on my “YES” list that would obviously need more information. For slapping, as an example: where can my partner slap me?
How hard? What is our safeword?
When is slapping appropriate/during what activities is it allowed? 

I’ve put a (*) symbol next to the things I find essential. These are things I’d preferably like all play sessions to have. I’ve also expanded on some of the reasons why the things in my “MAYBE” column are there. 

Of course, this isn’t my full list - but you get the idea. 

A list like this is a great starting point for you to build on. This is why I suggest having an entire journal or logbook dedicated to your BDSM checklists because you can then go more in-depth into each topic on separate pages. Then, when you need it, all the information about your BDSM preferences are right there. 

When you’re ready to expand your list, diving more into the things you like, the things you don’t and what you consider “maybe” items, consider adding the following information: 

  • A safeword for each task (can be the same safeword or different ones). If you’re struggling here, check out our Guide to Choosing Safewords for a little help. 
  • Hard and soft limits for each task (for example: with spanking, belts are a hard no, but open to using a flogger if we found the right one)
  • Potential triggers (for example: being degraded is good but the word “whore” may make you uncomfortable, so that’s off-limits). 
  • Safety precautions (for example: if you’re on blood-thinner medication, you need to be extra careful not to have your partner leave marks that can bleed.) 
  • Specific times/places certain activities are (and aren’t) allowed. (For example, we can do breath play activities but not when one of us is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.) 

This kind of checklist (a self-made YES/NO/MAYBE one) is best completed on your own with your own interests and preferences in mind. A fun date-night activity with a partner could be each making your own list like this and then comparing them. 

This kind of checklist is great for negotiations and opening up the conversation with new or existing partners. 

Where to find BDSM checklists online

As I mentioned before, there are countless different kinds of BDSM checklists - and maybe of them can be found online, already ready for you to fill out by yourself or with a partner. 

Now, I will say - the checklists you find online (of course), won’t be personalized to you and/or your partner. You can add things to make it your own, but this fact is why many people prefer to start with their own YES/NO/MAYBE checklist and then seek out other checklists to compare and expand their own. 

If you are interested in BDSM checklists online, there are quite a few I’ve found during my research that seem very helpful. 

The BAD GIRLS BIBLE Checklist
This checklist is meant to gauge your interest in certain activities. Similar to a YES/NO/MAYBE checklist, you can give each activity a rating from 1-5, with 1 being “not at all interested” and 5 being “love it, totally interested”. 

What I really like about this checklist is that there are even places for you to list how much experience you have with each item. You can rate each item from 1-5, with 1 being “no experience” and 5 being “a lot of experience”. This is a really great way to see where you match up with your partner if you decide to complete this checklist with someone else. 

You can find the Google Doc link to the checklist here, which you’ll then have to “make a copy” of in order to fill out. 

Customizable KINKOMATIC Checklists
While there is still some variation of “filling it in yourself”, Kinkomatic is an online platform in which you can create BDSM checklists of your own. Logging in or signing up to the platform, you create a small profile listing things like your name, your sexual orientation, and your gender. You can also select which BDSM role you prefer (dom or sub). 

Once you’re into the platform, the “Kinkomatic bunny” will ask you questions. The goal is to be as honest as you can with each question. As you go through the questions, more (or less) questions will appear as it narrows down your likes and dislikes. 

For example, when I click 4 stars, that I am interested in “bondage”, more bondage options appear (like which type of rope I prefer, if I prefer long or short term bondage, etc). When you select that you’re interested in spanking, a list of spanking implements will appear, and you can choose which tools you prefer to be spanked with. 

When you’ve completed your checklist, you can have a link to it and share it with potential partners or go back through and revise it. This is a really neat way to gauge your interests in things, although it doesn’t go into details about safewords and limits. It’s more used as a starting point, similar to YES/NO/MAYBE lists. 

Try the KinkoMatic checklist here

The COLUMBIA EROTIC POWER EXCHANGE (Comprehensive) Checklist
This checklist is quite comprehensive (with 200 questions). It offers sections for you to rate how you’d feel doing the activity to others (so, for instance, spanking a partner) and how you’d feel having this activity done to you (having someone spank you). 

The legend refers to 1-5 markers, with 1 being “I hate it” and 5 being “I love it” - you can also list things as “?” for curious/undecided, “/” for not applicable. You can use different colored “x” icons for hard and soft limits (soft limits in black, hard limits in red). 

This is a printable BDSM checklist that you can go through alone or with a partner, filling in each question as you go. 

This list, because it’s 200 questions, is quite intensive and specific, listing things like certain areas to be spanked, etc. 

Check out the CEPE Checklist PDF here

The LATCHES Submissive BDSM Checklist 
This checklist is to be filled out by a submissive and shared with their dominant as a starting point for negotiations. 

The rating scale goes from 0 (no desire) to 5 (very desirable) and has spaces for you to list your experience with each activity. I like that this checklist has an extra “comments” section for each activity, so you can list safewords or additional safety information with each one. 

This is a fairly comprehensive checklist but really only applies to submissives. Check out the Latches checklist here

The D/s PLAYGROUND Checklist 
To receive this checklist, you do have to subscribe to D/s Playground, which is just providing your email. It does seem like a great website, so now that I’ve subscribed, I don’t feel the need to unsubscribe, though I’m sure you can. 

Once you subscribe, you will get an email with a link to the checklist. This one is quite interesting, in my opinion, because it’s made so that up to three partners can fill in their answers all in the same place. There are answer sections for Person 1, Person 2, and an optional Person 3. 

The language used in this checklist is quite inclusive, which is one of their feature points when getting you to sign up for their site. 

There are lots of questions on this document and they can be answered, as I said, by three different people, all listing how they rate each item. 

I think this checklist would be great for people in open relationships wanting to bring a third into their sex lives. Check out the D/s Playground checklist here

PDFFiller BDSM Checklist
This is an interactive checklist that you can fill in online. It offers quite an extensive list of BDSM activities and gives you an option to say if you’ve tried it in the past, how interested you are in it, and if you have any hard or soft limits with the activity. 

This is quite similar to the YES/NO/MAYBE checklist you could create by yourself but there are tons of activities listed here that you may not have thought of - so it’s worth having a look at. 

Check out the PDFfiller BDSM Checklist here

A BDSM checklist can be incredibly helpful in creating a healthy and exciting sex life

Whether you decide to create your own, use one you find online or do a combination of them both, BDSM checklists can be an incredibly helpful tool in creating a healthy, happy and safe sex life.

BDSM checklists are about communication. 
Ultimately, these lists are about communication. They are not to replace actual conversations about BDSM activities but help to promote openness, honesty, and communication about kinks and fetishes that can sometimes be difficult to navigate. 

Not only can BDSM checklists help you communicate your desires and limits with a partner(s), but they can also teach you a lot about yourself. Going through checklists and asking yourself questions about various activities can be a good way to help you navigate how you feel about certain sexual situations. 

You can learn what your kinks and fetishes are, what your hard limits are, and how much you want to explore by yourself and/or with someone else.