Unlike books that document the experiences of BDSM practitioners, SM 101: A Realistic Introduction provides practical advice for getting started in doing BDSM yourself. From it’s title, you might think that this book only covers sadomasochism but in actuality bondage and D/s also feature prominently. It seems that SM, S/M or S&M, while mostly used to refer to sadomasochism specifically today, previously incorporated acts which we would now include as part of the BDSM acronym instead.
The author, Jay Wiseman, is a former Emergency Medical Technician and this is rather apparent in his writing. Safety is emphasized very strongly, to the point that it becomes a little tedious and over the top. A lot of it is solid advice though and I personally could have benefited from following some of the suggestions for playing with new people.
The majority of the book is instruction on how to top or dominate someone. It includes topics such as bondage, impact play and other methods of inflicting pain and how to train someone to be your submissive. There is enough information on rope bondage to get you started with tying someone up but beware if you’re a visual learner. Most of it is written description. The amazon product page for the book has the “look inside” feature, so you can see the contents (and therefore the other topics in the book) as well as the first few pages there.
Some of Wiseman’s safety views are controversial, particularly his opinion that there is no safe way to do breath play. You can read the essay that was included in the book on the subject here. If it’s something you’re interested in, I encourage you to do your own research. To his credit, the author does state that opinions about the safety of BDSM activities vary widely and strongly encourages the reader to not rely on the book as their sole source of information.
There are aspects of the book that could put certain people off. If you don’t view your interest in BDSM as a “lifestyle”, care little for formal or typical D/s protocols, and/or have no interest in attending BDSM events, parts of this book may very well annoy you. For example, the author does have rather strong opinions on things such as the meaning of collars and believes that anyone with a strong interest in BDSM should be involved in their local scene. He is ranty about feminism at times (though this mostly seems aimed at sex-negative and anti-kink feminists). While he does try to be inclusive of all genders and orientations, people of bisexual or pansexual orientation may feel unrepresented as he tends to write in heterosexual/homosexual terms.
As this book was published in 1998, it can be expected that some information is outdated. Wiseman recommends the use of lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 (a spermicide) and applying it directly to the genitals in the event of condom failure to help reduce the risk of STIs, but studies suggest it may actually increase the risk of transmission. He recommends BDSM news groups, periodicals and magazines as a means of getting in touch with one’s local community and similarly outdated methods for meeting partners. These days, most people are probably just going to point you to Fetlife. In the chapter on lubricants, there is no mention of silicone lube when it can now be found in most sex stores. Also, he spells dildos like “dildoes”. What’s up with that?
Overall, SM 101 is a decent introduction to BDSM. It would have been more useful for a top than it was for me (a bottom), but I did benefit from some of the safety information. For me personally, there was too much information on some topics (D/s interactions) and not enough on others (humiliation), but it’s impossible to please everyone. Most of the information included can be found online but a book on the subject can be useful in presenting you with information that you may not have otherwise thought to seek out yourself.
If you’re a novice top, dominant or switch who enjoys (or likes the idea of) inflicting physical pain and restraining a partner this book should be at least somewhat useful to you, but I agree with the author in that it shouldn’t be your only source of information.