Do you have a pretty vanilla sex life? Tame, subdued, same old, touch me here for this reaction, insert A into B, roll over and go to sleep? You’re not alone; many people do, and many people are happy with their simple little sex life exactly as it is.
Many others however, are hungry for change and variety, and are looking for a little more: more pleasure, more adventure, more risk, and more reward. Kink is a great place to look for and find all of the above, but exploring the world of kink can be both alluring and nerve wracking at the same time if you know the feeling of what you want, but don’t necessarily know how to get it… and don’t reeaallllyyy want to Google it.
If you are looking to venture out past your tried, true, and familiar, here’s what you need to know as you begin to explore kink (as a couple or on your own), and keep everyone feeling safe, comfortable, and sexy as hell in the meantime.
By definition, sexual kink is something that falls outside the norm. It might involve objectification, fetishes (by some definitions), and – as everyone who’s picked up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey knows – BDSM. But really? This is kind of a bogus definition, because when you break it down, what is “normal” in the bedroom? Just like our preferences for food, clothing, and shelter, what we want, need, and crave physically is totally different depending on the person, and there isn’t really one standard explanation of what “normal” is.
As long as it’s consensual between adults and doesn’t violate each other’s boundaries, all sex is normal sex.
More practically, kink is a sexual subculture, centered around being very honest and upfront about what you like in the bedroom. It’s the practice of exploring what feels good to your heart, mind, and body, and the freedom to do so without fear of judgement, rejection, or shame. In this way, kink (and the people who get their kink on), is an amazing and healthy way of setting clear, loving, and comfortable boundaries in your intimate partnerships.
Let’s be clear about something right away: recognizing and asking for what you truly find pleasurable in bed does not make you weird, it makes you awesome for claiming your joy and pleasure in a healthy, sex-positive way. When you are with a partner who loves, supports, and respects you, you should feel free and comfortable to ask for what you want without fear of emotional repercussion.
Any kind of sex, any kind of intimate adult pleasure is play, and play is fun! Somewhere along the lines of our lives, some of us are taught that sex and physical intimacy is not fun, it’s not okay to be open to exploration, and wanting anything more than secret, lights out, eyes closed, four minutes and you’re done sex is something to be ashamed of. It’s not.
A great way to introduce more play in your life and a broader scope of what that includes can start with experimenting with pressure: explore how very soft touch (e.g. a feather) makes you feel versus how very firm pressure around different parts of your body (e.g. your wrists or the back of your head) makes you feel. Explore what it feels like to add more swift pressure (light taps, pinches, love bites) and work your way up to adding toys into the mix. Just as when you eat spicy food your tolerance for heat increases, you’ll likely find the same for your preferences for pressure. And just like spicy food, you may find a point at which you have reached your upper limit, and will want to stay within in it.
As you delve into exploring the boundaries of what feels good and what feels great, you’ll probably notice that, as in any area of life, one partner will tend to lead, and one will tend to follow. That natural division of alpha and beta (lead / follow) roles can be a fun place to push your boundaries too: if you’re someone with a dominant personality who makes decisions and feels in control all day long, let yourself be lead, and explore what that kind of surrender feels like. If you’re someone who tends to be more submissive in your daily life, get your boss on and adopt more of a commanding and in charge role in bed.
Try speaking to each other in ways - and with words - you don’t ordinarily use. Sex should be a full body, multi-sensory experience, and much the language we use we turn us on in our brains is often underestimated. For so many of us living very busy lives, that might mean starting with racy texts throughout the day, telling your partner what you want to do - or have done TO you - when you get home, and start fanning the flame early on, without waiting until 9 PM when you’re both too tired to make the first move.
Remember: this is all play, so let yourself try new things EVEN if it feels a little awkward while you get the hang of what works; if everyone is enjoying themselves, you are winning at upping your intimacy game.
Anyone who actively and seriously plays with any aspect of kinkiness knows the importance of constant communication, regular check ins, and the necessity of after care (read: all of the rest, attention, close cuddles, and affection that follow an intimate session) when the steam has cooled off the sheets. When you both feel happy and satisfied that your love sesh is over (for now?), be sure to hold each other close, stay warm under the covers, and express tender gratitude for each other. That closeness helps solidify feelings of trust and security with one another - and is a perfect way to wrap it up - making each other feel completely safe to do it again, and AGAIN later.
Editor's note: Some forms of kink, like more extreme forms of bondage and asphyxiophilia, can be dangerous to inexperienced kinksters and can hurt your partner. These types should not be performed by novices without education on how to do it correctly. Other forms of kink experiment with play-acting in boundary crossing (e.g. begging, refusal, and non-consent). In these cases, it is vital for you to agree on some other "stop" signal with your partner that will halt play.
The rules ensure that everyone stays safe and happy. Have fun!