Sex is complex. There are many different ways to do it and everyone has their own meaning for the word; from penetration to kissing to being bound on hands and knees, dressed head to toe in latex with a fuck machine thrusting a dildo in and out of you. An easy way to think about the varieties within the complexity of sex can be through a spectrum theory. With very vanilla on one end of the spectrum and very kinky on the other. And within those two ends, we can consider another spectrum from heavy to light on each. From light vanilla to heavy kink. Light vanilla, though? WTF. How can we know what that even is? Maybe heavy petting is light vanilla and anal is heavy vanilla? Who can say? Both vanilla and kinky are subjective terms, so the complexity of semantics rears itself once again. Nonetheless, we shall discuss the kinky side of the spectrum in more detail. Kinky things like bondage and impact play. Oh wait, maybe they are also on the vanilla side too? You can see how this gets complicated.
Considering the more vanilla sex, one would think of what the mainstream media portrays as conventional forms of sex with penis or finger penetration, oral stimulation, or masturbation, while kinky sex generally comprises of the less-conventional types of activities, like bondage, impact play, and fisting. Though the term ‘conventional’ may imply that which is within the norms of society, but as we all know, even ‘normal’ is as subjective a term as it can get…but I digress. Especially because these terms are so subjective, it is important to note that neither vanilla nor kink is better than the other and neither term should ever have any derogatory meaning.
There is also no sharp definition of what qualifies as kink. Some people consider dirty talk during sex to be kinky, while others do not. For some, spanking during sex is considered a kink, while this exact activity can be seen as vanilla by others. Heavy bondage can clearly be understood as kinky, while at the same time, locking a partner up in pink fuzzy handcuffs purchased from the Amsterdam souvenir shop on a weekend getaway can be seen as kinky by some as well. What’s that famous saying again: ‘One man’s kink is another man’s vanilla’? Or something like that?
To define kink better, we could easily split it into two major realms of activities. One group is fetish, which is sexual arousal from objects or materials and the other is BDSM, which stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism. While many kinksters have interests in both clusters, there are some out there who just have one specific fetish and otherwise enjoy the more vanilla sexual activities. Perhaps it is all about being in specific fetish gear like leather or rubber that launches one into a heightened experience of arousal. Other people enjoy engaging in hardcore sadism and masochism but they may prefer to do it naked, while some again prefer it in fetish gear, some like both, and then there’s a mix of everyone else in between… of course. You can see how it’s not so black and white. There may actually be 50 different shades of grey.
For many people, kink is simply a natural part of sexuality. Just like the famous quote by biologist Alfred Kinsey “The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.” Reference to non-vanilla activities can be traced back for centuries from all over the world. There are records of kinky activity as far as 300 B.C. in Northern Africa, the Kama Sutra of India introduced us to some basic kink practices and concepts and there is an endless list of notorious kinksters throughout history, like Napoleon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Goethe, and of course the OG sadist himself, the Marquis de Sade. After all, it was he who, over two hundred years ago, said “Sex without pain is like food without taste“, cementing the terms ‘sadist’ and ‘sadism’ in all dictionaries for all eternity.
Let’s thrust ourselves a little deeper into the orifice of kink. First, there are some very popular fetishes like leather, latex, sportswear, boots, armpits, piss, feet, or sneakers. Next to this, new ones have gained quite a presence in the scene in the past few years, like puppy play and adult diapering. Folks can get quite worked up when their respective fetish enters the scene during sex. It can be sex that centers the fetish or simply adding the fetishized object or body part into the sex. Either way, the list of items and body parts that can turn a person on is quite extensive and luckily, with the dawn of the internet, communities have been formed around all fetishes and kinks, allowing people to connect with others who share our same interests. It’s always nice to know someone shares your interests, and for many people, it comes as a relief to learn they aren’t the only one who likes what they do. Plus, now that everything is so public, people can explore various kinks until they find a match that piques their interests. As kinks grow in popularity and visibility, they can become more normalized sexual practices, making it more inviting to onlookers and less stigmatized behaviors.
A special form of fetish and a kind of crossover from BDSM is role play. This is the authentic recreation of a certain scenario like teacher and student or doctor and patient. The recreation of a scenario is also called immersion: the more authentic the play, the more heightened the experience becomes. Immersion can be created by wearing the right clothes, toys, and accessories and setting the right location, among other things. Just like fetish, BDSM is a wide array of different activities. The most common forms of play are bondage, chastity, submission, impact play, nipple play/ tit torture, and cock and ball torture – each having their own set of toys needed to live out the particular fantasy.
One form of role play, which often goes beyond the playroom and into daily life when the bond or relationship is strong enough, is dom and sub. When this play exits the play area and enters daily life, it can be a way for a couple to maintain the strong bond they have during sex, with a commitment that can become quite resilient. For example, the dom may hold the key to the sub’s cage or collar which they wear daily, or at least until their dom tells them to. The sub may be the one to do chores for the dom, like cleaning the apartment or doing groceries. The list can go on. This relationship may also be labeled as master and slave. This can potentially be seen as problematic because of the history (and current status) of human slavery, yet it can also be seen as extremely passionate and wonderful when consensual.
Dom and sub play often involves restraints and other toys. Toys that are typically used to inflict pain. And by pain, we mean pleasure derived by pain. Whips, Paddles, floggers, cock and ball torture toys, nipple clamps, and more. The more pain, the more pleasure. The continuous act of restraining, torturing, whipping, or whatever it may be is often a very intimate experience and should only be done consensually.
There are two main questions about kink that typically come up by someone who doesn’t practice any fetish or BDSM. One: how can somebody be into this? And two: is it safe to do? Safety consists out of three aspects which are all intertwined: physical, mental and legal safety. The basis of all kink is consent, which means all involved persons have negotiated and agreed to what is happening and at any point can withdraw this consent which ends the play scene until a new agreement is found. It is often assumed that only the bottom can withdraw consent but also the top can do it if the scene takes a turn they do not agree with. Play without consent, like grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, or even rape can have severe legal implications. On the other hand, and sadly: in some countries, some forms of kink are still illegal, even when consensual.
Although kink is becoming more acceptable in mainstream culture, it is still seen as taboo or immoral by many. It is still all too common that a kinkster is cautious of who they share this side of their identity with, because of the continued stigma around kink. Until not that long ago, BDSM was officially considered a mental illness according to the World Health Organization. Luckily in June 2018 the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases finally took fetishism and sadomasochism from the list of mental illnesses. In addition to that, the psychological benefits of BDSM are now being well-documented. A 2013 Dutch study found that BDSM practitioners tend to be less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection-sensitive, and have higher subjective well-being than the ‘average’ member of a population. Studies show these effects can be even higher for those assuming the dominant role than for those who take the submissive role, but the great news is that even subs benefit, especially compared to people who don’t partake in BDSM at all. To that, we say ‘Yes Sir’!
Whether you like sex in leather, in a dungeon, with toys or multiple partners, or simply with only the one you love, in your bed, on Valentine’s Day, it’s all good! As long as you are enjoying yourself (and not non-consensually harming others) then go for it! Fuck it, lick it, suck it, whip it, smack it, punch it, rub it, do that which you like to do to get yourself sexually aroused, and equally important, satisfied.