Maybe you want to spice up your sex life, maybe you are curious to experiment, or maybe you’ve developed a taste for adventure during quarantine. Whatever the reason, you are ready to try some “kinky” things in the bedroom. But you are too embarrassed to ask your partner. What if they think I’m a pervert? What if they decide they never want to see me again?!
While it’s understandable to be worried about what your partner will think of you, it might not be as hard as you think to introduce kink to your relationship. (Plus – if they’re going to leave you for something as simple as a little experimentation in the bedroom, did you really want to be with that person anyway?)
Kink is a perfectly healthy and safe way to express your sexuality and experience pleasure. Talking to your partner is the first step to getting everyone on the same page and overcoming any kind of stigma that might surround this topic.
First, Let’s Talk 50 Shades
For many people Fifty Shades of Grey was their first introduction into the world of kink, but in reality, that story is a great example on how NOT to do it. It is very clear to many people in the kink community that the author had no real experience with proper BDSM practices when she wrote the book. The main issue is that the Dom’s (Christian Grey) behavior in the book is extremely abusive and terrorizing. He takes his sub (Anastasia Steele) into a culture that she has no experience in without any guidance.
Some examples of bad practices in this piece of pop culture:
- A lot of the scenarios are advanced (knives and gynecological play), and the dom doesn’t give his sub a chance to warm up to his style before introducing them.
- The scenes are not prepared in advance and the sub's comfort levels and consent are constantly ignored.
- The dom clearly ignores his sub’s pleasure and enjoyment and only worries about his own.
- There is no aftercare (see below).
- A lot of the practices in the book would cause injuries and could cause permanent damage (eg. use of cable ties). While this may be acceptable in some relationships or situations, that is something that must be negotiated ahead of time which is not done properly in the book.
However, don’t get me wrong. It’s easy to see the appeal in the 50 shades story. Sometimes you just want to let go of control and let someone else do everything for you. On the other hand, sometimes you want to be in complete control, and be able to exert a little bit of power over someone. BDSM/Kink can give you all of that as long as you are respectful and considerate of your partner, and vice versa. (And you might be surprised to find that it’s not actually the dom/domme that is in charge)
This is not meant to be a 50 Shades bashing post (although there are some in the kink community that feel the book/movie is dangerous and should not exist). If that’s what brought you to the decision to experiment with kink, then we welcome you here! You’ve come to the right place, and we’re here to make sure that you can safely introduce a little spice into your life.
So, What Is Kink?
Kink can mean many different things to many different people, but ultimately it is anything that falls outside of the culturally defined expectations of penetrative heteronormative sexual intercourse. It can be adding blindfolds, getting tied up, sensation play, choking or even pain. Many people equate kink with BDSM which stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. BDSM usually includes powerplay with clear roles of dominant (dom or domme) and submissive (or sub). Some types of BDSM may not include direct sexual intercourse at all. Your BDSM play can include all or just some of the aforementioned activities.
Now, on to the main event: talking to your partner. The following tips will help you do the first steps towards exploring kink with your partner(s) in a healthy and consenting way.
Be Open And Honest
Your curiosity and preferences are valid, but you may find it hard to overcome feelings of shame, hesitancy, or uncertainty (for example). Especially considering what constitutes being “kinky” means different things to different people. If you are afraid or dubious to bring up the topic, tell your partner from the get-go. Tell them that you are interested in trying something new, but you are not sure how to approach it because they might think that you are weird. Tell them that you are hesitant to bring it up, but it is important to you. By approaching this discussion from a position of vulnerability you are inviting your partner to come from a place of compassion. Focus on the fact that you want to explore with them and that they are a part of this journey with you. And hey, you never know, you might be surprised to find that they have interests and fantasies that go in a similar direction.
Some people immediately think of images of dark dungeons, heavy bondage, or even extreme pain when they hear “BDSM” or “Kink”. In reality, that is only an extremely small percentage of the community (although no less valid), and they have most often been practicing their kinky craft for years or even decades. Because your partner doesn’t know if this is what you have in mind or if it’s something completely different, it’s good to be clear and concise when you talk to them.
Everyone’s scale of kinkiness is different, so make sure to be extremely specific about what it is that you would like to introduce or experiment with when talking with your partner. Start small and explain what you are interested in and why. It also helps if you do a little research beforehand so that you can describe and articulate exactly what you are interested in. A good way to get your partner on your side of the fence is to try and explain to them how they can benefit or be stimulated or excited by the experience.
Be Prepared For Push Back, But Don’t Dwell On It
Many times these conversations will go well and you partner(s) will be happy to work with you to explore new things. However, you will not always receive a positive reaction especially when your partner needs to unlearn their own shame and judgment surrounding the stigma against BDSM and kink. Culture and upbringing may play a big part in producing a negative reaction in them.
If they are being hurtful, let them know that their reaction is preventing you from opening up to them. If they are unsure or hesitant, let them know that you won’t do anything they are not ready or willing to do, but that this is important to you. Give them time to think about it. Clarify anything they may have questions about. Sex is about consent, and that includes kinky sex. Your partner will need to feel safe enough to open up to something they may have been taught was negative, and by your opening up to them, that might be the first step.
That being said, there are some things that people are just not able or willing to do. As their partner you need to accept that and move on. They are only going to end up resenting you if you try to force them to do something they don’t want to do.
Don’t jump into the deep end before you are ready. Start small. Don’t overwhelm your partner or yourself with it. Start with a little bit of soft rope bondage before you break out the gimp suit and spreader bars. And start with a bit of light spanking and leave the bullwhip for a later session. Same with anal play – start with a small plug and work your way up (and make sure you have the right equipment or toys, otherwise you may have a trip to the ER in your immediate future).
Be prepared that it won’t be perfect the first time. Just think back to your first sex experience. Was that perfect? Give yourself and your partner some grace. There are many ways that scenarios can go off script and not follow the images we have in our heads. Like everything else you and your partner need time to learn and take each step together. Just make sure you communicate before, during and after and think of any blunders as a learning opportunity that brings you closer together.
Consent is everything (always. Even in non-sexual experiences). Make sure that you and your partner are comfortable with what is happening. Agree on safe words (if you want to use them) and make sure that when a safe word is used (or your partner says “no”) that the scenario ends. Afterwards you can talk about what went wrong or what your partner or you were uncomfortable with and then avoid it or do things differently the next time. Sometimes we get carried away and it is extremely important for the submissive party to maintain agency in order for them to feel comfortable enough to allow the dominant party to be in control of their body.
Safewords are a great way to know exactly what your partner is trying to tell you. Sometimes when we are in a BDSM “scene” we may be playfully saying “no” to our partner when we really don’t mean it. If that’s the case then how is our partner supposed to know when “no” really means “stop”? That’s why it’s good to choose safewords that are something totally random and won’t accidentally come up during play. The more random, the better. I mean, come on, how hard would it be to continue when someone is yelling “Platypus!!” at the top of their lungs? That’ll get everyone’s attention and shut things down quick. (Which is the whole point to a safeword)
Of course a very common use of safewords is the stoplight method (It’s actually the method that Christian Grey uses with Anastasia Steele). It’s fairly self explanatory: green means go, yellow means caution, and red means stop. This method is a really good way to check in with your partner in the heat of the passion. A simple “how are you feeling?” will suffice. There’s nothing more sexy than consent, and hearing your partner moan “green” at just the right time can really heat things up. Checking in this way is also a good way to take some of the burden off of your partner. They don’t feel as pressured into telling you to stop, and you may even be able to catch some problems before they become “red”.
Hard Limits vs. Soft Limits
Everyone has their limits. The kink community has even created terms around limits because it is important to not cross the line over into abuse. These are: hard limits and soft limits. Limits are agreed to by all partners beforehand to make sure that play is safe and consensual.
Hard limits are boundaries that can never be crossed. Say one partner doesn’t like to be slapped in the face. That means that there will never be any face slapping by anyone they are playing with. Someone may have a hard limit due to past trauma or abuse, chronic conditions or disabilities, or simply the fact that they don’t ever want to do that thing. No matter what, don’t cross that border if they say no.
Soft limits are boundaries that are a no for now, but may be renegotiated later on. For example: one partner decides they don’t want any spanking today, but then next week they are all about spanking. Soft limits can even be renegotiated within the same playtime. Say your partner started out saying they don’t want spanking but then an hour in decides that they have changed their mind. The key is great communication. (But honestly that’s almost always the key, isn’t it?)
Crossing a line without someone’s permission is wrong no matter what the situation. Setting limits is what makes BDSM safe for everyone involved.
Not everyone needs aftercare. Some people are fine introducing kink or being kinky without it. Some people need it even after what other people would consider “light” play, or even “vanilla” sex. Aftercare is the time you and you partner take after play time to recover. This is the time to see to each other’s emotional and physical needs. Some types of play and kink can be extremely demanding (physically and psychologically), so this time is important to relax and come back down to reality.
Aftercare can look very different depending on person and type of play. Physical aftercare can be the removal of restraints and toys, giving them something to eat or drink, or providing a warm blanket. It can also be as simple as caressing or cuddling with them, taking a shower, or giving a soothing massage. It might not be immediately obvious what your or your partner’s needs are, but given some time it’ll become second nature.
Emotional aftercare can include discussing the scene and talking about how each of you felt at the time. It can be as heavy: like talking about what kind of traumas may have been brought to the surface or talking about feeling euphoric. Some say it’s the best therapy. Or it can be light and as simple as talking about how good it felt when you did x,y, and z. Just make sure you are there for your partner or they are there to support you. This can be great at creating trust and bonding in your relationship.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
In the end, no matter what you do or how you approach it – don’t forget to communicate. You cannot over-communicate, you can only under-communicate. Make sure you and your partner are on board with everything that is happening and both sides have managed their expectations for each step. That way you can both experience wonderful new ways of expressing and exploring your sexualities together.
Now, I hope we haven’t already scared you away. ;) There is much satisfaction that can be had employing a little bit of kink in the bedroom. As with anything else new: start slow, pay attention to your body and the cues from your partner, and most of all: Have fun!