Kink is becoming a hot topic again. 50 Shades of Grey‘s movie adaptation opening on Valentine’s Day weekend has put bondage and kink and James Dornan on the front page of magazines and blogs all over again, while shameless knock-off factory Asylum is tantalizing nerds by casting Charisma Carpenter in Bound1 Meanwhile sex shops around the country are dusting off their “50 Shades starter kits” and putting them back in circulation, and editors and publishers are trying to come up with new bondage-themed puns.
As kink gets greater mainstream exposure, more and more couples are becoming interested in bringing kink and fetish-play into their relationships. However, trying to actually introduce kink into a couple’s sexual repertoire is often easier said than done. Many people have been taught that their desires are wrong and degrading and may be afraid to bring up the topic with their partner. Still others may not be sure how to talk about it, while others may be interested but unsure where to start.
Kink can be an exciting addition to a couple’s sex life, but introducing it can take some finesse. Here’s how to talk with your partner about your interests and bring out the kinky side of your relationship.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Trust and communication are a vital part of relationship maintenance and that’s doubly true here. Introducing kink into a relationship requires that you and your partner have strong communication skills and a firm foundation of trust and mutual respect. While ideally you wouldn’t be in a relationship with a person you couldn’t be open with, many people have a difficult time opening up to their partner about their desires and fantasies.
One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to introducing kink into a relationship is overcoming the social stigma. Even in the 21st Century, bondage, fetish play and other forms of non-vanilla sex2 are often seen as something that other people do. The trope that “good” people have “good” (i.e vanilla) sex is still prevalent. Kinky sex, on the other hand, is frequently seen the sign of a moral deficiency or being “deviant” or even dangerous. And when it isn’t portrayed as dark and edgy, kinky sexplay is frequently the punch-line to a joke. “Oh look, that middle-age couple is into bondage, isn’t that WACKY!”
It doesn’t help that relationships – especially marriage – are frequently portrayed as the the death of sex and sexual adventure when the exact opposite should be true. But kink shouldn’t be a joke or something to be ashamed of or feared. Kink, when done correctly is a bonus, a way of bringing sex to the next level. Introducing kink into a relationship can help revitalize an otherwise tired or fading sexual connection, injecting new levels of excitement and novelty into what has become staid and predictable. It can help build a greater level of trust and communication between partners and – of course – bring a greater level of sexual satisfaction, which is key to a relationship’s long-term success.
Someone hoping to introduce kink into their relationship may be afraid to be up front with their desires; admitting to what you really want often means being willing to make yourself vulnerable to judgement, rejection and humiliation (and not in the fun way). Even in a long-term relationship, expressing an interest in kink can feel intimidating.
However, your partner isn’t a mindreader and you can’t get what you don’t ask for, so it’s important to use your words. Nonetheless, you want to do it in the right way. Bringing up immediately before (or during) sex isn’t necessarily a good idea; not only could your partner feel ambushed, but you’ve put them in a “yes or no” situation and their instinctive response is likely to be “no”. Instead, find a time when you’re both calm and relaxed so that you can talk things out at your leisure without feeling pressured or pressed for time. As tempting as it may be to float a test-balloon – asking “hey what do you think about…” or “you know, I saw this thing/heard about/know someone who…”, don’t. That layer of abstraction frequently can obfuscate the issue and your partner may dismiss or reject the idea without realizing that it’s something important to you. Instead, you want to mention that there’s something that you enjoy or are interested in that you’d like to try with your partner. Making it a collaborative effort – something you want to explore with the person you care about – makes it more personal and real. Now it’s no longer some abstract idea which may trigger unpleasant associations brought about by living in a sex-negative culture. Instead, you’re communicating that this is an adventure you want to share with them.
Similarly, when you roll out your interest, it’s important to not bring it up as though you’re revealing a deep dark secret that you’re ashamed of. As I’m always saying, the way you frame a topic will affect how others respond to it; if you lay it out as a fun and exciting bonus to your sex life, your partner is far more likely to see it in a positive light. Remember: sexual desires aren’t bad, even ones that are “dark”; it’s the expression of them that makes the difference.
That open communication is important in both directions. Not only should you be open about what you want, you should also be receptive to hearing what your partner has to say, both positively and negatively. Listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Lay out what you would expect or how you would see your fantasy working in practice. If you can’t do it face to face, then have the conversation over email or text or instant messaging – sometimes that abstraction can make it easier to be honest with one another. It may also help to have a guide or two to help answer some questions. When Someone You Love is Kinky is a well-recommended guide for people who might be nervous about their kinky partner’s desires and interests.
As you’re discussing your interests, you should encourage your partner to share their fantasies as well. Not only can trading fantasies back and forth be incredibly hot, but it can foster new levels of openness and intimacy as well as encourage the both of you to try new and exciting things.
Communication doesn’t end when you’ve agreed to try kink, by the way. It’s important to check in with your partner during and afterwards, see how they feel and talk things over. In fact, for many people, talking about their experiences afterwards can be as satisfying as the act itself.
Do Your Research
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to introduce kink into a relationship is that they do so without knowing what they’re doing. Many times we have a faulty or mistaken idea of what certain fetishes or kinks actually entail; we base our ideas about, say, bondage or S&M around what we’ve seen in movies or on TV and assume that these are full and accurate representations. In reality however, this is akin to basing your knowledge about sex from what you’ve seen in porn movies; what we see on screen bears as much resemblance to reality as kabuki theater does to day-to-day life. Things that work wonderfully as a fantasy don’t always translate to reality.
Worse, some examples aren’t only flat-out wrong, they’re actively dangerous.
Take 50 Shades of Grey for example. While E. L. James’ trilogy may have introduced millions of women to the thrill of bondage, the series itself is a goddamn primer on how to not do S&M. People who take 50 Shades as a guide are setting themselves up for a miserable and possibly even literally damaging experience. It’s clear that James has no practical experience with bondage or proper S&M practices. Christian Grey’s use of cable ties, for example, would not only result in cuts and scarring but could potentially result in permanent nerve damage in Anastasia Steel’s arms and legs. There’s a reason why practitioners of bondage use specially prepared wide, soft ropes for tying up their partners, not just what they grabbed down at the Home Depot.
Similarly, Grey’s behavior as a dom is abhorrent. He throws Anastasia head-first into a world she has no experience in, terrifying her with advanced level scenarios such as knives or gynecological play. He drops her into scenes without any preparation, when in proper S&M a session is planned and agreed to in advance by both the dominant and the submissive. He regularly ignores her comfort levels and even her consent, imposing his will over hers when in reality the submissive controls the scene. He inflicts pain not for the pleasure of his sub but for his own. After the sessions, he doesn’t engage in even perfunctory aftercare, leaving Anastasia to her own devices (as it were). Christian Grey’s example isn’t one of a successful dom but of someone terrorizing and abusing their partner.
Whether you’re looking to spice things up with some ropes and chains, incorporate foot-worship, role-play, exhibitionism or other forms of kink, if you’re a beginner (or trying a new kink for the first time), you want to do your due diligence first – even if you’re pretty sure you know what you’re doing. There are a number of excellent books to help out. Tristan Taormino’s The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, Violet Blue’s The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy and Midori’s Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink: Educational, Sensual, and Entertaining Essays are all highly recommended for people interested in exploring kink and spicing up their relationships. Websites like KinkAcademy (NSFW) are also incredible educational resources with instructional videos for people of every interest and experience level.
After you’ve done your research, then the next important part is…
Take Baby Steps
The second most common mistake that people make when introducing kink into their relationship is to leap into the deep end before you’re ready. It can be incredibly easy to overwhelm somebody without meaning to; you don’t necessarily want to break out the gimp suit and spreader bar for the first time someone agrees to experiment with being tied up. Similarly, someone who’s willing to try spanking is going to think twice when their partner immediately brings out the cat-o-nine-tails and the custom flogger.
Other kinks have risks that aren’t immediately obvious and can cause discomfort or even potential harm. Introducing anal play into your sexual repertoire, for example, is something that should be taken with care. Many people have made the mistake of treating anal sex in the same way that they do vaginal sex – pounding along like a jackhammer, the way they’ve seen in porn. Not only does this more or less ensure that your partner isn’t going to have a good time, but it risks damaging to the delicate tissues of the anus. Other times would-be kinksters may use toys that aren’t designed for anal play – lacking a flared base that prevents the plug or toy from getting pulled into the rectum and ending with an embarrassing trip to the ER.
When you’re introducing kink into your relationship, you want to start slowly and gently, building up the necessary levels of trust and comfort before graduating to the more elaborate (and intimidating) levels. If you’re interested in bondage for example, using couple of silk scarves or ties to (gently!) tie your partner’s hands to the headboard is a way of easing into the scene. If you’re wanting to explore exhibitionism with a nervous partner, role-playing it out during vanilla sex – talking about who’s watching you and how they’re responding – can help build up the interest and excitement before leading up to trying sex in public places. Starting with simple cosplay can be stepping stone to something much more elaborate later on.
It can be a little frustrating at times to be taking things slowly and gingerly at first – who doesn’t want the awesome kinky scenario in you’ve got in your head? – but those baby steps are part of how you build the trust and experience with your partner as well as working out any kinks3 that may arise. Taking those baby-steps at first gives you the flexibility to adapt as necessary if you find that you can’t perform your desired kink exactly as you imagined it. It’s easier to work around any potential limitations when you’re still in the beginning stages rather than engaging in elaborate and complicated scenarios.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Imperfect
One issue that people run into is the fear of “doing it wrong”, especially when both partners are relatively inexperienced. We all have visions of how we want our fantasies to play out and frequently the fear of not executing them perfectly can cause us to freeze up.
To give one common example, I often hear from people who want to incorporate role-play into their sex lives but are afraid to try because they’re afraid they’d feel silly. “I’d feel like an idiot”, they say, or “I’m afraid that I’d start laughing trying to say all this ridiculous crap.” Others feel like they couldn’t be a “proper” dom because they have this image of a dominant being stern and serious and that’s just not them. Or else they worry that they might release a massive fart in the middle of a bondage scene. Or any number of inconvenient (and embarrassing) ways that a scenario could go off-script.
The thing is: that’s all fine. Kink – even super-serious bondage scenes – is supposed to be fun. The goal isn’t supposed to be absolute perfection, it’s supposed to be about pleasure and intimacy. When you’re tense and anxious about making sure everything is 100% perfect, you’re not giving yourself room to actually enjoy play. You’re not performing at the Kennedy Center, you’re playing cops and robbers with your pants off in the privacy of your bedroom. So embrace the imperfections. There is no one way to be kinky. Being dominant doesn’t necessarily mean being serious and authoritarian; there are many ways to play the top without being SourPuss McGee. That moment of laughter is a release; it’s how you let the tension go so you can settle into the role.
And remember: just as vanilla sex doesn’t automatically mean everything needs to “just happen”, neither does kinky sex. Planning out the scenarios in advance means you have a framework to work from. You can incorporate potential issues – being unsure, being a newbie, feeling weird – into the scene and feel far more authentic and comfortable instead of having to fake something you may or may not have the experience to pull off convincingly.
Kink and the Importance of GGG
While there are exceptions, couples are rarely equally kinky at the start. Kinksters tend to come about in one of two ways: either they were kinky from the jump or they indulged a partner and became kinky. In most relationships, introducing kink is the result of one partner opening up about his or her desires and their partner giving it a chance. That willingness to try something – even something you’re not necessarily thrilled about – is a key point when it comes to experimenting with kink.
Advice columnist and official NerdLove Celebrity Patronus Dan Savage coined the term GGG as being important for relationships – Good (as in good or skilled in bed), Giving (of pleasure) and Game (as in willing to try new things within reason). That last G is important; as I said, more often than not, one partner is the kinky one and the other is not and the acts that the kinky partner wants are often outside of the other’s range of experience. A GGG partner is willing to take one for the metaphorical team and try something new – enthusiastically rather than grudgingly. When your partner asks about possibly trying some light bondage or foot-worship, being a good partner means being willing to give it a shot in good faith, even if it’s not something that necessarily turns your personal crank. That enthusiasm is important; doing something half-heartedly can actually be worse for the relationship than simply refusing. There’s being indulged by your partner and then there’s your partner doing something just so you’ll shut up about it, OMG. One is a sacrifice on their part, the other is incredibly hurtful way to treat someone you supposedly care about.
It’s worth noting that the key phrase is “within reason”. Some kinks are relatively simple and harmless. Power transfer games such as bondage and domination for example are, at their core, games; when you’re performing them correctly, everybody enjoys themselves and nobody is (emotionally) hurt. Other kinks are varsity level sex and should only be performed by experienced and eager couples. The higher the squick-factor (anything involving bodily fluids beyond saliva or semen) or potential for emotional or physical damage (cuckolding, breath-control, edge-play, etc.), the less and less reasonable the request becomes. Being game for new things doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to do things that would leave you curled up in the corner or sobbing your eyes out in the shower.
A willingness to step outside of your comfort zone – even things that you don’t necessarily find pleasurable – is important because pleasing your partner is a vital part of overall sexual satisfaction in the relationship for both people. The willingness to try new things does more than just mean that one partner’s getting their rocks off in new and exciting ways; that openness and and consideration of your partner’s pleasure makes him or her feel more valued and appreciated altogether. It signals to them how much of a priority that you give to their happiness and gratification – something that’s important to a relationship’s longevity. And your demonstrating your openness encourages them to be equally open and giving to you.
And besides: by trying something new and different you may be unlocking a new, wild side of yourself that you never knew existed. Take a chance and discover a new world of sexual excitement and satisfaction.