Are you interested in exploring the world of kink?
That’s amazing! Whether or not the kinky practices you’re interested in wind up being for you, learning there’s something new you’re interested in is always an exciting time in sexuality. And with kink, there is so much you can discover–about yourself, your pleasure, your fantasies, your body, your partner, etc.
To get started: let’s define “kink”?
Kink doesn’t refer to one sexual practice specifically; instead, it’s an umbrella term indicating any sort of sexual practice that falls outside of the heterosexual, vanilla norm. It can be anything from using a blindfold on your partner to more dangerous activities like breathplay.
People enjoy kink for a variety of reasons, and the reasons can be as unique as the people themselves. For every person who wants kink, there’s a new, specific reason why it appeals to and connects with them. Some common reasons people want kink to include:
- The physical and emotional release it offers: like with vanilla sex or other types of physical exertion, kinky sex can release those feel-good chemicals in your brain. It kind also be a more intense emotional high because kink play involves such emotional and physical vulnerability, so the emotional and physical release can feel more intense than with vanilla sex.
- It’s a way for adults to play: Just like when we were growing up, we still need playtime as adults. That can be anything fun that’s just for pleasure, so it’s not just sexual, but adding playfulness into your sex life is a great way to offer yourself a way to meet that need. Kink doesn’t have to be all intense or scary; you should be able to have fun with your partner while you play!
- And, of course, some people get more sexual pleasure from kinky sex than from vanilla sex. Kink can restrict things like your senses and your ability to move, or involve power exchange, making the sexual experience feel more intense and more pleasurable than before.
When getting started with kink, safety is paramount.
Kink is fun and doesn’t have to be extreme, but there are elements added within kink play that can increase the danger. Whether someone is gently bound, has a fake safeword, or wants to try edge play (a type of kink play associated with danger, knife play, breathplay, etc.), it’s crucial to go over health or safety risks with all parties involved, so they can fully consent to opt-in.
It also allows you to educate yourself on the safest ways to practice the riskier activities–there are safe ways to choke people and safe areas to hit your partner during sex if that’s what you like–so that you’re not endangering your partner or yourself during sex.
A few safety terms to be familiar with as you explore kink:
S.S.C. stands for safe, sane, and consensual. It’s less widely used than R.A.C.K. at this point, but it is a term you still may come across. The idea behind S.S.C. is that all kink activities between partners have been discussed and agreed upon, and the practices are considered safe, sane, and consensual.
R.A.C.K. stands for risk-aware consensual kink, which many have begun using as a response to the weak spots of the safe, sane, and consensual model. No kink activity (or sex in general) is ever 100% safe, so R.A.C.K. functions based on the idea that all participants know the risk they are opting into and have still given their full consent.
Safe words are agreed-upon phrases used during sex to let your partner know you need to either slow down or stop immediately. It’s essential to use words that would not normally be said during sex. Some folks engage in what is called consensual non-consent, so using words other than “no ” or “stop,” which may be an intentional part of the play, is essential. Within kink, the presence of nonverbal safewords is standard practice; things like snapping fingers or tapping a partner on the leg an agreed-upon number of times can act as non-verbal safewords.
The stoplight system is a form of safewording that is very common in the kink world. Within this system, one partner can ask the other partner what color they are, and the other can respond with green: “everything’s great to keep going,” yellow: “I need to slow down or start wrapping up,” or red: “stop immediately.” It’s so common because it’s simple to remember, efficient to check in with each other quickly, and easily translatable to non-verbal cues (one tap could be red, two could be yellow, three could be green, etc.)
Hard & soft limits:
In kink, hard limits are things you are never, ever going to try. They are your hard limits, your always no’s. These things are non-negotiable (and if you are in a new sexual relationship with someone who treats them as negotiable, that is a sign they are not a safe partner to be intimate with.) Soft limits are things you don’t think you’re interested in or don’t think you would enjoy but would be willing to try at some point with a trusted partner.
Exploring Kink with a Partner:
Suppose you’re looking to explore something new with a partner. In that case, more discussion is necessary before jumping into anything because “kink” is an umbrella term that can mean many different things. Do you know you’re interested in trying the same things?
One way to explore this is to make a Yes/No/Maybe list.
Your Yes/No/Maybe list is a list of kink activities you’re considering. You can find them free online with different activities already listed. Some lists have you rate your interest in things like spanking, anal beads, blindfolds, etc., on a scale from 0-5, where 0 would be no (this would be a hard limit) and 5 would be something you want to try. These can be helpful in both getting started and seeing what you would like to try and giving you ideas for things you might not have heard of! If you do decide to use one, keep in mind that they are simply jumping off points–your yes/no/maybe list is not a binding contract. If you say you are interested in something on your list, that does not make you obligated to try it. You get to change your mind at any time.
Another way is to explore porn & erotica together.
Even if you don’t like to watch porn, there are a lot of other erotic mediums you can explore. You can read erotica stories (novels or short stories from sites like literotica.com) or listen to erotic audios together. If there’s something kinky you’re interested in trying (or are interested in thinking about trying), why not use some porn (audio, visual, or written) to check it out with your partner to see if it is really a turn-on?
Remember to start slow.
You don’t need to dive right in, and in fact, it’s better not to! Start with talking about what you’re interested in, maybe enjoying porn together, and then start by sprinkling what you want to try into fantasies you share with each other or dirty talk you use in the moment. Maybe spice up a sexting session by talking as though you are doing whatever it is the two of you want to try. Easing in with dirty talk and fantasies is an excellent way to take the temperature of what it is you enjoy.
Sometimes the idea of something turns us on while actually doing it doesn’t–and that can be for several reasons! Sometimes something just isn’t as fun as we thought it would be; sometimes, it’s more complicated and takes us out of the moment. Sometimes the vulnerability is too great to enjoy what’s happening, and so on. There’s no one reason why something might not be fun in practice for you; just remember it’s okay if some of your kinky practices stay in your imagination or your dirty talk!
Once you get beyond talking, keep easing yourself in slowly. If you’re interested in bondage, stick to tools or toys at home. Start with a blindfold or loosely tying your partner’s hands together so they can easily get out. Whatever practice it’s about, find small ways to try it before getting more intense.
Kink is exciting! Just like anything new, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, plus with the added intensity of being something, we get sexual pleasure from, it can be tempting to go all in when you’re trying something new. But not all kink play is equally safe–it’s important to ease in and become familiar with your limits, cues, and communication during kink play before diving into something extreme.
When you’re first starting, tell your partner what you’re going to do. If you’re going to tie them up, tell them what you’re doing as you do it. Let them know what they’re going to feel if they’re blindfolded. Let them know everything until you’re comfortable enough to progress.
When you do decide to progress, go slow, checking in with yourself and your partner consistently, making sure everyone is comfortable using and responding to safewords.
And remember to take time for research–kink is vulnerable, and trust is necessary. For trust to exist, respect for one another must exist. Being cautious and conscious of safety measures and risks, researching best practices, etc., is an expression of that respect in a kinky context.
What is aftercare?
Aftercare is the practice of checking in with and tending to your partner’s emotional and physical needs after sex. Aftercare is most commonly spoken about in the kink community, but practices like cleaning each other off or getting one another water after sex are also aftercare! It’s imperative with kink because emotions can be incredibly heightened within kink play, that the come down (called “drop”) can be extreme. Ensuring everyone feels safe, comfortable, and cared for is essential in maintaining a healthy kinky dynamic. Some examples of aftercare are:
- Showering together
- Telling each other you love/care about one another
- Getting each other snacks and water
- Tending to any bruises or injuries sustained during play
And remember to do your research:
As previously said, there are safety considerations in kink. Things like how to safely choke someone, where it’s safe to spank with a hand or a paddle, how to use a whip, how to engage safely in breathplay or CNC (consensual non-consent), etc.
Along with safety questions, there are bound to be other things you have questions about too! When you get into the world of toys, you want to be sure you’re using safe toys and equipment—asking people who know more than you is always a good idea! Sex store employees can help you find toys, gear, or kink wear with body-safe materials, size considerations, or disability-inclusive toys.
Local kink groups can offer social experiences with people more experienced in kink who you can connect with and ask questions, and find safety in the community as you venture into something new. You can look for local groups on FetLife, or reach out to local sex shops that may know others in the community!
And, of course, finding a sex-positive, kink-affirming therapist can help you safely navigate this new experience. Some dynamics in kink are power-based, some kink is therapeutic and can help heal past wounds, but all kink is profoundly personal. If it’s new to you, having an experienced therapist or a group support you as you navigate this new journey can be helpful.