Lessons From Kink

Regardless of how you’d describe your thing sexually, there are lessons to be learned from those who do it differently.

Much has been written about how relationships of all stripes can learn from consensually non-monogamous dynamics- especially in open communication and navigating jealousy. Similarly, vanilla folks can benefit from taking notes from the kinky community.  Besides, what counts as kinky and vanilla are ever-moving targets, defined by one’s personal idea of normative.

Let’s be extremely clear: not all kinky people are bastions of ethics. It’s also possible to have superb boundaries and shame-free sex in extremely traditional pairings. Just like being poly doesn’t inherently make one better at handling conflict, being into BDSM doesn’t mean someone is great at consent.

That said, the kink scene is built on the basic idea that if you harm your toys, they won’t want to play with you anymore-, and as a result, people in this world are more likely to normalize sustainable fun.

Even if you don’t plan on bringing out the sisal rope, drip wax all over your lover’s back and flog them with an adorable cat o nine tails, here are some insights that might serve you. And if you are planning on dipping a toe into discipline or domination, these are vital basics.

Figure Out Your Oh Yes and Your Hell No

I’m not saying script everything beforehand- although that’s cool too- but it’s useful to have a ballpark idea of what is and definitely is not on the menu. You don’t have to pick the restaurant and order for everyone, but it is helpful to let people know if you’re craving Italian.

Exploratory, experimental touch is fantastic- and I highly suggest approaching sex with that mindset. But if you already know for a fact that you need a counter-clockwise swirl followed by hard suction, and that there is absolutely no interest in a finger up the butt at the same time, just fucking say it.

Don’t know what you want? Ok! Maybe do some daydreaming. Next time you’re stuck in traffic or in line at the grocery store, run through ideas in your brain. Fantasizing as optimization.

It’s Not Intimate If It’s Not Vulnerable

Intimacy is, by definition, mutually vulnerable. If you’re not each taking some risk, it’s not intimate. It’s simply something else.

In a kink scenario, there’s the risk that comes with submission, but there’s also the gamble that comes with being ultimately responsible for the pleasure and safety of someone else. With vanilla sex, we can take a note to stay present and connected, instead of focusing on performance and/or racing yourself or someone else across a finish line. If you’re just using someone else’s body to masturbate- well, make sure that was negotiated.

Logistically, How Do You Say No When You Have a Ball Gag in Your Mouth?

Consent can be withdrawn at any point, of course. That’s why anyone who suggests you can secure consent in advance with an app should be regarded as one giant red flag in the shape of a person.

Safewords are the way kink scenes are quickly brought to an end and they can be literally anything that is known and understood by all parties. The word “No” works, but that can get murky if you’re doing a role play. So often folks go for something that wouldn’t organically arise, like “banana seat” or “canary.” Another option: a spectrum of codes to indicate continuing but not escalating intensity or scaling back a little, without bringing the action to a halt. A common example is the stoplight system of red, yellow and green.

Given that submissives might not be in the headspace to vocally articulate their needs during an intense scene, it’s wise to consider non-verbal safewords like: having an object that you can drop, making a fist, holding a noise-making device, or rhythmic grunts. A top can also check in by having the bottom squeeze their hand around a finger to indicate things are still a go.

In a vanilla scenario, signal when things are going well and when they are not. If you go deathly silent and your eyes rolled back in your skull during an orgasm, let someone know that beforehand…or after. Maybe you’re not up for openly dirty talking during sex- but you can provide directions to the exits and flotation devices with gestures and noises.

Our Species Uses Tools

Some folks are still under the misapprehension that sex toys are competition or somehow evidence that one is a substandard lover. Meanwhile, we’re all keenly aware that the best artisans and builders aren’t usually doing their work manually; they use machines.

Whether it’s flogging, fire or pony play, the right equipment adds to a scene. Don’t be afraid to use modern technology- including lube- in your banging. Frankly, if you hook up with people who have clits and don’t have a vibrator on hand in your place, that’s suspect.

In general: I highly recommend we all spend more time thinking, planning and preparing for a good sex life.

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    • Timaree Schmit Headshot

      Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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