Originally published @ MarieClaire
With the popularity of books like 50 Shades of Grey, which swept the nation when it was published in 2011, kinky sex has become less and less taboo in mainstream culture. However, many people still hesitate to try kink themselves, even if they’re kink-curious or fascinated by kinky sex toys, movies, and literature.
“One of the most common misconceptions is that something is wrong with people for engaging in kinks in the bedroom and within their relationships, but that isn’t true,” says Lovehoney(opens in new tab) sex educator Javay Frye-Nekrasova. “Kink gives people an opportunity to explore themselves and their relationships on many different levels.”
Kink is essentially any unconventional sexual practice and includes everything from bondage to roleplay to dominant/submissive experimentation. And contrary to popular belief, kink doesn’t necessarily need to be all that out of the ordinary.
“In general, we still do not live in an entirely sex-positive society,” says Angie Rowntree, Founder & Director of ethical, sex-positive porn site Sssh.com. “The definition that I’ve adopted to explain sex positivity is, ‘All sex is good sex as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable.’ This simple definition challenges some of the biggest misconceptions about kink—namely that kink is weird, strange or perverted (this is a word I particularly dislike!).”
If, like many of us, you’ve indulged or thought about indulging in kink in the bedroom, then you’ve come to the right place. We got in touch with a slew of sexperts equipped to answer all your most pressing questions about the best sex toys for kink, how to have a conversation with your partner about kink, and how to get started.
KINK AND RELATIONSHIPS
Many people see BDSM and/or kink as purely sexual and lacking in affection, but this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.
Indeed, Frye-Nekrasova agrees, pointing out that care, communication, and trust are “deeply ingrained in kinky activities.” She elaborates, “When you are safely and properly engaging in kinky activities, you have communication about what is and isn’t okay between partners. There is communication in place so that everyone is heard throughout the experiences, and there is trust: Trust that someone will not take advantage of the situation or you, trust in knowing that the situation will play out as previously discussed, and trust in the partner.”
Dr. Holly Richmond, who is a Dame(opens in new tab) Clinical Board(opens in new tab) medical advisor, somatic psychotherapist, licensed marriage & family therapist, and certified sex therapist, agrees that kink seamlessly blends into any consensual, affectionate, and loving relationship, and refutes the assumption that kink is necessarily dangerous, saying that, when coupled with thorough communication, “kink is the opposite of dangerous. Kink is thoughtful, transparent, and consent-driven. Because of copious amounts of clear communication, the possibilities for pleasure are endless.”
She goes on to point out that for long-term couples, kink can be an essential aspect of partners’ sexual repertoire, because it “offers the novelty that keeps things hot. Novelty is the seat of human desire, and for the couple in long-term relationships, finding things that are new or provide a sense of adventure in the bedroom (or elsewhere!) isn’t always easy. Kink is an ideal solution for bringing freshness back to a solid relationship where things have, perhaps, gotten a little stale.”
KINK AND SAFETY
Although kink is fabulous when safe and consensual, as with all sexual activities, it’s important to practice safety and to consistently check in with one’s partner(s) during sex—especially with acts like pain-play, BDSM, and role-play.
“Submission never means ‘non-consensual’ or ‘reluctant,'” says Rowntree, encouraging partners to communicate with complete openness before, during, and after sex, and suggesting that those interested in “serious BDSM play” take classes and connect with the BDSM community in order to thoroughly educate themselves on ensuring safety.
One well-known way of establishing sexual boundaries within kink, for example, is using safe words.
“When people play with power and sensation in a sexual, body-based way, safe words ensure that the sensations are always pleasurable rather than hurtful. For some people, pain is part of their sexual repertoire, but pain is also an essential part of how they experience pleasure. Anything that feels hurtful or especially uncomfortable—physically or emotionally—has the capacity to be paused or stopped with a safe word,” says Dr. Richmond. “Be sure to choose a word that isn’t “stop” or “no” since those are often part of power dynamics or role-playing scenes. My clients tend to choose a word that is unlikely to come up in a sexual scenario, like ‘violin,’ ‘poddle,’ or ‘sidewalk.'”
Sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, M.A., sexpert for sexual wellness brand Lovers(opens in new tab), adds that safe words don’t even need to be words—especially if your kink of choice involves gagging or if you have difficulty verbalizing yourself during sex. She suggests, “You can do things like hold your hand out, a fist up, or even tapping out.”
Finally, be sure to communicate with your partner(s) after sex as well—particularly if you really liked or disliked something that they did. This both keeps you safe and guarantees satisfying, uninhibited play in the future.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
If you know that you’re interested in kink, it might be nerve-wracking to bring your desires up to a partner that you’ve heretofore had more traditional sexual encounters with. There are communicative, positive, and fun ways to talk about your fantasies, though—without making your partner feel attacked or defensive.
“It is most effective to share what you like and what you would like to explore, rather than pointing out aspects of the sexual relationship that you don’t like or are bored with,” says Dr. Richmond. The goal is to help your partner stay engaged rather than get defensive. Leading with curiosity and kindness almost always ensures this.”
For instance, she recommends opening the conversation by asking one’s partner if there is anything they would like to try. “By asking them what they are interested in exploring, you will also have a chance to share,” she explains. “For example, ‘I’ve been really enjoying when we’ve played with different toys, and was thinking I’d like to try _______. What do you think? What are you enjoying most about our sex life right now? Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try?'”
In the same vein, Stewart suggests bringing the subject up casually or teasingly, with phrases like, “I love how strong your hands are. I think they would be great giving me a spanking. Don’t you think?”
You can even explore the possibilities within kink together, by looking through kink activities or kinky porn online together. Javay Frye-Nekrasova points out that Lovehoney’s Instagram posts a number of kink ideas, and that “you can send them to your partner to start the conversation and gauge their interests all while showing them different toys and products you would be interested in using with them.” She also recommends taking a BDSM Test “to figure out what exactly you both are interested in and where you align or differ in terms of kinks.”
See the full list of product recommendations here.