Let’s Get Kinky!

A primer on all things kink.

After a long hiatus from my monthly Live Chats, I hopped back on last night to talk about all things kink.

Missed it? No worries. I’ve got the replay for you right here:

Watch the video or read on below!

One of the inspirations for this chat was actually a group discussion within the Sexology Institute’s certification course. Director Melissa Jones requested that I lead an educational workshop on Kink, Fetish, and BDSM with sex coaching students.

Now, that course has been reworked for anyone looking to “kink outside the box” this fall. Pumpkin isn’t the only spice around here; come check out the course!

Register Now

It was really interesting getting so many unique individuals’ inputs on common topics in the kink community. Some of the insights from my last live chat were so surprising and helpful, and I wanted to share those perspectives with my readers.

Here are some key takeaways on kink:

1. Kink is Consensual and Unconventional

A simple definition of kink when it comes to human sexuality is that it includes “consensual and unconventional sexual practices.”

Any sexual practices which are not consensual are assault, of course. Kink does not include non-consensual acts of any kind.

Once we’ve got that covered, kink is also anything considered unconventional. This leaves a LOT of room for interpretation.

When you consider the fact that conventional sex, at least in the U.S., is:

  1. penis in vagina
  2. mostly missionary position
  3. between two people
  4. usually in the context of a relationship
  5. often with the goal of pregnancy

…there’s countless other ways to have sex! In fact, there are infinitely more kinky ways to have sex than conventional sex.

Odds are, you’ve engaged in some kind of sexual activity outside of the context listed above. (Masturbation, anyone? Or oral sex?) While some acts are more acceptable, or conventional, than others, it’s really worth thinking about how much we limit our sexual expression when we shy away from kink as a whole.

2. Kink Comes in Many Forms

Photo by RODNAE Productions

One reason why people avert their eyes from kink is they associate it with especially ‘deviant’ activities or objects.

The word ‘kink’ often conjures up images of floggers and paddles, restraints and harnesses, clamps and puppy play.

These objects and activities certainly fall under the kink umbrella, and there’s nothing wrong with them when used by consenting parties. However, they’re far from the only ways people get kinky.

People may engage in:

  • Fetishism. Not to be confused with kink itself, having a fetish is one type of kink. A fetish is when someone gets sexually aroused by a typically non-sexual object or body part. This could look like getting aroused by lace gloves or a partner’s feet, for example. As long as fetishes don’t cause the fetishist or others distress, there’s nothing wrong with having them. The American Psychiatric Association tells us so.
  • Role play. If you’ve ever pretended to be someone you’re not as part of sexual play, or invented an imaginary scenario to act out—that’s kinky! This could be as subtle as meeting your partner for happy hour and pretending you’ve never met before going home together, to as elaborate as buying costumes. (Maid or plumber fantasies, anyone?)
  • Voyeurism and exhibitionism. Again, consent is key here. Voyeurism is arousal from watching others undress or have sex. Exhibitionism is arousal from being watched. Not to be confused with peeping Toms or flashers (illegal, unethical acts), these kinks can be navigated with consenting folks through kink networks or especially at sex parties.
  • Group sex. Speaking of sex parties, group sex certainly falls outside the realm of conventional. Involving more than two people in your sexual play means you’ll also likely engage in some acts that aren’t just penis-in-vagina, while also navigating group dynamics and meeting the needs of multiple people. You can learn more about group sex in my post, Ethical Nonmonogamy 101.
  • BDSM. And, finally, there’s BDSM. Shortened from BD-DS-SM, the letters stand for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism. While BDSM is kinky, it certainly is far from the only form of kink out there. This is where restraints, consensual ‘punishments’, dom/mes, subs, and pain play make their home. BDSM is best explored from a place of trust and with the use of safewords. I highly recommend checking out Loving BDSM for more information.

These are just some of the most popular forms of kink. Remember: anything that is unconventional is kinky! Using sex toys, edging, blindfolds—all forms of kink.

3. Kink is Common

Photo by Mark Angelo Sampan

A 2021 study found that:

  • 27% of Americans have a secret sex act in mind they want to try, but haven’t asked about yet
  • 36% say they have a specific kink or fetish
  • 49% are open to using sex toys or have used one
  • 40% claim to be kinky
  • 76% say they’re down to try new sex acts

The top sex acts respondents wanted to try? Rough sex, role play, anal sex, dominance and submission, and using sex toys.

How’s that for ‘unconventional’?

4. Kink Isn’t Just About Sex

You may have found yourself thinking, “I could see how some of these things might be sexy, but not all of them.”

That’s totally fine! In fact, many people who engage in kink don’t necessarily do it for sexual reasons.

Confused? Yeah, I was too the first time I heard it. But the more closely I looked at kink, the more I began to understand.

Much like the way people who like to eat painfully spicy food aren’t exactly doing it for the taste, there’s a lot to be said for the endorphin rush that comes from doing something that feels, well, extreme. It doesn’t have to be sexual.

This is the point where some people ask whether people who engage in kink are simply doing so to work through psychological trauma of some kind.

While some people certainly do this (and there’s no reason why anyone should judge them for that), research suggests that people who engage in kink are no more ‘troubled’ than their more vanilla counterparts.

In fact, a 2022 study found that BDSM practitioners had more favorable psychological characteristics compared with a control group of non-practitioners. The BDSM group was:

  • less neurotic
  • more extraverted
  • more open to new experiences
  • more conscientious
  • less rejection sensitive

They also had higher subjective well-being. Ultimately, the study determined that BDSM should be considered “recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes.”

Kink as Recreational Leisure

Photo by Leonie Fahjen

So that’s it: engaging in kink is the same as going for a bike ride, or joining the community soccer team.

Just kidding! Kink is also one of many ways to explore yourself and your partners’ boundaries, engage with one another in new ways, and well…play. But in a sexy way.

Interested in adding something new and kinky in your own sex life? Check out my classes or schedule a private session to get the ball rolling. Or attend the latest Let’s Get Kinky live class on Zoom:

Register Now

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Published by Shannon Burton

Sex educator and writer by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house to enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

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