Hey Man: How Do I Talk to My Partner About Having Kinky Sex?

Don't know how to discuss your fetish without getting embarrassed? Our men's advice columnist Rhys Thomas has the answer.

‘Hey Man’ is a personal advice column about guys, by guys. Need help? Email HeyMan@vice.com.

Hey man, I'm in a relationship and I'm happy, except, I think I have some kinks that I'm not getting a chance to explore. I don't want my partner to think I've been hiding part of my desires for the duration of our relationship – but I'd like to try new things in the bedroom. What's the best way to go about this? 

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Hey man, 

Doubts around sex, potential desires and whether the grass is greener on the kinkier side or not – it’s all super common. A study by OnePoll for Thistle and Spire revealed that “most people hide their kinks because they’re afraid their partner will leave”. While researching this, a sex diary was published in The Cut from a woman speculating whether her partner is hiding his kinks or not, which is further evidence for how frequently these situations arise.

It’s weird how something like figuring out the ins and outs of sex in a relationship should happen every time we get with someone, yet supposed taboos get in the way and leave us all shy and unable to explore the things we want, with the people we’re attracted to. 

That’s basically to say: Shyness around these issues happen all the time, so there’s no shame in feeling nervous or anxious about it at all. The good thing is, many people have been through these issues, and there’s pretty concrete ways to start changing the situation. What’s important is to start escaping the weird awkwardness around discussing sexual ideas and fantasies, and to allow honest conversation to happen. 

“People can be quite skittish when talking about kink, [so] you should have these conversations away from the bedroom – away from sex and nudity,” says Gigi Engle, an author and sex educator. Obviously, it's feels more pertinent to be discussing sex when having or looking to have sex as opposed to catching up on Countryfile, but shagging is an emotional moment. Killing the vibe by introducing a DMC (deep meaningful conversation) can sometimes leave the room feeling a little sour. 

So approach these conversations at a pretty neutral time, and make a point of bringing them up delicately. You want to give your partner a chance to consent to the conversation itself. Don’t just blurt out “so how about I dress up as a baby” while your partner is midway through a mouthful of  Häagen-Dazs. Consent is key in the bedroom, and when talking about it.  

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Engle offers a template: “Start with something like: ‘I have some interest in sexual things that we haven't really spoken about yet – are you open to having a conversation about it?’' Add that they’re welcome to tell you to stop the conversation at any time, and go from there. 

But before you get to the talking stage though, do some research. Watch some porn (ooo difficult research, poor you). Get specific on what it is you're thinking about. Is it bondage? Is it roleplay? What's the sexual dynamic? The more precise you can be the better. "Go for some high quality porn from places like [indie adult cinema] Pink Label TV, not just people punish-fucking women,” Engle says.

When you know what you like, "I suggest doing a 'yes no maybe' list – both yourself, and perhaps with a partner. It can give you a good jumping off point,” Engle says. Here’s one example. Similarly, this list of lists shows how you can use these to talk about sex, albeit without a focus on kink. Of course, you have to be honest while doing these lists, but having it on your phone in front of you might make the conversation feel less intense. Having the right terminology in front of you might allow you to get more depth and specificity into your discussion, too. 

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When it comes to “doing it”, remember that you can “explore things at different levels – you don't have to go straight into what your fantasies are,” says Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist. Starting at a halfway point lets you trial the new dynamic, and in some instances lets you make sure it’s physically and emotionally all safe and controlled. In other words, walk before you run. 

Of course, if you've been with someone since before coronavirus was a word anyone except science people knew, it can feel like you've been dishonest; that bringing this up is tantamount to admitting to having a secret life with a secret family and a secret dog, or whatever. But you owe them (and yourself) honesty. And frankly, telling them at any time should be something they appreciate. Better late than never, right? 

Often though, we tend to repress these feelings until a relationship withers into nothingness. And then we may – or may not – be ready to open up about it the next time we’re with someone, or the time after. Which, given you’re in a happy relationship otherwise, is a pretty sad scene to let occur, don’t you think? 

Barnaby, 42, might never have explored his kinks – which he describes as “Christian Grey but more” – had his partner not grabbed his hand and put it around her throat. “A few days later I decided to ask her about it. Why she did it, if she enjoyed it. It was early into our relationship and I figure I’m best off having an open book and getting it out of the way.” 

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Before that relationship, Barnaby had the same kinks but just hadn’t explored them. “Previously, it was difficult to even internally vocalise what I wanted. I couldn’t find the words for it, or the right way to approach it, but our sex was a little stagnant. It was all just a one-way track to imploding.”

Robert, 25, also held back in previous relationships. When he was with his ex, “I thought about the fact that she could kink shame me to her friends and others if the relationship went south”, he says, discussing how he is into the idea of being dominated. After the breakup, he came out as bi and is now in a relationship where he can be more open about his kinks. 

“I think my orientation is coincidental, but what’s significant is I actually decided to explore the things I want, and felt comfortable enough to mention it to my new partner,” he explains. “He and I speak about sex openly and frequently. In my straight relationships, or past relationships, that never really happened.”  

The common theme with Barnaby and Robert is they’ve both left relationships where their kinks were repressed, and have since found happier ones where their sex lives are comparatively thriving. But you’ve said you’re in a happy relationship outside of these kink explorations, so why not just see how a conversation your current partner goes? 

If it emerges that you want different things, you can assess how important that kink is to you. If you decide it’s actually very important and your relationship isn’t exactly happy without it, then perhaps think about next steps. While you haven’t done anything bad, you are being dishonest to yourself if you’re living a chunk of the relationship feeling like you’re compromising on your needs. The frustration of this can easily build up and make you feel angry or moody, which isn’t fair on either of you. (And if they do make you feel ashamed or embarrassed of your kinks, then they perhaps need to be with someone more vanilla anyway.)

If you can live without it save the odd cheeky porn watch, then great – but it sounds like it’s on your mind enough to warrant asking. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? You might even find you want the same things, and it’d be a real shame to miss the boat on exploring your specific kinks with the person you already know you like, wouldn’t it? Give it a think, man. Before you know it, you might be in pegging city, a BDSM dungeon, or whatever your preferred destination.

Tagged:

Dating, Fetish, kink, relationships, Hey Man

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