relationships

How Do You Explore Kinks Safely?

We break down everything from what is a kink, where kinks come from and how to find out what works for you and your partner(s).
what is a kink

In 2021, “group sex” was the third most searched category on Pornhub (with Hentai coming in at number one). “Threesome” grew by 40 percent worldwide and “orgy” grew by more than 70 percent. There’s no denying it, the pandemic made us horny. People are craving novelty! And so enters the world of kinks. 

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But what is a kink? Does it only entail group sex? Is BDSM different? Are you weird for wanting to be tied up and spanked? No, yes, maybe. Just kidding. Kinks are common. But it is important to understand what you are signing up for. If you don’t do your research, you could end up doing something you’re not that comfortable with. 

Whatever the case, if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the world of kinks you’ve come to the right place. Speaking with experts in the field, we explore what a kink is, where kinks come from and how to find out what works for you. 

What is a kink?

There are a lot of different ways to define “kink.” Ranging from extraordinarily broad to super-specific

“Outside standard couple sex involving two monogamous partners is Kink and BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism),” psychologist and sex therapist Barbara Santini told VICE.

“The former is an umbrella term for any non-traditional type of sex that does not have to involve power exchange, while the latter is a non-traditional type of sex that involves more power exchange. This tells us that although kink and BDSM are used interchangeably, they are different.”

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Basically, “kink” means different things to different people based on cultural backgrounds. But in most contexts, the definition encompasses anything that falls outside of romantic, intercourse-based sex between two people. This can include a variety of things. Check out this kink list for some examples. 

What’s the difference between a Kink and a Fetish?

Fetish is a more narrow term that describes people with an erotic or intimate interest in specific non-genital body parts, fabrics, smells, costumes, and objects.

"A fetish is something that primarily defines and is inextricably linked to one's sexual behaviour," said Santini. 

Fetishes are often all-encompassing and the focal point of a person's erotic life. For example, a person with a foot fetish would not only get pleasure from touching or seeing feet during sex. They’d also get a kick out of interacting sexually with feet to the exclusion of other things. 

"They may not engage in any penetrative act at all but will still draw sexual gratification from the act [of interacting with feet]," said Santini.

Where do kinks come from?

OK, the answer to “what is a kink?” isn’t as straightforward. But we can summarise and say it's associated with non-traditional desires and fantasies. So, what about where kinks come from? Are kinks hereditary? Can you blame your childhood for your obsession with public sex

“There are two ways people gravitate toward kinks: either innate and realised as a child growing up, or as an interest picked up later in life,” Renee Mayne, the Principal (Madam) of The School Of Somatic Kink, told VICE.

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“Kinks and fetishes formed in early childhood years are, a lot of the time, completely non-sexual. For example, say a boy of two or three-years-old sits by his mother's feet as he plays with his toy. Over time, he associates women's shoes with those happy memories and develops a foot fetish.”

“Kinks can evolve from something we didn’t receive as a child, because often that is what we are craving the most. Say you’re craving attention, you might love getting spanked because that was the only time your parents gave you attention as a child.”

On the other hand, kinks developed later on in life can be birthed when our brains pair a non-sexual body part, object, or situation with a sexual context. 

“For instance, if you always masturbate on a blue couch, seeing blue coaches can make you feel aroused,” adds Santini.

Why explore kinks? 

Psychological researcher Samuel Hughes determined five stages of kink identity development: early encounter, exploration of self, evaluation, finding others and exploration of others. On a global scale, Hughes suggests that studying the identity development of kinks can help us to better understand resilience. 

“Identity development is critically important for sexual minority mental health. Failure to overcome stigma, and especially internalising that stigma, can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidality,” said Hughes. 

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It’s an idea that Renee Mayne echoes.

“Everyone has a kink profile, and although a lot of people reject that fact, it’s human nature. It’s embedded in our human psyche,” said Mayne. 

“By identifying the kinks inside the body we are able to unlock information blocks. We can identify suppressed desires and help them evolve. Exploring kinks can help people meet themselves, get emotional relief and empowerment, and feel like they’re taking control back into their lives.”

List of kinks

The list of kinks out there for you to explore is never-ending. But to get you started here is a basic A-Z list of kinks and fetishes. If your kink isn’t on there, don’t stress. Just because it’s not a common kink, doesn’t mean there’s not someone out there keen to try it.

How do my partner(s) and I get kinky? 

Research shows that openly communicating your kinks to your partner can do wonders for your relationship AND your personal health. So, the first step to asking your partner if they are down for kinky sexy is communication. Clearly outline your desires and ask them about what kinks they are interested in. Remember, consent is sexy. And it’s not written in stone. You or your partner can change your mind at any time about what you are comfortable with and what’s not OK. 

“Check in with each other, and make sure that the other person is comfortable before you start playing. Get comfortable speaking clearly, honestly and openly about what you desire, how you feel and your boundaries,” suggested Mayne. 

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OK, you’ve told your partner that you want to spit in their mouth, cover each other in food or try out some weird and wonderful BDSM toys. What’s the next step? 

Research. 

The internet is a bottomless pit of resources for any kink questions you might have. Some good places to start are taking the BDSM Test, the Erotic Blueprint and the Love Languages Quiz.

But if you want something a little more personal, don’t be afraid to reach out to kink communities and professionals in the field. There are numerous courses and workshops you can do to work out your kink profile and find what works for you and your partner(s)

How do I learn about my own kink(s)?

Having a kink checklist is a good starting point for evaluating your own sexuality and a springboard for conversations with someone you are intimate with.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to try, start setting goals for yourself. This will make you start to think about what it is YOU like and want. Once this is clearly outlined,  you can start working towards achieving it,” said Mayne.

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“There’s always different events and different things happening in the kink community that you can go to and explore.” 

Does kink always have to involve sex?

“You can be kinky during foreplay, kinky over the phone, use kink language or create a kink scenario,” said Mayne. “You don’t have to touch to get kinky. You don’t even have to orgasm! Have fun with it and just explore what flavours are available to us.”

Things to keep in mind when exploring kinks.

Above all, communication and trust are the most important things when it comes to kink sex. If you are not completely unashamed and honest with your partner(s) there is a lot of room for things to go wrong. It goes without saying, all parties must always consent

“To begin your kink journey safely, it’s important you first empower yourself. Educate yourself as to who you are, what you want and what things you might want to explore,” said Mayne.

“If you take the trust, non-judgement, pure love and openness felt during kinky sex into every area of your life all your relationships change. It can be a thing of beauty and thought that will have a ripple effect throughout generations to come.”

Now that you know the answer to the question, what is a kink? You’re set to start identifying your own kinky desires. Be it getting tied up or joining a sex club, the possibilities are endless.

For more advice on safely identifying your desires reach out to a kink-friendly educator, therapist or sexuality professional.