The Kinky Sex "Trend" That You're Probably Already Doing

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
A new sex "trend," the art of "zen spanking," is currently circulating the internet, and it's being billed as the latest kink you have to try. The catch? If you enjoy even light spanking or are at all into BDSM, zen spanking isn't new. In fact, you're likely already doing it.

"It doesn't seem any different from regular spanking, except that there is an explicit focus on connection, which is a big part of BDSM anyway," says Michael Aaron, PhD, a kink-friendly NYC-based therapist and author of Modern Sexuality: The Truth about Sex and Relationships.

So-called "zen" spanking is spanking with intent, and it focuses on that connection Dr. Aaron mentions, the one between the dominant partner giving the spanks and the submissive one receiving them. The person seemingly behind this practice is Jesse Thomas-Hall, an Inner Alchemy instructor and facilitator who hosted a session called "The Art of Zen Spanking" at the Taste of Love Festival, Australia's biggest Tantra festival, in January. When describing the practice in an interview with Echo Net Daily last month, Thomas-Hall said: "Zen spanking is in the niche that I refer to as conscious kink."’

Here's the thing, though: Most practitioners of kink or BDSM — or even just people who engage in consensual sex with light spanking — already do so conscientiously. Of course, this is unfortunately not true for everyone who spanks/is spanked, but anyone who follows basic BDSM guidelines (or who only partakes in consensual sexual activities) cares about connecting with their partner and engaging in the appropriate communication before, during, and after a sexy flogging session. "Zen" spanking, then, is really just a rebranding of something many people out there are already doing — or, at the very least, should be doing — so the distinction seems unnecessary.

But hey, if this new name gets people excited about consensual, mindful spanking, then that's awesome — but just know that BDSM practices (like spanking and other forms of impact play) all involve being mindful, seeking enthusiastic verbal consent, and knowing your partner's boundaries. So you can't just decide to spank your partner without connecting with them first, and claim that you were engaging in "regular" spanking versus "zen" spanking.

'Zen' spanking, then, is really just a rebranding of something many people out there are already doing — or, at the very least, should be doing — so the distinction seems unnecessary.

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That's the part where this whole "zen" spanking trend gets tricky: While discussing spanking from a tantric perspective and focusing on connection beyond personal arousal, as Thomas-Hall is doing, can be positive, it's important that people don't think that there's another, non-mindful way to go about sex and the kinky practices that can go with it.

After all, Christian Grey aside, BDSM practitioners understand that it's about a power exchange, not someone holding power over another person. Meaning: The person who wants to be spanked gives their partner the power to spank them after consenting and discussing boundaries (how hard to hit and where).

"BDSM is a consensual agreement between parties to engage in an exchange of power," says Denise Renye, PsyD, holistic psychologist and coach. "The mutual agreement to hold space in roles makes it an exchange, rather than an exploitation or manipulation."

As for non-self-proclaimed kinksters who enjoy spanking? If you sometimes bend over and let your partner spank you (or vice versa), not because it's hot, but because you care about one another and understand that it turns you on, then you're already part of this hot new spanking "trend."

But here's a refresher on how to make sure all of the spanking you're partaking in is mindful and consensual, and allows you to connect with your partner: First off, communication is key. Discuss the submissive's pain threshold (how hard or soft they want to be spanked) before you start, and continue to check in during the act. Choose a safe word (have fun with this!), and remember that the submissive one (the person getting spanked) is in control. The dominant partner must adhere to their guidelines, and if the safe word is uttered, they must immediately stop. (If spanking turns you on, but you're not sure how to even bring it up to your partner, here's a handy guide on how to disclose a kink. We promise it's not as scary as you might think.)

As for where to spank, stick with areas deemed safe for impact play, like the butt or upper thighs, since they have plenty of fat and muscles, and aren't as easily injured. It's incredibly important that you avoid hitting the head, neck, tailbone, spine, hips, and kidneys, as injuries to those areas can be serious.

After the spanking session is over, practice "aftercare," a BDSM term that simply means tending to one another's needs after you're finished playing. That could mean talking about what you liked and didn't like, grabbing some ice should the sub's butt be a little sore, or simply snuggling to feel safe, intimate, and protected. (Though, again, we'd venture to say that plenty of non-BDSM couples already do this.)

So the next time you hear about a steamy new sex trend, don't let it intimidate you or make you feel like you're too vanilla to try it yourself. If it intrigues you, take a second to think about how "new" it actually is — chances are, it's something you're familiar with. Or, even better, it might already be part of your sex life.

While we're arguably more in control of and confident about our sexuality than ever, there's still so much we don't know about female arousal. So this month, we're exploring everything you want and need to know about how women get turned on now. Check out more here.
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