5 Common Kinks–& What To Know Before You Try

I never thought of myself as kinky. It’s a confusing term — where, exactly, is the line drawn? What makes you "kinky" rather than just "open" or "adventurous"? On TV, the “kink” we see is often stylized dominatrixes being played for laughs — that, or Justin Timberlake telling us he's our slave (because see these shackles, baby?).

Kink can mean a lot of things, which change based on whom you're talking to. Generally, though, it can include: BDSM (spanking, domination, being tied up); threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes; watching other people have sex; finding casual or anonymous partners on Craigslist; and much, much more. It can include being dressed up like a pony and going to dressage camp with a bunch of your leather-clad pals, or wearing a tasteful collar with a bell on it. For some people, it might involve extreme experimentation, such as breath control (including erotic asphyxiation or choking) or fantasy roleplay. Kinksters vary widely in gender and sexual orientation. Some people take on kink as an identity, the same way someone might identify as gay, but others don't. Like many things in life and sex, kink is a spectrum.

People don't talk a ton about their kinky sides. In some cases, this may be because we're afraid of being laughed at or rejected because of our fantasies. Or, maybe we haven't learned to value our full range of sexual expression. Other times, we're scared of being physically hurt when experimenting with our desires. We might feel guilty for having "abnormal" sexual feelings that we're convinced other people don't have (even though Kinsey found out in the 1950s that there's a lot more kink happening than we hear about). Or, maybe we're feminists who secretly want to be tied up and made to suck off a stranger. The bottom line: We have complicated feelings about kink.

With kink, there is no normal, but there are some more common acts. Ahead, some different kinks along with things to remember if you decide to try them. If you do something and discover it's not for you, no big deal. But, if you find yourself wanting to learn more, give yourself the chance to explore.
1 of 5
Photographed By Lauren Perlstein; Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
A previous partner of mine said, "Three is a threesome, four is a good time, and five or more is an orgy" — take that as you will. Multiple-partner sex can involve a wide range of experiences, from partner swapping to full-on group sex with everybody touching everybody else. Threesomes are a good way to ease into this kind of experience because there are only a limited number of arms and legs to deal with, and you can go slow and test your boundaries before you throw yourself into the middle of a pile of naked people.

It's not a surprise that some of the most popular search terms on porn websites involve multiple partners — having more people and bodies to play with all at once can be really fun. Women often hear a lot of slut-shaming messages about wanting to have sex with more than one person, so admitting that this idea titillates you is sometimes daunting. That's okay; experiment and enjoy. One woman I know even hosted a private, celebratory gang bang for her last birthday.

There are often private, small-group "play" parties that allow you to ease into group sex. A quick online search will tell you if anything like that exists where you live. The most common complaint by couples looking for a third (or more) is figuring out where to find partners, so you might have some problems “breaking the ice" at first. Don't discount online dating sites, local meet-ups for kinky folks, or even Craigslist — be sure to take all necessary precautions, of course. Speaking of precautions, it's best to use barrier methods in all multiple partner situations.
Advertisement
2 of 5
Photographed By Lauren Perlstein; Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
Two sides of the same coin, exhibitionism and voyeurism are related to the idea of public sex. Exhibitionists like to be watched; voyeurs like to do the watching. I have a friend whose most arousing fantasy is to be on a stage in a room full of people, being led to perform various sexual acts by a circus ringmaster she never gets to see.

We have these images of exhibitionists and voyeurs as grungy, back-alley guys in raincoats, ready to flash you their junk or peep through your window. But, in reality, the porn industry wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar business if people didn't like watching other people have sex. Some evolutionary biologists say there are even genetic reasons that our bodies get aroused from watching or being watched: A woman's sexual noises and actions are linked to fertility, leading nearby potential partners to desire copulation in hopes of producing offspring.

Since exhibitionism and voyeurism rely on a public/audience component, it is absolutely essential to have audience consent. This could be at a sex party, with willing friends, or just with your partner. You could ask the "audience" to watch you masturbate, dance, strip, or any number of things (or you could ask to watch them). Set ground rules (such as "no touching"), even if just for fun. With all the personal devices that have cameras these days, you might enjoy videotaping yourself performing (with or without your partner) and watching it later. Never videotape someone else without their consent or allow yourself to be taped if you're not comfortable with it. As with all kinks, it is best to engage only with partners that you know and trust.
3 of 5
Photographed By Lauren Perlstein; Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
Getting tied up can be part of other kinks (getting tied up and then slapped in the face, for example) or it can be its own thing, including elaborate Japanese-style rope patterns (Shibari) or suspension (hanging from something). Being tied up is fun for a lot of reasons: It allows you to give up control, which can be great for Type As; it can be part of a fantasy scene; and it can leave pretty marks on your skin. Bondage can be light (silk scarves) or heavy (involving special equipment, multiple ropes or tie-down points, and complicated positions). Sometimes, all you need are a few industrial zip ties and you're ready to rumble. Being tied up can be exciting and naughty, or it can be sensual and romantic, and the experience can change with each scenario.

If you’re going with heavy bondage, it's best to only let experienced partners tie you up in difficult positions — suspensions and long bondage can actually cause nerve damage if done incorrectly. I lost feeling in one of my fingers for a few days after a knot was placed wrong in an elaborate, long-lasting bondage session. It's also important to have a pair of surgical bandage cutters or an extra set of handcuff keys in an easy-to-reach place. I have a very experienced friend who got pretty far into a bondage playtime when his partner wanted to stop, and he couldn't find his handcuff key; he had to fumble for the emergency extra while acting like nothing was wrong, so as not to make his tied-up partner panic.

I like rough sex. I like having my hair pulled, being smacked in the face, and counting the fingerprint bruises that appear on my thighs the next day. This kind of kink can be related to a "master/servant" or other role-play scenario; being the naughty housemaid who gets a spanking for not doing her job can be pretty fun. It can also be part of a bondage scene (where you're tied up and treated roughly), or just a sort of animalistic stand-alone. My favorite of the latter category is when there's no "pretend" involved; you're just pummeling and scratching the crap out of each other while you bang.

Some partners are really excited about this, and others aren't; if you want your partner to be rough with you, you might have to discuss it in-depth at first to see how far you're both willing to go. Rough sex can involve spanking, slapping (the face or body), choking, biting, fingernail scratching, and probably some other things I haven't even thought of. I've definitely heard from partners who are uncomfortable "hitting a woman" and don't understand how rough sex can be enjoyable. My answer to that is that safe, consensual sex is the hottest kind of sex — and being willing to explore new boundaries with someone is very arousing.

It's a good idea to have a "safe word" if you're new to this kind of exploration; this is a word or signal that indicates "time to stop right now" to your partner. It's very important to have your partner stop if something is too physically or emotionally painful. Pro tip: Bruises darken in hot water, so if you have an important meeting the next morning, try to hold off on a shower if you have any visible marks. If you really enjoy this sort of thing and do it a lot, you may have to tell your doctor you've taken up rugby to avoid having your partner arrested for assault. That said, if you ever do feel assaulted, it is important to recognize and confront those feelings; this could mean talking it over with your partner, or, depending on the situation, seeking counseling or legal recourse.
4 of 5
Photographed By Lauren Perlstein; Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
This is a kink we see commonly portrayed in media and fashion: She’s the “bad girl” wearing black corsets and spike heels and holding a whip, or the runway model wearing latex dresses and riding crops. For women who actually enjoy dominating their partners, as opposed to (or as well as) just dressing like it, this can be a rich, exciting world to play with. Ordering someone around can be amusing (if you make them do ridiculous things for your enjoyment), sexy (if you make them "perform" for you), or practical (if you make them clean your bathroom).

The high of being totally in control can fill you with endorphins the same way running a marathon can; one friend of mine finds herself almost dizzy after she "tops" somebody. It can also be very focusing and allow you to get "in the zone" for your sexual experience in a way that other sex might not — you really have to concentrate and be aware of your partner in order to avoid hurting or endangering him or her. This can have an almost meditative outcome.

Remember, NEVER hit or dominate a partner when you're angry with them. If you find yourself actually getting angry and striking someone to physically hurt them, the scene has gone too far and needs to stop — or maybe shouldn't have started in the first place. It can feel very intimidating and confusing the first few times you try it. You may find yourself asking “what do I do?” or “where do I start?" That's okay. There are a lot of books about this for beginners that you can check out. You can try to enact your favorite pirate-rescue fantasy, or ask your partner what his or her fantasy is. You also don't have to come up with something new and amazing every time you take on this role — feel free to revisit old favorites. After all, people do things over and over because they work.
5 of 5
Photographed By Lauren Perlstein; Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
I have a friend who gave her lover blanket permission to rape her; she doesn't know when, where, or if it will happen, but she unilaterally consented to having him "force" a sexual experience on her. This is very extreme, but rape fantasies are very, very common. A rape fantasy is NOT the same as being raped for real, since consensual non-consent involves a lot of communication, setting boundaries, and trust. Agreeing or encouraging someone to take away your sexual control can be a very exhilarating, liberating, and arousing experience for both parties involved. A lot of women find it opens whole new doors for intimacy with their partners, because you have to trust someone a lot to do this kind of sex play with them.

Of course, it’s imperative that you and your partner discuss your limits in detail beforehand. Are there some things that you absolutely won't do? Or, is your partner in complete control of the situation, and allowed to make you do things you're not usually interested in? For example, my friend didn't want her partner ejaculating on her face during regular sex, but gave him permission to do it during non-consent games. Boundaries and negotiations are essential.

Forced penetrative sex can be painful; if your partner has never engaged in this sort of play before and plans to insert things into your body, make sure he or she uses lube. If you really get off on the idea of a stranger "attacking" you, role-play with your partner — but don't bring an actual stranger into the mix. You can also mix consensual non-consent with other kinks: It goes well with rough sex, group sex, and bondage. As with all kinks, if you feel violated or assaulted for real, STOP IMMEDIATELY and talk about it. Also, be aware that your partner will likely have some emotional needs after conducting a scene like this, especially if it is new to him or her, so please care for each other. Consensual non-consent is not for everyday; it's a sometimes food.
Advertisement