Role-playing. Spanking. Foot worship. Some (or all) of these may not be your cup of tea, but according to a 2018 survey of over two thousand American adults, 40 percent of your fellow Americans identify as kinky, and 1 in 4 say they have a specific fetish. Kinks are more common than you probably thought!
Some people are very embarrassed about their kinks, while others will discuss them openly. Attitudes vary from person to person and between social groups, ranging from thoroughly disgusted to very affirming. It is my position that as long as it’s done safely and with informed consent, kink can be a great way to explore your sexuality.
However, one thing that is rarely discussed is the origin of a person’s kinks and fetishes. There are many social, psychological, and environmental factors that contribute to whether and how an individual is kinky. After all, even if you have had a particular kink for as long as you remember, you probably weren’t kinky the day you were pushed into this world.
Max, age 32, believes his kink partially developed due to the sexually repressive attitudes that he grew up around. As a result, he feels he diverted his sexual energy into his kink, due to the “Catholic guilt” he felt about the desire for sexual intercourse. Today, he feels much less guilt about sex, but still enjoys his kink.
Don’t be misled into believing everyone’s kinks come from negative feelings, though. Some folks discover a sexual kink or fetish simply by exposure, sometimes at a very young age in a nonsexual context. For example, one day as a child, a now-25-year-old kinkster who identifies themself as TheJollySwitch was watching Scooby-Doo. They saw a scene where a bad guy was tying up Daphne, and thought, “why is she struggling?? I want to be her!” It wasn’t until they were 16 that they put it together and realized they had a rope fetish.
Social norms like patriarchy and ideas of “deviant” sexuality may play into your kinks, and while that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in your favorite kinky play, you should still examine what is behind them. Thinking critically about your kinks can help you learn about yourself and engage in kink constructively and consensually, a very important aspect of this kind of play. Many kink practitioners find their sexual play psychologically positive and even healing, and this comes from looking below the surface and figuring out why exactly their kink or fetish makes them tick.
I’d like to take a moment to touch on consent. Consent can be a little more complicated when it comes to kink, but it is imperative that all participants fully agree to what will happen. Before engaging in any kink activities (or really, sexual activity of any kind), we need to communicate and negotiate our boundaries. First, we should cover the safety stuff, including but not limited to: STI status and prevention, pregnancy prevention (if applicable), and a safe word. A safe word is a word or phrase that, when uttered, stops all sexual and kink activity. Then, we get to the good stuff: deciding what activities are mutually agreeable! This doesn’t have to be a weird, formal, stiff conversation. Questions like “how do you want to be touched?” and “tell me about your fantasies!” are great ways to keep consent talk fun and sexy. Once you begin, keep the conversation going! Ongoing communication keeps all involved safe, comfortable, and satisfied.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having kinky interests, and it can be super fun and fulfilling when it’s done safely and consensually! If you are a person who is just discovering their kinks, it’s a good idea to explore where they came from, and how you can healthily incorporate them into your sexual life. Experimentation with an open and communicative partner is great, but it’s also okay if some of your kink remains in your fantasy life only. For kinks with the potential for injury—for example, being gagged or tied up—research safety carefully, and always err on the side of caution. And don’t forget to have fun!
We are all on a lifelong journey to learn about ourselves. Sexuality is an often overlooked but very important part of each of our identities. Just like any other aspect of our lives, self-examination can help improve our sex lives, which in turn helps us grow and heal.