Having “vanilla” sex, or sex some might consider more conventional, can be hot, sexy, and fun. There’s nothing boring about it if that’s what makes you feel good and kink isn’t your thing. But if you’re interested in adding some sprinkles to your ice cream without venturing too far from what feels comfortable, there are so many things to try. Before knowing which direction and how far to push your sexual boundaries, it’s important to consider your baseline definition of “vanilla.”
“I think it's important to acknowledge that vanilla and kink are very subjective, right?” Ashera DeRosa, LMFT tells O.school. “We don't live in a monolithic culture where one half is normal, and everyone else is kinky. Because for one person, doggy style is going to be kinky. And another person is going to be like: ‘Bondage. Oh, my god. That's so yesterday.’”
By this standard, even if you’ve always identified as vanilla, you can experiment without delving into the realm of fetish. There are plenty of ways to be adventurous, without pushing your comfort zone. Here are just a few ideas to add heat to your sex life, from lighting a few candles to incorporating light bondage. Take the ideas that sound interesting and leave the rest if they’re too spicy.
1. Do research together
Just talking about new fantasies and doing some preliminary research into them can be a new, sexy adventure. DeRosa suggests starting with Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. According to her, the book provides the foremost look into intimacy and how to achieve it without harming any comfort zones. “Another good place to start might just be a sex shop. Discuss it with your partner(s) beforehand, and establish that it’s a healthy space. “Just go and look, pointing out what might be fun to you, what makes you curious, or what looks like it’ll be a ‘no.’ Start generating ideas, and go from there.”
2. Set the scene
According to DeRosa, spicing up your sexual tastes can be as easy as creating some intentionality in the bedroom. Feeling like your love life has become mechanical isn’t exactly a recipe for making fantasies come true. Even if you’re not into whips and chains, DeRosa explains, investing in some satin sheets can go a long way towards more tantalizing sex.
“You might come up with a soundtrack that gets you into that hot, explorative headspace,” she tells O.school. “Or, light some candles. Those things don’t sound boring. To me, they just sound like a couple looking to create a different experience.”
3. Give your partner (or ask for) a massage.
Massages can boost mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing, but did you know that exchanging erotic massages with your partner can boost trust and increase intimacy? On top of that, it’s an easy way to add a layer of intrigue to your relationship. Try incorporating massage oils of different body-safe temperatures and experiment with what sensations turn your partner on.
4. Try some sensory play.
Speaking of the senses, get venturesome in the bedroom by turning the sensory play up a notch. “Get into that grey area between kinky and vanilla with a blindfold, and explore touch a little bit,” DeRosa recommends. “You might keep things really, really slow — really experimenting with the touch and saying, ‘Okay let's just see what feels good.’ Avoid any ‘means to an end, we're having intercourse now, let's get to orgasm’ mindset. Simply playing with that anticipation space is really hot for a lot of people.” Don’t be afraid to use your teeth, tongue, or fingernails along your partner’s erogenous zones to further awaken the senses.
5. Talk dirty.
If you’re harboring a longtime fantasy but feel that actually acting it out would be too kinky for you, you can find other ways to incorporate it in your sex life. Experimenting might provide the perfect time to share those desires with a partner in the form of dirty talk. You can use dirty talk through sexting or phone sex to build anticipation for an upcoming hookup, or you might try it while having sex with a partner. You might even surprise yourself by talking graphically about how you’d like to touch and be touched, increasing the comfort level for your next exploit.
6. Watch porn together.
Watching porn with a partner can be a hot way to explore some of those kinkier fantasies in tandem. If you’re interested in pushing the boundaries by trying a certain sex act, watching it technicolor may start a conversation about whether it would turn both parties on to emulate it.
“If you both enjoy the voyeurism of watching porn, if it sparks ideas, and if you’re body confident enough to avoid drawing comparisons, then this can be very sexy. Sharing a porn with your partner can also be a great way to say, ‘I find this hot. Do you?’ ” says DeRosa. “But, make sure both parties know there’s no directive. You don’t want your partner to think you’re sending an implicit message that watching a sex act means they have to perform it.”
7. Experiment with masturbation.
Masturbating is an amazing form of self-love and expression that we tend to perform alone, but masturbating in front of your partner can be a very sexy way of heating things up. While the viewer will love the private show, the performer gets the opportunity to demonstrate how they like to be pleasured. This can be a learning experience for anyone, plus, letting go in front of a partner can create a sexy and empowering environment for further experimenting.
8. Break out the whipped cream (or your treat of choice).
If you’re not quite ready to invest in toys from the closest sex shop, look no further than your fridge. Trying foodplay can be an exciting way to add something new to your sex life, with minimal effort. Rely on your senses when it comes to selecting a menu; consider smell, taste, textures, and how they might play into your evening’s activities. Chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and strawberries are popular choices.
9. Take it outside.
You have to jump right into semi-public sex to have an experience outside the bedroom. You can create the same enticing experience just by laying down a blanket or tent in your backyard. Outdoor sex can make both parties freer, more willing to abandon the insecurities and conventions that can make an under-the-covers romp feel boring.
10. Test out a new position (or two).
Missionary is just as hot as any other position, but if you feel you’re stuck in a routine of only trying one position, adjusting to new sex positions might seem daunting. But, getting creative can go a long way to make sex feel more zesty. If you’re accustomed to laying down when things get hot and heavy, try a standing sex position to simulate getting it on in public. If you’re curious about control or power play in the bedroom, try a position that puts you on top.
11. Venture into toys.
There are plenty of simple add-ons you can purchase and explore. “There are lots of different things you can buy that don’t go into the same power exchange that’s typified by kink,” says DeRosa. Think: a simple vibrator, or even lingerie. You can even buy online if you’d prefer anonymity.
The bottom line
Branching out from a more “vanilla” lifestyle doesn’t have to be scary. Start simple, by doing your research, picking up a toy that excites you, or starting a conversation with your partner(s) about what it would look like to try something new. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with identifying as vanilla. The label is subjective, and means something different to everyone according to preference. While some people might see the tips above as well within the realm of comfort, others might find them totally kinky. Wherever you are in exploring your sexual boundaries is perfectly okay.