What Is BDSM And Kink?

What is kink? What is BDSM? How do I know if kinky play is for me? Read on to explore bondage, spanking, role play, and more.

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The Quickie
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You may have seen the terms “kink” and “BDSM” online, on TV, or even on Tinder. What do they mean, and how do you know if you want to explore them? Here’s what you need to know before deciding if kink and BDSM are right for you.

What Is Kink?

“Kink” is a broad term for sex that’s not thought of as “traditional.” The most common definition considers kink to be anything outside of intercourse-based sex between two monogamous partners, particularly when it includes non-traditional desires and fantasies.

What Is BDSM?

BDSM is any consensual sexual activity involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (hence the source of the letters B, D, S, and M). BDSM practice typically involves a power dynamic between partners, where it is understood that one will have more power during sex than the other. Healthy BDSM requires that all partners have consented to the roles they will play and understand the amount of power each will have.

What’s The Difference Between Kink And BDSM?

Kink and BDSM are often grouped together as non-traditional types of sexual activity, and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. The primary difference is BDSM involves a power exchange or differential between sexual partners, while kink describes a broader category of sex that can, but doesn’t have to, involve power dynamics. (You could even say BDSM is a type of kink.)

What Do The Different Letters Of BDSM Mean?

Bondage and discipline refer to restraining and punishing another person through mechanisms including, but not limited to, handcuffs or rope-tying, whipping, spanking, or otherwise physically controlling and impacting a partner.

BDSM is any consensual sexual activity involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.

Dominance and submission refers to the roles partners take on during this type of sex, and the power each role has in the sexual relationship.

Sadism refers to the enjoyment of watching someone else experience pain while masochism describes pleasure at feeling your own pain.

What Are Some Other Types Of Kink And BDSM?

The list of categories within kink is near-infinite—after all, kink invites you to get creative!—but these are a few of the most common types.

  • Impact play: Involves using something, like your hands or an instrument, to strike another person during sex.
  • Group sex: Involves having sex with multiple people at once, sometimes with various power dynamics a la BDSM.  
  • Role-playing: Involves having sex where partners are pretending to be other people or non-human creatures, such as a predator and its prey, an animal and its owner, or people of radically different ages, such as an adult and a baby.
  • Sensation play: Involves sex where one person is either intentionally deprived of certain senses or has their sensations heightened. Examples of sensation play include using a blindfold to deprive a person of sight during sex, or incorporating ice or heat to induce temperature-based bodily sensations.
  • Voyeurism: Involves sex where one or more partners are aroused by the act of watching others naked or having sex.
  • Exhibitionism: Involves sex where one or more partners are aroused by the act of being watched while naked or having sex.

Sex toys and other equipment are a part of any types of BDSM and kink. If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the water there are a range of kinky toys for beginners to try out.

How Does Consent Relate To BDSM And Kink?

Healthy kink and BDSM depend completely on getting consent and establishing boundaries in advance. BDSM can be tricky to navigate because for some people, saying “no,” getting hurt, and even being abused are part of what gets them off.

BDSM practice typically involves a power dynamic between partners, where it is understood that one will have more power during sex than the other.

In order to have a healthy and safe BDSM experience with someone, it’s important that you trust each other completely, talk in advance about your desires and what you’d like to get from the experience, and establish what you do not want to do. It can also be helpful to determine a safe word or another agreed-upon way to tell your partner if you want to stop.

What’s A Safe Word?

For some people who participate in BDSM, verbally saying “no” to sex, acting as though they are being assaulted, or otherwise pretending not to enjoy what’s happening is part of their arousal. In order to make sure someone can opt out if they are no longer enjoying sex, some sex partners will utilize “safe words.” A safe word is an unusual word that’s code for “stop.”

A safe word is an unusual word that’s code for “stop.”

For example: If your kink fantasy is being penetrated against your will, saying “stop” might make you enjoy the experience more and doesn’t actually mean you want your partner to stop. But if you’ve established in advance that your safe word is “poodle”—you’d never say “poodle” during sex otherwise—saying “poodle” during sex would tell your partner if something is wrong and they should stop.

Should You Try Kink Or BDSM?

It’s up to you! If reading kinky fanfiction or scrolling through BDSM posts on Tumblr gets you going, you may want to explore bringing kink or BDSM into your sex life. Before you do, though, it’s important to talk through exactly what you’re interested in with your partner(s). Consent is at the heart of practicing kink in a healthy way. Explore to your body’s content—as long as everyone is on board.

Related Articles:

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What Are Consent Skills?

How To Introduce Sex Toys To Your Partner

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You've heard of Fifty Shades of Grey or maybe you read the book or maybe you've seen the movie and you're wondering what exactly is BDSM? BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism. These are a bunch of fancy words to just mean kink. Kink covers everything from masturbating with your partner to spanking, bondage, to caning and heavy whipping and scary things that may not be your thing, but maybe they are. See, kink means different things to different people. And there is no right. There's only what's right for you.

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Fact No. 1
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The Quickie
4 minute read
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“Kink” can mean many different things to different people. As a general principle, you can think of kink as encompassing desires, fantasies, and activities that fall outside the boundaries of what is considered “normal” by mainstream culture.

This can include role-playing, power exchange (where partners adopt dominant or submissive roles), the use of restraints (bondage) and toys, incorporating pain or other intense sensations, exploring ultra-specific fantasies (sex in a tree, face-sitting, unicorn masks—pretty much anything you can imagine!), and more.

Kink can be elaborate or simple, a fun extra or the main event.

Kink can be elaborate or simple, a fun extra or the main event. If you’re curious about incorporating elements of kink into your sex life—but don’t know where to start—adding toys during sex play can be a fun, low-pressure way to explore. Read on for some suggestions!

Sensation Play

One of the simplest—and most effective—ways to add a little “extra” to otherwise routine sex is to focus on sensations and body parts that are often ignored. In an effort to provide maximum pleasure to their partners, many people go straight for the genitals: slowing down and devoting more time and energy elsewhere can stoke sexual tension, enhance sensitivity, and amp up arousal.

Sensation Play Toys To Try

A feather tickler applied to your partner’s chest, butt, or limbs can increase anticipation and help them to surrender to the sensations in their body

A pinwheel can provide a range of sensations, from a light tickle to a firmer prick

A blindfold can heighten awareness of other sensations by temporarily putting the visual part of the brain on pause

Spanking And Sweet Pain

For many people, “kink” is synonymous with S&M—or sadism and masochism, the enjoyment of inflicting, or receiving, pain. While there’s much more to kink than whips and paddles, toys designed to deliver a judicious jolt can be a lot of fun. Some people find that mild pain can enhance the sexual experience by bringing on an endorphin rush and helping them to be fully present in their bodies.

Impact And Pain Toys To Try

A paddle can deliver a satisfying smack to the butt and thighs

A flogger can give a range of sensations, from a gentle “thudding” impact, to a sharp sting

Nipple clamps can be a wonderful way to inflict pleasurable pain on an erogenous zone; many kinds can be adjusted to provide just the right amount of pressure

Bondage And Power Play

Another core element of kink is power exchange, wherein partners adopt—and sometimes trade-off—dominant and submissive roles. Many people are very turned on by submitting completely to their partner’s desires—or demanding submission from their partner.

Bondage Toys To Try

Handcuffs or restraints can provide partial immobility, leading to a sensation of submission and surrender

Chastity devices let you lock down—literally!—your partner’s genitals, putting them under your power

A collar can be a powerful symbol of ownership and control

Kinky Role Play

Taking on a role that’s different than the one you inhabit in your everyday life can bring a powerful sense of liberation, adventure, and fun to your sex life. Many people enjoy playing with professional roles, gender expression, and social expectations to act out fantasies and free themselves from the constraints of “normal” behavior.

Role Play Toys To Try

A chest harness can help you to embody your inner warlock, Valkyrie, or medieval dungeon master

Cat ears—or other animal costumes—can be a fun way to give voice to your animalistic desires

Sexy lingerie—whatever your gender!—can be a fun way to exaggerate, or subvert, gender norms

Trying Kinky Play With Your Partner

Kink can be fun, satisfying, and empowering. It can encourage closeness and bring new depth to your sex life. As with anything new, however, it is best approached with care, sensitivity, and plenty of discussion.

Kink can be fun, satisfying, and empowering. It can encourage closeness and bring new depth to your sex life.

If you’re thinking about incorporating kinky play into sex, talk with your partner before, during, and after; listen to their concerns, address your own, and don’t be afraid to slow down or stop if something doesn’t feel good. Particularly when using toys designed to restrain or inflict pain, safety should be your number-one priority: take time to read instructions, use them only as directed, and check in frequently with your partner to avoid injury.

Although kink encompasses a whole world of experiences and sensations, it doesn’t have to be mysterious or complicated. Feel free to experiment, be silly, use your imagination—and have fun!

Related Articles:

What’s The Deal With Spanking?

How To Do Bondage For Beginners

What Is Sensation Play?

How To Introduce Sex Toys To Your Partner

The Best Sex Toys To Spice Up Your Long-Term Relationship

How To Buy A Sex Toy

References

Video transcript

So, blindfolds. Super fun. And what can you use for a blindfold? Anything really. Scarf, tie, doesn't matter. Anything goes over the eyes. I have this awesome little dollar store padded sleep mask, perfect blindfold. I also have sexy leather. Yeah. And a fancy one I bought off the internet. Has even a fun little leash on the front of it. Blindfolds are amazing because you totally give up control to your partner, but not really in a scary way. You just let them touch you anywhere. It doesn't even have to be painful. There doesn't have to be power exchanged. There doesn't have to be anything. It's just letting go and getting out of your head for a bit and feeling the sensations that your partner provides.


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