October has been dubbed National Kink Month by the Stockroom. But what is this term? What does “kink” mean? What is it like to be “kinky?” These words are umbrella terms for a wide variety of activities and there are as many examples of kink and kinkiness as there people who play around with these. One key fact to remember is that kink is on a spectrum. There is no one “true” way to practice it.
It would probably be best to have some operational definitions to lay the groundwork for what kink is. Some terms you may have come across like BDSM, power exchange, fetish, scene, play, limits and negotiation are all elements of being kinky.
BDSM – Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/submission, sado-masochism. This acronym takes into account role play as well as 24/7 D/s power exchange relationships, and sensation play.
Power exchange – this is the conscious (and consensual) surrendering of power to one person in the dynamic. For some, this is for a short amount of time, such as an evening or the length of a scene and for others it is a way of life (that’s the 24/7 part). Some examples are Master/Mistress and slave/submissive, puppy/pony and Trainer.
Play – negotiated, consensual activities (We play because it’s fun!)
Scene – This has two definitions. There is “The scene” and “a scene.” The scene refers to the BDSM lifestyle as a whole. And a scene refers to a time frame of play.
Limits and negotiation – It’s important to keep in mind that BDSM activities are done among consenting (human) adults with capacity (i.e. sober). Pretty much anything goes and everything is okay, but one should never feel coerced to participate in any activity that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. In that vein, it is helpful to set up boundaries, limits, and negotiate the things you and your partner simply feel comfortable doing and those that you are super excited to do, as well as the acts you have absolutely no interest in. A good starting point is using a Yes/No/Maybe list like this one from the Pleasure Chest. And remember to Never Negotiate Naked.
A subcategory of limits and negotiations is using a safe word. Depending on the kind of scene or play you are taking part in, words like “stop” and “no” might not be appropriate when you want to check in or modify what you’re doing. A common method is utilizing the stop light system. Green, yellow, red. Green means everything is good, keep going; Yellow can mean slow down, or we need to switch something up, or I have to scratch my nose; Red is one that means play should stop completely, something may have triggered a negative emotional response, or the person is just ‘done.’
Fetish – the use of this word has several different implications. In common usage it refers simply to a turn-on. In the more clinical sense, having a fetish is requiring a certain object that usually is not related to sex to become aroused or to achieve orgasm.
Sensation play – using items and implements to generate sensations. From super soft, silky, and sensual feathers and furs to the thwacking, stinging, and thudding of crops, canes, and floggers there is a wide variety of sensation to be explored.
After care – Sometimes a scene can be incredibly intense both for the person receiving (bottom, submissive, etc.) and the person controlling the scene (Top, Dom(me), etc.). There might have been heavy impact or psychological play and it’s a good idea to take some steps to do after care. This can look different depending on the people or play involved. Some might be perfectly fine with a hug and a glass of water while others might need a length of time of cuddling and soothing words or silence. And in still other instances, after care might extend beyond that evening’s playtime. Depending on the negotiations made, a phone call in the coming days might be a good idea.
So what is kink? It really and truly varies. Often it is juxtaposed against “vanilla.” People who aren’t kinky are vanilla. It’s not a derogatory term, simply a descriptor. If you’ve ever had your hair pulled during sex (or done the pulling) or if you’ve ever given a spanking to your partner because they were being “naughty” and enjoyed it you might be kinky. Clearly that is quite distinct from the whole whips and chains in the Rihanna song, but it’s all on a spectrum. Ask yourself: Are there any activities you do that might be considered kinky? Are there some that you have an interest in?
Even with all these definitions and concepts I have laid out before you, I strongly encourage you to discover classes in your local scene to educate yourself and become competent in using these implements. Keep in mind the two acronyms SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) and R.A.C.K. (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) when you play.* Many of these toys can be wielded in a sensual and tantalizing way, but without even the most basic information and practice people can get hurt. I suggest if you want to play around with bondage, but do not have a lot of practice with rope, to get some leather wrist cuffs (not traditional police-style handcuffs, ouch!) or bondage tape. Books are also a great way to expand your knowledge.
Whether you’re just starting out on this kinky odyssey or you’re a seasoned veteran of flogging, remember to check in with your play partner and have fun!
*Added June 2, 2015: Consider also the Four Cs – Consent, Communication, Caring, Caution.