A Beginner's Guide to Kink Play

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A Beginners Guide to Kink Play


When it comes to sex, it seems there’s no limit to the different things people are into. That being said, there’s still some stigma surrounding kink play and using sexual restraints. Given the fact that experimentation and fantasy can help keep the spark in your sex life, and considering that, according to a 2017 Belgian study, approximately two out of three people have at least some interest in kink play, we think it’s time to take on that stigma and help the kink-curious get on the road to the super-hot sexual play of their dreams. We’re going to look at kink (like, what even is it?!), do a little kinky myth-busting (so many misconceptions!), and talk about how to stay safe while you explore a list of kinks (safety first, right?). So if you are looking to get a little (or a lot) kinky, we’re here to give you some guidance on kink for beginners. Now, let’s get kinky!

What Does “Kink” Mean?

Broadly speaking, a sexual kink is defined as any form of sexual activity that exists outside of what is usually considered “conventional.” That definition isn’t helpful at all because what is “acceptable” or “normal” can vary wildly and is largely influenced by personal preference, a person’s culture, and even the region someone lives in, sometimes. For one person, simply owning a vibrator or participating in cbt kink might be kinky, while to another person, that is 100% vanilla. 

A more helpful way to think about kink is that it can be anything - an act, an object, a fantasy, or a situation - that brings extra excitement, energy, or arousal to a sexual encounter. This can include everything from role play to bondage, from electrostimulation to exhibitionism. Some of the most popular and/or common kinks include bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, spanking, leather, role-playing, exhibitionism, and voyeurism. As you can see, kink is a pretty broad category in the realm of sexual pleasure!

Something important to know is that no matter what kinky activities appeal to you, successful kink exploration is rooted in communication and consent. As with any sexual activity, continuous enthusiastic consent is an absolute must. It’s also important to remember that sometimes we have sexual interests and kinks that our partners are not into, and it’s always okay for partners to opt-out of engaging in kinky activities we propose. Speaking of consent, you may have heard about something called ‘consensual non-consent’, or a cnc kink.


Understanding Kinky Sex Misconceptions

When it comes to kink, there are a TON of misconceptions floating around. Some exist because we, as a society, don’t usually discuss things like sexual play and sexual arousal openly; others exist because until shockingly recently enagaging in some kinky activities was grounds for a mental illness diagnosis. Whatever the reason, these myths and stereotypes can serve to scare us away from exploring our kinky desires and sexual interests, so let’s take a minute to challenge the misconceptions and set the record straight. 

It’s also important to note that there’s a difference between a kink vs a fetish. If you’re interested in learning more read our linked guide!


There’s a Kinky ‘Type’

Some folks are hesitant to indulge their kinky desires because they don’t want to be one of those “weird’ kinky people but guess what, kinky doesn’t look anyone’s way. Kinky activities are enjoyed by people of all ages, races, genders, and orientations. That dude in all black may be super into BDSM play, but also so might that lady in the light pink sweater set. She might even be ready to answer the question ‘what is wax play?’ 

Research tells us that there are patterns in regards to certain genders being more likely to enjoy certain activities, but really, kink is for everyone! Once you start to understand just how common interest in at least some form of kink is, it becomes clear that literally, anyone at all might be kinky.  

Kink Activities Are Indicative of Mental Illness

For years and years, kink was regarded as a sick perversion, and the DSM-V referred to BDSM as an"unusual sexual fixation.” Some kinksters even faced persecution and discrimination because of their kinks! In recent years, however, kink awareness has become a bit more commonplace. What’s more, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine concluded that BDSM practitioners might be "more psychologically healthy" than their more vanilla counterparts. The study found that, among other things, those who engaged in kinky sex reported a more "secure feeling of attachment in their relationships.” 

So, now we know that not only does being into kink not mean you are mentally ill, it may actually be an indication that you are psychologically healthy!

Kink is Abuse

In mainstream media, BDSM is often associated with abuse and violence. This was made worse by extremely popular media depictions of kinky relationships that were actually just controlling and abusive. No matter how you slice it, abuse is always wrong. That said, kink and BDSM are not synonymous with abuse. 

Kinky sex play should only ever take place between enthusiastic, trusting partners who feel safe to stop what is happening at any moment. If any of those elements are missing (and we’ll talk more about how to ensure they are all there), you might be venturing into abusive territory. 

Kinky Play Requires Pricey Accessories

The thought of kink may bring to mind images of stocked toy boxes, racks of gear, and leather clad dominatrixes, but truth be told, as much as there are tons of fun supplies you can buy to help you explore kink, you don’t have to buy anything at all!  

Trying out kink doesn’t necessarily require a shopping trip. Want to try out blindfolds or restraints? Things you have around the house like scarves, ties, pillowcases, or belts can get you started. Now, if you get into and decide there are kinks you want to explore a bit more deeply, then, by all means, check out the array of sexy tools available! But when you are just starting out, you really just need an enthusiastic partner and a little imagination!  

So, now we know that kink is popular among people of all ages, genders, and orientations, that it is not-- as people thought for a weirdly long time-- indicative of mental illness, and that you have to invest in a ton of pricey gear to incorporate it into your sex life. That’s all good news, right? Now let’s talk about what you need to know to safely embark on your kinky quest!

Kink Safety

Kinky sex can be fun, mentally beneficial, and even a bonding experience for you and your partner. That said, you still want it to be safe at all times and an overall positive experience for everyone involved. How do you make sure that’s the case? There are a couple of things to keep in mind, so let’s talk about them!

Consent. Always. 

As with any sexual activity, consent is an absolute must, and it must be informed, enthusiastic, and ongoing. That means no hounding your partner about something you want to try until they give in, and no assuming that someone consenting to sex with you has consented to anything and everything. Talk to your partners! Be open about things you want to try out, and check back in throughout any encounter to be sure everyone is still enjoying themselves. Communication is always important in healthy sexual relationships, but when you explore submission and dominance or playing with pain, it becomes absolutely vital.

Make It Hurt So Good...Without Actually Hurting Anyone

There are a lot of kinks that explore mixing pleasure with a little pain. Whether it’s light spanking or more intense breast or genital pain-based stimulation, it can feel great but also has the potential to injure someone if not done correctly. In other words, curious kinksters need to do their research! 

Hard Limits

While it’s great to communicate openly about what you want, it’s also awesome (and necessary) to communicate openly about what you absolutely DO NOT want. Boundaries and limits can vary wildly from person to person, and while being open to erotic exploration can be a lot of fun, having things you never, ever want to explore is not just okay, it’s totally normal and should be respected. Make sure you know your hard limits and discuss them with partners before playtime. 

Safe Words For Everyone

In kink play that involves restraints or consensual nonconsent, you may want to be able to say “no” but have the scene keep going. This is what makes a safe word so important. A safeword is an agreed upon word or phrase that brings whatever is happening to a halt; it makes sure you can say no as part of your fantasy, while still being able to clearly communicate to your partner if or when you want things to stop. Some folks make sure their safe word is something they would normally never say in a sexy context like “rutabaga,” while others use traffic light language: red for “stop,” yellow for “slow down/proceed with caution,” and green for “keep going.” Make sure you and your partner know what safe words you will be using before any sexy play gets going. 

Take Care of Each Other Afterwards

Kinky sex can be pretty intense, as to that the fact that some folks experience “postcoital dysphoria” (which can involve irritability, anxiety, and crying) after even nonkinky sex, and it becomes clear why “aftercare” is a thing. What is aftercare? Simply put, it’s taking time after kinky play, BDSM in particular, to recover, connect, and tend to each other’s physical and emotional needs. It might be cuddling and talking or bringing your partner a snack. Aftercare also often involves touching base with how you are each feeling about the play you just engaged with.

So, as tempting as it may be to just pass out after intense sex, take the time to check in with each other and make sure everyone is feeling good. 

Kink is what you want it to be

It’s very important to remember that what people consider “kinky” can vary wildly from person to person and culture to culture. So for some, kinky sex might need to involve impact toys like crops, floggers, and paddles or bondage; for others, pretty commonplace acts such as owning a vibrator or lightly spanking a partner might seem very kinky. When it comes to kink (and, indeed, sex), it’s all relative. Kink can be many things, but it should always be fun so, if you’re kink-curious, do some research, talk to your partner, and play safe. 

If you’re looking for some fun props to help you explore your kinky side, PinkCherry is here to help! Check out our assortment of floggers, restraints, nipple sex toys, cock cages, and more!

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Written By: JoEllen Notte

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, sex educator, and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen is the author of The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having.