What's my kink?
May 31, 2007 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Do I have a (sexual) kink? Should I have a kink? If I do have a kink, how do I discover it?

My sex life has always been pretty straightforward. I'm very open-minded and have tried the usual variety of relatively conventional stuff. What I haven't done, though, is any sort of play-acting, or BDSM, or even dressing up (me or my partner). I like and enjoy sex but, on the other hand, other than during my adolescence sex has never seemed to be nearly as important to me as it seems to be for many other people. It's not, for example, the most fun thing I can think of doing. I can get by without it for long stretches of time. And so sometimes I wonder if there's not some kind of sex out there waiting for me to discover that would be sort of like a revelation: "Oh, this is why so many peoples' lives revolve around sex!"

In my masturbatory fantasy life there's not really anything that I have thought of that has an unusually powerful stimulating effect on me. There's maybe one pretty common activity that I do quite like and the idea of which is moderately arousing to me—but not unusually so.

Do most people have little sexual kinks that powerfully turn them on and reliably get them off? If you have something like this, did you always have it and, if not, when and how did you become aware of it? For example, not ever having done any play-acting or even mild dominance/submissive stuff, I'm only able to "test" whether anything like that might be a particular turn-on to me by trying it out through my imagination. And nothing I've imagined seems to have any special appeal. But is that predictive? Would I only know if I actually tried it?

Also, I'm sex-positive and don't have, as far as I can tell, any sex-negative hang-ups. However, one reason I'm asking this question may be that I do have a bit of a hang-up about anything I think might be sort of silly. For example, role-playing. I think that maybe role-playing something might be a turn-on and fun, but I'm inhibited by a self-consciousness related to what seems silly about play-acting.

Finally, it's also the case that I've seen lots of porn and there's not been any particular kinky activity that really gets my blood pumping.

I'm not dating anyone now, but assuming I were dating someone, how could I explore new sexual territory, looking for something that really turns me on, without having any idea of what that might be?
posted by Ethereal Bligh to Human Relations (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Grab the nearest porn DVD, and try something out that it depicts. I find several things in porn arousing, but there's no way I'd do them myself. And vice versa. I do certain things in my bedroom that I wouldn't want to watch - it's a matter of being involved in the act that turns me on.

Perhaps take an everyday activity that you enjoy, and work elements of that into your bedroom activities. In itself, it might not turn you on, but it might a] stimulate your thought processes, and b] get you more used to doing non-traditionally sexual activities in a sexual context.
posted by Solomon at 1:52 AM on May 31, 2007

I personally see nothing wrong with not having a kink. Sex, after all, is a very individual issue, and you not being kinky is about as normal as people being into bdsm or having a foot fetish or god knows what else - actually more so, as vanilla sex is the more socially accepted version.

In terms of self-discovery, literature seems to work better than visual depictions, IMO, since reading a story actually requires mental stimulation in terms of analysis and scene interpretation, whereas watching a video (as far as I can tell) is much more of a passive activity. Since reading requires more effort and mental investment than watching, after a while you'll probably start avoiding certain types of written scenes, which should give you a starting point in terms of where your sexual kinks stand. This method might be a bit time consuming though.

disclaimer: not experiend by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by Phire at 2:03 AM on May 31, 2007

I think those of us who do have any level of kink are in the minority; it's just that you don't hear about the preferences of the vast majority of people, whose tastes tend to run fairly basic.

If none of it turns you on, then you're probably kink-free, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, as long as it doesn't make you judgmental about my kink. The reverse is true, as well; there's nothing wrong with having a kink, but there's something wrong with people who think less of someone whose tastes run to the basic sexual acts.
posted by Cricket at 2:21 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Remember, there are plenty of cultures in the world that would find any interest in sex-before-marriage, masturbation, being with someone other than through a sheet, to be the height of kink.

It's all relative.
posted by softlord at 5:00 AM on May 31, 2007

I think those of us who do have any level of kink are in the minority; it's just that you don't hear about the preferences of the vast majority of people, whose tastes tend to run fairly basic.
I suspect this is completely false. 'Kink' is a good word for what it refers to: a break or sharp turn in the normative desire-continuum, something 'wrong' in an exciting way. 'Kink' is what happens when you're screwed up in a way that turns you on - but you won't know it until you find someone you can explore it with. Everyone's got sometrauma that they're sublimating. There's very little kink that's truly unique; I once heard Dan Savage tell the story of a dude who wanted to be smashed in the face with a wedding cake while jacking off in the bathtub. (Yes Dan offered to help.) Weird, sure, but there's tons of 'wet look + messy' porn online. Licking feet, diaper sex - none of it is interesting in itself.

Well, the cake thing is curious.

Anyway you sure as hell don't owe it to anyone (even yourself) to find your 'kink.' If you want more sex then go have it; change it up; approach it as you would any other lifestyle change, knowing that whatever you try has the advantage of being, um, sex (so even the mediocre instances can be nice). Go to! Best of luck!
posted by waxbanks at 6:02 AM on May 31, 2007

If you had one, you'd know about it. And you'd probably be on the internet looking for it (or on the street paying for it) while trying to keep it secret. All of which is perfectly fine.
posted by skylar at 6:10 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm very sex-positive, but I really think that almost all kinks and "fetishes" are the result of hiccups in sexual development, if not outright unresolved issues. It's great that people are able to find others to share them with and feel satisfied, but this widespread celebration to the point of seeking and cultivating them seems really backward to me.

Wilhelm Reich, in his "The Function of the Orgasm" posited that S&M and other sexual games and contrivances were just ways for people to scratch at the itch of the sexual dysfunction that had been put in place by a society that had a vested interest in sexual repression as a tool for social control. Repressed sexual energy gets so painfully backed up that a person becomes unconsciously compelled to seek unconventional ways of releasing it, and their sexual outlet or fetish becomes an important outlet that keeps neurosis from settling in. In Reich's work, all neurosis is the product, on some level, or sexual dysfunction, not vice versa.

I really think that any two free individuals should be able to create their own world when making love, in which anything is possible and all the great comedies and tragedies and romances of all time can be mined and pawed through together for inspiration, so that nothing is quite ever the same, and yet the essence of familiarity gives them permission to become ever more vulnerable or inquisitive. The games and fetishes and language of our "modern" sexuality seem so rote and general and uncreative, and while I guess I'm glad that people have them to use as a ladder to climb out of very stifling and ignorant sexual experiences, have we really gotten so used to our harness, bit, and reins that we mistake them for freedom?
posted by hermitosis at 6:20 AM on May 31, 2007 [12 favorites]

Having a kink certainly isn't necessary and I don't think you're missing out on anything that special if you don't have one.

For me personally, the kinkier things I've done and/or continue to fantasize about involve breaking taboos and achieving a sort of intimacy by lowering inhibition. Once a particular taboo has been "transgressed" a few times, it's not that powerful anymore. Intimacy, on the other hand, is the big one because I'm especially choosy about who to lower those barriers with.

Back to your question: "...assuming I were dating someone, how could I explore new sexual territory, looking for something that really turns me on, without having any idea of what that might be?"

From my perspective, you can't plan this in advance. It's going to depend on the dynamic of how you and your potential sex partner interact. If you start off by saying, "I really want to ________ and then ______" that may very well become the focus of your interaction, rather than the dating relationship. Why not let things develop naturally and see what happens?
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:33 AM on May 31, 2007

Many of my friends are seriously and/or professionally into kink, and I am casually-but-longterm part of the kink community. From that perspective I will say that when I hear some people in the community claiming that "everybody has a kink," I find that totally false. You sound healthy and openminded I don't think you're repressing anything. I trust if you encounter something that seems special now or in the future, you'll investigate.

As for one specific thing you mention: I've been into bdsm for more than a decade but I also find roleplaying silly (and I'm definitely not alone in that perspective). People with my tastes often say we're into sensation play rather than roleplaying -- we're into incorporating a range of new and interesting sensations into sex, but in the same sensual or playful or serious way we normally would, rather than playing with power dynamics or domination/submission.

You could look at some of the various toys at Blowfish and see if any look interesting to you. Blowfish is an outstanding catalog with very clear, accurate, honest descriptions.
posted by sparrows at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2007

People are posting highfalutin' definitions of kink. Isn't it really just a matter of social custom? Perhaps some sexual practices really are abnormal in the sense that they indicate a brain malfunction. But I suspect frowning on BSDM is like frowning on wearing white after labor day. A short time ago, gay sex was a kink. Now, in the circles through which I travel, it's normal.

So I don't see why you should be upset that you don't want to engage in sex acts that are socially frowned upon. What does that have to do with pleasure?

Well, actually it does for some people. The fact that you're "sex positive" (what a loathsome phrase!) may enter into it. I've met many people who enjoy doing things -- not just sex: smoking, drinking, etc. -- because they are taboo. These people are attracted by naughtiness. If S&M became the norm, they'd probably lose interest.

I was raised by really liberal, anything-goes parents. I've never had the slightest urge to rebel. So it's really hard for me to be turned on by being (tee hee hee) naughty. Maybe you're the same way.

I also think that libido has runs on a spectrum. Some people are sex addicts (to the point that they find it hard to function), some love sex more than anything, some enjoy it as much as many other fun activities, some can take it or leave it, some dislike it. Most of these point on the spectrum don't cause a problem ... unless they cause a problem. If your partner complains that you don't desire her enough, it's a problem. If not, it's not.

I do get that you hear other people proclaiming about how great sex is and that you want to experience this feeling yourself. I don't know whether that's possible for you or not (how do you force enthusiasm?), but I'd say there's nothing wrong with you as-long-as you can feel enthusiasm about SOMETHING. It could be art, sports, work, whatever ... as-long-as you're capable of FEELING, you're a living, breathing human being.
posted by grumblebee at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, just curious: are you down on silliness in general or just when it's connected to sex? Silliness and sex don't mix all that well for me, but in other realms I love being silly. I like making up nonsense words, playing with puppets, drawing cartoons, etc.

I'm not going to claim that if you're unlike me, you're abnormal. But you might want to try unleashing the inner child sometimes. Maybe if you keep being silly past the point of embarrassment it will free you up. And maybe once you're free, you'll be free in ome other ways, too.
posted by grumblebee at 6:58 AM on May 31, 2007

Also, I hope I don't need to remind you that you can explore all you want on your own (you don't need to be dating someone).
posted by sparrows at 6:59 AM on May 31, 2007

There's a fantasy/activity that reliably gets me off, and I discovered what that was around the age of 16. But I think the reason it became a kink is because I was full of adolescent hormones, and this particular fetish entered my consciousness precisely at that time (via a magazine). If a different fetish had been featured in that magazine, perhaps I'd be aroused by that instead. I believe it was just conditioning.

So, I think you can condition yourself to like something, if you wanted to, by viewing images of it when you're already aroused, but I don't really see the benefit in that.
posted by desjardins at 7:01 AM on May 31, 2007

I am in more or less the same camp, Keith. But I'd recommend more trial and less visualization. You may find that it's completely zipless to watch a video of one person whipping another. And you may find that imagining yourself flogging someone has no appeal. But were you to actually find yourself in that situation, you might discover that it has all kinds of sensory inputs you didn't predict, and that being in the driver's seat is a lot of fun.

That said, I think fetishes are over-exaggerated. I keep thinking of that Woody Allen skit where the old rabbi's sexual fantasy is to be tied up with silk stockings and whipped while his neighbor's wife eats pork at his feet. I cannot imagine that kind of thing actually produces sexual pleasure, although maybe it illuminates several emotional / physical sensations that are adjacent to sexual pleasure. And as we grow older, it's less physical sexual pleasure we find rarer and harder to het, it's that combination of emotional / sensory / physical input called being turned on. I think once some folks have unravelled their ball of yarn in life, sexually, they may find they need to go to greater extremes to get a kick. This doesn't mean they have a gene which connects leather with orgasms or anything like that, which is the way fetishists look from the outside.

I'd never go so far as to say I was into S&M, but the one occasion when I was with someone who enjoyed being smacked around a little, I found the task was something I eventually got into. It wasn't on the first try, either. I was too hung up about maybe injuring her, too concerned about whether I was doing it right... eventually I got the hang of it and had time to notice what it was doing for me. I found a that some aggressive smackdown played well into the mix.

Does this mean I have a kink? I don't know. I think of it like food. There are a lot of things I like. I eat some more often than others. There are some things I will eat only once a year but I still enjoy them greatly when I do.
posted by scarabic at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Personally, having sex is the most fun activity I have, but it's not because of a sex kink, or because of mind-blowing orgasms, etc. It's because of the attention and the intimacy. It's because the person who is the object of my desire is focusing his attention on *me* and I on him.

If I analyzed this I'd probably find that it's due to some kind of low self esteem issue, but whatever.

Mind-blowing orgasms don't hurt, either. But I can have those on my own, whereas if I have them with another person it's because he focused on *me* for a rather lengthy span of time. Mmm, a turn on. :) Plus, I love the primal nature of it. Naked bodies doing what they naturally know how to do, sweatily.

All I'm saying is that I don't love sex because I love how my guy looks in a cock ring or dressed up as santa claus. It's just the interaction that does it for me.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2007

A lot of people in the BDSM community seem to come across with the attitude of looking down on people who are "vanilla", and that one who is not into kink with their particular trappings (whips, black leather, etc.) is not "kinky". Plenty of people get off on fancy lingere, "romantic" things, massages. Plenty of people have unique fantasies that are not considered "kinky" by the black leather crowd.

nothing I've imagined seems to have any special appeal. But is that predictive?

No. Imagining things is very different that exploring something with a partner, particularly if that partner is very good at whatever you happen to be exploring. Similar to trying a new food, you don't really know what it's like before it is sampled, and even then it will be a different experience when prepared by a different chef.
posted by yohko at 8:40 AM on May 31, 2007

No kink? That's pretty kinky, man.
posted by kindall at 9:13 AM on May 31, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, just curious: are you down on silliness in general or just when it's connected to sex?

I'm not really down on silliness at all. I am sometimes silly or goofy when having sex. What I meant was that roleplaying and stuff seems "silly" to me in that it seems absurd—I don't know if I could do it because the absurdity of it would make me very self-conscious.

Your theory about taboos and such seems right to me—I've also sometimes wondered that because I was raised to be very open and positive about sex, I'm missing out on the spice that naughtiness adds.

I used to think I had no sexual hang-ups at all, certainly that I don't feel guilt or shame about anything related to sex. But then I realized that I have a big problem with anything that strikes me as even remotely as being like the "ugly male" in sex—which translates into anything stereotypically aggressive. In the context of my question, that's even made me wonder if that isn't the "thing" that would really get me off. But, no, I found that it just makes me feel icky.

In a way, what I feel like I'm missing that it seems other people experience is the extreme intensity of desire and experience that I recall from my adolescent years.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:55 AM on May 31, 2007

Ethereal Bligh, what about the chase? Do you get excited when you see someone attractive? When you see her every day (e.g. a co-worker)? Do you fantasize about pursuing her? Do you get into all that "high school" does-she-like-me stuff? Or do you feel like, "sure, she's good looking, but I can take it or leave it?"

For me, sex is just one part of something bigger. The whole male/female dance (or male/male or whatever). THAT'S what's exciting.

Do you get really excited about this but then find that, in the end, the sex is good but not GREEEEAT! If so, maybe you're putting too much emphasis on sex as end goal.
posted by grumblebee at 10:10 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

In a way, what I feel like I'm missing that it seems other people experience is the extreme intensity of desire and experience that I recall from my adolescent years.

I think this is one reason people might try to "cultivate" or discover a kink. Some people find that the dynamics of power exchange or pleasure/pain or whatever achieve this mixture of intensity, experience, and self-discovery. So I don't think it's merely a matter of working through a trauma or dysfunction, or of trying to do the "in" or "most liberated" thing.

I second the recommendation for reading (good) erotica over watching porn to explore the boundaries of one's desire. A few good BDSM stories are what started me down a kinkier path -- BDSM-related porn, however, has never turned me on.
posted by treepour at 10:21 AM on May 31, 2007

When people have sex, I believe dark spectres of domination, rape, torture, pedophilia, enslavement, murderous jealousy, bestiality, and infanticide, among others less readily named (not to mention the company of the transcendently glorious), gather around the bed to leer, cheer or jeer according to their predilections and those of the participants, but that most of us ignore them or are blind to their presence. I also believe those who choose not to ignore them, or cannot, do experience an intensification.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2007

But then I realized that I have a big problem with anything that strikes me as even remotely as being like the "ugly male" in sex—which translates into anything stereotypically aggressive.

I think that's telling. Your fear of embodying this negative energy may be keeping you from accepting yourself as a valid actor in and subject of pleasure-making. I definitely have had phases where I was less than comfortable with my presence as a dude in the sack and ended up being more reserved and less exploratory as a result.

Being with someone who actively encouraged me to express the various facets of my desires and with whom I saw eye to eye with on the political questions helped me come to terms with the issue. Starting to see certain bangin' behaviors as (potentially) radical helped, too—exploring my femmier sides, for instance. In some ways, I think of my, um, exercises? as being a part of a project to explore new narratives of men's pleasure, reclaiming it from the grunting porn stars (not that there's anything wrong with grunting OR porn stars) and the leering Adam Corollas of the world.

It's like this: As a feminist man, first, you need to shut up and listen, right? But then you need to stand up and shout. Claiming and doing good with your sexual self is a part of that.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2007

Some think that fetishes and sexual kinks are the result of confusing sexual or sexually arousing experiences from childhood that the child was unable to fully understand. The idea is that then, returning to those thoughts, fantasies, and actions as an adult are an attempt to assimilate or understand those earlier events in order to master or become comfortable with them and see them as normal and perhaps desired.

Some think that's nonsense.

I tend to kind of believe it, but it's not a big deal to me either way. I only think kinks are silly when taken to a hobbylike extreme. Others will say that's fine too. To each his or her own.

My point being, if you haven't felt stirrings of fascination when thinking about certain kinky things or watching certain kinky films, you may not have the particular psychological quirk some would say you'd need in order to pursue that as part of your sex life.

But it also sounds to me like you're perfectly normal (whether you have kinks or not) but that you have a somewhat low libido. Reasons for that could be problems, but at some point we should also be able to say that some people just rev more highly than others.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on May 31, 2007

What hermitosis said.

Also, it might be worth considering what you actually mean by "kink". I read it as sexuality that has somehow been channelled into a normally non-sexual (ie fetishised) object or situation - perhaps what Miko describes as a "hobbylike extreme", whereby shoes or baseball mitts or bungee ropes or whatever become essential to the sexual experience, not accessories.

I think these can be distinguished from "mere" fantasies or slightly non-vanilla tastes, such as wanting to watch or be watched, wear certain costumes, or indulge in a little role-play for fun (on that last point, I regard many professed BDSM people as not kinky per se, but "just" vaguely imaginative fantasists).

Overall, I would suggest that if you had a kink, by this definition, you would certainly know about it by now, but it's possible that you haven't explored the unusual / fantasy side of things, because I think kinks are more urgent & pressing (a kind of sine qua non), whereas non-vanilla sex acts can sometimes surprise you - you may never once have fantasised about X, but having done it, you might find it quite enjoyable, although it doesn't come to dominate your sexuality or spoil your taste for other acts, props or situations.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:26 PM on May 31, 2007

wanting to watch or be watched, wear certain costumes, or indulge in a little role-play for fun

Actually, all that stuff is exactly the kind of thing I think is somehow psychologically cathartic or utilitarian for some people. Basically, I'd argue that almost anything outside of a your basic physical attraction and simple desire to get off is tapping into mental processes that have more to do with identity. Wearing costumes and playing with voyeurism have nothing much to do with sex, in and of themselves. There has to be some sort of pre-existing schema in a person's psyche to make these arousing - or so my observations would lead me to believe.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on May 31, 2007

Fair enough Miko, and I dont' disagree. My distinction, though, revolves more around whether one particular thing becomes essential to the sex act, as opposed to a number of different things that can be taken or left, but which might spice things up occasionally if used.

The examples I gave did lean towards the kinky side a bit, and I could probably express it better by using their lite versions: sex in a relatively secluded public place, for example, can include the titillation of the risk of being discovered or discreetly watched, plus the "we are such sexy sexy sex people that we just have to do it, right here, right now!". In reality, the location may actually be 99% safe & discreet.

You should also scratch the rhetorical 'certain' from the costume bit, and it could be something as simple as fancy lingerie, going out commando, or any variety of clothes as props, such as, say a nurse's outfit. Role playing may be nothing more uncommon than sexy sexy sex talk, or BDSM lite - not all the whips & rubber balls & buttplugs, but simply one partner taking a more domineering role.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:41 PM on May 31, 2007

I'm repeating what a lot of folks have said here...
Are you not happy with vanilla/"normal" sex? A whole lot of us are and that maybe why there are so many more humans being born each day. Love what you love.
You may just be at a stage of life where sex isn't the most important thing every waking second. I find, nearing 40, that is where I am at this point. I haven't even been bothering to look after myself when my man is away. Too many other things to do.

(When I do get busy [alone or otherwise], tho, it's a happy, happy thing.)

I don't know; hope you find some comfort.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:00 AM on June 1, 2007

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