Is there kinkdar?
April 30, 2008 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Kinkdar. Can you guess bedroom preferences from normal everyday behavior?

A friend of mine says he has kinkdar: soon after meeting someone, he thinks he knows whether that person is a top or a bottom, dominant or submissive, sadism or masochism, into ropes, choking, hitting, etc. For example, he might point out one of our louder friends who likes to set the topics of conversations and say "she's a dom."

I think he's jumping to conclusions. Not only do I think that people are more complicated than they seem, but that their sexual preferences can run counter to how they act normally, since the bedroom is a place to explore different aspects of your personality.

Is there kinkdar? Are there signs that we unconsciously broadcast to the world about what we like?
posted by svolix to Human Relations (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I'll back you up for people generally being counter to how they seem- the kinkiest people I've been with were the shy, quiet ones. But then, there are also some who were loud and outgoing. I don't think there's any easy rule you can apply to people.
posted by twirlypen at 4:36 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a technique that men use to sexualize and objectify women in their daily lives. It's extraordinarily distasteful and offensive, and I hope for the sake of all the women around him that your friend learns to stop doing this.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:38 PM on April 30, 2008 [24 favorites]

Not that this necessarily contradicts what you're saying, mr_roboto, but he uses the same technique on men.
posted by svolix at 4:40 PM on April 30, 2008

I've always been surprised by people's kinks when they are eventually revealed. I think there is no such thing as "kinkdar."
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:42 PM on April 30, 2008

No, there really isn't. I'm often surprised by just how open, adventurous, or fetish-bound straighter-than-I-seeming friends actually are. And the reverse is also true, some very freaky, outgoing, counterculturey people are really asexual or vanilla when it comes down to brass tacks. However, I do believe that kink is quite learned and additive, so age is a tick mark in the kink column.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

People often claim a capacity for insight that they lack. Your friend has wisely chosen one that is inherently harder to disprove. But I am quite dubious.

If I were you, I would find it annoying. If I were you, I would, with the aid of a willing third party, scam him: get him to speculate on the preferences of some person you know but he does not know well, then call the person over and ask them what they like; based on a simple hand signal (to avoid accidentally corroborating what he has guessed), your guinea pig will confess to one of a couple different "depraved" preferences (e.g., involving guinea pigs), then walk away. Actually, best not let the confession involve much lawbreaking, or at least confess the plot to him before he can use his cell.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2008

I think that, after you find out someone's kink, you may possibly be able to discern some quirks or mannerisms in their personality that may seem to correlate with the kink itself. (Turns out Bob has a womens'-lingerie-dinosaur-diaper-humiliation fetish - no wonder he's such an uptight prick all the time!)

I don't think it works the other way around.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 4:57 PM on April 30, 2008

he thinks he knows whether that person is a top or a bottom, dominant or submissive, sadism or masochism, into ropes, choking, hitting, etc.

what about the vast majority of people who don't fit into either category, at least not neatly? It sounds like he's just having fun imagining how wild people get in the bedroom. For a major percentage, there's some occasional exploring, and a general preference for being in love/lust and having plain old sex.
posted by mdn at 5:14 PM on April 30, 2008

In my experience people's dom/sub kinks are frequently the reverse of their overt daytime personalities, the aspect of themselves they feel uncomfortable to express in the normal course of the day. The CEO who gets off by being treated like a houseboy, the skinny nerd who's secretly a slave master. But mostly, I think it's impossible to say what anyone's kinks are, and your friend sounds like he's pontificating in inverse proportion to his actual sexual experience with actual humans. But I bet he has extensive knowledge of porn and his own weenie.
posted by tula at 5:23 PM on April 30, 2008

First, points to Mr Roboto. If he does this largely to women (or gay men, or men he thinks are gay, et cetera), he's definitely being sexist and so on and is being an ass. In fact, he's trying to give off dom vibes by controlling (by releasing 'hidden') information. Cf panopticon.

Now, as for the meat of the question: Sometimes. I know a book from the 1970's that has a whole list of behaviors and what kind of dominant/submissive/extrovert/introvert personalities they supposedly correlate to. It boiled down to salad dressing, and brownies with or without nuts, barring allergy. The conclusion I've come to is that I'm apparently supposed to clean my (MAGICAL ROBOT) car more often.

As a final note, conversation domination is in no way equivalent to bedroom domination. Real (sexual) doms are much rarer than he thinks, or wishes.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:24 PM on April 30, 2008

I don't think there's such a thing as kinkdar.

I think there's a certain tendency among people in the BDSM community, particularly those new to it and so intoxicated by a rather refreshing openness about sex in general and kink in particular, to project it everywhere. Kind of a variation on a theme of "getting religion", or having a hammer so everything looks like a nail. Usually people have to "come out" as kinky to a certain extent, and this colors the experience--now they look at people in a new light and consider the possibility that all those other people are freaky too and just haven't come out of the closet.

I've been "categorized" by my kinky friends on numerous occasions. As it happens, I'm completely vanilla through and through. So it goes.
posted by Sublimity at 5:34 PM on April 30, 2008

I think what your friend is doing is cheezy at best, and might be quite actively yucky, depending on how he does it and what he's like.

But at the same time, people do, I think, have some minimal level of "kinkdar," in terms of communicating basic compatibilities. I'm not at all sure of how it is communicated, but by the time it gets to the flirting/kissing/more stages, somehow or other I have always managed to filter out wildly incompatible people. I have never had one of those checklist conversations where you compare yeses and noes, but these things still somehow get communicated, at least minimally.

That said, I don't think that you can spot it across a room in most cases. Guessing is a lot of fun -- we do it about all our friends, sometimes seriously and sometimes making up the most unbelievable scenarios possible. But reliably and consistently, for anything other than the most broad of dominant/submissive categories, I don't think it's for real. Up close, with sustained one-on-one contact (say, by flirting), I think we communicate an awful lot of information, kinks among them, but at a distance it isn't as simple as looking for the hankie codes in back pockets.
posted by Forktine at 6:17 PM on April 30, 2008

Can your friend spot diaper-wearers? Latex worshipers? Autoasphyxiationist? Can your friend friend predict if someone prefers hot wax, plastic wrap or penis-gags?

The world of so-called "kinky sex" is enormously broad in practice, and even you were visiting a munch you could spend all night determining someone's particular fetish. In a specific sense, there is no "kinkdar."

Now, in a broader scope can someone determine a person's general sexual dominance/submissiveness in a casual social encounter? Perhaps the success ratio is high if a person is overt. In my (limited but specific) experience-- good luck with that. The meek are sometimes meek and the strong sometimes strong, but I wouldn't count on it. Things are not often what then initially seem when it comes to D/s-BDSM sex.

I'm pretty much with Mr. Roboto on this one.
posted by F Mackenzie at 6:20 PM on April 30, 2008

I have no idea if there is kinkdar. I sort of think there is, though.

I know that every single person who has ever speculated about my kink orientation out loud has declared me to be a top, which is completely and totally wrong. I don't tend to correct them unless I have a compelling interest in seeing them naked, but it is ongoing, consistent and amusing to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:26 PM on April 30, 2008

Kinkdar is a myth. I have several friends in the "scene" and they are the most normal people you'd ever meet if they don't want you to know they have kinks.

See, thats the thing...a lot of these people, while being completely ok with their quirks realize that it can make others uncomfortable and bring them trouble, so they become QUITE good at hiding it. It is likely they are making a conscious effort to not show off that side of themselves and have learned through trials and tribulations what sorts of things make someone suspicious.
posted by Elminster24 at 6:30 PM on April 30, 2008

Probably mostly a myth, yes. But I do think that everyday behavior is at least somewhat indicative of private behavior. Or at least correlative. Someone who is truly confident and comfortable in real life is probably going to be similar in the bedroom.

But it's rarely a good idea to try to pre judge people.
posted by gjc at 8:02 PM on April 30, 2008

There are a lot of people who 'flag' with varying degrees of subtlety and if your friend is noticing these overt signals (especially if you don't know them) then he might have a point. Examples: handcuff keys or rope-like earrings or other small jewelry; necklaces that are meant to look ever-so-subtly like collars. A few years ago SM flags got mainstream and blurred everything but that has become passé and once again a handcuff key worn as a left earring only is probably a dom's flag.
posted by jet_silver at 9:38 PM on April 30, 2008

I think dom/sub could be broadcast across the room (unless it's the 'ol switcheroo), but individual fets, no way.
At least I hope not...(looks sheepishly through the room)

Naw, but the people I have shared the more, um, intimate details of my life with swore they had no idea before I told 'em.
posted by hwyengr at 9:41 PM on April 30, 2008

Haha. No.

My basis for this? Many people don't have a lot of sexual awareness in that area. Some do, of course, but Joe Random probably doesn't - otherwise there would be a lot more kink clubs and kink shops around here, more's the pity.

Also - most people who know me in real life think that I'm 100% vanilla - until I rock up to a party in corset and collar. Then they are still wrong, but in a more amusing direction.
posted by ysabet at 11:17 PM on April 30, 2008

Saying you can tell that a loud conversationalist is a dom is like saying you can tell how someone fucks by how they dance. It's stupid.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:55 AM on May 1, 2008

This comment by grumblebee came up recently and I think it applies here as well.
posted by Green With You at 6:57 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, it doesn't exist. Too bad. If it did, I'd invest heavily in dashboard kinkdar detectors.
posted by rokusan at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2008

pffft, noooo. I denounce this so-called kinkdar. Sounds like good old fashioned stereotyping to me and nothing more. And especially, as others have said above, kink preferences often run directly counter to what the person is like otherwise. (Though, again, not reliably enough to just guess the opposite.)
posted by lacedback at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2008

I'm gonna take the road less-traveled here and say there is some kinkdar possibilities. However, they're pretty damned tricky and you've usually got to study this shit for awhile to get anywhere close to right. Most likely, he's just having fun with random theories about people. I do the same thing. I really don't see the trouble in it. Unless, of course, he takes it too far or pushes someone's boundaries on a date because of, say, how they eat asparagus.

Here's a few "for instances" I can think of :

- I've known quite a few professional dominatrices, and almost all of them tell me that the rich, CEO or high-power politician types (sometimes literally CEOs and high-power politicians) are the ones who want the most demeaning things done to them. Put them on a leesh and make them eat dog food. Pee on their backs while they eat off the floor. Golden showers, Roman showers, Brown showers, Whipping, CBT, you name it.

- Conversely, the quiet, nerdy, scrawny guys come in looking for Submissives. Some clubs even keep special tabs on those guys, cause while they pay well, they also tend to get a little more brutal than expected.

- There's a theory I've heard tossed around that women pet cats the way they like to be "pet", and pet dogs the way they would "pet" their male partners. The inverse is supposedly true for men. I haven't a clue as to how this works out in gay communities - whether a lesbian playing with a dog says anything about her activities with women, etc. for instance.

I'm in a slightly different position than most in that I live/hang out in Hollywood, and usually at goth/BDSM parties. This is a scene where people pretty much wear their kinks on their chest.

However, it should be said that care has to be taken with these things. You can't just assume cause a girl wears a bondage collar, it's okay to slap her in the face during sex. You need to start off light, with just a hand caressing the face and a very light, playful tap. If they smile, you can proceed a bit further, you can tread lightly and proceed a bit further (this goes for choking, spanking, whipping, and pretty much all else, of course). If someone bases how quickly that "very light, playful tap" should turn into full-on slapping without having done their proper homework in getting the know the person - they're a shithead, plain and simple.

But, again, musing about one's kinks from across the room, just for kicks? I really don't see a problem with that.
posted by revmitcz at 12:38 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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