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EYNTK about kink and safety

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If you're looking to change up your sex life and try new things, you might be interested in exploring the world of kink. But whether you're googling new kinks in a private browser or dipping your toe into something like BDSM with a partner, you might end up feeling a little overwhelmed.

And if your only introduction to kink is how it's portrayed in the media (Fifty Shades of Grey, we're looking at you), you might assume it's all dungeons, ropes and floggers. Of course, this is the case for some people, but there's so much more to kink than just latex and rough sex and there are plenty of ways to explore it that are safe and pleasurable.

With more people exploring kink than ever – Feeld, the kinky dating app, saw a 250% rise in users between 2021 and 2022 – it’s worth knowing your safe words from your scene acronyms.

If you're new to kink, you're likely discovering lots of ideas that are new to you. This is exciting and you might just be about to open yourself up to a whole new world of pleasure. But there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you and your partner(s) are safe as you step into a wonderful new world.

But listen, kink isn’t for everyone and it’s not something you should be pressured into by either society or a sexual partner. Sometimes good old back to basics sex is great. There's a reason vanilla is everyone's favourite flavour.

What is kink?

Kink refers to a wide range of sexual interests and activities, but it's generally defined as a sexual activity or interest that society, generally, might consider unconventional. This includes things like roleplay, outdoor sex and power dynamics like Dom/Sub play, praise and degradation and cuckolding (watching your partner have sex with someone else).

You might have also heard of fetishes, which are slightly different, as they tend to involve attractions to very specific non-sexual things, like an inanimate object or a body part, such as feet. It’s important not to get kink and fetish confused because a fetish is a very specific sexual proclivity whereas kinks are much more common, although there are plenty of overlaps.

The most common kink you've probably heard of is BDSM, which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. It's a catch-all term for lots of different types of relationships, dynamics and experiences, that often involve practices like choking, spanking and other elements of rough sex, if both partners consent to this. But many elements of BDSM are purely psychological, involving relationships where one person is sexually dominant and the other is sexually submissive.

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Are BDSM and rough sex the same thing?

Rough sex isn’t necessarily BDSM and if rough sex is your kink, that doesn’t mean you’ll naturally be into chains and whips or psychological games and control. Rough sex tends to refer to sexual experiences that incorporate elements of pain or intensity for the purpose of pleasure. Of course, elements of rough sex are often part of BDSM practices and relationships, but they don't have to be.

"Interestingly for many, BDSM doesn’t always include rough sex, but for some that enjoy combining rough sex with BDSM, there may be a mixture of consensual sadomasochism and power play dynamics happening," explains Ness Cooper, a therapist and resident sexologist for sex toy company Jejoue. "Within some Dom and sub relationships, the individuals involved don’t explore sadomasochism at all and more see it as a form of relationship structure built around care, such as service submission or female led relationships," Cooper continues.

Sometimes, simply knowing that you're submissive or dominant to your partner is enough to turn you on and there are plenty of ways to show this that don't involve physical domination. What matters is that you know your limits and how far you’re willing to give up control or be controlled, in and out of the bedroom.

"For some BDSM is a way of forming relationship routines and rituals, and this doesn’t have to include roughness or pain," Cooper adds. "Rather these individuals may thrive from having a structured relationship that a heteronormative vanilla non-BDSM relationship structure doesn’t offer."

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How to stay safe when exploring kink

Kinks vary a lot and some kinks are riskier than others. For example, if your kink is wearing a particular type of outfit and engaging in gentle roleplay, there may be less of a physical risk than if your kink is being spanked with a paddle. Either way, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your experience of exploring kink is safe, sane and consensual.

1. Have a proper conversation about consent

It's crucial that you take the time to talk about consent with a new partner and ensure you keep having these conversations on a regular basis, particularly if you're experimenting with more unusual kinks or BDSM.

This might also include specifying what you like and dislike, which could change over time. "If you're exploring any forms of rough play, chat about areas that you’re ok with being marked," Cooper recommends. "Talk about consent and explore consent models that may work for your relationship dynamic," she adds. There are a couple of consent models to consider, including FRIES and RACK. FRIES stands for consent that is Freely Given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific. Apply this checklist when discussing what you do and don't consent to. Or use RACK, which stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink when you're discussing the possible outcomes of what you're about to do. Do some research on consent to help facilitate your conversations and figure out what works for you.

2. Take things slowly

Just because you're experimenting with kinky sex, that doesn't mean you need to jump right in at the deep end and passion in the heat of the moment doesn't excuse rushing in and not giving or getting consent. It can be exciting trying something new, especially if the idea of it turns you on, but your body and your brain will need time to adjust so don’t go steaming in.

"If you’re exploring BDSM with someone for the first time, including sex may be too much all at once and may result in some individuals crashing quickly during the experience," says Cooper. "Taking things slowly and breaking things up into micro BDSM sessions [where you don’t actually have sex] may be easier at first until you’re both used to how each other’s bodies react."

When it comes to other kinks and fetishes, you don't have to dedicate a whole evening to them. There are ways you can incorporate them into the type of sex you usually have, easing yourself and your partner(s) in with little tasters here and there.

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3. Keep things clean

If your kinks involve any types of prop or toy, remember the importance of hygiene. Taking your toys to the sink after hours of hot sex isn’t the hottest part of sex, but it's definitely worth doing in order to avoid infections and things like thrush.

Looking after yourself as well as your toys is also important, explains Cooper. "Cleaning any areas that may have consensual marks before and after is important to avoid infection and making sure you disinfect items such as spanking paddles can help reduce any future risks," Cooper adds.

4. Use safe words

A safe word is a term or phrase that signifies that one partner wants whatever is happening to stop. Choose one with your partner(s) and agree on what it means to you. For example, does it mean you simply want to stop the specific thing that is happening and move on to something else, or do you want to take a break from the scene altogether? Many people use the traffic light system - red, amber, green - so there's a way to signify both of these things.

"Keeping safe words simple and accessible is important and talking through them before BDSM play is important," Cooper says.

5. Remember aftercare

One of the most important parts of exploring a kink is aftercare. This is the part post-sex where you check in with your partner, talk about what just happened, what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy and what you’d do differently next time. After sex, especially doing something kinky or new, it’s normal to feel vulnerable, so take this opportunity to show each other care and support.

If you’ve had some intense moments in your play session, ease each other down off the adrenaline high with soothing cuddles, massages and anything that makes you both feel good. Aftercare can be as simple as a shower together and a cup of tea.

DISCLAIMER: When engaging in any sexual activity (or activities) that involve another person or other people always get consent from that person or those people before commencing. If you are unsure about any of the terms mentioned in this article please refer to our expert guide to BDSM. The views expressed in this article are those of experts and not of Cosmopolitan. If you are concerned about your safety or need advice on sex and sexuality, speak with a sexual health professional or counsellor or contact Brook for anonymous support.

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