The general consensus seems to be that “it’s the opposite of vanilla sex. This tends to mean penis in vagina sex (hetero sex is often see as the most “normal” by people who use these terms in a judgmental manner) in a committed, romantic monogamous relationship with no power play, no amusement, no tools and no dressing up in saucy clothes. I’m not judging this. Sex without any of these things can be incredible: there are connections and sensations that can be powerful and certainly not inferior to anything else that might involve a hefty tool bag. Vanillas may not feel the need to “spice up their relationships” or experiment, and why should they?
At the other end of the scale, for I believe it’s a scale, are hard wired kinksters who, during their formative years, knew that they were “different”. They had fantasies that didn’t exist in popular media. Many felt shamed by these. The lucky ones went on to discover others who got excited in a similar way. They would play together, share tips and form communities.
There are millions of people who do experiment with their sex lives in the ways I’ve mentioned but who wouldn’t dream of using words like BDSM, fetish or kink. There are also those who openly like to mix kink practices and vanilla sex depending on time, mood, their relationships, and any number of other variables.
In terms of legal acceptability, I’ve heard it said that BDSM and fetish is now around 50 years behind homosexuality. Consensual kink is still causing trouble in courts; people still fear getting outed to friends and family and spread over pages of the press. And astoundingly fetish is still seen as a mental disorder by diagnostic manual DSM-5. So kinksters are still having to defend themselves against those who don’t understand them.
Fifty Shades may be an appalling display of an abusive relationship, rather than a healthy kinky one, but it’s popularity shows that there are people all over the world who are stimulated by the idea of being kinky. Perversely, there are still pages and pages in the press of kinksters being treated as freak shows. What’s worse, too often violent murders are lazily being blamed on phillias and not any accompanying circumstances or mental disorders www.theguardian.com
On the whole, I find the kink community to be an exciting place where people are allowed to be who they want to be, as long as they practice safe, sane, consensual, risk aware kink. Sadly the scene does contain people who peddle dogma and pontificate about “true” kinkery or the right way to do things (safety tips are one thing, questions of style and aesthetics quite are another). I understand that there are many kinksters enjoy the alternative stance of their community; they may feel safe and/or are liberated and excited by being seen as subversive or different. I get that it’s complicated.
As a therapist I see a lot of shame and misconceptions surrounding kink. Judging those who do call themselves kinky as freaky and radically different from the norm is perpetuating a “them” and “us” situation. But so is painting all vanillas as conservative, prudish or boring. The lines between these worlds are far more blurred. I long for a time where we don’t judge people by either their kinkiness or their vanillaness.
This blog was written for fetish networking site iFet.com