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A comprehensive guide to kink: ground rules and definitions

Your Vanilla Sex Life

Looking to add some spice to your vanilla sex life? Explore the world of kink and find something that suits your fancy! While it’s impossible to have a completely exhaustive list, here is a roundup of some of the more popular kinks.

Real quick here...what is a kink?

I’m glad you asked! While a seasoned kinkster might roll their eyes at starting this basic, it’s still important to start from the top, especially for those who are newer to exploring kink and to detangle some misconceptions about it...a brief introduction: According to our pals at Merriam-Webster, a kink is defined as an “unconventional sexual taste or behavior.” Of course, this can extend into desires or fantasies as well.

Depending on who you’re talking to, kink can mean many different things. A lot of people actually think kink is just BDSM (for a primer on that, see this article by my partner, James)—but it’s actually much broader than that.

It depends on the person, but it can be anything from a (literal or figurative) discussion group where they explore and talk about their kinks with like-minded individuals, to specific scenarios acted out with sexual partners (like with handcuffs or light bondage), to full-on orgy-style scenes or full furry/anime costumes.

(If you’re interested, by the way, and especially if you’re in San Francisco, you *would have been* really excited about the Armory, which was owned by Alas, it’s been sold now… but they still own the Kink Bar in SF!)

If this sounds a bit amorphous and vague, it’s because the definition is more what it’s NOT than what it is. Basically, any sexual interest that is non-traditional (maybe even a bit controversial) can be considered a kink. It really depends on your community and what’s been deemed “acceptable” or not.

Given that it’s essentially unconventional by definition, it’s pretty important to establish some ground rules to make sure it’s all consensual and safe.

Enthusiastic Consent
Enthusiastic consent — a basic tenant for sex (and life).

The essentials of Kink (ground rules)

Regardless of where you’re from and what social circles you are in, there are a few basics to exploring kinks of any kind to any extent:

  • Consent, consent, consent! Before you try anything with anybody, make sure you talk about what you’d like to do beforehand with your partner(s) and make sure everybody enthusiastically consents to the potential activities. If your partner is NOT comfortable with something, don’t pressure or force them to partake. That leads me to the next point...
  • Limits. Everyone has them. Everyone has different limits. Know them, talk about them, respect them. Hard limits are things that are completely off the table. Don’t try to negotiate them or pressure (see #1). If someone is uncomfortable with something, it’s their body and their experience, too. Don’t be a jerk and ruin it for them. Soft limits, on the other hand, are something that someone might express interest in, but they want to proceed cautiously and be able to cut the cord on the activity for any reason should they feel uncomfortable. Make sure to explicitly differentiate between hard limits and soft limits with your partners before engaging in something.
  • Communication. Similar to the last two points, overall communication is essential for all pleasure seekers to be happy and satisfied in their journey of sexual exploration. Sure, mapping out what kinds of things you’d like to do with a partner might sound like it’d zap away the impulsivity and the “magic” that many associate with sex, but when you have something you’d like to do and you know whether your partner is down or not, having ongoing conversations with your partners will pay in dividends when you want to try and explore (or revisit) new and old things.
  • Don’t feel ashamed. Kink shaming is a real thing.Most of us have grown up thinking that being interested in and indulging in sexual pleasure is a shameful thing to be hidden. Add on the layer of interests in different kinks and whatever other societal/religious/cultural influences you have, and you have a lot of people who grapple with their desires and pressures for how to think and feel. If your partner opens up to you about a kink they have, approach it with an open mind. It may not be something you’d like, and you might even find it a bit odd, but most people have something that piques their interest that someone else would find different. And that’s O.K. We can talk about our interests and find ways to indulge in them, be it keeping them as fantasies and fun thoughts, or finding different ways to act on them.
  • Explore with an open mind. Not everyone will be interested in the same things in the same ways, and that’s completely fine. Everyone’s preferences are different, and sometimes you want to do something to make your partner happy (within reason). Sometimes you try something you thought you wouldn’t care much for and are wowed. But if you don’t want to try something, revisit #1 and #2. Not everyone needs to try, like, or partake in everything their partner wants or likes. As you will see in this list, there are plenty of other kinks and fetishes under the sun, and there are many ways to explore your kinks/fetishes without your partner being directly involved that you can discuss with each other. You might not do everything each other is interested in, but you can certainly find ways to spice up your sex life.

    Basically, be a respectful human.

    Kink is not synonymous with disrespecting others. If your education of kink is50 Shades of Grey, do some more exploring because it is not an accurate (or good) representation of real-life kink. Exploring kink will probably require a lot more communication that you might be used to with regular ‘ol vanilla, a LOT more than you might expect. But honestly, all that pre-planning and channels of communication will make you and your partner(s) feel much more comfortable when you are exploring each other’s depths of pleasure.

    What makes a person kinky vs not?

    Another difficult question to answer — basically, it’s up to you. You can have a bunch of kinks and not identify as a kinkster. You can have a few andnotidentify as a kinkster at all. It’s up to you. The identity and label more depends on whether you want to identify with certain groups and is more for you, your exploration, and your own personal sexual journey. If you want to identify as kinky, by all means go for it. If not, then don’t. Do what feels right for you.

    Your new, zesty sex life with kink

    Let’s turn your ice cream from vanilla to *~*~*ZeStYyyyYYyyyy*~*~*~*~*

    ABCs of Kink (abridged):

    Now that we’ve have gotten through the introductions, here are a number of terms that you might come across in your exploration of all things kink. This is by no means exhaustive (though we hope to update it over time as the times change), but it should give you a sense of what’s going on so you can know your Limits from your Aftercare...


    Aftercare — Taking the time to recover afterwards and evaluate each other’s emotional and physical needs, especially when certain acts can be mentally and physically exhausting.

    ASMR — An acronym for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.” It includes particular noises that can produce a relaxing tingle in the back of the head of spine of an individual, including whispering, lip smacking, scratching on hard surfaces, brushing sounds, etc.


    Bondage — Rope, tape, or other materials you use to tie down (or be tied down) during a sexual/erotic activity.

    BDSM — Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Sadism, Masochism. It isn’t a particularly “uniform” classification of sexual interests. It’s more of an umbrella term — a “coalition” of different kinks that often involve hierarchical power differences (S&M especially) and related interests.

    Curious to learn more about BDSM? You can read more about it here.

    Bottom— A submissive partner (e.g. is flogged, humiliated, or has stimulation acted upon them).


    Culcockery — A male partner who enjoys watching his partner have sex with another man.

    Consent — Getting explicit permission for something to happen.

    Consensual Nonconsent — When both parties agree to perform a non-consensual activity that has been agreed upon beforehand and actually consented upon.


    Double Penetration — Being penetrated of one or more orifices by multiple people (or objects, like sex toys).

    Dungeon — An indoor space specifically for BDSM activities. It doesn’t have to be a castle-like place or underground (but it certainly can be!). It can be set up in bedrooms, extra rooms, or even walk-in closets.


    Electric Play — Electricity is used on the body for different sensations. TENS units are some of the more common products that can be used for electric play, though there are also other wands and sex toys that also have features to create shocking feelings on the body.

    Edgeplay — The act of pushing the boundaries of what is SSC (safe, sane and consensual). That can sometimes mean activities with a risk of serious or permanent injuries or death, an increase risk of spreading disease, or an activity that may cause psychological damage.


    Foot Fetishism — Also known as foot worshipping or podophillia, it is sexual interest in feet. It’s one of the more common forms of fetishism of otherwise non-sexual objects.

    Fetish — A sexual attraction to objects or body parts that are not directly sexual. Feet, voyeurism, or wearing diapers are a few, of many examples of fetishes.

    Click here to learn more about fetishes, and check out this list of common fetishes based on google search volume here.

    Fire Play — The act of using fire and heat to stimulate a person.

    Fisting — The act of inserting the first vaginally or anally.

    Floggers — A product that has a handle and straps that is used to whip, caress, or tease.

    Face Sitting — Also known as queening or kinging, it’s the practice where an individual sits on a partner’s face for oral-genital or oral-anal stimulation. You can also learn more about products created to make queening/kinging easier here.

    Financial domination — A practice where a submissive (or money slave, finsub, pay pig, human ATM, cash piggie, etc.) gives gifts and money to a financial dominant (who may also be known as a money mistress, findomme, money domme, etc).


    Group Sex — Having sexual activity with two or more other individuals.


    Human Furniture — When a person’s body is used as a type of furniture. Examples of this include a tray, foot stool, chair, table, cabinet, or other items.

    Humiliation — Also known as sexual humiliation or erotic humiliation, it is the act of humiliating somebody for sexual arousal.


    Impact Play — The act of a person (the bottom) being struck by another person (the top) for sexual gratification.


    Japanese Bondage — Also known as shibari. A specific type of rope bondage that started in Japan. The person who ties is commonly known as the rigger, ties down their model. Elaborate rope designs can be made and pressure from the ties can provide pleasure on erogenous zones.


    Knismolagnia — Becoming sexually aroused by tickling.

    Kinging — See facesitting.


    Limits — Having something that an individual is not willing to do. See above for hard limits and soft limits.

    Latex — A form of rubber clothing that clings to the body and tends to have more shine.


    Mummification — Wrapping of the body that prevents movement. The individual may be stimulated for sexual gratification or left alone for sensory deprivation.

    Masochism — Experiencing pleasure from receiving pain.


    Needle Play — The act of piercing the body with temporary or permanent methods for sexual arousal.


    Orgasm Control — Also known as edging, it’s the act of maintaining a high level of sexual arousal while staving off orgasm. Click here to read more about how Lioness has shown the effects of edging.

    Orgasm Denial — The act of keeping an individual at a heightened state of arousal, but intentionally not pushing them over the edge. Click here to read more about how Lioness has shown the effects of orgasm denial.


    PVC — (Polyvinylidene Chloride), is a type of vinyl that is sometimes used for erotic clothing.

    Play Party — A get together where attendees socialize and participate in BDSM activities.


    Queening — See facesitting.


    Role Play — Two or more people playing out a sexual fantasy. It can be done IRL, online, or on the phone.

    Rough Sex — The specific definition may vary for individuals, but it basically means sex that is considered more vigorous or painful in some way.


    Spanking — Slapping a partner with a hand or object with the goal of heightened sexual arousal.

    Swinging — non-monogamous behavior where people regardless of their relationship status engage in sexual activities in a group setting. The community is sometimes referred to as “the lifestyle” or “the alternative lifestyle.” Swingers have also used the Lioness Vibrator in very creative ways to enhance their experiences — click here to learn more about that!

    Safe Word — A word that is agreed upon to pause or stop sexual activity.

    Sensation Play — Experimenting with different forms of sensory activity for heightened sexual arousal.

    Sensory Deprivation — Basically the opposite of sensation play in a way—inhibiting sensory activity for sexual arousal.

    Switch — Someone who could adopt both roles of top or bottom.

    Sadism — Receiving pleasure from exerting pain.


    Top — A dominant partner who applies stimulation (e.g. flogging, electric play, etc).


    Vacuum Bed — A device that restricts movement via a latex envelope and frame, where the excess air is removed for added sensation.

    Voyeurism — The act of becoming aroused by secretly watching others, whether that be others having sex or in partial states of undress.

    Vanilla — Sex that conforms to expectations of the culture/community of the individual(s) involved.

    Vinyl — A type of rubber clothing that tends to cling to the body and have a lot of shine.


    Wax Play — A form of temperature play. When warmed wax is dripped on the skin for a warming or erotic sensation.


    Zapper — Using electricity to add stimulation for heightened sexual arousal.

    Want other ways to learn about what you like? The Lioness may be able to help!

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