This is part of a series of articles called Beyond 50 Shades of Grey that take a deeper, more realistic look at elements of BDSM. Get ready to go Beyond 50 Shades.
When it comes to vanillas and kinksters there’s a real “us” and “them” attitude. It’s like the Sharks and the Jets (Yes, I’m showing my age . . . and my love for musicals. Quiet, or I’ll dance fight your ass.). If you’re one you can’t be the other. You should never let it be known you occasionally associate with the opposing side, right? Look how badly that turned out for Tony and Maria.
It’s also assumed if you’re on one side you think the other is less than worthy. Breaking it down to basic stereotypes, vanillas think kinksters are scary and weird. Kinksters think vanillas are unadventurous and boring.
I can’t tell you how many times a self identified vanilla has asked me, “How do I tell my partner I want some new things in bed? I’ve never told them I like some light spanks and nibbles— even a hand on the throat sometimes. I’d love for them to take charge a bit more and be more demanding. I also really enjoy role-playing. But don’t think I’m into, like, *makes the face* BDSM or anything. All that crazy stuff is just too freaky for me!”
I’m not sure what most people think BDSM is? Sawing people in half while wearing all leather? Let’s examine a few “other side” observations about BDSM:
The Outfits Practicing BDSM does not require special clothing. Yes, I’ve heard people say, “How silly would I look practicing S&M!? No one wants to see my muffin-top popping through a latex catsuit!” Or “I wouldn’t mind taking charge a little bit, it could be fun— but there’s no way I’d even try kink because of those outlandish get-ups they wear!”
You can be naked, in work clothes, lingerie, jeans and a sassy sweater, a baseball uniform, a space suit– whatever you like! The clothes in no way define the action. Yes, the leather and whips are what we see in porn, magazines and on TV— that’s because it’s flashy (and hot to spank it to). It’s also a stereotype.
Nope, I don’t want to see my muffin-top in a catsuit either and I can’t walk in heels to save my life– but I still practice BDSM. I often do it in the ratty old nightgown I got from Old Navy.
The Acronym BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline/Dominance & Submission/Sadism & Masochism. It can be one or more of these things but for many it’s rarely all.
Sometimes do you like your lover to take charge, pin you up against the wall and give you direction? That’s dominance and submission.
Do you like to give your partner a smack on the ass or hold them a bit tightly? What about a little bite or nibble? Have you ever left a little mark that’s visible the next day? Sadism! If you like receiving, that’s masochism.
Do you enjoy restraining your lover? Pinning their hands behind their back or above their head? Perhaps tying their wrists or ankles together with a scarf or tie? Bondage!
If you have done any of these things, you are practicing elements of BDSM without even realizing it.
Also, kinky people do not necessarily like every kind of freaky activity under the sun (most don’t). Just because you enjoy being tied up every once and a while does not mean you also have to like pain and vice versa. If you are into the BD but not the SM you are still technically considered a practitioner of BDSM. It’s a common misconception that people have to be into the B, the D, the S and the M to be considered kinky.
The Gear Many assume you need to have expensive floggers, whips, ball gags and a “saw a person in half machine” to effectively practice BDSM. Have you ever used a scarf or tie to blindfold a partner? Yes? Then you’ve engaged in sensory deprivation on a dime!
Use that same scarf or tie to restrain their hands or feet— we’re back to bondage again. What about that French maid costume from three Halloweens ago you got out that one night to surprise your partner just for kicks? Sexual roleplay!
You can even grab some clothes pins out of the laundry room for impromptu nipple clamps. While you’re in the laundry room, grab the clothes line rope too— it’s great for restraint. Even something as simple as a wooden kitchen spoon makes a wonderful paddle.
Whether you’ve used these items in a vanilla setting “once just for fun” or intended to use them for sinister and mysterious (that’s sarcastic) BDSM, you’ve discovered pervertables! Pervertables are common household items repurposed as sexy/kinky accessories. With pervertables you can get your kink on for little to no money. Many of us, vanilla and kinky alike, have used pervertables (think cucumbers or that phallic shaped shampoo bottle that was popular in the 90s. Uh huh. You know you did.).
The only piece of gear you must have to practice kink is your mind. They always say the greatest (vanilla) sexual organ is the brain— the same goes for kinky sex. All you really need is your imagination and creativity.
Public Play “BDSM sounds sort of interesting but I just can’t do it. I can’t have sex in front of people or go to kinky parties! Also, I’m in a happy monogamous relationship, I can’t do that with other people—EW! That is just NOT my thing!”
Yes, some kinksters do go to parties, play publicly and play with multiple partners even if they are in a committed primary relationship. Those folks are only a small piece of the pie, however. There are scores of people who identify as kinky but only share that with their partners. They don’t belong to internet groups, go to parties or shout it from the rooftops. We’re not sure how many of those are out there but I’m willing to bet it’s quite a few. Then add to that the people who are kinky who don’t realize they are (the “I’m into hair pulling, spanking and I occasionally like to go in the bathtub and pee on my partner but I’m not into any of that freaky BDSM stuff or anything” types). See where I’m going with this?
Public players are usually very dedicated to their sexy hobby. They also aren’t afraid to tell everyone about it. These folks have blogs dedicated to kink, join BDSM social groups and websites, they are even the people writing the BDSM books.
Just because the public kinksters have the loudest mouths, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are an accurate representation of the entire kinky pie.
Think of public kinksters as the crisscross patterned golden crust everyone sees on the surface of the pie— but what about the hidden sweet filling?
Much of that pie filling is comprised of private players. These are your neighbors who like to get their freak on alone in their bedroom once a month when the kids are away on a Cub Scout sleepover. It’s your roommate who told you one night after a few beers they prefer lovers who are rough, commanding and pull on their hair. It might even be you. Many of these pie filling people don’t even realize they are kinky!
But how could that be? How can someone not know they are practicing BDSM? Well, namely because there really is no “US and THEM,” a least not in a clear-cut sense. When it comes to vanilla vs. kink activities there’s a huge crossover.
Break it down like this, for instance . . .
Vanilla acts = Regular intercourse, oral sex, kissing, light touching, giggling, etc.
Kinky acts = Spanking, retraining, biting/nibbling, telling someone what to do/doing as told, pain (hair pulling, squeezing, pinching, etc), role-playing, using toys, etc.
Most of us, self identified kinky or vanilla, engage in activities from both categories during play. I’m kinky but I still engage in intercourse, oral sex and pretty much everything from the vanilla list. I can guarantee a large percentage of the vanilla folks dig some of the stuff on the kinky list also.
When it comes to sexual/intimate activities we can’t agree on what is kinky or vanilla. To some sex toys are kinky but to others they are commonplace. On which list would you put anal sex? 69? Cumming on someone’s face? Tickling? Calling your partner a “good little whore?” Pinching nipples very hard? It’s all subjective.
The writing of this blog post was inspired by the mental image of a Venn diagram that popped into my head randomly a few nights ago. I’ve drawn it out for you. Forgive me for using MS Paint. Part of my brain still lives in 1997.
On the vanilla side we can include basic activities like kissing, snuggling and missionary position sex with the lights out. The kink side would clearly include some of the more extreme things such as play piercing/blood play, scat and perhaps clown sex.
But again, this is all subjective. I can’t really put electric play in the Kink category because housewives of middle America are currently loving the Jopen Intensity vibrator/kegel exerciser. That toy is marketed to the mainstream but operates based on the same principles as a TENS unit (usually associated with BDSM). These vanilla ladies are receiving the exact same sensation as they would from an insertable BDSM electric device but they’d never guess!
So what’s the point? Simply, stop playing “Us and Them.” Pointing the finger at others prevents us from experimenting, growing and discovering what we enjoy sexually. It ultimately keeps us from being happy.
If I’m into BDSM and I feel like having a slow, tender vanilla lovemaking session I should be able to tell my partner I want that without fearing they’ll think I’ve lost my edge. If I’m vanilla and have been longing for my lover yank me by the hair and give my ass a good smack, I should be able to ask for that without being afraid they’ll think I’m a weirdo. It’s not about living up to your self proclaimed label, it’s about doing what feels right.
Your task: ask your lover to try out that thing you’ve been thinking about but we’re too afraid to bring up for fear they’d think it was out of character for you. You might find it’s easier than you imagined to delve into some of those things you always thought would remain just a fantasy.