Kink 101: How to Explore Your Wild Side in the Bedroom—Solo or Partnered

written by LEXI INKS
Source: Pexels
Source: Pexels

As someone who writes about sex and relationships for a living, it’s easy for others to assume that I’m always well-versed in the latest and greatest sex trends and techniques. I’ve had plenty of friends and acquaintances express the assumption that I must be truly wild when it comes to trying new things in the bedroom. While there may be some truth to my comfortability and knowledge in this realm, I certainly haven’t always been the most open-minded when it came to all things kink.

Growing up in the South and deep in the Christian church, I was raised to view sexuality and sexual pleasure as totally taboo for young people; no one would be touching a thing until I had a ring, essentially. Because it was all off-limits until I would get married one day, I never got to experience the clumsy (and, in my opinion, necessary) sexploration often characteristic of those post-puberty years. I didn’t even have a hookup experience with anyone until I entered college—so experimenting during sex wasn’t even on my radar until later on in my 20s.

As I grew older and became more comfortable and confident in myself as a sexual being, my curiosity definitely began to rise. Of course, many of us are familiar with popular movies like Fifty Shades of Grey or the dozens of erotic series found on spicy BookTok that often come to mind at the first mention of the word “kink.” They may be highly dramatized representations, but these forms of entertainment have started to pique our collective interest in learning more about kink and encouraged us to ask ourselves, “How can I spice up my sex life?

If you’re curious about what role kink can play in your life (pun intended) and how to start exploring your desires, read on for all the juicy details sex experts shared with us. Consider this Kink 101: Class is now in session.

What is a kink?

Don’t get me wrong—there are positive aspects about the popularity of books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s great that so many adults have felt inspired to start exploring their wilder side in the bedroom! Still, there are a few major misconceptions about kink that many people don’t understand—especially the concept of what a kink actually is.

“Kink is a generalization to describe anything sexually unconventional that more or less falls under the BDSM heading, whether it’s a power dynamic (dominance/submission), a fetish, or sensation play (bondage or whips),” says certified sexologist and sex therapist Dr. Gloria Brame, PhD.

Most often, people tend to mix up the concept of a kink versus a fetish. According to Dr. Brame, the latter does fall under the kink umbrella, but the two terms are quite different. “Fetish is specific. It is a love of a specific thing—whether it’s an object (like shoes), a part of the body (like hair or feet), a material (like leather or latex), or a specific type of role-play or act (like spanking),” she explains. In other words, the words aren’t necessarily interchangeable. While having a fetish is “kinky,” being kinky doesn’t always mean you have a fetish.

How to safely practice kink

Before you dive into exploring kink for the first time, there are a few steps and safety precautions to keep in mind, according to Dr. Sarah Sohn, DPT. Think of it like putting on training wheels the first time you ride a bike: Start slow until you’re confident and comfortable enough to do the real thing.

Decide how you want to feel

“Your first step should be identifying how you want to feel during this adventure—whether it’s a desire for safety, comfort, excitement, or a sense of control,” she says. Incorporating kink play in the bedroom can offer a variety of sensations and reactions, both in your body and in your mind.

For example, if you want to explore a dominant/submissive relationship with a partner (where one of you holds the authority in a power dynamic and the other “submits”), this can bring about feelings of safety or even comfort if you choose to be the submissive and let go of control to your Dom. Similarly, if you prefer trying something like impact play that involves pain or discomfort to feel pleasure, this can be an empowering move because you chose to indulge in that behavior.

For me, leaning on the submissive side of the kink spectrum has been so empowering and even healing. Knowing that I’m fully capable of revoking consent and that I am actively choosing to feel pleasure in this way has helped me reclaim my sexuality and feel like I can move past my purity culture trauma.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is power, so taking online kink-related classes, reading up about kinks to explore, and looking for local community groups can make you feel more equipped to take on new dynamics. You can also look to kink-friendly dating apps like Bloom Community, queer and kink-positive Facebook groups, and more kink-focused online resources and websites.

Similarly, educating yourself on kink safety and awareness can help you feel more confident as you start exploring. There are a few pre-existing frameworks that serve as reminders and guidelines for responsibly and consciously engaging in kinks: SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual), PRICK (Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink), RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink), and TICK (Trauma Informed Consensual Kink). Familiarize yourself with them to see if you identify with any in particular, as they are key for maintaining physical and emotional safety—whether you’re engaging in kinks solo or partnered. If you are partnered, having a pre-defined framework to explain what you are and are not comfortable with can help you set your boundaries confidently and clearly.

Source: @ketut-subiyanto | Pexels

Identify a plan of action

From there, it’s time to identify a plan of action. Ask yourself the following questions: When will you start exploring new kinks or engaging with new partners? What kinks are you and are you not interested in? What safety signals do you want to incorporate? How will you check in with yourself and how you’re feeling? And just as importantly, if you are partnered, ask them the same questions. This way, when you start or try new things, you are equipped with an action plan. You know when to stop, take a step back, or increase your intensity as needed.

Ease into it

As you start trying new tools and techniques in your sexual experiences, Dr. Brame reminds you to take things slowly and that less is more. It’s OK to pace yourself and incorporate one thing at a time. After all, this is new to you! Stimulating yourself or a partner using things like touch, taste, or smell is a simple yet powerful way to ease into kink play without investing your time or money. Start by paying attention to various textures around your home, whether they are soft, cold, warm, hot, rough, or smooth, and engaging your senses to play with them. Then, Dr. Sohn recommends thinking about “how you can incorporate multiple senses into activities you already enjoy, like self-pleasure or kissing.” For example, many people enjoy incorporating ice during foreplay to enhance sensations in erogenous zones.

“Get creative to enhance your experience in a way that both you and your partner(s) agree upon and desire,” says Dr. Sohn. Explore new kinks like power dynamics, BDSM, or other things you’re interested in from there.

How to start exploring kink

With a partner

Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or recently started seeing someone, it can be intimidating to express your desires. But opting for silence instead of speaking up when you’re curious to try new things and experiment with kink ideas for the first time ultimately does you and your partner a disservice. You’ll end up feeling unsatisfied with your sexual connection, and your partner won’t have the opportunity to assist at all.

An important precaution to note is that conversations surrounding ways you want to improve or change your sex life should never happen in the bedroom—much less in the moment itself. Instead, pick a neutral time and location where you both have the energy and emotional capacity to have a dialogue about your desires. Doing so will yield greater results because not only are you not catching your partner by surprise, but you’re more able to check in with each other about how you’re feeling and any fears or hesitations you might have.

“Open dialogues about what you like, what you want to do, and how you want to live out your fantasies are a must for a consensual sex relationship, whether it’s kinky or not,” Dr. Brame says. “Communication is all about negotiating boundaries and opening the door to new types of fun.” One way she suggests for you to approach your partner about trying kinky sex for the first time would be picking a book on the topic and discussing it with them or reading it together and sharing your thoughts. You can also use online resources. The BDSMTest can form a list of each of your desires and preferences and compare them to see where you both can have your needs met, for example.

Without a partner

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to involve anyone in your sex life to become a kinky person. Plenty of people have started their kink journey flying solo—and that made it all the more meaningful and powerful. You can engage how you want, when you want, and on your own time—what’s better than that?

Start by trying new toys on yourself, exploring sensory experiences using things like a blindfold or body-safe candle wax, watching ethical porn to “preview” kink ideas or dynamics you haven’t tried before, or starting a list of fantasies or a bucket list of kinks to try. By exploring kink when you’re alone, you can figure out what turns you on, what makes you feel most in control, and provide you with more ideas for new things to try. And if you feel comfortable enough to explore kink with a partner after that, you’ll feel all the more empowered going into your sexual experiences knowing what you want and how you want it.