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What sexual kinks are and how to talk about them with new partners

Abby Moss

November 3rd, 2023

For when you don't have the words...

Got something new you’re keen to explore in the bedroom? Or perhaps you already know what you like, but haven’t broached your sexual kink with a new partner yet? By communicating your sexual desires openly with your partners, you can not only have more fun, but can help to foster greater trust and understanding, and build pathways for better communication outside of the bedroom too.

What is a sexual kink?

So what is a kink? And is a kink really all that different to any other sexual preference, like preferring to do it with the lights on, or wanting to take off your socks first? The short answer is no, not really.

People can get the wrong idea about kinks, particularly kinks that involve BDSM. Kinks aren’t (always) about pain, or about inflicting harm on your partner. You don’t need a fancy Fifty Shades style dungeon either. Whether you’re experimenting with bondage (in which case, check out our Bondage Basics Feed Guide first to learn how to safely tie somebody up), spanking, breath play, or whatever turns you on, remember that kinks are about trust and communication between you and your partner.

What is the difference between a kink and a fetish?

It’s important to remember first of all that any and all sexual practices that are safe and consensual are equally acceptable and nothing to feel shame around. There is nothing wrong with having a consensual and safe fetish or kink.

There is a simple difference in their definitions. A kink is something that turns you on, which you can choose to incorporate into play with your partners. You and your partners might have a whole host of different kinks, some that you try out more times than others. A fetish is a sexual act, scenario, or object, which usually needs to be present in order for a person to feel maximally turned on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the fetish absolutely has to be present for that person to enjoy sex or become aroused, but it is likely to feature more prominently than a kink.

How can you start the conversation about your kinks?

Certified sexologist and author of All The Fucking Mistakes, A Guide to Sex, Love and Life, Gigi Engle has some advice for starting the conversation about kink.

“An easy way in is to suggest watching some kinkier porn with a partner,” says Gigi. “I wouldn’t recommend porn that is solely about that kink, but rather something that incorporates it. Say you want to try spanking, find some porn that includes that, and by watching with your partner you can gauge their reaction.”

Talking about your sexual kinks doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or intimidating. In fact, there are even beginners classes out there, and in 2021 many are online so you can explore from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Anatomie Studios, based in London, offers friendly and accessible online courses in bondage. Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium in Old Street has been teaching sexual empowerment for over 28 years and hosts a huge range of online classes which are fun, beginner friendly and encourage questions and conversation. “Classes can often be really disarming,” says Gigi. “You’ll be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you, who want to try something new for the first time.”

“You could also try writing a sexual bucket list,” suggests Gigi. “You can each write down things you’re interested in, I’d recommend going away and doing this separately then coming back together. You can go through them and talk about which things are a yes, a no, or a maybe.”

What if they’re not into it?

You might find that you like something that your partner or partners don’t. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a deal breaker. Gigi recommends talking and trying to reach a compromise. There may be a way to include a kink into your play which works for everyone. “You might find that your partner really surprises you. Sometimes people are really nervous discussing their kinks, and then discover their partner shares the same interests.” The only way to know this is to get it out in the open and talk.

“Think about how important this is to you,” says Gigi. “If you do feel that this is preventing you from wanting to stay in that relationship, and your partner is unwilling to make appropriate compromises, that is valid too.”

Top 5 tips for talking about sexual kinks with new partners

  • Don’t be ashamed of your kinks. All safe and consensual sexual practices are equally valid
  • Read up on kinks. Lots of kinks are misunderstood and many are far more common than you might think
  • Talking about your kinks can be fun. Try writing a sexual bucket list, or joining a beginners class
  • If you aren't quite ready to share fantasies verbally, then share them visually by way of watching kinky porn together
  • Think about ways to compromise. Can you explore your kinks in a way that makes everyone happy?
  • Relationship
  • Kink