Kink 101–It Doesn’t Have to Hurt!
50 Shades seems to have piqued everyone’s curiosity about what could be in the bedroom, BDSM wise.
But the interest quickly fades when they realize pain might be involved. It’s ok! Pain is not required to dabble in the kink-dom. There’s something in kink for everyone–even the shyest of players!
Many people define kink as a broad topic encompassing all of taboo sex, but when you do get to see or participate in a scene (a fancy name for a kinky interaction), it’s theatrical and a series of onomatopoeias, like whip, smack, thud, and gasp! Frequently this includes pain, but what if you don’t like pain? I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to! Here is a guide to kink 101 for the pain avoidant, the more than a little bit curious, and everyone in between!
What is kink?
Again, the simplest definition I have for you is that it’s an umbrella term covering all of consensual taboo sex. Since what is considered “taboo” is cultural, many things may be taboo for some, but nowhere near for others – a prime example of this is anal sex. Universally, kink includes fetishes and BDSM. Kink may be a fantasy, a practice, or an identity. People may call themselves kinky if they practice on the occasional weekend, in specific relationships, or all the time.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to zone in on the BDSM part of the kink-dom. Fetishes are a hyper-fixated attraction to one thing (hey, I’m not looking at your shoe collection when I say this) and given that those tend to be attached to specific life events, I don’t need to sell you on it. BDSM, however, is a broad community and series of behaviors falling into categories like bondage/discipline, Domination/submission (capitalization intentional), and sadism/masochism. These are the practices that have wiggle room to explore pain and non-pain fun.
Why do people like pain? Or kink for that matter?
Kink provides the opportunity to learn, lose, or gain something about yourself. You can try a new sensation (like being spanked) or try a new role (like dominating someone else). Many people consider their kink practices to be cathartic and liberating.
In terms of why certain people like specific sensations, I couldn’t tell you–it’s all unique to the individual. What I can tell you is that our biology and experience shifts how we perceive sensations on our skin. Think about fingernails being run up and down your skin. For my partner, it feels ticklish and he does not like it (common for redheads like him); for me, it’s ticklish and/or painful given my exhaustion and hormones and I do like it*; for both of us, if someone started doing it without consent, we would not like it. Try on your own arm–does it only tickle? Does the sensation change the longer you do it? Does somebody else doing it change it? As this article on pain puts it, pain is weird and oh-so contextual.
If kink is whips and chains, how do you do kink without pain?
Ah, I love S&M by Rihanna and even the title is even accurate! Sadism and masochism is focused on giving and receiving pain (and whips and chains are particularly potent deliverers of pain). Maybe one day you’ll be into it like one day I may be into lima beans–it could happen, but I wouldn’t bank on it. That’s ok. There’s a whole world of BDS to focus on!
The B, as in bondage, is my favorite intro to kink sans pain. It takes practice, but the knots are a fun party trick (at the right parties) and can be oh-so versatile. It holds things and people in place, can be a fun sensation across the skin, and creates a compression sensation. Compression is a pretty universal pleasurable sensation, like a Thunder Jacket for people!
Beyond bondage, there is sensation play that can include tickling, wax play, sex with food, sex ON food, playing with hot and cold, and more! There are also kinks around having sex in certain places or with certain people**.
Even if you are curious about the whips and chains, you should know that there are options that are less painful than others. I could write a separate article on how to shop for floggers but for now, let’s stress getting something with many falls (aim for 24-40 falls), or lengths of leather, like a flogger, over a whip or crop. Leather is always a better choice than wood or plastic materials. Pick something the length of your arm or a few inches less.
Finally, there’s D/s play, which is a very cool and big world to play in without pain.
What is D/s play?
D/s is Domination/submission–while S&M focuses on giving and receiving pain, D/s focuses on giving and receiving power. This means that someone directly steers the course of a sexual encounter and someone else complies. The traditional school girl and nurse fantasies fit here. You can incorporate bondage, pain, and all of the above into D/s play, but you should think of D/s as a theater performance. How would I act if I was a confident, commanding person? How would I if I was subservient, bratty, or muted?
This play frequently aligns with humiliation play, which is what it sounds like: if someone is very masculine, maybe you have them put on feminine clothing or do feminine things. The catharsis comes from subverting the experiences people commonly have. Depending on how far you take it, this can be emotional pain play; however, this is very advanced and not recommended for people reading this article.
With all D/s and kink play, I recommend people read up on the topic before trying. Talking to staff at small feminist sex toy stores also helps. Above all, consent is crucial–know what you’re doing, know when to stop, know what you and a partner consider to be fun.
You should also know that this grazes the fun, tantalizing surface (is that a skin pun?) of kink. For the 102 on these and other topics, I recommend edited books like The Ultimate Guide to Kink or 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM by Tristan Taormino, and As Kinky as You Wanna Be by Shanna Germain. Edited books are great for getting key expert perspectives on many topics – a great appetizer for the main course you choose! Happy playing!
*For as little as we know about pain, we know less about tickling. Best I can find, tickling uses the same physical and neural pathways as pain receptors and our laughter is connected to us coming from apes expressing fear… which I find to be a stretch but you can learn more here.
**Please, we are not condoning violating the law or infidelity. Consent for everyone involved is important.