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Between the Sheets: Part-two of a beginner’s guide to kinky communication!

Last week I broke down some kinky key terms and how kink works. This week I’m laying out how kinky communication can be (and should be) applied to any kind of sex. 

To fully understand the term “kink” I recommend giving last week’s article a read, but for a quick review, kink refers to “an exchange of power between people that can be physical, erotic, sexual, psychological, spiritual, or, most often, some combination,” kink includes “BDSM, sadomasochism, kinky sex, dominance and submission, role play, sex games, fantasy, fetish, and other alternative erotic expressions,” (definition borrowed from “The Ultimate Guide to Kink, BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge” by Tristan Taormino.) 

Vanilla is a term often used by kinky folks to describe sex that isn’t kinky. This might sound like, “After years of pretty okay vanilla sex, Sam’s partner asked if they wanted to be spanked. Sam said “yes” and liked it very much.” 

Just like vanilla ice cream, there is absolutely nothing wrong with vanilla sex. There’s a reason that pretty much every ice cream place in existence serves vanilla; sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. 

Kink and BDSM are not for everyone, and that is totally okay. But even if there are no whips or floggers involved, the communication used in the kink community can be applied to even the most vanilla of sex to make it all the more healthy and pleasurable. 

The communication principles used by kinky folk are negotiation, safewords or check-in systems and aftercare.  

Negotiation: In a basic sense, this means talking about what’s going to happen/what one wants to happen before anything actually happens. 

The word “negotiation” sounds a bit business-like, but it doesn’t have to be as sterile as it sounds. 

To continue with the ice cream theme, let’s imagine a situation between two people, we’ll call them Bert and Ernie. 

Bert asks Ernie if he wants to get ice cream. Ernie says, “sure!” and he gets really excited about the amazing ice cream he’s going to have. Bert picks Ernie up and begins driving to an ice cream place without asking Ernie where he wants to go. Ernie is hoping Bert is driving to Cold Stone, but instead Bert pulls into Culver’s. Ernie doesn’t want to hurt Bert’s feelings so he doesn’t say anything. 

Bert gets his favorite kind of ice cream and Ernie gets one that he likes, but it’s not as good as his favorite from Cold Stone. Afterwards, Bert asks Ernie if he enjoyed his ice cream, and Ernie says “Yeah! It was great!” still not wanting to hurt Bert’s feelings. Bert is left feeling satisfied and Ernie is left high and dry. 

This may be a silly comparison, but it’s a good representation of a really common communication breakdown between sexual partners. 

The whole scenario could have gone a lot better for both Bert and Ernie if they had talked about what they both wanted beforehand. 

Transitioning from ice cream to sex, just because one person asked if the other wanted to have sex and they said “yes” does not mean both people are on the same page; “sex” is not a catchall term.

No matter if a sexual relationship is old or new, it is never too late to start incorporating negotiation. 

For a new sexual relationship—even if it’s just a tinder hookup—negotiation might sound like “Can we talk about what we both want to happen? I think it would be fun to know what we both like and want ;).” 

For sexual relationships that have been going on for a while it could sound like, “Hey, honey buns, I love having sex with you, and I especially love it when you go down on me before we fuck. Do you think we could do that tonight? Is there anything you would really like from me?” 

Negotiation not only makes it clear what both people want, but it’s also super sexy and fun. 

Just because there was discussion beforehand does not mean it should stop once the action starts. This leads me to the next principle… 

Safeword/Check-in System: In Kink/BDSM safewords are used to make sure that both partners have a quick and simple way to communicate how they’re feeling. 

A safeword is a word that won’t naturally come up during kinky play that can be used when one needs everything to stop right then. 

As I talked about last week, a good system is the stoplight system where green means “keep going,” yellow means, “that’s fine, but don’t go any further,” and red means, “stop everything right now.” 

The stoplight system can certainly work for vanilla sex, but it could be fun for partners to come up with their own system as well. It doesn’t matter what words partners use to tell each other how they’re feeling during sex, but it does matter that they’ve talked about whatever that system may be during the negotiation beforehand. 

If partners talked about what they wanted beforehand and used a check-in system during sex they probably had a great time, but to be sure they should use the next principle…

Aftercare: Because kink/BDSM play can often involve pain and sometimes consensual verbal degradation, it’s crucial to practice aftercare. 

Aftercare describes the communication that happens after kinky play happens when partners check in with each other to see if either of them need anything like a glass of water or cuddles or a warm blanket.  

Aftercare also often involves partners checking in with each other hours or days after playing to check in about how they are feeling about the things they did together. 

So members of the kink community understand the mental effects sexual interaction can have, but what about vanilla folks? If sex doesn’t involve kinky activities does that mean it doesn’t have a mental effect either? 

This should be obvious based on pretty much everything, but I am advocating that any type of sexual interaction can (and does) take a mental toll, and that utilizing aftercare could help everyone do sex better. 

For vanilla folks, aftercare might sound like a sexy performance review; “so I know we talked about how you wanted me to go down on you before we fucked, did you like the way that went or did you wish it was different at all?” 

Being candid about sex speeds up the process of learning that often happens between sexual playmates, but at a much, much slower pace. Why not talk about it directly to get both partners what they want and need ASAP? 

Aftercare is also great for addressing and calming possible fears about trying new things between the sheets. An example of this might be, “Hey, I know you were nervous about trying (insert activity here), how did you feel about it?” 

This way, both people will feel comfortable asking for and trying new things in bed, because they will know they are being cared for. 

Bring it all together: No matter what kind of sex is happening, folks should turn to principles of kinky communication to get the most out of the experiences. That means talking about what’s going to happen beforehand, checking in while it’s going down and reviewing how things went afterward, or in kinky terms: negotiating, using a safe-system and practicing aftercare. Why should everyone use this system? Because it is pretty much guaranteed to lead to a happier, healthier, sexier sex life. 

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