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What To Know About Sex Kinks, According To A Sex & Intimacy Coach

If you’ve ever been curious about exploring your sexuality through kink, you’re not alone. While “kink” can be defined in a variety of ways, Healthline states that kinks are typically sexual preferences or behaviors that fall outside of “conventional” sex. According to WebMD, “kinky sex” can include a range of consensual practices like role play, power dynamics, and more.

Kinks and kinky sex are often associated with BDSM — AKA bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism — which, despite being historically taboo, is becoming more widely understood thanks to stories like Fifty Shades of Grey. Kink is also frequently associated with fetishes, which refers to an attraction to an intimate object and/or part of the body that’s not typically sexual (a fetish can be a type of kink).

Kink is all about consent, communication, and compromise, and you should always practice active consent when trying something new with a partner. According to Psychology Today, kink is still heavily stigmatized, widely misunderstood, and is often viewed as “abnormal” — a belief that is rooted in problematic belief systems surrounding eroticism and pleasure. So, if you’re feeling nervous about discussing or exploring with your partner, know that kinky sex is perfectly normal. Exploring your fantasies in a consensual way can be lots of fun, and it’s up to you and your partner to decide what’s comfortable for you.

Maybe you’re into blindfolds, restraints, or activities like breath play — or maybe you’re just starting out, and are looking to explore your preferences for the first time. You may also find that your kinks don’t completely align with your partner’s, and that’s OK! Like all things sex and sexuality, you should feel empowered to explore your boundaries and discuss what feels safe and exciting for you (and what doesn’t). Even if you’re a beginner, there are a few ways to start learning about kink.

Leah Carey, a sex and intimacy coach and host of the Good Girls Talk About Sex podcast, says that speaking with your partner is crucial before trying any type of kink. What you define something as “kinky,” another person may not — so it’s helpful to start an open conversation.

“As with all things to do with sex and sexuality, definitions change based on who is speaking,” Carey tells Her Campus. “The way to find out if a partner or potential partner might be interested in kink is to ask them…find a story, book, TV, or movie that depicts [kink] and ask your partner what they think about the story.” If you’re feeling intimidated, Carey says that you can use a conversation guide like this one to get started.

To help you understand some of the most common kinks out there, we spoke to Carey for the inside scoop. Here are eight common kinks and what they mean.


“Some people enjoy the feeling of being touched without being able to see and anticipate what’s going to happen in advance,” says Carey. “Blindfolds are frequently combined with other tools like restraints or food play.”

According to 2021 research on BDSM behaviors published in The Journal of Sex Research, many practitioners report feeling “relaxed, confident, sexy, and safe” while experimenting with blindfolding, and some reported that the act even increased trust and communication between partners. To that end, blindfolds can be a fun way to experiment and build anticipation during sex.


Similar to blindfolds, restraints can be used to spice up sex and create a sense of excitement. “Some people experience heightened sensation when they’re forced to give without reciprocating,” says Carey, who notes that this is also a common dynamic in BDSM. Restraints can include handcuffs, rope, scarves, or even leather attachments to your bed.

Shibari, an ancient form of Japanese rope bondage, is another type of erotic restraint play that can increase arousal and heighten sensations during sex. This form of rope bondage typically uses ropes made from natural fibers like jute or hemp, whereas other forms of Western rope bondage may use hemp, cotton, or even synthetic ropes. Additionally, while Shibari can increase eroticism, the motive isn’t always sexual in nature and can be “psychologically and spiritually” thrilling on its own, according to Shape. 

If you’re trying restraints, whether with rope or otherwise, always be sure to communicate with your partner what feels good and what doesn’t — and don’t forget to not tie too tight!


“Similar to above, some people love the feeling of being at someone’s mercy and not being able to speak,” Carey says. This is where gags come in, and you can buy them in many forms and styles. While using a gag with your partner(s) can be hot, Carey says you want to make sure you can still breathe, communicate, and stay safe during your sexual experience.

“When playing in this way, make sure there is still a way for the person who is gagged to communicate — for instance, holding a bell in their hand that they can ring or a ball they can drop if they need the play to stop,” she says.


While it may seem surprising to those new to kink, food is actually a common form of sex play. “Including food in sex can look many different ways,” Carey says, “from blindfolding a partner and feeding them to spreading food on their body and licking it off.” In some forms of sex play, you can even use vegetables for penetration — although Carey still recommends always using a condom for protection against irritation and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).


Roleplay is a popular type of kink that’s frequently associated with BDSM. In sexual role play, two or more people may “act out” a particular scene or fantasy (think: teacher and student or boss and employee). The scenarios can be simple straightforward or sophisticated with costumes, props, or even a script. Typically, role play involves acting or pretending to take on a new “role” of choice, whatever you and your partner(s) decide that may be.

“It can be fun to pretend that you’re different people, possibly with a different power dynamic — like a teacher/student relationship, or needing to keep your sex a secret,” Carey tells Her Campus. If you’re interested in trying role play, ask your partner what they’d be into and you might just find some spicy ideas to elevate your sex experience. Apart from common power dynamics like teacher/student and boss/employee role play scenes, you might spice things up by pretending you and your partner are strangers, or by taking on an “everyday” role like a delivery person, massage therapist, doctor, photographer, or otherwise.

Public Pleasure

If you’re experimenting with kink, public pleasure can be a steamy way to build sexual tension between you and your partner. Remember that public sex is technically illegal, so you’ll want to be careful about this one. However, it’s common for exhibitionst types to feel turned on by activities that boost pleasure more publicly, like sharing nude photos with their partners, going shopping for lingerie together, or fantasizing about having sex somewhere you might get caught.

For college students who want to experiment (without breaking the law!), Carey recommends using a remote control vibrator to heat things up. “A remote control vibrator can provide tons of fun in a public place like a bar — or even in a lecture hall if you’re the adventurous type!” she says. “One person places the vibrator against their genitals and the other person keeps the controller. The person with the controller can turn things on and get things rolling any time they want with the push of a button.” If you’re shopping for remote control vibrators, check out LELO, Eva, the Lush3, or take a quiz to find out which vibrator is best for you.


A common kink frequently associated with BDSM is spanking or flogging during sexual activity. “Some people experience impact as a sexually pleasurable sensation,” Carey says.  “Whether it’s using a hand, a flogger, a paddle, a cane, or other objects, the intensity can be modulated from low impact to high impact.”

According to The Journal of Sex Research, prolonged, intense, anticipated, and consensual sexualized painful stimulation can induce pleasure similar to a runner’s high. Because “impact play” like spanking can also release endorphins in the body, you may experience a euphoric, enjoyable sensation while experimenting with this type of kink.

Remember: Your safety is always paramount, so be sure to practice active consent and communicate clearly with your partner about your needs. If something feels uncomfortable or too painful, don’t be afraid to speak up or use a safe word to stop a scene from continuing.


When experimenting with kink, some practitioners enjoy a bit of breath play, which can heighten the overall sexual experience. Because breath restraint and/or choking can be extremely dangerous, Carey recommends communicating boundaries with your partner about how to approach the act.

“While choking may be considered “standard” for some, it is actually a high-risk kink activity and requires a good safety plan because when things go wrong it happens fast,” she says. “At minimum, have a conversation with your partner about what you want to happen if things go sideways, and keep a list of emergency numbers by the side of the bed so it’s easy to find in a crisis.” Some people find that having their partner lightly touch their neck — insinuating choking, rather than actually doing so — can be equally as attractive. So, like all things sex, find what feels good for you and let your partner(s) know.

There are many forms of kink that you can try, but the most important thing is that you practice active consent — AKA an affirmative, honest, voluntary, conscious, sober, and ongoing agreement to participate in sexual activity — or else your experience can feel uncomfortable and unsafe. For instance, in “ravishment,” another form of higher-impact kink, Carey says that the experience gets blurry due to the “consensual non-consent” practiced in the scene.

“This is a pre-negotiated scene where someone wants to be ‘taken’ while they get to struggle and say ‘no’ without having the scene stop,” Carey says. And while there’s evidence that many people find this form of kink attractive and thrilling, some might find it to be the opposite. Be sure to communicate your needs, create a “contract” with boundaries and expectations for your experience, and don’t be afraid to try new things in bed — consensually, of course.

Additional reporting by Tianna Soto.

Leah Carey, Sex & Intimacy Coach, Host of Good Girls Talk About Sex Podcast

Labrecque, F., Potz, A., Larouche, É., & Joyal, C. C. (2021). What is so appealing about being spanked, flogged, dominated, or restrained? Answers from practitioners of sexual masochism/submission. The Journal of Sex Research, 58(4), 409-423.

Mains, G. (1984). Urban aboriginals. Daedalus Publishing.

Raichlen, D. A., Foster, A. D., Gerdeman, G. L., Seillier, A., & Giuffrida, A. (2012). Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(8), 1331-1336.

Alyssa Rogers is attending the University of West Florida studying Psychology with a minor in Sport & Exercise Psychology. She is the current Secretary for the UWF chapter of Her Campus. In her free time, you can find her taking her Shepsky, Cairo out for walks, or reading by the pool.
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