Lessons in Kink: How Non-Vanilla Sex Can Improve Your Long Term Relationship

First off, if you’re reading this, know that you don’t have to be interested in practicing kink to benefit from this article. This is a dive into how attitudes toward sex in the kink community can benefit folks in all sorts of relationships. You don’t have to be kinky to find valuable information that you can use to deepen your long term relationship!

As you may know, sexual education in the United States varies from state to state, meaning that we all learn different things about sex. Unfortunately, after learning “the basics” (if we’re even lucky enough to learn those), the burden of further sexual education falls on us. There may be a whole world of sexual activity that you aren’t aware of, and even if you’re not interested in trying certain things yourself, there are lessons that everyone can learn from sex-positive communities, like the kink community.

create an erotic environment

Everyone has a different idea of what is erotic to them - and that’s great! You don’t necessarily have to have the ‘sexiest’ bedroom of all time, because let’s be real, that doesn’t exist for many. What is sexy to you may not be sexy to your partner, but one of the most important lessons we can learn from the kink community is that shame has no place in the bedroom (or wherever you want to have sex!).

As we’ve discussed, the US has a very sex-negative culture, so you may have to get used to the idea that sexual desire is healthy. In fact, a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine surveyed over 1,500 people and found that very few sexual fantasies are actually atypical. Opening up your mind to the idea that there isn’t one “right” way to have sex with your partner(s) can be liberating. It gives you space to explore fantasies, figure out what you are into, and above all communicate with your partner(s) about your sex life. Communication + consent are crucial parts of engaging in kink, and that’s something everyone can learn from, even folks who don’t identify as kinky.  

there’s more to sex than intercourse

Another takeaway from kinky spaces is that sex isn’t just one thing. Sex doesn’t only happen between cisgender heterosexual monogamous couples in the missionary position to procreate. Sex can be whatever you and your partner(s) decide it means to you. Fantasies are a normal part of sexuality, and learning about what turns you on can be a great way to find new topics  to fantasize about.

We’ve talked about this before on the blog, but one way to figure out what you’re into sexually is to a) do some research and b) make a yes/no/maybe list. This is a list of sexual activities, and you can categorize them based on what you’d like to try (yes), what you would not like to try (no), and what you aren’t sure about (maybe). These lists are commonly used in kinky spaces to negotiate scenes but can be applied to any type of relationship!

be curious about your sexuality

Sexual desire isn’t always a static thing, and our tastes and desires can change over time. This is especially true when we open up to new ideas of what sex can be. In kinky spaces, curiosity about your sexuality is encouraged, and there is no shame in exploring what does and doesn’t work for you. If you are in a long term sexual relationship of any kind when was the last time you explored your sexual desires? When was the last time you checked in with yourself about your sexuality and how it may have changed? You can do this alone or with your partner(s), and talk about what works and doesn’t work for everyone involved.

Discussing sex can be awkward at first if you aren’t used to doing it, but as you practice the discomfort will decrease.his kind of communication can even turn you on, and help build a deeper intimacy with your partner(s). Perhaps while you’re making your yes/no/maybe list discussed above, you will find something you are interested in trying that you can further explore with your partner(s). You might even find it’s really hot to hear your partner tell you about their sexual desires!

While it’s true that not everyone is kinky, the kink community and their approach to sex can be valuable in teaching us all that there isn’t one way nor a “right” way to have sex. Sex can be a huge variety of things, and it means different things to different people, and that’s okay! The key is to collaborate, be curious, and communicate, which are lessons we can take into non-kinky relationships as well.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.