I get asked this question at least once a week. Usually it comes accompanied by a long and detailed description of the partner in question – as though the asker hopes that by laying out their relationship in enough detail I’ll be able to provide some kind of sexual cheat code that will unlock their partner’s hidden kinks.
And I get it – even someone as emotionally recalcitrant as me can see that opening up to someone you’re already intimate with can be a scary thing, especially when you’re not sure if your innermost desires are going to be met with a wry smile or a look of disgust. Doubly difficult, I can imagine, for submissive peeps, who can’t ask for what they want without feeling like they’re driving the rollercoaster.
So here’s the best answer I have for that big question at the top of the page. It’s not the perfect answer, because there isn’t one. Everyone is a beautiful and unique snowflake, no two of whom are alike, etc, etc. Results may vary. But if you’re completely lost as to how to broach the subject of your irrepressible filthiness with your lover, the notes below might help.
One thing before we begin, Grasshopper – you have to accept the fact that your partner might just not be into it. Whether that IT is your foot fetish, rough sex in a bathtub full of jelly or your favourite sexy robot/mad scientist roleplay – some people are as vanilla as English food. They don’t want to get involved, and if that’s the case there’s no magic button you can press that will make them change their mind. Even if they’re THE ONE. Even if you’re married.
Take a moment to mull over how it might go if your partner isn’t into it. Is kink essential to you? Can you live without it in your life, or is that a recipe for stand-up-comedian-level unhappiness further down the line? Is this a slight difference in preferences (like if you both prefer different kinds of cheese), or a much deeper incompatibility (like she’s allergic to cheese and if you want to be with her you can never ever eat it again)? Tough questions, sure, but if they were easy you’d already have answered them.
Approaches To Corrupting Your Partner…
Talk It Out… Hypothetically
Fantasies – like mistakes – are a lot easier to discuss when they’re hypothetical. And if you’ve never breathed a word about your kink to your partner before, this is the way to start. Pick one of your favourite obscure sexual practices and tell your partner that Ruth at work was gabbing about it in the break room, or that you read a Buzzfeed article about it, or that you saw a reference to it in an ordinary, totally not-erotic film. It doesn’t matter what origin story you give it – the point is to shift it far away from you so that it’s safe and easy to actually talk about.
Gauge their response. If it’s positive, then it should be easy enough to push the conversation towards the idea of trying it out sometime. You’re a winner! If they’re lukewarm, suggest why you think it would be fun, and hint that you’re curious. If they’re vehemently disgusted… well, let it drop, and try again another time, perhaps with something a little more tame.
Explore Outside The Bedroom
There are plenty of ways to explore and expand your mutual interests outside of the bedroom/dungeon/kitchen/wherever you like to get down to it. You can read erotica together and talk about the bits that you found enjoyable. You can shop online for sex toys, or pretend that it’s the 1990s and go to an actual sex shop.
You can watch porn together, or (if porn’s a little rich for your blood) one of Channel Four’s mouth-breathingly gawkerish documentaries about rubber doll fetishists. All of these are ways into talking about kink that don’t involve you just coming out and saying you like to do it while wearing a bunny suit.
Actually Explain Things
Vanilla people don’t understand kink. Of course they don’t. Their reference materials are Fifty Shades Of Grey, some unsubstantiated rumours about adult babies, and the vague inclination that some people like to be spanked. If that was all you had to go on you probably wouldn’t be into it either.
You can help ease their transition into being a kinky so-and-so by actually explaining away some common misconceptions. Let them know that people do actually enjoy pain sometimes, that love and kink aren’t mutually exclusive, that they don’t have to be a capital-D Dom in order to dominate you, and that gimp suits really, really aren’t mandatory.
Don’t Push Them In The Deep End
The fetish scene can be an odd and scary place. If you want your partner to come away with a favourable impression of it, don’t just tell them to join FetLife and leave them to it. Don’t show them your stash of hardcore bondage porn. Don’t take them to a play party. Consider what is going to look the least scary and the least unfamiliar to them. Begin with that. It’s the difference between breaking out a blindfold and breaking out a realistic rubber dildo gag.
Ask For Something Specific
Maybe you want your partner to take control in bed – but that’s a pretty wide remit. They likely have no idea what will go down well and what won’t. You can help them out immensely by asking for something specific and not too complicated. Think of it like placing an order at a drive through; you’ll get better results if you ask for a particular hamburger than if you just rock up and ask for “one food, please”.
Ask them to hold you down, to pull your hair or to put their hand on your neck. You may not want to ask for every little thing, but it’s helpful to do so at the start to get your partner into the right headspace.
Demonstrate That You Enjoy It
When your partner does do something you like, make sure they know you like it. It can be confusing, especially if the thing that you like makes you squeal in pain. Affirm for them that you enjoy it, that it’s pleasurable for you, that you want more of it. Without this confirmation, how are they supposed to tell if what you’re reacting to is good pain (being spanked) or bad pain (stubbing your toe)?
For a lot of people this is essential to their enjoyment of BDSM. And it applies even if your partner is submitting to you. Tell them what you enjoyed, and what responses of theirs particularly turned you on. It may be obvious to you, but until you actually put it into words for them they likely have no idea.
Write A Journal
Writing things down can sometimes be easier than saying them out loud – and a journal is a way of saying things to your partner that’s a little less direct that just announcing it to their face. After experimenting or playing make a record of your thoughts and feelings. Focus on the positives – the things you enjoyed and want to do more of. Explain how they made you feel, and emphasise that you liked them. Let your partner read your journal. A glimpse at the inner workings of your brain can really help to ease confusion and get them on board with the things you desire.
Deal With Mistakes Appropriately
Mistakes happen. That’s a standard part of life. If you’re trying to introduce your partner to kink, be mindful of how you react to mistakes. Don’t be too shy to bring it up if they hit you in a sensitive spot or get hot wax in your hair – but be sensitive about how you frame your feedback. Often negative feedback is better received if it’s given after the event, and given in a reasoned, patient tone.
You might, for example, say something along the lines of, “I really loved what you did with that avocado, but the marks it left on my neck were a bit obvious. Next time let’s try it on my back.” Isn’t that better than, “Ugh. Look what you did to my neck”?
Try Some Basic Things First
Like it or not, there are some practices that are more generally well-received than others. For an indicator of what’s basically mainstream, check the contents of the (utterly cringeworthy) Fifty Shades Of Grey Beginner’s Bondage set: some toy cuffs, a flogger, a blindfold, and a ping-pong ball gag.
These items will be at least a little familiar even to people who have never dipped a toe in the scene. Few people are so vanilla that they’ll find a blindfold completely appalling. Even if your interests lie elsewhere, start with something along these lines and work your way patiently up. Just like training a horse.
Enjoyed this? Found it useful? Tell me about it so that I know how many people my words have corrupted.