Thinking about My Sex Life: Am I Kinky?

Kinky sex

“I like candle wax dripped onto my body when Jake and I have sex,” Marla said to her friend Anne over lunch. They’d gotten around to talking about their intimate lives, and Marla couldn’t wait to throw that particular grenade. She grinned slyly as she anticipated Anne’s reaction.

But the grenade just sat there, unsatisfyingly silent.

Anne shrugged. “Is that it? Is that what you meant by kinky?”

“Well, yeah,” Marla said, fork-stabbing a tomato wedge in her salad. “Maybe you didn’t hear me. Jake lights a candle and drips hot wax onto my naked stomach, and I get totally turned on by that.”

Anne smiled, patted her friend’s hand, and said, “No offense, honey, but I outgrew that years ago.”

“So you and Sid have vanilla sex now?” Marla couldn’t help it, she experienced a little rush of superiority at the thought of having a kinkier sex life than her daring friend.

Delicately holding the stem of her wine glass, Anne peered over the rim and into the swirling red liquid. She smiled again, this time more mysteriously. She set the glass down, looked around her at the busy restaurant, and leaned in close to the friend she’s known for two decades, since college. “Now? Now we…,” she started, and the rest she whispered in Marla’s ear, a hand cupped around her mouth, as Marla turned deeper and deeper shades of red.

When Anne finished her whispered confession, Marla said (somewhat out of breath), “Wow. Okay. I guess my kink is pretty vanilla compared to that.”

Am I Kinky? Kink, No-kink, or Somewhere in Between?

Despite our differences in perspective, there are many things in life that are fixed, that are not relative, that are not open to interpretation. For instance, blood pressure. You wouldn’t say, “Oh, my BP is 220 over 120, and I know that might be high for some people, but it’s fine for me.” Um, please get yourself to the nearest ER pronto…

But there are just as many things in life that are indeed very relative. For example, you might hear two people around the office coffeemaker talking about how much sleep they got the night before. “Man, this is gonna be a long day,” one says. “I’m already beat. I only got seven hours of sleep.”

While the other co-worker is saying, “I feel great today. I have so much energy. I slept for seven whole hours!”

And perhaps nowhere are things more relative (perspective-based) than in intimate relationships. Case in point: One couple might have sex twice a week and see that as frequent lovemaking, while another couple might not think they’re having enough sex unless they’re making love twice each day. One way is not better than another (unlike the blood pressure scenario!); it’s quite literally about what is best for each couple as well as how they see it. Satisfaction depends solely on whether or not the individuals within the couple are satisfied; it is not contingent upon any external gauge.

Are We Kinky? Are We Vanilla? And Who Wants to Know?

No doubt about it: we are a world of labels. But sometimes labels do more harm than good. Why is this? Because people tend to get caught up in the label itself. And that can cause them to become self-conscious and to unwittingly disconnect from what they’re actually doing. Instead of losing themselves in the moment, they’re worrying about whether or not they’re living up to the label.

kinky sex in marriageI’m not saying this is always the case, of course (so don’t feel like you have to jettison helpful labels), but it can happen in the sexual arena because sex is a loaded topic. Many of us (perhaps most of us) have been raised not to talk about sex, or at least only when it’s absolutely necessary, and only with one’s partner. Further, for a long time, ‘kink’ has had somewhat of a negative connotation, as if people engaging in against-the-grain activities are doing something wrong (in this case wrong is perceived as deviant).

Fortunately, society has come a long way overall when it comes to recognizing the need for and the beauty of individual differences and preferences (and the right for consenting adults to live their lives behind closed doors as they wish), but with more progressive thinking comes responsibility. You wouldn’t want to discuss kink with your grandparents, for example (or probably any sex, for that matter!), nor would it be appropriate to share your latest kinky escapade with a strictly-professional acquaintance or in a context where it just wouldn’t fit.

How does all this boil down to you and your sex life?

Over the course of my career as a couples counselor, I’ve had several couples ask me to label them. “Are we kinky, Doc?” is one of those questions.

And, as maddening as it may be to them, I don’t answer the question. I can’t. It’s not my question to answer. Instead, I ask them more questions. “Do you think you’re kinky? And, if you think you are, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Or, if you think you’re not, how would that impact your behavior in and out of the bedroom?”

Sex is a mysterious mix of cerebral and physical, of conscious thought and the liberating experience of getting swept up in the moment and not needing to think for awhile. I’ve talked about the need, at times, to plan for sex (especially for busy couples that wouldn’t automatically find the time to be intimate otherwise), so yes, the intellectual aspect is important. However, to reduce sex to something that only and always happens according to a schedule or a program (i.e., “Okay, from here on in, we’re only doing kinky stuff in the bedroom!”) might cause you to miss magic that can occur when two agenda-less people join to express their love.

Be yourself, not a label…and see where sex with your partner leads you

It’s also important to note that sex lives—like lives in general—are not static things, but are fluid and dynamic. So even couples that may heavily be into kink will have times when they crave vanilla. Rigidly proscribing yourselves to any one way for the sake of a label will diminish the spontaneity that can make sex exciting, gratifying, and meaningful. And also, let me ask you this: If you only ever employ kink, won’t kink start to feel bland, through sheer unbroken repetition?

And beyond that, the spice level (or kink-level) is all relative

Think back to the example of Marla and Anne that started this article. Marla ended up leaving that lunch thinking that she and Jake were only having “vanilla” sex, and she was judging that as less-than somehow. (Which she needn’t have: there’s a reason vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor–it’s the one that most people enjoy!)

But if Marla had been out to lunch with any of her other friends, she would’ve left the restaurant with her perception as Kink Queen upheld. But, with that said…

(…and I hope this doesn’t sound cold or indifferent….)

…what does it really matter? As long as she and Jake are enjoying their sex life and it brings them closer, who really cares what label they may or may not fit into?

Now if Marla left that lunch and decided she would do whatever it was Anne whispered in his ear, just for the sake of “earning” the kinky title, even while knowing that she wouldn’t like it and Jake probably wouldn’t either, then she may actually rob her sex life of something, rather than add to it.

Meaningful sex with your partner is about lots of things: it’s about love and intimacy and closeness (closeness that can permeate your whole relationship) and sharing and expressing and celebrating. It’s also about freedom. It’s about the freedom to be who you are and the freedom for your partner to be who s/he is…not just who the two of you are overall, but who you are in the moment.

The problem with labels is that they don’t have an “in the moment,” they are fixed concepts that pigeonhole us and restrict the fluidity of what turns us on (and how we express our sexual selves). So while they can be useful at times, don’t let them dictate your sex life. Instead, give yourselves the permission and the freedom to enjoy kink or no-kink or the full spectrum in between as you and your partner see fit.

Here’s to creating a passionate and fulfilling sex life!

Dr. Rich Nicastro

(Featured images courtesy of Tuomas Lehtinen [top photo] and Nenetus [bottom photo] at FreeDigitPhotos.net)