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The 10 Most Common Kinks, According to Sex Experts

The 10 Most Common Kinks, According to Sex Experts

For as long as people have been having sex, people have been kinky. But despite the many people having kinky sex, kink is a broad term that is often misunderstood and stigmatized. Even now, it’s not uncommon for people to associate kink with pain or abuse and domestic violence — partially because of how kink is portrayed in the mainstream media. But these misconceptions have a much deeper history, too.

For a long time, common kinks like sadism, voyeurism, and exhibitionism were all considered mental illnesses (in addition to queer sex, by the way), according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). But even as attitudes around kink have changed — a recent kink quiz, for example, went viral on TikTok — some less-than-accurate stigma has remained. To set the record straight: kink is not a mental disorder or a thinly-veiled excuse for abusive behaviour. Being kinky is a sexual behaviour that’s rooted in consent and means many different things to many different people. Ultimately, though, enjoying kinky things does not mean there’s anything wrong with you, your sex life, or your turn-ons.

“People have different tastes in what they like, and even though you may not be into it, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or gross to them,” says sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, sexpert for Lovers. Below, Stewart and other experts explain what is a kink, define some common kink examples, and describe the difference between a kink and a fetish.

What Is a Kink?

“Kink is a broad term used to describe any number of sexual activities, fantasies, or desires that exist outside the ‘conventional’ expressions of adult sexuality,” says Angie Rowntree, founder and director of the indie adult cinema Sssh.com. But as she points out, it’s not always clear what is “conventional” since that can largely vary person to person, and what may feel experimental and taboo to one person feels normal to another.

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People often assume a kink is an inherently sexual activity — or that kink is foreplay leading to sex. But for many people, kink is an erotic experience all on its own. For example, a couple who enjoys rope bondage may choose to enjoy ornate body ties as a chance to bond, connect with their bodies, and enter a meditative, creative state of mind, rather than have a sexual experience. With this in mind, kink is better understood as an erotic or sensual experience that is stimulating mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or sexually.

But no matter what level of experience or interest you have with kink, it’s important to avoid shaming someone for their own. “Even if a certain kink isn’t your cup of tea — and that’s totally ok! — it’s important not to yuck anyone’s yum. As long as it is safe, sane, legal, and fully consensual, we say ‘live and let kink,'” says Rowntree.

10 Common Kink Examples

There are a lot of kinks out there, and really, your imagination is the only limit. Below, find a few of the most common kinks and what they mean.

BDSM

This is a common kink acronym that means bondage, disciple, sadism, and masochism. There are a lot of activities and types of play that can fall under these labels, and it depends on your particular interests. Discipline might mean partners set up a few pre-negotiated “rules” during play and what the “consequences” are if broken. For example, if a rule is “no moaning during sex,” a partner may break that rule (on purpose or not), and discipline, in this case, might look like spanking or having to beg for more touch.

Dominance/Submission

This is both a kink and a relationship dynamic, often referred to as D/S. With dominance and submission, partners negotiate a power exchange where the dominant (sometimes referred to as “dom”) temporarily uses consensual power over the submissive (or “sub”), who temporarily gives power to the dominant. An example? A sub gives a dom permission to spank them, so, in this case, the power exchanged is the power to spank.

Role Play

Role-playing is a super common kink, and involves partners taking on “characters” or a fantasy scenario, usually for erotic pleasure or play. To find inspiration, consider books, TV shows, or your own fantasies. To get started, read POPSUGAR UK’s guide on how to role-play and role-play ideas.

Impact Play

This kind of play can range from spanking and slapping to flogs, paddles, and caning. Impact play should always be mutually consensual and pleasurable to both the receiver and giver. Before introducing impact, always do your research on green zones (parts of the body relatively safe for impact, like the butt and thighs) and red zones (parts of the body that are never safe for impact, like the joints, neck, and spine).

Rope and Bondage

Rope play and bondage fall under the BDSM umbrella, but it’s such a varied, popular kink that it deserves its own category. Bondage involves restricting the movements of certain parts of the body, often through elaborate rope designs or sometimes simply with handcuffs. “It also helps that there are different knots and people also love the artistic quality about tying people up. For those being tied up, the pressure of the rope, the vulnerability of being restricted, and being in public are major draws to this kink activity,” says Stewart.

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Temperature Play

Temperature play is exactly what it sounds like — exploring temperature changes to excite, shock, and please. Often, people use warm oil, hot candle wax, cold water, or ice cubes on the erogenous zones of the body. Warm temperatures tend to soothe, while colder temperatures tend to jolt. Temperature play can also be mixed with food kinks, like cold whipped cream or warm melted chocolate placed on the body. To get started, read POPSUGAR UK’s guide on temperature play.

Praise

A praise kink, or sometimes called a worship kink, usually involves words of affirmation and compliments. Praise kinks can also be an aspect of a negotiated power dynamic, too. “In some cases, the dominant lavishes praise on their submissive,” says Rowntree. And by the same token, an aspect of submission may be praising the dominant. To get started, read POPSUGAR UK’s guide on praise kinks.

Humiliation

A humiliation kink is the opposite of a praise kink. Here, rather than sharing affirmations, those with a humiliation fetish get off on being degraded. For some, this can look as simple as being called words like “bad” or “naughty.” While for others it may look like begging for attention and touch.

Edge Play

Edging is intentional, repeated orgasm denial. Typically, someone is brought to the “edge” of an orgasm before stopping. Edging can be done alone or with others, and the point is to tease and delay gratification for a more intense orgasm. Edging can also be introduced as part of other kinks, too, like humiliation, dominance, and submission. Read POPSUGAR UK’s full guide to edging for more information on how to try it yourself.

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Exhibitionism/Voyeurism

These two kinks often go hand-in-hand, with exhibitionists enjoying being witnessed in erotic situations, and voyeurs enjoying the witnessing. A common way to play with exhibitionism and voyeurism is mutual masturbation, public (but discreet!) sex, and group sex.

How to Explore Kinks Safely During Sex

Before exploring any kink, it’s important to understand that each comes with risks — both physical and emotional. Part of being kinky means educating yourself and your partners on safety, risk, consent, and communication before jumping in. It also means making a plan on how you’ll check in before, during, and after play, and what your aftercare plan will look like.

“To do kink safely, it’s important to make sure that you figure out your consent model, take a class on what you would like to engage in, practice your play, and ensure that you have the safety tools for whatever kink you’re engageing in,” says Stewart. Kink and sex educators daemonum x, Shanae Adams, Sinclair Sexsmith and Dirty Lola are a great place to start finding workshops, resources, and one-on-one education sessions.

Kinks Vs. Fetishes: What’s the Difference?

Kinks and fetishes are often used interchangeably, but they can mean different things. “A fetish is something that is necessary for someone to experience sexual satisfaction, whereas kinks encompass a broader category of sexual interests that may not be part of every sexual interaction,” says sexologist Megwyn White, director of education at Satisfyer. For example, someone with a foot fetish might need feet present during sex to feel turned on or orgasm. But in typical usage, most people talking about a fetish are usually just expressing that they enjoy a certain type of play, rather than require it.No matter what your kinks are, remember that most people have fantasies and “off-beat” desires they want to explore either by themselves or with partners. And again, even if your kinks differ from another’s — that’s perfectly OK, healthy, and normal.

Sara Youngblood Gregory was a contributing staff writer for POPSUGAR Wellness. She covers sex, kink, disability, pleasure, and wellness. Sara serves on the board of the lesbian literary and arts journal, Sinister Wisdom. Her work has been featured in Vice, HuffPost, Bustle, DAME, The Rumpus, Jezebel, and many others. Sara’s debut nonfiction work, “The Polyamory Workbook,” about navigating ethical nonmonogamy, is out now.