FRENCH VANILLA: Exploring Kink | Kitty Stryker

It’s often tempting to jump into the deep end when learning about something new. The problem with doing that, of course, is sometimes you swim, and sometimes you drown. 

It can be much smoother and safer – especially when it comes to new sexual activities - to slowly ease yourself into the water and see how you feel, taking baby steps now so you can try the deep end later with a lot more confidence and trust! 

Sex in our culture can be a complex mess thanks to Feelings with a capital F, bottled up shame, communication issues, and a lack of decent sex education. Because of this, I tend to recommend people looking to explore ‘kinky’ sex (or really to expand their sexual repertoire in general) to consider the journey to be the fun part, rather than a particular act or relationship type. Foreplay is often more enjoyable when seen less as foreplay and more as “a collection of also super hot sexual activities that may or may not lead to PIV”! Similarly, uncovering what you like and dislike about kinky sex can be the best part of the exploration. It’s important to try not to have a preconceived notion of what may happen.

People in the kinky scene tend to refer to non-kinky people as ‘vanilla’. But vanilla is a spice, too, and can be a delicious, complex flavor all by itself! This guide to exploring kink is for those vanilla lovers who feel nervous about playing with power. That uncertainty is not only ok, it’s frankly sensible of you. Power is complicated and scary and we navigate it in our day to day lives both consciously and unconsciously in ways that are not fun.

That said, power play can be a fun addition to sex for some people. I personally love having a moment to give up control and clear my mind, as my daily life can be so intense. But even I don’t want or need to be tied up in a complicated rope bondage web to get my rocks off; having my hands held down does just fine! I’m speaking to those people who are curious but unsure and in need of slow steps for exploring in a safe way.

Here are 5 kinky things many people often explore or fantasize about when they first show interest in ‘kink’. I’ve included a flexible definition, why it can be enjoyable, and a few ways to incorporate them into your sex life without reaching for the vacuum bed on the first time. 

Being restrained or having movement restricted, either by another person, rope, cuffs, chains, verbal commands, etc.

Why People Like It: Bondage enthusiasts often cite feeling peaceful and their heads clearing when bound in various ways, perhaps because a certain amount of responsibility is given over to their partner. Some bottoms, or receivers, really enjoy the freedom of relinquishing control. That might include being restrained or given pleasure without the pressure to reciprocate, while others simply enjoy being able to fight against the restraints. For the top, having a partner in restraints is indicative of trust and a feeling of safety, which can feel very intimate.

How To Try It: Bondage can feel pretty intense the first time you try it! Communicate extensively with your partner outside the bedroom to find out what you both want to try before going for it. I’ve found when testing the waters and post-negotiation, holding hands down while having sex for a couple minutes at a time is a good way to see how you feel about restrained movement in a sexual space.
When it comes to props, safety comes first. If using cuffs, consider getting panic clips for quick removal in an emergency. If using rope bondage, take the time to learn the basics (like how not to cut off blood flow) and the risks. Practice with your partner in a non-sexual space before play, and always have safety shears on hand.

Do NOT try novelty handcuffs (trust me, they jam up and it’s super embarrassing) or silk scarves (they can cut off circulation and can be really difficult to unknot).  

Having one or more senses limited by an outside force to increase awareness of the other senses.

Why People Like It: Similar to bondage, having one or two senses taken away can help to clear the mind and transport the bottom to another mindscape. Often the senses taken away are sight and sound, perhaps using earplugs, headphones, blindfolds, or even hoods. Others enjoy having the use of touch reduced via bondage mitts or similar, where sensory pleasure is restricted and the focus is placed on the top or on other places being touched.

How To Try It: A blindfold is one of the easiest ways to begin (and a sleep mask isn’t a bad subtle blindfold in a pinch) but I particularly enjoy my partner using their hands to cover my eyes while their other hand explores. The lack of visual stimuli helps me focus on being in my body and feeling the pleasure as it ebbs and flows. You could also set up a sexy playlist for your lover and have them wear headphones while you give them oral sex.

Do be mindful that a bottom who is within some form of sensory deprivation may need a way of communicating that isn’t verbal, even if their mouth isn’t covered. I like to use a ring of keys in the hand that can be dropped to alert me. 

A scenario where one partner is the leader, and one is the follower. This can range from verbal commands during sex to bootlicking services to having a complex agreement on day to day life expectations.

Why People Like It: Giving up power/responsibility for a period of time can feel very relaxing- and having a partner eager to follow your “commands” can be kind of thrilling. Many people feel calmed by structure, especially in sexual interactions. Dominance & submission can clarify that structure, even layering fun things over it like formal titles, little obedience rituals, and kinky outfit pieces like collars or gloves to establish the mood. 

How To Try It: It might be easiest to try this out in a role play of your choice that features a power imbalance to set the stage. Examples are professor/student, capturer/captured, or creator/sexbot; let your imagination go wild!
Before playing, decided on a clear beginning and end or a time limit to the scene as boundaries. Discuss possible ways to establish the dominant and the submissive in the scenario. How do you want to enact dominance or submission? What do they mean to you? Perhaps you can negotiate a switch in roles partway through for a little more excitement! 

When a part of the body, often the ass and/or thighs, is struck with an implement, from softly to intensely, for mutual sexual pleasure. 

Why People Like It: Spanking is one of the easiest and, in many ways, I think least threatening of the impact play techniques. You don’t need special equipment (hands are the spanking of choice for many), though you can mix it up by using paddles, rulers, crops, or other toys. Spanking the lower area of the butt, right above the thighs, also tends to increase blood flow around the genitals (which might be why so many people enjoy it), making for an enjoyable mix of pleasure and pain.

How To Try It: You can have a safeword in place, but I’d recommend not starting off with a spanking in a power dynamic that requires one just yet. “Stop” should be enough to end the play at this level.
Start off very gently, and experiment with flattening and cupping your hand, allowing your partner (and their skin) to warm up to the feeling. Switch off between spanks and rubbing the ass or fondling the genitals, if you’ve negotiated that. I find that slowly increasing the strength of the smacks and then becoming gentler again allows me to set a nice rhythm that is exciting but bearable, giving my partner time to breathe in between spanks.

An agreement, often written, that spells out a consistent and consensual negotiation of behaviors between two or more people. 

Why People Like Them: It can be so hot to make agreements on behavior protocols when both people are excited to have that kind of structure. It’s a way of formalizing and making very clear the D/s type situation we discussed before. The contracts themselves can be a sexy, descriptive part of the foreplay, as well as incomparable tools for guiding negotiation and setting boundaries.

How To Try It: Don’t forget to use the KISS theory- Keep It Simple, Stupid! While it’s tempting to create a long list of requirements, your lover is not a Sim and micromanagement is definitely a 301 class, not for the beginner. I’d start out with a few verbal agreements for the duration of a single sexual encounter. I would also discuss what constitutes the beginning and end of such an encounter so expectations match.
If that goes well, negotiate a contract for a brief period of time, like a date night, and fold into the agreement an out or safeword that either person can call if the constraints or expectations begin to feel too heavy.


I think many people could find aspects of kinky sex fun and surprisingly easy to incorporate. It can be thrilling simply to try something new from your usual, and if you discover you like something unusual – more power to you. It helps to keep in mind that vanilla is relative, and what’s kinky to one is totally normal to another! I hope this gentle guide on ‘vanilla’ ways to explore kink play expands the minds of the curious and makes it less intimidating for the nervous.

If you’re interested in further exploring kinky sex or fantasies in general, I recommend the following books:
Bedded Bliss
Exhibitionism for the Shy
The Ultimate Guide to Kink
S/m 101
The Loving Dominant 


© Tantus, Inc. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Kitty Stryker is a freelance writer, queer activist, sex-negative pornographer, massive pervert and feminist killjoy. As the founder and co-editor for Consent Culture, she seeks to create dialogue about what consent means while modeling the sexual costume drama she likes to see in the world.

Follow her on Twitter: @KittyStryker


  • Tantusaurus

    Hey Dean,

    First of all, ‘kink’ can mean whatever you’d like it to mean, and whatever you’re interested in. If the word ‘kinky’ doesn’t sit well with you, toss it. It kinky makes you feel like a badass, use it! The only important thing is discovering what you like.

    Second, finding local venues and groups for these kinds of activities might be easiest through Sex & Relationship Coaches or Sex Bloggers in your area. How do you find these people? They’re all over social media, most have their own blogs or websites.
    Otherwise, many cities have Sex Positive, Swinger, or other similar groups through or other public group sites. The internet is your friend.

    Good luck!

  • Dean

    Hi just wanted to know if wanting to have sex with a group of people is any way of a kinky thing to do. Especially if everything goes all share. If it is were can i find about any local clubs. I would start one up myself but am to afraid to ask people .

  • Don

    I just love it were I love it most is my nipples it get me so hot I love it when I am with two women that are into lots of kinky things.

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