A Sex Educator Explains How To Explore 'Kink' In Relationships

From the importance of consent to the stigmas that surround it, a sexuality educator talks about 'kink' in relationships and what it REALLY means.

Published On Mar 01, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


If you've armed yourself with a bunch of Fifty Shades Of Grey or 365 Days DVDs and consider yourself a master in ‘kink’, we've got news for you. Turns out, ‘kink’ in relationships have not only been stigmatised unfairly, but they also represented inaccurately in popular media. ”The definition of kink comes from what the society, any given society at any given point of time, recognizes ”normal" or “regular” in sex", explains Artika Singh, award-winning Sex Educator. 

In the English language, the word itself means a ‘twist’ or ‘turn’, an irregularity in something that was once regular. So historically, when the word ‘kink’ began to be used in sexual and intimate contexts, it essentially signified anything deviating from what was considered the norm in sexual practices at the time. Artika notes that ‘kinks’ shouldn't be a list of activities, and since societal perceptions of what is considered regular evolve over time, the definition of ‘kink’ in relationships do too. So what does it mean to explore it on a personal level?

“In my work as a sexuality educator and how much ever I have understood about sex, I do feel that physical intimacy and sex is very personal experience. While defining ‘kink’ at a society level is the simplest way to do it, I think within a person's individual relationship, only the person themselves and the people they're sexually involved with can define what the ‘kinks’ are” confesses Artika. It's about setting your own definitions while you explore your personal preferences and running with them. Further elaborating on the misconceptions regarding ‘kinks' in relationships, Artika dismisses the idea that individuals with kinks exclusively have adventurous or more exciting sex. 

“Sex can be made exciting, even within the bounds of your comfort and even if you're not practicing a ‘kink’," she states. The societal judgments, character certificates, and the misconception that practicing kinks makes your more “scandalous” is also associated with practicing ‘kinks'. She challenges these ideas, emphasizing the arbitrary nature of ‘kink’ definitions and rejecting any relation they may have with an individual's character. You're automatically assumed to be “wild” or seen in a negative light, which doesn't have to be so!

Kink is often stigmatised in society. But the good news is, you may not have to deal with that. “Your sexual exploration and your sexual experience is very personal to you. If you choose to, you can tell nobody about it. It can be between you and your partners. And there is absolutely no need for anybody else to know,” clarifies Artika. “Kuch to lo kahenge is how that Hindi song goes; you can do everything correct and people will still have a judgement for it!,” she adds. 

However, if you sense judgment from your partner, addressing the issue becomes crucial, and the best way do so is through effective communication and information sharing. As Indians, we are brought up in societies, cultures, and religions marked by substantial moral judgments concerning sex. This stigma is not only associated with kinks but extends to various forms of sexual activities. “There are rules; people who are married can have sex, it's OK to have sex to have children but it's not OK to have sex for recreation," notes Artika. 

So for a conservative society like India, quite often the societal judgments about sex are ingrained from childhood, creating a need to undergo a gradual process of unlearning. Even more so in the context of exploring ‘kinks’ with partners; which is why introducing the concept slowly is recommended. For those well-versed in the subject, emphasising that kink is not merely an experiment but a less common form of sexual activity can take the “fear” out of it. 

“Kink is nothing but a sexual activity that less common; it's not bad, it's not extreme, it's not bizarre-it's just less common. And if more people were doing it, it wouldn't even be a ‘kink’”!, states Artika. Taking an empathetic and educational approach, both personally and with a partner, can contribute to dispelling the judgments. If your're trying to educate yourself and a partner, online platforms, while unregulated, provide valuable resources, including discussions, communities, blogs, and creators promoting a positive view of ‘kinks’.

Artika touched on an important point about exploring ‘kink’ in relationships. Regardless of your sexual fantasies, consent in intimate relationships is an absolute must, there's no two ways about it. She states, “Consent in ‘kink’ activities is equal to consent in any other sexual activities. Any act of sex should have consent in it.” Initiating a clear conversation around permission and defining boundaries involves expressing your preferences, such as mentioning specific activities of interest, and then seeking your partner's willingness to explore them with a straightforward yes or no. If you're partner(s) is unwilling, shift the focus to identifying alternative activities that everyone involved are comfortable exploring. You should even talk about the extent of interest to ensure a safe and consensual experience. 

For many, seeking consent can seem like an awkward conversation to have. Often taking the “sexy” out of sex. But Artika recommends alternate ways of communication. What else is the Internet for? Maybe share an informative reel about the same and that can be a conversation starter. In fact, the kind of relationship you're in can determine the medium. Artika explains, “If you're in a long term relationship or like a medium to long term relationship and not a hookup, then set aside some time just to talk about it so you don't land up in that awkward situation. When the moment comes, it can be a much shorter immediate consent situation. However, if it's a hookup or if it's a short term relationship, then I would say it doesn't matter. Nothing is awkward, you're going to probably see each other naked. What even are the rules anymore? How can it be awkward to talk about consent when you're literally sharing so much more intimacy anyway,” she chuckles. So it doesn't always have to be a serious conversation. Muster the courage to speak up and keep it lighthearted. Rather than straightforward inquiries like "Hey, do you want to try XYZ," a more gentler approach like, "Do you think you'd enjoy XYZ?" should do the rick. Or even propose the idea inspired by a movie ( a good one!). This ensures that the language used remains mild, comforting, and empathetic.

Once you have the consent, deep dive into the deets of the deed. "'Kink' or no ‘kink’, communication and setting boundaries are very important in any relationship and any scenario where physical intimacy is involved," states Artika outrightly. Clear communication and establishing boundaries as fundamental prerequisites in any sexual activity, including ‘kinks’. Artika recommends discussing comfort levels and unanimous agreement among involved partner/partners on what they're down for; regardless of whether the activity is categorised as a kink or not. Discuss the use of protection or contraception, and the concept of a safe word or gesture that signifies a desire to stop or modify the intensity of the activity. Or to stop it entirely. “Set some basic boundaries because that is the only way to safely and comfortably enjoy the act of sex,” she reiterates. 

But how can couple navigate situations where one partner is more into it than the other? “This is something that a lot of people have asked me about on my Instagram community. This is a very common occurrence. It's not bizarre if your partner is not 100% on the same page as you. People don't even like the same flavour of ice cream! It's completely OK to not want to do exactly the same thing in bed a 100% of the times,” reveals Artika. So don't play the blame game. If one partner expresses interest in trying something new while the other is not inclined, it's essential to not point fingers. It doesn't indicate a lack of love or a personal issue; rather, it revolves around individual comfort levels. Similarly, if one partner is hesitant, there's no need for self-blame for holding your partner back. Taking part or refraining from specific activities is entirely a personal choice, and being mindful of that is essential for a healthy relationship dynamic.

Moving forward with such differences, focus on informed communication and understanding without coercion or forcing them to do things they don't want to do. Talk to them, give them more insights about the activity to make them feel more at ease, potentially encouraging further contemplation on their willingness to try it. “It can be a gradual approach, where maybe the thing you want to try your partner is not ready with, but there is an easier or most or less complex version of the same thing that your partner may be more willing to do and so you can start off with that first and then go ahead with it”, stated Artika. She recommends not fixating on a single act and making it your end-all. Because obsessing and coercing your partner can end up with them having an overall bad experience of sex in itself. It can even lead to harbouring negative emotions towards the whole thing. ”Inform and educate yourself and your partner, and try to introduce the ‘kink’ gradually. If not then see what are other things that you both can enjoy or you and all your partners can enjoy. And avoid forcing at all costs," concludes Artika. 

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