Why Vanilla Sex Can Be Scarier Than Kink

Doing something a bit different with my #KinkMonth post today, and talking about… vanilla sex! Today’s prompt, which comes as ever from Kayla Lords’ awesome 30 Days of D/s, deals with introducing kink to a previously vanilla relationship. Kayla and John say:

“Everyone is at a different point in life. Some people are married and happily kinky. Others are happily kinky but still single. And some find themselves thinking about kink while worrying about how to tell their vanilla partner. At some point, we can all find ourselves in a similar situation.”

Two vanilla pods resting on a small brown dish of what appears to be sugar, plus another pod to the side of the dish.

Now I’ve actually never been there. I’ve never been in a truly vanilla relationship. Therefore, today I’m going to talk about my relationship to the V Word. (No, not virginity. This one’s about something that exists.)

You might be unsurprised to know that your girl over here, who runs a blog called “Coffee and Kink,” doesn’t have vanilla sex that often. The vast majority of my sex involves some kind of power exchange element, though the level varies depending on my mood and my relationship with the other person.

What might surprise you is that I love vanilla sex. Not all the time – it’d bore the pants off me (um, as it were) if I had it too often! I need at least chocolate sprinkles the vast majority of the time. But what might also surprise you – it certainly surprised me when I realised it – is that vanilla sex can sometimes feel scarier to me than kink play.

No role to hide behind.

In vanilla sex, I’m just me. In a kink scene, I can be a victim, a willing slave, a feisty brat or a good girl. But in plain old sex, I’m just Amy, with all the roles and pretenses stripped away.

This is a profoundly vulnerable place for me to go to. To let someone see me – really see me, stripped back, with no role to hide behind – can be terrifying. That’s why, paradoxically, I’ll do kinky shit with fairly casual partners but only completely vanilla sex with someone I deeply love and trust.

With no-one to tell me what to do, the insecurities start to creep in.

When I’m submitting, I feel confident that I’m doing what my Dominant partner wants. I am literally doing exactly what they tell me to do. I don’t have to make decisions and I can relax into the safety of letting somebody else be in charge. When I’m Dominant, I don’t have to feel guilty about asking for what I want, because that’s the entire damn point. I’m also hyper tuned in to my partner’s reactions, because it is my responsibility to keep them safe.

In vanilla sex, with nobody to tell me what to do, the doubts start to creep in. Am I doing this properly? Are they having a good time? Do they like what I’m doing and will they tell me if they don’t? And on the flip side, without a veneer of Dominance to hide it behind, asking for what I want is fucking scary. When I’m fucking someone as an equal[1], I worry about coming across as too bossy, too demanding, too needy if I ask them to go harder, faster, slower, more gently, a little to the right.

Kink gives me a huge amount of permission to lie back and have things done to me without worrying, or to ask for exactly what I want without apology. In a vanilla setting, I have to grant myself that permission without a role to do it for me. Sometimes, taking that permission slip can be surprisingly scary.

Vanilla is not “plain” and it’s not lesser.

Vanilla sex isn’t the easy option for people who are too repressed or boring or inexperienced for kink. Like its namesake, vanilla is a complex and delicious flavour. Vanilla sex can be loving, affirming, sensual, playful, serious, funny and just plain hot. And sometimes, being just yourself with no other character or role to hide behind, can be the scariest place to go.

[1] Of course we’re always equals really, but D/s involves a facade of inequality in order for the game to work.

Kink item of the day: a Dragon Tail! (I have no connection with this company, I just love their stuff.) (Disclaimer: dragon tails can be dangerous. Have someone teach you how to use one properly and get appropriate practice before you try one on a person!)

The image featured in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

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Five Things I, a Swinger, Hate About the Swinging Scene

I consider myself a swinger, in that I’m in a committed Primary, living-together-as-married relationship wherein we have sex with other people outside of our relationship together. (We’re also polyamorous and form independent romantic/sexual relationships with other people – yes it is possible to be both, but that’s a topic for another day.)

A close up of a swing, for a post about the problems with the swinging scene

There are a lot of things I love about swinging – the opportunity to play with all different people with all different kinds of bodies, the voyeuristic fun of watching my partner playing with someone else, the exhibitionist joy of being watched, getting to indulge in different kinks and fetishes, the fact that swing clubs are more accessible to me in a variety of ways than ‘normal’ nightclubs ever were, the social aspect of meeting lots of new and interesting people, and much more.

But the longer I spend in the swinging scene, the more problems I see with it too – and that saddens me. Mr CK and me don’t intend to stop swinging any time soon, but we’ve certainly become choosier and choosier about the kinds of behaviour we’re willing to accept and the kind of venues and events we feel comfortable frequenting. So here are five things I see all too often in the swing scene which I do not love.

The racism.

I’m white. Mr CK is white. However, we’ve made a policy of blocking and not engaging in anyone who has any variation on “white people only!!” or “no blacks or Asians” on their swinger profile. (We are not looking for ally cookies here. This is basic fucking human decency, not some awesome selfless act of deigning to not fuck racists.) Our block list is ENORMOUS from this alone. Swinging has always been, and sadly still is, largely the realm of upper-Middle class white people. Unfortunately, huge swathes of this group seem to think it’s entirely reasonable to make a snap judgement on every single potential partner of certain races. It’s not “just a preference,” people. It’s racist.

The body shaming.

I keep my body hair fully natural and have done for a good couple of years at this point. My partners love it but, much more importantly, I love it. However, the number of people whose profile includes a line along the lines of “we’re clean shaven everywhere and expect the same” is astonishing. And it’s not just body hair – fat people, disabled people, men shorter than 6ft, men without big muscles, and non-gargantuan penises also get hate piled on them from people screaming “just a preference!!!!” all over their profiles. We block those people too. Are you surprised our pool is diminishing every time we log on?

The heteronormativity.

Holy shit, the heteronormativity! The assumption is that if you’re a swinger, you’re a cis person married to another cis person of the opposite binary gender. People who break this mold are few and far between, and often treated as some kind of exotic curiosity. Similarly, it’s often expected that women will play with other women, but only if their bisexuality is performed in a way that’s centred around men’s visual enjoyment. And as for the men? It’s still taboo at best to be a bisexual man in the mainstream swinging scene – some clubs even go as far as banning man-on-man action (we won’t go to those clubs.)

The vanilla-normativity.

At our first swing night, we asked about kink rules. The club owner, who knew us from fetish events we’d attended in the same venue, was hesitant. “Um, well, I guess light kink is probably okay. But don’t scare my regulars.” So, spanking? Floor-work bondage? Nope and nope. Turns out “light kink” translated to “sex that is maybe a tiny bit rougher than missionary-with-the-lights-out.” Okay then. When we did engage in a bit of rope play in a semi-private room at the same club, we gathered a crowd of sweet-but-clueless gawkers who thought they’d never seen anything quite so weird in their lives before. Obviously not everyone has to be kinky, and I understand vanilla swingers might not want blood being drawn in their nice clean clubs or bullwhips flying everywhere, but being treated like a sideshow because we like something a little different gets wearing really fast.

The toxic masculinity.

My above point about male bisexuality being taboo is relevant here – many of the men I meet through the swing scene are not just straight but aggressively straight – the idea of even being in proximity with another penis is terrifying and some couples even go as far as to say they won’t play with a man who has ever had sexual contact with another man. Bisexuality isn’t catching, y’all! But it’s more than just this. Comments about being/only wanting “a real man” abound. Aggressive hatred piled on men who cross-dress or otherwise don’t live up to masculine stereotypes. Excessive boasting about penis size and/or sexual prowess (honestly, I don’t care if you have a 12″ dick and love “eating pussy” (ew) if you can’t hold a conversation.) Borderline-rapey comments about “just knowing” what women want. It’s all there and it’s all gross.

Sometimes it makes us despair and makes us want to withdraw from the whole game for a while. But just occasionally, we do meet awesome, genuine people who are on the same wavelength as us, and then it feels more worth it. But the mainstream swinging scene still has a lot of growing up to do.

I want to keep slutting it around with lots of lovely sexy people and share these experiences with my partner, but we want something a bit… more body-positive. Queerer. Kinkier. Different. Even if it takes longer to meet our people and build our sexy little community.

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