How To Discuss Your Deepest, Darkest Desires and Kinks With Your Partner
Discussing our innermost fantasies can be scary. But they can also help unlock a whole new world of pleasure.
By Shamani Joshi
It’s easy to rant about some of the more mundane parts of life – hectic work schedules, disappointing travel experiences and failed diet fads. It’s the deeper, darker crevices of our consciousness that are often difficult to divulge.
Especially when it comes to sexual fantasies, fetishes and kinks, the prospect of dissecting and discussing them can be daunting, tinged with the fear that the person privy to them may look at you differently or even judge you. From wanting to suck on someone’s toes to tying them up to role-playing a ravishment fantasy, voicing one’s deepest, darkest desires and kinks can leave a person feeling extremely vulnerable and overly exposed.
However, it can also be incredibly gratifying, especially when approached with the aim of achieving intimacy or unlocking new worlds of pleasure with a partner. And now that we’ve lived through a semi-apocalypse, two years of tight regulations and restrictions have fuelled a curiosity in pushing the boundaries of our bedroom lives for many of us. Maybe that explains why more people are gravitating towards kink or why fetish clubs and parties are booming.
Kink is a broad term that encompasses a bunch of alternative sexual interests, preferences or fantasies that go beyond vanilla sex – though vanilla’s bad rap is bogus. This might include BDSM, role-playing, or impact play such as spanking and whipping.
According to the 2015 Sexual Exploration in America Study Trusted Source, more than 22 percent of sexually active adults do role-playing, while more than 20 percent are into being tied up and spanking. Meanwhile, another 2016 survey also found that even in cases where people didn’t have the opportunity to explore their desires, nearly half of those surveyed were interested in it.
Today, a growing number of researchers and “sexperts” can attest to how much openly communicating your kinks to your partner can do for your relationship as well as your personal health.
But because it can be quite an overwhelming experience even when you’ve been with a significant other for a while, we asked experts about how to broach the topic. Here’s what they had to say.
Build up a comfort level
When it comes to opening up about desires buried deep inside you, perhaps the most important aspect is making sure your connection with the person you want to try them with is equally deep.
“The right time and place to bring up the fantasy conversation is when you feel safe with a partner,” Sara Tang, a sex coach who runs a podcast called Better in Bed, told VICE. Tang stressed that by allowing our partners to access our innermost thoughts and sexual fantasies, we could build an intimacy that then allows them to see us for who we are more clearly. However, this is not necessarily driven by how long you’ve been together or what stage of the relationship you are in.
“It’s really about trust and communication more than time,” Laura Halliday, a sexual health and wellness educator who runs a website called School of Squirt told VICE. “You can have a kink relationship right off the bat or bring it up once you’re in a more long-term situation. The key is that you’re both open about your likes and dislikes as well as boundaries.”
However, experts pointed out that it is always better to discuss the fantasies with a partner rather than wait for them to be discovered.
“When a fantasy is discovered, it can become a source of conflict and misunderstanding within a relationship and even be destructive,” Tang said. She explained that stumbling into your partner’s porn cache or finding their profile on a kinky social networking site could bring with it a sense of betrayal, as opposed to a partner proactively discussing the fantasy.
Test the waters
Given how scary the prospect of rejection can be in such situations, experts recommend approaching the topic slowly and carefully rather than cannonballing straight into it.
“When you’re not sure how your partner will react or respond, I recommend bringing up the discussion in a casual way by saying that someone you know is into this kink,” said Pompi Banerjee, a kink-affirmative psychologist. Banerjee recommends a tactic whereby the person bringing up the kink can first gauge how their partner reacts when they are removed from the situation. “It would give you a sense if they would be into it or not, and you will feel less embarrassed or judged if they are not.”
She added that it was important for couples to have this conversation as a pleasure-oriented discussion rather than one driven from dissatisfaction.
“If someone feels very safe or connected with their partner, they can bring it up and say, ‘I was thinking about our sex or love life and there are certain things I would love to try out,’” Banerjee said.
Set your boundaries
Informed, enthusiastic consent, experts emphasized, is key in taking your conversation to the next level.
“It’s important to understand that fantasies aren’t necessarily what we want in reality. That is why they’re called fantasies,” Tang said. “Always explain to your partner that there’s no pressure to explore the fantasy, especially if it’s not their thing. The best ground rules are that any exploration only happens with their consent, and that you will always respect their boundaries.”
Tang said that diving into a fantasy should be done slowly and steadily. “Take baby steps to build comfort and trust with the idea of exploring. For example, maybe you could do some role play or engage in some dirty talk with your partner to get you in the mood before trying out the fantasy in real life.”
Experts say role-playing can help your partner understand what exactly they might be getting into.
“Your partner needs to be 100 percent comfortable with voicing their likes, dislikes, and discomforts,” said Halliday. “You can role play this [fantasy] with them if they have a hard time voicing [it] themselves.” This roleplay can either be by acting out the fantasies before diving into them wholeheartedly or even just talking it out.
Halliday also suggests using a safe word, a code word or signal that a person uses to express when they are uncomfortable, before getting into a fantasy, especially if it’s something that may be outside your partner’s comfort zone.
“A safe word is an absolute must,” she reiterated. “You should also set firm boundaries beforehand so no lines are accidentally crossed. And, of course, get continued consent through the encounter by asking questions like ‘should I touch here now?’ Or ‘do you want me to try this?’”
In fact, experts point out that safety isn’t only a matter of your partner feeling you are going too far. It should, in fact, power the process on the whole.
“Think about safety, and not just the physical kind but also physiological, psychological and emotional safety,” said Banerjee. “Almost all of us have some traumas or triggers, so it’s important to first understand what could trigger your partner and make them feel unsafe. That’s why it’s essential to constantly check in with them and ask if they are feeling okay.”
Experts also recommend setting a worst-case scenario game plan that anticipates how everything could go wrong, by considering the most severe possible outcome and finding a solution to it. “A good debrief afterwards is also helpful, where you and your partner can process the experience together,” said Tang, recommending that couples ask questions about how the experience was and talk about the emotions they went through.
Accept that it may not work out
Even if you’ve been careful and considerate about everything stated thus far, things might not go according to plan. We’re not bots, after all.
“There’s no guarantee that a fantasy won’t make things awkward in reality,” said Tang, pointing out that in her experience, it is quite common to find fantasies much more enjoyable in one’s mind than in reality. “The best way you can reduce the likelihood of things getting awkward is to discuss and negotiate everything beforehand in as much detail as you can. Talk about your expectations, and any fears or feelings about exploring the fantasy. Share what each of you are and aren’t OK with trying out. Err on the side of over-communication rather than sharing too little, as that could help your partner not feel embarrassed, hurt and violated.”