'You're a Good Girl': The Ins and Outs of Praise Kinks
As far as kinks go, you've probably heard about BDSM and roleplay—but what about a praise kink? What does that phrase mean? The genre has become increasingly popular on TikTok, where creators make humorous and informational videos. There's a mix of people expressing how hot certain phrases are, short erotica, people making (half-)jokes about where their kink may have come from and more.
What exactly does this kink entail? I'm sure we all appreciate compliments, but what about this particular sexual desire is different? Is it just the opposite of humiliation?
Yes, a praise kink differs from wanting compliments
As you can guess, a praise kink is a BDSM-style of kink, which operates as a sexual version of appreciating affirmations.
"An individual with a self-identified praise kink will most likely need more sexualized forms of validation to achieve fulfillment in their sexual routine with a partner," said Tiffany Jones, MS, CCTP, CGCS and resident in counseling at Thriveworks in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"For me, it boils down to the fact that I get sexually aroused by verbal praise," said Emma Austin, a 34-year-old from the east coast of Canada. "It's an active turn-on, and I want to hear lots of it when I'm having sex...To me, quiet sex just feels like sex with the praise missing."
Praise isn't only an enjoyable turn-on—it's a necessary part of sex for Austin. "In a lot of cases, I can't even get turned on unless there's some praise involved," she said.
'For me, it boils down to the fact that I get sexually aroused by verbal praise.'
She explained needing praise makes her feel submissive, which feels like kinky power play.
The submissiveness comes from wanting to please her partner and feel good about what she's doing. (And hey, I can't blame her.)
"What it looks like, I suppose, is me trying to be a really good girl in bed—giving pleasure, trying to turn him on, doing things I know he's into—and him saying lots of nice things to me because of it," she explained.
What specific phrases are the hottest examples?
"Good girl" is a phrase that especially turns Austin on.
"It's only two short words, but it captures exactly how I want to feel when I'm being praised," she said. "It's a simple, super-hot way for someone to tell me I've done a good job at turning them on or getting them off."
Jones provided a couple more examples. "A very mild form of these phrases may sound like, 'You feel great, babe. You make me want you so much,'" she said.
Austin added intent is more important than specific words, however, when it comes to her praise kink, "What matters most to me is that it feels really authentic...It's going to completely [be] spontaneous and relevant to the context," she said.
Praise kinks may have a cause, but it's not necessarily what you think
Does a praise kink have a cause, or can anyone be blessed with it? Austin isn't sure what caused her praise kink, but she has ideas.
"I think the most general answer is just that my love language is words of affirmation," she said. "Hearing nice and supportive things is what makes me feel loved the best."
Other potential causes are more deeply rooted in Austin's experiences and how she feels about herself. "There were times that I just couldn't think or say anything nice about myself, and I valued praise a lot because it gave me something I couldn't give myself," she said.
Austin explained why explicit praise is so important, too.
"I've also had my heart broken several times because I've misread people's feelings or intentions...After a while, I stopped trusting things that were only implied," she said. "I wouldn't believe someone actually liked me or wanted me unless they said it explicitly."
She believes her intense emotional reaction to praise sexualizes it. "Receiving genuine praise felt like an intense rush, so it was easy for me to start eroticizing it," Austin said.
Additional research shows attachment style can play a role. For example, a 2020 study in Sexuality Research and Social Policy explained the anxious-avoidant attachment style correlates with submissiveness.
However, it's important to discern what doesn't cause a praise kink, too. While you may guess that people with a praise kink have experienced abuse, for example, this isn't necessarily the case. Kinks aren't always a result of trauma or mental illness; in fact, little evidence supports any connection, according to the 2019 Kink Clinical Practice Guidelines Project. At the same time, kink experiences can be empowering and helpful.
What if only one partner has a praise kink?
As with any kink, one partner may not have the same affinity for it as the other. If you have a praise kink, you may worry your partner will judge or misunderstand you. How do you navigate that tricky conversation and how can your partner communicate their needs, too?
Jones recommended being mindful of your partner while asserting your boundaries.
"Just like any other non-vanilla sexual behavior, a praise kink can be potentially accepted or rejected by their partner(s)," she said. "A non-kink interested partner(s) can share acceptance by simply participating in a manner comfortable for them...Both partners must implement boundaries, and the option to stop a sexual kink is perceived as positive and not harmful."
This may mean you need to get a little creative in the bedroom.
"Shifting personal schemas and getting creative with one another can help to make both partners more comfortable, validated and respected for their needs."
For example, try different affirmations and different ways of giving them. Praise kinks are definitely a way to spice things up under the sheets—I say go all in.