Unless you seek out partners on specific websites or local hangouts, you may not know from the outset whether your own kinks are going to line up with a potential partner’s kinks. The only way to find out is to talk about it.
Of course, such conversations can be nerve-racking. Even the most sex-positive of people can feel self-conscious or fear judgment and rejection when first voicing their desires to a new partner, which makes the discussion all the more difficult to have in the first place.
But in the immortal words of DJ Quik, “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”
Learning how to bring up your kinky side to a new partner early on can keep you from psyching yourself out anytime it comes up in the future. A couple of sex therapists offered their take on how to broach the topic of kink with a new bedfellow:
Ease into the conversation
As with discussions of so many other bedroom activities, you have to set the mood for the conversation.
“The right time and place would be where both partners are comfortable, relaxed and not in any kind of rush or too tired,” said Gwen Lotery, a certified sex therapist.
Dr. Stacie Freudenberg, a kink-friendly psychologist and the owner of Luminate Psychological Services, suggests opening with something like, “I was hoping we could have a fun talk about our likes/dislikes in the bedroom. Would that be OK with you?” If they’re on board with a conversation, you can follow up with a couple of questions: What turns you on sexually? What unfulfilled fantasies do you have?
“If you’re feeling more bold, you can tell your partner some of your PG-13-rated sexual preferences to gauge their response. Or you might start telling your partner about your own fantasies,” Freudenberg said. “It can be helpful to start light and move on to more intense kink if they seem open to the lighter stuff.”
As you share some of your fantasies with your partner, pay attention to their reaction.
“Be open to talking, and allow your partner to ask questions, which can help them learn more and also increase open lines of communication between the two of you,” Freudenberg said.
Ideally, your partner will be just as turned on by your kinks as you are or at least open to learning more. If that’s the case, Freudenberg suggests you ask if it’s OK to talk more about this topic. This way, “you’re setting the stage for consent by just asking to continue the conversation,” she added.
“You can make this situation fun by playing a game of get-to-know-your-partner, where you each take turns asking 20 questions (or 10 or 30) related to sexual desires,” she said.
Lotery had some further thoughts on what happens next.
“Some other good next steps for exploring are taking an online questionnaire together, signing up for a class and—critically—agreeing on what, how and where to begin,” she said.
Keep in mind, though, that even if your partner isn’t ready to instantly fulfill your deepest fantasies, it doesn’t necessarily mean kink as a whole is off the table.
“Hopefully, the partner will not only be responsive but willing to take a step into understanding and try(ing) something—even if it’s just using a blindfold,” Lotery said.
“If your partner doesn’t seem open to what you're sharing in regards to your kink or the kink world, you may want to ask if what you’re sensing is accurate,” Freudenberg said. “Try saying something like, ‘I’m sensing that this conversation is making you uncomfortable. Am I reading that correctly?’ or ‘How do you feel about the topics we just discussed?’”
If they confirm their discomfort, you have a decision to make. You can either accept and be OK with vanilla sexual encounters with this person, or realize that this partner may not be a good sexual match for your needs.
“There’s also the possibility that your partner may need some time to think about this topic, and that’s OK, too,” Freudenberg added. “You can always ask if it’s OK to table the conversation for a later date to allow them some time to think and even do some research.”
She suggested pointing them toward informative websites and readings if they’re unfamiliar with the scene.
Regardless of their response, though, Freudenberg recommends that you thank them for their honesty.
“It takes courage to have these conversations,” she said. “You may really like this person and be very attracted to them, but if your sexual preferences do not align, it’s OK to say so and walk away with no hard feelings.”
Keep your head high
You might be discouraged by a potential partner turning you down due to your kinks, but if it does happen, try not to take it personally.
“Remember that kink is a healthy form of sexual expression between two consenting adults. There is no shame in your desire to have all your needs fulfilled in the bedroom,” Freudenberg said.
Besides, the risk of putting yourself out there is often worth the reward, even if it doesn’t work out every time.
“If you allow yourself the opportunity to sit in this vulnerable space of open communication, you are more likely to experience a deeper connection with your partner where your sexual needs will be fulfilled,” Freudenberg added. “Don’t let fear hold you back from having great sex.”