In the time since shelter-in-place and social-distancing orders were first widely mandated, the initial novelty that came from lazing around the house 24/7 has faded. Chances are, you’ve already binged all of the shows on your watchlist, baked more loaves of mediocre sourdough bread than you can count, and worn out your third pair of sweatpants from daily use.
You might even find that your sex life—much like that most recent batch of homemade sourdough—has gone a bit stale.
A miracle pill or vaccine can’t make all of this boredom go away. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get a little more creative in the bedroom (and beyond!), here’s where you can start.
First things first
At the risk of coming off as a tease, let’s go over a few ground rules before diving into the good stuff.
Consent. Despite the conflicting messages you might get from porn sites or “50 Shades of Grey,” kink isn’t about dominants doing whatever they want to submissives. Everything that transpires in a play session should happen only with the enthusiastic consent of all participants.
Safety. While many kinks are fairly low-risk, recklessness and ignorance can always lead to trouble. If you’re not sure how to explore something safely, you can always turn to educational videos and books. And, when in doubt, go slow.
Because of the sensitive nature of kink play, it’s a good idea to use a safe word that allows anyone participating in a scene to interrupt it if necessary. Cleo Dubois, a BDSM-kink educator and coach, recommends going with the stoplight method: “green” means keep going, “yellow” means pause what you’re doing and check in with your partner, and “red” means stop immediately.
Negotiation. Every kinky play session should begin with negotiation, allowing participants to discuss their desires and limits. Negotiation determines what will and won’t take place in a scene. It might sound dry, but rest assured, negotiation “can be totally hot and not boring,” according to Midori, sexologist, educator and author of “The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.”
“Co-creation is sexy as we ask each other what might be fun to try, what we’re not ready to try, how we will let the other know to keep going or slow down, and how we like to come out of our playtime,” Midori said. “Find the overlap of desires and curiosities, and respect each other’s No’s and Not-Now’s.”
And now, to the good stuff...
1. Dominance & submission
Dominance and submission (D/s) refers to the act of one partner (the sub/bottom/receiver) yielding power to another (the dom/top/doer), at least superficially. Some people will naturally identify as dominants, some as submissives and others as “switches”—either dominant or submissive, depending on their mood.
To figure out which one you are, Dubois suggests asking yourself, “Do I desire to obey and serve, or do I desire to give orders and be served?”
Once you figure out where you and your partner lie on the D/s spectrum, there’s no limit to how you can play with it.
Midori advises starting by shifting your preexisting shared desires into a different dynamic. For example, shift questions like “Will you go down on me?” to commands: “You will go down on me.”
The focus isn’t on the action itself as much as the power balance—in fact, you can expand your D/s play to nonsexual activities to enhance the overall scene.
“It could be something like, ‘I would like to have my feet rubbed. I would like you to draw me a bath. Get me out of the bath with a warm towel,’” Dubois said. “So, it’s not necessarily sexual. It’s more about the energy exchange.”
Whether explicit or not, though, always make sure to be specific about what you want and give examples. So, rather than “I want you to be my submissive,” try “I want you to wear this collar and touch yourself on my command.”
Spanking has served as a gateway into the world of kink for many different people. It’s simple, titillating and, if it’s up your alley, just plain feels good.
“Spanking fires up the nerve endings and blood flow in the genitals,” Midori explained.
She recommends that beginners start with light to moderate swats on their partner’s lower butt cheeks. Use a relaxed open palm to generate the most satisfying smacking sound. When you’re ready to level up, you can spank your partner with a paddle or riding crop, or a makeshift toy like a spatula or hairbrush.
For spanking and any other kind of impact/sensation play, Midori recommends using “a simple scale of zero to 10 to tell their partner how the sensation feels,” with zero being the least intense and 10 being the most. That way, the person being spanked can remain in the realm of pleasurable pain and not anywhere close to, “Oh, dear lord, make it stop” pain.
Unless you’re into that, of course.
Yes, bondage can be as complex as intricately woven rope systems that suspend people in the air, but it doesn’t have to be.
“Bondage is about temporarily controlling or limiting another’s movement for fun,” Midori said. “You don’t need expensive equipment or know (how to tie) complicated knots for this. A scarf tied around the wrists or velcro cable ties work just fine.”
Other good options include fabric cuffs that anchor under your mattress, or spreader bars.
“Please don’t use metal handcuffs, as that’s rough on the wrists—and losing keys gets awkward and embarrassing,” Midori added.
4. Sensory deprivation
Items such as noise-canceling headphones and blackout curtains are popular for a reason—eliminating external stimuli helps ground you in your body and bring you into the moment. Similarly, when you cut off sight and/or hearing during sex, you free up your mind to really focus on other sensations.
Grab a pair of foam earplugs and a blindfold or sleeping mask—which, as Dubois pointed out, can often be nabbed from airplane flights—and invite your partner to touch you. Notice each sensation and bring attention to how it makes you feel. For extra fun, invite your partner to stimulate you in a number of different ways, such as tickling you with a feather, lightly scratching your skin or caressing you with a silk tie. Bonus points if you can guess what each item is.
5. Orgasm control
Orgasm control is often a favorite in D/s play. The term encompasses the act of forcing, postponing or denying someone an orgasm.
Forced orgasms occur when somebody is stimulated to the point of orgasm in a way that’s beyond their (pre-negotiated) control. This frequently involves having one partner tied up while the other manually stimulates, uses a vibrator or performs oral sex on them.
Postponing an orgasm relies on the frustration of not being able to climax to make the final payoff even more spectacular.
Orgasm denial, on the other hand, may involve no release at all, with someone being driven to the edge of orgasm and left there indefinitely. If you’re feeling particularly saucy, you might even restrain your partner or use a chastity device such as a cage or belt to prevent them from being able to finish the job themselves.
Forget what you’ve been told: You’re never too old to play make-believe. Roleplay is the perfect opportunity for partners with a flair for the dramatic to act out their biggest fantasies and indulge aspects of their personality that they may never have had the chance to explore.
Once again, the key to success is to be specific about your desires.
“Keep the conversation going to find out what it is that the other person is thinking about,” Dubois said. “If you say, ‘I’d like to play with being your maid,’ what does that mean? Does that mean you would like to wear a maid costume? Does that mean you would like to make me dinner? Does that mean you would like to be a bad maid and have me spank you?”
Other roleplay ideas could include teacher and student, doctor and patient, or pizza deliverer and hungry customer who, coincidentally, is low on cash and has to pay “in some other way.” Whatever it is that gets you going, don’t be afraid to own it.
7. Lingerie, outfits & fetishwear
Counterintuitive as it may sound, a little dress-up can be even sexier than a nude body. There’s a certain enticement about leaving something to the imagination—especially if you have a long-term partner who’s seen you naked hundreds of times before.
Lingerie is a classic option with an endless variety of sexy items to choose from: teddies, corsets, garters, bra and panty sets. And those are for men and women. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment, either. There’s nothing like buying a pair of cheap fishnet stockings that you can rip apart in the heat of the moment.
If you go the roleplaying route, a themed outfit can make for a more immersive experience. You can always find costumes like sexy cop, cheerleader or pirate online or in stores around Halloween. (Pro tip: wait until the day after Halloween when prices will be slashed).
Or, if you’re going for something a little more niche—say, Dick Van Dyke as Bert in “Mary Poppins” in the scene where the carousel comes to life (you know, just hypothetically)—you can pull your own ensemble together from thrift store finds.
To crank up the spiciness factor even higher, you might even consider investing in fetishwear, such as leather chaps, harnesses or latex dresses.
8. Body worship
As the illustrious John Mayer once sang, “Your body is a wonderland.” Isn’t it about time people started treating it as such?
If your partner is interested in body worship, however, you might just be in luck. Body worship entails—you guessed it—worship of a particular body part, which can include everything from expressed verbal adoration to massaging to actually bowing down in reverence.
Of course, breasts, butts and genitals tend to steal the show, but plenty of people are into more historically underappreciated body parts. If you can’t get enough of a particular part of your partner’s body, think about expressing it to them and maybe even gauging their interest in having it worshipped. If nothing else, they’ll probably be flattered.
What the doctor ordered
These common kinks are a good place to start, but keep in mind that it’s far from an all-encompassing list. While spending more time at home, you have a great opportunity to reflect on and explore your desires. You’ll be surprised how rewarding it is.
“To me, there’s a healing part that is really important to kink,” Dubois said. “The erotic exchange can lead to passion, can lead to intimacy, can be a distraction,” which, in tumultuous times like these, might be exactly what the doctor ordered.