How Do I Bring Up the Topic of Kink with My Partner?

Boy, did this use to be a huge issue! Don’t get me wrong, it can still be difficult now, but it’s a lot easier than it used to be.

I can’t tell you the number of people in the lifestyle I knew who simply never got the courage to tell their partner about their need for kink. Some of them denied themselves for most of their lives because of that fear.

I literally know widows and widowers who never got a chance to explore until their spouse of many years passed on. There are a surprising number older newbies in the scene for this exact reason.

Others made the decision to explore outside of their marriage and keep it secret. There were lots of justifications for this and in some cases, you can totally understand why they made that choice.

Before you get mad about cheating, let me be blunt. I know and you know that if you have a partner you should share everything with them. That’s just not always possible or realistic and it was even less so prior to nine years back.

Yes… kink literally only came out into the light about nine years ago. Yes, I know there were plenty of books and movies with BDSM prior to that, but none of them really brought it into mainstream. None of them hit the bestseller list repeatedly. None of them were the book of the month for bored housewives everywhere.

Whatever you think of 50 Shades you can’t deny that it changed the scene for a lot of us in both positive and negative ways. We definitely have a lot of people getting wrong ideas from those relationships. You have more people pretending to be Doms because they know women are really into those books.

But we also have the huge positive benefit of people gaining a much better understanding of this kind of relationship. It’s no longer considered a mental illness. It’s no longer considered gross and bringing it out into mainstream media had a lot to do with that.

But nine years isn’t very long and for many it’s still not possible to be open about it. Not even with the person they should be able to trust the most. For every person who gets their eyes opened by reading the many books available about it now… there are still some who thinks it’s awful and wrong, but we’re getting there slowly.

It’s a lot better these days. New adults may not understand how different it was before all the attention.

It wasn’t safe to admit to interests like this. I mean it was unsafe physically and legally. Prior to the mainstreaming of kink… admitting you wanted to spank/be spanked as an adult was enough to ruin your life.

And let’s be honest… spanking is pretty tame in comparison to some of the kinks out there. Kink parties and clubs were raided with people arrested for assault and everyone’s names published in the paper. Your partner being a ‘pervert’ because they wanted to be tied up and whipped was grounds for divorce and full custody of the kids.

As an example: I had an older friend who was a minister’s wife. She taught Sunday school in their church. They had sex with the light off—always. Never once in their marriage did they even get to look at each other while having sex.

So how do you even begin to broach the subject of ‘weird’ needs with someone who is so ashamed of sex they can’t even look at their wife during? You can’t. It’s not possible and she knew it.

She also knew that she absolutely needed to be punished for all the little things she did wrong in her life. So she found a Dominant and they had a relationship that started as discipline only. They met just a few times of year—when things built up too much and she thought she would go crazy if she didn’t have an outlet.

There was a happy kind-of ending to her story eventually, after her husband died, but she wasn’t unusual in any respect.

Things are different now. If you tell your husband you want to be spanked, he may enjoy it, and everything works out great. Or he may give it a half-hearted and frustrating try. He may just say no. But it’s much less likely he’ll throw you out of the house and keep the kids just for saying it.

The good news is that these conversations are much easier to have now. In general kink conversations with anyone are easier now that there are mainstream references out there to help them understand. These days if you say you’re into kink people will ask “Oh, like 50 shades stuff?” and are often not shocked at all.

That doesn’t mean they understand or ‘get it’ but it does mean they have a frame of reference. It’s as if being in popular media takes away some of the scariness for vanilla people. If they hear it mentioned repeatedly it wears away that shock factor and makes it just a normal thing that some people do.

And just as an aside: this is why representation is so important. This is why we need more diversity in shows and books. The more the audience sees other lifestyles, other cultures, other ways of being— the more it normalizes it for them.

People need to be exposed to things that are outside of their personal experience. Seeing new things presented in an ordinary way removes the mystery and the stigma of being strange. That goes for diversity in sexuality, in skin color, in kink—in anything really.

But as far as having the kink conversation with friends or family, surface level detail is often all you need to give them. You won’t really want to draw things out and describe every single thing you do during a scene. It’s really not necessary in most situations, and if they are vanilla they probably won’t be comfortable hearing more.

Having a popular media reference to give them is a big help. They get an overview, which they can easily understand, but it won’t overload them. From that 50Shades standpoint they will probably just assume it’s a sexy bedroom thing, and that’s fine.

Even if you are discipline only, or a hardcore masochist, or whatever… they don’t need to know that and probably won’t want to know it. If they prefer to think of it as just a turn-on, it’s usually best to let them. People understand kink attached to sex a lot better.

In cases where you do need them to know more, or when talking to your partners, who definitely will need to think deeper on the subject if you want them to play with you, there are tons of educational blogs out there now to help. Blogs like this one, that you can point them to if they have questions.

So… how do you start? How do you bring up the topic?

Well, when you decide it’s time to have the ‘I’m kinky!” conversation with someone you need to start by doing your homework. Don’t just blurt it out over dinner if you’re worried about how they’ll react.

When people are shocked, they sometimes react unpredictably, and they might say stuff they don’t really mean. Once uncomfortable words are said it’s hard to get past that and move on so it’s best to just skip that step entirely and go in prepared.

You might start with a few hints. If you have a sexual relationship, you can bring out a blindfold during sexy times and mention how much it adds to the experience when you feel controlled. Small things only at first, just to introduce the topic.

As I’ve mentioned before kink goes over easier if people can connect it to a turn on. Even if what you are looking for is more discipline oriented you can still introduce it with a sexy vibe to open the door.

Punishment, real punishment, can be harder to accept sometimes. And there is baggage attached to any kind of kink that involves pain too. Believe it or not there is still a lot of gender bias happening.

In an M/F dynamic you have to think about men being told all their lives that hitting a girl is wrong. And of course it is wrong to hit anyone… without consent.

It can be hard for them to move beyond that, even in a spanking way. They are afraid people will think they are an abuser. Emphasize consent. Explain the difference between hurt (temporary pain) and harm (lasting physical or emotional trauma).

But if you can work it into a “This gets me really hot in bed.” context I promise it will be easier for most partners to accept. You can always expand on that once they get comfortable with the physical actions.

In an F/M dynamic the baggage is more that men are constantly being told they should be in charge. There are all kinds of insults for men who give up control (Pussy whipped, henpecked, etc) just to remind them that it’s not okay for the woman to dominate them.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with it, and gender should have nothing to do with submission. I think society is starting to move towards understanding that. You’ll notice we see women spanking men on shows more now. It has become more common and acceptable, even if only in a humorous way.

But—I can tell you just from the romance readers that a lot of people have trouble even seeing a man submit. It’s ingrained in us from childhood that men are the strong ones. They aren’t allowed to cry or show emotions other than anger.

This is such a harmful conditioning on so many levels.

It’s not just the men who are conditioned to believe it either. I’ve had women tell me that seeing a man act submissive makes them sick. And that’s honestly… just so sad. We’re all a product of our education but if we work at it, we can move beyond those early lessons and become more open-minded.

So men may have trouble getting a female partner to accept a Dominant role—but again in bed it can be kind of a naughty role reversal that gets her into the mind frame.

In both cases your partners may not be comfortable with it at first, but if they are willing to work on it you might find they get used to it over time. Some will even come to enjoy it. Start out with light play. Nothing hardcore or extreme.

People who love pain may want to push further to the point of heavy bruising—but wait on that. The sight of it can scare vanilla people off. Most spankos and kinksters like marks that last afterwards. Lingering redness, welts and bruising is a positive thing for us, but for most people it’s a sign of injury.

If there are some marks afterwards your partner might be upset. They will need emotional aftercare if so, and you’re the one who has to do it. Remember in this situation you’re the teacher and you’re leading them to what you want them to learn.

React positively to the marks… smile and rub them. Talk about how it makes you happy to feel them. Sigh and wish the redness lasted a little longer. Make a show when you sit down, wiggle a little and be clear that you enjoy feeling it.

This isn’t manipulation—at least not the harmful kind. You are simply showing them that you don’t feel abused. That you are, in fact, happy with the results of the play and you want more. It will help if they are feeling guilty about ‘hurting’ you.

And while you might be looking for an emotional catharsis that will bring you to tears… that too can panic a partner that you want to dominate you.

We tend to associate tears with bad things. Making your partner cry is at the top of the list of things you usually don’t want to do. Instead make it clear you are enjoying it. Lots of ‘mmmm’ sounds to emphasize this. Positive reinforcement is always the best way to teach someone.

And after your early scenes it’s a good idea to take some time to talk. It doesn’t have to be immediately, especially if it turned into sex. The next day is fine, but teach them from the start that open communication is important.

It might not have been the experience you wanted, and that’s okay. First times tend to be rough and awkward; this is no different. What you need to do is assure there will be more chances to play and improve.

Put aside your disappointment and focus on the positives for the conversation.

Find out how they felt; tell them how you felt. Be honest about the parts you really liked and emphasize that you’d like more of that. If they did something wrong, you’ll want to gently correct it, but be very careful not to make them feel bad.

Remember this is new for them and you want them to walk away with a positive experience, so they are willing to try it again in the future.

Now, some people like to work their partner into a scene sort of spontaneously before really discussing kink. They present it in the moment—like during sexy times, which does work well for some people. As I said sex tends to make these things go over better.

You can try: “Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s spice things up a little and add in a blindfold and a little spanking!” And that may work. Remember, you aren’t looking for any hardcore play. This is going to be very mild so it’s unlikely anything will be dangerous.

There’s nothing wrong with going that way. It’s consensual. You’re suggesting some additions in the bedroom and if they say ‘Sure!’ then you can give it a try.

If it goes well then that should give you hope that it could be a regular thing. Then you can talk afterwards and depending on how they felt about it, you can proceed from there.

But doing it that way means there hasn’t been a chance for you to guide them towards the information you want them to learn. I usually prefer to talk first. I recommend pulling out the homework I mentioned above, sitting down, and sharing some of the articles you’ve come up with.

Bearing in mind that you do want to start them out tame in the reading list. Point them to beginner’s lessons. I have a number on my blog here that are designed for people just starting out.

Look for points of view that are similar to how you feel and give them articles like that. There are a million different ways to do kink and you want them to know where you’re at from the start. It can be disappointing to get your partner all excited about kink only to find out that they thought you wanted something entirely different.

I can tell you about a friend of mine who so carefully worked up this conversation with his wife. He found out she was totally on board to try some spanking in the bedroom. In fact, she was eager to give it a go immediately.

He was thrilled! All those years of nervousness for nothing…

Except—when they got to actually talking about play, he found out that she’d assumed he would be the spankee. Whoops… That wasn’t what he had in mind at all. They did end up working out a switching arrangement, but if he’d been pure Top that could have ended with sadness on both sides.

But whether you decide to start in the moment, or discuss things first, there are now a ton of resources out there to help you have the important conversations. Start with the basics and don’t make things too complicated.

While I don’t think SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) meets the needs for experienced players, I think it’s a simpler way to start for newbies. You can always graduate to RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) when you both know what you’re doing.

So have a stack of printed out or bookmarked articles that will tell your partner what they need to know. A short list of topics to include: safewords, aftercare, how to be safe while playing, and short articles that discuss these needs from your orientation. In other words, if you’re a Top then you want some pieces that talk about why a Top would want this, what you expect to get out of it.

Don’t leave out fiction. Sometimes educational articles can be intimidating and it’s hard to connect emotions to what you’re reading. This is when we turn to fiction for examples.

Look for the more realistic type of stories that really describe how a modern couple would play. Find some light scenes that display your kinks in a way that’s not too harsh or scary. Offer them as possible scripts for scenes you would like to do.

Please, make it clear that fiction is not the same as reality. Do not pattern your relationship on stories. It’s fine to use them as inspiration for scenes or play ideas, but when it comes to safety you don’t want to draw from fiction. Learn the facts from a trusted resource who isn’t just trying to sell books.

Plot twist: the things that make readers want to buy a romance book aren’t always the things you want in your real-life relationships, and they aren’t always safe or healthy to live out.

This has been an issue from the many people who have read 50Shades and then done absolutely no research into the real lifestyle before jumping in. And then people turn around and blame authors for promoting abuse.

For my thoughts on that you can read this: Should Fictional Relationships Be Required to Model Healthy Relationships For Readers?

But fiction is meant to be exciting, thrilling, and yes sometimes dangerous. People read it to escape their real lives, and that’s okay! But they should not be reading it and then trying to build a relationship patterned after an imaginary couple with deliberately escalated problems. Especially not without any real-life resources to balance out potentially harmful dynamics.

So, enjoy your stories and books, but look for educational blogs and articles when it comes to building a safe and healthy dynamic.

So do your homework and gather up your trusted resources. Just don’t deluge your partner in reading material and then nag them to read it. Just provide the resources and give them time. After a few days go by you can suggest you’d like to plan a time to discuss it.

If they are ready to talk right away that’s great, but unless they suggest that you should plan on a few days away. That gives them more time to read if they haven’t had a chance, but makes it clear this isn’t a passing fancy that will go away.

You don’t want them to feel pushed, but they should know that this is something important to you. Be prepared for their questions. Be ready to talk in detail about what you want from them.

For someone who isn’t excited about kink it can all be a little scary and the biggest question on a vanilla partner’s mind is going to be ‘What do I have to do?’ so think less about what you need, and more about what you want from them.

Your needs might be as deep as the ocean, and they might not be able to fill all of them. You won’t know until you try. But if you overwhelm them with every single thing you ever wanted to try during the first conversation, you’ll never find out.

Be simple, direct, and keep your list small. You can always add on new things later but it’s significantly harder to get there if your partner decides it’s too much and slams the door in your face.

I think that’s enough to get you going, but as always, if you have questions, just leave them in the comments!

3 Replies to “How Do I Bring Up the Topic of Kink with My Partner?”

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