Finding Your Level in Kink

A lot of people who start exploring the kink world begin with some spicy foreplay. A little domination in bed, a little spanking during sex, that kind of thing. For some people it never goes any further than that. And that’s perfectly okay!

I saw someone asking a question recently in a BDSM group. They felt awkward about being there and weren’t sure if they should be. They didn’t know if they belonged in a kink group or could call themselves a sub.

They had some curiosity about learning how things worked, but so far, their only interests were very mild. They talk about how their main fantasies were just about being spanked during sex, but they didn’t think they really enjoyed pain.

Most of the comments were pretty reassuring and accepting but a few gatekeepers slipped in with things like “You sound pretty vanilla to me. This probably isn’t your thing.” Hinting that they should just go.

Things like that really make me grit my teeth. If you’ve followed me for long you’ve probably noticed that one of the few things I get on my soap box about, are gatekeepers who try to say there is only one way to do kink. They think anything outside their narrow view is just wrong, or abuse, or doesn’t count.

Folks, you will never fit into every mold. You will always be too kinky for some, not kinky enough for others. You will be told you are doing things wrong if you don’t follow the main path. You will be lectured on how you should be doing things this way.

The BDSM scene was never meant to be like that. Never. Our origins are in the rejects, the outcasts, the rebellious few who didn’t fit into society. So, yes, you belong no matter what your kink level is. I want to make that clear from the start.

What I’ve noticed in the scene is that new people coming in sometimes feel like there’s some kink level they have to hit in order to be counted as one of the cool kids. People will even push them saying, “You haven’t done this yet? Haha, what kind of sub are you?” This can spur them to try things they really don’t want to or make them move a little faster than they are ready for.

And there is flip side to this too. People who decide they are just going to stay with bedroom submission, or they only want domestic discipline and nothing more, start feeling like they shouldn’t consider themselves part of the scene. They aren’t really a sub because they don’t kneel and wear a collar—they just obey their partner and get punished if they don’t.

There has been, at times, an actual angry divide between people who are ‘just spankos’ and people who are ‘really kinky’ and it has always bothered me. It comes from both sides.

There are kinksters who think that unless someone’s role or interests match theirs, they don’t belong in a group or club and try to slam the door. I’ve seen bedroom subs pushed out, but also Littles and brats who don’t enjoy scenes, but still need the discipline.

Then there are the spankers/spankees who have made a point of separating themselves from the scene, as if what they do is normal, and what other kinksters do is not okay because it seems more extreme to them.

If you want to know where my dislike of gatekeeping started… well, all the way back at the beginning. My very earliest days in the scene.

There is an idea that spanking, especially when it’s a woman, is a natural, normal thing for a man to do. After all, historically it was done in many homes. We can see examples of it all over old ads, shows, movies, and books. So if men used to spank women, then it’s absolutely completely fine to have a (DD) Domestic Discipline relationship.

And many spankers felt that a DD relationship was very different from any Dom/sub nonsense. That was a whole other thing from some dark, seedy underworld and they didn’t want it in their happy 1950’s style Father Knows Best style marriage. People would argue about it ferociously online and I’m willing to bet if I actually looked, I could find people still arguing that it’s ‘not the same thing!’.

I’m not sure if it was a symptom, or if it helped cause the divide to widen, but back in the 80’s and 90’s there were a lot of clubs and play groups who started setting up rules to exclude people. Making things hetero only was on the agenda pretty early. Big shocker, I know.

The idea that heterosexuals only were allowed is fairly insulting when you consider the fact that it was the LGBT crowd who actually developed most of what we think of as ‘The Lifestyle’.

All those things people consider the foundation of the scene, like SSC and safewords, came directly from the elders of the kink world—and guess what? Most of them were gay! But still there were groups who claimed to be making a safe place for women to explore, and they did that by excluding LGBTQ.

But mostly gay men. As if women were in any danger from a gay man, right? It doesn’t take much digging to see that this wasn’t about giving women a safe place to explore at all. Nope.

On top of that it seemed important to them that the spankers not be bothered by anything that was too heavy, or too dark. I went to parties and groups in the late 90’s where they literally told you what implements you were allowed to use: paddles, hairbrushes, canes, belts—Okay! Whips, floggers, crops—absolutely not!

They passed out rules in advance demanding people dress nice, even pushing for women to wear skirts. They refused to allow anyone in who wore leather or latex, because it wasn’t the image they wanted to present. You couldn’t even bring toy bags in because you might slip in some implements that they didn’t want people to use.

In case you are wondering there are clubs and play groups that still do all of this even now. All of it. Hetero only. No leather. Spanking only. They even police what terms you can use for your partner and don’t allow Master/Mistress/Daddy/slave etc.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s fine for a kink group to have a focus on just one kink, but when your focus is so narrow, and you police it all the way down to sexual orientations it becomes a problem. And the vibe there is very much that spanking is okay but anything more than that is not.

Spanking between consenting adults is part of BDSM, period. I spend a lot of time writing things to be inclusive of everyone’s thoughts and feelings but if you have some idea that spanking is not part of BDSM then you’ve missed something.

Do you like to put your partner in furry cuffs? Do you like to tie them up? That’s the B for Bondage in BDSM.

Do you dominate/top your partner during scenes where you spank them, tie them up, or even just during rough sex? That’s the D for Dominance in BDSM.

D also stands for Discipline. Do you punish your partner? Do you pretend to punish them for fun? Yep, that counts.

Do you enjoy spanking or being spanked? The enjoyment of giving or receiving pain is Sadomasochism.  The SM in BDSM.

S also stands for submission. Submission does not have to mean wearing a collar and kneeling at someone’s feet. It can be as simple as submitting to someone else’s authority, allowing them to control you or your behavior. Letting them be in charge.

So yes, even the Christian Spanked Wives count as submissives. And those Domestic Discipline relationships count as D/s and therefore are under the BDSM umbrella.

If you are engaging in any, one or more, of those activities then you are engaging in BDSM.

And some people will get angry if you tell them this. They hate the idea of being lumped in with kinky people when what they are doing is clearly okay because –insert explanation—, but it doesn’t matter. It very much still counts under the definitions.

With all of that has come this idea that spanking is tame and people who live ‘The Lifestyle’ must be doing much more extreme activities. It’s a separation we don’t need and it’s not even accurate. I’ve seen people who are only into spanking /caning/ paddling play so hard they were black and blue. And I’ve seen people whipped with a bullwhip who barely had a mark the next day.

Here’s a very real example from a couple I knew a long time back who constantly argued these definitions. Bill didn’t consider himself a Dom. He didn’t consider their relationship D/s. He was The Boss in the house because he was the husband, and the bible says the husband is the boss. It was his job to punish his wife and keep her in line.

Jenny was his wife, and she had a lot of bad habits. She wanted discipline and needed the discipline and had actively sought this kind of relationship, so it was definitely consensual. She didn’t, however, find spanking sexy. It was just punishment and she needed it.

Bill loved to spank, and he spanked hard. He took every excuse to punish her with spanking, but also other things that go along with it. You know like lines, corner time, etc. When she was in trouble, she called him Sir.

I’m not sure if spanking was a turn on for him. I never asked, but he enjoyed doing it regardless. I saw him paddle her until she couldn’t sit comfortably for a couple of days on more than one occasion. It made her feel safe and content and if he didn’t punish her, she would get cranky and start pushing for that need to be filled.

But if you told them they were in a D/s relationship they got mad and would argue the heck out of it. He would admit he liked to spank but he refused the idea that it was part of SM. He was following the bible.

He did, grudgingly, admit he was dominating her and that she was submitting, but then said that since they only fit a couple of the letters (D) and (S) that meant their relationship couldn’t be in BDSM.


That’s… not how any of this works. There aren’t boxes to check off and either you check them all or else you don’t count. There isn’t a percentage of kinky things you have to try or explore before you’re admitted into the inner circle.

The dividing line is an illusion– like most dividing lines are.

When/if you decide to explore the Lifestyle, or dip your toes into the scene, you should never feel like you have to experience everything. You can explore at your own pace and try the things you want to try. And even if you never get beyond the first basic steps of liking a little spanking and bondage during sex… you still get to be part of things.

Anyone who tries to gatekeep and shut you out because you’re ‘just’ a spanko should be ignored. The scene was never supposed to be about shutting people out. It was always meant to welcome anyone who wanted to learn and explore.

If you feel like an outsider, or a freak because you’re obsessed with some kinky thing you fantasize about, then you probably fit in just fine. So ignore the gatekeepers and join the fun.

But once you get there make sure that you, and only you, decide what you want to experience. And don’t let anyone rush you. You’ll know when you’re ready to try something and if you never are… that’s okay too.

There are extremely intense parts of the kink world that aren’t for everyone. There are little niches that are so sweet and safe feeling that it barely feels like you should call it a kink. The great part about the scene is the diversity and variety.

There is literally something for everyone who goes looking. And you don’t have to check off a certain number of experience boxes to get in the door. There are no merit badges for completing an activity so if something doesn’t appeal to you… it’s fine to just shrug and walk away.

So find your level in kink. Look for the activities where you feel comfortable and stick to them until you are ready if ever, to take another step.

And slightly off-topic but connected… new people in the scene often experience a frenzy where they want to try everything, all at once, immediately! They are in such a hurry that they don’t actually wait to consider if it’s something they will like. They just barrel in.

It doesn’t do any good to tell them to slow down or wait until they know a bit more about something before they line up to try it. Trust me, I’ve tried. But I do feel like underneath that frenzy is the fear of not being seen as ‘kinky enough’ in some cases.

Not all cases, because there will always be people who are just eager to explore new things as fast as they can, but in some there is a different vibe. So if a new person, especially a sub/bottom, looks very anxious, like they are forcing themselves to do something that scares them, it’s okay to take them aside and check to make sure they are actually ready for it. Maybe walk them through what will happen.

That’s not the same thing as gatekeeping. There are many heavy things to be experienced in the scene, too heavy for someone who is just dipping their toes in. If you suspect they are in over their head, it’s appropriate to check with them.

That goes double if you’re the person who is supposed to be playing with them, and triple if your role is the Dominant. BDSM should not be a sink or swim event. When you engage in a scene with a new person you have a responsibility to make sure they don’t sink. Sometimes that means pointing them to the kiddy pool until they learn how to doggy paddle.

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