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6.2. KINK

Estimated reading: 12 minutes
  • Kink can be both an identity and an orientation.
  • Kink involves expression through different power dynamics and experiencing sexual attraction for certain acts.
  • When practising kink, boundaries, consent, and safe word are part of the play.
  • Kink experiments with, but is not limited to, bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S) and sadomasochism (S&M).
  • When teaching children/teens about kink, try teaching about safety, intimacy, consent, and sexual pleasure.


Savin-Williams (2019) defines kink as both an identity and an orientation, stating that it can be either accepted and embraced or kept hidden and unpractised. Regardless, it’s not going away. In the same article, the author mentions that for youth and young adults kink is a form of expression, of trying out different power dynamics and experiencing attraction towards certain acts. Some authors even mention that kink can be such an orienting force that it can overpower the concept of gender as we know it.

6.2.2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOPIC What is kink?

According to Gemberling (2015), BDSM includes, but is not limited to consensual practices related to bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S) and sadomasochism (S&M). These practices involve certain power dynamics between the people involved and can look differently depending on the person practising it (Desai, 2019).

Being defined by human sexuality and the use of so called non-conventional sexual/sensual/intimate practices, fantasies and concepts, kink is a non-normative practice. This means that it does not fit into the image of the normality created by today’s society when it comes to sex and sexual activities. Therefore, kink can be perceived as weird and wrong, attaching this stigma to every kink practitioner. This often happens because of lack of understanding or misinformation and can lead to disapproval and isolation of the practice itself and the practitioners. A study carried out by Kelsey et al. (2013) shows that even the attitudes of therapists or other professionals could be influenced by their bias towards BDSM, affecting thus their practice. Therefore, authors such as Helfer, E. consider teaching about kink an ethical obligation in order to be able to shift this mentality in health clinicians and make the system more inclusive (Helfer, 2021). Intimacy

It is important to keep in mind that kink is always consensual. If it is not consensual, it is not kink, but rather abuse of power, violence and/or discrimination. Kink is not limited to sex and does not have sex as its main goal. What it promotes is enhancing intimacy between partners, having the sexual acts heightening the pain/pleasure combination and the intimacy felt between the partners (Desai, 2019).

By being both physical and psychological, kink offers the chance to explore both physical and mental contexts, enhancing the intimacy relationship with your partner(s). Experimenting with different power dynamics can often offer partners the chance to try out different roles, switching between their role in their daily life and the role they might want to play. If someone takes the lead in making decisions in their daily life, they can get the chance to see how it feels to be led and the other way around (Sacred Eros, 2018). Kink if creating the frame to experiment with and to redefine the power dynamic between the people involved. Thus, it involves a psychological component, having intimacy and trust at its core while exploring the mental and physical boundaries of every partner. Communication and consent

Communicate openly with your partner what your expectations and fears are. Communicate about your desires, fantasies, boundaries and experience level with kink. This will help you avoid misunderstandings.

Try to paint together the scene you would like to create while taking both of your perspectives and expectations into account. Negotiate until you come to an option that everyone is comfortable with. Considering that power dynamics are in place, consent can change depending on the activity or the feeling of the people involved. Keep in mind that you can stop and change the activity at any point if you are uncomfortable. Communicate openly and honestly with your partner.

Establishing boundaries and re-evaluating them is part of practising kink. Knowing what you are comfortable with, what you might want to explore with and what you want to stay away from, are all part of your experience and can fluctuate depending on the time period, partner(s), or environment. Keep in mind that everyone has their own personal and sexual boundaries and that asking where those boundaries are is part of making the experience an enjoyable one for everyone.

Teaching children/teens about kink does not have to automatically mean that you should start by teaching about bondage or role-play. You could start by talking about the diversity in sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender, explaining how the creation of a safe environment for experimenting and exploring can benefit the people involved. Approach the topics of consent and boundaries and start explaining or giving examples from acts that do not necessarily involve sexual intercourse but do involve physical touch or a change in power dynamics (for example rope/bondage).

You can read more about consent on the topic 5.6. Experimenting

Kink offers the frame for exploring with different sensations, different power levels and dynamics as well as an infinity of sexual activities. Some of the most kink behaviours engaged (shown in a study carried out in the second part of the 2010s) were discipline, bondage, dominance, role-playing, submission, spanking, exhibitionism, clothing fetish and others (Desai, 2019).

By exploring different sexual practices, dynamics and acts you’re not only experimenting with your sexual boundaries but also with your emotional ones. Practicing kink contributes to getting to know your body better, the reactions it can have to certain sexual contexts and what it might need in others. This self-awareness often contributes to a better self-understanding and can lead to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, both sexually and in general. The combination of challenging your mind and body inside of a safe environment (with consent and boundaries) positively contributes to self-growth.

Stigmatising kink can have a negative impact on the mental health of kinksters (people practicing kink). Stigma and silence around kink behaviour can lead to internalised shame, isolation, depression, and possibly suicidal intentions. This social stigma can also negatively impact the access of kink practitioners to health care services out of fear or judgement, possibly exposing them to risky situations or to being shamed for their sexual preferences.

On the other hand, a supportive environment of kink can be a dream come true for those with non-normative bodies and/or desires (Desai, 2019). Being able to experiment while feeling safe and supported inside of a community can benefit everyone, especially those who do not identify with the heteronormative way of living and sexual practices. The trustworthiness, care, knowledge, and confidence can lead to a more accurate and shame-free self-expression and experimentation. There are no normative expectations, no labels of actions that are “weird”, but rather a constant exploration of what could provoke different sensations, feelings, and emotions. Deconstructing myths

Kink is rooted in psychological traumas (history of abuse, bad parenting, etc.)

Kink can be both developed innately during childhood as well as adopted later in life. Desai (2019) explains how kinky behaviours “such as wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers” can be an indicator of an initial engagement in kink. For some, kink can start with a general feeling of being different (in regard to identity, showing affection, sexual practices, etc.) or worried for not sharing common interests with their peers, often leading to self-researching in order to understand or label what is going on with them (Desai, 2019).

For others, kink can be something they experience with later in life out of the desire to explore a different sexual lifestyle and sexual practices.

A study carried out in 2008 (Richters et al., 2008) showed that there is no evidence that BDSM practitioners suffer from any particular form of psychological disturbance, which was later confirmed through other studies stating that BDSM practitioners seem to be “mentally and emotionally well-adjusted” (Wismeijer & van Assen, 2013).

For this reason, it is important to reinforce the idea that kink is not an illness or a result of a psychological trauma but rather a form of exploration, an identity or even an orientation.

Kink is what you see in Fifty Shades of Grey

Media depictions such as the Fifty Shades of Grey movies can damage the image of the kink community because of the misinformation and wrong depiction of kink that they are spreading. Desai (2019) mentions how aside from the social stigma that they bring, these movies can be dangerous because of the superficial understanding of violent sex and the wrongful/forced depiction of BDSM practices. Kink practices always involve mutual consent and are a way to explore different sexual fantasies in a safe environment. They involve communication and consent, not forced behaviour or only violent sexual practices.

When explaining or teaching about the media depiction of kink, try to offer alternative resources that can explain how kink practices can work and what they involve.


After seeing the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, L., a 14-year-old was fascinated and assumed that the sexual acts depicted where supposed to happen like that in real life too and that everyone would agree with it. When L. started a relationship, they tried to use some of the practices they saw during the movie, for example being dominant or impulsive with their partner (not necessarily in a sexual context), which led their partner wonder if that is the way they wanted to be treated.

Because of the scenes depicted in the movie, the lack of education on kink and the lack of resources, L. has formed a wrongful perception of what BDSM, and kink practices were and about who was curious to practice them. Not having any reference, they couldn’t ask for more information, their only way to explore what they were thinking was to experiment with their partner, which turned out to be an uncomfortable situation for both of them.

As an educator or a parent, you could teach about the importance of sex and kink depiction in media. Try explaining how every body is different and how communication, consent and boundaries are their best friends when it comes to connections and sexual practices. Offering resources, explanations and examples about kinky practices can shift the focus from perceiving kink just purely sexually to offering a more holistic image that involves mental, emotional, and physical connection. Talk about building intimacy and experimenting in a safe way where mutual consent and security are present.

Avoiding the subject or labelling it as wrong or weird would only contribute to the negative impact on the children’s/teens’ mental health and possibly to their isolation, depression or in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

6.2.4. BEST PRACTICES Teach about safety, consent, and sexual pleasure

This combination can represent a good start in opening the subject of kink. Try explaining why some people choose to practice it and direct them towards age-appropriate resources. Learning about safety during sexual activities (prevention, protection, boundaries, sexual health care services, etc.) could be the first step into researching and exploring kink education. Considering that every person is different and can have completely different views and personal limits, talking about consent is part of practicing kink.

Try explaining how important it is to have a conversation with partners before practicing anything. Stating expectations, fears and personal boundaries is going to make the experience a lot more comfortable for the people involved. After clarifying these two aspects, you could try focusing on sexual pleasure and power dynamics. Talking about the fact that people can feel sexual pleasure from different activities and power dynamics can help in creating a broader picture on sexual pleasure and sexual health. Psychological and physical experience

Teaching that kink is experienced both on a psychological, emotional level as well as on a physical level is teaching that exploring with it might offer a broader experience that contributes to self-discovery and self-growth. It shows that both the mind and the physical action play a role when it comes to sexual activities, and it can teach practitioners about pushing limits inside of a safe environment.

By using age-appropriate language and examples, try to explain how kink practices can contribute to redefining sexuality, sexual pleasure, and sexual relationships. Try to avoid using metaphors. Instead use age-appropriate language and explain as clearly as you can.


Desai, R. (2019). What Is Kink? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sex-sexuality-and-romance/201901/what-is-kink.

Gemberling, T. M., Cramer, R., & Miller, R. S. (2015). BDSM as sexual orientation: A comparison to lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexuality. Journal of Positive Sexuality, 1, 56-62.

Helfer, E. (2021). Kink Education Is an Ethical Obligation. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/kink-outside-the-box/202101/kink-education-is-ethical-obligation.

Kelsey, K., Stiles, B. L., Spiller, L., & Diekhoff, G. M. (2013). Assessment of therapists’ attitudes towards BDSM. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(3), 255–267. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2012.655255.

‌Richters, J., de Visser, R.O., Rissel, C.E., Grulich A.E. & Smith A.M. (2008). Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, “sadomasochism” or dominance and submission (BDSM): data from a national survey. J Sex Med. 2008 Jul;5(7):1660-8. Retrieved from Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, “sadomasochism” or dominance and submission (BDSM): data from a national survey – PubMed (nih.gov).

Wismeijer, A. & van Assen, M. (2013). Psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10, 1943–1952.

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