"Kinky" or "Vanilla": Which One Are You?

"Kinky" or "Vanilla": Which One Are You?

My name is Feminista Jones and I am Kinky and proud! I realized a few years ago that I could never be completely happy in a “vanilla” relationship and that being “kinky” is a non-negotiable requirement for any union of which I become a part. I use these two terms because they are the most commonly used adjectives to differentiate between the lifestyles and practices of people who are involved in the BDSM Lifestyle and those who are not. I’ve come to think that these terms are polarizing and I think it’s time to reconsider the connotations of the words and maybe broaden the scope of our internal “lifestyle language”.

Vanilla” is a term used within the kink community to denote people who do not engage in BDSM-related activities within their relationships. “Vanilla” is a rather broad term and I struggle with it because it’s highly subjective, as it relies on universally agreed upon and accepted practices that are labeled “kinky” or “vanilla”. Sexual behaviors fall onto a wide spectrum of “types” and one person’s “vanilla” might be another person’s “extreme kink”.  It can also sometimes have derogatory connotations that I don’t think are fairly applied to people not in “The Lifestyle”.  It is sometimes used to suggest people not involved in kink aren't having good enough sex or having enough excitement in their relationships. I find myself using the term less and less, but I also recognize that when it comes to language, we often use what we know is most-widely understood.

bdsm woman leather boots
Image: katalinks via Shutterstock

 I am pretty specific about my interactions with men and women, within this lifestyle, and these interactions cater to the sexual desires and fantasies most closely associated with my sexual fluidity. My self-awareness grew over time, however, and I find that though I’ve openly identified as “kinky” for over a decade, I’m still exploring and learning more about my tastes, preferences, and pleasure in and out of the bedroom. I do my best to appreciate that others are on the same journey of exploration.

What makes something “kinky”, really? I wouldn’t call all Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationships “kinky” because they don’t all include any of the traditional bondage or sadomasochistic elements of The Lifestyle. Many D/s relationships are structured not unlike relationship mandates and guidance from religious texts like the Bible or Qur’an. The idea of one person being the leader and the other submitting to that leader’s guidance isn’t exactly uncommon; you’d be surprised how many “vanilla” relationships are structured just like that. Guess what? They’re pretty happy that way, without any labels one way or another.

So why are they considered “vanilla”? Does the presence of a collar (often worn by a submissive) make a D/s relationship kinky? What about D/s kink couples who don’t involve collaring… are they less kinky than their collar-using peers?  And is a D/s couple not kinky until they incorporate a collar? Does a D/s couple have to be public, network with other kinky couples, and attend workshops or conventions to be considered part of The Life? Or can they live their dynamic quietly, away from public scrutiny, and fulfill their desires and fantasies by themselves?  Do people have to involve bondage and sadomasochism? What if a submissive isn’t into being whipped or a Dominant doesn’t derive pleasure from spanking someone? I have so many questions…and so should you.

fishnets riding crop
Image: Alessandro Colle via Shutterstock

There is definitely some pressure felt from the inside to “be out” and more public about one’s involvement in Kink, but, in my opinion, that is more about wanting to increase representation in public to defeat stigma and minimize marginalization based on stereotypes. I know that’s why I speak out and write about it; changing the narrative is important to me. I also respect people’s right to remain private because, for the most part, people really just don’t “get it”. This leads to all types of condemnation and ridicule and I’m not going to advocate people subject themselves to insult and injury just to increase the presence of positive representations of Kink in ongoing discussions.

Whenever these discussions come up on social media, I notice that some people feel shunned by the idea of being called “vanilla”, and I understand why. For those in “The Life”, there’s been a perpetual marginalization of our experiences and we have felt discriminated against, judged, and labeled as “freaks” or “abnormal”. For some, the need to congregate with others and share experiences, to feel at home with a community that “gets it” is strong. Some of us wear our “freak” badges proudly and shrug off opponents who think we’re weird or sick. We seek solidarity and that’s partly why these terms exist. So when kinky people talk about “vanilla” folks, it often carries an exclusionary connotation that makes it “Us” vs “Them”, which is pretty much what “they” have been dong to us all along. That happens with most marginalized people though, so it makes sense that it would happen with this community too.

Related Posts

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.