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Ali Lehman - July 28, 2020

REWRITE: A VANILLA GIRL’S KINKY JOURNEY PART 1: BOUNDARIES

REWRITE: A VANILLA GIRL’S KINKY JOURNEY PART 1: BOUNDARIES

What are you into?
Are you vanilla or kinky?

Most people identify somewhere on a scale with missionary on one side and ball-gags on the other. Are you afraid to admit you like to play it safe? Or are your tastes so “out there” you’re embarrassed to say them out loud? Shame is a hell of a drug.

I used to think of myself as vanilla, but now I’m not so sure.

My sexual history began like that of most American kids, awkward gropings in friends’ basements, fueled by liquor stolen from our parents.

To paraphrase the sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage, oral sex comes standard issue on most models, and I learned from my peers in Catholic high school.

I was a late bloomer, waiting for P-in-V sex until my first serious boyfriend at 19.

Despite having a desperate curiosity about other people’s sex lives, I didn’t explore the boundaries of my own until more than 10 years later.

If I could dream up a new history, a sexy older partner would have gently guided me through life’s sexual buffet.

Instead, I played it safe. Including my occasional sapphic tendencies, most of my partners had vanilla tendencies: traditional hand or mouth foreplay followed by standard issue penetrative sex. 

Sexual desire is a spectrum with vanilla on one end and kinky on the other.

Stereotypically, kinky people are considered “dom” (dominant) or “sub” (submissive). This is a gross oversimplification. Humans contain multitudes.

You’ve probably seen “50 Shades of Gray” and won’t admit it. In case you “haven’t,” here’s a brief intro on BDSM:

Bondage – tying someone up/being tied up

Dominance and Submission – giving or receiving control

Sadism and Masochism – exchanges of physical or emotional pain; discipline is psychological restraint

Before getting down, kinksters ask, “What are you into?” This helps weed out incompatibility. It also opens up the possibility of complementary interests. Vanilla people have a lot to learn from the kink community.

“What are you into?” is not a spontaneity killer. What’s hotter than talking about what you want to do to someone in bed?

My curiosity about kink began in an unfortunately common scenario.

In the spring of 2014, during my first extended period of adult singleness, a new sexual partner, with whom I had very little dirty talk beforehand, started strangling me during sex.

I don’t mean choke, because when you say “choked during sex,” there is an implication of consent. This man started strangling me, and let up when the look on my face said, “are you going to kill me?” It was a look, and not my words, because, like I said, he was strangling me.

Had the hundreds of hours I’d spent watching Law and Order SVU taught me nothing? The thoughts that went through my mind included, “my roommate doesn’t know where I am right now” and “how long before anyone finds my body if he kills me?”

With the clarity of hindsight, I can say the strangulation lasted a few seconds. In the moment it felt like minutes, but if it had been, I’d be dead.

Dormant masochism kept me in bed with the sadist. When we had sex again I asked, “Can you do that thing you did last time?”

“Really?” he replied. “You looked like you thought I was going to kill you.”

And here lies the lesson. People ought to have a fairly extensive discussion with their future sex partners.

In the kink community, there is conversation about:

What do you like?
Are you a dominant, submissive or switch?
Do you like toys?
For how long would you like to play?
What are your safe words?
What are your boundaries?

If younger me had the vocabulary to articulate my boundaries, I’d have lived a different life.

Older me is learning that boundaries and expectations are bizarre constructs.

I didn’t know at the time, but my near-death experience would eventually lead me to a newcomers lunch with the Nashville BDSM community.

I know when most people picture BDSM, they envision Rhianna in the video for her hit “S&M.” I somehow know better, and pictured the meetup to include people my parents’ age. My expectations for this meetup were low, because things that are supposed to be sexy rarely are.

I was right, sort of. Before you get judgemental, let me say this group of people genuinely surprised me.

A different, gentler, former partner of mine, upon hearing my list of physical insecurities, said something that stuck with me for years, “Everyone has their thing.”

What she meant was, everyone has something that makes them sexy. You may not be attracted to every person you meet, but most people have at least one quality about them that is attractive. As I get older, this sentiment really speaks to me.

When I first approached the group, I saw older people eating BBQ in the harsh reality of broad daylight. But after speaking with them, I saw so much more.

The kink community is a gentle and kind group as a whole.

This group was particularly nurturing. Within a few seconds of sitting down, two of the older Doms gave me their cards, which was honestly pretty flattering, regardless of my attraction to them. Attraction is viewed through a different lens in Kink-land anyway.

By the end of the meetup, I imagined myself getting spanked by one of the leather daddies, who was old enough to be my real Daddy, but we’ll unpack that another time.

I spent most of the meeting speaking to a man I’ll call Dale. At first impression, I assumed Dale was dating Gina, seated next to him. I also thought Dale was going to hit on me. First of all, they weren’t dating. Dale is submissive and Gina used to be his Dom, but she recently “released” him. Second of all, Dale didn’t hit on me. We learned pretty quickly we are incompatible.

We used our words!

I arrived at the meet up as a voyeur. After a few minutes, I was an exhibitionist, participating in the conversation and soaking in the attention.

I left the meetup with some new friends, and I felt like a new person.

Who’d have thought a shitty Tinder date five years ago would lead me to a new city, at a table of people twice my age, looking at a picture on someone’s phone of a Masterlock (the kind you had on your locker in highschool) closed through the hole of a man’s Prince Albert.

If you’re unclear about what I just said, you should look it up.

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