It’s time to talk more about kink. No matter your tastes in the bedroom, experienced kinksters can teach us a lot about consent and how to embrace the spectrum of sexuality.

When you think “kink”, what comes to mind? Likely it’s whips, bondage and dominatrixes. Or perhaps it’s a role play of sorts. For those who are unfamiliar with the world of kink, the term tends to be black and white — you’re either having “normal” sex or you’re not. But the sex-positivity movement has paved the way for a better understanding and acceptance of kink, allowing people to explore and experiment with sex.

While the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns made casual IRL sex impossible, it also forced many people to reassess their sex lives and made way for a new wave of kinksters to embrace their sexual preferences. A September 2020 report by a kinky dating app, KinkD, found a 39.2 per cent increase in average monthly active users, and a 51.6 per cent increase in the average daily time spent by US-based users since March. For the kink-curious, the online community became a safe, fun haven where they could meet like-minded beings and unlearn harmful myths around sex, sexuality and kink.

“I think we often put kink into this ‘alternative’ box … maybe it’s something a bit weird for you or left of centre from what you’re used to, but it’s not at all weird for me,” says sexologist and author of Big Pussy Energy Vanessa Muradian. The very idea that there is a “normal” way to be intimate or express yourself sexually is a damaging mindset in and of itself.

We have been raised in a world where sex is monogamous and penetrative. Even within the bounds of “normality” as we know it, there is a general sex-negative mindset. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Volume 5 (aka the DSM 5) categorises fetishes, masochism and sadism as a disorder. But thanks to sex-positive educators and influencers, kink is being destigmatised.

How do we define kink? According to psychosexual therapist and self-proclaimed sex geek, Arlyn Owens, kink is “an umbrella term, which encompasses fetish, BDSM and any sort of activities that might come under those smaller umbrellas”. Often, BDSM and fetish cross over; someone with a bondage kink, for example, might also have a leather fetish and dress in leather lingerie or prefer to be tied up in leather. But you can have a fetish without being into kink and vice versa. 

“A fetish is an ingredient of your sexual expression, and for some people it’s essential to be aroused and to find sexual pleasure,” Arlyn explains. “I love working with fetishists. There’s an indulgence in exploring these sensory experiences. And if you’re not hurting anyone and you’re doing it safely, why not?”

Exploring kinks and fetishes is important when it comes to discovering your desire and sexuality, and breaking down the confines surrounding sex as we know it. Kinksters often explore their preferences outside the bounds of normative sex, playing with senses and mind. For some, sex may not even involve any touching or penetration. According to Arlyn, we can all learn something from this sexual exploration; “Regardless of whether it’s kinky play or not, and aside from communication skill, this type of curiosity and openness is essential to better sex.”

For Vanessa, kink has become a way to explore and embrace her sexuality beyond the male gaze that many with femme bodies associate with sex. “There’s so much pleasure in body exploration and discovering that sex and sexuality are not limited to the script of hands on boobs, hands down pants, oral sex and penetrative sex,” says Vanessa. “Sex and erotica can be anything that turns you on, that arouses you, that connects you to yourself.”

Destigmatising kink

When 50 Shades of Grey went viral, it laid the foundation for enthusiastic kink newbies to experiment in their sex lives. But this franchise, along with most pop-culture depictions of kink, offers a very limited insight into kink. According to Arlyn, pop culture doesn’t show good consent and quite often portrays participants as damaged and powerless, which only adds to the stigma, stereotyping and lack of understanding of the kink community and culture.

But there is a lot we can learn about consent from kink. Experienced kinksters will tell you that kink is all about consensual power exchange and all parties have agency and the right to withdraw consent at any time. Play usually begins with an in-depth conversation about what is expected, each person’s limits and the nominated safe word. Play can get quite intense, so the safe word will be something unmistakable and out of context, which, when spoken, alerts both parties that it is time to stop.

“We know now that ‘no means no’ is not enough when it comes to consent,” Arlyn explains. “In the case of consensual non-consent, which is something people engage in within kink, saying ‘no’ and screaming or struggling might be arousing for one or all people. We need to know how we are going to communicate consent if yes and no don’t apply to the scene … I think everyone should have a safe word, whether they’re domming or subbing.”

Arlyn explains that there are three primary acronyms the kink community prioritises during play or “scenes”:

  • Safe, Sane & Consensual (SSC): This relates to the type of play — is it safe? Is it a sane thing, or is it completely out of mind to do this? And do all parties consent to it?
  • Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK): This expands more on the safety aspect of SSC. A lot of (but not all) kink play can be risky, so you need to know the factors. Do all parties know what they are doing and what the risks are? Take suspension bondage, for example; do you know where you can run the ropes on someone’s body where you’re not going to cause nerve damage if they’re suspended and that rope is digging into their leg? 
  • Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK): PRICK is all about taking responsibility for what you know, and for managing risks and understanding consent. These things are important to understand when you’re getting into kink play.


When it comes to BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism), there is often a misconception around what it means to be a dominant (dom) and a submissive (sub). “When we think about dominance and submission, many people assume the safe word is only for the sub, because the subs are receiving and the dom is ‘doing’. But the dom can also use the safe word if they aren’t okay with something,” says Arlyn. “So all parties, regardless of role, have the right to consent … but it’s also important to differentiate between dominant (playing a role) and domineering (entitled and controlling).”

The power balance in BDSM is often not what it seems. From an outsider’s perspective, the dom is in control — they are the one who is serving and “doing” while the sub is simply receiving. But everything the dom is giving is something the sub wants — the sub doesn’t receive something they don’t want, and they have the power to stop play at any moment. As Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in the world is about sex — except sex. Sex is about power.”

A beginner’s guide to kink, according to a sex therapist

  1. Do your research: All parties need to do their reading and know what they’re getting into. Read, listen, watch and reflect on what sex and kink mean for you, know what you need to feel safe and learn how to do things safely.
  2. Get consent-literate: Sex has evolved well past the “no means no” mentality of consent. Consent can be revoked at any time, so remember to constantly check consent as you go and all parties will start to find where their limit is.
  3. Discuss the rules: Generally, kinksters playing in a scene will take on certain roles of who has power. Who’s the dom? Who’s the sub? Who’s in control here? Set a safe word and discuss the desires and preferences of all parties.
  4. Know your limits: Everyone has a limit. It’s important to know where they are and if you don’t know where they are, go slowly and build up.
  5. Get kinky: Sex should be fun, experimental, messy but above all, pleasurable. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to embrace your kinky side!

A sex-positive mindset

At its core, kink is all about embracing sex and sensuality, and simply doing what feels good — even if it’s different than what you’re used to. For Vanessa, kink became a way to redefine desire and explore what it meant for them away from the male gaze.

“Life is full play, making the erotic and the eros a central part of every day. Those things have been stripped from us because of how we we’ve been expected to show up under the rule of white men,” explains Vanessa. “Then there’s the idea of dismantling pleasure and what sex actually is … it doesn’t have to look sexual. It just has to look connected and present.”

Kink’s golden rule is “don’t yuck my yum”, which gives everyone in the kink community a safe space to learn, explore and play without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. And there is so much fun to be had when playing with kink.

“Kink is as broad as your senses are,” says Arlyn. “It’s psychological play and somatic play, or sometimes both. You play with the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch; but even just within touch, there are so many different ways you can be touched.” 

Kink often gets lumped in with porn and blamed for systemic issues around consent, sex education and male entitlement and violence. “People look at porn for their sex education and that’s the problem — we have no sex education, we don’t learn,” says Arlyn. “A lot of young people learn about sex from porn; we hear this a lot with choking, for example. They think this is just a normal part of sex, so they do it without getting consent and without understanding the risks. It’s not safe, sane and consensual, and people get harmed.”

There are plenty of sex-positive porn and kink platforms that have become more mainstream in recent times. Adult filmmaker Erika Lust features diverse bodies, quality storytelling and an accurate representation of sex in her projects, from soft erotica to hard-core kink. Other user-generated platforms such as Make Love Not Porn offer amateurs a space to explore their own creativity and desire, showcasing the beautiful messiness of real-world sex and debunking unrealistic porn depictions. is a great way to learn about kink by watching, and has recently begun to show the negotiation before kink play as well as interviews with the performers to hear about their experiences. 

But when it comes to IRL sex, especially for those wanting to experiment with kink, being informed and actively vetting potential partners is imperative for safety. “It’s so important to know what you’re talking about so you can quiz potential partners and ask: ‘how do you feel about safe words? How you feel about consent?’ Try to have a negotiation with them,” says Arlyn. “I am of the strong opinion that most people who are what I call ‘fake doms’ won’t know what they’re talking about. Or they might say things like, ‘I don’t believe in safe words’, which is a huge red flag.”

While kink isn’t for everyone, and you may prefer to stick to what you know, the community certainly offers an informative and inclusive platform where we can all learn more about sex, bodies and our own desires. 

Sex plays a big part in our wellbeing as humans, no matter what your sexuality or preferences are, and being able to express yourself and embrace the eros is imperative for self-love and acceptance. As Vanessa puts it, “We all need to embrace that authentic self and that expressive nature and to live a life that is full of pleasure — because if we’re not living a life that’s full of pleasure, what the hell are we doing?”


Arlyn’s kink ed library


The Art of Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent, Betty Martin

Tongue Tied: Understanding Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships, Stella Harris

Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink: Educational, Sensual, and Entertaining Essays, Midori

The New Topping Book, Dossie Easton

The New Bottoming Book, Dossie Easton

When Someone You Love Is Kinky, Dossie Easton




Community and dating 



Speaking of Sex, The Pleasure Mechanics

Sex & Psychology Podcast, Justin LehMiller

American Sex, Sunny Megatron

The Erotic Philosopher, Cyndi Darnell

Do We Know Things?, Lisa Dawn Hamilton

Asking For a Friend, Catriona Boffard





Ethical porn producers

Georgia Nelson is a journalist based on the South Coast of NSW and the features writer for WILD and WellBeing. She has a penchant for sustainable beauty, slow fashion and feminist literature.