Like lots of people, I used to think kink was a bit weird.
I thought kink was just for folks with bizarre sexual fantasies...
Not me. Obviously.
But, as it turns out, kink is actually not what I thought it is.
It's way awesomer.
In many ways, you probably already involve kink in your romantic adventures. The moment you relax and consensually let someone do something for you, you’re engaging in an element of kink. The moment you consensually take control and do something for someone, you’re engaging in kink. Surrender/control, y’know?
Not to mention dressing up, embodying a role, using toys…
In this interview with Kink Educator, Roger Butler, we find out what kink really is, what magic it can create for you and your relationship and how to do kink well.
You may learn some things about kink you didn’t know, plus some things that make you go oooooh, I want that!
My favourite take-outs:
Did you know that kink supports…
- More pleasure, playfulness, possibility. Kink is about expanding the realm of pleasure and expression.
- Healing and building confidence. For example, your difficulty with receiving and just letting go? You can work on that through embodying a role where you Just. Let.
- Empowerment. Based on your desires and boundaries, you make the rules for yourself and have them honoured. Embodying your power feels amazing (in both ‘surrender’ or ‘control’ roles).
- Communication for maximum connection and pleasure. There are lots of cultural assumptions that the ‘good lover’ can read your mind about what you like. Good kink involves good communication—it makes sex WAY better.
- Connection and deepening trust. You’re working with authentic desire, which means your authentic self. You feel real close to your partner real quick. Communication underpins this.
Kink 101 with Roger Butler: the interview
What is kink and what does it mean to you?
It’s broad! Kink means different things to different people. I think there’s no point where an activity stops being ‘non-kink’ and becomes ‘kink’.
You can take something like scratching someone’s back, which is a part of regular ‘vanilla sex’, but then you add in some intensity (maybe some rope, roles, or someone has to call you “Adorable One”) and somewhere there it becomes a bit kinky. But it’s hard to say when exactly.
Kink is a path of liberation and empowerment. If people are interested in kink, it’s because they’re taking a really proactive and positive approach to their sex life, as opposed to being lazy or in denial of desire. It’s about healing, playing, expanding and feeling really alive. Really connected to your partner.
So, the distinction between vanilla sex to kinky sex can be blurry. Can you tell us more? And what is ‘vanilla sex’?
Vanilla sex is defined by what it’s not. Sometimes the kink communities will refer to ‘normal sex’—though you don’t want to call it ‘normal’, because for kink people, their sex is normal to them—but vanilla sex is basically the kind of sex you see portrayed in mainstream media, like, kissing and basic touch, oral sex, penetrative sex, mostly just with bodies.
People sometimes refer to kinky sex as chocolate or caramel sex. It’s kind of like saying vanilla sex is the stuff that’s available everywhere, everyone likes it. But there are these other, sometimes stronger, flavours that appeal to some.
Why do people like these kink flavours? What do you get out of it?
There are lots of reasons! Often it’s about a desire to expand your range of pleasure and sensation. For example, expanding the realm of touch sensations. Whether it’s going from light feather touch, massage and scratching to something more intense like flogging. You do whatever’s right for you. And not all kink activities involve pain—you don’t have to be into pain to enjoy the world of kink!
So what you’re doing is expanding your range. Which makes vanilla sex look fun and delicious, but a bit narrow.
Another reason is there’s a deep psychological, almost therapeutic, element to kink. You get to play things out you would never do in real life. You get to replay events that have happened and choose your own ending for them—you reclaim and reprogram those experiences. Put yourself up against edges and boundaries. You can do this with standard talk-therapy, but arguably it’s a lot deeper, faster and more effective do it in in the realm of kink.
Playing with power in your sex-life winds up having all sorts of positive implications for how power plays out in the rest of your life.
Talking about my issues in regular therapy was really important, but there came a time where I realised for full healing, I had to start exploring this stuff with my body. Because it was embodied stuff—body image, sexual anxiety. Healing by putting things into practice with my body—it seems the same in kink.
Yep, exactly. Sometimes, for some issues, there’s only so far you can go with reading or talking them. Some things you just have to set up an experience where you actually practice and try things out with your body. There are just some things that’d take a really long time in regular talk therapy. Don't get me wrong, I love talk therapy—I’m a counselor too! But yes, this is why my workshops (like Fun Little Sex Games) are very practical and not theoretical.
Awesome. Tell me more about why kink is an awesome thing to do for your relationship.
It’s an incredible place to take a relationship. With kink, you get to a situation where you’ve got so much great communication and trust in place that you can give this person responsibility and control of your body for a period of time. That’s and incredible thing. That trust and connection deepens that relationship.
How else does kink help deepen relationships?
There’s a lot of vulnerability and trust involved. If you know you can let go and totally trust your partner to hold you in a responsible way, you find yourself loving this person even more. And once you learn those skills of saying ‘no’ to what you don’t want, coupled with being able to articulate what you do want, a whole lot of things not remotely related to sex get better.
For me, there’s something really special about surrender. It feels honouring. Letting myself be totally open and be available. Having my partner take me on an adventure that I could only experience if I totally surrendered. Kind of like when you try to give yourself a massage and it’s never quite as good as if someone else does it. Only in total surrender can you experience particular pleasures. That creates a lot of trust between two people.
A lot of people think kink is a nasty, scary thing where the active person is taking what they want from the submissive person. However, when you really experience kink, you realise “wow, that was honouring, that was a ritual. I feel like I’ve been the centerpiece to someone’s beautiful plan. I’ve been held and my feedback has been tracked and is important. The experience was so much about me, in such a respectful way.” It’s an incredible contrast.
I totally agree with that. I went to one of your workshops and wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought was most people do—kink is scary. The feminist in me thought the power balances wouldn’t feel good. But it was the opposite! It was fun and honouring. I felt really connected to people. I didn’t know that could happen in kink.
I wonder why the popular perception of kink is so different to what it’s actually like?
When you don’t know about something, you fill in the blanks however you can. You go with stories that sort of exist and make up the rest. People don’t realise they’re already being kinky the moment they’re getting scratchy! I think people just think kink is the far end of the spectrum—whips and stuff. People don't realise it’s simple stuff too.
In the absence of information, people gather what they can from media. The only snippets we see are dramatic forms of play (like spanking and leather), not the full spectrum. Unfortunately, what doesn’t come across in mainstream media is the incredible negotiation and consent-giving process that goes into the scene before it even starts. How to look after each other, how to keep each other safe. All that communication doesn’t make for good television, but it does make for great sex.
Can you tell us more about that? Sometimes those conversations can feel un-sexy, but can you tell us why discussing what you want, how to look after each other is important and how it affects sex?
The consent conversation tends to be portrayed as an annoying thing you have to get through, interrupting the flow, definitely not sexy. There’s a perception that a good lover should know exactly how to touch your body without any communication, they just magically work it out. How does good communication look in kink? You tell your partner what you’d love to do to them and talk about the finer details about how exactly this is gonna happen, the level you want to take it to, who pleasure is actually for, what your limits are.
Suddenly you find yourself aroused as hell. Those conversations make for incredibly good foreplay. You see the other person take you seriously and listen to you, and you’re falling into trust, so your arousal has the freedom to expand and grow. The consent process is incredible foreplay.
Because you know the parameters of where you can/can’t go, you don’t have to be so in-your-head wondering “eeeeee, what if they don’t like it? What if I change my mind? Are they gonna freak out?” When your mind’s not busy worrying, you have more capacity to experience pleasure.
Getting out of your head and into your body! Ok, so if I want to start exploring kink, what do I do?
First thing, just because you may be interested in a few things in the world of kink, doesn’t mean you have to be interested in the other ten thousand kinky things that exist. There’s a lot out there. You have the freedom to explore the types of play that you’re interested in and no more.
Second thing, you don’t have to go hard or go fast. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Whether they’re trying to prove something to themselves, their partner or someone else, they do things they don’t really want to do and don’t look after themselves. It feels yucky and painful. You lose trust. Contrast that with someone who’s really in tune with what they want, they’ve had great communication with their partner and they decide to stay on the light side. You may want more, which is great—that’s new territory for next time.
And you run workshops?
Yes! I run workshops because so many of the mistakes I made when I first got into kink can be boiled down into a surprisingly short workshop. Kink 101 gives you a good introduction—it gives you a gentle experience of kink, the attitudes you need to bring, communication, safety. It’s proven to be a great landing spot, and from there, oh wow, it’s a big wide world out there.
Roger Butler is a Kink Educator, and a counsellor. He recently appeared on Luke Warm Sex (a hilarious TV documentary series that follows a sexually awkward comedian toward getting better at sex). In the show, Roger guides Luke in a 'sensory awakening' practice.
Find out more about Roger and his workshops: