Even the most compatible partners can have wildly different sexual preferences. In any sexual relationship, you’re bound to be turned on by different things. That’s why it’s best to be kind about it when your partner tells you something they want to try in bed, even if it’s not for you. Wouldn’t you want them to treat you with kindness if you worked up the courage to admit you have, say, a gang bang fantasy, rather than respond in horror? However, kink-shaming, which literally means the shaming of another person for their sexual fantasies, may happen occasionally.
Being kink-shamed never feels good. For instance, once I asked a former partner if he would go to a sex party with me. Rather than politely declining or describing his reservations, he called me derogatory names, then shouted, “Go suck a bunch of dicks.” It felt awful, and even if you’re shamed in a less intentional way, it still can hurt. That’s why it’s important to learn how to avoid it, as well as how to get through it when it happens to you. Keep reading to learn exactly how to disclose what you’re into, what to do if someone kink-shames you, and how to avoid accidentally doing it to your partner.
Disclosing Your Fantasies, Fetishes, and Kinks
Let’s talk about what often leads to kink-shaming: the intimidating process of talking about what turns us on. Every relationship has a different dynamic. For some couples, sexual fantasies are best shared as part of dirty talk during sex. Others may feel more comfortable bringing up the topic during more neutral times when sex isn’t actually on the table.
“Create a safe space in which you’re not in overwhelmed work mode, face each other, and have eye contact,” says somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond. “Let them know that this might be hard for you or you’ve been waiting for the right moment,” Richmond says. So, rather than blurting out, “I want to try double penetration,” at Thanksgiving dinner, wait for the right moment when you’re alone with your partner.
Remember that it’s also usually easier to share something with others once you’ve become okay with it yourself, so if this is a kink you carry unneeded shame over, it might be good to work through that shame with a sex therapist or in your own individual time before talking it over with a partner. Further, it’s important to remember that as long as your fantasy is between two consenting adults, it’s likely totally normal. Seriously, we’re all pervs.
When to Move Forward and When to Move On
If you disclose that you’re curious about a threesome, for example, and your partner responds unfavorably, there are plenty of ways to take the conversation. Though some people are just assholes and you might want to take this as a sign you should move on, you may be in an otherwise loving relationship and your partner might just be slightly thrown off by your disclosure.
If this is the case, sex therapist David Ortmann stresses first and foremost not to take it personally. Sometimes, intentionally or not, partners will project their own sexual insecurities onto us. “Realize that it’s probably not about you and you shouldn’t take it on as something personal, as hard as that is to do. Get to a friend or a professional that understands and validates your sexuality,” he advises.
Some relationships are kink-incompatible, which means that partners may be turned on by different things, and that can sometimes be worked around (more on this later). Other times, you may need to move on. For example, I now understand that the former partner who shamed me for the aforementioned sex party invitation was disinterested in public sex mostly due to insecurities, which is perfectly fine. However, he should have discussed this with me, rather than just making me feel like a bad slut.
It’s also possible that perhaps your partner may just need some time to absorb what you’ve told them. Maybe the idea of a threesome (or whatever your kink may be) is new and scary to them, and like the flawed humans we all are, they reacted poorly at the moment. As long as they’re willing, be open to letting your partner take some time to think about and research your fantasy before making a judgment call. And just because they may not want a threesome now, it doesn’t mean that they might change their mind down the road later. Perhaps group sex is a hard limit for them, or perhaps in a year or so they’ll be open to it. All you can do is be kind to one another and keep the lines of communication open.
Avoiding It Altogether
Let’s reverse roles. You’re snuggling against your partner, about to fall asleep, and all of a sudden they tell you that they are just dying to go to a sex party, but the thought of sex in front of others terrifies you. “What?” you gasp. “I can’t believe you’d be into that,” you blurt out, half-asleep. Whoopsies. To start, such a scenario is a reminder that there is a time and place for revealing kinks — and it’s not when one of you is half asleep.
Treat them as you’d like to be treated and think about how to answer in a way that’s both kind and honest. If you know yourself well enough to know that you can’t handle a sex party due to your social anxiety, be honest about your boundaries without making your partner feel bad about opening up to you. “The kindest and simplest way to say it is, ‘I’m really happy that you are able to do this but it’s probably not something I’m interested in. But that doesn’t mean our relationship is over, that doesn’t mean I think you’re disgusting,’” Ortmann says.
Can Kink-Incompatible Relationships Actually Be Compatible?
Relationships worthy of poetry have overcome more than a little kink incompatibility, and sometimes you might be turned on by different things for totally different reasons. Once, I suggested a BDSM act such a choking to a partner, who then shared they were not comfortable with that due to past trauma. I said that I totally respected that boundary and was happy to continue seeing them while respecting their limits — in fact, the conversation even brought us closer.
Yes, if your crush can only get off to people who are 30 years older than them and you’re only two years their senior, it’s probably best to just stay friends. But if you are an overall good match, there are many ways to work through a difference in what one considers a sexual adventure.
To start, plenty of fantasies can be explored on a smaller scale. For instance, if you’re turned on by gang bangs but your partner isn’t, try compromising by watching gang bang porn or exploring double penetration with sex toys. Additionally, some find forms of open relationships an option in which all parties get to fulfill their kinks while staying together. As long as there is a solid foundation of trust and a willingness to communicate and explore, your relationship can handle more than, say, a tentacle porn fantasy that sort of weirds one of you out. You’ve got this.