What To Do If Your Partner Isn't As Kinky As You

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
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You meet a new person — and they’re awesome. They’re cute and funny and fun and you can feel yourself falling for them. Maybe you already have! And then you get into bed and you roll over for a little spanking and they’re like, “Yeah… No.” Or maybe you’re into heavier kinky play than that, and the person you’ve fallen for seems to just be 100 percent vanilla. What do you do if your partner isn’t as kinky as you are?

For some folks, this scenario is a deal-breaker. There are people for whom kink isn’t the added spice sprinkled on top, but an essential ingredient in the diet of their sexual expression. And that’s fine! While everyone in this situation has to decide whether or not being with someone who isn’t as kinky as they are is worth it, these folks know that they’re probably going to have to end things.

But for others — those who are into kink but can live without it a lot of the time — the decision can be a bit more complicated. Luckily, there are things you can do if your partner isn’t as kinky than you that aren’t simply “break up.” I spoke with Vincent, the head of Vermont Alternative Sexuality Education, to find out what the options are.

1Remember: “Kink” Is Subjective

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“Kink is subjective,” Vincent tells Bustle. “A lot of people try to quantify what kink is and how extreme one act vs. another act is. For some people, spanking is extremely hard core while some people don’t find it to be kinky at all.”

With that in mind, it’s totally possible that your partner is into something that you consider kinky but they don’t consider it kinky at all! In that case, it could be a matter of miscommunication. The solution? Talk about it!

2Ask Them About Their Fantasies

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Ask your partner: What do you fantasize about? Do you watch porn? What porn do you watch? What about erotica? What’s running in your head when you masturbate? You both might be surprised by what they turn up.

“When I have dated people who feel that I’m kinkier than they are, we start with their fantasies and build from there,” Vincent says. “In general I’m up for pretty much everything except bottoming/submitting so I have always been able to find common ground.”

3Reassure Them

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The process of figuring out what you’re into — and of trying new things — can be scary. You can mediate that fear by reassuring your partner that you love them, you love the sex you have, and you’re impressed with their willingness to step outside their comfort zone.

“You should also reassure your partner,” Vincent says. “Remind them that you enjoy what you do together — and don’t guilt them by complaining about what you don’t do.”

4Use A “Yes, No, Maybe” List

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“Yes, No, Maybe” lists are a great way to figure out what your partner’s into — and what you might have in common — for both kink and vanilla sex. Vincent has a kink-specific list that he shares with people inside his organization to help them figure out if their kinks match.

“As you build your dynamic, you can try to explore the more intense stuff,” Vincent says. “And in general have found that using a BDSM checklist helps a lot with this. The checklist gives you talking points and a sense of what you both want.”

5Go To A Munch Together

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Kink Weekly writer anniebear suggests checking out a munch with a partner who’s not so sure about this whole kink thing. Munches are social meet ups for kinky people that don’t involve any sex at all. So, for example, you might all get together for brunch. The idea is to meet other people in the scene without the pressure of hooking up. Anniebear says it’s a great way to show someone who may have certain ideas about what kinky people look or act like that most folks are pretty “normal.”

6Check Out A Play Party

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Once you’ve talked about fantasies and maybe checked out a munch together, anniebear suggests finding a play party or play space in your city. Follow sex party best practices and discuss limits and boundaries beforehand — and stick to them. Maybe you only play with each other at first or you have a “waist-up” rule when it comes to other partners. Whatever it is, make sure you’re both 100 percent on board before diving in.

7Remind Yourself That Things Might Change

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And finally, even if your partner isn’t kinky right now, remind yourself that this too may change. “I have found a lot of people are more kinky than they thought they were initially,” Vincent says.

So don’t live in despair, kinky partner. Keep the conversation open, be honest, and be loving. Your partner may not ever get to the point you’re at, but I bet you can find some middle ground.