No matter what you're into, kink is about consent, communication, and compromise. Before trying any new sex act, obtaining enthusiastic, continuous consent from all parties involved is a must. Your kinks may not perfectly align with your partner’s, and that’s okay. “Just because you want it doesn’t mean that someone has to do it,” says sex educator Tina Horn, host of the podcast Why Are People Into That?!. As you explore, what you're okay with and what you're not will likely change, so it's important to keep a running dialogue about your limits.
For the uninitiated, learning about kinks and fetishes may feel intimidating. First things first, understand what is a kink and what is a fetish? A kink is defined as a sexual activity that falls outside of sex that society traditionally considers "acceptable." That can include everything from role-playing to bondage to whips. A fetish technically refers to an attraction to an inanimate object, although this includes body parts, such as feet (like a foot fetish). So a fetish is a type of kink.
A Is for Age Play
Age play is a form of role-playing in which one or both partners pretend to be (and get off on being) an age other than their own. Chances are you've already experienced what could be considered ultra-lite age play if you've ever called a partner "baby" in bed. Another common example is the "daddy dominant–baby girl" setup. If you’re calling someone “daddy” in bed you're engaging in light age play. A more "extreme" and less common example of age play is full-on role-playing where one partner is turned on by wearing a diaper and acting like a baby. Calling someone "baby" or dressing up like one is totally okay if everyone involved is into it. “It involves the consent of all involved,” explains sex therapist David Ortmann, author of Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities. If age play turns you on, start out slow by using words like baby or daddy next time you and your partner are getting frisky.
B Is for Bondage
Bondage is a form of restraint—pretty self-explanatory. It’s a sex act that falls within the BDSM umbrella, which is an acronym for “bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism” and a group of common sexual fantasies. Some people enjoy being tied up, while some enjoy tying up their partner, and others like both. Someone who enjoys both the dominant and submissive role is referred to as a “switch.” Typically bondage uses kinky sex toys such as handcuffs or rope but it can also be as tame as you using a scarf, tie or t-shirt to restrain your partner's wrists when you're getting it on. To get into it, you can tie someone up to a bed frame using a tie or scarf or, if your bed frame isn’t kink-compatible, you could start by simply binding the arms together. To up the ante, you can purchase shackle mounts or suspension bars.
C Is for Cuckolding
“Traditionally, cuckolding is when a heterosexual couple agrees to both explore the turn-on of the female sleeping with other men and humiliate her male partner about the fact that she’s sleeping with someone else,” says Horn. The male partner need not be present—perhaps he gets off on the mere thought of his partner having sex with someone else. For others, there's an element of voyeurism to the cuckolding as well. This kink isn't just for heterosexual couples—people of all genders and orientations can enjoy cuckolding varieties. If you’re turned on by the idea of your partner sleeping with others, yet don’t necessarily want to go through the emotional tax and risk of them literally having sex with others, you can explore this kink through dirty talk or virtual sex with a third party.
D Is for Dominance
Dominance is one-half of the DS (dominance and submission) in BDSM and is all about a consensual power exchange. With this particular kink, the dominant partner derives sexual pleasure from taking control. The submissive partner allows their dominant partner to, well, dominate them à la 50 Shades of Grey. Important note: Though the books and movies did help make BDSM kinks more mainstream, they're not totally accurate. Despite what the movie would have you believe, there’s no research that suggests dominants enjoy D/S activities, such as spanking their partner, due to childhood trauma. And nope, you do not have to sign any sort of contract—all you need is enthusiastic consent from all parties involved.
E is for Electrostimulation
Electrostimulation involves using the power of electricity—aka getting an electric shock—for kinky, sexy fun. Obviously, getting shocked can be dangerous, so electrostimulation begins to get into another type of kink called "edge play," which refers to risky BDSM behavior that runs the potential of doing actual bodily harm. Electrostimulation is part of CBT ("cock and ball torture") sessions in which a domme shocks her sub’s genitals by rigging them to electrical contraptions—typically either a wand (see "Z" on this list) or a system that stimulates nerve endings called a "transcutaneous electrical nerve endings stimulation" unit—that can be purchased from specialty kink shops. This is one of those preferences for which you need to be extremely careful to take the correct safety precautions, use an ironclad safe word, and obtain continuous, enthusiastic consent.
F Is for Foot Fetishism
Foot fetishes are one of the most common fetishes out there, especially for heterosexual men. Someone with a foot fetish is literally turned on by feet—thinking about them, touching them, seeing them—and could potentially get off on everything feet. They often want to engage in foot worship, in which they treat their partner’s foot like a holy object: kissing, caressing, and massaging it. So even if you don't have a foot fetish, having a partner with one can be extremely enjoyable as it means there are potentially foot massages galore in store for you. But like all kinks, foot fetishes exist on a spectrum. Humiliation can also play a strong role in a foot fetish: The fetishist may want feet shoved in their face and mouth, or to have their partner walk all over them, touting how filthy their feet are and how pathetic the fetishist is to enjoy such an activity. Other foot fetish activities include giving pedicures and smelling the feet or shoes that said feet reside in throughout the day.
G Is for Gagging
Gagging refers to lightly choking on an object to the point of making gagging sounds. Often people with penises will get off on their partner gagging on them—and the knowledge that they’re big enough to induce gagging noises. Likewise, the partner going downtown may enjoy having something thrust far enough down their throat that they start to gag. It doesn't necessarily take a giant object to induce gagging—something smaller can do the trick too. However, if gagging becomes uncomfortable or if you feel like you’re going to throw up (if that's not something you want to do), you should stop at any point you feel even a little bit off. Remember, kink is all about continuous consent and what makes you feel your sexiest.
H Is for Humiliation
Not all BDSM acts are physical. “Intense language as a use of force can be just as intense, or even more intense, as consensually degrading physical sensations, such as impact play,” Horn says. A common example of humiliation is name-calling and verbal abuse. One of the most common misconceptions about humiliation play is that it's antifeminist. But the truth is, many feminists enjoy being called names such as “bitch,” “slut,” or “whore” in bed—your kinks are not your values. In a patriarchal world where women have long been told sex is not for pleasure, addressing what gets you off—especially if it’s nontraditional like humiliation—and then engaging it can be a powerful way to take control of your sexuality. As always, discuss humiliation beforehand and keep it consensual. Your partner may be okay with being called a "slut" but not a "bitch" so be sure to define your boundaries.
I Is for Impact Play
Impact play refers to the use of hands, paddles, whips, or whatever you have around your house (spatulas work great) to hit the body. If you've ever playfully spanked your partner during sex, that's impact play. More than anything else, impact play requires consent and communication. A good rule to keep in mind: If you’re the one providing the impact, stick to areas that are fatty, such as the side of the butt or thighs, and avoid anywhere organs reside, such as the kidneys (lower back) or rib cage. Like any new kink, start small, slow, and choose a safeword. Impact play can be done alone, yet also pairs well with other kinks, such as name-calling and age play. If you're new to the idea, start with your hands and some good old-fashioned spanking before spending money on more heavy-duty whips and floggers. If anything becomes uncomfortable (and not in a good way), implement your safeword immediately.
J Is for Japanese Bondage
Japanese bondage is one variety of bondage that is typically done with rope. “Kinbaku” translates to “the beauty of tight binding” and “Shibari,” which is a bit more mainstream translates to “decoratively tie.” "Decoratively" is right: Japanese bondage such as Shibari is an art form in addition to a form of bondage. Some of the best Shibari artists, such as Garth Knight, hold high-art showcases in which their subjects are tied up and transformed into trees. If you’re interested in exploring Japanese bondage, More Shibari You Can Use: Passionate Rope Bondage and Intimate Connection by Lee Harrington and Rigger Jay are perfect for beginners. Just don’t forget your safety shears!
K Is for Klismaphilia
Klismaphilia is a glamorous Greek word that means "arousal by enemas." If you're not familiar, an enema is a medical device that squirts water slightly warmer than body temperature into your anus. It's used by hospitals to relieve people of constipation or to prep for certain medical procedures. (Not quite as glamorous as the Greek word makes it sound.) This particular kink generally refers to receiving pleasure from receiving an enema, although there are those who get off on administering enemas as well. The anus is an erogenous zone, after all, which helps explain why kinky folks have been using enemas for pleasure forever. This kink can also be quite practical—it's a way to clean and prep the rectum for anal sex.
L Is for Limits
Consent is paramount in kink. If you’re just getting started, or want to slowly introduce BDSM into an existing relationship, both you and your partner should make a list of your soft and hard limits. A soft limit is something that you’re curious about yet unsure if it’s right for you, such as name-calling. A hard limit is something that you are certain is off-limits, such as electrostimulation. Writing out your hard and soft limits with a partner is a wonderful way to get to know another side of each other. Along with implementing limits, it's important to choose a safeword that is not “no” or “stop,” because some couples use such language as a part of their role play. Your hard and soft limits will likely evolve the more you explore, so it's important to keep having these conversations with your partner.
M Is for Masochism
“Masochism is deriving pleasure from the high sensation most often referred to as pain, be that physical or emotional,” Ortmann says. So, if you enjoy being spanked, humiliated, or spit on, you might be a masochist. The term is named for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a nineteenth-century Austrian author who wrote the book Venus in Furs, which details what's now considered a typical BDSM "master-slave" relationship (he allegedly was the "slave" in his own such arrangement with his mistress). The flip side of masochism is sadism (named after an eighteenth-century French nobleman), in which someone derives pleasure from inflicting pain of a physical or emotional nature.
N Is for Nylons
A nylon fetish often accompanies a foot fetish. One with a nylon fetish may enjoy the look and feel of toes, feet, and legs wrapped tightly in nylon stockings. They may want to smell the nylons or have them shoved in their mouth. if you want to try it, start by wearing nylons next time you get frisky (assuming you don't mind tearing them), or have your partner tie you up with them or use them as a blindfold for sensory deprivation. (Side note: While bondage is a kink, using nylons for bondage is separate from having a nylon fetish, in which the nylons themselves produce the sexual arousal, rather than their usage.)
O Is for Objectum Sexuality
Objectum sexuality—aka a "fetish"—refers to a sexual relationship (or attraction to) an inanimate object. The media frequently portray objectum sexuals as freaks and weirdos falling in love with things such as the Eiffel Tower, a boat, or their couch. However, such an understanding of objectum sexuality is limited. By literal definition, a fetish is an attraction to an inanimate object. This includes lingerie, feet, and sex toys so if you've ever fantasized about your vibrator, welcome to the world of fetish. In fact, in the age of rapidly advancing sex doll technology, we may all soon be a little bit engaged in objectum sexuality. Such perspective is crucial because it helps us understand and empathize with those who do catch feelings for more "out there" objects because kink-shaming sucks.
P Is for Pregnancy Fetishism
Aside from the fact that orgasms and having sex near a due date may help induce labor, there are also those with outright pregnancy fetishes: sexual attraction to a pregnant person. Some partners may indeed discover they have one when their partner is expecting, but others are attracted to the rotund pregnant belly regardless of whose body or baby it is. Since, by that same strict definition mentioned before, a fetish is an attraction to an object or body part, pregnancy fetishists go wild for the sight of a swollen, round belly. The attraction may also include an interest in lactation or other symptoms of pregnancy, but such is not required.
Q Is for Quirofilia
A specific fetish for hands is referred to as quirofilia, which may manifest as an attraction to fingers, a great manicure, or simply some smoking hot hands. Hands are sexy. They're used for myriad sexy things, like the underrated hand job, fingering, and back massages. While quirofilia can absolutely use hand jobs, fisting, or fingering (use of hands to directly create sexual pleasure) some hand fetishists might get off on hands doing mundane tasks, such as picking up groceries or doing chores. While fetishes are inherently sexual, many times the activity or object the fetishist is interested in may present itself as nonsexual in nature. What’s one person’s chore, such as washing dishes, is a hand fetishist's wet dream.
R Is for Role Play
Role-playing is another common kink, which involves people taking on characters outside of their day-to-day lives as part of a sex scene. This can be as simple as putting on a nurse's outfit and as elaborate as constructing an entire scene complete with character development. Do common examples include doctor and patient (medical role play), boss and secretary, pool boy and rich housewife, or college student and professor? While role-playing often comes with costumes and is a fabulous excuse to dress up, an extensive wardrobe is not required. Scenes can be created through dirty talk and pure imagination.
S Is for Spectrophilia
Especially if you’re a straight woman, it’s been a tough year to get into humans. Those with spectrophilia report sexual attraction, relationships, or sexual encounters with ghosts who come and have hot sex with them at night. A succubus is a ghost in lady form that, in folklore (or a spectrophilia fantasy), visits her object of desire at night for some hot human-ghost lovemaking. An incubus is a male variety. Though the actual existence of ghosts is up for debate (and for excellent Halloween movie marathons), the sexual attraction that spectrophiles report feeling is as real as any other fetish. It kind of puts a whole new twist on the term "friendly ghost," though, right?
T Is for Tentacles
First, let's get one thing straight: you can’t have sex with an actual octopus or octopus-like monster—octopuses are animals and therefore cannot give consent. But octopus-like monsters totally exist in tentacle porn, which you can absolutely watch and get off on. It’s hot, not only because it’s so foreign and forbidden but, according to some experts, because it fulfills some pretty classic other fantasy tropes, like bondage and multiple penetrations. And if your ideal penis is actually a giant blue tentacle, the sex toy manufacturer Bad Dragon just may help you fulfill your monster fantasies.
U Is for Urophilia
Urophilia is a fancy name for watersports, golden showers, or the more direct name, pee play. With this kink, people find urination sexually arousing. There are lots of things you can do with urine, though the most common way to enjoy pee play is to give or receive golden showers. If you don't remember the reports of that unverified dossier detailing that President Trump engaged in the act, a golden shower is, well, letting someone shower you (or vice versa) with their pee. If you want to try it out, start in the actual shower.
V Is for Voyeurism
A voyeur is someone who derives sexual pleasure from watching others get it on. When we speak about voyeurism from a kink perspective, we’re talking about consensual voyeurism. Very important distinction! Exhibitionists enjoy being watched, and voyeurs enjoy watching, which makes these two kinks a common item on the menu at sex parties or kink events. Things become more confusing in everyday life because observing someone without their knowledge or consent is absolutely not okay. If you have voyeuristic fantasies, make sure you’re indulging them consensually with willing exhibitionists. That way everyone wins (and gets off).
W Is for Whip
"Whip" is commonly used as an umbrella term for all impact play tools, though it technically refers to an item with a thinner body that produces more of a “stingy” sensation. (You’ll often hear BDSM practitioners refer to sensations as either “stingy” or “thuddy"—the latter describing a toy like a paddle.) The most advanced whip on the market is the single-tail, which looks like a snake and can create a cracking noise when used correctly. Single-tails break the skin and can wrap around the body, injuring areas where organs reside, and should only be used by professional dominatrices with years of experience. Even some pro dominatrices will use them only for intimidation, rather than actually impacting their submissive's body. If you want to try a whip, opt for a beginner-friendly option.
X Is for Wax Play
Candlelight is fantastic mood lighting, but you can also use the melted wax for painfully good sexual pleasure. Of course, playing with fire (and wax) is dangerous, so it's a good thing the sex toy industry has our backs here. There are candles that exist to burn at a temperature perfect for bodies, so you don’t have to worry about accidental burns. Massage candles also exist. These come in delightful scents such as bourbon or dark vanilla. As the candle burns, the wax turns into massage oil. Enjoy.
Y Is for Yoni Egg
A yoni egg is an egg-shaped device worn inside of the vagina typically as part of pelvic floor exercises. A yoni egg is inserted inside the vagina as the pelvic floor muscles tighten their grip to hold the egg in place. They can be quite beautiful—the sexual wellness company Chakrubs sells them in crystals such as rose quartz, jade, and black obsidian. There's also a spiritual element involved for many yoni egg users, particularly since they involve crystals. There's some debate over whether there are health risks associated, so make sure you read up on whether this is something you want to incorporate as part of your Kegel routine.
Z Is for Zappers
A “zapper” is a cute nickname for an electro-wand that is used as part of electrostimulation. They typically look like a magic wand that Harry Potter would use, except they're used to send shocks to the body. Zappers are frequently used as part of DS play in which the dominant shocks the submissive. Though it sounds scary, zappers feel like a little sting. Still, it is 100% okay if they’re on your hard-no limit list. You can still be kinky and cool without zappers—I’d be shocked (shocked!) if they didn’t scare you a teeny bit.