10 Ideas From “The Ultimate Guide To Kink” That Even Vanilla People Will Be Into

In the opening to The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, editor Tristan Taormino writes, “This book is for everyone who dares to expand their erotic desires beyond the ordinary.” What is ordinary, of course, shifts according to where you are standing. But even people with more complicated sex and/or kink lives should find something to take away.

The volume, which features essays from sex and kink educators, writers and practitioners, functions as a broad introduction to a range of concepts, from what the letters in “BDSM” stand for (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism all overlap) to rough sex basics to consensual non-consent to edge play. Total beginners might be a little awed, while experts will be a little bored, but overall The Ultimate Guide to Kink is a thorough review of several main ideas in kink and the thought or theory behind them.

Don’t have time? The following 10 quotations illustrate some broad ideas for kinky (and all) sex.


1. The intent, not the act, is what counts.

“It is not the act which is dominant or submissive, but the attitudes and intentions of the partners that make it so.”
— Laura Antoniou, in “How To Train Your Sex Slave”

2. No, it really does matter though.

“There are two fundamental concepts here: consent and intent.

The intent of those participating in taboo role play is not to harm others. Their intent may vary. It can be a reclamation, a re-creation, an exploration — but it is never a decimation, an obliteration of the humanity of the people involved. Intent is all-important when diving into these dark waters.

Consent is also pivotal. Inasmuch as a person who engages in a fantasy about being used and degraded by a terrifying sexual predator has consented to the scenario being manifested, the acts are elevated above criminality. Rape, incest, abuse based on race, gender, sexual preference, or physical ability are not acceptable — unless they are. Once these taboos are brought to light as a forbidden fruit that the participants willingly, and with open eyes, choose to ingest, the game is entirely different.”
— Mollena Williams, in “Digging In The Dirt: The Lure Of Taboo Role Play”

3. Stay focused in the moment.

“The one thing that will almost always defeat us in our search for pleasure is a negative attitude. Expecting that you will be able to easily take your partner’s entire hand, or that you will orgasm from the experience, or even that you will be able to maintain your composure, can short-circuit your ability to go with the flow of the experience and appreciate it for the process that it is. While you’re breathing deeply, stay focused in the moment. If you feel happy and full of laughter, let it out; if the sensation brings up sadness, or fear, talk it out (or cry it out) with your top. Our bodies have their own memories; it’s not uncommon for sex and kink (especially when they push our previously conceived limitations) to tap into some of those memories. By releasing them, we can embrace our own internal reality and give our tops the opportunity to create that safe space for us as we experience them — and move on toward even more pleasure.”
— Sarah Sloane, in “Whole Hand Sex: Vaginal Fisting and BDSM”

4. Don’t worry too much about technique.

“In both sex and BDSM we can become overly concerned with technique. We worry that we’re not doing it as well as it should be done, or as well as it could be done, or as well as it was done by our lover’s last partner. If you focus on breath and energy, there will be a lot less room in your mind for this kind of self-criticism. And, if you follow the energy instead of your critical mind, you won’t have to figure out what to do next. You’ll already be doing it.”
— Barbara Carrellas, “Kinky Twisted Tantra”

5. Power is multi-sided.

“If you’re on the receiving end of rough play, remember you are not a passive vessel. If you want something harder, faster, slower, started or stopped — tell your lover. ‘Oh god, yes!’ counts as feedback. So does ‘Ow, stop, wait. Damn, that’s big. Let’s try this, baby.’ You are not timid or imperfect for speaking up. On the contrary, you are proving yourself to be a trusted lover who is committed to having connected, hot sex. Nothing changes unless you make it change. And though it looks as if the person who is meting out the roughness is in power, that is just the opposite of what’s happening. The one being roughed up is the one who has the final word about what does and doesn’t happen.”
— Felice Shays, in “Brutal Affection: Playing With Rough Sex”

6. Know what you want, and ask for it.

“All relationships, whether you’ve been together 10 minutes or 10 years, have radically different histories of experience, trust, and disappointment, but the basics of getting clear, brave, and open are the same. Do you know what it is you want? Have you articulated specific activities to yourself? Have you experienced things with a previous lover that you want with this partner? It’s okay to have only a sense of what you want — just remember that your partner can’t know till you know. Getting what you want in any avenue of life involves risk. You and your sex are worth it. Over a drink, on a walk, or on the subway, say a thing or two that you love about your sex or sensuality together. Say something you want to try.”
— Felice Shays, in “Brutal Affection: Playing With Rough Sex”

7. Play can lead to self-discovery.

“[R]ole playing is one of the things that brought me to a more comfortable place about my own twisted sexuality. Though I felt deeply conflicted about being submissive, and it did not sit well with my fiercely feminist heart, I could pretend to be submissive — you know, for science. These games allowed me to playfully investigate a newly unearthed part of my psyche and to become more comfortable with it. It felt safer for me to make-believe my way into a new realm. I gradually understood that this was a big part of who I am, and expressing it freely was precisely what feminism was all about. Nowadays, I do not have to pretend. I can just be me.”
— Mollena Williams, in “Stop, Drop, And Role: Erotic Role Playing”

8. Imperfection is allowed.

“It’s okay for us to be imperfect. We struggle, like anyone else, to figure out what sort of relationships are ethical or will meet our needs, how to communicate unwelcome information to a partner, whether to let a conflict result in separation or rededication to the relationship. That doesn’t prove that we are sick or crazy. As long as we are conscious of our own and others’ well-being, and striving to contribute to that, we are on a good path and we don’t need to engage in harmful self-criticism.”
— Patrick Califia, in “Enhancing Masochism: How To Expand Limits And Increase Desire”

9. There are always risks.

“Getting what you want in any avenue of life involves risk. You and your sex are worth it.”
— Felice Shays, in “Brutal Affection: Playing With Rough Sex”

10. The best advice.

“Don’t kill ’em, don’t harm ’em, don’t bore ’em.”
— Midori, in “Bondage For Sex”

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. On a less serious note: Laura Antoniou, “How To Train Your Sex Slave” is something I might get for the sole purpose of randomly setting it loose on a shelf at the office. Preferably a shelf in a conference/break room.

    On a more serious note: I feel that BDSM and kink related stuff is very vocal and structured in the way that it actually, well, gives a guide to sex.
    And to be honest, sex is something that kind of does need to have an instruction manual sometimes..
    Most of the stuff above applies to everyone, but as usual, the kinky folk are helping spell it out for the vanilla people, for which,I, as a milky colored creampuff am very, very thankful for.

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