Explain It Like We're Vanilla


To ‘vanilla’ people, kink is a foreign land on a foreign planet in a foreign galaxy in a foreign supercluster. In short: we don’t get it. We don’t plan on getting it. But we would like to understand it insofar as what it means to those who do, whatever those kinks may be.

While the TMI threshold of this discussion is necessarily higher than that of your average water-cooler talk, the focus of this thread is not kinky acts but rather the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and (neuro)physiological aspects of them. Any descriptions should be subservient to this focus. Yes, that was an SM joke.

If you’re uncertain of whether something is appropriate, don’t post it. Follow your intuition. Failing that, follow the BB community guidelines. Especially this part:

Keep it clean. Don’t post anything obscene or sexually explicit.

Got that? We don’t want to hear about the details of your kinky adventures. Dan Savage is still taking calls and letters; share your adventures with him. We’ll enjoy hearing about them on Savage Love(cast). Just not here.

Academic interest in the psychology and neurophysiology of kink—especially SM—manages to get research funding every now and then. I encourage anyone to bring those results into this discussion.


Well, as to where kink comes from… I’d say for me it’s childhood experience, and necessity.

I have a fetish I’m pretty much certain I acquired as a small child watching a specific Disney movie. And in pursuit of porn for that fetish later as a teen and adult, I became first less concerned about, then gained an appreciation for common co-tropes that show up often with my fetish (eg Futanari, if you happen to be into anime is pretty common. And while a lot of people really hate futa, a lot of other people can get over their initial disgust and come to appreciate it.)


Or you might already get it, but not realise that. Degrees of intensity, sort of thing.
The only difference between what’s sexyfun and what’s scaryweird may just be where you choose to draw the line.


Ask a librarian and ye shall receive. Emma Turley, “‘Like nothing I’ve ever felt before’: understanding consensual BDSM as embodied experience.” Psychology & Sexuality. Jun2016, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p149-162. 14p.


If you’re going there, you might as well use “the definitive guide” for identifying just how “vanilla” or how “kinky” you may actually be:



I am not the author of that quiz nor have I ever attended MIT (which is where that version first surfaced.)

Furthermore I am well aware that it’s needlessly long and redundant; of 500 questions, at least 200 are duplicates.

Lastly, if any of the questions squick you out, welcome to the club; before taking the Purity Test for the 1st time, I’d never even heard of half the stuff therein.

Of course that was all 20 years ago, but nevertheless…



Funny you say that, because I now recall Savage observing that he gets calls from vanilla-identified people who have recently dated someone kinky and who then discover that they enjoy one of their partner’s kinks (or aspect thereof). So yeah, totally possible.


I have friends who frequent fetish/kink shows and events, and in my experience, 99% of the time those words are meant as synonyms for leather, bondage, light S&M, and dominance. At least in terms of merchandise and sexy images sold to the public.

@Wanderfound mentioned in the parent thread that they don’t get sadism, and while it’s not my thing in any way at all, it’s interesting seeing friends who are into it. One friend of mine is the most kind, soft-spoken, tender guy I know, a vegetarian who can’t bear the idea of animals being hurt. And at some point not long ago he discovered he really likes to punch. It’s not even entirely sexual, but it’s a huge stress reliever to take out aggressions, and happily, there’s people who really enjoy getting punched. So a lot of kink is simply about finding mutual interests.


And probable. It’s the rare individual who accepts the vast range of sexuality within without feeling at least some initial feelings of guilt, shame, etc. Just because we recognize that culture preferences heteronormative mores doesn’t mean we can escape its clutches unscathed.


“The four-piece, Sexy Librarian costume includes a mini dress with back slit, vest with buttons, collar with attached tie and wrist cuffs. Stockings, book and glasses not included.”


Another thing I’ve read is that those who are into sadism are actually more empathetic than the average person. You have to be in order to do it right. By appearances, the dom seems to be in control when in fact they’re keenly attentive to the sub who is, effectively, calling the shots—er, shocks. Whips. Whatever.


As a rather kinky person and a cook, I hate, hate, hate the term “vanilla” as applied to non-kink. Vanilla has only been a plain or boring flavor for those who are too stingy to use enough of it.

I think it’s rather judgemental to suggest that the explicitly sexual isn’t “clean”.

I think it’s better to treat kink like DIY/Maker culture and for people to be completely open about it, exploring and sharing ideas and experiences about what works for them and why. Hiding it just seems so neurotic! Imagine a maker blog or forum where people were expected to dance around not explicitly showing or discussing their projects! Yet - that’s what people do with regards to sexual play.

Even though my sexuality is almost entirely non-normative, I don’t fit into many kink communities because I do not relate to BDSM at all, and kink communities often seem overwhelmed by it. I think that most people are mired in quaint power games in their real daily life, and it is hard for me to understand people wanting to indulge that deliberately. Since the status quo of primate interpersonal politics is more or less like BDSM, I think it is far more “normal” than most like to admit.


And for purposes regarding this particular discussion, the whip is NOT included either. Caveat emptor.


There are also many online quizzes to determine what interests/activities you have in common. Useful for negotiating BDSM play when you really, really need to know boundaries, they can often be handy for couples who wold maybe like to try something new, but aren’t comfortable with admitting it.

It can be surprising what you might have in common.


I left this for someone else to say but now that you’ve said it, thank you! Vanilla is one of the most complex aromas on the planet. Try to describe it and you’ll find yourself twelve words later still grasping for its essence. The reason why vanilla has become associated with plainness is because of all the cookies and ice creams containing, as you said, a stingy amount of it.

A well made vanilla ice cream is a revelation and the mark of a serious ice cream maker.


All I’m willing to say is that I’ve marginally expanded my personal boundaries over the last 20 years; the first time I took the aforementioned quiz I scored 69.6 “pure.”

It’s not quite that high a number anymore.



Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t go look at the website (the 500 questions intimidated me) but it ranks you based on “pure”? For real? They use the word “pure”? That’s deeply disturbing to me, way more than any kink out there.


It should have subtlety, nuance and complex layers, much like sex. And enjoying thermonuclear levels of chile doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy a sublime ice-cream.

I hate the term when referring to sex. It’s unnecessarily divisive and carries weird crypto-racist undertones to me.

But, food as an analogy for sex, I totally get. The two are mentally very closely aligned for me.
Which may be heading into the TMI zone…


Suddenly quiet on this thread as well all go take this test … 11 test-takers online right now. Wonder how many of us?


For lack of a better adjective, yeah; they do.

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Probably one of the most contentious aspects of my own sexuality as compared to “norms” I encounter is that I consider sex to be a social activity, rather than an inter-personal activity. It is a way for people to meet are share of themselves, a way of building community. Not a way of getting sentimentally attached to other individuals. I think that looking for attraction and personal chemistry tends to be selfish and anti-social. If I care for those around me by providing food and shelter, why should sex be any different? Somehow, this strikes many people - even leftists - as far more scandalous than “do what you like in the privacy of your own home”.

One way to try to get some traction with this I think is to introduce some seasonal community ritual. Like an annual town orgy, for instance. Like any other great holiday festival, but with openly sexual elements. As obvious as this seems to me, I have never been able to generate much enthusiasm for the idea in others. But since I raised myself as a communist non-western citizen, this outlook should perhaps not be surprising.

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