By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Jan 26, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Is experimenting with sex healthy?." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 26 Jan. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/experimenting-sex-healthy. Accessed 24, May. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, January 26). Is experimenting with sex healthy?. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/experimenting-sex-healthy.

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year now and so far, the sex has been great. Recently, however, she's suggested that we become more experimental. She wants to tie me to the bed and do things to me like drip candlewax on my nipples and attach a string to my penis that she can tug on. She thinks that such things will be able to "heighten sensitivity" and make our sex even more stimulating. I don't have anything against these goals, but before I get into something unusual, I'd like to know whether this type of behavior is healthy.

— Straight and Narrow

Dear Straight and Narrow, 

Before chaining yourself to any new activities, the biggest sensation to be concerned with is your own comfort. Having kinks isn’t unhealthy, so long as consent and safety are dominant in your conversations with your partner. In fact, for some, kinks are a great way to express or act on certain desires. But if you realize that “vanilla” is more your style, that’s perfectly valid, too. No matter what you like, having a conversation with your partner to set boundaries can be key in navigating this new area of your sex life. 

How people perceive the desire to engage in kinks can vary. Some believe the desire to engage in kink stems from a person’s identities, and some studies have backed this up by linking kinky activity to those with sensation-seeking traits. Other people assume the desire to engage in kink is associated with past trauma or that acting on these desires could negatively impact a person's mental health. While links have been found connecting previous emotional and physical traumas to kinky behavior, this isn’t always the case. Engaging in kink has also even been shown to heal sexual trauma and therefore has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health. Kink play can actually increase sexual pleasure and may even decrease a person’s feelings of shame. This is because people can use kinks to experience intense emotions and sensations on their own terms which may help them replace traumatic memories with more pleasant ones. 

Before speaking with your girlfriend, you may consider what you are interested in when it comes to sex. Is there anything you’ve wanted to try to “heighten sensitivity?” If you find you’re lacking in the kink knowledge department, you may choose to do your own research. Starting with a simple internet search for a list of different kinks may provide you with new information to explore. If one catches your eye, you might choose to specify your searches to learn even more. If you’re comfortable, you may even decide to ask your girlfriend if she wants to join and turn it into a couple's activity. This research process may help you feel more aware of your turn-ons and turn-offs. This way if the kink conversations continue, you’ll already be prepared with a sense of what you may and may not enjoy. 

As with any other sexual activity, consent between all parties is essential. Before consenting to anything, gauging your and your partner’s comfort with the activity may make your experience more pleasurable. Prior to engaging in kink play, it’s helpful to talk with your partner. To help you both feel more prepared for what to expect, consider having a conversation about each of your comfort levels and openness to trying out different sexual activities.  Keep in mind that consenting to a discussion doesn’t translate into consenting to the activities and there’s a possibility they may turn you down after they understand what’s involved. Likewise, you have the right to decline any suggestions you feel uncomfortable with as well. 

Sometimes, it isn’t always easy to find the words you need to express what you want and don’t want. It may be helpful to turn your attention to your use of consent language in non-sexual contexts to help you practice. The more you assert your boundaries, even if it's just telling your friends you don’t want to go to a certain restaurant, the easier it may become when it comes to more difficult or embarrassing conversations. 

If you feel like having extra support during these conversations with your partner would make you feel more comfortable, it may be helpful to employ the help of a mental health professional. Additionally, if you’re a student, you may choose to make an appointment with a health promotion specialist on your campus whose area of focus is sexual and reproductive health. Hopefully, this direction provides you with the answers you need to explore any kinky cravings in a safe and informed way! 

Wishing you and your girlfriend tons of sexy fun, 

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