Sooo...kinks and fetishes are low-key highlighted all over mainstream culture whether you realize it or not. One example: You’ve definitely sang along to Rihanna’s lyrics about how chains and whips excite her. Another example: You tuned into the Fifty Shades series and got to take a peek at an IRL “red room.” And yet, these are just a few examples of some popular kinks and fetishes in pop-culture.
As defined by Merriam Webster, a kink is an unconventional sexual taste or behavior. So in v simple terms, “the term is used to indicate anything that is not sort of run of the mill interaction,” says sex therapist Liz Powell, PhD. And when Powell says “anything,” trust, she means anything.
Kinks and fetishes can vary from person to person and that’s mainly because everyone has different sexual interests and tastes. FWIW: As long as everything is consensual, there’s really no “bad” or “good” kink, but there’s quite the variety of different ones. Read on to learn the definitions of 21 kinky and fetish-related terms you should def know about.
“Voyeurism is getting sexual excitement from watching others when they are naked or engaging in sex acts,” says Jill McDevitt, PhD, CalExotics sexologist. And while the pleasure is most commonly derived from watching others, the fetish could also include hearing others engage in sexual acts, or even being told about other people’s sexual experiences.
2. Breath Play
Okay, so breath play refers to the BDSM practice of having your breathing restricted during sexual activity—but it's not exactly safe (for obvious reasons). A healthier, better alternative: Holding your own breath. Not only do you get to experience breath play, but you're completely in control of when you choose or not to breathe. The excitement of the action, plus the excitement of the power exchange, is a great alternative, suggests Good Vibrations sexologist Carol Queen, PhD.
"BDSM is a catch-all acronym for several different aspects of the kink community," Dr. Powell explains. "The B and D are for bondage and discipline, the D and S is for domination and submission, and the S and M is for sadism and masochism." All BDSM involves a consensual power exchange, which means a submissive partner consents to letting the dominant power take control through various scenes.
4. Scene or scene play
A "scene" is a term for the time period in which the kinky play goes down. While you might refer to a night of sex as simply a hook-up, those within the kink community often referred to planned time with partners, in which they engage in their shared kinks, as "scenes."
5. Dominant and submissive
A dominant partner is someone who enjoys dominating their partner through various kinky activities. These can be physical—like choking—or mental—like calling someone names. The submissive partner enjoys being dominated, and being the one who is consensually tied up, slapped, or humiliated.
"Usually when we hear people use terms like ‘dominant’ or ‘submissive to describe themselves, these are more identity based than action-based," Cameron Glover, sex educator and Sex Ed in Color podcast host, explains. "But these don't have to be set in stone—there are people that use these terms interchangeably."
A switch is someone, who as Glover mentions above, "switches" between dominant and submissive roles.
7. Sadism and masochism
A sadist is someone who (consensually) derives sexual pleasure out of inflicting physical pain or psychological humiliation on their partner. Masochism, or someone who identifies as a masochist, is someone who derives sexual pleasure out of receiving pain or humiliation. If this feels similar to the dominant and submissive dynamic, that’s because it is. But not all dominants identify as sadists, and the same goes for submissives and masochists.
8. Golden Showers and piss play
Golden showers are a form of piss play (which, yes, is any play involving urine). Golden showers specifically refer to peeing on a partner, as Glover explains. "So beyond golden showers, piss play can also include peeing on or in different body parts, clothes wetting, or making a partner hold in their pee as part of the scene play," Glover says.
9. Edge Play
"Edge play in kink is any kind of activity that is further out there and considered more dangerous," Dr. Powell says. What qualifies as edge play is different for everyone. It could mean anything that involves blood or breaking the skin with certain whips, and there are others who enjoy knife and needle play. For some, golden showers may be a regular part of their routine, but for others, that counts as edge play. Dr. Powell says that anything involving intense physical pain is typically considered edge play, but sometimes in kink, the most intense scenes involve only psychological edge play.
RACK is not a kink, even though it sounds like one. It stands for "risk aware consensual kink," and is the most common guideline kinksters live by to make sure all parties are safe. There's another acronym, SSC, which stands for safe, sane, and consensual, but RACK is used more commonly, since what’s considered "sane" varies so drastically from one person to the next.
The idea of RACK is not that you find a way to eliminate all risks, but that you consider holistically all of the risks that might come up or be involved, Dr. Powell explains, and "then decide how you want to manage those and if that is a risk that feels good for you."
11. Erotic humiliation
Like most kinks, erotic humiliation exists on a spectrum. It can mean a dominant partner consensually calling their submissive partner names like "slut" during sex. It can also be as extreme as someone being consensually "forced" to watch their partner have sex with someone else in front of them.
Cuckolding is a form of the aforementioned erotic humiliation of watching your partner have sex with someone else. And yes, it’s where the term "cuck," now taken over by the alt-right, came from. A cuck is a male submissive who gets off on his partner having sex with someone else, usually a more traditionally masculine person. Sometimes the cuck will watch from the corner of the room. Sometimes the cuck will be verbally mocked for having a smaller penis while his partner has sex with a "real" man, and sometimes the cuck is forced to stay at home, getting off on the knowledge that his partner is out having sex with someone bigger and stronger than him.
Aftercare isn’t technically a kink, but it’s another word that anyone engaging in kinky play needs to know. It’s basically a fancy word for checking in with one another after a scene to make sure all parties feel happy and comfortable with what happened. "It can include cleaning up the space you were in, putting away any toys that were used, and checking in on each other’s mental space," Dr. Powell says. If anything about the scene felt off or you didn’t like, it’s also a great time to discuss that and make sure the next time is better.
Most people hear "CBT" and think of cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of therapy that focuses on regulating emotional responses and developing helpful coping mechanisms. But in the world of kink, CBT refers to cock and ball torture, a request from male submissives that pro-dommes get. It’s fairly self-explanatory, and usually involves a dominatrix inflicting consensual pain on a male submissive’s genitals: think stepping on testicles while wearing heels, punching and slapping the penis, or "forcing" male submissives to wear an uncomfortable chastity device.
15. Foot fetish
According to Dr. Powell, foot fetishes are "shockingly common," and usually seen in men. Men with foot fetishes may be submissives, and desire to "worship" a woman’s feet through kissing and massage, or even giving a pedicure, Dr. Powell explains. Other men enjoy an aspect of humiliation and want to be stomped on or have smelly feet on their faces. Often men view a woman’s feet as something sacred.
16. Impact play
Usually done by a dominant to a submissive, impact play refers to hitting or spanking a partner’s body. Spanking is a common form of impact play, and others enjoy using toys like crops, paddles, or whips. During impact play, To keep impact play safe and comfortable, most partners decide on a "safe word" to stop at any time, agree to only hit fatty areas (like the butt or thighs) to lessen pain, and agree to be communicative about any discomfort or unwanted pain., and communicate during the scene to make sure the submissive is okay with the pain level.
While people may generally identify as a submissive or dominant, some partners take it to the next level and enter a 24/7 arrangement, meaning that the consensual power exchange occurs full time, often while living together. The dominant and submissive roles are not only taken on for a scene, which may last just a few hours, but literally full time, on a 24/7 basis.
18. Age play
This is just a concise term for a form of role-playing in which two consenting adults enter a scene that involves taking on roles and ages that aren't their own. This can simply mean a submissive "baby girl" enjoying a dominant male partner who takes care of her and who she calls "daddy," or go as far as adult baby and diaper play.
19. Rope bondage
This is pretty straightforward. Rope bondage is when a partner (usually the "top" or dominant partner) restrains another (typically the submissive) using rope. It can be as simple as using rope to tie a partner’s arms together, or as intricate as shibari, which is a form of Japanese rope tying and involves intricate knots and patterns and is considered an art form.
The act of inserting an entire hand, or fist, into a bodily orifice—like the vagina or rectum—is called fisting. Please use a lot of lube.
21. Orgasm control
A scene in which the submissive partner allows the dominant partner to decide when they get to come is a form of orgasm control. This could entail a male sub wearing a chastity device, or a sub being restrained, brought to the brink of orgasm, at which point stimulation is stopped. The dominant may repeat for as long as the scene lasts. The latter is also referred to as "edging."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.