How to respond when your partner shares a kink with you

Talking about sex is hard, y'all

Great sex doesn’t just happen. It’s not magic. It requires actual thinking and actual talking. But those conversations can be really hard, especially since many of us were never given the tools to discuss (or even figure out!) things like boundaries, consent, desire, turn-ons, or turn-offs. So when a partner shares something with you that they want to do, whether it’s a “kink” or not, you might be taken by surprise and not know how to respond, especially if it’s something you hadn’t considered before. Here’s how to proceed in a way that’s loving and supportive of your partner and also honors your own needs and desires:

1. Let them know you’re glad they shared with you

This is the most important thing you can do anytime a partner shares a sexual desire or interest with you. Even if you’re not sure you’re interested in doing what they’ve described, remember that sharing it required vulnerability on their part. They did something hard and no matter how you choose to proceed, you can do so in a loving, non-judgmental, and sex-positive way. One way to do that is by telling them that you’re glad to know about anything they want to share with you and that you’re interested in learning more about what turns them on. (And if that’s not actually true for you, consider whether you should be having any kind of sex with this person.)

2. Let them know they’re safe to tell you more

A simple statement like “Cool, tell me more!” could be a huge relief to your partner if they were nervous about how you would react or if they’re holding any shame about their sexuality. Getting the details can also help you figure out if you’re into the idea or not.

3. Ask them what their experiences have been like sharing with partners in the past

It’s news to exactly no one that many of us have complicated emotional baggage left behind by sexual partners of yore. If your current partner has been traumatized by telling someone about a kink and having that person react negatively, it can be really helpful to know more about that so you can try to avoid triggering those negative emotions. You may be super excited about trying something new with them and have lots of questions, but if they were peppered with questions by a previous partner who was unsupportive, then you may want to hold off on the rapid-fire questions. If they’ve had partners who made them feel really supported and safe, it can be helpful to know what that looked like as well.

4. Figure out whether it’s a yes, no, or maybe for you

Ask questions, do some research if you need to, and take whatever time you need to think about it. When you can, let your partner know whether it’s something you’re definitely into, might be into but aren’t quite sure, or are definitely not into. All three options and everything in between should be 100% okay with your partner. Great sex is sex with enthusiastic consent from all involved.

5. Find out whether it’s the icing on the cake for them or the cake itself

It can be helpful to know whether this activity is something absolutely essential to your partner’s having a satisfying sex life or if it’s just something that would be nice to have but not necessary.

6. Have an honest discussion

If it’s a “yes” for you, then reporting that back should be pretty easy. Next comes the fun part—discussing how to go about incorporating the kink into your sex life. If it’s a “maybe,” talk through where your boundaries are and/or what else may help you figure out where they are. If it turns out it’s essential for them and a “no” for you, you may need to discuss with a sex therapist, and that’s okay! That doesn’t mean there won’t be creative workarounds that will work for both of you.

You’re doing great. Now go wash your hands.

Written by Lauren Kernan, MA

Lauren Kernan is the Director of Content and UX Strategy for Bedsider and Abortion Finder. In her spare time, she can be found sewing or starting and giving up on various other crafts.

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