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For those who think of alternative sexual practices as a strictly modern phenomenon, a trek throughout history demonstrates that kink has been a part of human sexual exploration for centuries. You can find drawings and carvings of threesomes decorating Hindu temples, and the Kama Sutra is an Indian text on sacred sexuality and eroticism dating back to the second or third century BCE. 

Erotic Temple in Khajuraho. Madhya Pradesh, India. This is how you get 1.4 billion people.

But Sophie Saint Thomas, journalist and author of Sex Witch: Magickal Spells for Love, Lust, and Self-Protection, points out that conversations about kink have come into the spotlight in recent years: “The failings of phenomena like Fifty Shades of Grey led to people talking about how to do kink in healthy ways that will promote spiritual growth.” 

Saint Thomas defines kink as “anything that falls outside of the heteronormative vanilla mainstream understanding of sex,” while adding that “it’s okay if someone isn’t into kink.” In her work, she unpacks seemingly taboo topics like kink in an engaging and accessible manner that allow one to fully embody their sexual selves in ways that feel safe to both one’s body and spirit. 

Also, Saint Thomas reminds us that our personal degrees of kink are gonna vary. We may go through periods in our lives where we do not feel the need to experiment, and other times where we may wish to engage in deeper explorations of our sexuality. 

Getting in touch with your inner kink 

Through meditation, Saint Thomas believes you can get in touch with what turns you on. “Just spend some time with yourself working with a therapist, trusted mentor, teacher, or friend to learn what you want.”

Using needle play as an example, Saint Thomas points to how kink can become a therapeutic space to do shadow work, be vulnerable, and even work through trauma. “Let’s say you’ve been turned on by needles your entire life and you think that makes you a completely undateable psychopath,” she says. “Upon learning that such play is an accepted and dominant group within the kink world and that it can be done safely, you can come to the realization that you’re not a freak.” 

You can also have a kink, like needle play, that turns you on but you don’t wish to try in real life. As Saint Thomas states, “It’s totally OK to watch your preferred kink via porn, fantasize about it when you masturbate, or integrate it into dirty talk.” Ideally, this exploration is done with a willing and open partner or partners as the combination of energies heightens the overall experience, though you can also explore this on your own. 

Exploring kink safely 

As you delve more deeply into your personal kinks, Saint Thomas recommends connecting with a sex educator or a sex-positive therapist, who can assist you in getting in touch with both your sexual desires and your personal boundaries.

She delineates between hard and soft boundaries by noting the former are hard nos, which represent those things you feel you never want to do. In comparison, soft boundaries are those things that you’re curious about and might want to do at some point, but you aren’t sure if you’re ready for it right now.

Prior to engaging with any potential partners, meet them beforehand in a neutral non-sexual space such as a coffee shop. Have a conversation about what both of you want and expect from this encounter. During this meeting, Thomas suggests all parties involved compile a list of their respective hard and soft boundaries. Also, discuss how you see this encounter playing out, along with expectations for care and connection afterward.  

Here Saint Thomas points to the need to make a distinction between ensuring your overall general safety and maintaining specific boundaries. Take spanking, which is a common kink practice. Some people consider this to be a hard no. Others are into spanking or impact play but do not want to get a bruise or another mark on their body. And then there are those who are turned on by their physical marks following a session. 

Before you begin any encounter, be sure to make a safe word that all parties involved will use the moment something sounds too scary or feels too bad. When you begin your first session, go slow and start light. Be mindful of the range of experiences that can arise during this encounter. Pushing your boundaries can produce emotional states of euphoria and ecstasy that transcend the physical into a spiritual connection. As Saint Thomas observed, “Our brain has a stash box of the best drugs out there. They all come out during sex.”

“Our brain has a stash box of the best drugs out there. They all come out during sex.”

Afterward, there can be a dramatic comedown defined as a “drop” when you exit your kink experience and come back to everyday reality. To help address this feeling, Saint Thomas stresses the need for aftercare following a session. “It’s really just taking care of one another afterward and remembering that sex does not stop after one has an orgasm.” This process of taking care of each other after an encounter can mean anything that soothes you including cuddling, words of affirmation, replenishing your body with food and drink, or attending to any bruises with an ice pack.

For those who consider kink practices such as BDSM as inherently abusive, Saint Thomas points out that this simply means your abuser happens to be into BDSM. As with any intimate relationship, you should look for signs of abuse which include gaslighting, name-calling, throwing things, withholding affection, lies, cheating, and physical violence. Along those lines, while the book and movie Fifty Shades of Grey do not offer an accurate representation of BDSM, Saint Thomas states that women should feel free to read whatever erotic turns them on. Just be mindful that you’re reading fiction and treat it as such. 

Finding places to explore kink

Every reputable sex club that Saint Thomas knows offers social hours where those interested in exploring kink can gather together and socialize. Many clubs require lessons on topics like consent before allowing one to participate in their sex parties. Also, Saint Thomas suggests connecting with like-minded souls via online resources like FetLife, “the Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community.”

Kink out, don’t kink out, it’s your call. But if you’re a secular person with a religious background, you might feel the weight of past judgment. This is your permission to let it go. The only person whose approval you need is the one (or two, or ten) you’re kinking with.

As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School/Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith &...