What is Kink?

One outline description of this is consensual legal non-normative sexuality.

Subsets of Kink include BDSM and Fetish.

Some people who practise, are into, and privately or publicly identify as such can refer to ourselves as Kinksters.

Some refer to ourselves as regards some subset, e.g. as Fetishists.

This page covers a very wide width of diversity of people, so the number of subsets that one may be is very large.


Let us for now explain BDSM, in doing so covering a number of concepts that are more widely applicable.

0) We first re-iterate that we here refer solely to consensual versions of all of these things.

1) BDSM is then, to better approximation, BDDSSM, standing for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism.

2) In further detail, the last four of these form the indicated pairs, wheareas the first two can each be separately expanded to make a pair:

Placing another in Bondage and being in Bondage.

Giving Discipline and receiving Discipline.

So BB-DD-DS-SM is an even better approximation.

3) It is then fairly typical, but by no means ubiquitous, for one partner to enjoy one thing in each pair, and the other to enjoy the other.

These are 'opposite pairs' and sometimes a case of 'opposites attract'.

These pairings are indicated as four 'opposite poles' in the following picture.

4) In more traditional thinking, it is somewhat common for some people to be interested in the 'top' four in the diagram, and for others to be interested in the 'bottom' four.

Indeed, some people identify as Tops or Bottoms on this basis.

There are however, various further conceptual elements of note.

5) Some people identify as Switches, who enjoy both Top and Bottom things, usually at points in time separated from each other.

A traditional symbol for a Switch is a pair of arrows, going from top to bottom and bottom to top.

6) Let us next talk about BDSM in relation to normative sexuality.

People who are into Kink quite often say normative sexuality is like vanilla, to which Kink is all the other flavours of ice cream.


7) See here for adversities faced by Kinksters, within the wider context of a broader scope of past and present adversities.

Trigger warnings: the above link includes discussion of kinkphobia, with some partial analogies made which refer to e.g. (and not necessarily just) homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, biphobia, marginalization of Survivors and 'within community bullying'.

8) Some Kinksters wish to say here that various 'norms' and 'traditions' within certain current and past Kink communities aren't for them, nor are things they are OK with. Such Kinksters widely believe in a variety of Kink communities to choose from, or to just be in Kink-oriented relationships without belonging socially to some wider community.

Here is some of what these have to say.


9) The idea that every BDSM person has to be a Top or a Bottom, to the exclusion or belittlement of e.g. Questioning BDSM practicioners or of Switches is some people's view of things, but not a view that others will accept to be applied to them.

10) The idea that people new to BDSM have to be Bottoms until they 'earn the right to be Tops' (an idea common in the 60's, for some context), is not something that sits OK with quite a lot of BDSM people.

11) While some communities self-describe as 'people who practise BDSM' (and are welcome to), some people feel that BDSM matters are primary characteristics. Everyone has the right to view themself as they please, by which people saying 'I am a BDSM person' is entirely fine, as is saying such as 'I am a BDSM person, and Gay, but in my own life, being a BDSM person is more primary to me than being Gay'.

12) With 10) having once upon a time been a widespread requirement, a lot of people were put off from being part of such communities. Being a Top is something one has the right to choose for oneself, much as what orientation one has or what gender one identifies with. As opposed to it being a privilege for established members of the community. Those who consent to it being a 'privilege for themself to earn' are welcome to living that way, with whoever else consents as well. But people are entitled to other paths. There are plenty of people out there who know they are Tops, and plenty of people who are such as Switches also.

13) Some of the prejudices faced by Switches within BDSM communities bear some similarities to those faced by Bi people within LGBT communities. In particular, words such as 'undecided', 'not a proper', 'greedy' and 'unfaithful' have been used of both, and in each case entirely illogically.

In the case of Switches, well, some people have more aspects to themselves than others. People can have top petals ans well as bottom petals. That by no means need be a manifestation of indecision; it can also be a matter of diversity. Being attracted to more than one kind of person does not imply being in relationships with more than one simultaneously. Nor would being in more than one relationship simultaneously imply unfaithfulness, because the Poly way is different. Finally, whereas people who are multiple genders and are attracted to multiple genders are quite rare, so it is not so common for such Bi or more generally Pan people to be in two-person relationships with each other in which all those issues are met, Switches are actually relatively common among the BDSM populace.

'Top or Bottom' is quite a bit like 'Male or Female' (with no alignment or anti-alignment implied). This is in the sense of each being quite common groupings which have been confused for mutually-exclusive and all-encompassing attributes. But one can be male in some ways and female in others. Or view male/female as a spectrum. Or belong to a third gender, and whicheer combination of the previous. One can also be Questioning in such ways, or Transitioning, including in a nontrivial manner. Not all transitions are like 'female to male'. Some people go though some years identifying with one gender, to some yeras identifying with another, and then reverting again.

With these understanding of gender in mind, Top versus Bottom can also be viewed as a spectrum. Or as multiple seperate spectrums: BB, DD, DS, SM. And, similarly to some people considering themselves to have two genders at once or to oscillate between two, how some of the Switches feel can come to be understood.

14) People have also learned, widely, in the past decade about Asexuals and Aromantics. As such, some BDSM people have become aware of some straightforward ways of expressing ways that they are. It is entirely possible for a BDSM person to be whichever combination of Asadistic, Amasochistic, Adominant, Asubissive, Adisciplinarian (whether giving or receiving) or Abondage (whether being in or having another person consent to be tied up).

Of course, in the past Tops and Bottoms would have been considered to be many of these things, but in particular groupings: Top petals only or Bottom Petals only.

Our points here are three.

A) People have a complete freedom to be, and identify as, whatever combination of petals. Including of different relative sizes, in the manner of petals being spectral. 'Top' and 'Bottom' are then but some of the more common and/or traditional combinations, not unlike 'Female' and 'Male' concepts being adhered to by a lot of people, especially in the past. This includes Switches, particularly if time dependent fluidity is understood (not unlike gender fluidity, though with no obligation whatsoever on the two having similar time scales).

B) It is entirely possible e.g. to be an Asadistic Top. Having many other Top feelings does in no way oblige one to be, or carry out, other parts of the 'traditional Top package'. A quite common phrase here is 'sensual dominant'. This can, at least sometimes, mean an Asadistic Top. It might even mean a Dominant who is all of Asadistic, does not discipline and does not place another in consensual bondage.

C) Kink has plenty more petals than just the BB-DD-DS-SM ones. Quite a lot of others may come in two-petal pairings, such as 'likes boots' to 'likes my boots being admired', but such petals being in pairs is by no means universal. It is just useful in starting to understand the very large diversity of things within consensual Kink.

15) Some Kinksters have considered Vanilla to be very narrow, and they are perfectly entitled to view it that way in their own lives!

Some other Kinksters, however, consider Vanilla to be of substantial scope and diversity as well.

One way of indicating this is for the flower to have a sizeable centre as well. Here is the BB-DD-DS-SM-V flower.

This leads to the further idea that some people (actually plenty of people) view themselves as part-Kinkster and part-Vanilla.

This does not just refer to more obvious cases, such as a Kinkster who is closeted about their kinks while in a Vanilla relationship.

It can also cover people who are Out about their kinks and none the less also enjoy Vanilla interactions.

As such, there are also Vanilla Tops, Vanilla Bottoms and Vanilla Switches.

These all have certain Switch like attributes such as oscillating or enjoying and consenting to more than one kind of dynamic.

As such, we propose half-flowers with arrows for the first two of these, and a full-flower with even more arrows for the third of these.

A possible name for the third of these is Trivalents. Because of enjoying and consenting to three sorts of sexuality, and because Trivalent includes a fair number of the distinctive letters in 'vanilla'.

One can of course be A- as regards other combinations of petals, and have petals of a wide range of sizes.

16) In this last regard, compatibility between partners is partly down to having sizeable petals in opposition, in the manner e.g. of a a very Dominant person having a relationship with a very Submissive person.

And partly down to accepting that one's partner may for instance be Asadistic or Amasochistic.

For which the understanding these wonderful Ace and Aro people have given the world, and associated means of support being built, may well carry over to better understanding and support for the true variety of Kinksters.


17) Given that some of us here are writing this in support of Survivors, we hope to return here fairly soon to write about how Survivors may, at least temporarily, wish to form Kinkster relationships which are e.g. Asadistic in character.

I.e. Some subsets of Kink may be safer for Survivors than normative practises are.

This is in part down to Kink bhaving great complexity, within which very safe things indeed can be found.

Another people who have such considerations are No Contact people.

A subset of Asexuals may also come to find that they are e.g. not Amasochistic or Adominant as well.

Thus at least some Survivors, Aces and No Contact people may find within Kink's diversity some modes of interaction which they consent to and attach certain meaning to.

It is entirely understood that plenty of other Aces are A-BSDM and A-Kink as well, and that plenty of other Survivors have other concerns than becoming involved in Kink.

One thing we will say here is that some people have no hope of ever being in a relationship, yet in some cases this is solely due to normative sexual and relationship matters.

For instance, a No Contact person might be entirely fine with having another person kneel before them, and might discover they enjoy that and can form a very meaningful relationship along such lines. In part through the No Contact person liking that, and in part through the other person liking theit part in that enough to have no need of contact-based pleasures or expressions of affection.

In the case of some Survivors, what might from a normative point of view seem a narrow or unusual range of modes of interaction may lie within what both that Survivor and a new partner would be fine with.

This is one of the many instances of making a first step after thinking one will never step in many directions again.

Other cases of first step include confiding for the first time in anyone that one is a Survivor.

Or daring to go to a first social occasion after having become a Survivor.

In many such cases, there are smaller steps preceding such, e.g. reading on the internet about which kinds of people are trustworthy, or only going to that first social occasion once one's already confided in one person who has accepted to act as Ally in dealing with other first steps that they are willing and able to assist with.