Most people can wrap their brain around vanilla sex - you know, sweet, happy, no big surprises sex. The truth is that at least some of your friends have probably tried something a bit more risqué. A recent survey in the Journal of Sex Research found that nearly half of the 1,040 people surveyed were interested in kink, even if they hadn’t explored it.

To be clear: a “kink” is any unconventional sexual desire, concept, fantasy, or practice that bends away from leanings that are generally considered "straight," or what would seem typically arousing to others.

It’s not just the myths and misconceptions that make people scratch their heads when you move from missionary position to ménage à trois. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding kinks. After all, what gets one person hot and bothered may be straight-up terrifying to another. And that’s totally OK - sexual tendencies aren’t one-size-fits-all.

Here’s how to explore seven popular so-called taboos in a safe, consensual way.

*Heads up: Some of the descriptions may be disturbing to some. Before you try any of these kinks, educate yourself to ensure best-case scenario safety.

Blood Play

What is blood play?

Blood play is an erotic or sexual activity involving blood that often goes hand in hand with a blood fetish, or hematolagnia, and other edgeplay. Individuals who participate in blood play often find the sight or taste of blood erotic and sensual, and some may even find the pain of extracting blood sexually stimulating.

Read: Blood Sex - and Why We're so Fascinated (or Repelled) by Blood

How to Explore Blood Play

“Blood play requires proper training and extensive practice. Full stop, end of story,” says Minx of Washington. D.C. It is not a "beginner" activity. “Even if you're in the medical profession, the techniques used for pleasure can be very different – blood play is about sensation, connection and enjoyment, not medical purpose,” she says.

If a partner wants to try blood play - and you want to explore this avenue a bit more before taking formal classes (yes, these exist!) - Minx highly recommends the most hallowed of kink traditions: the fakeout.

After making a big show of setting out scalpels and sterile skin wipes and whatever other tools your partner has been fantasizing about, Minx says a blindfold becomes your very best friend. “Now that they're blindfolded, you can ‘sterilize’ their skin with gauze dipped in a little ice water (alcohol wipes are going to taste awful for what's coming next). If you've got them all hot and bothered by telling them how turned on you are and how much you want this, they'll never even notice the lack of alcohol smell. Now, press the back edge (please, not the serrated edge!!) of a butter knife into their skin and pretend you're making the cut they've wanted so badly. With a small pull of the butter knife and some acting ability on your part, they will be certain you've cut them, especially after you put a drop of lube on the blade of the knife and let it drip down onto their skin. Lick the drop of lube off their skin with relish, perhaps while doing a bit of genital massage, pop on a bandage for extra theatrical flair, and you should have a much better sense of whether this particular fantasy should become reality.”

“The act of opening someone's skin can have lifelong consequences, despite everyone's best intentions. Hepatitis C is no joke,” Minx says. “A cut can permanently scar, it can get infected, healing may be complicated by a pre-existing medical condition or medication. Know the risks, do what you can to mitigate them, and ensure informed consent from all parties at every step of your journey.”

Blood Play Resources

Reputable BDSM groups can usually direct you to local blood play experts and give you information on related upcoming classes and events. Education on blood play is generally a bit rarer than classes on basic flogging techniques, so you may have to look a bit harder and be a bit more patient. Ideally, you want to find a workshop in which you can practice your skills under supervision instead of just listening to a lecture. Instructors for medical play classes may also be able to point you in the right direction for blood play training, as there can be some overlap between these skill sets. Nationally-recognized blood play experts sometimes give classes at larger BDSM events and attending one of these weekend parties can be a life-changing experience. Kink-friendly vanilla medical professionals (e.g., your friend the nurse) can help with crucial information on safety and equipment, but for training on the erotic applications of sharp instruments, seek information within the kink community.

Exhibitionism/Voyeurism

What is exhibitionism and voyeurism?

Voyeurism is a sexual interest in watching activities, typically activities that are private or intimate in nature, without the knowledge or permission of the person(s) being watched. An exhibitionist is a person who experiences an extreme compulsion to expose themselves in public. This usually involves private body parts, such as the penis, vagina, buttocks and breasts.

Read: The Science of Exhibitionism

How to Explore Exhibitionism and Voyeurism

Jefe, of Brooklyn, New York, first became interested in exhibitionism and voyeurism about 15 years ago, when he discovered public parties where people had a variety of different sexual encounters.

“I suppose I'd always sort of known in the back of my mind that it would be hot or a turn on to watch others having sex, but when I actually had my first sexual interaction in front of others, it was so amazingly arousing,” he said.

He and his live-in partner go to a party about two to three times a month, where they can "play" with an audience and also watch others.

“I also engage in dialogue online, on FetLife.com, about events where this can happen,” he shares. "People who engage in this fetish enjoy knowing that they are giving pleasure to themselves, their partner, and the folks watching, or that by watching, they can contribute to the pleasure of the folks having sex."

Exhibitionism/Voyeurism Resources

Before you strip down in public, get to know your local laws. In many places, it’s illegal to be an exhibitionist and/or voyeur. That said, there are places where such activity is encouraged. Think nude beaches, sex clubs and swing clubs (the latter two are best for true voyeurism, which is watching people engage in sex). In such scenarios, it’s good etiquette to keep a mindful distance and don’t stare too intensely. In other words, don’t be a creepy stalker.

Role-Playing

What is role play?

Role play is the act of changing one's behavior, and possibly clothing, to assume the role of a different person. Role playing during sex is used to fulfill fantasies.

How to Explore Role Play

Role-playing is one of sex educator Sunny Rodgers’ favorite go-to assignments she gives her coaching clients because it allows fantasies to be encouraged, shared and discovered.

“Role-playing is healthy for relationships and can really help you bond with your partner in new and exciting ways and can really elevate your intimate playtime,” says Rodgers. “It doesn’t matter if you want to be a foreign exchange student, a dominatrix, a savvy businesswoman, a bitch, or an ingénue, role-playing allows you the opportunity to be whomever you want to be – and to explore the sexual aspects that go along with your chosen role.” Often, partners discover a deep-seated sexual desire that they didn’t even realize they had.

If you want to bring role playing into the bedroom, Rodgers suggests starting by changing your name for your role-playing session.

“Names are very personal and trading yours easily opens the door to new experiences with this simple step,” she says. “Let’s say your new role-playing name is Lola. Now, you allow Lola to be whatever type of woman you want her to be. Does Lola like dominant men, or feather boas, dirty talk, or having sex while wearing cowboy boots? Allow Lola to have at least one main trait or desire that she can bring into her sex play.”

Also, Rodgers reminds people that there’s a learning curve to role play, so it's important to be patient with your partner. “Remember that your partner doesn’t have a good grasp on your new role-playing persona and what she likes and doesn’t like. So your partner will be walking on eggshells in some aspects,” she says. “In order to make things a bit more comfortable for your partner, give them your safe word in case things are getting a bit rough or going in an uncomfortable direction for you.”

The best part? Role-playing brings a whole new conversation into your intimate relationship both in and out of the bedroom.

Read: 8 Tips to Make Role Play Sexy - Not Silly

Role Play Resources

Cuckolding

What is cuckolding?

Cuckolding is a dynamic involving a husband, a wife, and a third man. The husband is the “cuckold” (sometimes shortened to “cuck”), and he likes to watch his wife have sex with other men.

How to Explore Cuckolding

Bianca Alba, MPH sex educator and phone sex worker, receives countless calls from men who enjoy cuckolding role plays.

“As a sex educator, I believe that cuckolding can provide a structured framework for a couple to experiment with opening their relationship in a controlled fashion,” she says. Before a couple embarks on finding a "Bull" (a male third for the fantasy), Alba suggests that they spend some time negotiating physical and emotional boundaries for the scenario. Some examples of things that should be discussed ahead of experimenting with cuckolding? What type of safer sex practices will be used with the Bull? How will the Bull be selected? Which sexual acts are on the table and which are off limits? To what extent will the primary male partner be involved (just watching, performing oral sex on one or both people, and so forth?) Is there a humiliation component for the primary male or is it more about enjoying watching his female partner enjoy sex with another man (aka "hotwifing"). What difficult emotions may arise during or after the event?

“One thing that might be helpful for a couple is for them to dirty talk about their ideal cuckolding scenario as part of foreplay or sex,” says Alba. “For example, each partner could share their thoughts about what would make the scenario hot for them by saying ‘It would really turn me on, if...’ i.e., ‘It would really turn me on to watch you suck another man's cock,’ ‘It would really turn me on to hear you moan while being fucked by a Bull,’ and so forth, and so on.”

Alba says the biggest challenge a couple might face when pursuing cuckolding is finding a willing third, or "Bull." "The Bull should be aware that they are participating in a cuckolding scenario ahead of time, and informed of any limits or boundaries, as well as being able to set their own limits and boundaries,” shares Alba.

Cuckolding Resources

Couples may have luck finding a bull through cuckolding groups on the kinky social networking website Fetlife, by using dating apps like OKCupid or Tinder (they should be upfront about their desire for this play when placing the ad), or by meeting people at swingers’ parties, or at non-sexual public BD/SM or polyamory social meet-ups (sometimes known as "munches" or "sloshes")., says Alba. Depending on the laws where the couple lives, they might also be able to hire a male sex worker to play the role of a Bull for their fantasy scenario.

Female Domination (Femdom)

What is female domination?

Female dominance (or femdom) refers to a BDSM scene or relationship in which a female is the dominant partner, or top partner. A dominant female may have a number of different names, including dominatrix, mistress or madam. Female dominants often engage in BDSM activities such as bondage, ball busting, humiliation, facesitting, forced feminization, forced chastity, forced orgasm and pegging.

How to Explore Female Domination

London escort and mistress Valerie August says one of the biggest barriers for most women when it comes to trying out domination is confidence. “We don't live in a world that gears us up for taking control, so lots of our first attempts at FemDom feel like going out on a limb,” she says. “Tackle this head on by making sure you talk to your partner well in advance about what kinds of submissive activities they are open to trying. If you're shy, have the conversation by email or text!”

When you start out in kink, August encourages beginners not to over-cram the scene. “Having just two or three things – that you're certain they will find really erotic – will give you a three-point map of where you're headed,” she says. “You can usually think of a way to thread the ideas together in a way that flows. For instance, if a lover told me they like bondage, gagging and face slapping, I might cuff them to a chair, slowly drop my panties, stuff them in their mouth and circle the chair giving them the odd slap.”

If you have a list of things you want to try, write them down on a slip of paper and have a quick peek while the submissive is blindfolded. “It doesn't have to be as ambitious or heavy-going as it looks in the movies,” says August. When the London escort first stated out, she thought of a few glamorous femme fatale archetypes from the movies. Think Jessica Rabbit, Catherine Tramell or Morticia Addams – and did some of her scenes with them in mind. “Now, I have a fully formed Mistress alter-ego and it feels much more natural.”

FemDom Resources

When learning how to get started in BDSM, lots of people overlook the most knowledgeable people; professional BDSM providers. Many pro-dommes, subs or switches offer private coaching or consultations in addition to traditional sessions in the playroom. August sees a number of female clients and couples who are keen to try out new skills with the help of a professional.

Also, check out:

Rope Bondage

What is rope bondage?

Rope bondage, also referred to as rope play, is bondage involving the use of rope to restrict movement, or to wrap, suspend, or restrain a person, as part of BDSM activities.

How to Explore Rope Bondage

“You’ve probably already tried it,” says Monk, founder of Twisted Monk.com. “I think before anyone says, ‘I want to learn how to do BDSM rope play,’ all of us at some level have tried it. Maybe you’ve taken the tie from the bathrobe and wrapped it around your significant other’s wrists or played cops and robbers as a kid, and you really liked being the robber.”

As with all sex, especially BDSM, it starts with a conversation along the lines of “Hey, this is something I’d like to try.”

“What I would not do, is grab some imagery from a graphic BDSM site,” says Monk. He suggests setting your expectations very low. “There’s a difference between a BDSM performance or scene for pornography versus ‘Hey! Can I try this tie I learned on YouTube on you, honey?’” He suggest s starting by sitting on the couch and experimenting. “YouTube has a lot of great instructional content to help demystify rope play and get you excited. Don’t go out of the gate with, ‘You, me, it’s Saturday night, and I've got 1000 feet of rope and wiffle bat.’”

Try it out and see how you feel doing it and how your partner feels on the receiving end. Monk says the key to rope bondage is plain old language. “In BDSM, we typically talk about safe words, but in rope bondage, it’s more like ‘My wrist feels a little funky – if you adjust then we can keep going.’”

He emphasizes that rope play is a partner dance. “It is not just a thing I, the doer, am doing to you, the recipient. It is you, the recipient, giving me permission and your body and consent to me, within which context I will create experiences - it’s a feedback loop.”

Once you’ve practiced, experimented, played together and feel comfortable, take it to the bedroom – with adequate cutting tools. You never know if/when you’ll find yourself in an unsafe situation. That said, he also advises steering clear of suspension bondage, as well as rope around the front of the neck and the inside of joints.

Read: The Ins and Outs of Rope Bondage

Rope Bondage Resources


Watersports

What is watersports?

Watersports refers to urine play, or acts that involve urinating in or on another person. Individuals who participate in watersports may enjoy being urinated on or urinating on another person's body, including their face, breasts and genitals. Watersports also includes acts such as urinating in another person's rectum, vagina or mouth, or even urinating on oneself, or watching another person do so. These acts are often associated with BDSM.

How to Explore Watersports

When it comes to golden showers, London escort and mistress Valerie August says you or your partner should first identify what aspect of it seems sexy. Is it the nature of the taboo or forbidden? Maybe there's an element of voyeurism there. Perhaps it's the visceral aspect of body fluids? Some people like the part just before urination happens; the idea of desperation or humiliation when someone is ready to burst. “It's a good idea to ask these questions before you go right ahead and start peeing on someone; just because someone has fantasized about it doesn't necessarily mean they will find it a turn-on to be drenched,” says August.

Read: Exploring the World of Pee Fetishism

Watersports Resources

August suggests starting out with watersports by watching it in porn first, and then maybe just you or your partner watching it happen. If the idea of keeping it to the shower cubicle doesn't appeal, she recommends investing in some good quality sheets from Sheets of SF. For more visual inspiration, check out Morgan Thorne’s YouTube video on watersports.