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Updated: MARCH 15, 2021
Reviewed by Marla Stewart
on January 28, 2021

A primal is someone who enjoys primal play or identifies as having a primal fetish. People with a primal fetish tend to act like one or more animals they identify closely with when they’re involved with someone sexually. A primal fetish is a desire or preference for sexual activity that allows the participants to connect with their most animalistic or primal selves. It is a style of BDSM that focuses on raw feelings and actions that are evoked by natural impulses and urges.

Primal sex is a kink characterized by becoming more animalistic and intense during sex. Some things a primal might do include scratching, biting, hair-pulling, vocalizing with grunts and growls, wrestling, and using force and strength with their partner. Primals release themselves from the inhibitions of our world to allow themselves a headspace that is instinctual and reactive to their base impulses and desires.

In a general BDSM sense, Primals can identify as dominants or submissives but may choose to use alternate terms, such as hunter and prey. Anyone can participate in any role in primal play, it is not limited by gender or sexual orientation. Some primals may associate themselves with animals, such as wolves or bears.


Because of its animalistic nature, primal play often involves a heightened use of senses. A primal scene may resemble a hunt or a mating ritual, where listening and scent are crucial to finding and connecting with a potential sex partner. As it is a form of power play, primal sex can often be rough, so it is considered edgeplay in the BDSM community.


More About Primal

Primal play is a form of BDSM practice that displays raw, emotional, sexual feelings. Being primal includes fighting and animalistic tendencies. Subsequently, it is important that the dominant and submissive are communicative with one another to ensure comfort with the situation. The primal state is purely instinctual. Reason and learned behavior are tossed out when practicing primal play with a partner. As long as there is a high level of trust between the two partners, primal play can be a very intimate and explosive BDSM and sex practice.

On a base level, primal play is a way to exhibit raw emotion and desire outside of the social constraints we live with every day. We generally aren’t allowed to just “take” what we want, and physically fighting for it is also off-limits. In primal play, however, those participating are fully aware and engaged in the idea of devolving back to our basic instincts of desire. Primals give themselves over to a sort of devolution during their scenes where rules and social niceties are discarded. Take what you want, when you want it.

As with the relationships between the creatures of the animal kingdom, anecdotal evidence suggests most primal fetish relationships are non-monogamous. Forming tribes, as animals do, is very common. In these group dynamics, the members of each tribe tend to be very protective of one another.

For some, the appeal of primal sex and becoming a primal goes beyond uninhibited sexual play. It can also be a cathartic escape from the roles and responsibilities we deal with as part of society. The opportunity to shake these weights for some time, to connect with a more natural version of ourselves provides a thrill that takes the Primal over.


However, getting into primal headspace does need to be tempered by conversations both before and after a scene. Both hunter and prey need to respect each other’s boundaries and consent to the potentially rough nature of primal play. Even though primal play often involves grunts and growls instead of sexy talk, a safeword, gesture, phrase, or symbol should be established to ensure players don’t take the scene too far.

Primal play can be very impulsive. Players may not know the actual acts they may perform. Trust is a key element of this kind of sexual experience. Players should communicate their desires and boundaries before a scene, and then decompress after, to discuss what did and did not work for them during the session.

In a practical sense, Primals should also set up a space to enjoy this time of play. Clear an area of large objects that people could hurt themselves by falling into. Prepare the ground with tumbling or wrestling mats. While bruises and scratches may be a badge of Primal honor when acquired during the hunt, serious injury can occur if precautions aren’t taken.


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