Updated: SEPTEMBER 22, 2022
Reviewed by Marla Stewart
on January 28, 2021

A primal is someone who enjoys primal play or identifies as having a primal fetish or primal kink. Primal play involves getting into a primal state of being or mind, where a person tends to behave in a rough or animalistic way. 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. Because the primal state is purely instinctual, primals say it can be triggered by rough sex, which is how some people find out they are primals.

Those who enjoy primal play may describe it as very passionate and sensual, as well as exhilarating. 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. Although less common, primal couplings can also include two dominant primals, both of whom will seek to dominate the other. Anyone can participate in any role in primal play; it is not limited by gender or sexual orientation. Some primals may also 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 typically considered edgeplay in the BDSM community.

Although primal play is not new, it experienced a bit of a "moment" in 2021 when people on TikTok began sharing their interest in primal sex play as well as some of their primal fantasies.


More About Primal

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 sex 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.

Because being primal includes fighting and animalistic tendencies, it's important that the dominant and submissive are communicative with one another to ensure comfort with the situation. This includes setting up safewords and/or safe signals before play begins to ensure everyone's safety. 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.

For some, the appeal of primal sex play 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 off and to connect with a more natural version of themselves is part of the appeal for many primals.

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 on. 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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