Vanilla sex; a comfortable, traditional and predictable way to form intimacy. No power play or public places, no choking or humiliation. I once described my sex life as thrilling, to which I was asked why. “We use handcuffs and blindfolds; we go for hours…” I uttered. “That’s so normal!”, my friend blurted.
Unless you’re participating in extreme BDSM, using sex toys (nipple clamps, a strap-on, ball gag) or heading to adventurous sex parties for “double dipping”, your sex life is pretty vanilla – aka, dull and conventional. In 2019, you’re suppose to adore pegging and hardcore porn. When did vanilla become such poor art?
What it means to be kinky
Toys like handcuffs aren’t quite vanilla, but in comparison to the growing sex toy market, they rate low on the naughty scale. My post: “Is Porn Pushing Women to Kinky Sex?” spoke about the 50 Shades of Grey franchise stirring women towards bondage and chains; an answer to their enslaved, predictable shackles tied from years of repetitive sex with the same partner. Porn has also played a role, inspiring couples to try manoeuvres they didn’t know existed. Terminology not sourced in Karma Sutra.
Research from BBC Radio 5 Live suggests a third of women have experienced unwanted, violent acts such as gagging and choking during consensual intimacy. British backpacker Grace Millane was murdered by a Tinder date who strangled her, claiming it was a sex game gone wrong. He’s unidentified in the press (for legal reasons) while Millane’s sexual history (links to BDSM) has splattered across newspapers. Recently the man was convicted of murder, but as Grazia reports, it’s becoming common for violent sex to be used as an excuse for injuries and death against women.
From pop culture, fashion and the media, there’s a current hype for freaky, confident females who hone a positive sexual attitude by adopting trendy, uncommon positions to their sex lives. For instance, sex positions crab and the maypole. (Did you read those terms with a confused face?) To prove this movement true, Gwyneth Paltrow has included a BDSM kit in her Goop 2019 Holiday Gift Guide. There’s a daring sexual liberation happening, and with that a fear of looking too plain, too vanilla.
Hookup culture + vanilla sex = awkward
Thanks to Tinder and other dating apps, casual sex can resemble a takeaway food order – easy, straightforward and customisable. Find a person who fancies your profile, select a date to arrange, ask what they’re into and wait to pick up your meal – your instant sex. Maybe the normalisation of casual sex has increased the distaste of vanilla.
The standard vanilla sex settings only work when there’s romance, chemistry and a sense of love making. To make something common feel new and exciting, you have to get vulnerable. Looking deep in a person’s eyes, patiently exploring the right erogenous spots… whether fast, slow, however passionate, vanilla sex forces you to unmask yourself. You cannot hide behind props and a fantasy character, it’s you alone with a stranger or sexual partner.
So in theory, kinky sex is easier to perform. If you haven’t met someone before and have limited time to orgasm, relying on tools designed to achieve greater sex makes sense. For couples as well who find their sex routine boring, it’s arguably a quicker remedy for them to step out their comfort zone and try something wild and unusual, as oppose to depending on themselves alone to enhance their sex strategies. With that said, unconventional sex has a huge failing: it doesn’t work if one person tries something and doesn’t enjoy. At least with vanilla sex, you already know your feelings.
Why vanilla sex needs a popularity boost
What does it mean if someone is vanilla? Many publications online view the term as negative and plain. On the contrary, I don’t understand what vanilla or kinky actually reveals. Just because an individual has a trunk filled with submissive costumes or a dungeon (redesigned wardrobe) in their bedroom, who’s to say they possess great skills? A person on their own, at night with a bed and some rubber can perform more exhilarating sex than someone carrying a bag from an adult toy shop.
Sometimes you can’t beat a night of built-up foreplay, followed by oral, using your hands and then gradually working to intercourse. I’ve experienced incredible vanilla sex as well as dreadful. I think vanilla is more demanding as you need to practice and learn – rarely can you copy repeated moves and expect them to work for every person. And although I’ve dipped my toes in the kinky side, I admire men who are just as happy and confident to make love traditionally as they are to move away from ordinary.
Speaking to a friend, I noticed our differing interpretations of kinky and vanilla sex. When I mentioned pegging and the countless articles on why it’s popular, my friend said, “I don’t know any girl who would admit to wearing a strap-on and putting it in her boyfriend’s butt.” (That’s what pegging is). We laughed, and I agreed to not having heard any personal stories. Despite what culture says, maybe most of us do prefer vanilla, and we do the other stuff for spontaneous experiment.
Has vanilla sex lost its art? Are we forgetting how to perform it right, sticking instead to freakier territory?
Why not read next: When Sex Fantasies Go Against Your Beliefs