After 50 Shades: Making Sense of Sex Terms

the lingo of love

With all the buzz from the recent bestselling trilogy of "Fifty Shades" books, I wanted to clarify the differences between kinky sex, fetishes, BDSM between consenting adults, and sexual behavior that puts one or both partners in real danger.

Making Sense of Sex Terms

1. Kinky Sex. Kinky Sex anything that’s not “vanilla” sex. Vanilla sex is regular, straightforward intercourse between a man and a woman of legal age. There are a handful of positions acceptable for vanilla sex, with missionary position being the most vanilla. Vanilla sex does not include the use of toys, props, or restraints. Lots of people make it through their entire lives having vanilla sex.

Related: Sex: What He Really Wants (And Is Afraid to Ask For)

However, most couples find that sex gets boring after awhile, and kinky sex can add spice, or increased eroticism, into sex between long term committed partners. Since the other two options are boring sex and cheating, I recommend introducing a little kink instead. Kinky sex can include fetishes, BDSM, role playing, acting out fantasies, and using toys, props, or games. Don’t be afraid to experiment with kinky sex. You can start with something mild, like whipped cream and chocolate sauce a la naked bodies, and work your way up from there. Two dynamics make kinky sex erotic: the first is the novelty factor of trying something new, and the second is the excitement of playing an edge that brings you just outside your comfort zone. As your comfort zone gets bigger, you can try more new things.

2. Fetish. A fetish is something-- a prop or body part-- that a person requires in order to be sexually aroused. A very common fetish is a foot fetish; there are a surprising number of men who have foot fetishes to some degree. For some, just seeing a woman’s painted toenails peeking from a pair of high heels is exciting. Others may like to massage their partner’s feet or suck on her toes, while others may want feet involved in sex play. Speaking of degrees, there are levels of fetishism. Some people can not become sexually aroused without the fetish object present, while for others the fetish merely improves their sexual experience. Speaking from personal experience as someone who was leery about a guy with a foot fetish, I can tell you it’s more erotic than you might think. We have lots of nerve ending in our feet; think about how good a foot massage feels, then imagine that feeling leading to sex.

Related: 3 Mistakes Women Make in the Bedroom

3. BDSM. BSDM stands for bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism. BDSM between consenting adults can run the gamut from gentle restraints (think being tied to the bed with a necktie) to the “red room of pain” made popular by Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. “The key words with any BDSM play are “safe, sane, and consensual. These words distinguish BDSM from abuse,” according to sexologist Goddess Judicci. She explains, “Safe Words” are crucial. Safe Words help the players communicate within the “scene” (the action between the players) without pulling the players out of the agreed upon dynamics. Safe Words provide and empower the players to work within the boundaries, knowing that they can always adjust to whatever happens- and they allow players to discover their limits rather than anticipating them because they always feel safe. The most common Safe Words are “yellow” meaning, “caution - I’m beginning to feel afraid or that’s starting to feel too uncomfortable – please back off”; and “red” meaning – “STOP right now.” The importance of having and respecting a safe word can’t be underplayed. Without it, BDSM could easily slip into the danger zone.

4. The Danger Zone. The Danger Zone can happen in a number of ways. In no particular order, the danger zone exists when one partner feels pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable doing, when extreme degradation and disrespect is present, whenever real physical harm happens or is about to happen, and when someone is forced to have sex without their consent. To avoid the Danger Zone, Eve Minax, a sex educator who specializes in BDSM and kink, recommends, “Don't jump into heavy edge play, do light restraint, light sensation play, explore with curiosity and love. And use the three C's: Curiosity, Communication, and Compassion.” Experiment with either a partner you know well and trust, or hire a trained professional. If you hire a professional, be sure to ask for references and get feedback from the references about what worked and anything that didn’t work for them.

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Johanna Lyman is a published author, an internationally known speaker and teacher, and a Spiritual Love Coach.  She is a certified life coach (CCUG) trained by CoachUniversity. Johanna combines personal experience and esoteric studies in a humorous, practical and accessible style that empowers her clients to live the fullest expression of their lives.

Her business is Romance Recovery: Whether You Stay or Go:  Do It With Courage, Clarity and Ease  She can be reached at

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