Vanilla Kink

I find subcultures fascinating. I’m always intrigued by what makes people tick, what people gravitate towards and why. Sexual subcultures are no exception (and that’s even if you ignore the opportunity for titillation, which, frankly… I don’t). Until fairly recently I was also a devotee of the Freudian idea that what you like in the bedroom says a little about what you’re like as a person, and so I’m always interested to hear people talk about what they’re in to (if they’re obliged to share).


This is an enduring idea. It’s no secret that Freud was pretty sex-obsessed (in the theoretical sense, at least, I don’t know how much action he got), and he was convinced that your sexual nature informed every aspect of your personality. It caught him a lot of flak, even during his career, and was the chief reason that he’s now pretty much discredited as an actual psychoanalyst, despite being the father of the field.

The idea that your sexual self is, to some extent, your ‘true’ self has outlasted Freud’s influence. And I guess it’s a logical conclusion to come to. What you do twixt the sheets (or out in the bushes, or suspended from the ceiling, or whatever) is normally kept secret, or at least private, and what’s private must be personal, right?

Except…. Eh, maybe not. Although it’s a tempting assumption to make, that’s largely all it is. And you know what they say about assumptions. They… make an ass of your mptions? Wait, maybe I messed that up.

It’s been on my mind recently, thanks to two very different sources. The first is Oh Joy Sex Toy, a webcomic I found while lurking around online. The other is 50 Shades of Grey, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Webcomics are exactly that, comics that you read online. I’m an unashamed nerd, and I’ve been reading webcomics daily for about a decade now. A few of them a slice-of-life affairs, so I guess they’re kind of like my soaps. I’m as familiar with the characters and storylines of Questionable Content as many people are with Corrie or Eastenders.

I found Oh Joy Sex Toy through another comic that I read, the excellent daily Girls With Slingshots. OJST is a non-fiction comic, in which the creator (and occasionally her husband) talk about and road test various sex toys and aids. It’s funny and cute and from necessity completely candid. It’s breathtakingly honest sometimes. It’s really informative and interesting (and almost all the toys discussed are available from sextoys.co.uk, so if you see something you like, you can order them from the UK in moments).

Some of the things discussed are relatively obscure, but the prevailing ethos is one I very much like, and one that I feel doesn’t get recognised enough – they just do it ‘cause it’s fun. Although some of the comics represent non-standard sexual acts, all of them do so because those non-standard things are fun and sexy for people to do. They feel good, and they make you feel good. What other reason could you have for doing something?

Rewind with me, if you will, to the summer of 2012, a summer defined by two things: Olympic glory and 50 Shades of Grey. For both of you that didn’t encounter 50 Shades or its many knock-offs, the novel describes the sexual awakening of a passive doormat by a super-hawt billionaire. Said billionaire is wicked into BDSM, and he paddles and restrains said doormat until she falls in luurve with him. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, but it presented many (many, MANY) people with a window into a sexual aspect they might not have considered.

There was some criticism from the BDSM community about Mr. Grey’s motivations, and you can understand why. His obsession with BDSM is implied to stem from a childhood of neglect and borderline abuse. He’s f*cked up in the bedroom because he’s f*cked up in real life – our Freudian excuse again.

Hold up, said the BDSM community. Why does he have to be f*cked up to enjoy BDSM? For that matter, why is his enjoyment of BDSM considered messed up in the first place?

All salient points. In the end, 50 Shades wasn’t perhaps as reactionary as all that – the vapid graduate had a relatively standard upbringing, and although to begin with she’s into the old slap n’ tickle solely to please the billionaire, by the end she embraces it. A ‘vanilla’ person can like ‘non-vanilla’ sex.

But the main character in 50 Shades has to ‘grow’ and ‘develop as a person’ before she can truly embrace getting tied up and spanked. There’s still that lingering feeling that people who are in to non-standard things must have a non-standard reason for getting into them in the first place, reasons beyond “I get off on it.” And if I could take Oh Joy Sex Toy as an illustrative example, the internet is demonstrating that this simply isn’t true.

People do ‘kink’ largely because it makes them feel sexy and it makes the sexy feel good. That’s it. No deep and dark motivations, no Freudian double-meanings. Sex is varied. People are varied. People like varied sex. Logic!

So my theory of sexual leanings informing your personality is, to a large degree, bunk. I’m sure it is true to some extent, but it’s far too subtle in most cases to draw any accurate conclusions. I still find sexual sub-cultures fascinating (as you’ll no doubt see in coming posts) but I simply because I’m interested in anything different from my own experience.

I guess the other point is that you don’t need to be ‘interesting’ to be kinky. ‘Vanilla’ people can be into some hair-raising stuff without it reflecting on their day-to-day persona.

Darn. I was kind of hoping being kinky would make me interesting. Time to brush up on those conversation skills.

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