What Is ‘Vanilla Sex’ and Why You Shouldn’t Be Shamed for Enjoying It
The term ‘vanilla sex’ has become part of the cultural zeitgeist over the past couple of years. It sprung up thanks to the rise in kink-based sex that now dominates the media. While porn has certainly impacted the way we approach sex and what we expect when we get it on with someone (and not always in a good way), popular culture has also had a hand in the evolution of what sex should be like in the modern world.
50 Shades of Grey opened the door to BDSM for many women. Shows like Girls, Broad City, and Euphoria have normalized sex in a way like never before. Even Sex and the City did its bit to make the conversation about sex, particularly for women, a positive thing. People with kinks are no longer being shamed and that’s a fantastic thing. Sex is about as normal as bread and butter these days thanks to constant and open conversations in the media.
One of the downsides of all this is the use of the term vanilla sex. This two-word phrase is used to describe people who have a so-called boring sex life. But what constitutes vanilla sex? Just because your girlfriend doesn’t want you cumming on her face doesn’t mean your sex life is dull. It means something different for every person.
So read on if you want to understand more about what vanilla sex really means and why it isn’t a bad thing.
What Is ‘Vanilla Sex?’
The always reliable Urban Dictionary describes vanilla sex as “sex that involves no twists or kinkiness, and no S&M. Basically plain regular sex. Typically sweet and happy and very lovey-dovey.” This description conjures up images of people going at it in the dark in the missionary position as they gaze into each other’s eyes lovingly.
Kinky sex on the other hand involves everything else. Things like slapping, choking, hair pulling, and spitting are all classified under the banner of kink. This also extends to things such as BDSM, role-playing, domination/submission, and many other types of kinky sex. But the difference between vanilla and kinky sex isn’t quite that easy to separate.
As sex educator Justin Hancock told Cosmopolitan, “There’s this idea that you’re either staring into each other’s eyes in the missionary position and it’s gentle and everyone magically comes at the same time, or it’s rough and violent, involving bruising someone’s butt and making them cry. But it’s kind of a false binary.”
With almost anything in life, it is subjective. What you think constitutes vanilla might be wild for someone else. Having sex in the shower might be normal for you but seen as kinky by your friend. Choking during sex might seem extreme to some but quite ‘vanilla’ for others. It all depends on the person and what their definition of vanilla sex is.
As relationship expert Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D. explained to InStlye, the term vanilla sex means “uninspired, unacrobatic, or formulaic sex,” but vanilla is actually “known by the culinary world to be an extremely complex flavor.” Just some food for thought.
Why Is There Shame Associated With It?
Nobody wants to be described as boring, so if someone tells you your sex life is vanilla you are sure to take that as a slight. But when the term was originally coined it wasn’t meant to have negative connotations. It was created by the kink community as a way to differentiate their sexual practices, which were deemed too strange for the masses, from those of everyday people who enjoyed what they labeled ‘vanilla sex.’ Of course, this was quickly picked up by the media and used in a negative way to label people who enjoy so-called ‘normal sex’ as lame and boring.
“Vanilla sex might get a bad rap as a reaction to the negative stereotypes of kinky folks,” furthered Rosara Torrisi, Ph.D. when talking about the issue with Pure Wow. “Since vanilla sex is often considered the stereotypical norm, going outside of that norm can cause a counter-reaction in folks… So when people aren’t into some sex act that might be considered kinky, sometimes put-downs are used to insult.”
Men often feel like they need to up the ante in the bedroom and become dominant so they aren’t called vanilla. They are driven by their egos and a fear of not being a strong male. They also don’t want to be teased by their peers for not having as many crazy sexual experiences. All of this isn’t helped by the fact that we are exposed to pornography from a young age and believe what we see is what sex should be like.
Kinks like anal, chocking, and BDSM are fine if that is what you are into, but when you grow up watching that it impacts your thinking and makes you believe that is what sex should be like all the time, which is an unrealistic depiction of sex. Teenagers see outrageous sex acts performed in pornos and feel pressured into doing things because they don’t want to be labeled as being vanilla or boring by their peers.
Sex should be all about enjoying intimate moments with your partner first and foremost. Taking it slow and touching and caressing each other in a loving manner doesn’t mean you are vanilla. It shows you really care for your partner and have respect for them.
Why It Can Lead To Greater Intimacy
For many, vanilla sex is a more intimate experience to be shared with a loving partner. Having sex missionary style while you both gaze into each other’s eyes is a much more vulnerable form of sex. You can move together and enjoy the feeling of being with each other. It’s a more sensual way of making love and shows just how much you love your partner.
It might sound a bit soppy, but vanilla sex is not so much about the act of sex, but the feelings and emotions that come with it. Having sex missionary creates a safe space where two people can feel comfortable and achieve emotional bliss.
Others may find intimacy in kinky sex, when they take things to the extreme with their partner, as this creates a different connection. Whatever you lean towards, both kinky and vanilla sex can spark a greater depth of intimacy between you and your partner.
What If It Isn’t Working Anymore?
Humans are ever-evolving in life and this also includes in the bedroom. Things might have been hot and heavy at the beginning of the relationship but have now teetered off. Or maybe you and your partner have always had a rather beige sex life. That is totally fine, but if you find yourself wanting more that is alright also.
Experimenting in the bedroom is a great way to spice things up and improve your sex life. This doesn’t mean going out and buying a 12-inch dildo and springing it on your partner mid-coitus, nor does it mean putting on a leather gimp mask when your lady suggests a snuggle in bed.
Like anything in a relationship, you first need to communicate your feelings to your partner. If you are unfulfilled by the sex then let them know. Tell them what is and isn’t working. Find out what they are feeling. It may be that both of you are dissatisfied with things but she was afraid to speak up.
Hopefully, by talking about things you will be able to come up with some ideas about what you would like to try. But you also have to be prepared for your partner to say no. There is always the chance she just isn’t into the same things as you, and that is ok. Everyone has their own kinks and hers might not be the same as you. If you think this could be a problem, see a sex therapist. They may be able to help you find a happy medium.
Tips for Spicing Up Your Vanilla Sex Life
So you’re not satisfied with your sex life and aren’t sure what to do about it? First things first, talk to your partner. Once you’ve established some guidelines you can pursue your fantasies together. Also, spicing up your sex life doesn’t mean you need to start shoving things up each other’s bums or dressing up in latex (unless you both want to). Just try things you and your partner are happy to give a go. Don’t worry what others might think and concentrate on what will bring you together and give you both pleasure. To help you out, here are a few tips to spice up your vanilla sex life.
1. Communicate Your Feelings
As pointed out above, you need to express how you feel to your partner. Let them know if the sex is not to your liking or there is something you want to try. Talk through your fantasies. This is the only way you are going to be able to find out what you both want. You never know, she might feel the same.
2. Try New Positions
You might not know this but there are more sex positions than missionary and doggy style. There are literally hundreds of positions and variations of familiar positions you can have a crack at. You don’t have to try anything too athletic to begin with, just start off with something you both think looks like fun. As you become more comfortable you can start trying some of those positions that require a little more balance.
3. Engage In Dirty Talk
For some, dirty talk might be standard when it comes to sex, but for many, this is not the case. It is a great way to ease your way into non-vanilla sex and see what tickles your fancy. Let your partner know what you like, what you want them to do, and what feels good. Talking during sex allows you to both communicate your needs and wants. Just don’t go down the same path as Jerry Seinfeld.
4. Visit a Sex Shop
Take things further by visiting a sex shop. This can be an intimidating experience if you have never been to one before. Being surrounded by strange sex toys and gigantic dildos isn’t for everyone, but going together enables you to explore this side of your sexuality. If you want to try some bondage you might pick up a pair of handcuffs or purchase a whip if BDSM is more your style. Even if you don’t come home with anything, you have at least seen what is out there so if you do decide to explore more, you have an idea of what toys you can bring into the bedroom.
5. Watch Porn Together
While porn certainly has its downside, watching together is a way in which you can draw inspiration for your own bedroom antics. Search what you want to act out and see what it looks like. Maybe before you engage yourself you can have sex while watching what turns you on via porn before you actually try it yourselves.
6. Talk With Others in the Sex Community
If your partner and you have decided you want to get into the BDSM scene or you both feel like swinging is something you want to try, talk to people in these communities to get a better understanding of things and what to expect. There are plenty of online forums where you can chat with like-minded people and ask all the questions you have. You might even be able to attend a sex party and see what it is all like without being expected to take part. This can open your eyes to it all and help you decide if you want to give it a crack.
Remember There is Nothing Wrong With Vanilla Sex
If you are happy with your sex life or not interested in experiencing different kinks, that is totally fine. There is nothing wrong with that. Everybody likes and dislikes different things, and if sticking a finger up your bum or choking your partner isn’t your thing, that’s totally cool. The main thing is you and your partner have a happy and consensual sex life. As long as you are both happy then you have nothing to worry about.
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