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When Does A Kink Become Vanilla?

The beauty of kinks is that there is something for everyone. Whether it’s something as simple as a little chocolate syrup in the bed, or something as intense as being flogged, the world of kink is vast and different. But what makes something “kinky?” The simplest description is “the use of non-conventional sexual practices.” What happens when something un-conventional becomes a regular trend or common practice? No one would be surprised to find a simple toy in someone’s bedroom but walking in on a swing might be a little shocking for most. So how does something that used to be taboo like a toy become almost expected to be around? I’m going to take a look at a couple of former taboo kinks turned less shocking and what helped these things become more normalized in the bedroom.

Being a kid of the 90’s, I grew up witnessing the rise of the booty in media. Of course, anal sex has always existed. But anal play wasn’t always as common as it is now. Until 1961 every state in America had laws against sodomy. Illinois was the first state to repeal, followed by all but 15 remaining states. Though many of these laws were directed against the LGBTQ+ community, anal play as a regular form of sex was seen as kinky for the time. What made it go from illegal to Nicki Manaj looking for the best salad tosser in “Anaconda”?

In 1957 a now famous song by musician Little Richard was released. “Tutti Frutti” had masses singing along. However, the original lyrics were much different. Featuring lines like “A wop bop a loo mop a good goddam, Tutti Frutti, good booty, if it don't fit, don't force it, you can grease it, make it easy.” The record company changed the song, but the undertones were still there. When the masses are singing about asses, the laws start to fall. Jump forward to 2002. Anal sex is more common with hetero couples but still rather kinky. The CDC reports that 34% of men and 30% of women have tried anal sex. The same report in 2015 shows an increase to 38% of men and 33% of women have had anal. That’s a 30% percent increase in 13 years. Taking a look at the songs being popularized in these years, it becomes clear why the increase. 2002 brings us the classic “My Neck, My Back” by Khia which had mom’s singing along to censored versions in their cars. 2005’s “Fireman” by Lil Wayne has people singing about dressing for the salad. From the 90’s on eating ass and knocking on back doors were in music before it was being popped or dropped like it was hot. Anal had become so mainstream in fact that a petition on was filed in 2017 to make March 25th “National Booty Eating Day.” Sadly, this did not come to pass.

Moving forward to 2021, The National Library Of Medicine publish a poll of males and females who have ever had anal, and who had it within the month. The results reflect the media. 30% of women 25 to 30 had anal that year, while men were at 40%. By the age of 40, 50% of both men and women had tried anal sex in their life. With media normalizing it, and the people singing along, the ass became a normal part of sex. What was once illegal became vanilla.

While anal may seem tame, other forms of kink are being normalized in very similar ways. One type of kink is becoming more commonplace thanks to a certain popular book series. While this book may not be a great portrayal of the kink of community, it did help mainstream some aspects of the play. The topic of kinks becoming vanilla cannot be discussed without of course bringing up the impact of the book “Fifty Shades Of Grey” by E L James.

The first in a trilogy, Fifty Shades was published in 2011 and would go on to become the bestselling book of the decade, bringing BDSM into the bedrooms of many who had only thought of such activities as something to avoid. I know, many of those who actively participate in the BDSM community have strong opinions about the books. I’m not a fan myself, but, everyone starts somewhere and if this is where someone discovers they want to be tied up, then that’s a positive. The book had far-reaching implications of its success, reaching all the way into apparel sales. One of the most known scenes has the protagonist being tied up with a necktie. In the year following the release of the book, necktie sales increased by 23%. I don’t imagine everyone suddenly became more fashionable.

Bondage is a very old kink, the first letter in BDSM. From something as simple as cuffs to the intricate art of Shibari, bondage takes many different forms, and these forms are becoming more mainstream. In a Metro UK poll in 2020, 84% of those polled said they had participated in BDSM. In a Men’s Health 2022 poll, 93% of men and 96% of women had fantasies about a BDSM experience. The mainstreaming of bondage and BDSM has even reached into Netflix with the 2019 show “Bonding” (it’s hilarious.) Different therapies are now offered based around bondage in a non-sexual form to relax and submit. With popularity and mainstreaming this expansive can we still call BDSM, and bondage especially, a kink?

While it may be less surprising than it used to be to discover a pair of handcuffs under your partner’s bed, that doesn’t mean it’s fully normalized yet. In the American legal system, laws still exist in 15 states outlawing sodomy. Alongside that, many forms of BDSM are considered illegal in the court of law, consent or not. If injury is involved then no safe word can save you from court. Though these laws might not always exist. One thing is clear- media drives the mainstreaming of kink. A catchy song, an enticing book, or a humorous show, all of these can lead to adding a little vanilla to what traditionally is taboo.


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