• The Lover Team

What Defines A Kink?

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

This article has been adapted from the original article ‘Where Do Kinks Come From? It's Complicated’ by Bustle. 

What is a ‘kink’?

Standard definitions describe kink as sexual behavior that is ‘non-normative’, i.e. less conventional than what might be considered ‘vanilla sex’. 

However, defining kink itself is actually a bit tricky, because it is in itself very subjective. For one person, something might be really kinky, but for another - not so much. 

There are some well-known sexual practices that come under kink, for example, roleplay, foot fetishes, sadism, gagging and bondage. But you can also find a kink in many other things - think animal play or quirofilia (a fetish for hands). If you can think of it - it probably exists!

A recent study revealed just how frequently people in the US engage with kink. The study, Sexual Exploration in America showed that 1 in 5* people in the US incorporate it into the bedroom, and 30% of US individuals engage in spanking and around 8% go to BDSM parties.

Debunking myths about kink

Lover co-founder and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Britney Blair says “there are so many misconceptions [about kink] it drives me bananas”.

Rough play, or BDSM as it’s more commonly known (that’s bondage, dominance, submission, and masochism) “is really one of the most common sexual fantasies”. She goes on to say that “many people have experienced some form of bondage play or have had fantasies about it. It’s much more common than people think”. 

If you are interested in BDSM, it does not mean you were abused in the past. 

“There are certainly people in the BDSM community who have experienced abuse in the past and are working that out. Most, however, are not”, Dr. Blair says. 

Dr. Blair points out that studies show kink is connected with higher relationship and sexual satisfaction. Individuals also report feeling less neurotic, more open to new experiences, and more conscientious!

Interestingly, another study from 2009* showed that couples who engaged with positive, consensual sadomasochistic (SM) play had lower levels of the hormone cortisol - the hormone that contributes to physiological stress. Those couples also reported increased relationship closeness.

“Sex is a way that adults play, it’s a way to disconnect from reality”, Dr. Blair says, and the sexual novelty and excitement that arises from engaging in kink is a great way to do this.

So - go out and enjoy kink! We could all do with a bit more play in our lives!

For more detail on how Lover can help you, see here. Or, download the Lover app today, for expert courses on guidance designed to get you better in bed.


Herbenick D, Bowling J, Fu T-C(Jane), Dodge B, Guerra-Reyes L, Sanders S (2017) Sexual diversity in the United States: Results from a nationally representative probability sample of adult women and men.

Sagarin, B.J., Cutler, B., Cutler, N.et al.Hormonal Changes and Couple Bonding in Consensual Sadomasochistic Activity.Arch Sex Behav38,186–200 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9374-5


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