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Sam W replies:
I like to fantasize about being spanked when I masturbate, and I'm wondering if I would like it in real life sex play, too. Trouble is, I'm a little nervous about the idea of actually trying it out, and I'm too embarrassed to ask my boyfriend if he'd be cool with that! What should I do?
Let me first say that questions like yours are really common.
Sorting through fantasies can be a tricky business and it's sound to think about whether what we fantasize about is something we actually want to try. Our sexual fantasies, just like other kinds of fantasy, often aren't things we want to put into real-life practice or action, but are just interesting or pleasurable escapes from reality we hang out in in our heads. But at other times, fantasies are things we want to try to make real.
In sex, too, as in the rest of life, not everything we think will be fun ends up being so once we do it.
Sorting out those fantasies is made even trickier if we have grown up -- as many of us have -- hearing a lot of messages about what are, and are not, "normal" or "good" things to want during sex. The messages many of us have heard often tell us that something must be wrong with people who like sexual practices that don't fit narrow or common cultural expectations or conventions about sex. We might even hear people asking what event in someone's past made them crave something "weird." Such judgements are frequent in the case of behaviors (like spanking) that can be categorized as BDSM (bondage, dominance/discipline, submission/sadism, masochism). They're inaccurate and misguided, though.
Human sexual behavior and desire are way more diverse than most people give them credit for. One person's "Oh,gosh no," can be another person's "Oh, hell yes," and that is completely fine. So, if those nerves and embarrassment you're feeling are in any way related to thinking that what you want is "bad," I want to say two things to you:
1) Those feelings are understandable, particularly given some of the messages you may have received about this.
2) But as long as you are aware of the risks, and have a consenting partner who also wants to try this with you, there is nothing wrong with wanting what it is you want from sex.
Even though I just connected spanking to BDSM, I want to stress that you are under no obligation to think of it that way.
That diversity of sexual experience I mentioned also applies to how we categorize and describe our behaviors. Something that one person defines as super-taboo is totally unremarkable to someone else. You may find that spanking falls solidly within your definition of kinky (if that's even a word or frame you use), but that that you're not comfortable calling what you do BDSM. You may find that you're comfortable with the BDSM label, but that spanking doesn't match your definition of it. You may find that spanking falls into a separate category altogether, or no category at all. All of those outcomes are completely fine. What sensations feel sexual, and how we feel about them, are personal and variable. You get to name your desires in whatever way feels right to you and makes you the most comfortable. Our sexual lives and sexualities are totally DIY in this way.
As far as knowing whether you'd like spanking in the real world, that's really something only you can answer and discover.
If you're leaning towards yes, then the best way to satisfy your curiosity is to try it out (with your boyfriend's consent, of course, which we'll get to in a moment). Keep in mind that trying spanking once doesn't mean you're agreeing to be spanked every time you have sex. If you try it and you don't like it, you can stop. You might try it and find that you like it, but don't want a steady diet of it. Like any other sexual activity, trying spanking once doesn't mean that you have to, or will want to, experience it every time. Or, you might try it and find that it's something you want on a frequent basis. There are no rules here.
If you decide that you do want to try spanking, then it's time for a discussion with your boyfriend. I know you're worried about embarrassing yourself, but if you want to explore your desires, you are going to have to talk to him. If it helps, know that sharing what our sexual desires are with a partner, even if they don't share them or want to try them, is one of the ways we develop and sustain intimacy in sexual relationships.
Feeling embarrassed to the point where you just don't feel like you can talk to your boyfriend about this at all probably means spanking isn't quite something you're ready to explore in real life. That would be okay, too. It'll always be there for you later when you're feeling more comfortable talking about it. But if even talking about something feels daunting, that's usually a very solid clue we're probably not ready to do that something.
In talking to your boyfriend, you can always opt for the direct approach, which is to say something like "Hey boyfriend, I am curious about how it would feel to be spanked during sex. Are you comfortable trying that?" If he says yes, then you can proceed from there. If he says no, or otherwise indicates that he's not into the idea, then spanking will remain a fantasy only activity for the time being.
Let's pause here to discuss the possibility that he may feel uncomfortable just talking about spanking. Not the most comforting thought, but you can still prepare for that outcome.
So, when you bring up the idea of spanking, you can make it very clear that this is just something you fantasize about, and that you are not at all interested if he's not into it. Make sure he knows that you won't hold it against him if he says no. We get to be different people with different sexualities who don't always want the same things, after all. If he asks for time to think about it, then you let him think about it until he comes back to you to share those thoughts. It might also be that he doesn't object to the idea of spanking, but he has concerns about acting it out (like feeling worried he might hurt you in a way you don't want). If that's the case, then you want to talk about those worries honestly without dismissing them and see where that leads you. Regardless of his reaction, your role is to make it clear that you care about his feelings on the matter, and that he is under no pressure to do anything he doesn't want to do.
If the direct scenario is still too uncomfortable for you, have no fear! You might find using this sexual inventory checklist an easy way to start these conversations with your boyfriend. You can use the whole sheet if you like, but the section most relevant to your question is the one titled, "Physical and/or Sexual Activities." You can tell your partner that you found this checklist on Scarleteen and that you think it would be fun to fill it out. So long as your boyfriend is up for that, you can use this tool to learn more about each others sexual interests and wants.
You could fill it out together, comparing answers as you go, or fill it out separately then compare your answers.
When filling out the checklist, I encourage you and your boyfriend to be honest about your desires and your boundaries. There may be a little bit of stumbling and stammering, but that's okay. Learning to communicate can be awkward, but you don't have to have all this figured out. Sharing your nervousness and awkwardness with each other is part of the process, maybe even part of the fun. This, too, is another part of the process of developing intimacy in relationships, and of growing them: we tend to get closer to people when we're willing to be a little awkward with each other, and take positive risks in sharing things we're not sure the other person has in common with us.
There are many factors (including those societal expectations I mentioned earlier) that make communicating about sex a daunting thing to learn. But believe me when I say that future-you is going to be very glad they started that process sooner rather than later. Being able to talk openly about what you want and negotiate boundaries with a partner is an important component of having a healthy sexual relationship -- not to mention a satisfying sex life! -- so the sooner you start practicing, the better.
If you find that spanking is something you are both willing to try (or if you discover that there is another activity that you'd like to explore) the next step is to find reliable sources about how to do that activity safely.
Thanks to a certain recent hit book trilogy, there are many, many articles floating around about ways to add kink into your sex life. Many of these articles focus on making the experience "spicy" or "spontaneous," and less on telling you things like, "Do not hit your partner in the region above their butt because doing so could cause kidney damage." This results in articles that give incomplete or actually harmful advice.
So, how can you know which sources to trust? The best approach is to use the guidelines in the article below about finding safe, sound sex education to help you figure out who actually knows what they're talking about. That way, any remaining nerves you may have won't be made worse by the worry that you might get hurt in an unintentional and unfun way.
Good luck and sexperiment safely!
Here's some more you can read on all of this: