How can I learn about kink as a minor?

My understanding is that kinks can only be explored when one reaches the age of 18, and for good reason. I don't think it would be out of the question to have a resource for minors that take an interest in kink to learn about the lifestyle so that they know what they're getting into should decide to pursue it anyway, though. Trouble is, every website I find covering the subject needs the user to be 18+ years old; and while I could just lie, I don't want to risk getting myself in trouble. I'll admit that I'm a bit anxious actually, especially given the fact that I'm currently 17 years old and my birthday's 3 months away now. Learning about kinks in the meantime will help pass the time as well as my anxiousness, and help me be prepared for entering a kink lifestyle. That being said however, where could I learn about that stuff while still being honest about my age?
Sam replies:

And Anon asks,
“I am naturally kinky, and I am looking for girlfriend who is dominant more of gfd. I do not want a mistress but a girlfriend who can understand me at times. I want to appear to have a normal relationship in outside world.”

I combined these two questions because they exemplify a trend I’ve seen on our direct services over the last few years: young people wanting help accessing kinky spaces or partners, often while under the age of eighteen and often with some misunderstandings about kink and how kink it plays out in the real world .

For instance, while sex parties or dungeons might only be open to those over eighteen or twenty-one, there’s nothing illegal about being younger and exploring different kinds of sex. Younger people have the same rights to be sexual in ways considered by some to be kinky as they do with other kinds of sex. Just as with other ways of being sexual, some young people wait until it’s within the bounds of the law to be sexual in ways that they want while others don’t. Another common misunderstanding we see is equating kink with increased sexual risks. Certain elements of kink, such as bondage, do pose some additional and sometimes unique risks in an interaction, but plenty of sexual things a person might consider kinky don’t. Heck, some of them carry fewer risks than vaginal intercourse.

When users come to us with those questions about kink, one of my first questions back is:

“What do you mean by ‘kinky?”

“Oh, you know what I mean” you might say, “Sexual stuff that’s not boring or normal.”

Are we assuming “normal” sex is just vaginal intercourse? Does that mean many queer couples can only have kinky sex? What if someone is using handcuffs during what a person considers “normal” sex? Where do anal sex and oral sex fit into all this? What about ejaculating on someone’s face? What about sex toys? What about open-mouthed kissing?

At some point in time, everything I just listed above has been considered “kinky.” Maybe you still view some or all of it that way, or maybe you don’t, which goes to show how terms don’t always have the obvious meaning we think they do. Then, as is often the case now, “kink” and “kinky” tend to be very arbitrary and subjective terms.

Even words like “dominant” and “submissive” only get you so far; is that about who’s controlling an interaction? About physical domination? Who’s inserting what body parts into where? Those questions are why I don’t love the framing of someone being a “natural submissive.” Frameworks like that present sexual role play (which all of this has to be in sex that is also consensual) an inherent, clearly defined way of being, rather than part of a dynamic we choose to engage in and that can, and often does, look different from person to person.

So much of how we talk about kink also depends on there being some standard of “normal” sexual behavior to compare it to. If I know one thing from a decade of this work, it’s that sexual desire and behaviors don’t sit on a spectrum that runs from “normal” to “kinky.” Instead, they form a galaxy of sexual activities that each of us chooses to explore and frame as we see fit. If there’s any consistent thread between the people and places I’ve encountered who define themselves as kinky, it’s a comfort with that diversity of human sexual desire.

Since I’m about to use the word kink a lot, we do need a shared definition to work from. I reached out to Cynthia Farkas, a researcher and social worker who studies kink, and she offered a way of describing it that works for our purposes.

“Kink is really just a broad term for [what a person might consider] “outside-the-box” intimacy and sex that involves a little more uniqueness and creativity than they might be familiar with."

So first, it’s all subjective. There is no universal kink just like there is no universal normal. After you get a sense of what kinky means to you, I have a second question, one that’s particularly relevant to you, Anonymous:

When you say you’re looking for kinky resources or spaces, what are you actually looking for?

If you’re after basic information on what various sexual activities entail or how to do them safely, I’ve put some links at the end of this article to get you started. You can also always come chat with us on one of our direct services. We can’t give you step by step instructions for an activity (because we aren’t the people you’ll be doing it with), but we can certainly talk about safety, readiness, communication, and all that good stuff. And if you’re looking for sexual media related to kink, the steps in our media guide are a good starting place for your search.

If you’re looking for kinky spaces because you want a partner who is kinky, there are several assumptions I suggest you avoid.

First is the idea that once you can get into a kinky space, you’ll easily find a partner. Even for people old enough to access kink-focused dating sites or apps, access to those doesn’t ever guarantee a partner. You still have to interact with people, or at least with their profiles, to see if you have things in common, if you like their company, if you’re attracted to them, and they need to have interest in and feel the same way about you. Dating as a person who wants kink to be part of the picture goes a lot like dating as a person who doesn’t. That’s why assuming kink is a lifestyle one joins rather than one part of a bigger sexual or relationship dynamic is unrealistic. For the vast majority of people engaging in kinky sex, the dynamics and activities they enjoy aren't core in, or even any part of, the rest of their lives.

Too, because kink is such a nebulous term, there could be great partners for you out there who don’t mention their specific sexual interests when they’re first dating someone, or who don’t call them or themselves kinky even if you consider them to be. I think people who are interested in kink can sometimes convince themselves that they have to find a partner who openly describes themselves in the same terms (you don't).

Anon, you’re starting from the assumption that because you’re submissive you need to find a partner who identifies as dominant. Since there’s so much variation within those categories, you’ll likely have better luck focusing less on finding a partner who identifies as dominant and more on finding someone who you’re attracted to and who's open to or interested in exploring the same sexual activities as you are in ways that feel like a good fit for you.

There’s sometimes a fear that if you don’t lead with the fact you’re kinky/submissive/into bondage/whatever, you’ll get to the point of having sex only to learn that your partner doesn’t share or isn’t interested in exploring those same activities. I don’t want to downplay that sexual incompatibility can be frustrating or lead to the end of a relationship. But incompatibility can arise in all parts of a relationship; knowing for certain that a partner shares your kinks doesn’t mean you won’t break up over other things. Heck, even if they do like the same sexual activities you do there may be other elements of sex, like how often you have it, or the way one or both of you wants to engage in those activities, where you two aren’t compatible.

I also suspect that more and more people are treating terms like “kinky,” “dominant,” “submissive,” and so on as shortcuts around very necessary, and often awkward, conversations. Revealing our desires to a partner, especially if they feel in any way strange or taboo, can be nerve-wracking. It’s a show of vulnerability, with a chance of judgment or rejection. It can feel much safer to tell yourself that if you’re submissive, then all you need to do is find a dominant partner and they’ll know exactly what to do without you needing to ask for it.

The same thinking can apply to kink more generally; it’s tempting to assume that if you find a partner who also identifies as kinky, you can skip the parts that are awkward, or where you have to be vulnerable. But as we’ve already discussed, all those terms encompass so much that if you want to have safe, satisfying sex, you’re going to have to communicate.

What I suggest is thinking of honesty about your sexual desires as a form of positive risk. Rather than leaving it to chance and hoping you and your partner(s) are on the same page, you’re creating an opportunity to explore your unique desires together. Even if a partner isn’t interested in the same kinds of sex you are, the intimacy that comes with those conversations can have a positive effect on your relationship overall.

Quite frankly, if you don’t feel up to having those conversations with a partner, then you may not be at a point where you’re ready to pursue a sexual relationship, period, whether kink is involved or not. Things like intense power dynamics, bondage, and impact play do carry some emotional and physical risks, and in order to navigate those, everyone involved needs to be comfortable talking with each other, even when it feels difficult or unsexy.

Finally, if you’re looking for in-person kinky spaces because you want to find community with people who share your views on sex, be aware that while there are some still online, a lot of the physical ones don’t exist anymore. If you’re imagining that being underage means you can’t access something like a sex dungeon or other location where a lot of kinky people gather, I’m going to be honest; those spaces aren’t here for adults, either. They were never all that common to begin with. Some of them faded away as their communities changed, while others struggled to hold on or never got started because a lot of places still don’t want any sex-related business in their cities. Then the COVID epidemic happened, which took out in-person spaces in a way that some never recovered from. I’m not saying this to bum anyone out, but some folks who write to us about this topic are clearly expecting there to be physical kink spaces waiting for them when they’re 18. It’s not a realistic expectation, and it’s setting some of you up for serious disappointment.

Let’s talk about disappointment. A lot of the time, when we have young people asking us how to learn about kink before they’re eighteen, it’s not because they’re already exploring those dynamics with a partner. Instead, they’re worried that they won’t be prepared when they do meet someone and will end up disappointing their partner as a result. I mentioned this to Cynthia, who said she’d tell her past self, “Every experienced kinky person started out just as clueless as I did. There’s no way to rush the process, you just have to sit with the temporary discomfort of being a newbie as you learn and make mistakes, embrace the sometimes cringey feeling of not knowing exactly who you are or what you like, and remember that getting to know this part of you can be fascinating and fun with the right people.” In other words, the same lifelong learning process that’s involved with being sexual with people as a whole is also going to be part of sex framed as kinky.

The fear of our users have of doing kink “wrong” always makes me a little sad. Kink as a concept and a practice arose as a way of rejecting the idea that sex had to be a certain way, not as a way to implement a new set of rules. A big part of kink is seeing sex as a form of play, not a rigid script someone has to follow to do it right.

What does treating sex as play look like? It involves exploring pleasure and embracing creativity in a context where a lot of people still feel pressure to conform to a certain set of expectations. It includes letting yourself be weird and curious, and giving any sexual partners the space to do the same.

That is something very valuable to take away from the concept of kink: that regardless of what dynamics you like, what you do, or what toys or props you use, the more pressure you put on yourself, your partners, or the sex itself to be one, specific way, the less enjoyable it’s all going to be. If you want to explore kink, your first step probably isn’t reading a certain book or going into a certain space; it’s just giving yourself permission to be messy, to be imperfect, and to let go of expectations and just play.

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