cw: discussions of voluntary power exchange, kink honorifics including ‘Daddy,’ mentions of DDLG/CGL, pet play, & impact play.
I should also note that I use ‘kink’ and ‘BDSM’ fairly interchangeably, though some do not.
Update to this post: My partner now uses they/them pronouns.
My partner is asexual. I am not. I’ve written about this before, and I’ve written a few stories demonstrating how kink is one way we connect intimately. But while we consider it a part of our sex life, it’s not a traditionally sexual arrangement—one can argue that it falls under the category of nonsexual kink.
But what does all that even mean? Isn’t kink inherently sexual? What’s the point of submitting to someone without the benefit of orgasms? If there’s no sex, is it still kink?
BDSM is, as you likely know by now, an acronym. It stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism. Even with the middle two letters pulling double-duty, none of these words expressly mention sex. A good number of dungeons and other public BDSM areas forbid any sexual contact or even nudity, largely so they’re allowed to stay open.
There are plenty of kinky activities that don’t include anything sexual. Impact play or sadism/masochism do not need to be expressly sexual. Bondage, especially more complicated forms of shibari or mummification, are often not sexual, or don’t need to be sexual. And, of course, dominance and submission don’t have to be sexual.
Pet play and little play in particular are frequently non-sexual, based more on caregiving or obedience than on any sexual activity. I mention this because people (especially on Tumblr) occasionally claim they aren’t therefore kinky at all, and thus suitable for minors, something which I fervently disagree with. If you are willingly giving someone power over you, it is a dominance and submission dynamic, and thus it is an adult activity. If you aren’t an adult, you have no power to exchange.
Our relationship does not, to someone on the outside, look all that kinky. We watch TV, we play The Sims, we cook and garden and take too many pictures of our cats. But through it all is a theme: she’s in charge. I ask permission to do certain things, because we’ve agreed to it. She rewards me for certain behaviors, or reminds me of protocols or responsibilities I’ve let slip, or—on occasion—punishes me in established ways for breaking rules that we’ve established. And I call her by one of her chosen titles—‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ depending on her NB feelings that day, and often ‘Daddy’ regardless.
She’s not a father figure, and we don’t do ageplay or mental regression, but she’s a gentle, guiding leader, stern when she needs to be, but soft and playful. I’m a naturally childlike person, easily excited and easily flustered, and never quite outgrew the desire for a guiding hand, so it’s a natural fit. She told me once that ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’ tell her that she’s dominant, but ‘Daddy’ reminds her what that means. We have elements of CGL (“caregiver-little,” a gender-neutral term for DDLG), elements of pet play, and elements of domestic service, among other things, but it’s a relationship that is uniquely our own, tailored to our own needs and preferences.
I’ve stated elsewhere that some of our kink is, at least on my end (and with her full consent), somewhat sexually charged, especially things like spanking, or her giving me rules about masturbation, or wearing a plug in public. I also find the whole concept of voluntarily giving up power to be erotic—there’s a vulnerability and a helplessness that appeals to me and turns me on. I do enjoy that I can do some sexy things with my partner that she doesn’t find uncomfortable. But a few horny moments are certainly not enough, to me, to participate in a 24/7 dynamic.
While impact play in particular is pretty sexy for me, I also find it very satisfying in its own right. I’m wired in such a way that certain, consensual, safe pain is pleasurable to me. If I had to choose between spankings and orgasms…I’d wonder how I got into a mess that required me to choose, but also, I’d be hard-pressed to do so.
Submission is, above all, emotionally fulfilling to me. I’ve always been a people pleaser, and someone who soaks up praise, basks in it. Having someone in a position of authority praising me and telling me I’ve done good gives me a lot of joy and validation, particularly if it’s a person I chose to put in a place of authority. (Forced authority I tend to resent. Funny how that works.) Serving someone voluntarily makes me feel useful, needed, and accomplished. I find satisfaction in receiving an instruction and carrying it out.
I’m also an easily stressed-out being, and D/s adds some structure that I find reassuring. Having depression and anxiety means that I often don’t take care of myself as I should, or do the things I need to, and I’m easily panicked. Kink is not, nor will it ever be, a replacement for professional psychiatric help. I would not have been capable of sustaining any level of relationship like this if I hadn’t already learned to cope with my mental illnesses. But I am an adult, able to make my own informed choices on how to cope with my conditions, and this was one of those choices. Having someone to help me with decisions or to tell me what is expected of me eases a lot of my anxiety, and having someone tell me to go shower and eat when I’m struggling keeps me healthy. They’re things I can do on my own, but in this dynamic, I don’t have to. It’s very freeing, and in many ways, has helped me to become better at doing these things on my own. I’ve become more decisive and better at scheduling tasks for myself since starting this dynamic.
And for me, there is an appeal in feeling lesser. I’m not lesser in value—I feel incredibly valued within my dynamic and relationship, and as an individual. But I love the feeling that there is someone bigger and stronger than me, that I’m safe and taken care of. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling unsafe for many reasons. Within this dynamic, I am able to be incredibly vulnerable, and her behavior proves to me, continually, that vulnerability will not be abused.
If I dislike it, if I have a problem, then I can take my power back. As with any healthy D/s relationship, that power was given to her, not taken from me by force, and therefore can be reclaimed at any time. We’re continually discussing what works for us, what doesn’t work, what rules and punishments and rewards should be, trying new things and ceasing other things. I’m an active participant, and she listens to me.
This is only my experience, and other non-sexual kinksters may experience things differently. Even my own dominant’s kink-feelings don’t reflect mine 100%, though there is a lot of overlap, all of which will be addressed in a future post. Is non-sexual kink for everyone? Absolutely not. Neither is a 24/7 dynamic, or BDSM in general. But it exists, and it can work, with respectful communication, consent, and genuine interest from all parties.