You don’t need help from Christian Grey to lift your sex life to kinky new heights. “It’s no longer fringe to talk openly about things like handcuffs or blindfolds,” says Kristen Mark, Ph.D., director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky. The stigma has vanished—along with the ball gags. This is more creativity and spontaneity. “The more couples inject excitement into their relationships,” Mark says, “the more their satisfaction level rises.” Think you’re ready? Answer true or false to the following statements, and find out just how much adventure lies ahead.
1. "KINKY" MEANS YOUR SEX LIFE FEELS LIKE A SAW SEQUEL.
FALSE. Dabbling in deviance does not have to involve leather and nipple clamps. It’s the newness and not the fear that’s stimulating, says Gail Saltz, M.D., a sex therapist in New York City. “So if it’s Fifty Shades you’re after, you might put on some of the costumes, just to get a feel for it,” she says. The most common kinks are the least freaky ones. In one of Mark’s surveys, 54 percent of people had engaged in spanking, 19 percent in role playing, and 11 percent in fetishes; 61 percent had used sex toys.
2. YOU NEED TO BE A LITTLE TWISTED TO ENJOY THIS STUFF.
TRUE. Well, kind of. Many people like a bit of rough play. In 2013, the sex toy company Lovehoney found that nearly three out of four customers had tied up a partner, one in five had used a gag, and one in six said bondage was part of their routine. But a more productive gauge of sexual success is if what you’re doing makes you feel good about yourself and enhances your relationship, says Carol Rinkleib Ellison, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the author of Women’s Sexualities.
3. YOU TWO MUST DISCUSS NEW KINKS BEFORE TRYING THEM.
FALSE. But then again, it’s never a bad idea to have a quick chat if you’re rookies. Otherwise, just let it happen...but slowly. Simply being more playful in the bedroom can act as a catalyst. “Being flirtatious and dropping subtle hints can be better than jumping in all the way,” says Marianne Brandon, Ph.D., a psychologist and licensed sex therapist. “Find objects, like her makeup brush, to use on her body and see what she’s comfortable with. Make it about inviting her to join you.”
4. ANAL SEX IS NO LONGER THAT BIG A DEAL BETWEEN PARTNERS.
TRUE. Surveys find the back door increasingly open; reasons include changing norms, the depiction of anal sex in pornography, and a greater willingness to admit to the behavior, says Kimberly McBride, Ph.D., an assistant professor of public health at the University of Toledo. In McBride’s 2008 survey of heterosexual men, 18 percent said they’d had anal sex in the previous 30 days; in her more recent survey, 50 percent said they’d engaged in some type of anal sex behavior in their lifetime.
5. PEOPLE MOSTLY AGREE ON WHAT IS AND ISN’T KINKY.
FALSE. One person’s kink can be another’s yawn. “For some people, woman-on-top is kinky,” says Carol Queen, author of Exhibitionism for the Shy. Here’s what we can agree on: A repertoire of just three or four sex positions no longer does the trick. So ease into kink—a new position, say, or sex in a new location. And props help, says New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, M.D. A scarf could be a blindfold or a soft restraint. “Anything to add a transgressive edge to your sex will work.”
6. PINCH HER AS OFTEN AS YOU’RE WILLING TO BE PINCHED.
TRUE. The key to success is to enlist her as a fellow conspirator. “Good sex involves compromise,” says Mark. “Shoot for an even split between giving and taking.” Some people balk at role playing, dirty talk, and bondage because they fear they won’t know what to do or say. Start with simple verbal fantasising—that is, having sex while talking about more explicit acts. “You can talk about extreme things in this context,” Queen says. “But it’s perfectly safe, and you don’t have to buy gear.”
7. YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO WAKE UP WITH A FEW MARKS.
FALSE. Sure, some impact play, such as spanking, could have temporary side effects. The key is to know where to hit. “You want to be over flesh or muscle, not bone,” says Queen. “Aim for the lower part of the butt; that engages more nerves and makes it more enjoyable.” Other good spots to aim for: the shoulders and upper back, Queen says. Try a flogger, such as a cat-o’-nine-tails. Warm up the area before you strike, and avoid sensitive spots like the neck and the kidneys.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health