The New Kink

Article @ Grazia UK, published 8 May 2017

My Saturday mornings are normally spent sitting in my pyjamas poring over fashion blogs and eating avocado toast. But on a particular lazy morning not too long ago, I found myself lying in bed, iPhone in hand, scrolling through images of a beautiful 26-year-old woman with a penchant for red lipstick and an hourglass figure just like mine. My boyfriend leaned over for a look: he liked her too.

And that’s how my adventures with Feeld – a Tinder-style app for threesomes – all started. With my ex, in bed, discussing whether monogamy is a socially constructed concept; about us, about our needs, our fantasies and how we were interested in exploring new things sexually. He was hesitant to engage with the app, in part because he feared someone at work would find out – anyone can join a free app like Feeld. I also suspect my insistence on the idea left him a little suspicious, his male ego challenged. Was he not enough? But I’d always been a curious sexual being and for years had been fantasising about a threesome and having a sexual experience with a woman. Coming up to the end of my 20s provided the extra push – it is now or never, I thought as I contemplated turning 30 leaving my experimental youth behind. A more kink-weathered friend had told me about the tech available to make my long-sought experiences a reality – my insistence won out.

When I first heard about Feeld and the other apps offering thousands of up-for-it options in your local vicinity, I was sceptical. While the word kink is bandied around as a catch-all for any kind of non ‘regular’ two-person sex, I figured these apps would be bursting with fully bridled hardcore bondage veterans that would make Christian Grey look vanilla in comparison. But, to my astonishment, the women looked just as well, normal, as me: posing on Ibizan holidays, dancing in the same bars my friends and I frequented – they were teachers and accountants. Some were single, some were married women who wanted to explore with their partners. There were women who like me loved travelling, fashion and Sunday brunches. Thanks to technology, kink, it seems, has stopped being the preserve of edgy subcultures and is now the socially acceptable sexual reality for thousands of women. And me.

A survey by OkCupid this month supported my ‘research’. It revealed ‘a growing interest in bondage and rough sex over the past five years’ – 62% of female users are into rough sex and 51% are turned on by bondage – one in four enjoys hearing ‘derogatory terms’ in bed. And, in writing his new book, former Google analyst Dr Seth Stephens-Davidowitz found that a quarter of straight women searching on PornHub watching videos featuring violence against women.

Feeld wasn’t my first foray into kink either. I had tried a couple of times to make a threesome happen, but my friends’ sexual behaviours weren’t particularly adventurous and I never had the courage to approach strangers in a bar. But then, a lover invited me to his birthday party at the legendary fetish club Torture Garden. Travelling to the central London club on the tube with only a mac covering a monochrome French maid’s outfit I’d bought as a treat for a boyfriend one Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t decide if I was mortified, or found it all rather hilarious. Inside, as I watched two young women taking turns to spank each other, I chatted to a tall blonde marketing manager in lingerie and platform heels, and a French student wearing nothing but angel wings and briefs. I realised that if I was a freak for enjoying this, then the world must be full of fabulously normal freaks.

While some may see women’s renewed love for some kinky bedroom antics as a sign of the collapse of feminism, many believe it proves exactly the opposite. In her most recent book, Heartthrobs, A History of Women and Desire, Carol Dyhouse describes how rape fantasies, for instance, are often actually an inversion of society’s sexist power dynamics.

In 2012, a psychological study published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour found, overall, 62% of the women involved had a rape fantasy of some kind. While in the past rape fantasies had been attributed to feelings of guilt around sex in society, <this> study found that for modern women, the opposite was true. Now we live in less sexually repressed times, rape fantasies appeared in women who were more sexually open – and even had higher self-esteem.

So, could it be that the rise of kink sites, apps and events is because we live in a more open society? They certainly allow for women to embrace subversive predilections and make them part of the new normal.

Just look at the success of women’s oriented sex club Killing Kittens, which has updated the “sexually charged” parties they’ve run for over a decade in London, Manchester and LA with new events. ‘KK is booming and not just on the party front,’ says effervescent events director Cleo Mason. ‘We run regular “workkshops”, “bookklubs” and “sankktuary” events, as well as the parties, as a way to guide and introduce members to different aspects of the kink world. People are becoming more open about sex in general. And I think having an open mind can you lead you to some very interesting situations.’

If you fancy a party that’s a bit more <personal>, new site Thea & Fox is like AirBnb for the naughty. Encouraging users to create their own events, it allows you to advertise, chose the settings on the party and sell the tickets so you can lead the exploration.

Contrary to what many think, the new websites and apps also provide a degree of safety and anonymity for those wishing to explore the kinkier side of things, that a one-night-stand might not.

Stephanie*, a 29 year-old Feeld-using friend told me that initially, her biggest fear in exploring that side of her sexuality was ‘ending up dead, or being kept in a dungeon for the rest of my life.’ Many women feel that the popularity of kink apps and events offer a safe place to contact potential partners and therefore make incorporating kink into your life easier than ever. If someone you’re chatting with starts displaying obsessive or aggressive behaviour you can cut off contact – they don’t have to even know your name. ‘You can even choose an option where your Facebook connections can’t match with you’ my friend added. In sum, you can get your kink on with people who only want to hurt you with your consent. ‘I was in a serious monogamous relationship, but I was always interested in something more open,’ one of my potential threesome partners Andrea* told me. ‘Now I’m single I realised I could still look into that but from a different position.’

With this new sexual enfranchisement, that well-dressed woman you see walking her dachshund in the park could well be attending classes on how to safely choke her partner, or that Pinterest obsessed colleague who always brings in cakes on a Friday might well be on Whiplr  – the largest kinksters social dating app – looking for a “Daddy” to dominate her.

The red lippy girl ended up not thinking my ex and I were worth her time, but it didn’t take me long to find other women who did – I’ve since had a couple of dates with women I’ve met on the website but nothing permanent has flourished. But, who knows, a few more potential threesome partners have appeared, and a male friend has gallantly volunteered to be the third party after I broke up with my ex. So that normal girl who’s into kink is also me: cycling to work, having my Pret salad for lunch, treating myself to a pair of cute Zara mules on payday, then continuing to swipe away on Feeld looking for some kinky fun. Intrigued? Maybe I’ll see you on there.

*names might have been changed