- Caitlin Hart
Shamed for Sex- What is Vanilla Shaming?
© Illustration by @pleasurepie
Women across the internet are being shamed for their sexual preferences.
#Kinktok, the TikTok hashtag where creators share their kinks and sex stories with their audience, has created a community of kinky people where shame is erradicated and anything goes. Unless of course, what you’re into is ‘vanilla sex’.
Vanilla sex is defined as conventional sex, or sex that does not involve elements of bondage, kink or fetish. It doesn’t take long to find a video under #Kinktok where vanilla sex is described as boring or bad and those who enjoy it being shamed.
In theory, accepting kink and fetish and not judging those who partake in it is an incredibly positive thing, but when acceptance of one group turns into shaming of another, this can take a negative turn.
INJECTION spoke to Genevieve Collister Brown, a psychosexual and relationships therapist from Manchester.
They said: “I don’t even know what vanilla sex is, like who gets to decide what is kinky and what isn’t? Someone might find something really kinky and taboo and for someone else that might be their everyday thing and they don't even see it as kinky.
“I suppose for me, kink is when there is a power dynamic at play, so I guess vanilla sex would be where we’re not playing with power. I’m not sure what is wrong with that, I think it’s kind of lovely to say in a world where power is always at play, sex might be the place where we kind of get rid of that and I think vanilla can be really exciting and fun in that way.”
The nature of kink and fetish can involve a lot of violence within sex: choking, hair pulling and slapping for example are all aspects of kinky sex. To integrate this as a normal aspect to all sex could be dangerous when not done correctly, and shaming women for not enjoying it is another form of misogyny and condoning violence towards women.
There have been a lot of cases in the UK of women being abused or even murdered during sex as a result of kink being so normalised without appropriate education on how to conduct it.
Genevieve said: “I actually think kink is quite hard work. It requires a lot of prep and aftercare, so if you don't want to do all that and still want to engage in kink, it's probably going to go wrong.”
A lot of the normalisation and miseducation surrounding kink stems from the porn industry. A huge number of teenagers view porn as their first look into sex, as often appropriate sex education comes too late or not at all.
As porn sites often have videos catered to any and all interests, a lot of sexual violence is portrayed. Therefore, for teenagers using porn as their sex education, you can see why it has become so normalised to incorporate violence into sex.
Of course, this isn’t to say that kink is bad. BDSM, kink and fetish can all be enjoyable parts of sex, provided they are discussed beforehand, consent is given, boundaries are discussed and there is a clear safeword. However porn doesn’t portray this essential discourse. For younger people viewing this, they can assume that everybody will enjoy this type of sex with no prior discussion, leading to sexual violence and unconsentual BDSM.
Genevieve said: “A lot of the time I talk about the difference between kink and abuse and actually kink is a place where consent and consideration is at the forefront of everything we’re trying to do. So when it’s described as misogynistic there are definitely people who are like that, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that kink, I’d describe that as people abusing their power.
“I think because of the way that we receive information, particularly on social media, it's the most condensed version of things and we’re missing the most important stuff like consent, communication and negotiating before you get into anything.”
When you look deeper into BDSM, it is most often (though not always) women submitting to violence from dominant men. It has roots in misogyny and stems from the idea that men have control over women. It is clear to see why some women would take issue with this kind of sex.
Shaming women for their sexual choices, no matter what they are, is and will always be misogynistic. It implies that sex is for the satisfaction of men, and women should simply submit to whatever their partner wants in sex.
However shaming women for not enjoying violent sex is even worse. It normalises aggression within sex, violence towards women and even abusive relationships. Sex is deeply personal and everybody should be able to partake in whatever they enjoy, but commenting on personal preference will always be cruel and unnecessary at best, and dangerous at worst.
To those who feel as though their preferences have been shamed, Genevieve says: “It's not a competition and vanilla isn't derogatory. Vanilla is common, everyone enjoys vanilla ice cream. You are into whatever you’re into and there's not much changing it so if you’re not turned on by power dynamics or leather or whips then you can't really change that. You have to accept that there are other people that aren't going to be into that stuff, find those people and enjoy it.”