Sexual taboos: Why being freaky is surprisingly normal

Molly Frances|2022.01.31

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If you're reading this article, there's a good chance you're interested in exploring some kinky sexual acts. Even though many sexual fetishes and kinks have moved out of dark dungeons and into mainstream conversations about sexual wellness, many people still worry that enjoying sexual taboos makes them weird or broken. We tend to compare our behavior to what we think others are doing, which can cause us to label our sexual desires as abnormal even when they aren’t.

Sexual taboos are any sexual acts that are forbidden or considered unacceptable for religious or social reasons. The things that fall into the sexual taboo category have changed over time and vary across cultures.

As long as consenting adults perform taboo sex acts, we're all for exploring. Read on for our list of sexual taboos that aren't actually forbidden and some tips for exploring them.

Enjoying sexual taboos doesn't make you a freak

Depending on the religious and social norms you grew up with, the idea of sex in the first place may be considered taboo. Taboos are the things we don't talk about or admit to thinking about (let alone doing) for fear of being judged.

Human sexuality is fluid, and what is considered taboo changes over time. Queer sex and sexual experiences outside of marriage were once considered taboo, but the more we learn about how humans have and enjoy sex, the easier it is to clear up those misconceptions.

A sex-positive world where people talk freely about sexual health is the antidote to the stigma surrounding various sexual practices. The more we discuss and normalize experimental sexual behavior, the less anxiety we feel about our sexual desires.

7 taboos that should be normalized

We don't actually believe in sexual taboos as long as everyone involved is consenting and focused on pleasure. To clear up some misconceptions about sexual practices, here's a (non-exhaustive) list of sexual experiences often considered taboo and why you should explore them without fear of judgment.

1. Masturbation

Masturbation is often a source of embarrassment or shame thanks to religious or societal messaging that considers it dirty. Some strict religious traditions forbid masturbation. When self-pleasure is discussed (in order to steer people away from it), it's typically centered around boys and men. The mere possibility of women masturbating isn't mentioned, thus shaming women even more.

Sex-positive education reverses this narrative because masturbation is normal, safe, healthy, and just good self-care for all.

You've been in a sexual relationship with yourself longer than anyone else, so masturbation can be one of your go-to sexual practices. Masturbation helps you tune into your sexual desires to learn what you enjoy. You can also use masturbation to reduce stress and anxiety or help you sleep.

2. BDSM and kink

BDSM includes bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism. People who practice BDSM in their relationships may explore tying their partners up with ropes, tape, or other material preventing movement.

Playing with power dynamics in a dominant/submissive relationship can allow people to release control. People whose lives or careers involve complex decision-making or require control of emotions may espcially enjoy a submissive role during sex because they can stop making decisions and give into pleasure.

Sadomasochism uses BDSM spanking or other pain-inducing activities during sex. Some people find that this play can help release trapped emotions, much like a massage.

BDSM relationships are all about harnessing your sexual power and learning what turns you on. Kink is an umbrella term that includes BDSM and role play, orgasm denial, dressing in lingerie or other costumes, or any additional turn-on. Anything that is a sexual turn-on can be a kink.

Once relegated to secret warehouse clubs and hushed whispers, kink and BDSM are no longer taboo. The Kinsey Institute found that 12% of women and 22% of men experience sexual arousal in response to a BDSM story, and many reported having a BDSM experience.

3. Using sex toys with a partner

Many of us grew up with the message that sex always involved penetration, which left many women unable to orgasm. Thanks to pleasure-focused sex education, we learned the clitoris is the key to female orgasms, and vibrators hit all the right spots (repeatedly).

But, your vibrators don't need to stay in the drawer until your next solo session. Using a vibrator during partnered sexual activity can increase your pleasure and make it easier to orgasm.

4. Period sex

Women spend many decades menstruating, so considering period sex taboo doesn't make sense. Having sex while menstruating is perfectly safe, and orgasms may even help relieve cramps.

Many people who enjoy sex during their period use a towel or sex blanket on the bed to protect sheets and make cleanup easier. You can also opt to get busy in the shower to eliminate the need for clean-up at all.

5. Oral sex

Believe it or not, oral sex was once considered a sexual taboo and even outlawed in many places. When governments prohibit oral sex, they hope to thwart gay or lesbian sexual behaviors, even though enjoying oral sex is not limited to those in the LGBTQIA+ community. It seems the lawmakers were once obsessed with making sure that people only had sexual intercourse when one penis and one vagina was involved.

Thanks to human rights organizations who worked to reverse these laws, we can all now enjoy fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus as we wish.

6. Anal sex (and all other butt stuff)

Anal sex used to be such a sexual taboo that no one would talk about enjoying a finger or anything else stimulating their backdoor for fear of reprisal. Like oral sex, sodomy laws made anal sex illegal.

Many heterosexual men feared that enjoying anal stimulation or pegging somehow made them gay. Thanks to the destigmatization of many sex acts, anal sex is on its way off of society's taboo list regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are tons of sensitive nerve endings surrounding the anus, which is why so many people enjoy incorporating anal beads, butt plugs, and other anal sex toys into their sex life. Since most nerve endings are around the anus, you don't even need penetration to enjoy anal play. All you need is a healthy sense of adventure and plenty of lube.

7. Multi-partner sex

Threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes are not often discussed in our mainstream sex conversations, even though many people enjoy having sexual interactions with more than one person at a time. It can be challenging to enjoy group sex IRL. Everyone has to be turned on and into each other for group sex to work well.

But, if group sex is on your bucket list, and you get the opportunity, you can dive into the sex pile without worrying about others thinking you're abnormal.

What do you want to explore?

Whether you write it down or keep it in your fantasies, we all have a sexual bucket list of experiences we'd love to explore on our own or with a partner. Exploring your interest in sexual taboos is healthy. The more conversations about how we experience pleasure become mainstream, the easier it will be for people to open up about what turns them on.

If you're interested in exploring BDSM, sex toys, oral sex, anal sex, or any other sexual taboo, it helps to explore it through conversation first.

Listen to BDSM and kink educator Yin Q explain BDSM basics to determine which aspects of this type of play you're interested in trying.

If you're looking for language to discuss new sex adventures with your partner, listen to Exploring Taboos with sex educator Tina Horn to learn the words to describe your deepest desires.

Listen, light yourself up.

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