Classic for a Reason: What Does Vanilla Sex Mean?

Vanilla sex is sex at its simplest, but if you asked people on the street to define it, each person would have a different answer. There's no hard-and-fast boundary that defines where vanilla sex ends and kinky sex begins, but we'll discuss the nuances of the terms and why vanilla can be a delicious flavor as long as you feel fulfilled.

What Does Vanilla Sex Mean?

vanilla sex

What is vanilla sex? It's hard to talk about what is considered vanilla sex without first discussing kinky sex. The term vanilla likely came into common parlance in the 1970s from the kink community to describe non-kinky sex. So what is kinky sex?

‌ Kink is generally a synonym for BDSM, which is bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism. Kink can also encompass polyamory, exhibitionism, fetishes, swinging, and other "non-normative" sexual practices. Vanilla sex, by contrast, is another way of saying normative sex.

Vanilla Shifts Over Time

As sexual activities become more commonly performed, they're more likely to be categorized as vanilla. As Vice points out, oral sex in the mid-20th century was a taboo — and therefore kinky, sexual activity. Nowadays, most people categorize it as part of a vanilla sexual repertoire. 

Some people have used the term vanilla to imply heterosexual sex. In reality, couples with any mix of genders can have vanilla sex. At the same time, heterosexual sex can undoubtedly fall into the kink spectrum.

Everyone Else Is Doing It?

Kinky sex, by its non-normative nature, is not for everyone. In fact, according to the Kinsey Institute, only 12% of women and 22% of men experienced erotic responses to sadism and masochism stories. Further, a 2008 survey indicated that only 1.8% of sexually active people surveyed had engaged in BDSM within the previous year.

vanilla sex action

‌It doesn't account for all kinks, but it shows that not every couple has "Fifty Shades of Grey" re-enactments behind closed doors. If you've given kinky sex a try but didn't enjoy it, it's OK to keep having vanilla sex and never look back.

‌Still, if you've enjoyed kink in the past or are interested in exploring it, there's no need to fear that it indicates anything unhealthy about you. Nonnormative doesn't imply "wrong" or "harmful" — it simply means outside of the norm or outside of what most people prefer. The 2008 survey mentioned above also showed that people involved in BDSM "were not significantly more likely to be unhappy or anxious."

Talking About It

If you've never spoken to your partner about their feelings on kinky versus vanilla sex, consider giving it a try. This conversation is essential and can be eye-opening. 

It's worth noting that kink takes more up-front work than many realize. Consent and communication are essential with any sex, but all partners need to set clear ground rules before acting when intentional pain or humiliation is involved. 

‌Kinky sex also often involves outfits, tools, or props that need to be set up. Depending on the kind of play involved, learning new skills such as knot tying can require learning. Check out our article on BDSM toys for more on how to prepare for kinky sex.

‌It's Not All or Nothing‌

Many couples enjoy vanilla sex and kink. One may feel more appropriate based on mood. While vanilla sex certainly takes its share of communication, it often doesn't require intense preparation. Kink tends to require some setup time, and even the kinkiest couple may want a quickie once in a while. Falling into the arms of someone familiar may be just as satisfying as scratching a sexual itch.

Vanilla Shaming

vanilla sex action

As kinky sex has become more acknowledged in mainstream media, it has ironically led to some couples feeling embarrassed about enjoying the sexual preferences of the majority. Rather than seeing vanilla sex as a perfectly valid preference, they see it as boring, uninspired, or repetitive sex.

A more helpful way to think about vanilla sex is to see it as the kind of sex most people prefer. So you prefer vanilla over lavender pistachio — it's your taste, and you can like what you like.

Vanilla Positions

So you're ready to embrace vanilla sex. You may be wondering: What are the best positions?

Well, it depends. The most stereotyped vanilla position is missionary, but most positions involving bondage or pain can work for vanilla sex. However, most couples don't use more "acrobatic" positions regularly, so it's safe to say those are less vanilla-friendly.

‌Positions that lend themselves to vanilla sex are those that a couple is comfortable with. For example, reverse cowgirl/cowboy could be routine for one couple and kinky. At the same time, even missionary position becomes kinky if there's a whip involved, for example. 

How To Spice Up Vanilla Sex: Our Top Products

Adding toys to your routine can be an excellent way to increase traditional stimulation without introducing kinky elements like pain or humiliation. Luckily, we have an array of products designed with couples in mind. Here are our top suggestions:

Ascend 3

Ascend 3 is a discreet, palm-sized clitoral vibrator that's perfect for a weekend getaway. Pack it in your carry-on and bring it out at night. It comes with remote control, making it ideal for teasing a partner.

 

Euphor

The Euphor is a classic G-spot stimulator. It's also completely submersible and bath-friendly. Need we say more?

 

Canna

The Canna is perfect for when your fingers need a break. With three detachable heads and seven modes, it's guaranteed to have something for every clitoris.

 

Must-Have Bundle for Couples

Get close and personal to your partner with the Must-Have Bundle for Couples. It features our best-selling Deimos c-ring designed with ears for clitoral stimulation. It comes with the perennial necessity, lubricant, which tingles for extra toe-curling sensation—finally, an antibacterial toy cleaner to keep you and your toys safe rounds out this valuable bundle. 

Conclusion

Remember, vanilla sex doesn't mean boring sex! It means sex that falls outside of the kink spectrum. Most people are having vanilla sex. If you and your partner don't feel bored, your sex isn't boring.

References

 When It Comes to 'Vanilla Sex,' No Two People Taste the Same Flavor. (February 2019). Vice.

 What Is Kink? (January 2019). Psychology Today.

 FAQs & sex information. (Accessed April 2021). Kinsey Institute.

 Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, "Sadomasochism" or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey. (July 2008). The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

 Why Is Everyone Embarrassed to Admit They Like Vanilla Sex? (June 2020). InStyle.