What is a praise kink, exactly?
Someone with a praise kink gets off on receiving, well, praise. Sure, most people enjoy receiving words of affirmation, even if their primary love language is something else. But having a praise kink means someone receives sexual satisfaction from being applauded or recognized, says sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Early to Bed, a pleasure-product company in Chicago that ships worldwide. “It is more than just a nice feeling one gets when being complimented,” she says.
Generally, something is defined as a kink when it someone needs it to enjoy sex. When it comes specifically to praise kinks, some people need praise in bed to experience any kind of pleasure—without the praise, they can’t orgasm. “But other folks may identify themselves as having a praise kink and still be able to climax without it,” Deysach says. “It depends on the person.”
A praise kink often operates in the context of a (sexual) power exchange, adds Angie Rowntree, founder and director of Sssh.com, the premier destination for sex-positive, ethical porn made from a woman's point of view. “In a BDSM [relationship], the more submissive partner often receives praise from the more dominant,” she explains. Though, of course the more dominant partner can also enjoy being told how dominant, strong, or sexually apt they are.
Since the experience varies, Deysach says it’s a good idea to ask some follow-up questions if a lover or potential partner shares with you that they have a praise kink, so you can better understand what it means to them. Likewise, you have full rein to define for yourself what it means to identify as having a praise kink, should you decide to after a little sexploration and/or self-reflection.
What are some praise kink examples?
If you’ve dived deep into #kinktok or stumbled on #praisek1nk on TikTok, odds are you’ve got a sense of what kind of praise we’re talking about here. But if you’re new to the term, you probably have questions about exactly what people with praise kinks long to hear.
Ultimately, that will vary person-to-person based around what sex acts they enjoy, what parts of their body or personality they like complimented, and their other sexual interests. Commonly, phrases like “good girl,” “good boy,” “you’re doing such a good job,” or “you know how to make me feel so good” are cited. “Phrases like ‘You feel so good when…,’ ‘You look so pretty when…’ and ‘I love the way you…’ may also be used to explore or satisfy a praise kink,” adds Deysach.
The praise doesn’t necessarily need to be verbal, she adds. Sometimes, someone can get their desire for praise met through physical acts of appreciation, such as a simple pat on the back, shoulder squeeze, forehead kiss, or thumbs up, she says.
Why do people have a praise kink?
There are a number of different reasons someone might enjoy praise during play, says sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, a queer-informed sex-expert with Lovers, a sexual wellness brand and retailer. For one person, a praise kink could be a natural extension of their words of affirmation love language, she says. (Although again, it's not exactly the same thing as words of affirmation.) For other people, it could develop either because compliments were a regular or irregular part of their childhood.
Regardless, Stewart notes that the human brain is physiologically designed to respond favorably with compliments. “Compliments flood our brains with oxytocin, a feel-good bonding hormone,” she says.
But here’s the thing, notes Rowntree: Typically, when people ask where a praise kink comes from (or any kink for that matter), they are making the assumption that having a praise kink is abnormal, and therefore that something must have gone awry to induce this desire. “But being kinky—or, more specifically, having praise kink—does not at all mean you are 'broken' or damaged,” she says.
On the contrary, having and exploring any kind of kink requires an impressive level of openness and emotional vulnerability that suggest someone has advanced emotional process and communication skills, Rowntree says.
How to explore whether or not you have a praise kink
1. First, noodle on your past sexual experiences
Can you remember a time when you were complimented during sex? If so, “ask yourself whether or not those compliments aroused you sexually, or if they simply made you happy to hear,” says Deysach.
Next, see if you can remember a time when you weren’t complimented during sex. “Can you have what you think of as hot, awesome sex without them? If not, then it may be a kink!,” she says.
2. Ask yourself: Do I enjoy power play?
Rowntree offers some questions that may help you pinpoint a potential interest in power play:
- Do I enjoy giving up or (consensually) taking power in a sexual context?
- Do I like to play director when I have sex? Do I like to take direction during sex?
- What kinds of things do I like to hear or say during sex — if anything?
- What do I like about being complimented?
3. Request praise and see how it feels!
Some pleasure-seekers like receiving compliments about parts of their body or games that they are insecure about, while other people like their lovers to double-down on the things that they already like about themselves while getting busy.
Consider the kinds of compliments you most enjoy, then request that in the bedroom, suggests Rowntree. “Don’t be afraid to sit down and have an actual conversation with someone you’re sleeping with,” says Rowntree. “Trust, it doesn’t have to be an awkward one!,” she says.
Ideally when you’re not already in the heat of the moment, she recommends being explicit about what you want to try. For example: “I really loved it when you called me your good girl when we had sex. Can I ask you to use that term again next time we have sex?”
At the end of the day, talking about what you want or need in bed up front will enhance your experience, says Rowntree. “Being able to be this open is key if you plan to explore praise kink, or any other kind of play for that matter.”
4. Try it out via text
Maybe you’re not currently having IRL intercourse. Maybe you’re not sleeping with someone you feel comfortable exploring a possible kink with. Or maybe you’re looking for a way to explore while social distancing. Regardless, you can also explore whether or not you have a praise kink via sexting, according to Rowntree.
To do so, you might ask consent to send someone a nude and request praise around a specific body part in exchange. You could also request that a specific phrase be used only for this specific phone sex session.
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