Yes, Having a Praise Kink Is Different From Enjoying Words of Affirmation—Here’s What To Know

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick
It’s not uncommon to blush (or awkwardly deflect) when someone compliments you. But there’s a portion of pleasure-seekers who don’t just respond to praise with their cheeks, but all their erogenous zones. Indeed, some folks get really hot and bothered when applauded during play, receiving sexual gratification in response to reverence—which is known as having a praise kink. Ahead, sex educators explain exactly what a praise kink is, where it comes from, and how to explore a praise kink with a partner.

What is a praise kink?

Underscoring a praise kink is the broader concept of praise play, or the act of experimenting with giving and receiving praise from a partner as a means of sexual gratification, says sex educator Anne Hodder-Shipp, founder of Everyone Deserves Sex Ed.

Experts In This Article

Someone with a praise kink, specifically, gets off on receiving, well, praise. Sure, plenty of people enjoy hearing words of affirmation—but having a praise kink means someone receives sexual satisfaction from being applauded or recognized, says sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of pleasure product company Early to Bed. “It is more than just a nice feeling one gets when being complimented,” she says. For anything to be defined as a kink, the act or behavior has to contribute to a person’s sexual satisfaction, in particular.

Typically, “kink” also refers to a “non-traditional” sex act or enjoying something sexually that might not be included in “vanilla” heteronormative, penetrative sexual intercourse. (Take a breeding kink or any of the power play dynamics of BDSM, for example.) But that also means that kink is highly subjective. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be something incredibly niche, says Hodder-Shipp. “Kinky is really in the eye of the beholder.”

Hodder-Shipp also adds that there’s a difference between enjoying an experience and having a kink. “For example, dirty talk can be something some people like and do, and for others, that’s their kink,” she says. “It’s not like there’s a tidy divide between the two, but it’s really about the individual’s relationship to [the thing], and whether it is or isn’t a kink to them.”

This nuance applies to praise, too. Someone can enjoy receiving (or giving) praise in bed without identifying as having a praise kink. And even among those who do have a praise kink, the way it manifests can vary. Some people need praise in bed to experience pleasure—and without it, they can’t orgasm. “But other folks may identify themselves as having a praise kink and still be able to climax without it,” says Deysach. “It depends on the person.”

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 free 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 on 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.

"It's up to the people involved how the praise kink plays out, but ultimately, it's about constant positive reinforcement that helps people to feel loved, desired, and wanted."—Marla Renee Stewart, sexologist

Overall, embracing a partner’s praise kink can involve any behavior that puts them on a pedestal, says sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, a sex expert with sexual-wellness retailer Lovers. “It's up to the people involved how the praise kink plays out, but ultimately, it's about constant positive reinforcement that helps people to feel loved, desired, and wanted,” she says.

The praise doesn’t necessarily need to be verbal, either, says Deysach. 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.

Is a praise kink part of BDSM?

Depending on how it’s given and received, praise can certainly function as a kink that lets you explore BDSM dynamics. Indeed, a praise kink often operates in the context of a sexual power exchange, says Angie Rowntree, founder and director of, a website for sex-positive, ethical porn. “In a BDSM [relationship], the more submissive partner often receives praise from the more dominant,” she says. Though, the more dominant partner can also enjoy being told how dominant, strong, or sexually apt they are.

However it’s also possible to enjoy and satisfy a praise kink in the absence of a power dynamic. “There doesn’t have to be a power imbalance, which is inherently what the BDSM grouping would be,” says Hodder-Shipp. “You can absolutely be enjoying some kind of praise play where all people involved are on the same level, and there’s no power shift.”

Take, for example, the commonly used phrases, “Good boy” and “Good girl.” Hodder-Shipp notes that the thrill from this kind of praise can come from the inherent youthful connotation of these terms or even from someone using them in an infantilizing context.

Why do people have a praise kink?

There are a number of different reasons someone might enjoy praise during play, says Stewart. For one person, a praise kink could be a natural extension of their appreciation for words of affirmation, she says. But for someone else, she says, it could develop because compliments were either a regular or irregular part of their childhood.

Regardless, it’s also possible that someone just enjoys praise in bed—and finds it sexually satisfying—for much the same reason they enjoy it in a non-sexual way outside of the bedroom. “It feels nice to be seen, recognized, and be made to feel special,” says Hodder-Shipp. What’s more, the human brain is physiologically designed to respond favorably to compliments. “Compliments flood our brains with oxytocin, a feel-good bonding hormone,” says Stewart.

Hodder-Shipp notes that someone could be interested in praise play or even have a praise kink for no discernible reason, too. And it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about how the person interacts with praise outside the bedroom, either. “It can just be a wonderful thing that doesn’t necessarily have to be explained in order for someone to feel okay about it or understand it,” she says.

How to explore whether you have a praise kink

1. 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 compliments? 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. Observe your relationship to praise (in non-sexual and sexual contexts)

Having a praise kink tends to involve having a positive association with praise—so, it may be helpful to consider how you respond to praise in general. “Think about what kind of praise lights you up, if any,” says Hodder-Shipp.

While, again, your relationship to praise outside of sex won’t always translate to the bedroom, considering your response to compliments in general can be helpful. In particular, consider “what praise does to your brain, regardless of what it does to your genitals,” adds Hodder-Shipp.

"There’s an element of exploration outside of yourself that can also be useful around what kind of praise [you] actually connect with."—Anne Hodder-Shipp, sex educator

As a next step, you can also seek out some porn or erotica that incorporates praise to see how it makes you feel. “There’s an element of exploration outside of yourself that can also be useful around what kind of praise [you] actually connect with,” says Hodder-Shipp.

When you’re exploring, observe the particular context of any praise that gets you going. Perhaps it’s in a fantasy setting or when someone receives praise from a partner who’s dominating them. This could clue you into a potential praise kink and how you might explore it with a partner.

4. Request praise, and see how it feels!

Some pleasure-seekers like receiving compliments about parts of their body or sexual acts 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 a praise kink, or any other kind of play for that matter.”

5. 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. Regardless, you can also explore whether you have a praise kink viasexting, 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.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. van Schie, Charlotte C et al. “When compliments do not hit but critiques do: an fMRI study into self-esteem and self-knowledge in processing social feedback.” Social cognitive and affective neuroscience vol. 13,4 (2018): 404-417. doi:10.1093/scan/nsy014

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