What is Vanilla sex?

January 30, 2017 3 min read

Vanilla sex?! Alright, but let's ditch the foreplay. Because, really, it's quite straightforward: "Vanilla sex" just denotes plain, regular sex. Or, as Goldie Hawn once famously had it: The "ol' in 'n' out". Mainstream, standard stuff. No role play, no bits inserted where they don't "belong", no toys, no porn. Vanilla, so the allusion, is the kind of no-frills-sex a white, heterosexual couple has: Penis-in-Vagina, Missionary Position, a few orgasms. Maybe two. Maybe. Lights out, blanky over. Nighty night!

Nice enough, but alas, that's not all there is to vanilla sex. Let's get a bit academical. Because "vanilla" thus understood as the default of sex is also tied in with what is deemed normative sexual behaviour. Sex as it "should" be. And in talking about mainstream, we are never far off of having to talk about privilege, too.

Because yes, even if "vanillas" aren't aware of it: What they get up to in the bedroom (where else ;) is political to some extent. The fact that vanilla-people aren't aware of this is the first instance of mentioned privilege. This is how privilege works, I'm afraid.

But there are of course other aspects of this privilege. Privileges, that are not readily available to practitioners of non-vanilla sex, not available to people practising "kink". For a start, no one practicing vanilla sex ever need to worry that their sexual preferences are deemed pathological. As BDSM-practitioners, for example, do. You only need to read up the classification of i.e. "masochism" in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", the go-to manual for psychiatric diagnosis, to get an idea.

Vanilla sex also isn't being habitually exoticised - it's the default, remember?! Many other forms of sex, cosplay, BDSM, yes, even anal sex, are still being portrayed as something exotic, slightly unstable, dark and abject. Non-vanilla women* are also commonly viewed as sexually experienced and up to anything. However - surprise! - a fondness for kink doesn't equate with a large amount of sexual experience, nor does it equate with being sexually available. 
But this is, sadly, something non-vanilla women* face: The assumption that their preference makes them slutty, willing, insatiable. Not. the. Case.

Of course, privilege isn't a moral fault. Most of our privileges we don't choose. Skin colour, family background, gender. And even our sexual preferences are - to an extent - not something we consciously choose. They are very complex. And a whole different story entirely. But as it stands: Enjoying vanilla, of course, is absolutely fine! If "vanilla" is your cup of tea (sorry, inherent fondness for sloped metaphors) - so be it. Enjoy!

However, it also makes sense - being a little subliminal here - to reflect upon that privilege. Because, as incongruous as it sounds: Despite the sex-obsessed world we live in, there's one thing we haven't quite mastered yet: Talking about sex. Really talking about sex.

And that might be one thing where many kink-practitioners are ahead of the vanilla-pack: Discussing their privileges. Reflecting on their preferences. Talking about desires and wants. And in doing so, I'm sure, many would find that maybe, just maybe, they are not so vanilla after all...

Dr. G-Punkt
« Dr. G-Punkt is a real doctor (lit, not clit) and journalist. She writes on sex, love, relationships and gender. » All posts →