Welcome to Doing It, a column where sex educator Varuna Srinivasan explores the deep connections between sex and emotions. This month, we meet real-life fetish fans and hear about their journeys to discovering their kinks — and how they deal with those who try to stigmatize them.

Sass first discovered her interest in BDSM on the internet.

“Since I was really young, I knew I was sexually ‘unconventional’ — vanilla [or] romantic displays of sexuality never appealed to me,” recalls Sass, a 28-year-old medical aesthetician in Canada. “However, I was unsure how to describe it. Moreover, [I was] hesitant to express this out of worry of being misunderstood.”

Sass’s path to understanding her kink was kicked off through porn. “After hours of watching BDSM-related porn, I was able to confirm that is exactly what I was into,” Sass says. “I viewed some porn that was much more on the rough side, with lots of impact play. I observed my reactions and responses to it — and was intrigued.”

Most of us have heard the words “kink” and “fetish.” However, given the taboos surrounding discussions of sex, particularly as it pertains to less-common or stigmatized proclivities, these topics aren’t likely to come up in casual conversation. (Like Sass, my first introduction into this world was through porn.) Sadly, many people’s initial impression of kink as a whole may be negative if they’ve only ever heard about it from the perspectives of those who demean, mock, or dismiss it.

Others realized their kinks through work. Tricia, 28, is a New York City-based writer and the owner of a sex-positive business owner. She learned more about her kink through her job on Only Fans.

“I’m an exhibitionist, and the idea of people watching me is super hot to me,” Tricia tells Allure. “Is it because I’m Leo? I’m not sure where that kink came from, but I definitely learned how big of a kink that was for me once I started my [Only Fans account].” 

When engaging in a new kink, Venus Cuffs, a BDSM expert in New York City, recommends a process of steps that she has deemed the “Venus Cuffs Method.” According to Venus, this method includes “honesty, acceptance, and existence.”

“If you have a fetish or kink and want to live a full, pleasurable life, you cannot be in denial that you actually have a fetish or kink,” says Venus, who suggests seeking out a knowledgeable professional if you find yourself in need of assistance.

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