When it comes to choosing Yankee Candles, the vanilla flavor (specifically, Vanilla Cupcake), truly takes the cake. Yet, when talking about about getting it on, vanilla isn't always the first word that comes to mind. From comfortable to predictable to even preferable — it seems like everyone has their own association with the term "vanilla," especially when the V-word comes between the sheets. But personal preferences and tastes aside, what is vanilla sex? And is vanilla sex the same for everyone? (Spoiler: It's not.)
To break it down, Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator and founder of COTR, Inc unpacks the origin of the phrase itself. "The term 'vanilla' as it pertains to sex originates from the kink community, specifically when referring to non-kink," Sinclair tells Elite Daily. Yet, according to Sinclair, the phrase isn't necessarily helpful in creating an open dialogue about doing the dirty. "Creating labels for sex is silly in general, as there’s no right or wrong. It falls into our desire to categorize all sex. We as a society love dichotomies. Cue: vanilla vs. kink."
When it comes to sex and dating, you get to make your own rules and choose your own labels. According to Sinclair, what some may consider "vanilla" may be your version of double mint chip with toppings. It's impossible to gauge your own pleasure and preferences when you're focused on what you assume others are doing or what you fear outsiders may think. And at the end of the day, all that matters is the comfort and consent of you and your partners. "Regardless of how you define vanilla sex, it’s important to respect the boundaries of whomever you’re getting into bed with. Vanilla sex could be the only 'type' of sex you have, and you’re happy with that; or it could be something you would never choose" Sinclair says.
If you and your boo get off from going for the same positions or if your busy schedules call for preplanning the nights you have sex — there's nothing wrong or bad about finding a pleasurable routine or sticking to what you know you like. You get to define what feels right for you, and you get to choose what's "vanilla." If you're having the sex you want to be having, you don't need to compare your experiences with others. "Realistically, if both adult partners have consented and are enjoying themselves, that’s all that matters," Sinclair says. "As we often say in sex education classes — 'Don’t yuck someone’s yum.'"
According to Sinclair, having sex that other's may consider "vanilla" doesn't mean that you are less adventurous or that your sex is less exciting. "The nuance is the emotion behind the sex. If you enjoy 'vanilla sex' — you look forward to it, you experience pleasure from it, you ask for it — then, well, that doesn’t sound like boredom to me." Knowing and asking for what you like and having the sex you want to be having can be exciting and pleasurable in itself, regardless of the amount of leather or gymnastic-style moves are involved, (which can also be exciting and pleasurable). As long as it's consensual, there is no standard way to have any "type" of sex, whether it's vanilla, kinky, romantic, or emotionless.
"Sex is really tied to ego and identity, and it’s important to avoid saying any type of sex is a bad thing, unless of course it is non-consensual or hurting someone," Sinclair says. "We have a tendency as a society to judge other people’s sexual preferences — whether it’s 'not enough' or 'too much.'
If you're worried your sex is "too vanilla" it's important to remember there's no right or wrong when it comes to getting it on. If you and your partner like what you're doing, there's no need to switch anything up for the sake of meeting someone else's standards. Check in with yourself about what you want, what makes you feel sexy, and most importantly, the ways you like to be touched or interacted with during sex. "Before you make any moves, it’s most important to educate yourself on where you want to go from here," Sinclair says. "What are some acts of sexual pleasure you want to explore? Are there accessories you’re interested in?"
If you think that there's something new you might want to try, it's important to have open and supportive conversations with the people that you sleep with, in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page. "When you’re talking to your partner(s) about wanting to try something new, no matter where [or if] it falls on the 'kinky' scale, it’s important to do it in a non-pressure situation when, preferably, you’re outside the bedroom and not about to have sex," Sinclair says. "Opening up the conversation to what peaks your curiosity, and what you both/all can do in order to maximize pleasure and comfort is the sexiest way to take next steps and spice things up."
When it comes to defining "vanilla sex," while the phrase originated to establish kink from non-kink, in practice it's different for everyone. The only thing mandatory when it comes to sex is active consent from all parties. If you're thinking you may want to try some new things, talk to the person or people you sleep with about how you're feeling. If you and your partner(s) like the sex you're having, you don't need to feel pressure to change anything up. From pouring melted Vanilla Cupcake candle wax on each other's naked bodies, to skipping sex all together to eat ice cream out of the container, if you and your partner(s) are into what you're doing, you're not doing anything wrong.