The Sex Spectrum

By Kendra Holliday | June 26, 2016

Kendra Holliday portraying vanilla. Photo by Stan Strembicki

Kendra Holliday portraying vanilla. Photo by Stan Strembicki

I’ve come up with the following Sex Spectrum – do you agree with it? Where do you fall? Where do(es) your partner(s) fall?

Repressed – thinks sex is distasteful, doesn’t recognize any fetishes or fantasies, thinks genitals are ugly, doesn’t masturbate, is uncomfortable with erogenous zones, could easily do without intimacy or sex, is pretty much offended by everything

Vanilla – holding, cuddling, standard sex positions, passionate lovemaking, oral, watching porn, monogamy, mutual masturbation, traditional gender roles, basic sex toys, sex in the bedroom/kitchen/basement work bench/backyard/hotel

Kinky – anal play (male or female), bondage using silk ties and scarves, teacher/secretary/cop fantasy roleplaying, exploring bisexuality, watching hardcore porn, taking pics/filming, female ejaculation, threesomes/foursomes/orgies, advanced sex toys, cross dressing, pegging, sex in a restaurant/elevator/public place, exploring basic fetishes (foot, hair, latex, lingerie, etc.)

Kendra Holliday portraying Perverted

Kendra Holliday portraying Perverted

Perverted – face slapping, rape and incest fantasy roleplaying, gang bangs, bondage involving rope, facefucking, watersports, forced bi/cuckolding/chastity, humiliation and objectification, public sex (with an audience), fisting, double penetration, pegging, crazy sex toys (ball gags, big dongs, strapons), sex in church/graveyard, exploring more unusual fetishes (unwashed, period, amputees, etc.)

Fucked Up – edgeplay (bukkake, bloodplay, bladeplay, gunplay, breathplay, needleplay, electro, caging, necrophilia), gimp masks, body bags, CBT (cock n ball torture), masturbating in a bible, mutilation, sex in a morgue, sex with a real student/relative/prisoner, exploring extreme fetishes (shit, bestiality, vomit, pedophilia)

Does this look about right? For instance, do you think anal falls under Vanilla or Kinky? I first wrote this six years ago, and now that I’ve revisited it, I’ve moved a lot of activities up a notch. For instance, three years ago I considered gang bangs “Fucked Up.” Now, I view them as “Perverted.”

Also, I should state for the record that I don’t think any of these terms are derogative per se. It’s when you start harming yourself or others where I start to draw the line. And basically, the more taboo something is in our society, the more Perverted/Fucked Up it is. And the taboo twist is what makes it so hot! (For further reading, I suggest the book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies.)

Personally, I consider myself mostly Kinky, moderately Perverted, with a dash of Fucked Up. And of course I LOVE me some Vanilla! How about you? I’d prefer if most people fell somewhere between Vanilla and Perverted.


john d 2013-05-13 08:20:25

Mm im a vanila kinky pervet thats fucked up hahaha 8)


Dallas 2013-05-13 09:00:59

At least in the ace community we tend to refer to people in the “repressed” category as “repulsed” instead of “repressed”. Of course while I think some people are not repressed and have really done the work and decided those really are their feelings re sex and genitals… I think a lot are repressed and would benefit from at least a SAR-lite.

I think I’d put anal under vanilla, particularly since making anal something that’s necessarily “kinky” seems kind of heterocentric.

Public sex with a consenting audience is kinky, sure, with a non-consenting audience? possibly fucked up (though you did already mention that your list presumes consent I think).

Interesting list though 🙂


Dr Zoidberg 2013-05-13 09:46:34

I’m pretty regular and things from all five categories are a regular part of my life.


Michelle 2013-05-13 10:00:12

Seems Im all but repressed


Tallah 2013-05-13 10:16:27

I’m mostly Vanilla with a few Kinks (gushing has become a standard part of our lovemaking and my husband doesn’t consider his happy job finished until I’ve soaked thru 3 towels), and I’ve got one or 2 Pervert-level things under my belt. Hubby is very vanilla, but also willing to switch it up everytime so it’s never boring.


Anna 2013-05-13 10:26:45

What constitutes a basic sex toy vs an advanced sex toy? Where does spanking fit in? And is period sex really that fucked up? (Better cramp eliminator than Advil Extra Strength and doesn’t cause stomach ulcers. May cause drowsiness, lol! Just put a towel down and go wild!)

According to this, I am thoroughly perverted and somewhat fucked up ;p


Lionman 2013-05-13 10:53:49

Anal should be under Vanilla rather than Kinky – every woman I encounter wants it and some prefer it. Prostrate play for men is getting more popular, but still probably in the Kinky category.

The categories may be quite different for the gay community, which I do not know about.

Feel a bit worried as categorizing them may be counter-productive to sex positivity.


Castiel 2013-05-13 11:05:39

Yea, i’m gonna say Vanilla threw Perverted but for the straight Mans guide… haahaha


sera 2013-05-13 11:16:51

I don’t really find these terms useful, including repressed and vanilla. But where I really get off the train is on the variations on kinky. Why isn’t kinky enough to include everything? I think gangbangs are way more edgy than running a knife over someone’s skin. It seems more like a list of your own personal interests/things you think are edgy. I wouldn’t ever use this to categorize others–I think it really doesn’t respect their individuality.


Algor_Langeaux 2013-05-13 11:27:26

I would say that this form does not seem to be terribly sex positive, as it tends to be quitely judgmental. While you may not *personally* see anything inherently bad about a label like “fucked up” I would note that those terms *do* have a pejorative bias in the language of our society. I would say that beyond “Kinky” you might say “Extreme” and “More Extreme” if you simply must define points beyond that point. That said, I am not sure that putting up arbitrary signposts along the way is terribly helpful or informative in illustrating the reality that what we are dealing with is truly a *spectrum*.

Personally, I am most comfortable not defining myself by any of those labels at all, beyond noting the specific things to which I am attracted (which themselves can vary from partner to partner) and even there it is far from a matter of “self definition”… anymore than you would likely define yourself as a “gang-banger” now that you are ok with gang bangs (under the right circumstances.)

Right or wrong, humans tend to want to always want to have an a group that it can define as “the other” – some position that one can say “well I might be bad, but at least I’m not *that* bad…” But the reality is that so long as everyone involved in the activities are consenting adults, they should probably be allowed to do what makes them happy, without using language that could be interpreted in such a way as to be (potentially) shaming…

(My $.02)


    Kendra Holliday 2013-05-13 14:35:10

    I appreciate your 2 cents. I think this is a work in progress and should be improved. One of the things I try to do is use words that many consider shaming or negative in a non-shameful way. For instance, slut, fat, old, perverted…


      Algor_Langeaux 2013-05-14 06:20:48

      When one applies those to ones self that is *wonderful*. The problem with a list like this however is that someone out there is going to turn it into a doctrine and apply it to others with a hammer. I definitely understand your intentions, and again, when applied internally it is a lovely and empowering thing… but the world is full of black and white thinkers who like to put folks in pigeon holes, and I would *personally* caution against giving them little boxes to put people into, as well as labels that the general population will interpret negatively.


Steve 2013-05-13 12:13:52

The repressed and vanilla sections make sense. Once you cross into kinky, it seems like maybe there’s two levels there. A light level you might call “spiced up” and then a heavier level that would be kinky. Many people are willing to “spice things up” with a little light bondage, maybe a bit more hard core porn, and the occasional bit of anal play; casual kinksters if you will. Then there’s a level beyond that where you might get more strongly into a particular fetish, exploring non-monogamous relationships, etc.


The Nerd 2013-05-13 18:10:12

My suggestion is to make a difference between negative attitudes toward sex and tame sexual preferences. For instance, someone who generally isn’t interested in engaging in sex acts or doesn’t enjoy being touched may think talking about sex is the most fun thing ever. And someone who is really into kinky stuff may be highly judgemental of other people’s different kinks, with a “my kink is okay but yours isn’t” mentality. Maybe have two separate spectra: one for a healthy attitude toward human sexuality, and one for enthusiasm toward extreme sexual experimentation.


James 2013-05-13 21:05:31

“Repressed – thinks sex is distasteful, doesn’t recognize any fetishes or fantasies, thinks genitals are ugly, doesn’t masturbate, is uncomfortable with erogenous zones, could easily do without intimacy or sex, is pretty much offended by everything”

I think this category could be split, or at least edited. I am asexual, but do not find the idea of sex distasteful. I’m not particularly interested in participating in it myself, but I am mostly good with drawing (some) smut and do have some kink/fetish that I like to see in artwork. I could easily do without intimacy or sex, but I’m not pretty much offended by everything.


L 2013-05-18 10:34:06

I definitely think there should be a category for asexual that doesn’t involve being repressed.

I saw something on fetlife that I really liked — trying to remember exactly how it went — it offered a couple of different sexuality spectrums, along these lines:

Asexual –> Hypersexual
Vanilla –> Kinky
Monogamous –> Polyamorous
Straight –> Gay

There are countless in-between points on all of these spectrums. Also, they don’t necessarily correlate to each other; that’s an important point I’ve learned recently! I know some VERY kinky people who are nearly asexual. Being kinky doesn’t necessarily mean liking to have lots of sex.

Also, a strap-on is a “crazy” sex toy? To me, it seems like one of the most basic…especially in the queer community.

In your categories as you’ve presented them, I fall mainly in the “perverted” category.


laloca 2013-05-20 06:09:33

your “repressed” category comes across as quite judgmental. especially since it contains some characteristics that may be more accurately ascribed to asexuality than sexual repression.

what do you hope to achieve with this list, and trying to create these categories? i think sex and sexual expression are a fluid continuum, not discrete boxes – something like this, to me, seems to run counter to the whole concept of sex-positivity: categories pigeonhole.


reading along 2013-05-21 06:33:21

I think these things are all very subjective and trying to categorise and pigeon hole such things doesn’t help anyone.


W 2013-05-21 07:51:29

Agree with some of the commenters, one’s sexual personality never stays constant and moreover, gross to one is very normal to another. Can’t silo these things. Also, it’s offensive to see monogamy under vanilla. It implies being monogamous is well, boring. I could be pretty perverted but chose to do so monogamously.


mysticlez 2013-05-23 13:10:18

Perverted with willingness to try fucked up 🙂


klms 2013-05-26 04:16:12

I am troubled by a lot of this.

Firstly, I think that the “repressed” category is just mean. I would remove everything listed under “repressed” and create two categories, calling one “asexual” and the other something like “timid” or “inexperienced,” and enter descriptions that fit those categories, without being judgmental about it.

Secondly, I think that most kinks and fetishes are particular to people who enjoy any given one(s). So, if someone who doesn’t have, say, a shoe fetish tries to incorporate shoes into his/her sex life, then they are not being adventurous, they are just being pointless. I think that the same holds true for many of the kinks you list under “kinky/perverted/fucked up.” I don’t see most of them as being on some kind of scale from less adventurous to more adventurous, but just as particular personal interests/likes/preferences.

There’s a lot of subtext here. Much of it seems to be implying that if someone is not repressed then they will (and should want to) engage in kinks and fetishes, which I think is a false assumption.

I also find it very strange that “traditional gender roles” are vanilla. Are all non-hets kinky then? And why would anyone who is not attracted to their same gender (or, if they are gay, not attracted to another gender) “explore bisexuality?” Either they are attracted to both same-sex and other-sex partners, which would simply make them bisexual, or aren’t they doing something that doesn’t actually turn them on just to be “kinky?”

I also think that anal sex, fantasy roleplaying, and female ejaculation are all vanilla (which doesn’t mean everyone who is “vanilla” has to engage in those practices).

Highly problematic, in my view.


    laloca 2013-05-27 05:48:24

    well said.


Desmond Ravenstone 2017-01-29 15:55:09

Hmmm … I’ve come to see sex as complicated enough that no “spectrum” does it justice. A gay man, for example, may feel personally “repulsed” by female genitals yet ranging from vanilla to fucked-up about anything with another male. Some folks may not like intercourse, but may enjoy nongenital kinky play. I’ve even encountered individuals who don’t like physical contact, but relish watching others get it on. So, to me, it’s more a complex symphony; nature writes a score for us, and we do the conducting.


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