Savage Love Letter of the Day: Thrilla In Vanilla


We can respect each other's dietary preferences even while we fully enjoy the places where they overlap -- just like I don't get to decide for you that you have to eat spicy foods, you don't get to decide for me that I have to not eat spicy foods.

And please don't conflate "I like spicy food" with "I don't like food that isn't spicy." If you're not into scorpion peppers, that's cool with me. I'll happily enjoy your subtle sweets and savories at home, and when the mood strikes I'll go to a like-minded friend's place for the hot stuff -- don't worry, you don't have to have any, and I'll even brush my teeth an extra time or two when I get home.
Or maybe we can make a date of it and go out to a restaurant -- you order what you want and I'll order what I want. Then we can head home and curl up with Netflix or whatever.
LW sounds like they'll be a lot of fun in future relationships.

By which I mean, they won't.
If any metaphor ever needed a safe word....
What a tortured analogy from someone who is clearly a complete pain in the ass to be around.
Dan, three months is not an insignificant amount of time in a dating relationship. I don't know about you, but by the three-month mark, I was already heavily emotionally invested in every meaningful romantic relationship I've ever had. Three months of dating, say just once a week, is 12 dates. But three months could easily be the equivalent of more than 30-40 dates. There is no way I could keep an emotional distance that long.

I agree with you that big things or potential deal=breakers should be disclosed very early on, but we seriously disagree with what constitutes "early."
Here's another wrinkle: what if someone has eaten mild food all their life and liked it okay, but then suddenly discovered that hey, actually, some kinds of spicy food can be really tasty?

But also, wow, the LW has some serious misconceptions about both kink and capsaicin. The idea that us spicy-food-lovers have damaged our taste buds and can no longer appreciate any flavours other than Burning Death is so ridiculous that I have to wonder if LW spends much time with actual humans. And as for the notion that kinksters have ridden the Sexcalator too high and can never return... well, Cliff Pervocracy has answered that better than I can:…
Peter Kovalsky @1: nicely done. But something tells me that the person who would describe vanilla as healthy and suggest that a love of kink blasts you to the subtle pleasures of the morally-superior vanilla isn't going to be open to non-monogamy.
@9 I know, and that's actually part of why I really like the diet analogy -- it makes it clear that while there's nothing wrong with having preferences or deciding to go vegetarian or whatever, it's ridiculous to expect those preferences or choices to automatically bind one's partner.

"I am monogamous" is identical in structure to "I am vegan" -- it's a statement about your own diet only, and can at most serve as a starting point for a conversation about your partner's diet. It's fine to be a vegan who only dates other vegans, but you don't get to expect veganism from anyone you might want to date, etc. Dating a nonmonogamous person doesn't make you less monogamous any more than dating a nonvegan would make you less vegan, and that's a crucial thing to be aware of because I think a lot of people regard opening their relationships as some assault on their identity as monogamous individuals.
Spicy meth trolling?
10,000 Flavors Of Vanilla

Let's see, there's
1) Missionary with eyes open
2) Missionary with eyes closed
3) Missionary with scented candles
4) Missionary with smooth jazz in the background
5) ...?
I agree that kinsters should disclose early. Frankly, I don't know why I am here reading Dan's page. I am about as vanilla as you can get. Most kinks appall me and some disgust me, however, I wish nothing but the best to those that get something out of them.

Let me say that if my long term partner rolled out some kink I would not be interested. I struggle enough with the borderline vanilla stuff that most people wouldn't even think about.
"Trying to introduce someone proudly vanilla to your kinks after they have emotionally invested in someone, is a violation of their personal boundaries and their right to stay as vanilla as they like."

What on earth is "proudly vanilla"? The sort of person who holds "vanilla power" marches and shouts obscenities towards people coming and going into sex positive retail stores?

Do and be who you are, but taking pride in liking p-v sex (¡escandalo!) and nothing else seems oddly confrontational.
@14: Well, with honest curiosity what does interest you about SL? Hearing other people become comfortable with themselves?
Well, I sense one kink in the LW: a giant stick of moral rectitude up the ass.

I also dismiss the premise that having spicy food/sex scorches one's palate, preventing one's desire or ability to indulge in and genuinely appreciate something more gently nuanced.
@15 I think it means they view themselves as above any of those perverts who *gasp* don't want to have missionary sex in the dark.

After all we're talking about a person who thinks that kinky people existing is some sort of 'attack' on them, because kinky people can't have vanilla sex or they'll turn into a fetish doll.
@18: It really does remind me of all the straight-pride white-priders, even devoid of the hate, is being thoroughly cookie cutter worth pride? Is not doing anything adventuresome, even realizing you don't like it something to champion? You don't have to be kinky, you can know who you are without making "mistakes" but geez, how boring well beyond sex. Be proud of exceptionalism in all facets of your life, not how average and mundane you are.
And yes, it's only being spoken so they can feel themselves superior of "moral" code.
@19 you tap on white people appropriate. Defiance of white cookie cutter bullshit.
LW lost me with (I'm assuming?) her snotty put down of spice eaters. I have a refined palate; I also enjoy spicy food. The two are not in opposition-- witness Indian food. It's true that my ability to enjoy subtler flavors diminishes after biting into something super spicy. But unlike sight and hearing, taste regenerates. I'm back to normal by the next meal.

In other words, that I like spicy food does not mean I can't enjoy non-spicy foods. Just like the kinkster is not necessarily precluded from enjoying vanilla sex. The kinkster may just have a wider sexual palate than Ms. Vanilla.
Early disclosure means before it gets too hot and heavy, whenever that may be. Different people progress at different paces, so it's important to honestly judge where you are, and what the other person is looking for. To do that, however, requires communication. Good communication means a healthy relationship, and a healthy relationship means mostly shared goals and attitudes. I'm not saying you need to be carbon copies of each other, but you need to be on the same page about the important stuff. Sex is one of the important "stuffs". Hiding a kink 'til your partner is too emotionally invested to break up without trauma is an asshole move. Get it out in the open early on. It's best for everyone. Why waste your time on a partner who doesn't share (or at least kindly tolerate) such an part of your personality?
@10: I don't think it works that way. "Monogamy" isn't generally something that only one person in the couple practices, unless either explicit negotiations have established this as a "poly/mono" relationship, or one person is being cheated on.

I would say that unless and until the couple has said they were exclusive, relationships should be presumed to be casual and thus no monogamy is expected but that at some point, the couple will want to define or negotiate the terms of the relationship, but a lot of people consider a relationship to be a monogamous relationship as soon as the couple starts having sex.

It never hurts to be explicit about your expectations and desires.
BTW, the sensory neurons that facilitate the sense of heat (and are temporarily blinded by capsaicin) are not the same ones that carry taste information. So go experience that heat/pain AND intense flavors at the same time, people! Be vanilla AND kinky!
Letter writer is not a big reader of Dan, that's obvious.

Ooooh, So I have a question if people don't mind. How do you separate if you just like kinky porn as opposed to actually being kinky? Cause there's a lot of crazy ass porn that I love to read/watch but I don't actually want to be tied up and gang banged by 10 bros. In my head it's hot, but in reality, not.
I'd love to have been a fly on the wall to hear the kinky reveal that prompted this diatribe to Dan. But on second thought, I don't want to think all that much about spending time in LW's bedroom... or kitchen.
@25: Maybe they're also allergic to other fun things that release endorphins.

"Exercise is for jerks!"
@26: Plenty of stuff that's much more fun in mind versus execution!
One interesting conclusion of the study (you can read the whole paper for free) is that kinksters seem to be broadly distributed across demographic categories. That is, men and women are comparably kinky, as are straights and queers, etc. etc.
"Interestingly, these clusters did not simply regroup persons with specific socio‐demographic factors generally associated with higher diversity of sexual practices (e.g., being male, younger, bi‐or homosexual orientation, with a higher educational attainment; see the introduction). For instance, half of “paraphilic” clusters were predominantly women."

@22: Exactly. I love spicy food, but I'm just as happy with some massaman curry as with panang curry.

@26, 29: tangle threshold
Do people still define "vanilla" as "nothing but missionary in the dark"? That seems incredibly outdated. After all, non-kinky GLBT folk describe themselves as "vanilla", don't they?
Well. I thought seeing most people date via the Internet, that they disclose their kinks upfront, in order to attract people who also enjoy said kink.
Otherwise, yes, I agree a kink should be disclosed early on, avoid wasting everyone's time. Not sure why the LW made a moral issue about it.
What if someone develops an interest in a kink, mid relationship.
That's possible.
Don't know why you've got your knickers in a knot about this LW.
I get the sense that the LW blames (credits) Dan with the invention of kink....and that her food reference might be related to her husband of 37 years announcing during a dinner party that he's actively bisexual & has discovered piss play. Ya know, the kind of thing that causes a dinner party to be unforgettable for everyone in attendance. (Especially the wife who is stuck washing dishes when her husband leaves the house in rubber.)
Seriously, why is the LW scolding Dan? Did her relationship implode from a disclosure session that began with, "Dan Savage says that....."?
There's disagreement about the definition of early but It seems we all, including LW, agree that disclosing early in the relationship is the best idea.

The LWs worldview has no place in it for those that discover late in life that they are kinky. It is less often today because Internet but the scene is FILLED with people who discovered kink in their 40s or 50s or later. It's also filled with people that didn't realize they were kinky until a partner exposed them to it.

To outright vilify people on their journey by presuming the only possible reason was deceit and manipulation says more about the LW (unknowingly dated a kinky spice lover?) than it does about those people.
@33: Maybe just insecurity?

@34: "The LWs worldview has no place in it for those that discover late in life that they are kinky."

Or discovering whatever in the process of a safe, trusting, happy relationship.

"To outright vilify people on their journey by presuming the only possible reason was deceit and manipulation says more about the LW (unknowingly dated a kinky spice lover?) than it does about those people."

Yeah, I don't know if it even has anything to do with an especially kinky partner.
@15: LW's self-righteousness aside (pooh pooh), I can see a certain virtue in having a clear sense of one's boundaries and putting one's foot down on what one doesn't want. "Proudly vanilla" in the sense of "No, I won't do that thing you saw in porn" seems to be worthwhile to me.

This is coming from a person who tried maybe a little too hard to be GGG and ended up going further down a certain rabbit hole than I ever wanted to go, sacrificing my comfort for someone else's fantasy. It also springs to mind in light of the recent discussion of how anak is now more widely expected, and people questioning whether the LW was really sure she didn't like it.

"Proudly not into anal," in the right context, wouldn't condemn those who enjoy anal, but rather celebrate knowing one's own limits and having the spine to speak up and say "no." I imagine "proudly vanilla" could be used in the same sense, though the LW may have soured everyone's palates to the phrase.
I dig your confidence, but confidence is not pride, which takes some sort of personal achievement in (not your backbone and self-protection), but a feeling of superiority.

Be proud of who you are, not feel superior to what you're not.
Hmm, so today is Monday. Let me guess, this came in Friday, right? What was the date Friday?
Likes bland sex and bland food; has poor reading comprehension; is vociferously opinionated.

What a catch!
@XiaoGui17: I can see a certain virtue in having a clear sense of one's boundaries.

Yes, it's good to know and accept your limits.

But pride? Isn't being "proudly vanilla" sort of like being proud that you never left your home town?

LW isn't mad at Dan because he advocates late disclosure of kinks, because he clearly hasn't. LW is mad because Dan has normalized kink, which reduces the market value of her sexuality and takes away her power to slut-shame men for wanting more than she has to offer.
There ought to be more onus on the vanilla party to reveal early on in the relationship if they're closed-minded about kink. I hope LW reveals in a timely manner to every new partner that he/she is a frumpy scold who lacks imagination, clings to a bunch of tired prejudices and bizarrely outdated misconceptions, and is really clumsy with metaphors.
Oh, Sean @12. That's a challenge. Perhaps I will take it up later on, after my evening spliff.

10,000 sounds like a judgmental prick. First, there's his inaccurate characterisation of kinksters as "unhealthy"; secondly, there's his description of himself (I assume anyone this douchey is a man -- whoops, is that sexist?) as "proudly vanilla", as if one's preferences in this area should be a point of pride? Hello unchecked privilege; and thirdly, I'll switch genders now, because this douche might be a woman, what if it takes a while for the person to discover their kinks? What, they should break up with the person they've been happily coupled with for two or five years instead of bringing up this new interest to see if their partner might be interested too? Sure, in an ideal world, disclose early; but this world is a lot messier than you, Mx Vanilla Flavoured Douche, presume.
31-ShifterCat-- Good point. I didn't think I had anything to say on this topic, but you've got me wondering. How are we defining vanilla? Does it mean only straight missionary? Does it mean an absence of kink? Or does it mean an absence of kink that aligns with one's partner's? I have some sympathy with 10,000 if s/he has run into someone who has depicted vanilla as boring and unsatisfying, maybe someone who can only get off in one sledge-hammer way, one who, when it's Kinky's turn to satisfy Vanilla thinks a quick job of missionary is all that's called for. It's possible for Kinky not be GGG, and that might be 10,000's real complaint.
I think most people define "vanilla" as "less kinky than I am."
I think that seatackled nailed it @38. D'oh!
@24: "I would say that unless and until the couple has said they were exclusive, relationships should be presumed to be casual and thus no monogamy is expected but that at some point, the couple will want to define or negotiate the terms of the relationship, but a lot of people consider a relationship to be a monogamous relationship as soon as the couple starts having sex.

It never hurts to be explicit about your expectations and desires.

I agree, though I think the last sentence applies very strongly to the first--if you're one of the people who doesn't go in for Implied Default Monogamy, that should probably be mentioned on the first date.

A lot* of people's default assumption seems to be that if you're on a date with someone, that means you're single, and think of "single" as meaning "not close enough to anyone to be having sex with them."

*Source: Decades of hearing people complain about this, from both sides. Now if only I could get them to complain to each other instead of to me, it seems like everyone's problems would solve themselves.
#37 - "Be proud of who you are, not feel superior to what you're not.” Nailed it.
Back when I lived in Seattle, I’d read the Stranger Personals, still regretful I didn’t answer a few of them....One that still sticks in my mind, the poster had ARE YOU INTO ANAL? across the top, under that was THEN FUCK OFF! Don’t remember most of the rest, what she was into, but I do remember thinking, damn, wouldn’t touch that one with a barge pole, and not because I wouldn’t be delving between her gleaming buttocks.
There’s a point where declaring your likes and dislikes devolves to anger.
@42: I'm sure women can be smug and sneer with the best of them, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

@40: Yeah, well past vanilla to "sexual townie" territory.
I've been on several first dates during which I had to explain that I was casually dating and that I assumed he was, too.
I had one man express disbelief when I said, after we made out on a first date, that it was fine with me if he was having sex with other people. He said every woman he'd ever dated assumed that if there was kissing involved, the relationship was exclusive and monogamous. I was gob-smacked.

Dan has consistently advocated for rolling out a kink or a medical condition or a poly status early, but not too quickly, on the grounds that it gives someone who might otherwise have a knee-jerk negative reaction time to get to really know you so as to presumably counter that auto-reply with other information.

While I don't think we should start each first date with a list of potential non-starters, I think that if there are things about you that you have a reasonable expectation would be a big deal to others, or non-standard things you require in a partner, it behooves you to have that conversation or to disclose very, very early indeed. Save everyone time and potential anger/disappointment of getting invested in a relationship that will ultimately surely be ended when the info comes out.

The fact is that many of us have hard limits that aren't going to be overcome no matter how much we get to know the person before they're disclosed. Some people's situations require more adaptability than others and some of our insistences are only insistences in an ideal world. But you should weigh the strength of your attachment to your atypical thing and the likelihood of its being on someone's deal-breaker list and disclose accordingly, disclosing sooner the more important your atypical-likely-deal-breaker is. No matter how much I like someone, if he tells me he needs to have excrement be part of sex for him, I am not going to want to date him. If he knows that he needs to have something as atypical and extreme as incorporating excrement into sex, then it is a good idea to tell someone that sooner rather than later (by which I mean before they have sex), because there's a good chance that if he withholds that and reveals it three months in to a relationship, by which time they've really been bonding and having sex, his partner is going to be upset and is not going to be able to accommodate him.

But if your kink is that you like to be peed on once in a while, and you are capable of taking your time to help a reluctant partner get there or you know that you and your partner don't demand ore expect total monogamy, so you could get that kink met elsewhere, you could hold off on the disclosure a bit longer.

Ms Fan - I suppose going to gendre-neutral is switching, but you could have said "her" once. Otherwise, well played.


I'm mainly on Ms Cute's side about the workings of monogamy. There are enough ramifications that I can see how it would strike some people as an assault.
Eudaemonic @46: These are two different, but related, things. "I am not now, nor will I ever be, available for a monogamous relationship" must be stated as up front as possible, on the first date if not before. Ideally in one's online profile or immediately after the first snog. "I expect that you and I are now sexually exclusive" is several dates down the line.

Agree with Nocute. One fuck does not a relationship make, and certainly not a monogamous one.
@51: That's a little sideways to where I was going; I was describing is, not ought. As Nocute put it: "He said every woman he'd ever dated assumed that if there was kissing involved, the relationship was exclusive and monogamous."

That experience matches mine, with a couple of notable exceptions (like if she sees you kiss someone else in the first couple of date, but those are unusual circumstances). If you're one of the person who doesn't make that assumption, and isn't interested in abiding by it, that's the kind of thing people should be up-front about. Going into it with very different assumptions and not clarifying it--in a way that gives you the freedom to fuck other people, but doesn't give them that--seems pretty sketchy. Letting someone think they're in a monogamous relationship with you when they aren't is basically never the right thing to do.

Exceptions, of course, if you're in a cultural milieu where casually dating multiple people is normal. Or where poop-sex is, I guess.

And no, I don't know how or why everyone makes the assumptions they do, but that doesn't matter. If they'd consider it cheating, the ethical choices are to either not do it, or not date them.
Thanks a lot, BDF @42. Now I can't get "Vanilla Flavoured Douche" out of my head, and this is a work day!

Unless and until one party proposes (and the other agrees to) an exclusive relationship, I agree that the default assumption should be that both dating partners are free to see other people.
TL, DR: What matters isn't your definition of a relationship, it's theirs. Saying "I know we've been married fifteen years, but I don't really consider that a relationship under some unusual definitions that I never disclosed" doesn't make it okay that I sold our house without mentioning it to you.

If they think they're in a relationship with you, it's on you to refrain from exploiting them. Even if you think they were dumb to be so damn exploitable.
@51: "I am not now, nor will I ever be, available for a monogamous relationship" must be stated as up front as possible, on the first date if not before. Ideally in one's online profile or immediately after the first snog. "I expect that you and I are now sexually exclusive" is several dates down the line.

For some people, non-monogamy is a deal-breaker, but they still don't assume that a first date makes for launching into a monogamous relationship. For some, non-monogamy isn't necessarily a relationship-ender; for some, it's their own preferred style. Those are two different things, two different conversations to have. One needs to happen at the outset; the other, only if it gets to a certain point.
Thanks, @53. Eudaemonic, I'm sorry, but if someone is assuming that I'm going to be sexually exclusive with them after just a date or two and no discussion of what we both want/where the relationship is going, that massive leap in expectations is their fault, not mine. We're talking about a couple of dates. We're not talking about three months in. If you get to the point where you're seeing each other on a regular basis, then yeah, it certainly behooves one or both of the interested parties to bring up the where-is-this-relationship-going discussion. Until you have that, how on earth am I supposed to know that someone "thinks they're in a relationship with me"?

In practice, I've had very few problems with my presume-casual-dating-until-we-establish-otherwise approach. And no, assuming that the person I'm dating is an adult capable of using their words isn't "exploiting them." Please refrain from hyperbole; it really doesn't help the discussion.
nocute @24:
It never hurts to be explicit about your expectations and desires.
This is so true, about everything, that they should just make posters of it and plaster it all over the damn place. It's human nature, I think, to assume other people mean the same thing as you when they use the same words ("relationship," for instance), or engage in the same behaviors (kissing on a date). But it's just not true a lot of the time, and it doesn't require any deception to end up in an unhappy place.

Also, nocute, points for using "gobsmacked."

About pride. I guess I'm in the minority, but I think you should be proud of things you accomplished, not things that just happened to you. For instance, I find it irritating when someone says "I'm proud to be American," as if they planned to be American and worked at it. (Of course, logically this makes "gay pride" feel silly to me, too, but then I think of it as a declaration equivalent to "I'm not ashamed," and that's perfectly reasonable.)

I want to say something like "there's nothing wrong with being vanilla," except secretly I almost think there is. Or, more precisely, there's something wrong with never trying anything new. If you try it and don't like it, okay, fair enough. But if you never even try--well, then I think that's like seandr's analogy @40 of never moving away from your home town. You can do that, but you'll be a less interesting and less well-rounded person later on. At the very least leave for a while and then come back with a better understanding of other people...

The same applies to spicy food, dammit. There are huge ranges of experience available for each of our senses--and we are so lucky to be sensing, feeling creatures--you should be trying to take as much in as you can!
Ciods @56: I want to say something like "there's nothing wrong with being vanilla," except secretly I almost think there is. Or, more precisely, there's something wrong with never trying anything new.

Well, hmm. I don't think kinky sex acts are the equivalent of food or travel here. I think it's possible for a person to inherently know they have no desire to be slapped around and called a slut, or that they'd feel ridiculous wearing the lingerie of the opposite sex, or that they really like touching and seeing their partner and that bondage/blindfolding would ruin this for them. Unlike food, whose taste we can't know without actually eating it, people have fantasies and porn to inform their sexual likes and dislikes[1]. I think it's unfair to say a person has to submit to torture before they can viably claim torture isn't for them. Or that a man can't definitively claim to be straight if he hasn't sucked a cock to see what it's like, which is pretty much the same thing. I do agree new experiences and being GGG are generally good, but I don't agree that a person should feel obligated to try kinky acts that repulse them.

[1] Reutte's point @26 about potential disconnects between porn kink and real-life kink is well taken.
@55: "...that massive leap in expectations is their fault, not mine."

If you know they're making an assumption, and you know that almost everyone makes that assumption, and you choose to take actions that you know will hurt them, and pretend your actions are their fault for leaving loopholes, well, exploiting them is exactly what you're doing.

This whole "Ha ha! I never promised not to sell your car when you said I could borrow it for a day!" stuff is bullshit.

If you decide to hurt someone, that's on you, not on them. "You should've defended yourself better!" doesn't work as well as you're hoping.
I agree with Ms Fan's conclusion without thinking that Ms Ods meant to imply that gold star monosexuals are necessarily insufficiently experienced. The interesting point is figuring out how to take Ms Ods' post, start at point A, and somehow manage not to arrive inevitably at Point B.
Yes, I suppose I was unclear. I did not mean that you should have to try any given thing--I agree there are some things you'll know beforehand you won't like. I don't think I need to sleep with girls, for instance, to know that I am not into that; neither does Venn ;) I do think, though, that there are people who don't want to try *anything* that wasn't already in their playlist, people who are certain they won't like anything new--and that, I think, is problematic and narrow-minded. You can have a set of "hell no"s, and a set of "hell yes"s, and then there should be a quite large middle set of "maybe"s. The LW sounded to me like someone who applies "hell no" to anything that isn't a "hell yes." And I think that that makes for an unispiring partner--dinner or sexual.
And--just to undo any clarity I added--I'm not sure it really isn't the same as food and travel. I know people who are sure they wouldn't like France, for instance. From what I know of them, they're right, they wouldn't. But I still think there's something to be said for going anyway--for allowing depth to be added to a situation which is being approached very one-dimensionally. And I think that might almost be said for some sex acts, too. Not things you would find traumatizing, exactly, but there are things I didn't think I'd like--and that in the end I didn't love--but that I'm glad I tried because it gave me a greater understanding of myself as well as the people who do like that stuff.
A few people have raised the question, but nobody has weighed in with suggestions for answers: what constitutes "kinky?" Obviously vanilla/kinky exist on a spectrum, but I'm curious about where different people put various sex acts on the spectrum. We are probably not a very representative sample, but what the hell. I'd say that all the basic PIV positions are vanilla, anything that doesn't involve being upside or having to hold some sort of stress position. Oral sex is vanilla. Anal sex and rimming? Edging towards the middle of the spectrum but I don't think most people would call themselves "a kinkster" just because they enjoy anal occasionally. Fisting? Water sports? Spanking? Blindfolds? Handcuffs? All seem to be to be kinky acts, but still not enough to take on "kinky" as a self-descriptor. I guess I wouldn't consider someone kinky unless it is really a part of their identity -and lifestyle, or maybe unless they have a fetish so strong that they can't/won't have vanilla sex at all.
@62: Why even bother trying to define it objectively when the LW may not agree? Perhaps anything not through a hole in a sheet is "freaky" to them?

Everyone is a "deviant" to someone else. Even the squares...
I don't know any modern culture except maybe high school or fundamentalist Christianity where *everyone* presumes that a few dates=Serious Relationship Times. (I guess there are also the sort of things where we've been super-close friends for so long that any romantic contact is a huge deal, but if we're talking acquaintance/blind date/bar pickup/etc? Nooo.) Honestly, if I dated, and if my date took a couple makeout sessions as evidence that we were totes serious and exclusive now, I would drop that person like they were on fire and run away: not because I don't do exclusive, though I don't, as because that person does not have a modern adult sense of boundaries, and fuck that noise.

So: disclose kink/poly/whatevs a little before the time you'd want to start calling someone your "girlfriend", introducing him to your parents, etc. If someone expects you to start that stuff after two dates or a couple sessions in bed, extricate yourself quickfast and stop fucking teenagers and/or the Amish.
To add: I don't think it ever *hurts* to mention hey-we're-not-exclusive or hey-I-dig-rough-trade earlier, but it's not an obligation until you're actually dating, which is not the same as "I've had my hand down your pants a few times" for most of us once we're out of eighth grade. (See also: not calling someone back after a couple OKC meetups isn't "ghosting", it' dating works, get over it.)
From one of Dan’s sources:

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), a sexual fantasy (SF) is paraphilic if it concerns activities outside the realm of “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physically mature, consenting human partners” (normophilic). Intensity of the paraphilic SF is also “greater than or equal to normophilic interests.” Surprisingly, however, very few data are available to corroborate that definition of a paraphilic SF.…

Normophilic fantasies by this definition would include clothespins, electrostim and sounding, as they stimulate the genitals.
What is the correct point in a relationship to roll out to your partner that you are an insufferable a-hole?
@65: Maybe it's true that "not calling someone back after a couple OKC meetups isn't "ghosting", it' dating works," but it's also confusing to the person who has called and obviously expects to be called back, and it is discourteous. If you meet someone for coffee as a first meeting and there's a mutual lack of interest, that's one thing; If a date ends with the vague and mutual "it was nice to meet you," no one needs to contact the other person. But if you go out a couple of times and have been in contact, or if one person is clearly trying to keep communication going so as to set up another date, I think the courteous thing to do if you're not interested is to send a quick message saying, Hey, funwithrage, I'm glad we met up and saw "Godzilla vs. the Smog-Monster" last week. While I think you are a very nice guy, I'm just not really feeling it, and don't think we're a good match, so I'm going to wish you all the best and move along. Take care, Nocutename It's not necessary; it's just good manners.

I have a hamster in my head that gets set off by mixed messages. If someone drops off the face of the earth when it seems like everything is going swimmingly; when someone says, "I'll call you" and doesn't, it sets the hamster on his wheel. I appreciate honesty and directness and not having to guess what someone means or how he feels. And even though it means that sometimes I have to have an uncomfortable moment when I write the "not feeling it; best of luck" text or email or chat message or whatever, I feel like it's the mature and considerate thing to do, so I work up the guts and take the five minutes and do it. And then I don't get the endless calls or texts I have to ignore because both of us know where we stand.
@58. Mr E. You good at mind reading?
"If you know they are making that assumption. " that's the thing, unless they vocalize such assumptions, one can't know they have them. And if they vocalize, then one can set them straight.
Eudaemonic @58: "If you know they're making an assumption, and you know that almost everyone makes that assumption..."

But I don't know that they're making that assumption. In my experience -- and I appreciate that yours has been different -- nearly everyone I've casually dated was well aware, and also read the situation, as we are casually dating until it becomes obvious this is going to develop into something. I can think of two misunderstandings in my dating history -- well, three, including one when I was 19 and on the opposite end of the mismatched assumptions. That's two out of dozens. It's generally obvious when someone is getting more attached than you are and that's when you need to have the talk.

And see @53a (why are there two 53s?), @64 and @69 for evidence that not everyone makes or expects people to make that assumption.

Lava @69: Oh, Mr E fancies himself an expert at mind reading. He'll probably say I'm lying in the first paragraph, because it doesn't suit his preconception of me.

I agree: IF you observe that someone is behaving as if they believe things are more serious than you intend, it's cruel to let them believe that while behaving as though you are merely (non-exclusively by definition) casually dating or fuck buddies. But generally I have not observed this, and when I have, I have used my words to clarify things.
Gueralinda @62: Are you after a definition of kinky acts or kinky people?
I would say kinky people self-define as such; I'd define it roughly as if your preference is for kinky sex the majority of the time, or if kink is a large part of your life (regular at fetish clubs, munches etc), you're a kinky person.

I'd include in vanilla sex: pretty much anything that doesn't involve props, pain, role-playing, or dominance and submission. That includes sex with hands, oral, PIV, PIA, any position, lights on or off, in a different room, standing, gay sex in the above categories, her wearing lingerie, shower sex, watching vanilla porn. Sliding up the kinky scale are mirrors, furry handcuffs, vibrators, threesomes, pegging, spanking with a hand, calling someone bitch or daddy, watching kinky porn. Those would be mildly kinky. Properly kinky: "Forced" anything, heavy bondage, him cross dressing, humiliation, BDSM, fetishes (other than a foot fetish -- that's in the mild category)... well, I think we all know "properly kinky" when we see it :)
@65/@68: I'm somewhere in the middle on "ghosting." If you've been out on a couple of dates, haven't made plans for the next date (and have NOT made out or more), and don't really want a next date, so you don't text, and neither do they, no harm no foul. If they DO get in touch, you owe them a "sorry, things aren't clicking for me" reply. And if you HAVE made out or more, you definitely owe them a goodbye text or message. Fuck-and-run is just rude.
Eud @53: "What matters isn't your definition of a relationship, it's theirs."

So you're saying that your definition of a relationship is the only one that matters. If that's the case, why isn't it on you to state on the first date "If you kiss me, this means we're exclusive." The only question then is just how fast they're gonna run.
@72: Yes, if the other person gets in touch with you, it is rude to just not respond. But's not uncommon.
I think whether or not the default assumption is exclusivity after a few dates will probably vary from state to state (and country to country). In fact I expect it varies within states. In urban areas it may be that a hand down the pants doesn't imply anything; in some rural areas it may be otherwise. This is why, again, nocute's statement about being explicit is the best advice.
Got here too late, so may be repeating others:
Here's a no-more-closeted "crossdresser" who agrees that kinks are better revealed in the earlier stages.
One thing that could have helped me back then was knowing that there are quite a few other "people like myself," and that my "tendencies" will be respected or at least tolerated by society.
#72 Bi - I approve of your rules.
So shall it be written, so shall it be done!
nocutename @24 >> "Monogamy" isn't generally something that only one person in the couple practices" >>

Agreed. One person in a relationship suddenly announcing they're non-monogamous is like one person suddenly announcing they've lost interest in sex. It totally affects the relationship between the partners. That's not to say it's immoral, just that it should be the starting point for a reassessment of the whole relationship and whether the two people are still compatible.

nocutename @49: I can see sensible reasons to reveal kinks or other private information before sex, but if it doesn't involve immediately breaking the law or exposing them to disease, then I don't think there's a moral or ethical obligation to do so.

My date might well prefer to know before sex that I'm infertile, Republican, non-monogamous, religious, bisexual, pro-choice, transgender, very emotional, lazy, alcoholic, or into diaper play, but I don't see that I have an obligation to spend the first date(s) revealing everything about myself (and hearing all about the other person's quirks and traits). Some of it may come out, or we may spend the time flirting and building up sexual tension.

My bright line is that I think private stuff should be revealed before saying "I love you."
Erica @78: My bright line is that I think private stuff should be revealed before saying "I love you."

Whoa! That's WAY too late. I'd say potential dealbreakers must be revealed long before either party can reasonably be thinking "I love you." Because by the time I'm ready to say it, I've been vested in them for a good long time. And I might be vested in a lie.

I'd say it's obligatory to reveal dealbreakers when you're certain you want to see this person on an ongoing basis.
... But it depends on the dealbreaker in question. Non-monogamous, trans (particularly if non-op), non-negotiable kinks should be disclosed before you even have sex. Infertile/don't want children/do want children, important kinks, personal history, discuss when you feel casual dating is likely to develop into a relationship.
Late to this but I really like the idea of vanilla people also "disclosing." In fact, using the term "disclose" in reference to kink seems inappropriate. It's like having to "come out" as not straight, which is a result of the bullshit assumption that we're all straight in the first place. Instead of urging people to disclose their kinks early on, how about "sexual partners should have a frank and open discussion about each others' sexual preferences" early on. I would guess that never wanting to spice things up a bit and being unwilling to renegotiate / explore sexual boundaries would be a deal breaker for most.
@67: "What is the correct point in a relationship to roll out to your partner that you are an insufferable a-hole?"

Date three. If you lay that card on the table too early, they might not believe you.
@81: "It's like having to "come out" as not straight, which is a result of the bullshit assumption that we're all straight in the first place."

That assumption is not bullshit. Almost everyone is straight. You don't have to like it, but you do have to live in a world where it's the truth. It's best to plan accordingly.
Reported for being an abusive troll.
@83 That's obnoxious - that the majority of people act a certain way doesn't mean it's ok or good or desirable to assume that all children will grow up to be that way, certainly not to the point where they feel like they have to make a special announcement every time they deviate from the norm.
Not that you deserve an explanation, but I'll put it in terms a twelve-year-old could understand.

In this hypothetical, we are discussing a difference of opinion. My opinion is that casual dating should be presumed casual in the very early stages. Your opinion is the opposite.

We are on opposite sides of the discussion.

So the person who believes casual is casual = "me," and the person who believes casual is serious = "you".

You therefore have set up "you" in the position of the wounded victim of assumed casuality. Therefore, "your" opinion, being the opposite of mine, is the only one that matters.

If you don't mean "your" opinion, if you mean third parties' opinions, I reiterate that neither you nor I know what those opinions are until we ask.

Quoting yourself @52: "Exceptions, of course, if you're in a cultural milieu where casually dating multiple people is normal." In every cultural milieu I've lived in, casual dating is 100% normal, and therefore, so is my behaviour. QED.
@Eudaemonic Just for funsies I read your spat with BiDanFan - I see a pattern here, namely unjustified assumptions about other people. Almost everyone assumes sexual exclusivity after a few dates? I don't think so. Regardless of the prevalence of said dating preference, if you are the one doing the assuming, then it' on you when your assumptions are wrong. Establishing the parameters of a relationship is something best done out loud, with words, with all parties involved. Going on a few dates with someone and seeing other people at the same time means she's exploiting them? Seriously? And actually you are saying that if you are in a relationship then your opinion about the nature of that relationship, regardless of whether you've shared said opinion, is what matters most. BiDanFan isn't being a lying dipshit, she's interpreting your comment about a hypothetical relationship to imply that you expect the same thing in your actual relationships, and I would interpret it the same way.

You assume far too much about people, and that's your problem, not theirs. Assuming everyone is straight and everyone you have a couple nice nights out with and kiss is exclusively seeing you are poor assumptions and anyone who makes them does so at their own peril.
BiDanFan@79, why does someone have to mention that they're trans, or kinky, or non-monogamous before sex? Alerting one's prospective sex partner about an STI and mentioning that one is, say, underage (so sex would be criminal) -- those makes sense to me, as moral obligations.

If the other person is happy to jump in bed quickly, without really getting to know each other in depth, how have I harmed them by having sex with them?

And what is the difference between a non-negotiable kink and an important kink, in your view? If non-negotiable means it has to happen every time, then, yes, that should be disclosed before sex. But if non-negotiable means that I need it in my life sometimes (but I won't be asking you to do it on our sex romp), then why does it need to be revealed before sex?
@88: "You assume far too much about people, and that's your problem, not theirs. "

You're assuming I've never interacted with BDF before, and am unfamiliar with her pattern of deciding that consent stops mattering the moment it becomes inconvenient to her personally. She got her two chances, same as everyone else.

"And actually you are saying that if you are in a relationship then your opinion about the nature of that relationship, "

Why did you tell this lie? Seriously, why? It is exactly the opposite of what I said, you know it, and I pointed it out, before BDF decided to leverage institutional power to silence people telling her the truth.

"Their" does not mean "my." "Their" does not mean "your." I can't even imagine the depths of sheer bewildering dishonesty that makes you think that bullshit is at all convincing. If you need to lie in order to support your position, your position is wrong.

No one who is right needs to lie.
No one who is right needs to call other people lying dipshits.

I've observed more than one pattern:
- Assuming one's own experience is universally lived experience. Anyone who claims their experience is different is "lying."
- Assuming, in the face of contrary evidence, that "nearly everyone" is monogamous and vanilla by nature.
- Assuming that everyone assumes that everyone is monogamous and vanilla by nature, and if you purport that actually, you don't assume this, because that hasn't been your experience, you're lying.
- Engaging in such ridiculous levels of hyperbole as to render any point you're trying to make preposterous.
- Hurling invectives that include the words "shit" and "lie" when you begin untenably losing an argument.
- Having absolutely no idea what the word "lie" means.
Erica @89: "why does someone have to mention that they're trans, or kinky, or non-monogamous before sex?

Good question. I would clarify these as things one should mention before dating, rather than before sex. If it's a random hookup, then no, I don't think you should have similar disclosure obligations. Except maybe to say that there's a penis where that person might not be expecting one.

A non-negotiable kink would mean, like the diaper guy, they're not going to want to have sex without it. An important kink is something that they really want in their lives at least occasionally, and that they'd prefer to outsource or break up rather than go without. A non-negotiable kink should be disclosed earlier because a person deserves to have some idea of what to expect from that first sexual encounter. An important kink, only if you think you may proceed to being the only person that partner is having sex with.
Oh! I forgot
- Complete confidence in own ability to read minds, despite nearly always getting it laughably wrong.
Agreeing with @72, more or less. (Fuck-and-run can be the norm in bar hookups, Craigslist/Tinder casual encounters, frat parties, etc--you can try to get in touch if you want, but I think the unspoken assumption there is "one night stand".) I guess it depends on how many dates is "a few". For me, up to three is "if they don't call back, you know the score", and I'd rather just have an uninterested guy vanish at that point than do the So I Don't Like You That Way dance. After that, you kind of do have to get into it, even with the OKC randos.

I think nonmonogamy comes as part of the "dating" (as opposed to "going on a date"; life is confusing) conversation, which around here usually happens after having sex at least a few times. It's defining-the-relationship, and after a certain age, "relationship" comes well after "fucking." (As with the above case, if a guy I'd kissed a few times started calling me his girlfriend, I would probably end things, although dating a time traveler from 1947 could have its upsides.)
@93 I can see good reason to mention a huge clit or a micro penis before the clothes come off. Likewise a huge scar on your thigh, or a prosthetic leg. But it doesn't seem morally obligatory. Just probably a good idea.
Not much to add, but one more vote here for: "vanilla people ought to disclose their kink-phobic nature early". One of the bitterest pills in life is that everything defaults to lowest-common-denominator: monogamous vanilla sex is but one of those things.
Fun @95: Yes, you're right. I'd forgotten that some people intentionally have one-night stands. Those are, by definition, no strings attached.
Erica @96: This is why I don't wear a Wonderbra. When I take it off, you Wonder where my tits went. ;)
Oh look! Comment @84 was removed for its abusive trollery. Thank you, Stranger staff!
It will remain to be seen whether its author is also removed for his pattern of abusive trollery. I live in hope. At least Marcelina was a big enough person to remove herself when it became obvious the rest of us wouldn't put up with her inappropriate behaviour.
Oh look. In case anyone thinks SLOGgers' views can be discarded as not representative of the general public, there's this:…

LW: "Now I’m seeing someone pretty consistently, and I think marriage is a possibility in the future, but meanwhile, he has been pressing me for a serious commitment since pretty much Day One. I feel like this is something that makes sense to the general public, but not to me: Until we are both pretty sure where this is headed, why (other than basic jealousy, which I don’t think should be indulged) should I want to make an exclusive commitment?"

Carolyn Hax: "No, pressure to commit doesn’t make sense to the general public, or to you, because agreeing under pressure to a commitment you’re not otherwise ready to make is never a good idea for anybody. ... I’d urge you not to invest any more time in someone who doesn’t already get this on a basic level, but it could be he’s never been called on this behavior and therefore never stepped back far enough to recognize it as unhealthy. ... It’s also important to know that pressure for a quick commitment is a classic tactic of abusers."
@66 Normophilic fantasies by this definition would include clothespins, electrostim and sounding, as they stimulate the genitals.

I'd forgotten how much I like the way you think!!