Vanilla Sex: What Is It and What Does It Actually Mean?

Coined by the kink community to distinguish conventional sex from the not-so-conventional, vanilla sex is otherwise known as ‘just plain sex’. If you asked twenty different people what they think ‘vanilla sex’ is, you’d likely get twenty different answers. 

Not just missionary

Many people assume vanilla sex is pretty, well, vanilla. Standard positions and such. But it’s not. A survey done by VICE found that the most common terms associated with vanilla sex were “missionary”, “hand jobs”, “oral”, “basic” and “doggy style”. A lot of people associate vanilla sex with standard “baby-making sex”. 

What makes vanilla sex, well vanilla, is the absence of bondage, spanking, name calling and anything that would fall under the kink umbrella. But that doesn’t mean vanilla sex is strictly missionary.

Couple in vanilla sex act
Source: Bigstock

Not as conventional as you may think 

There are  a lot of things that fall under the vanilla sex umbrella that you may not think to do: This includes: 

  • Being naked together
  • Kissing
  • Stroking
  • Mutual masturbation
  • Wearing lingerie
  • Oral
  • Anal**
  • Soft dirty talk
  • Different positions
  • More than two people*

Yes. vanilla sex can involve more than two people

Sex is something that’s meant to be enjoyed. It can be about more than procreation.

* Because relationship dynamics can be more than two persons (throuples, polyamory, triads, open relationships), Vanilla sex isn’t restricted to just two-person couples.

** Some of the acts listed above can be considered vanilla because same-sex couples and more, experience sex differently to heterosexual couples. 

What isn’t vanilla sex?

In general, threesomes when you are not in an open relationship or more than one person relationship can borderline on kink. Other terms most often associated with non-vanilla include: 

  • BDSM 
  • Bondage
  • Spanking
  • Whips and chains
  • Costumes 
  • Specific fetishes 
  • Toys 
  • Choking
  • Anal (for heterosexual couples) 

Am I a prude for liking vanilla sex?

Absolutely not. Kink isn’t for everyone, and vanilla isn’t for everyone. There is no shame in enjoying conventional sex. Sex is a personal thing and doesn’t have to have whips and chains to excite you. 50 Shades of Grey put BDSM on the map in a way it hadn’t been before. People watched hardcore porn, movies with rougher sex and read books with BDSM elements, but it didn’t really become mainstream until 50 Shades.

After this, kink became popular and conventional sex was seen as boring, unimaginative, and sad, which is absolutely not true. It seemed like every woman and her bestie were discussing the attributes of the dominant Grey without noticing all the red flags and wanting to be dominated in the bedroom.

Vanilla sex isn't for everyone
Sure, vanilla sex isn’t for everyone, so don’t be concerned if you seek more. Source: Bigstock

So many people enjoy conventional sex. It’s a great way to develop intimacy and can give you a different kind of connection than kinky sex. All types of consensual sex can be fulfilling and satisfying.

The problem with sex still being considered a ‘taboo’, behind-closed-doors subject, is that everyone is looking for a sex barometer to know if they’re doing it right or wrong. And not many people openly discuss what they like and don’t like. This rings especially true for people who enjoy conventional sex. It’s not unusual for someone to say they enjoy conventional sex and be seen as a prude or as frigid or weak. Some people embellish so it seems like they are more risqué than they really are. Basically, unless what you’re doing is illegal, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy sex.

No one should make you feel awkward or embarrassed about what you like to do or not do or if you like to talk about it or not.

Communication is universal

Consent is key. It doesn’t matter how conventional or kinky your sex is. If you don’t have enthusiastic, ongoing consent, it isn’t sex.

Take the time to get to know yourself and what you like or don’t like. Read some vanilla or BDSM romance novels. Watch some porn (especially the porn made by women for women). Google different types of sex.

  • Be open about what you like and don’t like
  • Talk to your partner
  • Share fantasies
  • Share boundaries
  • Be open to hearing about their likes and dislikes

If you don’t enjoy rough sex, it doesn’t make you a less valuable person. We all have different tastes and so do our partners which is why communication is so vital to a healthy sex life.

The best way to enjoy sex is to let go of any judgments you have or hang-ups about what is right or not and relax. Sex isn’t a competition. It can be an act used to bring people closer together or make a baby or a stress relief or just be for fun.

You can mix it up.

You don’t have to be a one-trick pony when it comes to sex. You can have close, intimate, missionary, staring into each other’s eyes one night and be tied to the bed the next.  

If you’re single or in an open relationship, you can do all of it with one partner or none of it. You can keep missionary sex for someone new until you build trust.

It’s your body and your sex life and you get to enjoy it however you want.

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Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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