Do You Really Have A Praise Kink?

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There’s arguably no greater satisfaction than being told you’re good at something, but some of us like our affirmations laid on a little thicker –– especially in the bedroom. If this sounds like you, there’s a good chance you might just have a praise kink.

It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot –– especially on TikTok –– but what does it actually mean? 

What Is A Prasie Kink?

“If someone has a praise kink, that means that they find it sexually arousing and/or psychologically gratifying to receive compliments,” explains Kate Sloan, a sex journalist and author of 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do. “These can be compliments on anything from a character trait, to a body part, to a job well done on a particular task.” The specifics of this definition vary from person to person. “I think it’s a pretty individualized experience,” says sex worker and self-proclaimed praise kinkster Allison Ivy. “Different people will incorporate their own definition of ‘praise’ into the play. For me, ‘praise’ is defined as the acknowledgment of what I’m doing well. It’s words of affirmation incorporated into a sexual fantasy.”

This praise doesn’t have to be verbal to do the trick, and there’s plenty of overlap between praise kinks and other kinks. Maybe you’re an obedient pup craving an affectionate head scratch and a belly rub for being a good boy; maybe you’re more of a horny submissive, desperate to be told you’re doing a great job at being fucked. Whatever the specifics, all that “having a praise kink” means is that you crave compliments, and lap them up hungrily when they come your way.

But Doesn’t Everyone Want To Be Complimented?

Seemingly, plenty of us can relate. Especially over the last few years, the internet has been awash with viral jokes and videos dedicated to the humble praise kink. Horny users mimic their joy at being called a “good girl,” and round-ups of “things to say to a girl with a praise kink” (examples include “you’re so tight” and “good baby, now faster”) have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. There’s an opposing camp too, made up of folks who question the kink’s legitimacy. An Urban Dictionary submission straight-up describes it as synonymous with “lonely” and “affection-starved” –– although for what it’s worth, the “dislikes” on this definition hugely outweigh the “likes.”

Sloan, who describes herself as “pretty anti-gatekeeping in general,” doesn’t “buy the argument that some kinksters make, [which is] that people joking about having a praise kink somehow dilutes its definition.” There’s no magical threshold to be crossed before you can label yourself a praise kinkster, she explains. “I see it as more of a gradient –– like a dimmer switch, rather than a standard on/off light-switch.” Basically, if you think you have a praise kink, you probably do.

When it comes to figuring out your turn-ons, fluidity, and self-identification are pretty key concepts. Old-school dictionaries still define kink as an “unusual feature in a person’s character or mind, especially one that doesn’t seem normal,” so trying to lean on any kind of standardized definition is pointless at best, shame-inducing at worst.

Praise and Pleasure

There’s a difference between a kink and a fetish, though. Ivy describes kink as “hot fudge on top of vanilla ice cream,” referring to a 2021 article that differentiates the two terms by saying a fetish is essential to someone’s sexual arousal, whereas a kink is just the cherry on top. Sloan points out that “most fetishists say they enjoy sex even if their fetish isn’t always incorporated,” but believes a “fetish” is generally a more all-consuming sexual interest, whereas “kink” is a little less so. In general, though, Sloan thinks these differentiations aren’t always necessary or useful –– describe your sexuality however you like.

If anything, letting go of strict definitions can be liberating for budding praise kinksters. Forget the semantics, and just ask yourself: what are your fantasies?

To get the gears grinding, there are endless examples of a praise kink in action. Ivy says they “personally want to hear how good I’m doing at pleasing my partner, or how well I’m taking the pain that they are consensually inflicting upon me.” Ivy thrives on the kind of praise that’s dialed up to the maximum. “I want to hear that I’m everything their heart desires,” she continues, “and that I live rent-free in their mind. I want to know the dirty things they want to do to me, and to hear about how lucky they are to possess me.”

Not all of this dialogue happens during sex. As Sloan points out, plenty of asexual people participate in kink –– “for some people, kinks are more about general psychological pleasure than specifically sexual pleasure.”

Praise Kink In Action

More broadly, it’s a huge misconception that kink is solely sexual. It’s psychological first and foremost, and getting to know someone’s kinks intrinsically can lead to deeper intimacy, trust, and understanding. “My spouse is my dominant,” says Sloan, “and praise is a big part of how they motivate me to complete tasks, both sexual and non-sexual. When I check everything off my to-do list for the day, they always offer me lots of compliments and congratulations for doing so. This helps to motivate me by giving me a little dopamine boost, but it also turns me on by making me feel submissive and obedient, both of which are big arousal triggers for me. In turn, I feel more comfortable, loved, and appreciated within my relationship.”

Factoring in gendered language can make a big difference, too. Society often divides compliments into “masculine” and “feminine” categories, and especially for trans and gender non-conforming people, it’s worth having conversations about which words feel affirming. A well-timed “good boy” might just trigger a release of gender euphoria for a trans-masculine partner, whereas Sloan highlights that gendered language can amp up the thrill of kinky, gender-related role-play, like forced feminization.

It sounds cliché, but communication is key, and having conversations to nail down exactly what kind of praise you want to incorporate into your partnership can yield mind-blowing results. 

If you’re getting down and dirty with a praise kinkster but feel awkward about dirty talk, non-verbal affirmations like moans and groans of pleasure can work wonders. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a praise kinkster, Ivy says experimenting with compliments in the bedroom and in partnerships more generally can be “just good fun.” Although she hadn’t seen the term being discussed on social media, they say: “it makes sense to me why vanilla people would bring praise kinks into the mainstream; everybody likes to be praised, even if we do have all sorts of different ways to define that praise.”

Dig deeper than your first assumptions, too. Ivy often sees people “assuming that, if you have a praise kink, you automatically have a degradation/humiliation kink as well.” Although that’s true in their case, Ivy reiterates that you “must get consent before immediately assuming someone wants to be verbally degraded. Seeing someone engage in a praise kink and then assuming they want the exact opposite of that too is not okay!” 

Again, some kinks do often overlap, but there’s no one-size-fits-all rule.

Kink In The Media

The upshot is that social media is offering a place for people to have these discussions. There’s still censorship to contend with –– that’s why you’ll see terms like k1nk and s3x –– and marginalized communities more broadly often have to wade through more bullshit to get their voices heard, but there are nuanced sex-ed creators (Scotty Unfamous, The Kink Educator and Ericka Hart are just a few more examples) making a real impact online. “As with being queer and trans, it seems that more and more people self-identify as kinky,” says Sloan. “That means there’s more widely-available information out there, which means that more people get to live more authentically and feel less alone. I see that as a good thing.”
The mere consideration of whether or not you have a praise kink means asking yourself frank questions about what turns you on. For some of us, that can be a breakthrough in and of itself.

Society is still grappling with the impact of purity culture, which can make unfiltered conversations about desire feel intimidating or shameful. Pushing past this shame could lead you to better sex, more intimate relationships, and a greater understanding of precisely what gets you off. Whether it’s an affectionate head-scratch or daily romantic sonnets, naming your praise kink could unlock the stream of affirmation you’ve always craved.