Welcome to praise kink, a softer, sweeter corner of kink. The lexicon of praise or worship kink favors “You’re so good at that” over “Choke on it.” The praise kink toolbox may include paddles and whips, like other parts of BDSM, but these paddles and whips are likely to be pink and bejeweled–or just as likely to be replaced by feathers and massage.
Rose Luna, 23, doesn’t like being called a “filthy sl**.” It’s a fine phrase for people who like it! Just not her thing. Now, being called a “good little sl**”? That’s nice. Perfect, actually.
“Tell me how pretty I am,” Tori, 28, instructs her partners. “Tell me how much you love it, how much you value it. How I’m a queen, how I’m a goddess. How I’m just the best thing since sliced bread. How I’m a good girl, that I’m your girl.”
Praise kinks are suddenly everywhere on TikTok and other parts of social media. They’re not some new innovation—the praise dynamic is a longtime mainstay of romance novels. It’s just that, recently, people are bowing down to this kinky sex idea.
I have such a worship kink. like yes, tell me I’m the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen, how the mere sight of me makes your heart skip a beat & how everything else pales in comparison.— amarachi🌙✨ (@theefinedivine) October 1, 2021
What is a praise kink?
“Praise kink allows someone to explicitly ask for the kinds of positive reinforcement that they crave, in order to feel desire, desired, erotic, sensual, sexual, and/or aroused,” says Jennifer Rehor, a licensed marriage and family therapist, sex therapist, and the author of a significant study on women and kink.
How do you know whether you have a praise kink or you just like praise? If my friend introduces me to her other friend and I feel threatened but then the other friend wins me over by picking some random article of my clothing to compliment, does that mean I have a worshiping kink?
“Many people respond quite well to positive reinforcement and want to avoid criticisms,” says Rehor. “What’s special about praise kink is that the recipient may get erotic pleasure from the praise.” Most of us enjoy hearing that we have great hair, a special talent for organising spreadsheets, or other words of affirmation. These are typically not kinks, unless you have a sexual response to them.
“I think for me it comes down to that I want sex to be a joyful act with my partner(s),” says Rose Luna. “So I want to be celebrated the whole time.”
What’s a recent really graphic, erotic example of a praising kink, please and thank you?
Anyone hoping to better understand the concept of praise kinks, and how it relates to sexual pleasure, might take note of a recent viral video taken at a Renaissance fair. In the video, a bartender in a Cinderella getup reaches over the bar and pours a can of beer into another woman’s mouth. As the woman drinks, the bartender—wench, if you’re getting into the spirit of things—monologues the following:
“Lips on the tip, suck on the hole for me, that’s right you nasty little thing. Show us what you can do with that mouth. Take it in, just like that. Lick it. Love it. Oh, you love sucking while your friends watch. Look at me while you choke and finish and swallow for me. Oh, good girl.”
@birdiesocal I just go to the Rennisance fair for the articles 👀#rennisancefestival #renfaire #medieval #beerwench ♬ original sound - ZemosSugarBaby
How does praise kink fit into the wider world of kink and BDSM?
For many, the word kink conjures images of black leather and leashes, urine splashing merrily in places other than a toilet. Yes, filth and humiliation hold a cherished place in the kingdom of kink. But they do not represent kink’s totality.
Kink educator Aoife Murray defines kink as “any intimate activity that falls outside our typical script of how we express our sexuality, intimacy, affection, etc.” It’s an intentionally broad definition—the kink community prides itself on inclusion and on welcoming curiosity.
BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism, Murray explains. “You can participate in BDSM, without being interested in every single one of those things listed in the acronym,” she says. “In fact, the only thing, the common thread that ties them together, is people having an interest in consensually exchanging power with a partner in some way.” A person with a praise kink is generally considered to be the submissive partner. When we think of submission, we often think of a humiliation or degradation kink. But it’s just as kinky to submit to sense of overwhelming affirmation, even a kind of worship, during sexual activities.
“For me it's definitely an extension of my overall life,” says Remy, a 37-year-old who has been into praise kink activities for years. “In my day-to-day I do a lot of work in a leadership role that is largely out of the limelight, and my kink manifests in the fact that I get to flip both of those—praise and encouragement—while being outside of a dominant role is a way to almost force myself to relax.” The experience isn’t just fun, says Remy, it’s “pretty therapeutic.”
You also don’t have to choose between praise and other facets of BDSM power exchanges, like degradation or spanking. “For me it's definitely a blend of the two,” says Remi.
Why do I have a praise kink? Did something go wrong in my childhood?
Nothing is wrong with you. This is a normal sex fantasy. And while it can be fun to theorize about the origin of your desires, your sexuality is more complicated than a meme. “Every single person has their own story and their own unique erotic map,” says Rehor. “There’s not going to be a singular reason why everyone enjoys this (or any) particular kink.”
of course i have a praise kink i’m the oldest daughter— gill (@contactabrother) September 22, 2022
the “former gifted kid” to “burnt-out-perfectionist-with-a-praise-kink” pipeline— Dani Donovan 👩🏻🎨 ADHD Comics (@danidonovan) October 22, 2022
If you learned about praise kinks on social media, you’ve probably seen half-joking posts saying that praise kinks mean you didn’t get enough love as a child or that you must be a firstborn daughter who was a competitive gymnast-slash-horseback-rider or something. “While it may be true that someone who didn’t get enough attention as a child ends up craving praise as an adult, another person may say they received plenty of attention as a child and they also crave praise from their partners,” says Rehor. “We don’t know if one causes the other or if this is just speculative.” And, she adds, “I’m not aware of any solid research specifically in the realm of praise kink to know what childhood characteristics are connected with these desires.”
Murray urges caution before you start wondering too deeply about whether kinks are hereditary or not. “If you're somebody who's looking for your perfect origin story, or you're looking for that perfect moment where you developed a kink or fetish, and it's actually taking up time for you, and it's adding to a feeling of uneasiness or unworthiness about the desires you have, then it may not be the most helpful course of action for you,” she says. “There's often a myth around these things. People think that it would have to be associated with a negative experience, particularly a negative childhood experience. While it is possible that that could happen, for the majority of people, that's not how things work.”
Case in point: “It’s crazy, because when you say it out loud, it sounds like daddy issues,” says Tori, with a laugh, of the things she likes to hear from a partner during sexual experiences. “But my dad is very much a part of my life.”
Don’t overthink it. “For most of us, we like what we like without any underlying reason,” says Rehor. “You might like mint chip ice cream, skiing, puppies, crime dramas—why? You just do; you were made that way.”
Why am I suddenly hearing all about praise kinks?
As is often the case, the answer is: TikTok. Instagram and Twitter too. Why? “You can have more in-depth conversation about enjoying praise than you could, for example, other areas of kink without being punished by the algorithm,” guesses Murray about how and why affirmation play started trending.
Tori became aware that she had a praise kink when she saw a tweet detailing various praise-related phrases to say in bed. “I was like, ‘Wow, I love all of that, I need all of that,’” she says. Rose Luna had a similar experience, seeing the term “praise kink” online and instantly thinking, “Oh, clearly that’s me—it explains why I like to do ‘degrading’ things only if someone is speaking positively or encouraging me during the act itself.”
Is having a praise kink normal?
Take it from a therapist: “As with any erotic interest, while there may be comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one interested in any particular behaviour, we don’t need to get so hung up on how many people do an activity and if that activity makes you normal or not normal,” says Rehor. “We can each decide what is normal for us.”
“As long as what you’re doing is consensual with the partners involved, it’s non-exploitive, you’re doing it with honesty and integrity, and there’s mutual pleasure…less common does not mean abnormal,” says Rehor. This rule applies for all kinky behaviour–if you’re getting into your praise kink, it’s worth considering how you speak about other kinks. They’re not worthy of more disdain, even if they include less cuteness and fewer compliments. Never forget that Dakota Johnson once said BDSM “can be very beautiful” and “chic.”
How do I bring this up with a partner?
Let’s get you from first awkward Bumble drinks to you being plied with praise.
If you and your partner have already had some conversations about what you like and what you need, Rehor says bringing up a praise kink is just a matter of saying, “Hey, do you know what? I just learned about this thing, and I think I might like it. Do you want to try it?” But if talking about sex can be painful and triggering, she suggests working with a therapist who is knowledgeable about kinks to help each partner navigate their feelings.
Murray recommends a couple of ground rules for suggesting anything new in bed. BDSM requires an ethical standard that rests heavily on consent. First, pick a neutral time and place to check in and talk. “We don't pull out the sex toy in the bedroom or make a request in the heat of the moment, or anything like that,” she says. “We want to give them time to mull it over and do it in a scenario that's as low-stakes for them as possible.” She suggests bringing it up on a walk or a drive if you think you’ll be too embarrassed to talk about your kink while making eye contact.
Next, she says, you can help yourself out by bringing an example of what you mean—a clip from a movie, a tweet, a kink list, this article. “In the heat of the moment finding the exact right word you're looking for can be a bit difficult,” she says.
Finally, she suggests telling your partner, “Let’s table this and think about it, and come back to it in a week.” That way, everyone gets to process and no one feels pressured.
And if all else fails, ask your partner what they want in order to feel good. “It can really become almost like a game. It becomes play,” says Murray. “It's, ‘Let's try something for me and something for you.’ Nobody feels like they're the one who's really gone out on a limb.”
What are common praise kink phrases?
Redditors offered some of their favourites on r/bdsmcommunity:
"Your body is perfect for me.”
“You’re so good at that.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
“You’re beautiful when you let go and give into your desires.”
“Those are such pretty sounds. I love hearing your voice.”
“You're such a good slut for me.”
“You're doing so well for me.”
“You look absolutely perfect.”
And: “A simple ‘Good girl’ gets me every time.”
Now go forth! This is your opportunity to hear the words “I’m proud of you” from someone other than the dentist when you come in for an appointment having flossed.
This article appeared on GLAMOUR UK