I’m officially declaring 2023 The Year of The Praise Kink. If you’re a good boy or a good girl, this one’s for you. Praise kinks have been a hot topic on TikTok, with more than 83 million praise kink-related videos. This audio clip is especially popular.
The term seems to have first appeared in the mainstream in 2020, when writer Emma Austin penned the essay I Have a Praise Kink, in which she describes (in glorious detail) how much she loves being called a “good girl” by her partner. Yet, some people seem to think that the phrase praise kink is a misnomer.
There’s been a lot of chatter over the interwebs about praise kinks. Many self-identified kinksters have been asking if the media popularity surrounding the praise kink is really just about people wanting to be treated nicely — and then identifying that being a kink. There appears to be a gentle nod to the low-bar dating expectations that are the reality of today. (Depressing.)
Let’s clear something up: Praise kinks aren’t just compliments. They aren’t just enjoying being told nice things. After all, it’s a pretty universal human feeling to enjoy being complimented and told how bomb we are. A praise kink goes well beyond that.
So, what is a praise kink and how is it different from saying nice stuff to someone? I break it down below.
What Is a Praise Kink?
A praise kink falls under the bigger BDSM umbrella. A kink is a typically non-sexual behavior that turns us on. Examples include spanking, leather, bondage, sploshing, breeding kinks and more. They are truly expansive.
According to board-certified sex educator Linnea Marie, a praise kink is “when a person gets sexually aroused [and] turned on when they hear someone give them compliments, positive feedback and/or receive sexual affirmations and praise.” Getting a compliment and feeling great about it is one thing, but being legit turned on is another.
These kinks are “all about using praise or positive reinforcement as a means of dominance in D/s [aka dominating partner],” explains Dr. Celina Criss, a certified sex coach specializing in BDSM and GSRD. “One could think of it as the opposite of enjoying degradation or humiliation during a scene. It goes beyond just saying nice things — it’s encouraging the behavior you want to see in your submissive as you help them grow towards their goals.”
Kink play often has multiple layers. Criss says that it “fits into D/s, with a high occurrence in age play, such as DD/lg (Daddy Dom/little girl) dynamics.” In age play, you and/or your partner pretend to be different ages. This usually involves one partner being the “older” person (the dom) while the other partner (the sub) pretends to be younger. This dynamic is perfect for incorporating praise kinks. Think: Calling someone your “good little girl.”
Praise can be used in almost all Dom/sub dynamics, other than those that have a focus on humiliation. They’re an added, sexy layer that can intensify power play. Kink educator Emerson points out that “praise kinks can also be independent of power dynamics and BDSM and just be a stand-alone kink.”
How Does a Praise Kink Work, Scientifically Speaking?
Most of us can agree that being told we’re good, hot and pretty is freaking great, but why do some people get sexually aroused by affirming language? When we receive a compliment, our brains are flooded with the positive neurochemical dopamine. “These neurotransmitters activate a reward center of the brain and increase when we experience pleasure, thus making the brain want to experience more stimulation like that,” Marie says. For most, this dopamine rush just boosts the ego, but for praise kinksters, it goes a step further, spurring on the arousal process and creating a sexual response.
“What is exhilarating about this kink is that it can be performed anywhere, not just in the bedroom,” Marie says. “Praise and arousal can happen way before you reach the bedroom and anything physical occurs.” It can be a form of foreplay, getting sex started long before the clothes come off.
Praise may well be a part of someone’s erotic template — meaning, it is an integral part in what turns someone on and brings them pleasure. According to Dr. Lee Phillips, a psychotherapist and certified sex and couples therapist, some people may have this kink so encoded that they require praise to reach orgasm. Needless to say, for people who have praise kinks, it can be pretty intense.
“BDSM isn’t only about exploring the darker sides of sexuality and expression,” Criss says. “There is a lot of love, trust and positive feelings, too.”
Five of the Most Common Misconceptions About BDSMIt’s not all sex dungeons and “50 Shades”
How Praise Kinks Play Out
Praise kinks involve the sub being told affirming things by the dominant. Phillips says that this can look a lot of different ways and “this exchange focuses on the dynamic of the consensual difference in power between the partners both from a physical and mental aspect.”
Marie says there are common “praise kink” phrases that are popular. Some examples include:
- “Good girl/boy/pet name”
- “You look so sexy, I can’t wait to devour you later”
- “You’re the best, keep going”
- “That was/is fantastic”
- “I just can’t get enough of you”
- “You’re amazing at —”
- “You taste so delicious”
While these can be a jumping off point, it really “comes down to whatever the individual wants/needs to hear,” she adds.
Not all praise is about verbal affirmation. Praise can also be about actions like hugs, squeezes, pats, caresses or kisses. Emerson says that a soft caress of the chin or face can go a long way. It’s about communicating how amazing the other person is.
How To Try Out Praise Kinks in the Bedroom
Communicate: All kink play needs to be thoroughly negotiated and consensual. This means sitting down and talking about your desires with your partner before any play takes place. “It is important to pick a time where both of you can be present,” Philips says. “It is important to go into the conversation with an open mind without negativity, as this will only create more anxiety and reactivity.” This means being willing to be curious and vulnerable. After all, we’re all just trying to have positive sexual experiences.
Brainstorm Together: You can come up with the praise you like by working together to co-create a scene. “Have a conversation and begin to come up with ideas that would fit your liking,” Marie says.
Try It Out: There is nothing wrong with enjoying compliments and affirmations. But do you enjoy them during sex? This is something you’ll find out as you go along. We don’t always know what we like until we give it a shot. Don’t forget to check in with your partner to make sure everyone is having a good time.
Get Specific: “Try to be as specific as possible with your lovers so they can fully understand how they can fulfill your kink,” Marie says. This means thinking about what you want to hear or actions you’d like performed. Get creative with it.
Be Gentle: Kink can be quite an emotionally tender place to be. With praise kinks, it can feel truly heavenly to hear all the things we wish someone would say to us. “Tap into your most kind, gentle and affirming self,” Criss says. “Think of the praise you would love to hear in your life and consider what might fit in your bedroom or scene.”
Lean into the love, joy and happiness that is praise. This kink can be very fun to play with, and it’s an easy one to try out. Be curious, stay open, communicate and have a good time!
You read this whole article! I’m so proud of you. You’re such a good boy.