Your thoughts wanted: What is vanilla?

After the amazing discussion at this week’s Fika, I’ve decided to throw out some questions (just a few of the very many great questions to come up during the Fika) to everyone who reads here.

What is vanilla? (within a kink/ttwd context rather than the plant or flavoring agent)

What do you mean by vanilla?

What might a vanilla person or relationship look like?

How do you know that someone/something is not vanilla?

This can mean as a real-life practicing lifestyle, fiction, readers/audience, your personal opinion…whatever!

Please leave your opinion in the comments.  If you’d like to put up a post on your blog, put the link in the comments.  I’ll collect all of the links/responses and put them together in a quick-reference tab for everyone to enjoy.

Sure, it’s impossible to find a definition that we all can agree on, but isn’t the point of our wonderful community to pool our diversity of experiences and knowledge?

I’m looking forward to what you have to say!  No answers are too short or long.

P.S.  Although I try to respond to comments promptly, this time I will refrain from commenting to let more people jump into the discussion.



Some context for these questions, if you wish (if not, just write whatever fits you best) from the Fika discussion.  However, please note that my question includes vanilla as a lifestyle and not just as a reader/audience.

Cara Bristol:

What is considered “spankable,” to a Spanko audience can be very different to a vanilla audience who only wants to read a little kink.

Jade Cary:

I think that about the ONLY thing a vanilla reader would put up with regarding TTWD is a threat, or maybe a one-swatter.


I think it depends on a how you define vanilla. There are plenty of readers who read BDSM but don’t practice it and don’t want to. It falls in the realm of fantasy. And the same is true of spanking. But they still find something titillating about reading it. So are they vanilla or not? If fantasizing makes one not vanilla, then very very few people would be classified as such. Where does M/M romance fit in? Heterosexual females are writing M/M for a heterosexual female audience. Are those readers vanilla?

Ana PSA: Of course we can’t forget F/F spanking, right?  😀


I read on a blog once from a couple who practices DD seriously, and SHE described them as ‘vanilla’. I thought that was so odd, because if their blog is to be believed, it didn’t look that way to me, but I can see your point very clearly that it’s what your POV is. Maybe describing an audience that might not appreciate a spanking scene as mainstream would fit better.


There’s no official definition for this relatively new use of the word vanilla, so why imagine there is one? The meaning is through context. In the context here, I think we’re trying to differentiate between an audience that is expected to enjoy a serious spanking scene, and one that might not. If I’m writing for a particular imagined audience, what matters is what they like to read. Their fantasy life is probably more relevant than their real one. People who only fantasize about something are good bets to be an appreciative audience.


12 thoughts on “Your thoughts wanted: What is vanilla?

  1. joeyred51 says:

    I am a spanko and most of my play is done at spanking parties. So, I will answer your question withing this context. My friends and I use the term vanilla to describe someone who is not a spanko. In a vanilla relationship, there is no spanking going on between the two people.


  2. Lillie says:

    Vanilla might be someone who doesn’t know what anal beads look like, however still likes erotic spanking, so maybe vanilla is a difficult concept to grasp. 😀


  3. Bas says:

    Asking what is Vanilla, equals asking what is TTWD.
    So, since all the above definitions are also negative definitions, I may add another one of those:
    Vanilla is everything that is not TTWD.
    But of course that is not complete, because it does not define TTWD and doesn’t tell you whether we are talking about participants, knowledgeable spectators or the completely unknowing.
    I don’t think you will ever see a positively worded definition that covers all aspects.
    Maybe I should write a dissertation about it.


  4. pao says:

    Since there is no one true definition for Vanilla then Vanilla in my opinion covers people who do not practice BDSM, TTWD and/or contribute to it in any manner or form.


  5. Joseph McNamara says:

    When you go to an Ice-cream store and order vanilla, and the person next to you has strawberry. Different color, taste, and make up. When the vanilla person looks at spanking, the different life-style, color and tastes are present. The person eating vanilla might just like the taste of strawberry, but they still ordered vanilla because that is their choice. The difference is apparent and there will always be a certain color-blindness in a one spank scene from time to time. I know many Neapolitan people……


  6. tfd says:

    It’s interesting to think about.

    “What is vanilla? (within a kink/ttwd context rather than the plant or flavoring agent)”

    I’m not sure, but I think the word was chosen because of the flavor — the predominant opinion apparently considers basic and bland. Is it really? Where’s the vanilla marketing board on this? If so, it follows then that vanilla sex is conventional, plain, or ordinary. I assume that a person described as vanilla, with regard to sex, is not turned on by kinky stuff. What’s kinky? Anything unconventional. Which is? … Cannibalism? Orgies with stuffed animals?

    “What do you mean by vanilla?”

    I try to use it so it’s understood in the context in which I’m using it. It could mean, not my kind of kinky. Generally, I use the word (the not-kinky def) in the context of TTWD. But what is this thing we do? Do we need to do it? Maybe we just like the idea of it? We might do it under the right circumstances. The important thing to me is that we share similar feelings about it. I’ve known someone who is open-minded about sex, has their own healthy set of kinks, will even engage in spanking, but they’re not a real spanking enthusiast. They don’t get it on several important levels. So they’re not vanilla, but I have to consider them a general (vanilla) audience when it comes to the real nuts and bolts of my kink. As an audience for spanking in fiction, they’re not going to complain if discipline’s involved, but they’re also not going to have much patience for a story primarily about spanking.

    “What might a vanilla person or relationship look like?”
    “How do you know that someone/something is not vanilla?”

    I’m not sure how to answer that. It might require knowing someone well. Someone who is open enough to allow you to know them.


  7. lea27f says:

    To me, vanilla means someone who isn’t strongly interested in any particular kink. People who think very differently than I do. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla people or relationships, but I suppose that sometimes I have an “us vs them” mentality when I reference vanilla situations. A vanilla person wouldn’t understand what goes on in my head. How do you know someone is not vanilla? Acute skills of observation? I don’t really have an answer to that. I guess I don’t know for sure unless they tell me otherwise.


  8. Minelle says:

    I think vanilla connotates what is considered normal by society at a particular time. So in my mind that is always changing. At one time certain sexual acts were considered illegal for goodness sake. I think that vanilla is having sex without a kink. Hmmmm but who defines kink.
    Spanking may not be considered vanilla, but I bet a great many fantasize about it. We seem to just understand what is vanilla vs what is not.


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