Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

The Rise Of 'Sex Menus': Cataloguing Your Kinks

Artwork by Beth Hoeckel
I’d been talking to David online for a while. He’d caught my eye with his funny, slightly arch OK Cupid profile, and the sexy way in which he hadn’t included his Meyers-Briggs personality type or starsign. Admittedly he was also super hot, and the more we chatted, the more I wanted to see him naked.

"So shall we have a drink then?" he suggested after a few days of back and forth.

"Absolutely. Would it be okay if I sent you my sex menu beforehand?" I fired back.

I watched the three little dots rising and falling for what felt like an eternity, undulating in a moment of indecision.

"Sorry, your what?" he replied, eventually.

"My sex menu. It’s a guide to how I like to get down. I send it to people I might like to have sex with."

"Yes," replied David promptly. "Send away."

It was my very wise friend Toni who introduced me to the sex menu. She created hers to avoid the tricky, mood-killer conversation about what she didn’t enjoy in bed. The menu, she reasoned, could be a way of sidestepping the underwhelming sex we too-often have to endure with new partners.

Her menu is broken down into three categories: "Things I Love", "Things I Don’t" and "Things I’m Curious About". There’s stars next to the things that make her orgasm, and she also has a little introduction characterising her general sexual outlook, because, well, she’s just that much of a badass. As a lover of both thoroughly well organised Google Docs and doing freaky sex things, I decided to write my own.

It’s a simple idea, but the sex menu is pretty revolutionary. When was the last time you did a thorough inventory of all your kinks and desires, all really focused on the kind of sex you’d like to be having? We routinely evaluate our feelings and goals relating to say, work or physical fitness, but rarely afford the same level of analysis to our sex lives. Writing a sex menu gives your desires the headspace they deserve, and puts the emphasis firmly on what actually works for you.

Things I love: Girls in white cotton knickers, collars and leashes, kisses on the nape of my neck and shoulders

– Audrey's Sex Menu
As a sex worker, 99% of the sex I have at work is centred around the desires of straight cis men, so when it comes to my personal life, I’ve lost patience for things that I don’t personally enjoy – especially if I’m not getting paid for it. But shrug-inducing sex is hardly unique to sex workers. Nearly all of my female friends have myriad tales of sex that’s neither really pleasant nor unpleasant, just flat. More often than not, it’s tricky to stop mid-coitus to tell your partner exactly what’s not working without killing the atmosphere. So if there’s a way to bypass this and head straight to the really good times, count me in.

Regardless of whether you ever share it with anyone, just writing your sex menu feels like a radical act. Once I’d finished, I suddenly had a sense of just how cohesive my kinks are. I hadn’t quite twigged that my various fantasies about being secretly observed fucking were underpinned by exhibitionism, which would explain why I enjoyed group sex, being photographed naked and quickies in full view of CCTV cameras. They seem so obvious now when bunched together, but at the time it was revelatory. Since then, I’ve more consciously played around with things that tap into this area of interest.

Also, in writing them down, I was able to be clearer than I could when communicating them face to face. Previously I’ve been gripped by nervous giggles and inarticulate mumbling when attempting to explain exactly the type of filthy language I get off on. Now I just send over the menu and side-step that awkwardness altogether.
As well as detailing the things that are guaranteed to flood your basement, the menu can also feature anything that’s a total mood killer. If having your ear licked is the quickest way to scare aware your lady boner, the menu ensures that no one even goes near your lobes. For other friends of mine, who are survivors of sexual violence, the menu means they can easily avoid anything that’s going to be triggering or upsetting, without having to rehash or explain trauma with someone new.

‘But isn’t it a bit embarrassing to share it?’ my friend asked, as I preached the gospel of the sex menu to her over brunch. The first time I sent it out, it was a little nerve-wracking, but now I find it operates like a form of foreplay. The underlying message is always "look at all the fun we could have together" as well as communicating to a potential sex partner that your pleasure is a priority. It even functions as good first date chat material: Over a drink with a recent tinder match that I’d shared my menu with, he asked what it was I enjoyed so much about spanking. Happily, he was a quick learner.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t end up fucking everyone I share the menu with, in much the same way that carrying condoms doesn’t always mean you’ll need to use them. Nor does the menu bypass the necessity of ongoing and enthusiastic consent from all parties involved. But on the off chance that I find myself sharing a bed (or a car bonnet) with someone new, it’s nice to know that they’ll have a "how to" guide at their disposal.

Last time: What Not To Ask A Sex Worker