Myth-busting Monday: No one likes vanilla (false)
From a flavor to sex, “vanilla” is often used to reference something boring or something lacking in pleasure, and therefore, something to be avoided. This perspective is likely related to the push towards acceptance of and pride in diversity, including a variety of sexual practices formerly seen as “deviant”.
But this creates several problems:
- I am all for acceptance of a variety of practices that happen between consenting adults, but by labeling vanilla as boring or shameful, we are potentially yucking someone else’s yum.
- Not cool; as Emily Nagoski says, we don’t yuck someone’s yum.
- The meaning of deviance is challenged when many adult Americans have tried “non-conforming” sexual practices (https://reason.com/2014/11/11/kinky-sex-survey-finds-everybodys-weird/ and https://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/news/a13435/who-is-doing-bdsm/ , and Perv by Jesse Bering), which might make vanilla the new “extra” or deviant.
- Your kink is probably the new normal, sorry. Sometimes thinking of something as kinky, extra, or taboo is what makes it so enticing, so don’t let me burst your bubble.
- The plant vanilla is an orchid and, historically, was a challenge to cultivate before an enslaved Black boy, Edmund Albius of Reunion, a French colony, discovered that the flower could be hand pollinated. This discovery allowed for the globalization (colonization) of vanilla, outside of its native Mexico.
- **side note, the word orchid comes from the Greek word for testicles**
- “Vanilla”, when used to denote “commonness” or “boring” is related to colonialization
- **additional side note: The term also has a history of use in gay culture and in reference to white people**
- See more How did vanilla come to mean boring? Blame colonialism (mic.com)
- Vanilla is a complex flavor and used as a partner or base for many culinary experiences. The same could be said for complexity of even “simple” sexual encounters. Think of ALL that goes into an encounter with yourself or partner/s – mood, health, fatigue, physical abilities, environment, attention/mindfulness/presence, communication (even with yourself, for ex., nervous system feedback), all of your partner/s “stuff” (ex. their sexual history, trauma history, communication style, habits, desires, family history around sexuality, religiosity, body esteem) plus all of your “stuff”, hygiene, relationship patterns and love languages, sexual scripts and gender roles – do you follow them or challenge them or live outside and craft your own nonbinary script, your own accountability and self-awareness, etc. Flavors and encounters can be rich in nuance if we slow down enough to actually consider what we are tasting, figuratively or literally.
- What we consume as the flavor vanilla is rarely real vanilla, but vanillin derived from pine bark because real vanilla is cost prohibitive for most consumers – talk about extra.
Vanilla can be satisfying and comforting to many, whether we are talking ice cream or some kind of bodily-based, adult pleasure. You are entitled to give meaning to your own experience rather than internalizing messaging from others (easier said than done, for sure). As long as it is enjoyably yours, from an authentic, consensual, and self-aware place, it is amazing – high fives to you for self-discovery and living your wisdom and experience in the world, whatever your “flavor”.
Life is short – Savor your yum.
The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), sexuality counselor and educator (in supervision); copyright protected, please cite accordingly. The graphic is mine.
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*Please note that none of the above information is specific medical advice, but is meant as educational information only. If you have concerns about your health, please contact a trusted healthcare professional*