Sooo, What’s a Primal Fetish?

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Random question, but have you ever just felt like an animal during sex? Like you’re just so in the moment, so wild and free, that you tap into the true spirit of what it means to be a rough and untethered beast? Yes? No? Either way, it’s time to take a walk on the wild side, folks, because we’re talking about primal fetishes.

This kink, also called primal play, centers on partners getting in touch with their baser, animal instincts. Essentially, this means becoming literally primal in their approach to sexual expression. “This often involves role-playing predator and prey dynamics, reflecting the uninhibited and instinctual sexual encounters observed in the wild,” says sex therapist Nazanin Moali, PhD, host of the Sexology podcast.

For some, channeling their animal instincts during sex just feels right in a deep sense, says clinical sexologist Ness Cooper, a therapist with a special focus in kink. “Others may have particular fantasies where they fantasize about sex as cavemen, when there was less structure to sex and it may be more open and wild,” she adds.

If any of this sounds intriguing, you’re not alone. In case you missed it, primal play is a pretty hot topic right now. With over 36 million hits for #PrimalPlay on TikTok, it’s safe to say it’s having a moment. And you want in, we have all the information you need on what a primal fetish is, why people are so into it, and some safe and healthy ways you can try it out for yourself if you feel like unleashing the beast within.

What Is Primal Play?

Primal play is a form of sexual activity in which partners leave behind the more “rational” or “logical” sides of themselves and tap into their animal instincts. This might involve animal role play, grunting, snarling, or other animal-like noises. Not all primal play is non-verbal, but it often is. These are highly negotiated scenes in which all parties are consenting and, of course, consent can be revoked at any time.

In animal-focused primal role play, Cooper says that “those wishing to use animal play as inspiration may add in all-fours moving around the bedroom, squatting, grunting and even grooming themselves or their partner to help make the scene feel more animalistic.”

That said, primal play isn’t always about being literal animals; it’s often more about expressing baser instincts. “It’s a form of reawakening the animal[istic] urges humans naturally have before socially structured sexual interactions become normalized,” Cooper says.

While this kind of sex is often on the rough side, it doesn’t have to be. Cooper says that tamer interactions, like animal-like care and grooming, can also be a form of primal play.

Why Are People Into It?

To put it pretty simply: People are into primal play because it can be super fun and liberating. You get to leave your annoying, human worries behind and give into uninhibited pleasure and feeling. “The power dynamics often present in primal play, akin to those in BDSM, provide an intriguing layer of complexity,” Moali adds.

Sex educator and spicy content creator Alice Lovegood, founder of the Better Sex Blog, and her husband say primal play is among their favorite kinds of role play. They pinpoint the ability to step outside of their heads and let go of self-consciousness—to be entirely present and embodied—as some of this kink’s most alluring qualities. Lovegood’s partner says these encounters can be almost spiritual for him; he can feel his whole body vibrating and sex becomes part of his soul rather than simply focused on his genitals.

Indeed, Cooper notes that the energy involved in primal play is often a particular draw. According to her, many feel this energy taps into the “origin of human instinct, which can add to arousal levels during sex.”

Basically, primal play can offer a reprieve from the racing thoughts and anxieties that may make it hard to feel truly in the moment during sex, giving people a chance to simply let go and dissolve into their baser instincts.

What Does a Primal Fetish Look Like in Action?

Like all things in sex and kink, the ways in which a primal play scene might play out will look different for everyone. It really depends on what you want to get out of it. It might be all about the predator/prey dynamic, you might decide you’re both animals in the scene (like a lion or a gazelle), or it may just be about the baser feelings you experience during the play. It’s highly customizable and there is no one-size-fits-all.

For Lovegood and her husband, primal play can either take the form of pre-planned scenes or be entirely spontaneous. Lovegood says that it can look like running and hiding, wherein she plays the prey and her partner is the predator seeking her out, and it often involves a chase scene. This plays into their shared love of CNC (consensual non-consent)—emphasis on the consent, of course.

Is It Normal to Be Into This?

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it a thousand times: What happens between consenting adults is no one else’s business. Nothing in human sexuality is “abnormal.” As long as everyone is on-board and having fun, it’s A-OK to be into primal play.

Five Expert-Approved Tips for Trying Primal Play

1. Talk things through

        Primal play will look different for everyone, so it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner(s) about what this fantasy looks like to you. This will give you a blueprint for figuring out how to make it work IRL. Are there costumes? Is it a mindset? Who is playing what role in the fantasy? Getting on the same page is key.

        2. Consent is everything

        This play may be (mostly) non-verbal, but that doesn’t mean consent is out the door. Before engaging in primal play, Moali says it’s super important to establish clear boundaries and safe words. “Given the potentially rough nature of primal play, it’s crucial to agree on what is and isn’t acceptable during the session,” she adds. Consent is the cornerstone to all ethical BDSM and kink play.

        3. Fire up those vocals, baby!

        Making animal noises can be a huge turn on during this kind of play. It’s all about getting into the primal spirit, after all, which makes it the perfect opportunity to experiment. “It may feel embarrassing at first, but this form of openness can also help build intimacy,” Cooper says, adding that grunting and other low belly noises can actually increase arousal by activating the pelvic floor.

        4. Check in with each other

        Check-ins during primal play can be very useful in ensuring everyone is having a really great time throughout. This can be something non-verbal that partners establish beforehand, if preferred. For instance, a partner tapping three times on your arm can mean “Are you feeling good?” and there can be a sound or similar tapping sequence to say “yes” or “no.” Similar to safe words, check-ins help to ensure everyone is on the same page.

        5. Make aftercare a priority

        “After an intense session, ensure that all parties receive the care and comfort they need to return to their everyday selves,” Moali says. Folks can experience a bit of an emotional “crash” post play due to the settling down of the feel-good, high-energy hormones that were pumping during the scene. It’s important to take time to cuddle, check in, and care for one another to ensure everyone is feeling safe and happy.

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        Gigi Engle

        Writer

        Gigi Engle is a COSRT-registered, GSRD-accredited sex and relationships psychotherapist, sex coach, sex educator, and writer.

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