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A beginner’s guide to balloon play during sex

May 19, 2023

Blowing up balloons. Popping balloons. Orgasming because of balloons.

If you clicked on this article because you absolutely needed to know what balloons and sex have to do with each other, it's party time. Balloon fetishes are some of the most niche and interesting.

What's more, the ways in which balloons play a central role in some people's lives can go beyond sexual arousal. Some adults just absolutely love balloons and want to play with them. This can bring with it some complex emotions, as our society doesn't encourage adult humans to play like children. But it shouldn't be seen as anything weird, shameful, or otherwise. There is nothing wrong with getting your jollies from a blown up bit of latex.

This multifaceted fetish is incredibly expansive and the ways in which balloons can be involved in your play (both sexual and non-sexual) deserves to be laid out so we can all understand it a bit better.

Why? Because it's actually freakin’ cool … and pretty complex. We’re talking about sub-categories, different levels of sexual involvement, and about 50 trillion different ways people might play with balloons. While there is hardly any research on balloon fetishes directly, a 2007 academic article(opens in a new tab) does highlight the many ways this fetish plays out within the community. It's deep, y’all.

This fetish may look like child's play, but it is a psychological soup. Let's break it down.

Balloon play is a sexual fetish that involves, you guessed it, balloons.

People with this fetish will often refer to themselves as "Looners." Looner communities can be found all over the internet — which is the case for basically all niche interests. You can always find your people.

Professional kinkster Mistress Kye(opens in a new tab) tells us that there are two main categories of Looners: Poppers and Non-Poppers. Poppers enjoy building up the tension and anticipation around popping the balloon. Non-Poppers enjoy playing with the balloon, but have no desire to destroy it.

The degree to which the interest in balloons is sexual will vary from person to person. "Some balloon lovers feel their interest isn't overly sexual but creates strong feelings of excitement, satisfaction, and relaxation," Sarah Melancon(opens in a new tab), PhD, a sociologist, clinical sexologist, and resident expert at The Sex Toy Collective, explains. "Some feel playing with balloons helps reduce stress."

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Kye adds that "some players just want innocent, silly play like popping the balloons in fun, creative and engaging ways with others."

And yeah, most of the time, the balloon play is probably sexual, but that doesn't mean it is ~always~ sexual. While we refer to balloon play as a "fetish," it doesn't always center sexual excitement or release.

To be totally transparent: There just isn't a whole lot of scientific data around balloon play and sexual arousal. We know. It's really shocking that universities wouldn't invest millions of dollars to research this. #Offended. General research(opens in a new tab) around where fetishes come from suggests that they can develop both in childhood and later in life.

For balloons specifically, Dr. Nazanin Moali, a sex therapist and the host of the Sexology podcast(opens in a new tab), tells us that it's likely a conditioned fetish. This is when we experience sexual feelings toward something non-sexual as children. This correlation continues over time, eventually becoming a strong sexual interest. "Balloons are readily available and affordable in most households and often elicit a range of emotions in kids during a young age, which might in turn explain why there is a booming Looner community," Moali says.

"Fetishes and kinks always involve an emotional component that ties to arousal, creating a strong draw towards the situation or object," Melancon says. This strong association can develop in myriad ways. For some they may have "experienc[ed] their first orgasm while playing with balloons, or watch[ed] a crush pop a balloon, which creates a strong psychological tie between the object and sexual arousal or pleasure," she adds.

When it comes to the "why," it's pretty complicated and varied. "The arousal may come from the tactile sensation associated with balloons, or about the latex, or even the sound of the balloon getting popped," Moali says. It may also be the case that "building psychological arousal by engaging in reenacting a fantasy that involves blowing up or sitting on a balloon can be a part of the attraction."

Melancon breaks down some possible balloon play scenes as follows:

Blowing up balloons

Watching attractive people blow up balloons

Blowing up balloons until they pop (or watching others do so), AKA "blow to pop" or "b2p."

Masturbating with balloons.

Sitting or laying on balloons.

Playing with balloons.

Being in small spaces filled with balloons, such as a closet or shower, to experience touch and pressure from latex against the skin.

Popping balloons and the excitement, fear, and anticipation that goes along with waiting for that release.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it certainly paints a picture. If you can dream it, you can blow it up (sorry).

For some, the love for balloons can run deep. "Balloons can arouse emotions of playfulness, euphoria, and happiness," Melancon adds. "Some feel a love towards their balloons and may feel a sense of attachment, as though they are a human sexual partner."

In a nutshell: Hell yeah, it's normal. As Kye puts it: "What's ‘normal’? Seriously. Who is anyone to say? I’m from the camp that living your truth is what's 'normal.'"

"As long as everyone who engages in this behavior prioritizes mutual consent and communicates, it may be an appropriate way of sexual expression," Moali adds. Basically, what happens between consenting adults is no one else's business.

But there is a caveat here that is worth mentioning. Melancon says that there is some ethical debate around balloon play when it comes to everyone "understanding" what they’re getting into. In order for people to engage in any fetish consensually, they need to know what they’re consenting to. For example, if Looner is having their needs met by going to a party store and watching workers blow up balloons, this isn't ethical because the worker hasn't consented to being a part of fetish play. This is something worth thinking about.

It can be really frightening to talk to a partner about a non-vanilla sexual interest. It's a vulnerable state to be in. You want to start by getting really clear on what you enjoy about balloons in order to explain them to a partner in a clear and simple way. Is it about a certain sensation, psychological component, or simply trying something new? Give it some time to percolate.

Next, bring it to your partner. Moali suggests asking your partner for empathy and being transparent that you’re very nervous to talk to them about this interest. Let them know you want to talk to them about this because you value your relationship and want to be honest. "Setting a positive frame can help put your partner in the mindset that the point of the conversation is improvement overall and that they have an option of saying no if they are not ready to engage in it," Moali says.

Kye says that she tries to urge clients to understand that most of the time, a good and empathetic partner wants to know what brings you pleasure. "Your partner deeply wants to know how to make you feel good," she says. "They want to know how to give you pleasure. Knowing what you enjoy is a gift you can give them."

Keep in mind that balloon play is not a super common sexual interest. It's extremely niche. So, there may be an opportunity for you and your partner to do some research online in order to learn more about it together.

We all just want to be understood by the people we care about. Remember that we don't have to engage in a partner's fetish if it's not our thing, but we also don't have a right to shame or harm another person. People are into all kinds of varied things when it comes to sexuality and being willing to be open, honest, and empathetic is key to healthy partnerships and healthy sex.

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