Outing: The Nuclear Option

Outing is the second worst thing you can do to a person as a kinky individual. The first is consent violation.

Outing someone is a consent violation in its own right.

Seriously. It’s NEVER a good idea. (source)

What dragged this to the forefront of my mind and put a big spotlight on it was someone who knew of the show invited me to join a private Facebook group for people into BDSM. They were enthusiastic about my sharing posts from the site and links to episodes—I didn’t ask—they said I should feel free to do so. Excellent.

The invite arrives and I accept and then find I can’t post as The Pageist. I can only post as myself—under my actual name with my face right there. Usually, Facebook allows people to post as their page or themselves—I suppose that because this was a closed group that wasn’t an option? I was invited as my page—not my actual self.

If I had known that as soon as I accepted the invitation the owner of the group, if no one else, would know my legal identity I wouldn’t have joined the group.

So of course I’m not going to post anything to do with the show or site, as I’m not at the place where I’m ready to be completely out. Not for me so much, but I don’t know how it would affect my husband’s career. Do people care what someone’s spouse does? I don’t want to find out in a foreign country where we have literally no savings and no way of moving back to the States.

I want to be out. I want to be able to post selfies at events or doing fun things. I don’t want to worry about what would happen if someone knew about this part of myself because I’m certainly not ashamed of it. Some of my favourite people in the kink world are completely out and I’m envious.

Sinclair Sexsmith has an excellent writing on the various ways of being out—there was everything from the not-even-remotely-out option to the completely-and-entirely-out option. Pros and cons were identified for each choice.

I was the middle one—where you have an alter-ego. I call it being a super hero. You have a different name, implausible clothing, lots of gadgets and toys most people don’t and you probably know how to do a few cool tricks that could be dangerous if done improperly. Or properly, come to think of it.

Why I Want to Be Out

Not being out is weird, because right now I’m ‘unemployed’, right? Never mind that I’m working on film/app/site reviews, reading books, writing podcast episodes and essays, listening to other podcasts to review, doing social media stuff every day and more. I work seven days a week and many more than eight hours a day (and love every second of it).

I may look very serious here, but I’m loving life, promise. (source)

But to many people I not only don’t have a job—I’m also not looking for one. They must think I’m the laziest person ever, which I hate. I hate people thinking I’m lying around doing nothing, particularly when I feel like I’m doing something important and useful.

My goal with my job is to let people know they’re not alone, they are perfectly healthy being who they are while also helping them learn how to do the things that speak to them safely. This sort of thing saves lives. I wish I had the kink community when I was a teenager. I am incredibly proud of what I do and would love to be able to tell people.

When we were preparing to move to England my doctor asked, ‘So what are you going to do when you get there? Find a job or just enjoy being in England?’

The words, ‘I’m going to be a professional kinky word person!’ nearly burst from my throat without bothering to pass my lips.

I want to be out is what I’m saying.

However, I do not want someone to out me. It’s a consent thing—a control thing.

Outing someone as an act of vengeance is the nuclear option. You cannot un-press that button.

There’s a Chasidic tale about a man who was spreading gossip about a rabbi—he eventually realised what he had done was wrong and went to apologise and attempt to make amends. The rabbi told the man to cut a pillow open and scatter the feathers to the wind.

The man thought this was odd, but complied. Then he returned and the rabbi told him to go gather the feathers saying that he couldn’t fix what he’d done any more than he could find all the feathers from that pillow.

The damage done from opening your big yap is unforgiveable, as the damage is too far-reaching.

Considering Outing Someone?

Outing a person can literally ruin the rest of their life. Or their current life, housing situation, custody of their children, educational opportunities, career, marriage—everything.

If you think pushing the big, red, glowing button is good because that person did something to upset you—you’re the one who’s going to look like a lunatic. It’s called a proportional response. Is it ever okay to rape a person? (If you said yes, go straight to therapy.)

Go to therapy & out yourself. (source)

Because outing someone can have a devastating effect on the outed person’s life, as well as their family. People will find out you’re the one who outed that individual and even if they didn’t like that person no one will forget that it didn’t take anything to push you to that point. You will be persona non grata. No matter how much someone hates another person—no one loves the person who violated their consent. Even if they enjoy that person’s discomfort for a split second—they’re not going to be friends with you because what if you suddenly turn on them? You clearly can’t be trusted.

You’ve played yourself, as the kids say—you’ve messed up both your lives.

Think it Can’t Happen to You?

There are some petty, insane people out there who will push the nuclear button for the tiniest of reasons. And a person doesn’t have to see you for you to see them. It’s possible for someone to know who you are without you knowing them so the argument of ‘Well, if they know I’m at the dungeon then I’ve seen them, too,’ does not fly. Some screenshots to HR or your mom or your ex and his or her lawyer is all it takes.

I’ve also heard: ‘I’ll just sue them.’ That’s not going to put your life back together and I’m glad you have disposable income on-hand just for that occasion.

Ways to Avoid Being Outed:

Not having your face connected to your kink profiles is the big one.

Not showing your tattoos (I don’t adhere to that one very well so oh well.)

Don’t post the same photo on your vanilla accounts as your kink accounts—a person can do an image search and find all the places it’s posted. ‘Oh look, Carrie Vanilla-Girl has the same photos as Kitty SluttyPants. What a coincidence.’

If someone has your phone number in their contacts on an iPhone you will be recommended as a ‘friend’ on Facebook. With your actual face and name right there. I learned the real names of several people in my local munch back in North Carolina that way. Which means they learned mine. Luckily I trust those people and I wouldn’t out a person, so they’re safe. But if I’m outed in the future, that’s five or six people I can’t account for. All it takes is some random, insane girlfriend/boyfriend: ‘Who’s THIS?!’

You can say, ‘Facebook is just recommending them as a friend. I didn’t friend them.’ But crazy gf/bf is crazy and you know how that conversation is going to go. They look at your profile then they have all sorts of personal information about you. And you just know that happens. Just be careful who you give your number to if you have your face on your FB account and make your account private. Lock it down.

Secure as in ‘old timey’ bank vault locked down. (source)

If You are Outed:

You have all of my sympathies. You did nothing wrong. You wanted to post your face and tattoos? That was your choice and you should be able to do that. Victim-blaming is utter bullshit. It’s like blaming a rape victim. Nagasaki was not to blame, okay? The up-side is you’ll find out who your friends really are. The down-side is everything else. And holy hell, am I sorry.

I can give no advice on how to handle specific situations, as each one will vary so greatly depending on where you are in the world (or even in your specific country), if you have children, your position in the community and other factors.

People will surprise you—for the better and the worst. I haven’t been outed, but I’ve read a lot of outing stories and that is the one thing they have in common.

Though I can’t advise on every situation, if you’re in the U.S. and you need legal help, contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCFS)—they advocate on behalf of people having difficulties due to their non-traditional sexualities or romantic relationships. (If you can, support them financially–you never know when you or someone you care about will need their help and everything they do is volunteer-based.)

In general, people will treat you the way you behave—if you act ashamed they will feel it’s something to be ashamed of and will gloat and be even more insufferable (this comes from dealing with homophobes—I know about this). If you behave with dignity and explain whatever you need to with grace, they’re the ones who will look like the bad guy they are.

‘I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate having your private life dragged out into public view, either. All I’m asking for is civility.’ Summon your inner Michelle Obama.

What All of Us Can Do:

It’s important to make sure everyone in the community knows outing is never an option. If you hear someone talking about outing someone—explain why that’s unacceptable. If someone you hate with every cell of your hate bone is outed—don’t laugh—because it could happen to you. And it’s never funny—it’s a consent violation.

Actually. I take that back. It’s funny if it’s a homophobic Senator from Nebrahoma who turns out to like taking it up the back passage from male escorts. Those guys—after passing anti-gay laws and ruining people’s lives for years—when they get outed—that’s fucking funny. That will never not be fucking funny.

I feel sorry for them for hating themselves so much they have to hide who they are, but get some therapy and learn to love yourself. Once you start taking it out on everyone else I lose sympathy for you pronto, broheim. Just because you had a shitty childhood doesn’t mean you get to be a serial killer, m’kay?

[This is an updated, expanded version of a piece that originally appeared on episode 30 of The Pageist podcast.]


  • I find the BDSM world a strange place for ‘coming out.’ If you’re gay or gender-fluid / transitioning then (to me) it makes sense that eventually you would want to be out and able to live your life and love your loves and share those joys with your friends and family.

    With BDSM I think its different and that is probably my ingrained British attitude to sex speaking. I don’t think there is a need to come out in quite the same way, at all. I see a lot of newbies asking ‘how do I come out to my parents’ etc and I always end up saying the same thing:

    ‘If you have the type of relationship with your parents (or whoever you would like to tell) where you would happily discuss your oral sex technique in detail with them, then by all means tell them.’

    BDSM is between you and your lovers. It is an amazing, wonderful, freeing and life affirming thing to be part of but, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t involve anyone else but you and those you experience it with.

    I don’t see a reason why I would share -that much- detail about my sex life with my parents. Now I should say that I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, she is a liberal thinker, she has always been pro-active with my sex education (I got books and talks and condoms on bananas). She knew I identified as Bi at 16. She knows that I am polyamorous. She knows that one of my current partners is a cross dresser and has even helped me pick out girlie gifts and clothes for her. I have talked to my mum about problems with my sex life, lubrication and orgasms. I could easily ‘come out’ to her as into BDSM, she has always said she will talk about anything with me, no matter how embarrassing so that I stay safe and don’t feel that I can’t come to her with problems. But my BDSM isn’t a problem and I have other sounding boards to keep me safe, so I don’t feel the need to let her know all the ins and outs of my sex life!

    Therefore when I talk about the Munches and events I run I simply tell her half the truth and say that they are ‘LGBTIAQ+’ meets. It’s not a lie, we offer fantastic support for our local community, and she has probably guessed that they are slightly more than that but there is no need to put it all in her face (Page: If I was a podcaster I would probably say I worked in sex education, for example). I openly talk with her about how I want to become a sex and relationships councillor, how I want to support the transitioning and gender fluid community. I told her about the crackers I filled with condoms and adult jokes for my christmas ‘LGBTIAQ+ social’. I don’t leave her out of my life, but I do leave her out of my sex life unless its something I really feel she should know (i.e. pertaining to my health or safety).

    My close friends are different because I do talk to them about -ALL THE THINGS- and can quite happily have a frank discussion with them about sex techniques or show each other awful porn out-take videos etc. I think maybe what I am saying is that you need the right -kind- of relationship to come out with BDSM because it is sexual / intimate and there are some people who will never want to talk about -how- you do your sexy stuff, that is just life in our current social climate.

    I am active in the community but I still sign all of my online messages from my Alias rather than my real name, until I have met people in person. I also keep my irl social media locked down and am careful what photos I show. Why, if I am mostly out? Well the internet is a big place and I’d rather not be stalked. I learned the hard way, a long time ago, that talking about sex with the wrong sort of person gives them ideas and anyone who thinks that men are scary stalkers has never been stalked by a woman. Eesh, us ladies are scary!

    Well… now I have produced another essay on your comments, in true scary stalker lady fashion….

  • thepageist says:

    We differ here, because BDSM isn’t about sex for me. There’s an article by Jillian Keenan–I don’t have a link at the moment, but I’ll be writing a reaction piece to it soon–where she talks about how, for some people, BDSM is an orientation. It’s just part of who they are.

    For other people it’s not–it’s something they could never do again and wouldn’t miss it–it’s not vital or intrinsic to their personhood.

    I look at it like, if something is inherent to you then the people closest to you should accept you for that. Where I’m from, people would respond to someone saying, ‘I’m gay,’ with, ‘I don’t want to know how you have sex. Don’t talk about that, man.’ Meaning–never, ever mention being gay or anything to do with being gay ever again.

    It’s interesting that you, as a person who’s experienced with BDSM, associates it only with sex. That you wouldn’t bring it up because you wouldn’t discuss oral sex technique, either. But there’s a huge difference between, ‘I’m into kink because the communication and consent and control allows me to be closer to my partners than anything else I’ve experienced,’ and ‘And THIS is my favourite whip and this is the gag I use when they scream too loudly.’

    I’m a service-oriented submissive. It has been part of me since I was 12. Before I had a crush on a girl I wanted to tidy the classroom. For me, it’s an orientation. Anyone who doesn’t know and accept (not tolerate, because who wants to be tolerated) this will never *really* be my friend.

    When I eventually have a D-type, sure, for simplicity and safety’s sake I’ll have to introduce her to certain people as my friend or whatever. But my friends will know who she is.

    I feel like–if something is a hobby or something you can give up and it won’t make a difference to your life, then yeah, who cares who knows. But if something is a part of you–an actual part of who you are as a human being on this planet–and someone cares about you–why shouldn’t they know? Wouldn’t they want to know something profound like that? Particularly if it’s something that large swaths of society will judge you for. It’s good to know your friends/family are on your side.

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