All the Smaller For It a.k.a. Everyone Doesn’t Have to Experience Relationships the Way You Do
This week hasn’t been so swift, as my Mother likes to say when she doesn’t feel good. ‘I don’t feel so swift.’
I started Monday morning being compared to a rapist and pedophile for being kinky. Here’s what happened.
Sunday, in a conversation on Twitter, giver of hilarity and taker of will to live, I pointed out that some people believe kink is an orientation, since it’s unchangeable and present from an early age. This didn’t feel like a controversial statement to me.
Monday I woke up to someone saying that NO, kink is only sexual and if we’re going to include kinky people in LGBT then we have to include rapists and pedophiles.
I said that first—kink doesn’t have to be sexual—asexual people can be kinky (the person disagreed) and that kink is all about consent. Rape and pedophilia very much aren’t.
Then I realised—this person doesn’t know what my job is.
So I explained this is what I do—I read (books, articles, essays) and write and listen to podcasts and learn from other people and have a show, sharing information about kink. Teaching is an excellent way of learning—it helps you remember what you’ve read, synthesise information from various sources and forces you to solidify your opinions, as well as form sound reasoning behind those opinions.
This is what I do all day, seven days a week. It’s my job and my personal life.
I figured they just thought I was a random person with as little information as they had.
The response I received: Good for you.
Then they told me to pick up a biology textbook because I didn’t understand how sexuality worked.
That person (and the people who agreed with them in the thread) will never listen to my show (or read this) because they aren’t interested in learning anything. They’ve decided what kink is and is not. And that is sad and infuriating, but their lives will be all the smaller for it.
They know what kink and sex is for them specifically and that’s enough for them. Which is fine—my knowing that other people experience the world a different way because either I do so myself or because I’ve read about or spoken to people who experience the world differently is enough for me.
Some people don’t believe other people when they talk about their experiences of the world—if they don’t experience it for themselves it doesn’t exist for them. They believe only their experience of anything is ‘correct’ and everything else is wrong and must be explained or accounted for rather than simply accepted as a different way of living in the world.
I need to learn to leave people alone when they don’t want to learn.
I have this wacky thing, though, with information. It’s free—here—understand the world and humanity better.
If you’re reading this, perhaps you’d like to understand some of the world and your fellow humans better. So, here is some information.
Kink as Orientation
Kink is an orientation—for some people—because it’s how they relate to others intimately. Not just sexually, but emotionally. They are ‘oriented’ that way.
You can’t un-orient someone from their particular thing.
I should say ‘we’. Looking back, my service-oriented submissiveness was present for years before my romantic feelings for women were. I didn’t have a word for it, but I knew I wanted to be useful to a woman I admired.
For years I could describe, with many, many words how particular women (who I’d now just call Dominant) made me feel using many, many words, (which I’d now just say submissive). I could also sort of describe the type of relationship I wanted (now it’d be called a power exchange) and all the things I’d like to do (now it’d be service).
When Jillian Keenan was on Why Are People Into That?! with Tina Horn and they talked about spanking Tina asked her if she had to give up spanking or sex which would it be Jillian said sex without much pause. Tina said the same.
If that isn’t oriented towards spanking, then I don’t know what is.
(Keenan has a great article on Slate called Is Kink an Orientation.)
For some people, BDSM isn’t an orientation. It’s just something people do on occasion to spice things up—to goof around. To feel naughty. There’s nothing wrong with that.
To say that kink isn’t an orientation is like saying that because some people fool around with the same sex at a play party, no one is ever completely gay or romantically oriented towards the same sex.
Just because something works one way for you doesn’t mean it has to work that way for everyone else. Other people’s experiences are just as valid as yours.
If it’s something that you couldn’t give up—if it makes up a part of your core being and has been present since a young age—you’re oriented that way. Just like you’re whatever gender you are (or aren’t), or whatever sexuality you are.
Speaking of sexuality.
Kink can be non-sexual. Even for sexual people. If your thing is rope you can enjoy tying up everyone for the art and creativity and challenge. You don’t have to want to fuck everyone in the rope.
Though I suppose some people could be so turned on by the act of tying—if they were pansexual and had a high libido—maybe they could find everyone in their rope sexy.
The point is—lots of kink can be non-sexual. Power exchange isn’t called ‘sex exchange’. It’s about power and control and trust and a thousand other things. Sex can be involved, but it doesn’t have to be.
A lot of people think power is sexy, but a lot of people think cars are sexy, too. When someone buys a new car you don’t automatically say, ‘When are you going to fuck in it?’
Just because something is deemed ‘sexy’ by the wider world doesn’t mean sex is involved.
Someone I know who is a Master and is married to his slave—he also had another slave for a time (they were all poly) and he intentionally didn’t have sex with his second slave because he didn’t want that energy to cloud the power exchange. If a full-time Master/slave relationship isn’t kinky, I don’t know what is, but they didn’t have sex.
There are also several groups of asexual kinksters on Fet. I don’t know what to tell them. ‘Some people on Twitter think you don’t exist so… Sorry.’
Kink is definitely about sex for many people. Just because it is for you doesn’t mean it has to be for everyone.
Because I’m a creative person and this is how my mind works—I began trying to work out if there were any kinks that couldn’t be practised non-sexually. The only ones that were really difficult were chastity and things like prostate milking.
Even forced orgasms could be non-sexual. It’s not something I have any interest in, but if I were in a long-term power exchange and my Ma’am was really into that, I’d do it as an act of submission. Orgasms feel good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not something I’d ever ask for or care about. After about the third I’d be yawning.
But with penises and their accoutrements—if you don’t care about that stuff…I mean, I could lock my husband’s junk up and his biggest issue would be bathing. Trying to clean an uncircumcised cock in a chastity cage is probably a real issue.
But: ‘Now, keep your hands off yourself!’
I really never thought I’d wind up writing about Walter’s dick, but there we are. It has a little turtleneck and he washes under it and then goes FOONK and pulls the covers back over its head. It’s sweet.
And it never bothers me for anything. That’s the best part.
The Devaluing of Sex Education
Now. The ‘Good for you’ where the person dismissed the time, energy, money and effort I put into learning and sharing information about kink.
I was shaking with rage. I’ve never had my intelligence dismissed before—to that degree, I mean, I am a woman—and I did not care for it.
They had made up their mind about what kink (and kinky people) were and didn’t care that someone else knew more and was happy to share.
I think much of this comes from our culture’s devaluing of sex education. Sex is simple and straightforward and anyone can have it. There’s nothing new to learn about it, right? So you probably already know everything there is to know. And you certainly don’t want to know more—especially about anything deviant like BDSM. Mainstream media will tell you everything you need to know about that, except that’s nearly always written by non-kinky people who don’t do research and perpetuates incorrect and harmful information from other non-kinky writers.
One of the most profound things I have learned in studying sexuality—about myself and the rest of humanity—is that sexuality is far more complicated and nuanced than we’ve been led to believe by religion or government or society. It’s beautiful and amazing. If people were just allowed to be themselves and explore, with other consenting adults, obviously, we’d all be better off. I don’t know how much work we’d get done. But there’d probably be fewer wars.
How we are oriented—how we connect with others intimately—whether it’s sexually, emotionally, how we need to structure our relationships to be most fulfilled, whatever… is when we’re being most true to ourselves. If we have to lie about that—about who we are at our core—then we’re lying about everything else. You can’t build an honest life on top of an untruth.
People who give you resources to help you be more honest with yourself and those in your life—because we can’t ‘teach’ you anything, we can just give you resources and hope you make the most of them—hope they work for you. We want you to be your most authentic self. Because when you are—you’re happier, as are the people around you. And there’s no reason to be miserable. Some people have to remain closeted due to the country they live in—or the specific area—and my heart goes out to you. But knowing yourself and knowing you’re not alone is vital, I think.
I’m a fucking sex and kink resource librarian. It’s my goal in life to accumulate even more resources to help even more people in future. If you ever come across a useful resource, send it my way, (thepageist [at] gmail) and I’ll add it to the pages on my site.
We’ve Been Here For Years, Mofos
So this Twitter person (and several agreed) that we shouldn’t allow kinkily oriented people under the LGBT umbrella unless we were going to allow in rapists and pedophiles, too.
Well, uninformed individual who didn’t want to listen to the person who devotes their life to this, but who has a podcast, kinky people have been marching in gay pride since 1981. So HA-HA.
I thought so, but I wasn’t sure of the dates, so I would like to thank Laura Antoniou for the following information, who very graciously answered my questions on Twitter (which isn’t all evil).
My question to her was when did Leather people start marching in pride?
She had to look it up—thank you, Laura! (I wasn’t even sure where to start with that) and said the Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA) and the Lesbian Sex Mafia (a lesbian BDSM community) marched in 1981 in Gay Pride in New York. There was also a big Leather contingent at the 1987 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights, which was possibly the first appearance of SSC—Safe Sane and Consensual—on a banner.
It’s not like regular old gay folks are promoting consent on banners out in the world. Neither are non-kinky people, for that matter. But the Leather people were.
SSC was created by the Leather community, as a way of putting the non-kinky people’s minds at ease. Because, you know, we’re so terrifying. Doing things with other people who want to do them.
Meanwhile, thirty-five years later, the vanilla world still hasn’t caught up and started using the consent model we do, which is more conscientious than theirs. The irony. It burns.
Back to Laura, though. She said her first Pride was in 1984 and she was marching with the Lesbian Sex Mafia in the early 90s, where they had regular debates on whether or not to march with the lesbians of the leathermen. To which she added ‘Imagine!’ I can just hear that in her New York accent.
She also said back then there were protests to them marching, where they were called rapists and child molesters. Charming. Good to know the haters haven’t come up with anything new in decades.
This comes back to people thinking they already know everything they need to know about those dirty perverts, though, right?
Anyone reading this who worries they are anything like that—you are fine how you are. As long as what you’re doing is consensual with another adult human being you are fine exactly how you are. It’s not your fault the people around you think they know everything there is to know about human sexuality. I know I don’t know everything and I’m excited to learn more. I know that my world is only going to expand, though; it’s not going to contract—that’s not how it works. You just learn about new and varied ways people connect and relate—both to others and themselves. Physically and emotionally, sexually and intellectually.
This experience has made me endlessly grateful for the community of kink and sex educators I am proud to call my peers and mentors and it makes me even more determined to work to eradicate such narrow thinking. It also makes me grateful for and proud of my friends, who have been open-minded and supportive and of me and my career from the beginning.
(This piece originally appeared in a shorter form in episode 54 of The Pageist podcast.)