"It’s not my choice."
August 24, 2014 3:54 PM   Subscribe



 
This whole "orientation" question is hugely boring. From my own experience/reflections no, I think however you want to define "kink" it's almost always the result of a mix of biology/culture/personal history/interplay between people/etc. Some type of kink I enjoy with some people and not with others, or in different ways or to different degrees, and I think it would be dangerous to let it form too much of a fixed identity.

The "orientation" question is basically just "can we pretend this is biology/identity so we don't have to talk about the ethics of bdsm?", and no, no you can't. The ethics/pitfalls are an interesting topic and one that would be worth talking about if we could stop trying to convince ourselves we don't need to.
posted by crayz at 4:20 PM on August 24, 2014 [111 favorites]


I know a couple with a master-slave dynamic. She defers to him on all matters and wears a symbol of subservience publicly. Acts of "service" are a central feature of their life together.

I'm speaking of my grandparents.

I think it's a mistake to try to draw a line between the kinky people and the vanilla people. The distinguishing mark of self-identified kinky people is conscious awareness of the relationship dynamics they're trying to create.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2014 [43 favorites]


The "orientation" question is basically just "can we pretend this is biology/identity so we don't have to talk about the ethics of bdsm?", and no, no you can't.
I'm kind of in awe of how much "cutting through the bullshit and getting to what is really at issue" you did in a single sentence there.
posted by edheil at 4:24 PM on August 24, 2014 [43 favorites]


what crayz said, so many umpteen metric tons of times.

within BDSM/Kink circles, that i've either floundered into or found myself in, the ethics bit is something that cannot and will not be discussed.
However if you bring it up, in my experience, there's either a chewbacca defensive line or character assassination-type of reaction. YMMV IMHO etc etc.

although the articles were mildly interesting, this bit stuck out to me:
And so in the same way as someone who is homosexual, they couldn’t really change — they somehow felt fulfilled in the same-sex relationship — similarly in a BDSM relationship or scenario, they similarly feel the same factors, and in my mind, that allows me to classify people who fit that as a sexual orientation. I cannot change someone who’s into BDSM to not be BDSM.
I simply do not agree.
posted by xcasex at 4:29 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some type of kink I enjoy with some people and not with others, or in different ways or to different degrees, and I think it would be dangerous to let it form too much of a fixed identity.

That's great, and more power to you, but that's also just you, and it isn't necessarily representative of other people's experiences. If you read the second letter in the SL Letters of the Day link, it relates a person's lived experience that's quite different.

If other folks want to discuss the "ethical dimensions" of any sort of sexual practice or preference, I guess I'll be interested to listen. I'm mostly asexual myself mentally, and completely celibate in practice, but when it comes to the sexual lives of others, my only ethical principle is that what competent and consenting adults desire and do among themselves is up to them and none of my business.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:38 PM on August 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think a lot of otherwise smart people were ok with using the "born this way" argument when it came to homosexuality because it was useful for attempting to get through to people who would never accept gay people otherwise. Basically, people were willing to use an argument with shaky logic to get through to people with shaky command of logic themselves.

But it's a terrible argument. How many predispositions are people born with? Not all of them are great. There's a lot of evidence that pedophilia is far from something someone "chooses". That doesn't mean pedophilia is good and it doesn't mean homosexuality is bad. It just means we need better ways of talking about these things than "I didn't choose it".
posted by the jam at 4:40 PM on August 24, 2014 [25 favorites]


Whenever I hear people suggest that bdsm is an orientation, what I hear is "lgbt people get to have all the attention! What about ME??" (I say this as a member of both groups.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:40 PM on August 24, 2014 [39 favorites]


Why exactly am I supposed to care about what a bunch of consenting adults are doing in privacy?
posted by jonmc at 4:43 PM on August 24, 2014 [27 favorites]


I'm kind of in awe of how much "cutting through the bullshit and getting to what is really at issue" you did in a single sentence there.

Except he didn't. He staked out a position without support other than his own choices and beliefs, and somehow hand waived like they applied to all peoples.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Why does BDSM have to be an "orientation?"

Concerning "ethical questions," well, to my understanding most principled BDSM practitioners make sure that, whatever masking of the ideas they perform in order to get their rocks off, it's still completely consensual. I mean, the term "safe word" has entered the popular vernacular enough to have been used on an episode of Family Guy, is this really controversial anymore?

Also, does "kink" mean solely BDSM? I was under a vague impression that it was a blanket under which was a variety of things including general fetishes.

I've always been under the impression that, just like one's job shouldn't define your identity, so shouldn't your sexual proclivities. But I'll admit that sex isn't a real big part of my life, and wouldn't push that perception on anyone.
posted by JHarris at 4:50 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is an interesting topic.

I think most kink is a learned behavior. I mean, some people find it appealing and some don't, and some don't find it appealing to begin with but when they explore it (for whatever reason) they end up finding it works for them (whatever that may mean). And kink, specifically BDSM, is very much about factors of interpersonal dynamics which are largely learned behaviors.

I think, if you're going to equate kink with an inborn orientation on any level, there has to be this point where an individual is entirely able to function, fantasize, or appreciate sexual activity that does not involve powerplay dynamics.

Like, as a gay man, I can watch straight porn, I can even get off on it. I like watching cocks being pushed in and out of things. But when it comes down to me actually doing anything with a female, not only is there a complete inability to be interested in the activity, there is an actual difficulty even beginning to approach that as a serious thing.

Now, I'm pretty far along the kink scale, by some measures. I can and have participated in powerplay encounters. I can and have (much more frequently) been involved in pretty heavy-level fisting activity, which is similar to BDSM but which involves less powerplay and has some other dynamics running through it.

What my experience tells me (although I'm willing to listen to competing viewpoints), is that if you literally are UNABLE TO FUNCTION SEXUALLY without powerplay or BDSM elements being involved, there may be some other issues happening in your psyche, which are not inborn, orientation-equivalent matters.

There seem, to me, to be levels of interpersonal dynamics related to BDSM engagement which is much more about learned behavior, conditioning, and fantasy play than any base level sexuality.
posted by hippybear at 4:54 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


crayz: "The "orientation" question is basically just "can we pretend this is biology/identity so we don't have to talk about the ethics of bdsm?", and no, no you can't. The ethics/pitfalls are an interesting topic and one that would be worth talking about if we could stop trying to convince ourselves we don't need to."

Can you expand on this? I am curious what are the ethical issues of kink that you think people are trying to avoid.
posted by tybeet at 4:55 PM on August 24, 2014


Whenever I hear people suggest that bdsm is an orientation, what I hear is "lgbt people get to have all the attention! What about ME??" (I say this as a member of both groups.)

I get what you're saying, but people are or should be able to think about and talk about their own senses of identity and define themselves how they want to without us assuming it's a bid for attention or whatever.

Dopey example: At a teaching conference once, I was in a session that was a workshop on cultural identity and group affiliation yata yata. And they had us do this fill-in-the-blank "I am (a) ___________" thing where we had to list 5 or 10 identifiers that were most important to us. So people in my group had lists where they were parents or Salvadorean-American or Buddhist or women or whatever, and here's what I listed:

dog pack member
Midwesterner
English major
introvert
music lover
teacher

And of course, everybody looked at me like I was a giant freak or joking or something. But these are genuinely the elements of my life and my identity that most define me, my world view, etc. So if BDSM is a fundamental part of your sense of self, you get to say so, and I don't give a shit if you chose it or if it's innate to your brain chemistry or if the Publisher's Clearinghouse guys drove up to your house and gave it to you.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:57 PM on August 24, 2014 [8 favorites]




tybeet: "Can you expand on this? I am curious what are the ethical issues of kink that you think people are trying to avoid."

Yes, I too am very curious about this.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:01 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


No ethics? I would have thought kink practicioners have done more than anyone to work out what constitutes giving consent. They hold workshops.

I think you mean that "your kink is not my kink" is often used as a blanket excuse for not analyzing and evaluating one's own kinks. Wearing a Nazi costume isn't genetic, and it's hard to justify.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:05 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


when it comes to the sexual lives of others, my only ethical principle is that what competent and consenting adults desire and do among themselves is up to them and none of my business.

I sort of agree, in that people can do what they want and more power to them. But at the same time, the choices they make and the way they talk about it are reflective of our culture and hence both interesting and important. The ethics can be complicated even when everyone is a consenting adult and it is worth exploring those complications.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:05 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


So if BDSM is a fundamental part of your sense of self, you get to say so, and I don't give a shit if you chose it or if it's innate to your brain chemistry or if the Publisher's Clearinghouse guys drove up to your house and gave it to you.

Something can be a fundamental part of someone's sense of self without being an inborn trait, e.g. fanatic sports fans or animal lovers.
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:08 PM on August 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Are you talking about "breeding" and "feeder" kinks and that type of stuff, Dip Flash?
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:09 PM on August 24, 2014


jonmc:
> Why exactly am I supposed to care about what a bunch of consenting adults are doing in privacy?

Because you should care about everyone and some people consent to stuff that's bad for them. Not saying it necessarily obligates you to do anything about it, but there's a possible reason to care. BDSM might be bad for some people.
posted by hjo3 at 5:10 PM on August 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Why exactly am I supposed to care about what a bunch of consenting adults are doing in privacy?

This. We should be depoliticizing sexuality. Instead of saying "It's okay to be gay/trans/kinky!", we should be saying "Your sexuality does not require public approval."

Because you should care about everyone and some people consent to stuff that's bad for them.

And who are you to say what's bad for them?
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:12 PM on August 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


xcasex: " ...I cannot change someone who’s into BDSM to not be BDSM..."

I simply do not agree.
"

Put it this way. I assume you have preferences when it comes to sex and arousal. There are probably things that turn you on or turn you off, such as: personalities, styles of dress, body types, body parts, activities, etc... Did you choose your sexual preferences? Have you ever tried to un-learn them, or otherwise change them through sheer will?
posted by tybeet at 5:15 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I would have thought kink practitioners have done more than anyone to work out what constitutes giving consent. They hold workshops.

Yeah, and people cruise them to pick up partners, go home with them, and leave their inconvenient ethics at the door. The whole problem is this myth that kinky people are inherently more ethical, which is how I'm reading the original statement that people want to use orientation as an excuse to not bother with stupid buzzkilling ethics.

There's a whole lot of people out there who just get off on hurting other people, or will wear whatever costume necessary to get what they see as easy sex on tap.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:16 PM on August 24, 2014 [20 favorites]


"Your sexuality does not require public approval."

...but it needs to be protected from public disapproval. People can get fired for their kinks. The best way to deal with this probably isn't to build legal protections analogous to those of gay people but to reform employee rights in general.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:20 PM on August 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


The best way to deal with this probably isn't to build legal protections analogous to those of gay people but to reform employee rights in general.

If only gay people had legal protections across the majority of the US. I count myself lucky to live in an equal protection state.
posted by hippybear at 5:24 PM on August 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Something can be a fundamental part of someone's sense of self without being an inborn trait, e.g. fanatic sports fans or animal lovers.

Precisely, and the whole "Are you born with X, is X learned, is X a choice, is X forced upon you?" is sort of pointless. There's very little about us that is only one of those things, anyhow.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:26 PM on August 24, 2014


Whether or not something is an orientation, is biological, is an identity, etc., isn't related to whether or not its ethical implications need to be explored.

So, for example, the ethical implications of heterosexual relationships absolutely need to be explored because of among other things sexism, whereas maybe the ethical implications of lefthandedness are less interesting.

So crayz's comment up front is a little confusing to me. Of course the ethical implications of BDSM are worth discussing, whether or not BDSM is orientation, an identity, a preference, or whatever. Maybe our conclusions will change depending on what we think. But the point of these articles, as I take it, is that those discussions probably shouldn't begin with stigmatization, which seems like it may be in many places the status quo.
posted by avianism at 5:28 PM on August 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Is Kink a Sexual Orientation?

No.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:29 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and people cruise them to pick up partners, go home with them, and leave their inconvenient ethics at the door. The whole problem is this myth that kinky people are inherently more ethical, which is how I'm reading the original statement that people want to use orientation as an excuse to not bother with stupid buzzkilling ethics.

I'm not into BDSM, but I totally believed that myth until I came across this seven part series by a person who is into BDSM about abuse in the BDSM community.

There’s A War On Part 1: Trouble’s Been Brewing
It’s invisible to the mainstream. There’s a war on within the BDSM community[1] about whether to face up to abuse within. There are a lot of dynamics overlapping here, and it’s hard to see the whole picture even for those of us who keep up with these things.

[...]

Do rape and abuse happen in kink communities? Yes. Yes they do. In any forum where people have the space to talk about it, stories come out. For most of my adult life (and I’ve engaged with other kinky people in some forum or other for just about my entire adult life) the only forums where those stories were welcome were small conversations among friends. Recently, that has started to change, and there is a new paradigm of open discussion which threatens to upend the applecart and actually change the way things operate.
There’s A War On Part 2: The Creepy Dom and the The People On The Fringe
There’s A War On Part 3: A Fungus Among Us
There’s A War On Part 4: Just Us
There’s A War On Part 5: Wallowing In The SL-Op
There’s A War On Part 6: Anti-Sunshine League
There’s A War On Part 7: There’s A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:32 PM on August 24, 2014 [35 favorites]


No, I don't think so.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:37 PM on August 24, 2014


This. We should be depoliticizing sexuality. Instead of saying "It's okay to be gay/trans/kinky!", we should be saying "Your sexuality does not require public approval."

I agree in principle. Consider, though, that sexuality isn't merely something people do in private and leave there: people form lasting relationships with others naturally, so being gay should also mean being able to go to the store with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being given stares or unfriendly words even if nobody's trying to tell you what to do in your bedroom, for example.
posted by clockzero at 5:38 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dear People, There are horrible people EVERYWHERE in EVERY GROUP. The best we can do as humans is to be nice to people and not be assholes.

There are super creepy asshole-riffic people in the bdsm community. Just like everywhere else.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:39 PM on August 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


Put it this way. I assume you have preferences when it comes to sex and arousal. There are probably things that turn you on or turn you off, such as: personalities, styles of dress, body types, body parts, activities, etc... Did you choose your sexual preferences? Have you ever tried to un-learn them, or otherwise change them through sheer will?

actually I am very into BDSM and various sundry kinky shit, I just don't agree on the orientation part, my sexuality and my orientation are to me very different things.

But to answer your question, no. but as the ever awesome Samantha put it, i'm a trysexual first and foremost.
posted by xcasex at 5:40 PM on August 24, 2014


There are super creepy asshole-riffic people in the bdsm community. Just like everywhere else.

You could say this about the police or catholic church too. And I'm sure this varies from community to community, encounter to encounter. But from what I have experienced, there is a large percentage of people in the bdsm/poly/free love communities who have gone in thinking "this gives me license to take advantage of/abuse people and get away with it". And I have seen, overheard or had incidents related to me that make me think this is very much something that needs not be swept under the rug as statistical noise.

I know people who very much personally believe in aspects of these non-mainstream perspectives on sex, but avoid the local community because of their bad experiences. And maybe I should be more clear and say in my experience it's been universally women avoiding these communities because of bad behavior by men. Men rarely seem to care about other men's behavior.
posted by crayz at 5:49 PM on August 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


I agree in principle. Consider, though, that sexuality isn't merely something people do in private and leave there: people form lasting relationships with others naturally, so being gay should also mean being able to go to the store with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being given stares or unfriendly words even if nobody's trying to tell you what to do in your bedroom, for example.

Yes and? Nobody is saying the hardcore painplay people aren't allowed to go shopping together. It's the bleedover (sigh) into exhibitionism that makes me really side-eye a lot of BDSM=orientation stuff.

Protection for unfair dismissal? Abso-fucking-lutely. Should be enshrined. You can get fired for writing erotica, that's not okay either. Doesn't make writing erotica an orientation, it means the laws are weak.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:01 PM on August 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


Those predatory folks who think they have license to hurt and abuse and exploit people (one way or another) and get away with it? Are in every community, at least in U.S. culture. This is a problem of dating and human interaction.

The fact that predators gravitate to target-rich environments like BDSM cultures, preschools, college campuses, nursing homes, pop culture cons, or support groups doesn't mean there's something wrong with the ethics of those communities, just that they have special security concerns.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:04 PM on August 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


this is an idea that i doubt will get much agreement here, but it is inherently unethical to be a male dom in a m/f d/s relationship? at its core, on the part of the male, it seems to me like it's fetishizing the ritualization of abuse of women. like i'm a dude and i can't speak to the female role there, but as a man that seems icky as hell to me and consent doesnt get rid of that. like i doubt people would give such a free pass to a white guy who engaged in slave play with his black SO, or people who engage in pedophilic age play; basically the recreation of any other actual structural exploitation. as far as it cutting both ways, 'i like to tie up women and hit them but only if theyre cool with it' carries some really weird psychic baggage that femdom doesnt have imo
posted by p3on at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


i'm a feminist 24/7 submissive in a M/f relationship and i think there are lots of ethical ways to do it (and lots of less ethical ways). i have had femdom friends tell me they disagree and refuse to discuss our kinks because they cannot remain rational when the topic is a man bruising a woman. i respect that those are their limits and i hope they realize that's their hang up and not something inherently wrong with me.

if we're keeping a poll, as a (gender)queer woman who is submissive to men and dom/switch with women, i feel like my kink is very different than my orientation.
posted by nadawi at 6:15 PM on August 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


The complaint that I think I'm correctly seeing Crayz make, and I am making as well, is that when these communities don't want to talk A LOT about ethics, even good-faith participants end up poorly versed in ethics, and that gets taken advantage of even by very experienced, very well-known participants.

And unfortunately the loudest voices who don't want to talk about the ethics are not the low-fruit predators, but are often the leaders, the long-time pillars of the community, and the cool kids, for lack of a better term. It does hold the doors open for passing assholes, but it's coming straight from the top. Nobody runs a petty dictatorship like someone who's way into power play. These people (men, often) are the first to think they are above consent at every level, and it is to their advantage to keep those below them a little confused.

It's really fucking hard to practice deeply ethical kink. It's a shitload of boring old talking before the fun play can start. A lot of people are not actually all that bright with regard to consent, especially complex consent. Headspace is really goddamn complicated. And people are fucking lazy and like to think they can shortcut everything. Nooneyouknow posted that long series above on what could probably be just about every local BDSM group in the world, right down to the whispernet about the dangerous doms (and there's a corresponding whispernet about who's easiest to rape, who will put up with extreme humiliation, etc). Some of these people who just like to hurt other people are deeply entrenched and invested in the community.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:26 PM on August 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


and fwiw, i agree with what Lyn Never says right up there. i've known quite a few shithead doms before i found a deeply ethical one.
posted by nadawi at 6:32 PM on August 24, 2014


Why exactly am I supposed to care about what a bunch of consenting adults are doing in privacy?

People in a common-interest group are free to have a public discussion of the contours and questions of their common interest, and as someone who is not interested you are perfectly within your rights to not join the discussion.
posted by psoas at 6:42 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why exactly am I supposed to care about what a bunch of consenting adults are doing in privacy?

Because I told you to, my little pet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 PM on August 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


geek anachronism >

"I agree in principle. Consider, though, that sexuality isn't merely something people do in private and leave there: people form lasting relationships with others naturally, so being gay should also mean being able to go to the store with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being given stares or unfriendly words even if nobody's trying to tell you what to do in your bedroom, for example."

Yes and? Nobody is saying the hardcore painplay people aren't allowed to go shopping together. It's the bleedover (sigh) into exhibitionism that makes me really side-eye a lot of BDSM=orientation stuff.


When I said that sex isn't necessarily something people leave entirely in the bedroom or wherever, I was responding to the following comment:

We should be depoliticizing sexuality. Instead of saying "It's okay to be gay/trans/kinky!", we should be saying "Your sexuality does not require public approval."

I meant that what is not respected in public won't necessarily be tolerated in private. I agree that sexuality shouldn't require public approval, which is exactly why we shouldn't let the people who think it does decide the issue.
posted by clockzero at 6:53 PM on August 24, 2014


man, just think of all the amazing things we'd be able to accomplish if we as a species could stop worrying about what other people do in their bedrooms. yeesh.
posted by photoslob at 6:59 PM on August 24, 2014


So, having casual sex has a couple very real risks of direct harm to your partner - transmission of incurable and possibly deadly diseases and unwanted pregnancy with possible adverse health outcomes. Now it seems to me that these are way more concrete and dangerous than some nebulous spiritual harm that might come from getting off to transgressive behavior.

If you are that concerned about BDSM behavior to the point where you ask that they justify it, how do you justify recreational sex in the first place?
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:12 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: people were willing to use an argument with shaky logic to get through to people with shaky command of logic themselves.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:27 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks for clarifying, Lyn Never. Since some of the articles were focused on human rights, civil liberties, coming out issues, when the initial "ethics" comments came up, I mistakenly thought people were talking about the majority culture or members of other subcultures outside BDSM making value judgments about the ethics of BDSM as a minority group ("The things you people like to do are disgusting to me, and so you are second-class citizens").

That, of course, is a whole separate thread of the orientation/identity conversation than the complex one you're addressing about ethical issues in the ways communities are constructed, the ways people treat each other in relationships, how private behaviors and choices do/don't intersect with public and civic life, etc., and the various excuses people make to handwave away those issues within BDSM.

Those questions and the dodging of them seem to be a patriarchy leitmotif. You call someone or a social structure on shitty behavior, and you get "But, but nature, not nurture!" or "But, but evo-psych!" or "But, but the 2nd Amendment!" or some other flavor of hogwash du jour.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:39 PM on August 24, 2014


Are you talking about "breeding" and "feeder" kinks and that type of stuff, Dip Flash?

Honestly I'd rather not problematize a laundry list of kinks because there are almost certainly community members here who are into just about anything I could name and these things are complex and deserve to be taken seriously. I would say that we should consider the ethics of "normal" sexuality just as carefully as we do the deviant stuff, and probably more so because it represents everyday life for a lot more people.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:21 PM on August 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't care about the BDSM community. I'm not involved in it and I don't want to be. But my kinks define my experience of my sexuality, not gender. It makes no sense for me to identify myself by an orientation, because I don't really have one. My sexuality is the things I like, not the varying gender of the individuals I'd like to experience it with.

We can quibble about whether 'orientation' only means orientation toward genders. But if we think of 'orientation' as simply the most important defining element of someone's experience of their sexuality, then it makes sense to say 'my orientation is my kink.'
posted by wrabbit at 8:33 PM on August 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


IME kink communities in the economically-developed countries are microcosms of their societies. I'd fall over in orgasmic shock if intersectionality, particularly around class, ability, race and/or sexism, was openly discussed or dealt with institutionally and ongoing, rather than just enough to smooth over or eject the current critic. A good example of this is how "passable" trans* people are being accepted within queer kink circles, but non-binary or non-passing transfolk are still judged less desirable, even by other transpeople (and basically shunned out of erotic opportunities).
"Born this way" or as the sum of predisposition plus environment and opportunity, kink communities are run by and for their high-status members. Kinky people are still people, and we can't perv our way to the revolution.
But doing the social justice work within kink can feel like we are burning our own erotic energy to warm people we'll never touch.
posted by Dreidl at 8:34 PM on August 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


"breeding" and "feeder" kinks

As an aside, those are interesting examples because those are both extreme versions of totally normal heteronormative relationship behavior. Feeding your beloved dinner is a great second or third date and is a way people show their love for partners and family; similarly, there isn't much more normalized than a desire to have procreative sex (to the point of it being the only approved kind of sex in some major religions).

So yes, I'd say the ethics are complex and worth discussing, and that it's not going to be simple to separate nature/nurture in terms of choice versus orientation.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been having some of these philosophical heart-to-hearts with my friends lately, particularly as it regards those of us of a queer bent, because man, gay folks are all sorts of fucked-up in the areas of kink. I get that what floats your boat just floats your boat, but when you see so many fetishes that essentially model the behavior patterns that we were stuck with when we were the world's dirty little pariahs, fucking in secret and in shame, you have to wonder why we're still playing those games.

I'm a little cursed in that the subjects of my romantic interest tend to be a little older than me, and I'm in the generation that came of age during the Ronald Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic™, so I've got my generation's scary-sex nerves coming up against the quirks of my it's-very-complicated's sort of sixties/seventies mixture of public sex fetishes, fears of intimacy, and weird little power trips recreating the way they had to have sex back in the day.

You find all sorts of rapey fantasy work revolving around trying to convince/cajole/coerce sex when you couldn't just like dick and ass and big hairy fuckers rubbing all up on your je ne sais quoi because doing so is pleasurable in and of itself. We get all this master and boy, bear and cub, and the whole absurd daddy thing, which is even weirder than the concept of bears saying "woof" for whatever fucking stupid reason that's a thing, but really? Do we need that? Have we really exhausted all the possibilities of sex without trunkloads of accessories and squeaky-ass, freezing cold (then super clammy gross) leather?

As a fellow of a fluctuating rotundity, I had a stretch where I was of a mass and beardlessness that pretty much disqualified me from mainstream gayety, and I dabbled in the chaser arena, but was always stymied by the response to a serious question I had for those who seemed to be entirely warm for my form.

In bed with the British bodybuilding rocket scientist who'd come to America to chase after me, I had him remove his finger from my navel so I could ask a question.

"So, yeah, you're thinking of moving here, and that's cool, but what happens if I need to lose some weight?"

"Wot?"

"Like, if I need to lose some weight so I don't have a heart attack."

"That'd be criminal," he said, and my brow went all furrowy. "You've got such a lovely round belly, Joe."

My brow furrowed further.

"Well, I'm healthy now, but what if I wasn't? Are you saying you wouldn't be able to live with skinnier me?"

"Uh...well...huh. I dunno. Can't really get going without something to hang onto."

The conversation did not end well, and ultimately, neither did the relationship, but he's found himself a gigantic German without those uncertainties, so all's well and so forth, but when we formalize our interests until we start calling them an orientation? I just don't get it.

No one's born loving leather, or genetically predisposed to having their dickhead slit with papercuts, then tortured with a mouthful of lime juice. Maybe a love of the strap comes with the first few administrations of the justice of poor parenting, but as an orientation? C'mon. I'm sure there's a point where it becomes baked-in, but is that orientation?

During a stretch of comparative unemployment, ten years ago, I got hired to MC slave auction-themed bukkake parties in a local firehouse bingo hall. I'd show up in a ridiculous antebellum get-up, with suspenders and a straw hat, and conduct slave auctions of two attractive black men for an audience of Anne Arundel rednecks, then bluster my way through a scripted "uprisin'," all in an exaggerated Foghorn Leghorn voice, before the assembled crowd caught them uppity nigras and gave 'em "what for" (I did not participate in the what for, thank you) in a mortifying display of flying fluids and other shenanigans.

As it happened, I got to be friendly with one of two "center" guys, who also were the main sponsors of the event, and Nigger Jim, whose actual name was Rich and who was a Harvard-educated CEO of a very large and successful medical equipment business, and I would have relatively deep conversations about the whole mess.

Nigger Jim Rich was pretty straightforward about his motives, and shrugged off the whole incomprehensible cognitive dissonance storm with "I've tried to track it down, but I'm not sure I want these hillbilly losers to call me 'nigger' and jerk off in my hair. Just do, and it gets me off. You know there's not one of those fuckers who knows where the name 'Nigger Jim' comes from? How do you not know Twain, for fuck's sake? Every damn one of 'em hot as a firecracker and dumb as a stick, and I'm here twice a month running around with a rubber knife shouting 'Yessa, I'se the Massa now!' until they catch me."

"Yikes."

"You don't have something weird that gets you off?"

"Well, I like talking straight guys into fooling around."

"Ha! We all like that. Anything else?"

"Messing around in clothes, but I think that's just hot because it accentuates the sense that you're just rushing into things."

"Like you're trying to get off before someone catches you."

"Huh. Maybe?"

As it turned out, I ended up renovating Rich's condo in just boots and a tool-belt and a persona he'd basically scripted for me, and the pay was very generous, delivered in advance via Paypal, which meant I could quit the firehouse MC gigs and get away from the Anne Arundel rednecks.

"Where do you want the top shelf here?" I asked him, my hammer hanging nicely.

He squinted at me.

Oh. Oh.

"Uh, I mean, where you want the fuckin' shelf, you dumb-ass nigger?" I said, and I snorted.

"C'mon, Joe. It ruins it when you laugh."

And, of course, that may be why I'm destined to be on the outside, one eyebrow raised, trying to figure it all out, wondering if things really need to be this complicated.

Takes all kinds, though. Orientations? I'm less sure.

Still, finding myself naked in a very glamorous condo in a fancy part of town, wearing just big boots and a toolbelt and a whole bunch of put-on attitude, and being a 37-year-old China Blue, I had to wonder who was the master and who was the servant and if the cognitive dissonance headache from trying to figure it all out ever ends.
posted by sonascope at 8:45 PM on August 24, 2014 [45 favorites]


I've recently had several long and intense conversations with people who identify BDSM as "the only way [they] can have a sexually fulfilling relationship", which seems to indicate that currently, the "kink" is as innate as any "orientation". But having an innate "this has to be this way" feeling is not the same as being born a certain way. Hearing my racist family spout off some bullshit provokes an instinctual reaction in me these days- but that certainly wasn't always true. The people I've surrounded myself with, and the habits of interaction I've built up over the last few years have very much changed my instincts; I can see the ghosts of a potential life (and its attendant desires and values) when I go back to my hometown.

That said, I don't really know how much that translates onto kink- I'm as boring and vanilla as cheap soft serve.

But, if habits and self-determination are relevant concepts in the formation of kink/BDSM "orientation/necessity" (a question I can't answer), then it seems that the question of "what should a person want?", also comes into play. And that seems to be the role of ethics, indeed.
posted by DGStieber at 9:17 PM on August 24, 2014


Well, sexual desires are certainly somewhat fluid for many people, but on the other hand, my impression is that, e.g., treating a paraphilia that someone is distressed about has a very, very low success rate if success is defined purely as "no longer wanting [thing]", as opposed to "not exclusively wanting [thing] to the point where it is not possible to have any other type of sex." So whether or not a person is right to desire something does not seem to me to be a question with very much concrete relevance to people's lives, especially compared to whether or not they can act on it in an ethical way.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:40 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


"'i like to tie up women and hit them but only if theyre cool with it' carries some really weird psychic baggage"

I hear that.
On the one hand, I am generally all "whatever you want to do as long as everyone consents and nobody's trying to get me to do that." I want to be cool and froody. I roll with the hippies. I'm aware of these things.

And yet at the same time, I fundamentally don't get the appeal of beating the shit out of someone for sexual pleasure, or being the one who's having the shit beat out of them for sexual pleasure. I was never abused as a kid (supposedly that's what brings it on, right? or so I've heard?), so I guess I just don't get it, but on top of that, I do think at best it sounds ethically dubious. Like, well, I guess if someone enjoys beating up on women, he should be doing it with a woman who likes to get beaten instead of say, me who does not. But at the same time, there's sooooo much potential for non-consentual abuse in that situation, and it bothers me and scares me. And those are some muddy waters to swim in, according to all the links I read.

Also I may be a bit biased because as someone who rolls with hippies, anyone who tries to fix me up is all, "You can be dominant, right?" or something like that and I'm all, can't we just be equals and not having someone beat and someone get beat on? Does it always have to be that level of inequality? I already hate dominant people and having to be submissive when I deal with all of real life, I don't want it thrown in with nookie too. I'm all for people doing what they wanna do with those who consent, but deep down I'm still all "don't get it and it sounds terrible." But I guess do what you want and I will just stick to not dating, as usual :P

However, back to the original question of is kink an orientation: yes, for some people I've known it is, as far as I can tell. It is not worth arguing the point with those who have to have pain and pleasure mixed together, because at least for some people, that's all they want. Others may acquire the taste (if not me) or it's an option/dessert rather than a food staple, but if you require the kink at all times, it's better to be honest about that requirement than to not be.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:06 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I fundamentally don't get the appeal of beating the shit out of someone for sexual pleasure, or being the one who's having the shit beat out of them for sexual pleasure.

I think you're mischaracterizing BDSM play space here.

The pain/pleasure continuum is an interesting thing. It's difficult to characterize unless you've really walked along the fine dividing line between the two, and seen how that line can be pushed around in interesting ways.

It's difficult to describe the top/bottom dynamic in BDSM, especially for pain play, in a MF comment. In my experience, which is admittedly not extensive but is certainly not minimal, there's a collaboration taking place between the individual who desires to experience the edge of the pain/pleasure continuum and the individual who has been chosen to help them explore that edge.

Ideally there would be a good amount of conversation that has taken place ahead of time, either formally before play or informally across a period of time, so both can come to some kind of understanding about exactly what works for the "bottom" and what kind of space they are pursuing.

One interesting thing about powerplay of this sort is that, while it may appear that the "top", the person doing the giving, so to speak, is the dominant force in the scene, it is actually the bottom who is more in control. The top is trying to find exactly that boundary between pain and pleasure that works for the bottom and then is trying to gently (*heh*) tweak that line further and further, pushing the bottom's boundaries in ways which they assent to. Once you've reached that boundary, it can be very easy to suddenly go to far, and the moment collapses and it isn't working anymore.

A good top will manage to develop a feeling of security and safety and a sense of being in control (of their own impulses) that makes the bottom feel safe and protected in the midst of the scene, so they are confident that even if they begin to feel that "it's all too much", they are willing to try to absorb that feeling of too much and adjust their own sense of what is acceptable.

This dynamic, with one person striving to help the other discover new horizons within their self and the other trusting that they will not be taken too far, too quickly, and feeling confident that the one they have trusted will be able to read the scene and know when to push forward and when to hold back, when to let them dwell at the level they are at and when to take things that little bit further... That is the basic dynamic at play in these kinds of encounters.

This may sound a bit obtuse, because I'm trying to describe some very large concepts here in very few words. But "beating the shit out of someone" or "having the shit beat out of you" are actually not a part of consenting powerplay dynamics, regardless of what it might look like to unexperienced outsiders.
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on August 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


One of my close friends considers this to be the only way to have a fulfilling relationship, as mentioned above. I worried about her safety when she was doing the online-dating-in-the-kink-community thing. She's generally taken for cis but once (when I was out of town and we didn't have our usual dead-man's switch/text safety arrangement) someone clocked her as trans while they were making out. It turned out okay, but the relieved sound I made when she told me this the next weekend required more or less all of the air in my lungs. Anyway, I have some weird baggage about these things from about ten years ago when I was trying to figure out what the fuck I was, but knowing her has helped me understand a little bit better. It's very clearly an important part of what she wants or needs in a partner. Now I'm only worried about what she's going to have me in at her wedding, because she and the groom are both wearing black latex and that is so not my material.
posted by Corinth at 10:54 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not sure why everything has to be an orientation/innate now, but for what it's worth my kinkyness/bondage fetish (together with my puzzlement at the concept of monogamy) became apparent much earlier (pretty much onset of puperty at age 9) than my queerness (around age 20). The SM part of BDSM does mostly nothing for me though, but it's an umbrella term anyways.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 1:08 AM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


> having an innate "this has to be this way" feeling is not the same as being born a certain way.

This confuses me... isn't that what innate means?
Surely things cannot become innate to someone?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:15 AM on August 25, 2014


OP, fantastic links, thank you. As for the comments, all I can say is that I guess it is time to coin the word vanillasplaining.

I have a piece coming out tomorrow that is about the kink closet, and the way that it damages our community, and about the grave risks kinksters face when outed. Writing that piece really underlined for me that kink is an identity and a community, and, to many people, a culture.

Shoehorning it into the imprecise model of orientation isn't the point. The point is that kinksters are discriminated against, and can lose their jobs and kids when they're outed. Even today. Calling bdsm an orientation is an essential political statement - it's a way we are fighting back. Kinksters are now organising seriously, and are rapidly giving fewer and fewer shits about what vanilla people want to say in order to explain us.

I'm a little angry because I don't see my kink as something to have a debate about, anymore, I am all social justice about atm. The first version of this comment had swearing in it.
posted by Mistress at 1:40 AM on August 25, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am now in a relationship that rhymes with BDSM. I say "rhymes with" because we look to those resources for information and help guiding us through our path, but the truth is that what we have and what we have agreed to is OURS.

Yeah, there are restraints. We have a safe word. There is a power dynamic.

But we don't participate in any "community", we don't share this with our friends, we don't go out of our way to find like minded folk -- again, because this is ours.

We've both had similar experiences prior, and I don't want to speak for the Ms. Fu, but with those other partners I just wasn't interested in pursuing such a relationship. With her, it feels natural, perfect and right. The important bit is that WE have agreed that this is what WE want

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to pigeonhole us (or anyone else) on the basis of this behavior/relationship framework can fuck right off.
posted by drfu at 2:21 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you are aware and certain in your sexuality, orientation and practices - yay! That's awesome and I wish everyone was. For me, growing up with little awareness of non-stereotypical options, my recent explorations have occasionally freaked me the fuck out, not because they were inherently dangerous, but because there is this other-ness to them. Not a real big super-duper in the scheme of things cannibalise your offspring otherness, just - whoa, hetereroflexibility or other non-vanillary thing- am I doing this because I want to, or because its there, or because I'm lonely or because I think my partner is the bees knees, and if it doesn't hurt (too much), why not give it a whirl, and what if there's something out there I've not tried that will turn me into a total freak for that, and what if there's not? Is there something wrong/average/uneducated/bigoted about me?

One of my most favourites comments here was an admission that I'd not looked at my genetalia until my late teens. I turn 47 next Monday. I'm surely not an outlier here. And as for some common sexual adventures, well, most of those types happened for me after my 20 year marriage ended, and honestly? Mind blown. I ALMOST texted my boss (instead of my lover) after my first girl-girl experience (which would have been particularly interesting as we both worked for her).

I get why we have labels for orientation and kink, I think they're necessary in some ways so that dating sites can have drop down menus to make it easier to put tab B in slot A to everyone's satisfaction. But I also like it when people throw the baby water up in the sky and try and catch in labelled thimbles (that analogy's a wash) because my confusion and ambivalence and ambiguity about my sexual options and preferences and whatever's - well, I just don't know what I think. So I'll try on this idea that the thing I like to do with my NZ academic is something I'd like to do with anyone and maybe it's an orientation, or maybe it's part of my identity, or maybe it's experience and ...

Funny thing is, my NZ academic doesn't think about this stuff because "there is no answer, no way to know".
posted by b33j at 4:54 AM on August 25, 2014


I find it frustrating because I am kinky but I am not "pro-kink" nor to I think every conversation about kink has to paint all of it in a positive light.

I was excited about finding people in the kink community who might share my perspective or want to talk about the thoughts and ideas I have about it, but apparently seeing it as problematic is quite taboo in the communities I tried to be part of.

I think I should be allowed to think it problematic that people want to hurt others or be hurt in order to feel sexual arousal.

I don't see why on earth I'm not allowed to think that sucks and want to know why, and look at possible evolutionary reasons, epigenetic possibilities, family history and personal factors, and cultural exposures that attach pain, exploitation, and dominance to sex. I think it's a bit unfair that I've been told MY kink doesn't count as kink in the kink community and I'm not allowed to have a different perspective.

Maybe a less proactively "You must love kink" sort of kink community will eventually develop. Or people who rejected as inferiorly kinky could create their own little group?

Asking questions, wanting to understand, this are things I think I should be allowed to do as part of wanting to understand myself and the world I'm in, and the people who want to abuse me, and how those people are different than people who want to "pretend" abuse me.

Can't I want to talk nuance about what the difference even is, or that in some cases there might not really be much?

And personally if there is an "orientation" what about those of us who find that some of those preferences do fluctuate, or what we cultivate and experience and are exposed to changes a lot of those feelings? Do we get to define who we are, or do we get defined by this "orientation" model whether we feel it matches our experience and identity or not? I've found that in real life, plenty of people will have great conversations with me about kink and possible problems about it, but online it seems like the "you must be pro-kink and part of the community or you're not THE REAL kink!" has really turned me off from finding others or having conversations that way. I find live action porn unethical too, and consent ethics for group dynamics problematic, so a lot of the websites with porn all over them or group sex parties with people I don't know well are not things I want to be part of and casual sex, whether kinky or not, also carries it's ethical consent issues. I feel like as much as you would want to know someone is aware of risks and well read and learned on themselves, their issues, their preferences, and various types of support for their emotional wellness and sexual understand, a brief run over of that before sexual activities makes as much sense as one would ask about informed consent before taking someone skydiving. I also think women seem to disproportionately have a harder time with casual sex models, and are under a lot of pressure to comply with that strategy (and the less support she has and the more she needs, the more pressure is on her to be compliant). The same if pressure from males (who have historically had more power to be dominant and have their preferences train the population) is toward wanting to cause pain, then if females are evolving into sexual beings under that culture, there are problematic issues with how "freely" we adapt to "liking" such thing.What we train people to want (pavlov) impact their "innate" instincts, and epigenetics has found environment can change instinctual behavior too.
I also find the whole idea that every fetish needs to be acted on regularly is something I've seen a lot and find problematic.
posted by xarnop at 5:10 AM on August 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Xarnop, can you elaborate on what you mean about consent issues? To me, it's cut and dry, and I'd like to understand your perspective better.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:41 AM on August 25, 2014


The hilarious moment for me will be when people in the kink category get stuck with a nonsensical acronymonious appellation like what the powers that be have plastered on us queer folk like a Chiquita sticker—hearing those breathy, ever-so-serious NPR people saying someone is a member of the "eljeebeeteecuecueeyeayy community" makes me wish for company in the purgatory of imbecilic fake inclusive language.

"Well," I imagine a beleathered human pony saying to Terry Gross in the dim, awkward closeness of a WHYY studio, "As a member of the beedeeessemecksaytchpeeayybeecuecueem community, I feel…"

If you want the orientation, you gotta take the stupid, too.
posted by sonascope at 6:29 AM on August 25, 2014


Mistress: word.

Man, this thread is super depressing. I'm genuinely pretty astonished that there are so many people looking at/talking about kink/BDSM as a whole, something that so many people -- so many mefites and mefite-like self-aware, intelligent people -- are into, and just straight-up assuming it's called-for, and fine, and not, you know, super-dubious and rude and tiresome and regressive to immediately jump into a "debate" about whether this whole thing is really just sick exploitation and oh, dear, they say they like it but I just don't know if I'm really prepared to believe them, the poor dears/sick fucks/gross perverts?

Is there that little communication, and understanding, and basic mutual respect that you people aren't willing to listen to those who've considered [the scene in general / some particular part of it that appeals to them] in toto and decided it works for them, when practiced with consenting others? What makes you think it's fine to take the concern for issues of consent and general good practise and respect, which applies in any scene vanilla or not, assume that they are all-encompassing and un-addressed, and take that as a basis to call whole scenes, kinks, types of person and activity into question, even in the face of X number of level-headed people who you presumably otherwise respect and acknowledge, saying they do consider the issues and accept them for themselves, warts and all?

Is there that little self-awareness as to who has asked these sorts of questions before, and of whom, and to what purpose?

Just to be clear, I'm by no means claiming that 'the scene' (to the extent a definitive article is appropriate) is without problems. Why would it be? Any scene or scenes have problems and they get dealt with as well as they can be. But the unfair assumption that seems so widespread here is that the scene itself is the problem; that these practices could never be done in such a way, or could only rarely be done in such a way, that you wouldn't have a mandate to stick your nose in and judge and check and overwatch and condemn?

Why do you "think [you] should be allowed to think [and, implicitly, to express and accuse that it's] problematic that people want to hurt others or be hurt in order to feel sexual arousal"? Or to shame people, directly or indirectly, for liking things you find weird and gross?

I don't even have the mental wherewithal to pull together all the arguments and justifications to counter all these nasty-ass sentiments properly, but I don't see why I should have to either -- is MeFi really that close-minded still? It's incredibly god-damned presumptuous, and disrespectful. Like the assumption is that because we reject your biases and squicks about some aspect you don't like, that we must also reject your need to confirm consent, respect, problematic representation, etc? That we must be that gross as people just because you find our sexual practices gross? That it's fine to generalise from individuals to a whole community?

Colour me boggled. And defensive, sure, and spiky and short on detailed breakdowns of your arguments. And even offended! But that's the best I can offer right now because really, I expected better of MeFi.

In short: rude words upon you; check yourselves.
posted by Drexen at 6:29 AM on August 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


"Kink" is not a sexual orientation, it is a descriptor cast upon a relative set of practices.
Some people have rather immutable parts of their sexual responses. Most people do.
Whatever that fundamental gestalt of physiological and psychological conditions that brings forth your sexual response, that is your orientation.
And even that seemingly fundamental core of sexuality can shift.
And you can label it however you feel most comfortable.

For myself, I find labels of orientation do a vast disservice to the huge conversations of sexuality that gets obscured by them.
posted by Theta States at 6:29 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have been exploited by people who took advantage if my vulnerability. When cultural attitudes toward consent hurt me and other vulnerable people I'm allowed to care.
posted by xarnop at 6:32 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry that that happened to you, xarnop, and as I've said, it's not like I'm claiming any practise is without its shitheads -- but my issue is with taking those shitheads as justification to assume that a whole dynamic like enjoying pain is potentially invalid.
posted by Drexen at 6:38 AM on August 25, 2014


... i.e. that the people who are into that must be shitheads or have something wrong with them. That's the assumption I see being automatically jumped to a lot in this thread, and I find it disturbing.
posted by Drexen at 6:40 AM on August 25, 2014


i feel like there are multiple things happening in this thread that are being conflated...to those outside of kink who want to trot out debunked theories about abuse survivors and if male doms are just women beaters - that's gross, and maybe some education is in order. there's another thing happening though where people deeply invested in kink and who claim it as part of their own identity who are raising concerns they've had from within the community. that seems worthy of discussion and not at all the same as the uneducated throwing out bombs.
posted by nadawi at 6:41 AM on August 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think I should be allowed to think it problematic that people want to hurt others or be hurt in order to feel sexual arousal.

Have you ever experienced erotic asphyxiation? It's really quite simple - you can put your hand around your own neck and squeeze your carotid arteries (don't compress the windpipe). If you use a reasonable amount of pressure there is no pain and you should start to feel a sort of relaxed pleasant sensation.

I guess my point is, people without experience really seem to have some misconceptions about what bdsm is. It is not for 99% of people "take off your clothes and let me punch you in the face". Dominance can be things like having more physical control over the rhythm of sex, holding your partner down by their hands/arms/legs/shoulders (with a lot or a little pressure, in normal or more extreme postures), putting a finger/etc in your partners' other orifices during sex, holding your hand over their mouth, pinching, hickie kissing, light biting, etc.

Many many things that cause zero to very minor pain and yet are still part of this spectrum. Focusing on the pain aspect is really causing a lot of people to not actually think about the complexity of dominance and submission. And hippybear has it right, and it isn't a novel point, that in many ways when bdsm is going right, the sub is supposed to be the one in control.
posted by crayz at 6:48 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


The orientation thing is already a sort of superannuated check-box from a kind of revolutionary ideology that we really don't need so much anymore. Back in the heights of hates, there was something to tribalism and being able to band together as a sort of nation of otherness, but now, as walls are falling faster by the day? Really?

Gore Vidal was an arch, pretentious crank, but I always had to give him props for his haughty contention that there's no such thing as "a homosexual."

I'm not "a" homosexual—I fuck around with dudes and don't fuck around with the lovely ladies, despite my aspirations to the scenic sexuality of the bohemian set. In a sense, I'm oriented towards dudes, and have, as long as I've been oriented at all, been so, but is that a class, tribe, or "community," or just a direction my pointer points when it's apt to point at something?

Of course, you use the language that your audience understands, so I'll say "I'm gay" when it's easiest and "I'm a dude who fucks dudes" when it's apropos, as well. I've no shame about any of it, though, except for the sort of pinched, histrionic inclusiveism that forces us to warp an otherwise poetic language into a series of tortured linguistic bondage postures in service of the master of not-offending. It seems to me that the increasingly open embrace of our personal kink should be leading us away from the worn-out ways of seeing sexuality as so lockstep and binary, in that we should all just be able to shrug and say "Yeah, that's what I'm into. Where are we going for lunch?" instead of having to have this dramatic teary breast-beating impulse to come out of closet after closet and expect a little golden statuette for each angst-ridden emergence.

Hot dudes speaking ASL makes me red-faced hot-ears don't-touch-it-or-I'll-blow horny. Is that a community? An orientation? When I was in the womb, was epigenetics at work creating a desire for a man-made gestural language system? Maybe that's just a vanilla kink, and I just don't get it. That's entirely possible, too. At the same time, I don't know if I need to belong to a community or category because of something that gets me off, which may be because ASL making me hot-ears horny doesn't carry a social cost, per se, or might just be because we don't need to create a class every single time there's a distinction in the content of our fantasies.

In the future, and it's looking like the nearish future, at least in my culture, we're not going to need all this scaffolding of classes and categories and protective structures, so why build them now, when the old ones are failing to have a modern use?
posted by sonascope at 6:52 AM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was never abused as a kid (supposedly that's what brings it on, right? or so I've heard?)

No.

For some people, yes, but for others, no, and this generalization seems ignorant and feels belittling. I believe there's a whole FPP from the not too distant past that debunks it.
posted by clavicle at 6:53 AM on August 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


Agreed, nadawi; there are certainly people here talking from experience and involvement and raising worthy questions that I by no means want to imply are invalid or don't have a place.

But as well as the other and I think more obnoxious viewpoints that you also identify, it seems to me that even the more justifiably concerned voices are contributing to that problematic thrust of argument. Because in this context they do not, I don't think, really serve to contribute much to a constructive conversation about how to improve things; rather they serve more to bolster the counterclaim to the OP article, that kinkiness is or is like an orientation -- a concept I'd broadly agree with. By responding with 'but here are X, Y, Z problematic things about the scene or examples of bad practitioners, so the OP's claim is wrong', it makes the assumption that problematic practices are the same as the fundamental 'orientation towards kink' or are inseparable. That's the unkind assumption I'm reacting against.

That's my tentative first step towards unpacking what i think is going on here.
posted by Drexen at 6:54 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


to those outside of kink who want to trot out debunked theories about abuse survivors and if male doms are just women beaters - that's gross, and maybe some education is in order.

This stuff has been disturbing me throughout the thread, but me launching into Pedantic Kink 101 Allysplaining seemed like a real bad idea. So I just sat here feeling useless.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:54 AM on August 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Having come in rather fighty, I think I'm clearer on what my issue is here.

The OP articles describe the question of 'kink as orientation' in terms of the distinction between what one likes to do and who one is into or who one is. All of them I think portray people who found a far greater and more accurate understanding of themselves once they recognised or acknowledged BDSM/kink as a part of themselves, their identities or their desire in the second two senses, and that rejecting the first sense freed them from a lot of unfocussed guilt deriving from unfocussed disapproval or shaming that took that first descriptor of BDSM as a given -- i.e. that it is or should be effectively just a 'sexual hobby'.

Their stories echo, to me, the relief, confidence, and self-realisation that we know comes with 'coming out' as queer in some other sense, and also to include cogent observations about how they came to more accurately understand how the inclination worked in them, showing in various ways how it is more like an orientation. How coming to recognise and respect the existence of a particular 'type of person', and recognising yourself as one of them, can make something go from feeling enormously wrong to enormously right, and that is a self-realisation that is valid and true and good, rather than being shameful and dirty and sick or opportunistic or fake or simply a cover for crime.

It is also something that is easy to recognise among people who know and have felt it, but easy to dismiss by people who haven't. Easy to pathologise, to decry as fake or insincere, to throw myths at or to dig up X, Y, or Z detail that is shocking or disgusting and must therefore be wrong, to deny and delete the agency and self-determination of those who say they choose it and have made their own decisions. Easy to attach huge, sweeping social consequences to that far exceed the real reach or effect of private lifestyle activities. In other words, easy to suppress in just the same ways that other types of queerness have been suppressed. And done so, at repeatedly and at length and with little to no apparent awareness of how problematic (read shitty) a thing that is to do.

Does that comparison comprehensively address and explain every objection and argument and bad example and thought-provoking issue that has been raised in this thread counter to the OP? No. My point is that these ethical discussions have been had massively, and at length, within and outside the community, and are not the point of the OP articles. To instantly and derailingly declare that all those reasons for thinking of kink/BDSM as an orientation are bunk and just a front for the ethical discussion that "needs to happen", or to say that it's either a presumptuous or a needless(!) appropriation of a label that is either reserved for one type of queer, or foolishly outdated, or some other offense or foolish tactical error -- well it seems like an offensive derail to me.

I was all set to share stories of my own and others' experience with this sort of dynamic, including wrestling with problematic aspects of it. Regardless of hair-splitting over exactly how useful the term is in general, it's a concept that is certainly real and useful to me and many others. But this thread now hardly seems the place for that kind of sharing.
posted by Drexen at 8:02 AM on August 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


I've been going to a group, and the facilitator which I respect made a passing comment that pedophilia is considered to be a sexual orientation. I was disturbed by this comment. It make sense on the compulsion It seems to carry with the pedophilic but I found associating this with oriention and therefore LGBT people problematic to say the least.
posted by Alt255 at 8:05 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok, I want this conversation to go well so I want to make some things clear that might help; I think mainstream sexuality itself is filled with unexamed dom/sub dynamics, submission, control issues and all sorts of things that kinksters pick up and turn into preferences in the bedroom.

The problems I have are NOT with people picking up on those dynamics and finding ways to explore that in a way that they feel is empowering and healthy to them-- they are with thosedynamics themselves, that might give rise to people NEEDING to explore why so much of sexuality throughout human history has involved women being subjugated to men, and powerless people of both genders being subjugated to those in power.

To me, these urges are a problematic aspect of human nature, and it's much healthier to explore them among consenting adults than to not examine them at all, or to carry out those urges on people without consent.

HOWEVER-- I will add my explanation of why, to me, consent IN ALL SEX not just kink (but kink dynamics add to the mix)... should be looked at as an ethically complex issue. Every person comes to a sexual and/or emotional relationship with their own issues of privileged, past hurts and wounds, assumptions about what to expect and what they are expected to give, and training from their family, peers, culture and media about who they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to like- in addition to whatever other environmental pressures have shaped their urges, wants, self knowledge, self efficacy, sense of status, innate submissive or dominant reactions to others.

In animals, many are predispositioned toward various degrees of submissive, dominant, or aggressive traits, but environmental variables in the womb and in childhood and even across generations (including chemical exposures, trauma, restraint stress, maternal deprivation and isolation,exposure to predators etc) can have influences.

Higher levels of aggression often accompanies worse environmental exposures, as well as higher levels of submissivity which may be a survival tactic to survive in climates where there are more violent predators(or peers/family) who it's better to please and keep happy than to challenge unless you're sure you have more muscle, social status and support of peers, or intelligence to best them.

When people who have submissive natures, or who have been trained in their families and peer groups to accommodate and please others, many will try to take note of what others seem to be wanting and if that involves being given the gift of an outlet to take out aggressive urges on others or to use dominance and sadism for heightened sexual arousal, people who naturally tune into others urges or pick up on signals in others and communities will find they gravitate toward filling these urges. Many are trained by abuse and social treatment that this is what they deserve or expect, and our social treatment of those who struggle with school or who are not as socially competent or supported, or deal with various functional limitations, identified or otherwise, will be more likely to find that social acceptance and support comes to them more easily by taking on such roles. The rewards they get are real, but problematic in the origins by which they come about and in who is getting the most benefit out of them.

Many woman, and submissively natured men, are often trained to please others, to say yes, to not say no, to do things that are pleasing and be accommodating, to find joy in making their partner and others happy. These are all too common in our culture and they bring a complexity to consent that deserves to be looked at.

When my friend was experiencing trauma and she punched herself, I was worried about her. Desire to be harmed can certainly be part of trauma and stress reactions, and I have known such urges myself. I think wanting to know where your partner is coming from is very worth while, and people carrying out activities like this should be more rather than less cautious about how well they get to know their partners level of well being, self awareness and ability to determine what is or isn't working for them.

All to often, women and abuse survivors are trained to not even know they're allowed to have preferences or to even ask what is or isn't good for them.

When the default is the assumption that everyone showing up at the table has the privileged to make these decisions freely, with emotional health, inner wisdom, self awareness, peer support, access to family, economic security- that leads to empowered sexual choices-- the default is then that those most vulnerable, which is a very high portion of our population, are the ones most likely to be harmed. Consent to work environments is much more nuanced that "the person said yes so I can make them work in these conditions". In sexuality I think this should also be assumed, that consent involves much more than simply what you are ALLOWED to do to someone, and to actively be aware of their wellbeing, their reasons for being there, and that it's not causing them greater harm.
posted by xarnop at 8:06 AM on August 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Drexen, I get where you're coming from on the identity issue, I think your perspective is totally valid and valuable.
posted by xarnop at 8:08 AM on August 25, 2014


Alt255: "I've been going to a group, and the facilitator which I respect made a passing comment that pedophilia is considered to be a sexual orientation. I was disturbed by this comment. It make sense on the compulsion It seems to carry with the pedophilic but I found associating this with oriention and therefore LGBT people problematic to say the least."

There was another similar comment above, as well -- why on earth is this relevant, except to compare BDSM or kink with pedophilia?
posted by Drexen at 8:09 AM on August 25, 2014


Almost every time I've been to a kink event, at least one guy has attempted to touch me without asking. This is always against the rules, but it happens anyway.

We can say "oh kink has such high standards for consent" all day long, but in practice? It also attracts creepy predators.

And you can say "well there are creeps everywhere" but I would argue that the kink community has far more of a responsibility to address this kind of thing, because of the extraordinary damage that can be done by a person doing kink in an unethical way. Yet all too often, rather than actually addressing the problems, people just say "kink is all about consent!" as if just saying so made it universally true.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:13 AM on August 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


>The fact that predators gravitate to target-rich environments like BDSM cultures, preschools, college campuses, nursing homes, pop culture cons, or support groups doesn't mean there's something wrong with the ethics of those communities, just that they have special security concerns.

When you are eg. trying to establish best practices for negotiating consent with someone unfamiliar with the kink, the distinction between an ethical practice and a security practice is thin and permeable.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:14 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Xarnop, likewise, and I appreciate your deeper explanation of how it ties into the actual issue of the OP as well as your own experience. Fist-bump.

I certainly accept the concept that BDSM brings up various risk factors that are not always an issue otherwise. And sometimes they can be extreme, tricky, thorny, and sometimes that can be abused. I'd even accept the idea that 'orientation itself' is an inherently vague concept tht may not always be useful. However, I don't think that invalidates or even really opposes the idea that kink can be and for many people is an orientation or that thinking of it that way can be useful and empowering. I was hoping that the thrust of the OP articles would be to encourage folks to have a go at taking that idea at face value and listening to the people espousing it, rather than simply throwing up the usual wave of objections, framed in dismissal, reductionism, and all the usual tired and nasty normative modes.
posted by Drexen at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2014


It's clear to me that there are ethical questions here that go deeper than "informed consent is the end all, be all," and "Your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay."

There's got to be a spectrum here. Powerplay confined to the bedroom raises fewer ethical questions than powerplay that bleeds into everyday life. Internet cash slavery that drives the sub to poverty is less problematic than appendage nullification. Appendage nullification is less problematic than consensual suicide fetishes, such as the consensual cannibalism case from several years ago.

I know that I draw a line on that spectrum. Cuckolding. YKINMKBYKIOK. Purposefully producing a child out of a cuckolding relationship because raising another man's child is your fetish? That's a problem.

For what it's worth, there need to be ethical considerations even in the vanillaest, straightest fantasy play. Road head? May your fiery death not involve any non-consenting bystanders or passengers.

I guess that I'm arguing that sex play that defies safety (potential for permanent harm that is not mitigated, including physical and mental health) or that bleeds outside the bedroom (and therefore includes non-consenting parties) need ethical reflection.
posted by Skwirl at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Almost every time I've been to a kink event, at least one guy has attempted to touch me without asking. This is always against the rules, but it happens anyway.

Are there ever consequences for the guy?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2014


I don't want to pounce on every comment here, but showbiz liz, your comment is an example of one that doesn't seem to address the question of "is kink an orientation?" but rather the question "does kink have high standards for consent/good community policing/is it totally unproblematic?"

The first question is the subject of the OP, but it's being thoroughly squashed because everyone is so keen to make sure we don't believe the second question.
posted by Drexen at 8:25 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find the orientation model constrictive because for me, my desire for people to beat the crap out of me is much more hightened when I under stress or I've been failing at things I want to succeed at, or I'm feeling under supported or disliked. Yes, for me, I certainly have the desire for someone to beat the crap out of me, and those urges have their place in my sexuality (I also want to experience really horrible unpleasant sex when I'm feeling bad or hurting)

But that's not the same thing as that being healthy for me.

The orientation model of advocating understanding of those with kinky urges or involvement with kink identity assumes a certain "this is set in stone and THEREFORE must be respected and people who just this way, simply are" that I don't think is true for everyone as much it can be for some people.

I'm always more of a fan of spectrums and variations than seeing people as either "kinky" or "vanilla". What I do think is that there is a great relief in knowing that sexual variation is huge, that fantasies of domination and submission are very common, if not mainstream and simply unspoken. I find the fact that we haven't been allowed to talk about sex much (and I came from a religious background so that much more so) a terrible thing, because sexuality is such a prominent part of life and human motivations and behaviors and to have so much of it unspoken and often tormenting the subconscious or secret thoughts that influence daily life unspoken, it drives me nuts.

It drives me nuts that I live in a world where I can feel people wanting to hurt me, wanting to see me violated and overpowered and to feel helpless and submissive, and I can feel myself responding to it whether I want any involvement with that or not. And it all remains neatly unspoken so I can't respond to it or remove myself from it lest I be rude or making assumptions, until suddenly my suspicions are proven correct and someone has slowly figured out how to get my in a submissive state where I can be easily overpowered without a lot of resistance. I learned that yes, or even trying to get things like this over with, was sometimes less destructive to my well being, because then secretly I would know I wasn't overpowered, I made it happen and they didn't win at breaking me with fear my own submissive tendencies, or worse being pulled into a quiet unspeaking place where I feel like I can't even move overwhelmed by my own desire and horror at the helplessness I feel. That's another reason spoken affirmative consent (or consent made with affirmative gestures other than a person being quiet and not fighting) is a change I hope will be made socially. Because it's considered a right of people to do this to me, and I'm not allowed to avoid men because that's rude, but knowing I can't deal with people doing this shit to me means it's hard to figure out how to hide from it other than being a hermit, which I do pretty well.

Being submissively natured, or being aroused when people want to dominate or harm me, is not really an "orientation" I want. It's a terrible burden, and not something I want to take on as a "healthy" state of affairs for me. I think for me, my experience with kink is radically different than someone who playfully want to wrestle during sex (which is the sort of thing I also like and isa radically different aspect of my sexuality than some of the darker places I've been and don't really want to go despite that I can be aroused there.) Which is to say, people come to it with radically different backgrounds and reasons and with various degrees of benefit or harm to themselves of promoting it as a strong part of their life or identity or sexual activities in various ways. Sometimes it may well be a sign something is wrong, or a sign of things wrong in cultures that promote such urges, or in humanity itself that we seen to need such outlets.

I'm a fan of harm reduction, which means even if there are harms or ethical complexities (and probably some lines we should take where the harms are so bad we should actually care to stop such practices even if people are consenting- like for example, hazing?) I can still see ways people might be using kink fantasies or activities in an empowering way, but I find there are always ethical dilemmas I find with the fact that we even have such urges to begin with. I don't want people to want to hurt me. I don't want to be aroused by people hurting me. I don't see any reason I should be obligated to see that as a healthy state of affairs or not be troubled by why this is a thing for so many humans.
posted by xarnop at 8:43 AM on August 25, 2014 [15 favorites]


I don't want to pounce on every comment here, but showbiz liz, your comment is an example of one that doesn't seem to address the question of "is kink an orientation?" but rather the question "does kink have high standards for consent/good community policing/is it totally unproblematic?"

Drexen, you missing the part of the comments where crayz, who seems like he is part of the BDSM community, said that he thinks saying that BDSM is an orientation is a way to avoid having to talk about the "does kink have high standards for consent/good community policing/is it totally unproblematic?" question and other people involved in BDSM agreed with him. This discussion didn't arise because people just came into the thread to crap on BDSM.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:49 AM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't want to pounce on every comment here, but showbiz liz, your comment is an example of one that doesn't seem to address the question of "is kink an orientation?" but rather the question "does kink have high standards for consent/good community policing/is it totally unproblematic?"

Ok, my question about this is... at what point does the "orientation" model become so diluted as to become completely meaningless? If a guy prefers missionary above all other sex positions, is that an orientation? If a girl prefers anal sex to vaginal sex, is that an orientation? If not, then why is wearing a collar and acting like a puppy an orientation? And if so, don't you have a situation then where the word "orientation" just means "the way I like to have sex," which in my opinion stretches the entire concept so far beyond its initial use that it becomes an utterly pointless label, which, as I said earlier, just feels like people in the kink community feeling envious of the cultural legitimacy that LGBT people have been fighting for and trying to co-opt it now that "having a different orientation" can be seen as "cool".

Kink is legitimate. Being LGBT is legitimate. But why try to conflate the two like this? They're different things entirely.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 AM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


nooneyouknow - No, that's the very part I'm reacting to! It dismissively and glibly reduces the idea that the people in the OP are exploring and explaining to simply a front for unethical behaviour or a misguided tactical choice. It's gross!
posted by Drexen at 8:54 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


nooneyouknow - No, that's the very part I'm reacting to! It dismissively and glibly reduces the idea that the people in the OP are exploring and explaining to simply a front for unethical behaviour or a misguided tactical choice. It's gross!

Thanks for explaining. I did not get that you were arguing against that specific idea from your comments.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The orientation model of advocating understanding of those with kinky urges or involvement with kink identity assumes a certain "this is set in stone and THEREFORE must be respected and people who just this way, simply are" that I don't think is true for everyone as much it can be for some people.

I think one of the reasons I'm so tired of the orientation/born-this-way model is that it was founded when the notion of homosexuality just being a neutral characteristic wasn't within the realm of possibility for people, so they used a disease or disability model to try to force acceptance, as if we were born with a handicap and therefore we were innocents, exempted from fault in a pitiable condition. "Do you think we'd choose this?" was (and way too often is) the big political question, rather than "What effect does homosexual activity have on anything?" The former is a lament and a plea for sympathy, the latter is more realistic.

I find leathery chromey whippy shouty stabby piercey bossy injecty kink sort of horrifying, for myself, but it's also none of my business. If you do it in a way that suits you and if the result to overall happiness and such things is neutral, than it's fine. It doesn't need to be a special class any more than eljeebeeteecuecueayeayy needs to be a special class. It seems like the sort of medicalizing that goes along with creating orientation is just going to further put it under a magnifying glass and further make more vanilla folks squicky and contentious about it in the same way that born-in orientation for faggotry just gives the wingnut Right the opportunity to continue comparing dude-on-dude or wholly chickadelic action to alcoholism, pedophilia, and other born-in predilections.

De gustibus non est disputandum, but orientation is just a hornet's nest of beanplating hyperanalysis and there are many, many people just itching to jam a stick in there for a nice vigorous swirl. You can't argue tastes, but make it out as science and all you're every going to do forevermore is fight.
posted by sonascope at 9:00 AM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ok, my question about this is... at what point does the "orientation" model become so diluted as to become completely meaningless?

Well, not to be snarky, but maybe it's when you stretch as far as you can for silly examples and assign them to it?

Puppy-play, for example, could be described as an orientation where preference for a particular position could not because, as explored in depth in the OP articles which I wish people would address more directly, it relates -- that is, for some people, it can relate -- not simply to specific practises or signifiers, but instead to the type of person that it allows you to identify as, and to experience a specific type of connection with that goes beyond surface-level considerations, and which is consistent, identifiable, potentially exclusive, and pertains in a deep way to your own identity and the identity of the people you want to have sex with.

It is a distinction that by its nature is not easy to discern from the outside. But then, that is a problem that affects most orientations. The solution is to listen with an open mind to the people claiming that that is how they identify.

Because this is a real distinction, the 'and if so..' part of your comment becomes baseless. The reason to conflate kink with orientation in some cases is because in those cases they can be the same thing in the lived experience of the people involved and in just as real a way as orientation towards gender -- and because basic respect demands it.
posted by Drexen at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2014


But why use the label of "orientation" to describe those things? That's the crux of this, for me. I can tell you all about the ways in which the kinky things I do influence and are influenced by my personality, and how they're a real and important part of my life, but how and why does that make it an "orientation" in the same way that my being bisexual is an "orientation"?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:12 AM on August 25, 2014


xarnop, that last comment must have been terrifically difficult and exposing to write, thank you for posting it.
posted by glasseyes at 9:38 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


showbiz_liz : I'd say the point is that the question of whether one has an orientation towards kink is one that some people answer yes to, even if folks like you would answer no, and even if folks like sonascope find the question itself boring or misguided, and even if folks like xarnop have unfortunately had harmful experiences that cause them to not want to identify with that orientation, or to find it harmful to them, and even if some folks have indeed used that identification in a harmful way - which are all surely true and valid reactions.

But even despite all those things, it doesn't change that for some, and potentially many people, as in the OP and in the criteria which I've outlined above -- kink affects their lives in ways that are functionally the same as an orientation towards a gender does, and approaching it in that way is useful to them in the same way that approaching a gender orientation does. And further, it does not cause problems for them or their partners any more than a gender orientation does. By extension, having that choice recognized and validated is no less important than doing the same for gender orientation. It is no more fair to assume in bad faith that this orientation of theirs is inherently abusive or unhealthy, than it would be to assume that homosexuality is inherently unhygienic, or family-destroying, or unhealthy, just because sometimes homosexual people are unhygienic, unhealthy, or destroy families. To me, it's somewhat like classing all forms of body-modification as self-mutilation. It misses the point to the extent of being flat-out wrong.

All of the potential problems raised above are shared with other, accepted types of orientation, and it doesn't automatically invalidate them, as long as it's a given that consent is mutual for all involved to the best extent it can be determined and expressed. When that doesn't hold true, then of course there are all sorts of potential negative consequences. But that is just as true for all types of relationships, even if kink does come with more risk factors that have to be considered and managed.
posted by Drexen at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


This thread is horribly depressing. One, some MeFites have had bad experiences and are still hurting; that sucks. However, some of these comments are shocking to me, comparing BDSM with straight out abusing women, etc. It's interesting to me that MetaFilter as a community (MetaFilter!) has some lines that are difficult to cross and this is one of them. In a place where we all are eager to ensure everyone can do their own thing, have their own pronoun, let their freak flag fly, except for this OMG you must've been abused as a child.

I'm in one of "those" relationships and it's the strongest one I've ever been in because it demands constant communication. I've never been in any "scene" but have no problem believing that it attracts a lot of wannabe abusers. That said, it doesn't mean that all of this is a thinly veiled excuse to beat the shit out of women.

(It's still not an orientation, though. Stop trying to give yourself a label so you're special, please.)
posted by sfkiddo at 11:17 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


i do feel that categorizing kink as an orientation also carries the implicit message that it is somehow queer, which in turn carries the implication that kink-ers are somehow marginalized or institutionally discriminated against
posted by p3on at 11:18 AM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


additionally i have definitely heard other queer folks complain about straight bdsm enthusiasts pushing themselves into queer spaces
posted by p3on at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Orientation? No, definitely not.

Hippybear did the best job thus far of explaining the dynamic. It's not (well, not for me) about beating or being beat upon. It's about pushing limits and playing with control in a safe environment with a trusted person.

But as others have mentioned, man, there's some weird preconceived notions being placed here. I've never been abused in my life. I had a totally normal happy childhood. I don't need therapy. I'm a feminist and in control of my life, with pretty high self-esteem.

I just, ya know, have enjoyed kink a hella lot since I was a teenager. Why? Simply because I enjoy it and find it erotic. Why does it need to spring from some dark place or trauma or dysfunction?
posted by Windigo at 11:47 AM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


To those who disagree with the idea of kink as an orientation: what harm, exactly, do you think would result from it being recognized as such? Are there certain protections from discrimination that you would extend to LGBT folks that you would deny to kinksters?
posted by Crane Shot at 11:51 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would agree that kink is queer. In my understanding 'queer' is basically defined oppositionally, i.e. as non-heteronormative behaviour, and that includes kink. I'd certainly say that it fits the criterion of being marginalized and discriminated against. Wikipedia, of course, isn't definitive, but I agree with its inclusion of BDSM as queer.

I can't speak for all groups or spaces but I'm part of plenty of both that attract queer people in general and which accept kink as part of that queerness, no matter what gender someone likes. If others want to define their boundaries differently then breaking them is obviously not cool, but I don't see why there should inherently be a separation.

Stop trying to give yourself a label so you're special please.

Attribution error aside: Why? Labels, aka identities, are important, and not just "so we're special".
posted by Drexen at 12:00 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


The point of having "queer spaces" is so that people who have limited space in the "regular" world can have a place of their own to exist on their terms. When a heterosexual kinky couple demands access to those spaces on the basis of their claimed queer identity, it defeats the entire purpose.

I'm not saying a kinky straight couple will never face any form of discrimination, but it's a fundamentally different form of discrimination, and co-opting the label of queer is just marginalizing LGBT people within their own spaces.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:06 PM on August 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I will never face discrimination if me and my husband want to get up to shenanigans in our bedroom, even if they're outside the norm. I am not even sure what the 'rights' we would be fighting for are? I mean, if I have to sit and actively ponder that question, then I'm guessing we occupy pretty much the hell out of a safe space already, no?
posted by Windigo at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read the OP yesterday, and have been following the comments and have been thinking about all of this. Before I start on my actual thoughts, I'll mention that there is a "People from Metafilter on Fetlife" group, I haven't seen it brought up lately in the various threads. If folks wanted to share more in a slightly safer space, that's an option.

This is likely to be somewhat disjointed, I apologize.

I think that for some people, it could perhaps be analogous to an orientation. I think that mentality will lead to erasure of a lot of people who participate in kink and do not involve sex or genitals in any way. Sort of how a lot of folks feel that "asexual" isn't an orientation, because they don't experience marginalization (false) or such, folks are saying that kink isn't an orientation for the same reasons, which means asexual kinksters are...what? Or kinksters who have sex with their partners at home, and play "chastely" with others. Because they're in a relationship with a non-kinky person (or a kinky person whose interests don't align with their partner's), they're not TrueKinkOriented?

If folks feel that it is an important part of their psyche and their interactions with others: awesome! To attempt to have it linked only to sex or sexuality (and at least in the articles primarily with pain play) is frustrating and overshadows SO MUCH of what exists in that realm of experiences.

I also feel it's problematic to say that bdsm = queer, as there are queer-only parties/spaces within the bdsm community. Some asshole male hetdom trying to show up to a queer-only party going "well I'm kinky, so obvs I count as queer" is just no good for anyone. It happens. I get that queer can mean "not normative", but...still. (on preview: what showbiz_liz said)
posted by HermitDog at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


To those who disagree with the idea of kink as an orientation: what harm, exactly, do you think would result from it being recognized as such? Are there certain protections from discrimination that you would extend to LGBT folks that you would deny to kinksters?

Good questions, Crane Shot. My gut says it's just fucking stupid to have kink as an orientation. I'm not even sure what that would mean, practically speaking. Do I check a box on my employment application saying I have oral sex, I get tied up, for example? No, cuz that's silly and too much information. Have there actually been people who have had economic or legal issues because they don't have vanilla sex? (Serious question)

Short answer: to claim "kink" as an orientation diminishes the very real struggles LGBT people have had in our society. (My opinion, YMMV.)
posted by sfkiddo at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not saying a kinky straight couple will never face any form of discrimination, but it's a fundamentally different form of discrimination, and co-opting the label of queer is just marginalizing LGBT people within their own spaces.

But whether or not kink should be considered a "queer" identity is a different discussion from whether it should be considered an orientation, no?
posted by Crane Shot at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2014


Yeah, I will never face discrimination if me and my husband want to get up to shenanigans in our bedroom, even if they're outside the norm. I am not even sure what the 'rights' we would be fighting for are? I mean, if I have to sit and actively ponder that question, then I'm guessing we occupy pretty much the hell out of a safe space already, no?

Boom. Boom boom boom. Windigo for the win.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2014


>To those who disagree with the idea of kink as an orientation: what harm, exactly, do you think would result from it being recognized as such? Are there certain protections from discrimination that you would extend to LGBT folks that you would deny to kinksters?

If protections and discrimination are the key issues, then why try to classify kink as an "orientation" and not "religious practice" ? If something is classified as a religious practice, then it would be even more protected from discrimination (and you could probably get a tax write-off for toys and gear).

I guess I'm trying to say that definitions and classification matter in more ways than just rights/protections/politics. No matter the consensus on "orientation/not", I think almost all MeFites would wholeheartedly support equal rights for whatever the fuck people want to do in their bedroom, as has been expressed upthread. As for the difference between orientation and not, I've been trying to build a thought experiment to get at the difference:

----

If my younger cousin (let's go with 15 years old) approached me and said that they were LGBT, and they were looking for advice because their religious parents would be totally non-supportive if they found out, my attempts to help them navigate their lives would be informed by the idea that their orientation was non-negotiable, intrinsic, and healthy/normal.

Alternately, If they approached me and asked for advice because they were "kinky", should their kink be viewed through the same lens as an orientation? Does the particular fetish matter? Handcuffs, watersports, leather/latex all seem non-destructive and beneficial from a utilitarian perspecive. If, however, this cousin said that they couldn't get aroused without inflicting pain on their partner, is that as sacrosanct as being LGBT? What if they have to inflict a lot of pain? What if their fetish is cheating on their partner?

----

The "orientation/not" question is pretty relevant there, yes? I'm still grappling with all of this, so I'm sure I've missed some obvious points.
posted by DGStieber at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2014


Short answer: to claim "kink" as an orientation diminishes the very real struggles LGBT people have had in our society. (My opinion, YMMV.)

This is the part that I can't wrap my head around. Why does it need to be a zero-sum game? Does the fact that LGBT people face comparatively more discrimination mean that it's OK to discriminate against kinky hetero folk? Because that happens too. What's wrong with saying that human sexuality is a big, inclusive tent where all forms of consensual sexual expression should be protected?
posted by Crane Shot at 12:20 PM on August 25, 2014


I'm not saying a kinky straight couple will never face any form of discrimination, but it's a fundamentally different form of discrimination, and co-opting the label of queer is just marginalizing LGBT people within their own spaces.

showbiz_liz, thanks for being more eloquent on the point I was trying to make.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2014


What's wrong with saying that human sexuality is a big, inclusive tent where all forms of consensual sexual expression should be protected?

This honestly strikes me like a person who is really into their Czech heritage trying to claim non-white identity because whiteness isn't a good enough description of who they are, while totally brushing over the reasons people need and have needed special protections as POC.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is the part that I can't wrap my head around. Why does it need to be a zero-sum game? Does the fact that LGBT people face comparatively more discrimination mean that it's OK to discriminate against kinky hetero folk?

But how are kinky hetero folk discriminated against, really?

If you are gay and walk into a store holding your partner's hand and are kicked out because they refuse service to gay people, that is discrimination. Your innate orientation is being held against you.

If you walk into a store as a hetero couple and one of you is wearing a collar, the worst that will happen is that they think you're some sort of punk or goth. Ok.

If you walk into a store all kinky and decked out in leather straps and nothing else as a straight couple and they kick you out, well, they kick out people not wearing shirts and shoes, too.

I guess I am not sure, once again, what 'acceptance' those into kink are supposed to be fighting for when it comes to claiming an orientation marker.
posted by Windigo at 12:32 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Does the fact that LGBT people face comparatively more discrimination mean that it's OK to discriminate against kinky hetero folk? Because that happens too.

Serious question: when has that happened and was it recent?
posted by sfkiddo at 12:33 PM on August 25, 2014


I think the disconnect for me comes from the idea of 'coming out' as kinky meaning 'being able to openly admit you're a kinkster'? Which, for me personally, comes down to 'why are you telling me about your sex life? I don't tell you about our sex life.' Not discrimination...just...most people don't want to know about each others' intimate sex activities when going about their every day life, vanilla or gay or poly or kinky or whatever.

Yes, I know there are the lifestyle D/s folk. Are those the people you have in mind when you talk about discrimination? The freedom to live their everyday non-sexual power dynamics in a public setting without repercussions?
posted by Windigo at 12:38 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


mean that it's OK to discriminate against kinky hetero folk? Because that happens too.

haha what
posted by p3on at 12:40 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the disconnect for me comes from the idea of 'coming out' as kinky meaning 'being able to openly admit you're a kinkster'? Which, for me personally, comes down to 'why are you telling me about your sex life? I don't tell you about our sex life.'

Ha. Hahahahaha. Exactly, Windigo.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kinky people don't want to tell everyone about their sex lives but they also don't want to face losing their jobs or custody of their kids when they're outed. That's why the concept of outness is important for kinksters.
posted by Mistress at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2014


People lose jobs or custody if they simply have naked pictures show up online...is it about kink, or is it about our society's puritanical views on sex, period?
posted by Windigo at 12:47 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


No, that's the very part I'm reacting to! It dismissively and glibly reduces the idea that the people in the OP are exploring and explaining to simply a front for unethical behaviour or a misguided tactical choice. It's gross!

Yes, I think there are three-ish threads going on here:

1. The OP topic in all its messy glory.

2. The topic of whether anyone who raises the OP topic (or who posts an FPP about it?) is a bad person using a bad-faith codeword to opportunistically camouflage their badness, which possibly should have been FIAMO or MeTa?

3. The BDSM Kink 101 stuff.

Sorry for the sock; my main password is locked in my home power outage computer.
posted by Fellini(GrossePointe)Blank at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, Mistress, do you have any examples of this? Definitely not trying to call you out/imply you're lying but I feel this thread has a lot of hypothetical "but what if" scenarios and I've still not seen a real life situation. Thanks.

(Edited to link back to Mistress's comment.)
posted by sfkiddo at 12:53 PM on August 25, 2014


But how are kinky hetero folk discriminated against, really?

We've already seen in this thread that plenty of people believe that BDSM is or can be assumed to be abusive, dangerous, regressive, and generally bad. And I'm sure you're well aware that more vanilla/'normative' folks think it's perverted, weird, and/or bad in the same ways. Isn't it obvious from that the kind of discrimination that it provokes? It can easily lose people jobs, parenting rights, dignity and respect, positions of privelege in and outside the mainstream, and yes, in some cases unprompted public abuse or attack. Items like collars, symbolic behaviour, vocabulary and subtle aspects of dress are all things that can draw minor or serious repercussions depending on circumstances.

Is it typically as severe or as hard to hide from as the repercussions of expressing non-straightness? No, not really. That doesn't mean it isn't real or that it has to be so incessantly questioned, dismissed and rejected. Is it the only way that our society is puritanical about sex? No, but how is that relevant? It can cause issues on its own or as an aggravating factor. It is centrally relevant to many people's lives. It's important.

Saying that any mention or indication of it at all is 'bringing up your sex life' and that it should be allowed as long as it stays behind the closed doors of the bedroom is no more of a meaningful concession than it is for homosexuality.
posted by Drexen at 12:54 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


And of course I am aware that there are examples that break the mold, so to speak. The discrimination a pro domme (for example) would face in terms of losing her day job or custody is a horse of a different color than the generic hetero kinky couple we've been discussing. But once again, that's a different type of discrimination in my mind. Discrimination of sex workers and not kink, and completely off the topic of orientation.
posted by Windigo at 12:55 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


the generic hetero kinky couple we've been discussing.

Isn't this the problem? You're equating all kinds of heterosexual kink with the hypothetical 'generic hetero kinky couple' who it's assumed must always be able to pass seamlessly with no impact on themselves or their self-identity. Surely we know enough about identity for it to be obvious that this isn't how it really works.
posted by Drexen at 12:58 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's a difference between "kinky people face problems" and "kinky people should take up the tactics and rhetoric of LGBT people because as groups they have some superficially similar characteristics," though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, apart from anything else, the ability for heterosexual otherwise-traditional couples to trade on their privelege and avoid serious discrimination doesn't say much about the lot of other types of kinkster and their experiences even in supposedly understanding and reasonable spaces. Nor the way that, for example, portrayals of non-straight sexuality often throw in a portrayal of kink just to further sour the image.
posted by Drexen at 1:02 PM on August 25, 2014


Saying that any mention or indication of it at all is 'bringing up your sex life' and that it should be allowed as long as it stays behind the closed doors of the bedroom is no more of a meaningful concession than it is for homosexuality.

When I said that, I worried that is how what I said might be construed. I was a bit blithe in my comparison. Obviously I see the problems of any solution that is 'it's all good as long as you don't throw it in my face!'

I was using the 'hetero kinky couple' as my example as that was what was used up above when discussing the idea of safe spaces and discrimination. No, of course that's not how it works in the greater world. But as a kinky hetero myself, I can only really respond from my own place of privilege. Which is about as lofty and snug as it could be. I personally find it problematic to think that my sexual interests are equal to the struggles LGBT people face.
posted by Windigo at 1:03 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


showbiz_liz: Well the thing is I, the OPs, and others would argue that the characteristics are not superficially but instead deeply similar and so that taking up those tactics is valid. But I'm not sure how much back-and-forth there really is going on on that subject.
posted by Drexen at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2014


I personally find it problematic to think that my sexual interests are equal to the struggles LGBT people face.

But I'm not really asking you to make that equation, I'm asking for folks in general not to, equally categorically, say that kink cannot ever be or be like an orientation and that the problems and issues that surround them have no continuity or overlap, or that it's too problematic or too unreal to be worthy of the right to freely self-identify and not to be discriminated against for reasons of personal romantic or sexual activity that don't involve any non-consenting persons.

Which I think is fair enough.
posted by Drexen at 1:11 PM on August 25, 2014


>Saying that any mention or indication of it at all is 'bringing up your sex life' and that it should be allowed as long as it stays behind the closed doors of the bedroom is no more of a meaningful concession than it is for homosexuality.

That's not true, simply because a homosexual relationship can't be kept in the bedroom- a couple is visibly identifiable as homosexual in any context in which they appear as a couple. Watersports or Bondage, OTOH, are (much more) easily kept discreet.
posted by DGStieber at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


DGStieber: Homosexuality can be kept 100% discrete unless it is displayed in some way, some as a kinky relationship.
posted by Drexen at 1:15 PM on August 25, 2014


But I realise I'm overbearing the thread at this point, so I'll let my points stand and go cook some good soup. Thanks for another interesting discussion, all.
posted by Drexen at 1:18 PM on August 25, 2014


There's a difference between "kinky people face problems" and "kinky people should take up the tactics and rhetoric of LGBT people because as groups they have some superficially similar characteristics," though.

I'm probably missing something obvious here, but how is that statement materially different from this extremely gross one that some people still unfortunately say? --

There's a difference between "trans people face problems" and "trans people should take up the tactics and rhetoric of LGB people because as groups they have some superficially similar characteristics," though.
posted by Fellini(GrossePointe)Blank at 1:18 PM on August 25, 2014


the fact that trans women are regularly murdered for their gender identity?
posted by p3on at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The gender/s you're attracted to and how you like to express your sexuality are two entirely different things, and these attempts to claim otherwise strike me as incredibly privileged. And the fact that saying so gets me branded as a know-nothing -phobe despite the fact that I'm kinky as well is incredibly frustrating.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Homosexuality can be kept 100% discrete unless it is displayed in some way, some as a kinky relationship.

Nope. I can go to dinner with Mr. Kiddo, hold hands, make out, everyone says "Aww, you're so in love!", happiness abounds, without anyone knowing what the heck we get into in the bedroom. If we were both men? We can't have that nice romantic dinner "discretely" without pretending we're friends and not touching each other.
posted by sfkiddo at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think that it is widely reported but in researching the 3k words I just wrote on this topic I spoke to multiple people who have lost jobs or custody, or have fought battles to prevent same. The key interview in my piece is from a social worker who got outed by an abusive ex and had to take her employer to court to fight wrongful dismissal, and to clear her record. It's gut wrenching and triggering and if the mods allow I will link it here tomorrow.
posted by Mistress at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


People are also fired for having nude photos, writing erotica, marijuana use outside of work, and lots of other reasons. And all of those things are terrible, and shouldn't be allowed, and should be fought against, but that doesn't make erotica writing or weed smoking the same thing as being LGBT.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:30 PM on August 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


> Homosexuality can be kept 100% discrete unless it is displayed in some way, some as a kinky relationship.

Not if you want to have domestic-partner/spousal benefits for your same-sex partner the way hetero folks normally have.
posted by Westringia F. at 1:34 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


People are also fired for having nude photos, writing erotica, marijuana use outside of work, and lots of other reasons. And all of those things are terrible, and shouldn't be allowed, and should be fought against, but that doesn't make erotica writing or weed smoking the same thing as being LGBT.

Who said that being kinky is the same thing as being LGBT? If you believe that all the injustices you listed are terrible and should be fought against, then why is it such a repugnant idea that those (myself included) who believe that their kinkiness is an inextricable part of their orientation should be protected from discrimination based on that identity? Honestly, I can't believe that this is such a controversial idea. Is MetaFilter not supposedly a place where people's lived experiences are respected?
posted by Crane Shot at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Saying kinky people should be protected from discrimination is not the same thing as saying kink is an orientation. Why is THAT so controversial?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:45 PM on August 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


>Crane Shot:

>...why is it a repugnant idea that...kinkiness is an inextricable part of...orientation [that] should be protected from discrimination? (edited for grammar)

No one is saying kink doesn't deserve protection. I can't find a comment to that effect anywhere in the thread. People *are* saying that Kink =/= Orientation. Sexual Orientation doesn't mean "protected class", it means "inborn preference for a certain type of sexual partner". It is possible for kink to not be an orientation, while still being equally protected.

>Who said that being kinky is the same thing as being LGBT?

Everyone who is arguing that kink = orientation.
posted by DGStieber at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


why is it such a repugnant idea that those (myself included) who believe that their kinkiness is an inextricable part of their orientation should be protected from discrimination based on that identity?

This is the third time I've used "serious question", but seriously: what discrimination? I'd like to see a real-life example, not just hypothetical situations. (Seriously.)
posted by sfkiddo at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2014


There are three links to real-life examples in the Slate piece.
posted by clavicle at 2:00 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks, clavicle, I read it last week but it was so meh it (and the examples) slid through my memory.
posted by sfkiddo at 2:12 PM on August 25, 2014


It is not necessary to draw any kind of comparison between kink and gayness. What is important is thinking about ways to organise, build solidarity and struggle for freedom in the world. Vanilla / kink is an axis of privilege, and as such has some similarities to other axes, and a heck of a lot of differences. And I think that people calling for kink as an orientation are honestly reflecting an idea that makes sense to a lot of kinksters; I see kink as an identity. The important argument is fighting for our rights and for the broad struggle against moralism, and quibbling over labels is a sideshow.

also what showbiz_liz said!
posted by Mistress at 2:22 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


This honestly strikes me like a person who is really into their Czech heritage trying to claim non-white identity because whiteness isn't a good enough description of who they are, while totally brushing over the reasons people need and have needed special protections as POC.

So where I am there used to be an organization that organized campaigns to bring more awareness of queer identities to racial communities. One of its requirements for participation on its leadership was that you had to be a PoC, but that was never very well delineated so what happened was that multiple people ended up doing this - or otherwise claiming 1/8th Aboriginal identities or some similar shit - and the board ended up getting edged out by more and more people who were clearly white-presenting and had been involved and raised in a white cultural environment.

This year, the organization ended up going crashing because the president wanted to reach out to Christian communities - something that was vitally important especially to East Asian communities given the prevalence of church-goers in the Chinese and Korean communities and the increasing rise of evangelism and fundamentalism within those communities - but all of the white-presenting board members refused to give it any support because they just couldn't see where the East Asian president was coming from, and said the cause was unimportant and futile.

You see a similar thing going on with kink in the queer community, where cishet kinky people repeatedly try to reappropriate our spaces and rhetoric without knowing what goes on in our lives and without knowing what our struggles are except on the most superficial levels.

I organize on intersectional issues of queerness, disability and race and I feel fucking unsafe in my own spaces because I can't organize a single event without someone nonconsenually fetishizing me because of my disability or race. And I find myself having to repeatedly abandon queer spaces because topics we organize around always get derailed into talking about kink. Or about how we need to get the government out of our bedrooms. While ignoring every other issue at hand.

It really doesn't help that most kinky people seem to hail from white middle-class backgrounds.

People are free to identify as kinky - I'm fine with whatever labels people choose to organize identity around. Where I draw the line is when kinky people claim that they understand the entire breadth of queer issues because they've been discriminated against superficially, or because they see a few minor shared causes - and then use that as a springboard to entirely dominate and intimidate queer spaces. I'm sick of the "but we're on the same side" arguments. If I can't talk about the queer issues I want to talk about because they always get derailed - or if I can't even access my own spaces because of your community - we are not on the same side.

And yeah, the kink as an orientation thing is not as innocent as people would claim it to be.
posted by Conspire at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2014 [15 favorites]


the fact that trans women are regularly murdered for their gender identity?

I am aware of that horror and of the breadth of cis personal-safety-privilege, but thank you for helping me see my abysmal ignorance about whether or how much/little non-kink sexuality exempts people from violent hate-crime. Time to go continuing-ed myself.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:18 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reinforcing what sfkiddo said, one fundamental distinction that's being glided over in terms of orientation vs. not is the social vs. the sexual. There's lots of discussion here about 'what consenting adults get up to in the bedroom' and other things that go well with the word 'private'.

But the original orientation arguments were about the fact that there's a social aspect to partnership, and while we can keep sex private, we don't keep the social aspects private. We want to allow people to declare and display their love, so homosexuality is something we want to protect in the social sphere. Bisexuality, transgender and other genders get added on because they also have that socially public aspect.

I've met people who argued that kink is just like homosexuality, and that they should be able to talk about their kink openly in a public space, that they should be able to come out of the closet as kinky. I'm really unconvinced by this. I have no problem with people being kinky, but I think the value in the idea of an orientation is the value in protecting someone's right to be public about a limited aspect of their sexuality in order to make social interaction possible and (relatively) honest.

I think kink being an orientation -- being something you can be out about -- goes too far: telling me about your kink isn't telling me who you love and that you love them, it's telling me details of your bedroom life that I don't think I want to know unless I'm involved.
posted by freyley at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Xarnop, I just wanted to say thank you for your posts in this thread. I understand very clearly where you are coming from and what you are saying and I appreciate what you've said.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:33 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I should also say that the stuff that has been posted in here with such clarity by xarnop and others is extremely important, and partictularly the series from the Yes Means Yes blog, and that I think the kink scene will get better if we can be safely out. People calling for orientation status are taking one approach to that. It's not my approach.

I am not a scholar. I try to run with the scholars and I can barely keep up. I know that kink is a culture and an identity, it's been mine since I was young. It's where my friends and my chosen family are, and where I grew up, in practice. It's where my writing and politics come from. So I can't be too unsympathetic with the call for an orientation, even though I think it is misguided.

I decry kinksters who take over queer spaces. If we are there we should be there to learn. I see being a kinkster as a reason I should support queer struggles more than the other way around.
posted by Mistress at 4:30 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


BTW I think one problem that happens with my, and others, sharing stories of ethical concerns or difficulties within kink fantasy/cultures/activities is that I know many who really enjoy kink really want to havethis conversation where the entire world sees that they are having fun and it's good and they can be understood and accepted and not treated like creepy weirdos who need to be in therapy until they are vanilla. Which is a real thing that happens to people who talk about or want help with their sexuality and make the foolish mistake of opening up about it with therapists or people who identify as authorities and take their own weird power trips into othering and labeling anyone with "weird" sexuality (often as a guise for discharging any of their own sexual weirdness or shit they're ashamed of) or just as a means of feeling superior and more normal and healthy.

To which, hear hear.

I support that actually. It's just unfortunately, some of the things said to GET there, are things I disagree with, like that "kink is healthy" which is itself a blanket statement and disregards many people's experience for whom it was not healthy and they actually moved on from it, and things like "It's not a choice" which is again not even remotely universally true. Situationally, sure, I believe it could be true, but saying all kinky urges are set in stone and can't be worked with or cultivated in different directions is like saying that all binge drinking stems from uncontrollable alcoholism that can't be managed, reduced, or reformed in any way so don't bother trying- when the reality is plenty of people who have periods of unhealthy drinking behavior can actually sort themselves out and make healthier choices with drinking and don't need the label of "alcoholic" who is totally at the mercy of their urges with no control or hope or regaining such. There are some people who are there, but others not.

While many people experience kink as completely and totally positive, it's a hard ethical issue because it contains hurting and negative emotions to those you love- which is something that I think it's normal and healthy to think is not right to do to each other. So trying to make people see that as "healthy" really goes against some deep values that people have about harms principles and protecting those we love from pain and emotional difficulty. I don't think a movement that requires everyone in the world to agree that kink is healthy or that they aren't allowed to have concerns about why people want to hurt their loved ones is going to be as effective a strategy as a harm reduction model that talks about how each person has a different relationship with kink, and for some it's very light and not emotionally or physically taxing, and for others it really does push their physical and psychological limits in ways that may indeed be risky but it's a life path they feel strongly about and repressing it does not fix whatever those reasons they feel that is something they need to explore or enjoy. I like to understand all things, so for me, there is no reason NOT to ask why. I don't see why in a crowd that's about breaking taboos, it would be so taboo to ask why or explore that. I am all about coming to a deeper understanding of the human condition and human sexuality, and such explorations of the mind I think are greatly fruitful.

That said, sex ITSELF is kind of rough on the receiver to begin with often times and the issues of pain and pleasure, subjugation and exploitation, and mutually or one sided benefit, are innate to many people's sexual experiences and urges even among those who think they are vanilla.

And personally, I think people who aren't aware of their darker urges are MORE likely to carry out subconscious urges on others without realizing or acknowledging it. I find the people studying the "pathology" of sexual difficulties hilarious, especially the older stuff, some of that reading sounds like these people who are so obsessed with the sex lives of their patients or research subjects and their bad sex urges that they're living out their own urges through these people, and in a very demeaning power dynamic where they get to shove all sorts of labels onto the "other" without being forced to face themselves or having their own urges dissected and labelled and othered as pathology.

I read a paper once to about the use of forced orgasm on mental patients and how "no one knew it was sexual" that simultaneously claimed doctors had no idea it was sexual (REALLY? No idea? Damn doctors is dumb.) But that the patients were not harmed and "knew what was going on". The level of self serving delusion in the way the people doing such things told themselves they weren't aware, that even those writing on the phenomena have to shroud themselves from facing the truth, that people are NOT that dumb, that most of these kinds of ignorant behaviors are very calculated and self serving sorts of ignorance where people know exactly what they are doing but their power or status prevents anyone from saying, even themselves.

I'm all about breaking through that shit. Human urges are often wretched. And just because we are born with them does NOT mean we need to cultivate all of them and set them on max and claim it's a lifestyle we must pursue. There are choices. But I like harm reduction for all things like this, and kink is a very responsible choice in opposition to carry out all your weird subconscious shit without even realizing it. It's also ok for people to find it unhealthy and to cultivate new ways of experiencing sexuality or moving on from it. I no longer have fantasies about physical violence because I don't like them, and I figured out what I was getting from them and found other ways (in addition to learning about the violence in my family and seeing my fantasies as a way of transcending or finding peace within the powerlessness involved in systemic violence over multiple generations).
posted by xarnop at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I decry kinksters who take over queer spaces. If we are there we should be there to learn. I see being a kinkster as a reason I should support queer struggles more than the other way around.

The problem is less to do with individual kinksters as it is how kink is used to enforce privilege within queer communities. The call is coming from within the house - yes, cishet kinksters are a problem, but the other issue is how kink is as a tool to derail queer discourse and dehumanize marginalized people within queer communities especially by white cis gay men. Earlier you mentioned that kink/vanilla is a spectrum of privilege - but if so, it must be a very situational one. Because in queer communities, where identities of queerness have been so wrapped up in sexual transgression, kink is worn openly as a badge of pride that validates queer identity. But the issue is that kink isn't something that's accessible to everyone. It's really problematic on racial axises what with tropes like master and slave and rice queen. It's dubious on gender axises, especially towards trans people who are forced to adopt dehumanizing positions. It's terrible for disability for the same reason.

So I wouldn't go as far as to say that kink is a privilege in queer community, but it certainly is an indicator of occupying a privileged position where one doesn't need to consider race and gender and class - so it's no surprise that cis white gay men tend to be the largest kinkster demographic in the queer community by far.

That in itself is fine; but where it gets problematic is that it's actively used as a way to other marginalized people within the queer community and derail discussion on queer issues. Talking about racial dynamics is hard. Talking about kink is trendy, transgressive and fun. So whenever the subject gets uncomfortable to the status quo, there's no better way to silence discourse - while signalling to the uppity minorities that they don't belong in this space and should shut up for good - than to bring up kink.

So the kink as orientation thing is a huge dog whistle here. It twists the "born this way" narrative to claim that the dehumanization, fetishization and exotification, and denial of healthy relationships to marginalized people within queer communities is naturally encoded - and if we do challenge it and question why all of us are seen as nothing more than sexual props within our communities, we're the real bigots here for not prostrating ourselves to the whims of kinky people, who own the same status of 'orientation' as us. And as queer communities gradually inch towards inclusiveness and intersectionality, the kink as orientation argument serves as a way for the white gay cis status quo to push back and insist that the queer political machine needs to center on and work solely for them and their needs.

So again, while there's no issue in claiming kinkiness as an individual identity, to claim kinkiness as an orientation explicitly glosses over and turns a blind eye to the ways kink is used to enforce privilege in the queer community. Kink needs to have a lot more discussions about intersectionality and ethics before they can repurpose the language of other movemenrs as blatantly as this.
posted by Conspire at 1:21 PM on August 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


Talking about racial dynamics is hard. Talking about kink is trendy, transgressive and fun.

Thanks for clearing that up. All this time I've thought it was difficult, risky, and opened one up to ostracism by friends and loved ones. Obviously you know better. I'll shut my stupid privileged trap now.
posted by Crane Shot at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2014


i get the feeling you stopped at that quote because your comment comes off very poorly immediately tailing conspire's post
posted by p3on at 1:58 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


sex ITSELF is kind of rough on the receiver to begin with often times and the issues of pain and pleasure, subjugation and exploitation, and mutually or one sided benefit, are innate to many people's sexual experiences and urges even among those who think they are vanilla.

Nitpicky, but just to be clear on this, given the gradations in sex and sexuality inherent in the topic: while pain and pleasure, subjugation and exploitation, etc. do appear to come along with the culture of penetrative sex acts for many people, the word "sex" doesn't mean penetrative sex acts only, and defining the word in such a narrow way is limiting and exclusionary, and sometimes has unfortunate if not outright dangerous consequences.

If you use the word "sex" to mean penetrative intercourse, you can't then universalize it to apply to anyone who has sex, including the vanilla-identified.

Though, of course, few people identify as vanilla. Vanilla is a kink term used by people who are into kink to describe people who are not into their kink, as far as I can tell.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:40 PM on August 26, 2014


Of course, I meant penetrative sex specifically, sorry for the lack of clarifying terms.
posted by xarnop at 4:57 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a side note, I think it is obscuring the issue when we talk about BDSM/kink as one conglomerate with shared cultural features, some of which may be problematic. Gay, lesbian, and straight, queer and more specifically oriented kink communities often have very little contact with one another, depending on the location.

Viewing BDSM/kink as one umbrella category which includes all kinks, dynamics and sexual orientations is halfway to seeing it a generalized orientation already, if only to argue that it shouldn't be recognized as one. Although I'm sympathetic to claiming one's kinks as a primary sexual identity, because I do, I want to resist the trend of viewing all alternative sexualities as one broad cultural category that we can point to as being one 'kinkster/bdsmer' culture and identity. It has political power and utility to say that all kinky people identify as one marginalized group, but in reality not all kinky people share the same culture and identity, or the same experience of marginalization.

When we talk about 'issues within BDSM' it would be helpful to define which of the many possible BDSM/kink identities and cultures we are talking about, whether it be gay leather culture or heteronormative, straight BDSM groups or the community and culture associated with a particular fetish. It's one thing to say that BDSM/kinky peoples have a kind of marginalization in common, but it doesn't make sense to me to try to talk about the culture and features of one BDSM monolith which simply doesn't seem to exist.

Because in queer communities, where identities of queerness have been so wrapped up in sexual transgression, kink is worn openly as a badge of pride that validates queer identity.

I just wanted to add that as a queer kinky person, this is not my experience. In my experience some kinks are normalized in LBGTQ communities, sometimes to detrimental social effect, just like some kinks are normalized in mainstream culture, but not every kink may be equally as accepted.
posted by wrabbit at 6:08 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Consider asexuality. Like kinkiness,

It can signal a lack of an orientation, or, as an orientation in its own right, it can be combined with any of the other sexual orientations (gay, straight, queer, etc).

It is often pathologized as immature, deviant, disordered, unhealthy, inhuman, and the product of sexual or emotional trauma.

It is considered to be 'about sex,' like BDSM, and not a social identity issue. It is for the most part socially invisible.

Asexual/sexual is multi-dimensioned spectrum like vanilla/kinkiness.

Aspects of it may be normalized and privileged in some subcultural communities.

But if we are playing oppression olympics, which people seem eager to do in order to prove that BDSM doesn't deserve to be put in the same class of oppression as queer peoples per se by being recognized as a marginalized orientation, then it is notable that asexuality seems to be a little bit less systematically marginalized than BDSM. Being known as asexual is less likely lead to being suspected of abuse, losing friends, custody, jobs, etc. And yet asexual individuals are legitimately a marginalized minority in their own right, and it's widely accepted an orientation, meaning an identity which a lot of people share based on their sexual mode of being. No, we should not equate being kinky to being queer in level and type of oppression. But if fellow queer and LGB-identified people are worried about diluting the concept of 'orientation' with sexual identities which might include large amounts of unequally marginalized, straight people, that ship has already sunk with LGBTQAA.
posted by wrabbit at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


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