Another Girl's Paradise: Why Kink Discourse Sucks
What are deviant pleasures “rooted in”? Why does kink discourse suck so much?
[The following contains discussion of BDSM and other fetishes]
We’ve all been on Twitter too much this year. Everybody (or at least everyone behaving) is stuck inside and at this point it feels like many of us are arguing just to argue. While I can mostly steer clear of discourse, there are two widely shared discourse I see repeated way too often and unfortunately they always manage to trigger my fight or flight response. The first is people being reductionist about The Sopranos as “Sex in the City for boys” or “a boring thing only guys like”. The Sopranos is great. The second, however, feels way more insidious.
There is this growing tendency online where people keep conflating literally any cultural phenomenon as being rooted in pedophilia or in some way inherently abusive or otherwise dangerous. This bizarre framing is placed on everything from age gaps in relationships to people being attracted to petite women and twinks; from tv shows that feature debaucherous high schoolers to consenting adults engaging in taboo fetishes. In my eyes, both this and The Sopranos thing are different iterations of the same issue: Rather than just accepting that we’re allowed to dislike something other people enjoy, we’ve developed an ugly tendency to moralize our objections to that which makes us feel othered or uncomfortable.
The version of this argument that bothers me most is when it’s applied to kink. I come from a proud lineage of gay perverts for whom fetish is an integral factor in how we make sense of the world. Mainstream culture has long associated any alternative sexuality with degeneracy and immorality, though weirdly now the main people decrying it are not traditional puritans but ones of a demographic that is young, queer, very online, and sadly out of touch with the realities of their cultural history as it pertains to leather. This sentiment comes with an additive bit of dogma: the only way to justify one's proclivities toward kinks such as ageplay, consensual non-consent, or petplay is for it to be how you cope with trauma. Because then that makes it okay.
This isn’t new, but it bugs me. It’s become an oft-repeated narrative of many a wellness think piece that BDSM and freaky fetishes are actually okay because they help people deal with their traumatic past. It’s not even that this is a false sentiment, kink can factually be helpful in trauma recovery (just Google “BDSM trauma”) and sometimes fetishes are born of trauma. but it does bother me that the prevailing narrative for the practice that has enriched my life in so many ways is one that pathologizes what we find pleasurable as being rooted in mental anguish. It certainly isn’t my own experience.
I was an early bloomer when it came to sexual self-knowledge. At 13, I was getting grounded for dialing random 800 fetish numbers looking for thrills in the opening lines (e.g. 1-800-BON-DAGE, 1-800-ASS-PLAY), and by 14 I was begging all my girlfriends to wrestle me into submission and bite me til I bled. As soon as I turned 18, I travelled up and down the coast engaging my long unfulfilled desires as a submissive bottom, fucking around with a bunch of queers I met off Tumblr and eventually meeting the first of many mommy dommes I’d play with.
Seeking out the kinky sex I always wanted was integral to understanding myself, and also becoming who I am. Engaging in D/s (Dominance/submission) and SM (sadomasochism) not just in sex but as a lifestyle encouraged me to state my boundaries, needs, and wants in ways I’d never experienced in a vanilla relationship. For me discipline, pain, and submission served as a means in which I was shown care, not only giving me the structure I often struggled to build in my own life, but also providing me with the tools I needed to better create it for myself. Yes, it helped me heal and grow from my past pain and shame, but no different than any other love, nurturing, and intimacy would.
I’m still a lifestyle fetishist. It feels good to understand sexuality not just as genital stimulation but as a vast combination of erotic activities. Kink has given me a bounty of love, introducing me to and bonding me with many of my closest and most brilliant friends, lovers, and partners. I have exes I dated for months who I never had traditional sex with in the course of the relationship. They showed their desire for me with their boots in my mouth, their nails in my back, and their baseball bats taken to my thighs. We played with agony, ecstasy, shame, and lust together and that is just as significant as any dick in my ass.
But it still beggars the question “where do our kinks come from?” In personal experience, I’ve found I'm more prone to fetishize my fears than trauma. I’m a control freak who’s scared of losing agency, but I can’t get off without heavy bondage or power exchange. I constantly worry I’m embarrassing myself or making myself look foolish, and yet nothing gets me wetter than having a sadistic femme make a spectacle of my humiliation and objectification. I, like most people, am afraid of needles but the mixture of pain, pleasure, and helplessness that comes with my partner threading half a dozen syringe heads through my tit meat is peak intimacy for me.
Trauma isn’t what created most of my kinks, but more something that hindered my ability to engage meaningfully with new fetishes. It wasn’t until I worked through my issues with my abusive father that I ever felt comfortable calling an older femme “daddy” in bed or dabbling with leather. The truth is sometimes fetishes don’t come from anywhere significant. I can assure you no grave tragedy was I befelled by that made me aroused by putting a tail plug in my ass and barking like a puppy while I give a blowjob. I never even had a dog! No, while knowing what you want and why you like what you like can be illuminating, it also doesn’t feel entirely healthy to put our turn-ons through such intense scrutiny.
What gets you off is not inherently born of trauma or sign of dysfunction, nor does it require suffering to validate it. Being turned on by weird fucked up things you want to do with another consenting adult is acceptable simply because it’s hot and sexy and fun. The conceit that desires must be a trauma response for it to be morally acceptable is doubly funny (read: annoying) to me because the bulk sum of my fetishes absolutely predate the occurrence of my life’s most impactful sufferings.
One of my most distinct early memories is of playing house with the girl-next-door before we’d even entered kindergarten. “You be the mommy, I’ll be the baby.” I insisted, “Now wrap me up in this blanket so tightly I can’t escape.” I don’t know where this urge to be restrained and adored came from, but it’s undeniable that the hissy fit I threw after I easily escaped from her slipshod blanket bondage was the true dawning of the very particular bottom I would become.
At the end of the day, all most taboo fetishes are is just different variations of role-playing. It’s not endorsing whatever weird scenario you’re acting out and it doesn’t inherently say anything about your character. It’s just taking what are often sacred cultural symbols and turning those ideas into sex toys.
I don't really need a traumatic event to explain why I like that my girlfriend can easily pin me down nor do I need a sad story for why calling older women "Mommy" turns me on and makes me feel warm all over. it's just a cool sexy thing to do.
Follow Chingy on Twitter at @TheGayChingy