There has always been stigma around any kind of sex that is not heterosexual conventional sex between married people.
In today’s world, one of the most stigmatized types of sex is kinky sex. It wasn’t until the DSM-V came out that kinky behavior was depathologized. Even Merriam-Webster defines kinky as “involving or liking unusual sexual behavior.” There is an incredible amount of stigma around kink because of a lack of education as well as a general stigma around sexual liberation.
So what is kink? Kink is an umbrella term for sex and relationships that are not vanilla. The term “kink” comes from the idea that it is a bend in the expected sexual norm. Kink includes BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance/ submission, sadism/masochism), roleplay, fetishes, knife play, spankings, asphyxiation, and a whole lot more. For example, Ro, a 26-year-old gender fluid cis-female from Manhattan, identifies as a “masochistic kitten in a Dominant Daddy/little girl relationship.” Ro and her partner engage in “RACK (risk-aware consensual kink) such as blood/knife play, extreme beatings/spankings, and choking” and also enjoy “vanilla style sex and cuddling.”
For some, like Ro, kink is only present at home, while for others kink is part of their entire lives. Zoe, the co-founder of SSASE (Soft Smiles Association for Submissive Education), is in a 24/7 hierarchical authority-based relationship. “Looking at us out in public, you would have no idea of our relationship,” says Zoe. “There are things that are pre-negotiated for our relationship when we are out in public. For example, I call him ‘Darling’ in front of others and ‘Daddy’ behind closed doors.”
It is also important to note that though kink can be constantly present, it doesn’t mean that kinky people are constantly having wild elaborate sex all the time. As Zoe points out, “That’s an unrealistic idea. No one can keep up with that while attempting to work and have a social life. Vanilla sex is fun too, even without elaborate play scenes.”
Now let’s check your stigma. Reading the above paragraphs, did you at all think: that seems dangerous or weird? Maybe when you first heard about Dominant/Submissive relationships you were concerned for the submissive person or assumed consent was not a part of the relationship. However, of the ten people I interviewed, none of them were concerned for their safety. In fact, most of them said that consent and communication were the most important part of their relationships.
As Zoe puts it, “Healthy kinky relationships exist in many different forms and always include input and negotiations from both sides. Even the most structured Master/slave relationships include conversation, negotiation, re-negotiation, and additional conversations.”
Kink and the people who practice it are just that, people. They have wants and desires and needs just like everybody does. If anything, kinky people are an incredible example of what can happen when people communicate their desires and respect the desires of others.
For more information on the kink community, check out the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, which is a great resource for both kinky and non-kinky people.