On Making The Case For Kink As A Sexual Orientation
Today on Slate.com is an excellent piece about why “kinky” should be considered a sexual orientation. Writer Jillian Keenan posits how we define a person’s sexual orientation should include what kind of energies turn a person on — dominant or submissive, for example — because for people like Keenan and myself, our sexuality is more complicated than just the gender and genitalia of the person to whom we are attracted.
I’ve long considered my sexual orientation to be “kinky” — submissive, in particular. I just haven’t always verbalized it as such to other people (like, say, my parents). One significant reason not to identify as such — to let people just think I’m straight or bi — is the general lack of understanding about what “kinky” means. There is a huge public misunderstanding that people who are kinky ‘enjoy being abused,’ as in, we are sexually turned on by domestic violence and controlling relationships. But Keenan’s piece focuses particularly on one of the main reasons people eschew kinky as a sexual orientation — namely, that in a world where so many people are oppressed some folks are prickly when they feel you are “comparing” your marginalized sexual orientation to their marginalized sexual orientation. What Keenan argues, which I agree with, is that acknowledging the ways in which our experiences of sexuality are very much the same — like, say, some marginalized sexualities are considered mental illnesses — should not have to be seen as a comparison. Why can’t there be lots of room for many sexual orientations?
“Kinky” isn’t an identity that you just pick up as a trend and it’s more than just a label; it’s innate. I knew back in elementary school that I was interested in BDSM, although of course as a child I was too young to understand what those nascent desires meant. All I knew I thought a lot about spanking and being tied up — and my thoughts must mean I was very, very weird. As a teen with access to The Guide To Getting It On and then as an adult with access to the Internet, I could name my desires. Yet, while all my sexual experimentation was kinky, or had some kinky elements, I vacillated between considering myself “straight,” “straight-ish” or “bisexual.” Why? Because those were the more mainstream options presented to me as to what my sexual orientation could be.
To be fair, there are some kinksters who don’t consider “kinky” to be their sexual orientation. But plenty of others do. And I suspect most kinky people don’t publicly identify their sexual orientation as such because of a lack of precedent (in addition, of course, to the legitimate concerns about repercussions for doing so). Lots of folks who are into BDSM feel forced to keep some or all of their sexual desires private. Because of this lack of visibility, other kinksters spend a portion of their lives in the dark, trying to identify and name their desires. What a terrible waste! You could say that kinky folks just have a paraphilia or a fetish (and lots of people do). We can fight about semantics, although it seems pretty pointless when the biggest thing to be gained from identifying “kink” as a sexual orientation is simply legitimacy.
It doesn’t seem right that someone should be able to tell me I’m only allowed to click from the boxes marked “straight,” “bisexual,” “queer” or “gay” when I know I’ve always only been able to become aroused and achieve orgasm through kink. The reality is that my parts just don’t work any other way. If that doesn’t make “kinky” my sexual orientation, then I honestly don’t know what is.
[Image of a paddle via Shutterstock]