SL Letters of the Day: Coming Out Kinky & BDSM as a Sexual Orientation

Comments

1
Nice letters.
The only thing is that today is a LOT different than just 21 years ago (second letter).
BDSM is (often badly) portrayed in most media (TV, movies, books) and real information on it is available on-line and mail-order.
So be out if you want to. If nothing else it makes it easier for other people who want the same thing to find you. And it may help "the cause". But the world is no longer as unaware as it was when you were a kid. So the next generation already has it easier than you did.

But I still agree with Dan's advice. If you want to tell your parents (and the world) then go for it. But if you have to ask whether you should tell your parents then don't tell them. Everybody's parents are different. You'll know when/if your parents are ready for "the talk".
2
I don't know what Dan would call you, but I call you bi- or pansexual with a bdsm fetish (as opposed to a bdsm kink) unless you insist otherwise.

But I think how we can let kids know that having 'weird' kinks and fetishes is okay without getting all up into their business in a way they might not want/be ready for is still a good question and I hope we'll have a discussion about canceling out society's sex-negativity and shame while respecting children's boundaries.

Perhaps by emphasizing consent and mutual pleasure as the important thing and how you get there as secondary?
3
You know what?

You should - or at least should feel free to - just be out and open about anything that you consider an integral part of your personal identity, whatever that may be. It is, however, still on you to thoroughly and honestly evaluate what is and is not a part of your actual core identity and what you might or might not need to come out about.

Okay? Can we roll with that as a functional recommendation, with the stipulation that it may be modified in unusual cases? I feel like that is really the fundamental expression of what makes a free and enlightened society.
4
I understand the desire to be validated (who doesn't like free parking), but I don't see a lot of need to be out as anything more descriptive than "non-vanilla" as a socio-political act.

I wonder if trying to delineate another category works agains inclusively building a broad-coalition to keep these radical regressives out of our bedrooms and bodies.

It may be that this division becomes more important if we have to better settle how we deal with sex where otherwise illegal activities are negotiated, but I think we can still err on the side of not including people in our sex-lives involuntarily.
5
I agree, he should be happy and come out if he needs to. At the same time, the only thing I worry about BDSM or D/s play is involving others in your sex life. As long as you don't do that to unprepared people then great! I know he didn't sau he did, but I feel that is one of the reasons it's different than coming out as gay or bi.
6
@2: "emphasizing consent and mutual pleasure" -- exactly. Listen to your kids with support and encouragement instead of criticism, as much as possible. Teach them that they are each in charge of their own body, and "no means no", no matter how fun they think it will be to tickle, hug, wrestle, or otherwise touch the person saying no.

(This means that the adult also needs to find other ways to get children to do things, besides picking them up as they kick & scream or forcing their mouth open to brush their teeth...)
7
Wait - Maybe I was sheltered, but playing doctor at the age of three or four? Erotic touching at that age? The sex talk at five or six? Man, excuse me for thinking something is wrong here.
8
I wonder what advice BDSM would have given to this week's podcast caller who was worried about being kink-negative when her toddler said he wanted to pee on her.
9
@7: That people think something is "wrong" with that is the very problem being addressed here.

For the record such erotic experiences are quite common at those ages. Hence most people in our culture understanding what "play doctor" means.
10
@5 "At the same time, the only thing I worry about BDSM or D/s play is involving others in your sex life. As long as you don't do that to unprepared people then great!" You know that's EXACTLY what homophobes say about coming out as GLBT, right?
11
@7, kids explore. It used to be accepted and harmlessly laughed off until the modern sex-phobia kicked in, and our yet more modern cultural obsession with molestation and child rape has amped up people's awkward awareness of it another order of magnitude. What was once just kids fooling around - so long as everything stayed fun and consensual and harmless - now has parents, who are afraid to talk about this, and doctors or other authority figures, who are afraid to dismiss it for fear it'll be the one time something is actually terribly wrong, seeing lasting sexual trauma under every rock and in every shadow.

Of course kids play and experiment relatively innocently; that's what makes them kids. When teenagers fool around, it's not "playing doctor," it's quite thoroughly sexualized. The sex talks that they need at different ages should reflect that, but they'll need guidance all the way through.
12
I'm KCU, the first writer. Dan, you offered a reasonable answer to my questions, and I can see where you're coming from. It's nice to hear that you're not *against* people coming out as kinky.

I'm like that second writer - I consider BDSM my primary orientation, and not an "activity". But I'm not planning on coming out as kinky to my parents (although they probably have some inkling, considering the odd things I said as a kid - they're not idiots). I can see where bisexuality might be a different issue - the "who vs. what" argument is compelling.

I do wish that kink were more socially acceptable. I do my part by telling my close friends and participating in the community. We'll get there eventually.
13
@10 "You know that's EXACTLY what homophobes say about coming out as GLBT, right?"

Eh, no. The words might be the same, but its referring to something different. Homophobes don't want to see people being gay anywhere near them. They find it offensive if folks are obviously homosexual, holding hands, being "flamboyant."

What @5 is saying, and this is fairly accepted in the kink community (although there are some people who don't think so) is that you should not involve innocent, non-consenting bystanders in your sex life, no matter what your orientation. If you have a fantasy of humiliating your partner in public, that's cool, but you're not allowed to involve ME in the process if I didn't consent. Leading someone around on a leash is one thing, asking them to lick stranger's boots is entirely another if the boot-wearer isn't in on it. Same as fucking or obviously masturbating in public.
14
I think I like Dan's original distinction between social milieu information and private sexual behavior. The latter is something I don't need to know, whether it's that an acquaintance is into diapers or values PIV sex over every other possible sex act. If I'm going to sleep with them, that information becomes relevant. If I'm going to work in the next cubicle or invite them and their partner 'Pat' to brunch or let them in to fix the furnace, they are not. Their deciding to share anyway would be judged creepy. (Yes, line in the sand. Social niceties are like that.)

Staying with furnace fixing, it would be very weird if the furnace guy announced "You need a new pressure valve, and I am gay." It isn't relevant. Or if I told him I'm straight. If we had a long conversation about our families, then it might become relevant as context. I can't think of a conversation I would have with this guy (since I am in a monogamous relationship) where what sort of sex he or I like to have would be a relevant thing, and if either of us brought it up it would be something the other called the furnace company about as harassment.

It comes down to involving other people in your sex life. It's lovely that you adore PIV sex and believe it central to your identity as a straight person, but most people in most contexts don't need or want to know your thoughts on it.
15
@3 Only caveat I'd throw in is that I'm really not that interested in the sex lives of my friends, neighbors, business associates, service providers, etc, and don't really want that thrust upon me.

Seeing "someone of orientation" doesn't immediately make me think of GLBT sex (I'm not Republican). But when BDSM says he's out, I guess I don't really know what that means.

Does he walk around Target in bondage gear? does he bring it up a lot in casual conversations? is he just talking about hanging around other BDSMers? or is he just talking about not being ashamed any more?

The letter was interesting but it didn't answer the question of what being 'out' as a kinkster means in relation to being out as a GLBT person.
16
savage "love" has become a boring caricature.....
17
2nd letter, yes, but no.
18
I don't feel any need to be "out" about it but I also consider BSDM to be my primary sexual orientation. I'm a straight woman, but I'd still rather do BDSM with a woman than have vanilla sex with a man.
19
Great letters today. Thank you writers and thank you Dan for airing this even though I don't agree with you!

The anxiety about kinsters being out is a bit like the anxiety about what being out and gay meant; will "we" be subject to the sight of gays having sex in public?? Will "they" be cumming on unsuspecting strangers? Hide your children! Careful about that soap in the showers! etc.

Well, turned out that gays are not (mostly) having sex in public, but people do have to learn to put up with seeing gays kissing in public. Is that sex or love? Is that supposed to be public or private? Can you really separate the sexual and the affectional dimensions of our desire?

Western society used to put up with the sight of men (of the right colour and class) feeling up the asses of women in public. Now, not so much. The boundaries can change when it comes to kink-related behaviour. A little kneeling down and kissing the dom's feet as a public greeting - a small gesture, but it could be immensely liberating too.

Gay kinksters tend to emphasise the social cost (and benefit) of breaking free from the gay closet, and subsume the kink closet into the gay closet. But the second letter, in particular, makes it clear that it can be the same experience of difference, self-acceptance, and courage in facing ostracisation for what you feel to be natural.
20
I'm having a very hard time believing much of what the second letter claims at the ages of 3-4. I have a whopping two or three long-term memories of that period of life, and that seems to be the norm.
21
Nice letter choice today. Like BDSM (second letter, I was an "early kinkster"; I invented Bondage when I was in the second-grade, and had a crush on a classmate. That never went anywhere, sad to say. And for me, when I found out others had "discovered" BDSM later in my youth, I was devastated. (I'd thought I could patent it and make a fortune. Here I was, sitting on an idea that could make millions...)

But I kept on keeping on, with a lot of vanilla relationships, a few kinky ones (I self identify in my 50s as bi and kind of weird) and was outed to my family when an unexpected trip to the hospital led them to my bedroom to gather my meds. They saw my porn. I don't mean they saw the porn I'd collected over the years, they saw the porn I'd performed in, lo these many years ago. So, I'm seriously "outed" to family and I've been out to friends for decades.

It's not so bad being an "out" kinkster. And, just as it's good that people know GLBT people in their lives, non-vanilla folks being out isn't really a bad thing.
22
@13, 14, 15: I understood Sarah Frantz's comment @10 to refer to the idea that heterosexuals already display their sexual lives in public, built into the invisible "normality" of most social institutions. The feeling of "normal" is then used to shame abnormal sexualities - not (only) by saying the sex is wrong and weird, but also by accusing them of transgressing the public/private boundary, because only the heteronormative has the right to cross that boundary.

By accepting that men can kiss men in public, society also begins to accept that men who fuck men can also have access to better tax statuses, stability of citizenship, guarantee of inheritances, control over one's estate, etc. Also, Aids showed how health, safety and survival is linked to visibility and a sense of community. An individual gay man was likelier to receive safer sex information, practise safe sex, and receive the tools needed for safe sex, when he was not shamed and isolated about it. Same applies to kink.

Keeping it private is exactly not what Dan is doing, by fostering public conversations. I think he's saying each individual must negotiate their level of publicness according to their circumstances. But to generalise this into a "no sex in public" rule is reactionary, not liberatory.
23
Maybe the necessity/appropriateness of being out about being kinky should depend on the kink. If you're a watersports fetishist, then (to my understanding) that's a kink that is indulged in private, so there's little reason to mention it to anyone unless you're having a deep conversation with them about sex.

If you have, for example, a slave/master relationship that you enact only at home, then there's no need to come out to the general public - but it could make sense to be out to people who will often see you in your home so you don't have to censor yourself. That would just depend on how important it is to you to do your slave/master thing without restraint AND how important it is to have company over.

If you have, as a final example, a BDSM dynamic so integral to your relationship that you view kissing your partner's shoes (as @19 mentioned above) as a normal expression of romantic affection, the way vanilla couples view kissing or holding hands, then I can absolutely understand why you'd want to make this part of your public identity. In my perfect fantasy world, everybody is okay with such displays of intimacy and doesn't feel put upon if they see it (provided nobody is proudly waving an erection around after the shoe-kissing).
24
@20, I have a ton of memories from that age. I have memories of when I was 2 that are quite extensive. And "aha" moment/deeply upsetting memories certainly stand out among them. It seems odd to me the things the LW says he was getting up to; but the fact that he remembers things from those ages isn't odd at all.
25
When I was in Europe, people my age (early 20s) that I talked to seemed totally relaxed in terms of talking about their sex lives, and knowing that someone in your circle of friends was kinky just meant that if you met someone else who's kinky you would set them up. Where I live now people hardly ever discuss their sex lives except with closest friends, and that mostly when drunk. Outside of that, we as a society pretend that we don't have sex, only long-term relationships. So coming out as kinky in this setting would also mean to an extent coming out as someone who has sex.
26
Letter #2 == epic. I had a rather serious and long-standing "playing doctor" partner between 4 and 6, and was over-the-top guilty and conflicted about it from 7 to maybe 15? It's nice to know that others have gone through similar experiences (and can eloquently elaborate on them in public forums!).

As to necessity of coming out, in my mind Dan's advice to SUB about being open to dating vanilla is the crux of the matter -- it's a question of necessity. You can't expect the sexual orientation of someone to change after you start dating them, whereas plenty of hitherto-vanilla GGG folks are up for all *kinds* of crazy shit. More and more I appreciate how many people enjoy a good power-play fuck and never really knew it, or felt guilty and never really gave themselves permission.

In short, I'd be happy to do a lot with someone that I really dig, and enjoy it. That's the *how*, which is seems tremendously flexible in *many* people. But my gender isn't terribly flexible, no pussy for Dan, etc. I think Letter #2 highlights this, too, by saying "kink is more important than gender to me". I suggest that at that point, it rises to a level of gender, since who is flexible but how is obligate...
27
So, it is *all* a social construct when it comes down to it. There was a day when kissing in public for straights was a social no-no, as was the showing of skin from either sex. Look at men's swim suits during Victoria's time. Yet in other human cultures of the same era, un-inhibited sexual expression was no issue- think tribal cultures. In the 19th century, two men in one bed was not an issue, yet not so in the 20th century.
Perhaps the day will come when we behave as the Bonobos do- having a dab of sex play on meeting someone, just to cement bonds and strengthen relationships. Viewed in this light, it's not so difficult to see where the christianists' views on 'the slippery slope, moral decay and end of righteous society' come from. They see two men kissing and think 'keep it in the bedroom where it belongs'. Were I to see someone being led around on a leash, as queer and kinky as I am, I'd think the same thing- keep your sexual expressions private, thank you. But my kinks don't include BDSM, so....
Interesting discussion.
28
@11 -- I don't know if our current society's heightened awareness of child molestation is an "obsession". Back when my parents were kids it was something everyone just preferred never to think about -- Pleasantville syndrome. My mom grew up being molested by her father and the status quo was for everyone to turn a blind eye. I think modern attitudes concerning rape and child molestation -- and the need to educate people about protecting themselves -- are much healthier.
29
@27

Perhaps the day will come when we behave as the Bonobos do- having a dab of sex play on meeting someone, just to cement bonds and strengthen relationships.

Why would we do that when we have language?

@28, I agree. Also (to @11), kids are not innocent; they do know how to use power over one another. When you say, "What was once just kids fooling around - so long as everything stayed fun and consensual and harmless" -- you seem to assume that everything generally does stay that way, and concerned parents are just overreacting. But kids can pressure each other, which is why parents are urged to discourage their young children from sex play with others in a non-shaming way. This point was illustrated really well on this week's Savage Lovecast, when a sexually precocious girl was influencing her friend to try dangerous things. If you haven't already heard it, you should give it a listen.
30
Dan's distinction between "who you do" and "what you do" is useful up to a point, but not much further. As "what you do" often also determines or restricts "who you do" (if your kink is for centaurs, giantesses, or plushies, or pre/pos-op transgender people, or for overweight people, you really do have restrictions on "who you do" -- yet these things are seen as fetishes rather than orientations; and to BDSMers like SUB, from this week's letters, often the difference between "dominant woman" and "non-dominant woman" comes close in importance to the distinction between "women" and "men" to straight people). Even traditional/frequent restrictions like preferring blondes or Asians do blurr the distinction a little.

I think ultimately Dan's "who you do" category is not really about people or kinds of bodies, but about these two important groups in society -- males and females. "Who you do" is usually supposed to be answered with "men", "women", "both", or "neither" -- other groups, like the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph, don't usually qualify as good answers here. Given the traditional importance and the current political relevance of the male/female distinction, of course preferring either group, both, or neither also becomes a political statement -- hence Dan's concern about you having to come out if you're gay. It's not really because you'll be assumed to be straight if you don't (you're usually also assumed not to be kinky unless you're known to be), but because the male/female distinction -- and consequently also the gay/straight distinction -- is very important and quite politicized, in a way that BDSM, age play, or watersports aren't.

That's what I think makes coming out as gay required, but coming out as kinky only elective.

BDSM is a strong example of something that, given the blurry (or 'blurriable') distinction between "who you do" and "what you do" (are you attracted to women, or to dominant women?), may feel so important to a person and who s/he is (see the LW) that calling it not a sexual orientation is not really very useful.

I would ask the person him/herself: how important is wh(o/at) you do to your self-image, to who you are, to your feeling of 'not living a lie' (since you will be presumed do to wh(o/at) most people like you do -- it's not only for closeted gays that this is true, kinksters are also assumed to be vanilla unless there are reasons not to --, you may see yourself in situations in which yo uhave to pretend to be 'like the others')? The more important it is, the more intertwined the 'who' and the 'what' are, the more it will be like a sexual orientation; the less important it is, the less intertwined the 'who' and 'what' are, and the more like two different, easy-to-distinguish categories the 'who' and the 'what' will feel like to you.

It's not that I deny the distinction; it's just that I think it needs to be softened so as to account for people who do feel like 'they're living a lie' when they hide a kink that is really important for who they feel they are. Not all kinks are just 'things you like to do'. BDSM is again the clearest example, since for some people (e.g., EricaP, who takes her submission quite seriously) it implies a lifestyle, a kind of life, something that transcends the mere 'sexual preference' status.
31
@29, but why should language preclude the possibility of (as #27 put it) "having a dab of sex play on meeting someone, just to cement bonds and strengthen relationships"? Sure, language is a wonderful method for doing these things, but gestures, expressions, body posture etc. also carry quite a load in this area -- and I suppose so could sex, unless there is something inherently dangerous about it. Is there?
32
@22(ravished), that is indeed a good point and I basically agree with it. But then there is the question of "privacy", this interesting Western concept. We accept people kissing in public, but we would probably have problems with full nudity or groping, no matter how consensual. And even if one might argue about specific acts, pretty much everybody in the West would agree that some line should be drawn somewhere between what happens only in the bedroom and what is OK to do in public.

Now, is it possible to draw this line (with the concomittant assumptions about 'normalcy' and 'what people usually like to do') without sort of forcing some group of people into a closet -- be it gays, BDSMers, or some other specific group of kinksters? (Should it be 'normal' for D/s subs to wear 'slave collars' in public, for instance, the way it is for married people to wear wedding bands, or should this remain inappropriate or at best risqué? And why?)
33
As interesting as the second letter is, and as much as I empathize with many of his points...I still don't think BDSM is an orientation.

To me, an orientation is undeniably biological in its basis, whereas BDSM seems to be primarily cultural. Mind you, I say this as someone who, like the letter writer, was into BDSM from a very, very young age. I didn't have the same degree of conflict with this fact that he did, but frankly, I think conflict breeds more obsession when it comes to BDSM. Not that it's a problem, really. I just think that, as many valid points as the writer of the second letter makes, it doesn't change the essential point Dan makes about the difference between "who" and "what." The problems of shame and repression can be dealt with effectively without putting these two issues into the same category. I believe my parents have a right not to know what turns me on, but they also raised me with open-mindedness and empathy regarding all things sexual. This means I know that while the details of my sex life would undoubtedly squick the hell out of them and make things really awkward, they would never judge me as a freak or bad person because of it. Just, you know, major TMI.
34
Thank you, ravished @22, that's exactly what I meant. Being out to colleagues/friends as kinky doesn't mean that the kinkster is going to whip people in public or practice any sex acts in front of a non-consenting audience. When being kinky is something that you ARE, rather than something that you DO, it's incredibly freeing to be able to talk freely about the dynamics of your relationships in ways that non-kinksters (straight or out-gay) take for granted. Having a submissive kneel contentedly at their dominant's feet while at a friend's house is no more shoving their actual sex lives in the faces of other people there as having two gay people holding hands is.

@33 How can you read the second letter and believe that their kink is cultural and not biological? Ditto SUB in previous post. Ditto many kinksters who express the idea that the gender of their partner doesn't matter as much as the kinky activity to their sexual satisfaction. How/why is that cultural and not biological?
35
I like Dan's rubric/heuristic for determining whether or not you really ought to be out: is there a public dimension to whatever you would be 'out' about.? Nice clean line. With minimal 'bending' or 'extension', it takes care of the BDSM-orientation people: if their kink is so intense it is the primary defining characteristic of their sexuality, then it seems like it will have a public dimension at some point.

@7 I'm w/ @9,11 - we used to have outlets for this kind of thing. I wasn't playing doctor at 3-4, but I know that by first grade (4-5 for me), I was most definitely checking out my teacher's bra through the gap and trying to understand just why it was that boys and girls co-mingled their p-p's. Playing doctor was not long behind. I never had the 'girls are yucky' phase, and was more than happy to let them "catch me" and "force" me to be kissed. 'Oh, no, Brer Fox, don't throw me in that briar patch!'
36
@30 - YES, YES, YES. You've cut to the crux of the matter.
37
I have an honest question here. Does coming out as bdsm have to be a real coming out talk or can it just be "Son, why are you dating a girl in a dog collar?" "Because that's what I like," conversation. As a parent myself, if my daughter ever told me what she liked in bed, even if it were completely vanilla, I'd be a little icked by it. As her mother I am interested in who she dates, who my future in-law may be, etc, but not in what they do, no matter how central to her life it may be.
38
@34 "Having a submissive kneel contentedly at their dominant's feet while at a friend's house..."

Not the best example. If I'm biased against a group I probably won't be having them in my home.

The question of normalizing kink comes when you ask if America can tolerate going out to business lunch and having a woman sit at her master's feet and being fed like a dog.

Even if she's content, I think it's going to be a hard pill for people to swallow. Women's groups would probably shit a few pounds of clay even though ironically the sub is asserting her right to kink.

Time will tell but normalcy in culture is also a game of numbers. There's a big enough voting block of people-of-orientation (are straights allowed to say queer?) to make a political difference. Not so sure about the wanna-be out and proud kinksters. But that's why we have cities.
39
Normalizing kink...Buddy Cole did it first...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTtrlIWdQ…
40
I can't believe more people weren't creeped out by the second letter (and before you jump down my throats for bdsm-phobia, give a second to explain).

I'm not attacking the bdsm aspect of the letter, just the tone and narrative. There were far too many details about his "sex life" from the age of 4 to 6. I felt like I was reading a fake letter from a pedophile, looking for jerk-off material couched in an advice column (and as well all know, that is want to happen in SL columns).

The very same letter could have been written without talking about 5 year olds engaging in anal play. Those types of long winded details are the hallmark of someone looking to rub one out.

So yeah, put me in the creeped out column... and it has nothing to do with his adult kinks.
41
@34 "Having a submissive kneel contentedly at their dominant's feet while at a friend's house is no more shoving their actual sex lives in the faces of other people there as having two gay people holding hands is."

I would agree that this is mostly true, but that given that one of the points is that the power dynamic is sexualized, it could be that your hypothetical D/s couple could easily cross from what should be perfectly acceptable into involving me in their sex life and back again very quickly and easily; and without any change in physicality.

I don't think that leading someone around on a leash should be considered unacceptable, but engaging me in your power-dynamics when I ask you for directions or if you've seen my lost puppy, is involving me in your sex life, and should only be done with my consent.
42
@32: Too, the idea of consent comes up with respect to third parties to public sexual displays. While the people involved may be consenting to the activity, the people observing (by accident or design) are not necessarily consenting to be involved in a sexual act in which they become involved by virtue of observation. Functionally, one cannot make everyone happy, so whatever cultural norms exist are not going to work for some. If one wishes to always err on the side of not involving someone in anything sexual without explicit consent, then any and all public activities, images, etc. that are constructed as sexual within the culture should be outlawed (this would include a great deal of present advertising and art). Of course, this is at odds with the idea of free expression/free speech, and so a happy (or an unhappy) medium must be negotiated between people who want to be protected from exposure to or peripheral involvement in public sexuality and people who wish to express sexuality publicly in some way. I'm pretty sure there is not and can not be a perfect solution; it comes down to what one prioritizes with respect to a couple of things that are considered fundamental rights.

Personally, even though I'm a little bothered by people (straight, gay, whatever, though I usually see 'opposite'-'sex' couples) making out in public, I think the idea of free expression and the related notion that people don't have a right to be protected from ideas, knowledge, or information that they might find upsetting or offensive in the public sphere is more important than protecting me from discomfort, and it's even more important than protecting e.g. victims/survivors of sexual assault/abuse from triggers (sensitivity to people in this situation is important, and if I was the sort of person who was down with public displays of affection/sexuality in the first place, I would certainly go out of my way to not engage in such behavior around people who I knew it might trigger, but as a general rule in unknown circumstances, I think the only practicable solution is to use whatever dynamic standard is negotiated as a cultural norm and perhaps push a little beyond that); while the potential harm to any number of individuals is truly lamentable, a lack of free expression and exchange of ideas is even more harmful, is harmful to the overall structure of a society and can have subtle, pernicious, far-reaching effects (for example, reinforcing racism, homophobia, or other systems of privilege, since what's deemed publicly 'acceptable' is pretty much always a function of normative values of privileged classes).
43
@7... you commented a while ago, but add me to the chorus: I don't think what the LW was talking about was weird at all, except for his obvious focus on a fairly rare kink. And also... the sex talk at 5 is weird??????? When so many people have younger siblings by the time they're 5? You're supposed to pretend that the stork brought the baby and then when the kid finally enters middle school, you finally have the talk? My first sex talk was when I was 3 and my mom had my sister. It was all very age-appropriate and the conversation continued as I got older, until I figured out it wasn't just about P-in-V to make a baby and got too embarrassed to talk to my mom about it any more-- at which point I already had the major facts.

The more I think about it, the more I *recommend* a pre-K sex talk with your kids-- they're too young to be embarrassed and you have the opportunity to set the tone and relay useful facts before the schoolyard does it for you.
44
Oh fer... kink is a sexual orientation now? Really? So is really liking doggy style a sexual orientation, too?
45
@44, Yeah, I don't get this either.

I am going to ask a naive question (and I ask this as a person who is in favor of equal rights for the entire queer community): is it impossible for some people to separate their sexuality from the rest of their lives? I'm not talking about gay/straight; obviously that affects everyday interactions with members of the opposite sex and the friendships you make.

I.e., people who have 24/7 D/s relationships: is this merely a preference for them, or is it actually highly unsatisfying to live a life where you're a functioning adult who works, has hobbies, etc. but in actual sexual circumstances--like the ones where some form of oral, vaginal, or anal sex is actually going occur in a reasonable amount of time--you act out D/s fantasies? Do your sexual proclivities seep into all other aspects of your life, or can they just stay in the bedroom? If not, I fail to see how it is a "kink" at all anymore: that's really who you are. It makes you happy in more than just a sexual way to be submissive. If your ideal relationship is one that involves you kneeling at your partner's feet and allowing them to make all the decisions, and this isn't a short-term act but a regular thing--it's not a kink, you're just a submissive person. Which is fine. Freedom and all that.

If your sex life is overwhelming your non-sex life, who are you really? I know it's all tied up in one identity, but, which part do you want the world to see?

46
@45, some guys look at boobs every chance they get, though they try not to get caught. They're still functioning adults, but this "sexual proclivity" (hey, boobs!) seeps into the rest of their lives.

I work hard to submit to my husband, though I'm brassy & loud & not submissive in general. It's a fun game that infuses the rest of my life with joy, turning an ordinary trip to the grocery store into "An Opportunity to Serve my Master," making me feel excited inside. Just as a vanilla guy might look forward to a glimpse of some boobs (or at least some boob-like cantaloupes) at the grocery store.

We've come out to a few friends who themselves like to talk about sex. Much as a guy who really liked boobs might have some friends (besides his sex partners) with whom he might admit his obsession.
47
I also reject this notion that it should be "easier" on future generations to have whatever kinds of sex lives they end up having. Having BDSM info available for small children just in case they are into that and they might have a hard time? Quite absurd. Yes, gay people should be able legally marry because it effects them in so many more ways (nobody's disallowing your from your lover's deathbed just because you were into piss play). But if you're ashamed of your kinks as a kid, you will learn as you grow that it's okay. That's what happened with me, and even with 2nd letter writer, who did have a hard time, and that was an unfortunate time and all, but now 2LW seems very secure.

Suffering, confusion, shame, difficulties--they're all along the road to becoming a strong and awesome person.
48
Erica: Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks!

49
ankylosaur @31, after witnessing your repeated insistence that others prove to you why there is something inherently dangerous about allowing adults to engage in sex play with young children, I have no interest in conversing with you on this topic or any other.

I'll excuse myself from this conversation now, and though I can't demand it, I would appreciate it if you'd allow me to leave with minimal comment.
50
@34 - Because it's interwoven with Western culture and specifically Western cultural trappings. You don't spring from the womb with an inherent, biologically-instilled knowledge of collars, spankings, abduction, shackles and whips. However, three years is PLENTY of time to be exposed to much of this imagery and these concepts.

That's not to say that similar types of sexual proclivities don't emerge in other cultures; there are cave paintings that seem to portray people being flogged for sexual enjoyment, but any time you look at any particular example of BDSM-esque interest, it's a complex dance of psychology, cultural trappings and varying levels of enjoying the activity purely for the sensations. Sexual expression in terms of chosen sex(es) is not so culturally relative, for all that our concepts of gender and our tolerance for varying orientations - or even the concept of orientation - changes quite a lot.
51
That second letter is very, very important and should be looked into by any sex researchers out there - as well as those interested in 'paraphilias' and 'pathological' sexuality. I am not in any way trying to suggest that BDSM is equivalent to rape - I don't see how it can be - but understanding this letter writer's story might help scholars begin to understand how pathologies in extreme cases can develop.
52
I'd also like to say for the record that I don't in any way mean to minimize someone's need for the BDSM lifestyle by insisting that it's a matter of sexual/romantic/emotional *expression* rather than orientation.

In fact...I think a lot of people are trying to jump on the 'orientation' bandwagon because they see it as the only really effective way to make an excuse for the fact that there's some need they have to get met. I think that's misguided because no one should HAVE to make an excuse for their needs or try to cram themselves into the "born this way" defense when it doesn't fit. Any kind of a social push to normalize sexuality and remove the shame and stigma from it is ultimately damaged by claiming something is somehow a biological orientation when its roots are primarily psychosocial.

Remember, I'm also talking about myself, here. I'm both bi and deeply kinky and there's no question in my mind that these are two different things. No, I didn't have a "say" in either, but one is immutable and the other...isn't, quite. Like the second letter writer, I've been able to develop a taste for more vanilla activities. Let's think, here; can Dan develop a taste for sex with women? I don't think so.

Let me be clear, though; working on my interest in vanilla sex is something I did because I fell madly in love with a man who's vanilla and I'm not all that turned on by being "indulged" in BDSM. We have an open relationship and I'm still on the lookout for a good kinky partner on the side, but the vanilla thing is a way I can connect with hubby. It's not something I did to be "normal."

I think I could, if I wanted to, "get over" my need for BDSM expression, but the thing is? There's no fucking reason I should HAVE to. It would be a hell of a lot of work and I'd miss out on a lot of fun and meaningful connection. That's reason enough to honor it, and that's the bit people need to understand.
53
@31, ank: I'm sure you've already tackled the notion of pregnancy, which is a huge danger of sex. Such a consequence is not to be taken into consideration lightly (although I know many people gloss over this possibility.) STDs are a danger as well--some of them kill, y'know. If we just all fuck each other willy-nilly, these dangers become more prominent and the more sexual diseases and unwanted babies in a society, the less healthy it is.

And I also believe there will always be some people who are "in the closet" about some aspect of their sexuality/personality. I also don't think there is anything particularly horrible about this. It is each person's own duty to find meaning and happiness in the world as it is (some find their joy and meaning in changing it, which also good). If the only way for you to be truly happy is to be socially accepted when you're walked around on a leash downtown, I think you need to seek joy harder; maybe in a different place.
54
@40 yes, everyone who's just "looking to rub one out" goes into long-winded psychological details and uses generalities like "D/s dynamic" to describe the actual encounters.
55
@14: "it would be very weird if the furnace guy announced "You need a new pressure valve, and I am gay.""

Oh, but it depends, you see. What if it's blazingly obvious that she is gay, and she doesn't have to *say* as much? A good many gay men and women are out without having to say "I'm gay". Their butchiness or flamboyance is what they'd be *hiding* to remain in the closet. Once they're out, then they're just not hiding who they really are anymore.

That's a world I want to live in. Where people can be themselves without having to repress large parts of their personalities.
56
I think that the problem with saying that coming out as kinky is less essential to life quality than coming out as gay/bi/transgendered is pretty much exactly the concern that Dan brings up regarding WANTS' letter.

"Also: WANTS, in his letter, mentions that he's censoring himself around his parents—and biting his tongue, presumably when they make bigoted remarks about LGB people. Those are both good indications that the subject—minority sexualities, WANTS' sexuality, the genders of the people he's dating, the struggle for LGBT equality—is coming up, being alluded to, discussed, etc., right now."

How do you think that a young person who is submissive, sexually by nature feels when their parent/s spend their time telling them how bad it is to be a "sissy" how it's morally repugnant for a woman to be subservient to a man and all the wonderful variations on those themes.

Do you think that maybe that young person might also feel that they have to censor themselves around their parent, that if they don't try to pretend to be "normal" they will lose the respect and acceptance of the people who should be supporting them?

It's not about shoving kink down anyone's throat, or even necessarily the right to have kink-positive PDAs. It's about the ability to grow up without having to feel that there is something deeply wrong or even "evil" with you that no-one could ever accept.
57
@32 ankylosaur: yes, boundaries and a sense of "propriety" exist in any society at any given time - this is what makes society possible. The "public/private" is today's convenient pair of words to mark out this boundary. So my quarrel over the word "privacy" is not over the concept of privacy itself, but the boundary the word stands for at this particular point in history.

And - without thinking this through too clearly before responding to you - my concern is not about the generalised sense of "normal", as in, all norms predicate things that aren't. I'm more concerned with the norms that arise from, and perpetuate, sexual shame. Shame works on the level of taboo, of irrational, primal scapegoating; hence it's a "closet", not a rational/aesthetic choice, in the way that we marginalise our own childish ways of social interaction in favour of more grown up ones. I think there's a difference between marginalizing and closetting (even though "marginalizing" is the cleverer sounding word).

I supplied an example of kissing a dom's feet in public @19, as an extension of people kissing in public. But it was really hypothetical, and more likely in 200 years than in 20. "Coming out" is not about the thrill of public sex - that is dealt with in the issue of consent. "Coming out" is perhaps the dog collar, or even more subtle, more representational things, like the rainbow flag for GLBT people. We now have the luxury of forgetting how sporting a rainbow flag signified all sorts of things and carried much emotional risks (and rewards). I think that's where Dan's comment had a disingenious aspect: he made coming out sound like reciting an erotic story on radio.
58
It seems to me that the important distinction Dan is making is between mandatory and optional. Dan views it as mandatory for people to come out about their sexual orientation because it is a social fact with a public and not just private dimension. Being kinky, on the other hand, can be a component of your public social persona, but need not be.

Basically, you may keep your private life private to the extent it is private. To the extent it needs be public - your orientation for instance - you have a social responsibility not to deny it.

Nothing in this prevents a person who is kinky from choosing to share all they want and be as public as they want. Dan simply does not see it as a moral imperative.

This is all well and good from a community good POV. But among the key arguments often made for LGBT coming out are (a) personal psychological and emotional health and (b) social the need to falsify bigoted caricatures. It seems to me that those argument would apply just as surely to kink.

Kink surely can define a person's self. Not every "slave" appears and vanishes in the bedroom on the weekend.

And what about the other part of the equation It has become LGBT dogma that coming out on orientation is a requirement or duty (as opposed to an act of courage or self-sacrifice.) The crucible of the AIDS epidemic certainly put a very strong argument behind this. But is it really true at all times? Maimonides argued 800 years ago that it can be acceptable and honorable to hide your true self and live a lie in the face of repression and persecution. When one reflects on many parts of the world today, we see that the magnitude of oppression he was discussing still reigns for queer folk in many places.

Even if you live in the relative tolerance of the free world, do you really have a responsibility to come out? Let me give you an example. I have a friend (really), who has finally come to terms with being gay in his middle age. He is not and never has been anti-gay. He has gay friends. He has always supported gay rights and has never countenanced anti-gay bigotry whether direct or disguised as humor. (I've known him since JHS.) He once even thought he might be gay, (long ago) but convinced himself he was not.

Today he is married and has children and a wide circle of friends and relatives both gay and straight. He feels that his self-discovery is not something he is obligated to share with anyone other than sex partners. His wife knows. Some of their outside partners know (yes, they are kinky.) A very few friends have been confided in (like me.)

Why should he cause all sorts of drama and angst for his and her poor old folks and other people by coming out. The way they (him and his wife) see it, it is there private business and their decision who, if anyone to share it with, just like their kinks. They don't volunteer their BDSM fetishes to those who aren't involved, so why this?

Personally, I don't have a really good answer for them.
59
i hope this is not talking about the edmonton furnace cleaning company, they are really good, and you should check them out, like really if you need anything in this field give them a call
60
when people talk about coming out they put a lot of emphasis on the person's partner or future partner and whilst that is one aspect there are a number of others when it comes to kink.

whilst enjoying a bit of BDSM in the bedroom is no-one's busyness other than the person's partner, and maybe close friends who talk about their sex lives together, being on the scene starts to bring up some issues. i suppose its a bit like the difference between a gay person who does and one who doesn't go to gay clubs and have a large group of friends they have met through the gay community.

When you are kinky and on the scene but not out you have to step carefully around questions like, "what did you get up to at the weekend?", "what club are you going to tonight?" and "where did you meet soandso?", not to mention "how come you got those marks?" without having to give really vague answers, appear like you are hiding something and totally burst you bubble downgrading that fantastic weekend you had to "I hung out with some friends".

And another problem once people know you are kinky are the misconceptions they have. I for one would rather my mother wasn't sitting there worrying about something that she thinks i am involved it which i am not all because of her misconceptions about kink.

"No mum, these parties i am going to aren't huge orgies where i have unprotected sex with 50+ people, so you don't need to worry about me getting aids but i do recognize that if something did happen to go wrong its better that you knew where i am" so by being out at least i wouldn't have to make up excuses for fear of outing myself for telling the truth.