Beyond the Kink Rumors
Looking at the consequences of misunderstanding and promoting false narratives.
Posted Sep 18, 2020
It is easy to see life as a snapshot of what is right in front of us. To exist entirely in the present sometimes means that we cannot look forward with enough insight to comprehend how our actions in the current moment can impact our or anyone else’s future. Upon reflection of our words’ consequences, we frequently associate rumor spreading with a possible negative psychological impact.
Often, the use of unkind words or a fabricated narrative will result in feelings of sadness or shame for the recipient, whether the intent is to harm them or not. While the psychological consequences of using harmful language can be discussed in-depth and are certainly not ones to take lightly, there is often a complete lack of acknowledgment when it comes to consequences that occur outside of the mind, some that are completely and utterly life-changing.
If we take a moment to reflect on our own lives, we typically can find that several activities we participate in have little to no impact on other areas of our lives. The compartmentalizing of these activities or behaviors allows us to have varied experiences, and when those areas bleed together, it is unsurprising that complications may arise. For many, sex is a personal and private aspect of our existence that should have no bearing on how we are treated.
One would speculate that erotic behaviors and desires are unrelated to competency as a parent or the ability to perform a job. However, the assumption that there is no connection between competency and eroticism is not the narrative that has and continues to plague the kink community. Not only has kink-shaming directly impacted the emotional and mental well being of many individuals, it has also resulted in devastating consequences.
Prior to the significant changes in the DSM that were brilliantly fought for by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, whether or not an individual who engages in BDSM could competently care for a child was in question. This completely fallacious and frankly baffling argument had no scientific or research backing and clearly reflected discrimination and a complete lack of knowledge regarding kink practices. It is important to note that this problem was not merely about questioning competency with no further action. “Under the earlier editions of the DSM, family court judges regularly removed children or restricted custody for parents if there was evidence of their BDSM activities, such as membership with an educational group or participation on an email list or website” (Wright 2014).
While the DSM changes have resulted in the courts removing BDSM behavior as a contributing or determining factor in child custody cases, we cannot ignore how incredibly devastating those actions were for so many in the kink community. An erotic preference, one that comes from a place of truth and authenticity, was not only used as a weapon but was deemed so detrimental that these desires were viewed as disordered. The DSM’s changes have indeed allowed for less overt consequences in terms of civil and criminal proceedings; however, it would be naive to disregard the deeply rooted internalized fear that continues to rightfully plague the kink community.
While it is painful and heartbreaking to reflect on situations where families were torn apart due to BDSM interest and participation, we must understand that folks in the kink community “experience discrimination, harassment, lawsuits, and criminal proceedings based on their... identities” (Meeker, 2013). They have been denied promotions, jobs, and leadership positions due to expressed distaste from others over their erotic interests or behavior (Brown, 2010). The denial of opportunity to further one’s career or loss of a job because of kink disclosure, whether intentional or unintentional, is a life-altering consequence of the still pervasive stigma against the kink community.
The importance of dismantling the long-standing false narratives and perpetual discrimination towards kinky folks goes so much further than just dispelling rumors. It will require an overhaul of not only societal views surrounding eroticism but must target the systems that remain in place that continue to police and control sexual expression. The kink community has truly been ravished by discrimination and there is no better time than now to make a change.
There is no question that secrecy has long been a cornerstone of the kink community and proper reflection on the lived experiences of kinksters shows us that it is not just because of negative words and rumors. Secrecy was and, in many ways, still is a must. It remains an act to protect families, jobs, health care, and more.
Until the unrelenting discrimination is eliminated, the kink community will likely continue to exist in the dark, and what a terrible shame that is. There is no doubt that a community that is so filled with openness, adventure, fun, and an unshakable commitment to authenticity deserves to exist in the light.
Brown, T. O. L. (2010). “If someone finds out you’re a perv (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from OhioLINK ETD Center. (Document number: ohiou1279225927)
Meeker, C. (2013). “Learning the Ropes”: An Exploration of BDSM Stigma, Identity Disclosure, and Workplace Socialization.
Wright, Susan. (2014). Kinky Parents and Child Custody: The Effect of the DSM-5 Differentiation Between the Paraphilias and Paraphilic Disorders. Archives of sexual behavior. 43. 10.1007/s10508-013-0250-6.