The Problems with Kinkshaming
We like to tell ourselves that we have come a long way in accepting other people as they are and particularly in areas such as sexuality. We look back at previous eras and shake our heads at the outdated and bizarre notions that they had. But with things like kinkshaming still around, have we come as far as we think?
What is a kink and why do people get ashamed?
A kink is defined as anything that goes beyond the ‘standard’ in terms of sexual practices with the aim of increasing intimacy and enjoyment of sex. That in itself can be a problem – what is normal? Who defines normal and who is it based on? The whole concept of a kink opens up a massive grey area that causes confusion and embarrassment for people.
There are some clear ideas. For example, if you are into BDSM and like being tied up, this is generally accepted as a kink. That’s because most people don’t follow this route in their sex lives. But for others, the use of a sex toy with a partner is considered kinky. And for yet another smaller group, oral sex is considered kinky.
Sure, people didn’t go out to shame others by defining what they like to do in the bedroom as ‘kinky’ and make it seem somehow a little wrong or strange. But by labeling any desires as something that causes people to be ashamed or awkward about it, you are making it that they can’t express those desires. And that’s when we end up with kinkshaming.
What is kinkshaming?
There are two sides to kinkshaming – the physical and the emotional. The emotional side of things is easy to imagine – if you have been made to feel ashamed or embarrassed about what you enjoy in the bedroom, then you feel bad about yourself. It knocks your self-confidence, your self-image and your ability to enjoy sex. It can also completely wreck a relationship – if you can’t be yourself with someone then that isn’t always a bad thing though.
An example of kinkshaming could be that you enjoy being tied up. If you told someone and they mocked you or said you were weird, you might seem ashamed or unconformable. Even general criticism or mocking on the TV, on social media or in newspapers could make someone who enjoyed that kink feel that there was something wrong with them.
They might feel as if they were not ‘allowed’ to do it by society and that they had to bury the urge for fear of being an outcast. They feel as if they are somehow a deviant and that their desires are wrong, so they don’t tell anyone, not even their partner.
The physical problems from kinkshaming are thankfully are less common than the emotional ones but can be devastating. For example, a couple who enjoy choking during sex could start to explore this. But because they are afraid of being criticised for it, they don’t do any research. They don’t learn about safe signals, warning signs, pre- and after-care and all the other crucial pieces of information that is vital for safe sex of this kind.
This can lead to bad experiences, fear and even tragic accidents.
So, what can we do to help prevent these situations and make sure we don’t judge others for what they like, even if it isn’t what we like?
The first and most important step is simple – engage in discussion with others about kinks and understand what they are all about. This can be a chat between partners, with a friend or anyone else. You can learn about someone’s kinks and understand them, and they can talk freely about this core part of themselves. There are even places online, forums, blogs, and social media groups, where you can share your kinks and discuss them in a judgment free environment.
Tolerance versus acceptance
It is also important to recognize the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance is something that bothers us but that we accept because we must. A snoring partner is tolerated because the other option is to kick them out of bed which is a bit heartless and not great for the relationship.
Acceptance is deeper and means we have changed our minds and opened our hearts to the concept, taking it on board and making it part of ourselves. Once we accept something, we see it as normal, part of life and therefore not ‘different’ in any way. Acceptance is built on compassion and empathy – understanding that we are all different and that’s okay.
By talking about these things, we can normalize them. No more giggling behind the hand at the mention of sex toys. Or cringing when someone says they like anal sex. Being open-minded and not judging others is something we can all do and not just about sex.
Of course, there are situations where things remain unacceptable and the kink or fetish is negative. Having a fetish for a particular group of people because of a certain feature can be a negative example because you are turning the group of people into a thing to fetishize about. And obviously, anything that is illegal or non-consenting is never acceptable in any way.
Accept us for who we are
Accepting someone for who they are with all their eccentricities, kinks and tendencies is an important part of society. Understanding the difference between a kink and deviant behavior that harms others is also important. That’s why we have basic rights and demand certain respect from others and anyone who doesn’t give this doesn’t deserve that respect and acceptance.
Working to not kinkshame someone is an important step in achieving that sexual fairness that we all claim to have. While there will always be things that are too far out of the norm to be accepted, let the law define these and deal with people who step outside of those boundaries. Don’t shame people into changing because their ‘thing’ isn’t your ‘thing’.
This post was brought to you by the sex toy store Pleasure Delights.