Brainstorm: Categories of kinks connected-to-real-world-bad-things

[Brainstorm posts are about things that I am still thinking about, want to think about further, etc. I want to try to write about how my thoughts are at the moment, to get them down and possibly to get feedback and other people’s thoughts]

So, I’m trying to think in more detail, and more organized detail, about kinks that connect-to-real-world-bad-things. (I’m using ‘kink’ here in the ‘have a thing for this’ meaning).

Sidenote: It would be helpful to have a more concise word for this, but I am deliberately not using ‘problematic kinks’ because a big part of my view of this is that that’s not correct. I believe in analyzing feelings and noticing connections to bad things in the world, and working with that. I believe in condemning violating actions. However, I don’t believe in condemning feelings on their own, and to me kinks fit into that.

Other sidenote: I also need a better word than ‘badthings’, and am very open to suggestions. In case it is unclear, I use that term to mean something like ‘ideas, paradigms, and systems in the world that are both wrong and harmful’.

But anyway, for me a big part of thinking about things tends to be organizational, so here, as I have seen and thought of them so far, are my categories for these kinks.

1. Result from conflict due to internalized badthings:
The major example of this I’ve seen is rape fantasies originating from internalized sex-shaming. So, people internalize the idea that wanting and enjoying sex is bad, but still have sexual desire, so they fantasize about a scenario where they could have sex without being ‘guilty’ of it.

2. Reactions against constant stress of badthings:
This is when the everpresence of some hurt leads to fantasies or desires of its complete absence and opposite. As a personal example, I’m pretty sure my kink/grey kink for particular kinds of F/m power dynamics (for instance, the book A Brother’s Price hits this for me) is a reaction against constantly living with the oppression of sexism.

3. Depend on bad paradigms:
This is when a kink depends on taking some such paradigms as true. The most common example where I see this talked about is forced feminization – since the kink there tends to be for the shame/degradation, it depends on a worldview where femininity is degrading. A very pervasive example of this is the whole set of kinks related to sexual degradation: good-girl/slut dichotomies, sexual derogatives (slut, whore…), etc, which all depend on the paradigm where liking/wanting sex is deviant.

4. Romanticized badthings:
This is kinks that are directly for some badthing, but focus on the aspects of it that the person is interested in while leaving out the unpleasant aspects of the reality. Most roleplay falls into this category – kinks like sexual slavery or teacher/student focus on the sexual aspects and exclude the trauma, psychological harm, etc.

5. Remaking the pathways:
This is kinks that are directly for some badthing, but actually seek to play out the trauma, with the idea that replicating it in a safe and negotiated environment can be a help in dealing with the real world version. There are multiple ways this can happen: for instance, playing out a fear can take it from a Nothing is Scarier horror to something concrete and combatable. I’ve also seen it talked about how, on a psychological level, a major part of trauma is not being able to leave it behind because the brain keeps going down the same pathways, and recreating a similar situation on your own terms can rewrite over those pathways.

Thoughts on critical examination and ethical practices

First, as noted, basically everything starts being problematic when it crosses the line into violating other people. So, for any kink as for anything else, ethical practices involve not doing that – playing consensually only, content warning erotica, etc.

Aside from that:

1, 2, and 5 share the common trait of being coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms become problematic when people don’t realize that they are coping mechanisms. Critical examination and ethical practice with these kinks therefore means knowing that they are coping mechanisms, knowing what they are coping mechanisms for, and making the conscious decision as to whether or not to continue to use them as such.

4 is where most of my own kinks are (though the aspect I’m interested in is usually something like melodramatic nobility and not sexualness). Since this is my main area of experience, I want to do a separate writing on the value I see in this category of kinks. Critical examination and ethical practice with these kinks means noticing the romanticizing, noticing the aspects that are being left out, not confusing the romanticized version and the real version, and being committed and making an absolute effort not to let the romanticized version lead you to contributing more harm to the real version.

3 is the one I struggle with the most (I was going to write about that here, but it turned too long and also is its own topic, so I’m going to give it its own post instead). At the moment, where this puts me is: Critical examination and ethical practice with these kinks means noticing the bad paradigms they are dependent on, and being committed and making an absolute effort to reject these paradigms in real life.

When people have ethical objections to 3 and 4, it’s often with the idea that the fully ethical practice is impossible: it’s impossible to practice romanticized kinks and not have this be part of contributing more harm to the real version, and/or it’s impossible to reject a bad paradigm while practicing kinks that depend on it.

I’m not going to address the impossibility question, because to me it misses the point. Short of living in a utopia and seeing what happens then, there is no way to figure this out. In the world as it is, everyone contributes to the harm of real world badthings, everyone retains and perpetuates aspects of bad paradigms, and there’s no way to trace that back to a particular source with any kind of certainty.

As such, dealing with this to me is no different from dealing with living in such a world in general.

It means, for any area where I might contribute to harm, consciously answering the question, “remaining in congruence with my own morality and integrity, what can I and can’t I do?”. And it means addressing any specific harm I’m doing that I become aware of (whether myself or through someone else pointing it out).

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Heroes and Villains

This isn’t properly a kink topic – more of a morality and personal media analysis topic. But given the way my kinks work, these categories are a very large part of the dynamics that I like, and sometimes I talk about characters as being in these categories (as I did in my last post). So I think it makes sense for me to define the terms as I use them.

For me, villains are characters who willingly hurt innocent people. Or, to put it in more exact though less simple terms, characters who willingly hurt people who are too innocent/not guilty enough to be hurt in that way. (As usual when I use it, ‘hurt’ here means ‘hurt in a way that violates their human rights’. So for instance refusing to put up with people violating your boundaries is not hurting by this definition, even if it really upsets them. Likewise, neither is causing someone consensual pain, etc). Several of these terms being flexible, this leaves a lot up to the author of any particular narrative.

‘Willingly’ is flexible because a person who has no other choice is not acting willingly, but a person who does and takes that one anyway is. So when they want to determine morality this way, authors get to decide what choices their characters had, and who gets to count as having had no other options.
–An example of this is the question of whether and when ‘I was following orders’ is an acceptable defense against war crimes – if the idea of violating orders was unthinkable? If it would have brought severe punishment? Never? Etc.

Meanwhile, ‘too innocent/not guilty enough to be hurt in that way’ is flexible because people have often very different opinions on how much it is alright to hurt guilty people, and how guilty they have to be for that. As an example of this:
–Someone who thought that death was an appropriate punishment for profiting off of slave labor and someone who did not would write very different takes on a story about exploited factory workers planning to bomb a rich neighborhood.

On the other hand, heroes are people who are actively against willingly hurting innocent people. (‘Actively’ is another rather flexible word, which I here use to mean basically anything aside from ‘they never really thought about the topic, but if you asked would probably end up saying they were against it’. So it can range from simply opposing it to refusing to do it to going out to stop the people doing it). This has the same areas of flexibility as the other definition. For some examples:
–If a character is offered the option between shooting one person or watching 10 people be executed, does making the second choice make them selfish for prizing their own ‘purity’ above 9 lives, or does it make them admirably committed to their principles (or neither)?
–While most people would agree that the heroes could not torture random civilians, is it alright for the heroes to torture people with known misdeeds?

As a relevant definition, I generally define dark heroes as ‘heroes who have a more permissive opinions on what harm it is acceptable to deal out to guilty people than some baseline’ (the baseline can be many things – the other heroes, their canon characterization if this is a fanfic, etc).

As an example of one way this shows up in my kinks: as I mentioned in the previous post, one villains-as-constricts dynamic I like is guilty-feeling repentant villains. Often, I like to see these villains hurt – imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, etc. Sometimes, I like it when the people doing this are the heroes. Such a dynamic is only possible in a moral universe where there is some level of hurt it is alright to deal out to some level of guilty people.

Edited to add: a comment a reader left made me aware that I’d missed a rather important point. That being: the standard discussed here is based on my morality/worldview. A more general formulation would be ‘villains are characters who violate the determining tenet of the morality system/worldview being used and heroes are people who are actively against violating that tenet’.  The determining tenet of my morality/worldview is not hurting innocent people. Therefore, that’s what determines heroes and villains for me. However, if for instance my determining tenet was ‘obey every command of the Great Leader’ or ‘create a world populated only by left-handed people’, then villains who didn’t hurt anyone, but did violate the commands of the Great Leader or hid right-handed people, and heroes who hurt innocent people because the Great Leader told them to or killed innocent right-handed people would be a part of my stories.

Specific Narrative Kinks: Villains as constricts

What do I mean by this:

Usually, when I talk about negative power dynamics, there is a very consistent direction for the morality line. The principle is doing wrong in what they are doing to the constrict, and so the principles are the villains, while the constricts, generally, are the heroes. This is a dynamic that I like a lot and I get a lot out of. Sometimes, however, I like to reverse it. Sometimes, it is the heroes who are in power, and the villains who are the prisoners [1]. This kink is about that dynamic.

Categories:

The categories for this kink for me are generally about the attitude of the villain-constrict. At the moment, I can think of three in particular that I like.

  1. Guilt
    This is for the repentant villains. They’ve come to see the wrong of what they’ve done, and now condemn themselves for it. They likely think their new status as the constrict is correct and deserved. As such, this is basically the setup for my rather enormous kink for guilt.
  2. Irony
    These villains get the amused kind of enjoyment out of their power and out of using it, and that hasn’t changed now that they’re on the wrong end of a power dynamic. They’ll never show that their situation bothers them (if it even does). When they reference it (and they usually do, with words or gestures) it’s always with a smile, often accompanied by ironic complements to their captors. They are, however, also likely to be pragmatic, and avoid outright provoking  their more powerfully positioned captors. Since heroes are generally less interested than villains in torturing people for disrespect, they can thus create a situation where their attitude allows them to save face while they use their cooperation to advance their wellbeing. As such, they are excellent candidates for becoming boxed crook teammates for the heroes.
    Examples: Loki in SHIELD custody in Avengers has elements of this (however, since he knows/feels himself to actually be in a position of more power, he also just outright acts like a principle a lot. You can see the two sides in the beginnings of these clips versus the rest of them).

    Loki in parts of Thor: the Dark World also has elements.
    Neal Caffrey of White Collar (at least the first few episodes, which is what I watched) is an example with somewhat less villainousness.

  3. Self-Presence
    These villains are more interested in getting what they want than in having fun, and being on the wrong side of a power dynamic has in no way made them doubt their competence or success. It may be part of the plan, it may be an unplanned inconvenience that they’re sure will be dealt with shortly, but either way, they’re not going to be particularly concerned. They won’t pointlessly antagonize their captors because it’s just that – pointless. In fact, they’re unlikely to acknowledge their situation at all, and won’t act particularly differently from how they usually do when they’re not a prisoner.
    Examples: an excellent example of this is John Harrison of Star Trek: Into Darkness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnZJjNjMg98

Actionable counterpart:

The guilt type was the dynamic in one of my best scenes ever, and it was awesome. The irony type would be incredibly fun to act, I think, but since I do want to be beaten up and such, I’d be much more interested in playing the same attitude but as a hero-constrict. Likewise for the self-presence type.

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[1] This could be seen as violating the “what the principal is doing is wrong” definition of negative dynamics. I still consider them in this category, because they’re still not positive and still specifically non-consentual. If the hero-principle is not seen as doing something wrong, it’s not because they’re acting with consent, but because their actions, in being toward a villain, are considered justified. Which can raise all sorts of interesting moral questions, but this is not the place for them.