Brainstorming: ‘non mainstream’ and ‘connected-to-bad-things’ are not equivalent categories.
Subtitle: this asexual masochist would like to have a word on some anti-asexual attitudes in kink-shaming.
[My last brainstorming post kind of turned out to be a proper post instead. This one, I think, is closer to brainstorming, which is to say, I think I know what I’m trying to say, but I don’t think I’m yet at the ‘saying it very well’ point].
In both of my previous posts about kinks-connected-to-real-world-bad-things, I’ve been specifying before I start that I’m using the ‘I have a thing for this’ meaning of ‘kink’. In the same post where I talked about that definition, I also talked about another one – “Often, kink doesn’t just refer to having specialfeelings for anything, it refers to having specialfeelings for things outside the mainstream”. Now, as far as I’ve seen, in a lot of anti-kink circles, it is common to see that definition of kink and the connected-to-real-world-bad-things category of kinks as one and the same.
I strongly disagree with this. First, there are absolutely kinks-connected-to-real-world-bad-things that are perfectly mainstream – virginity is a big one there. However, more to the point of this post, there is a whole subset of non-mainstream things that I would say are not connected-to-bad-things. This would include the subset of things that people like on a purely physical-action level. Which, in my opinion, includes some forms of pain things.
One of the things that tends to severely put me off the radfem type of anti-kink people is that they have a tendency to put all pain things in with the connected-to-bad-things category. Which, as far as I can tell, tends to look rather like ‘well, I (and people I know) find this unpleasant, so therefore it’s bad’.
Now, to clarify. Lots of pain kinks are absolutely in the connected-to-badthings category. Example: kinking on enduring pain that you hate but are being forced to keep taking, or on the idea that you’re being punished with pain for being a bad person, or on pain in the context of roleplaying torture. However, lots of sex kinks are also in the connected-to-badthings category (example: being used), for pretty much any sex act one can name, but these physical sex acts themselves tend to be much more positively regarded. I am talking here exclusively about the ‘I like it because I/my partner finds it physically/mentally pleasurable’ type of pain kink (‘mentally pleasurable’ here means ‘my brain just likes and desires this’). (Note: a lot of my own pain kinks are the connected-to-badthings type. I’m talking here about the ones that aren’t).
The reason, I think that this is such an issue for me is that the things that it is most common/accepted for people to find physically/mentally pleasurable don’t really work that way for me. As a major example of this: I don’t like open-mouthed kissing. In fact, while I’m not particularly sex-repulsed, I am much closer to kissing-repulsed. It feels wet and squishy, it sets off my hygiene issues and meanwhile it causes me no physical and mental pleasure whatsoever. Most sex acts, for me, are incredibly emotionally complicated and not particularly physically pleasurable. Being hit with things, on the other hand, is something I desire, it gives me physical and mental pleasure, it’s what can get me happy and euphoric and after-glowy.
But the thing is, I know my feelings are not universal. If I did – if say I thought that everyone experienced kissing physically the way I do – it would make perfect sense to me to go around to people who talk about liking kissing telling them how awful they are for inflicting such an unpleasant sensation on their partner, and don’t they know it’s dangerous and can transmit diseases, and they’re not even using a dental damn. It would make sense for me to tell them that there must be something really terrible making them think they like it, and I feel really bad for them and hope that someday they’ll be able to heal and get past it and start experiencing a healthy sexuality by liking the things I like instead. But because I’m a minority, I know that my feelings are not universal. I know that when people say they like kissing, they’re saying this because to them it feels good and is awesome and desired and endorphin-making. But also because I’m a minority, people tend not to realize this about the things I like.
Anti-kink people of the type I’m talking about will tend to hide behind the idea that causing pain to someone who doesn’t like it is violence. Which, yes, it is, and that’s horrible. But kissing someone who doesn’t like it is sexual assault, so that’s making the wrong comparison entirely.
This also connects to the reason why I feel asexuality ties into this. Because, for any physical interaction, there are going to be people who experience it negatively. Any physical interaction, when done without consent, is a violation. So saying that some physical interactions are uniquely and always bad, while others aren’t, means the distinction has be made based on some intrinsic assignment of value: ‘these are the bad things and these ones aren’t because that’s just the way it is’. And, pretty much invariably, the things put in the ‘not bad’ category, the good category, the healthy category, the category being privileged, are the very things that are likely to be unpleasant or not positive for me and people like me, and the things we are likely to be pressured into doing and abused for not liking.
So I guess to come to a conclusion: I get my physical and mental pleasure off of different physical actions than is standard in our society. It bothers me when people treat the things I enjoy as things no one could ever actually enjoy and if they think they do it must come from something terrible. It bothers me even more that this seems to come with its own form of compulsory sexuality, where a particular set of intimate physical actions (a lot of which are not particularly positive and even negative for me) gets held up as what should be the healthy, pleasurable, positive intimacy that is the ideal for everyone. And what this comes down to all together is: if you tell me that my preferences in physical enjoyment are wrong, then either you are being a part of compulsory sexuality (whether in a ‘you should do this’ or ‘hopefully, if you get the healing [‘fixing’] you need, you can do this’, or ‘this is just better and healthier’ way). Or you are telling me ‘well, you’re so broken, you just shouldn’t get to experience this kind of pleasure at all’. I don’t think it’s very hard to see why this upsets me.