[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).