(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #317, July 20, 2007)
“Your Kink Is OK/My Kink Is OK” is nothing less than the beginning of world peace.
Someone, somewhere thinks you’re kinky. And they think you’re evil because of it.
They think Your Kink Is Not OK. They even have an acronym for it: YKINOK.
They may be a right-wing conservative extremist. They may be a “vanilla” member of the GLBT community. They even may be a member of the leather/BDSM/fetish community playing the MKIOK/YKINOK game (“My Kink Is OK/Your Kink Is Not OK”).
You may think their judgment of you is not fair, and you’d be right. But are you doing the same thing?
What exactly does “kinky” mean, anyway? Who gets to define what’s kinky and what’s not?
Everybody does. That’s the problem.
“Kinky” is a relative term. Many people define as “kinky” what they don’t like, don’t identify with, don’t feel comfortable with, or don’t understand. Kinky is the opposite of “normal,” whatever that is.
Many members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community self-identify as kinky individuals. They are the opposite of what they call “vanilla,” which to them means conventional, “usual” sex—not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. Sometimes even self-proclaimed kinky people are in the mood for vanilla sex.
At its most extreme, though, “vanilla” is fundamentalist: one man, one woman, missionary position, for the purpose of procreation. Anything outside that small, supposedly moral, scope is fair game for the disapproving “kinky” designation. (Of course, some of the fundamentalist types who berate these “unnatural” sexualities are speaking most loudly to themselves, trying first and foremost to convince themselves of the evil nature of these practices.)
In this context, there are people who classify all kinds of things as kinky: gay or lesbian sex, bisexuality, anything connected with transgender issues, polyamory, swinging, vibrators and other sex toys, and even sexually suggestive clothing. So if you’ve ever been associated with anything of these, someone thinks you’re kinky.
But there’s good, clean, morally approved “vanilla,” and then there’s reality. And the reality tent is a lot bigger than the fundamentalists like to admit.
When I am introduced to people as a leather columnist, I often wind up finding out a lot about them. Often they tell me, “Well, I’m not kinky, but . . .” and then they name their predilection: “I like to be spanked.” “I like to get tied up sometimes.” “I like to have my nipples played with.”
Who’s kinky? Almost everybody, in some way or other. But if everybody’s kinky, nobody’s kinky. The concept of “kink” loses its meaning when the normality of many and varied forms of human sexual expression is recognized and even celebrated.
One man, one woman and the missionary position is not the one true way. Other societies have organized things differently: ancient matriarchies; multiple wives (in the Bible throughout the Old Testament, in many Middle-Eastern societies today and historically among otherwise-conservative Mormons); the “walking marriages” of the Mosuo people in central China, a matrilineal society in which families of biological brothers and sisters raise the sisters’ children, often without knowing or caring who their father was.
So could we all just lighten up a bit? Could we cut each other some slack? If I don’t get off on something but you do, why should I deny you your right to the pursuit of happiness? Wouldn’t it be better if I respected your rights and preferences, and in return you respected mine? There’s an acronym for that, too: YKIOK/MKIOK (“Your Kink Is OK/My Kink Is OK”).
That is nothing less than the beginning of world peace. Maybe if we can agree on that, we can agree on some other things as well. And, to paraphrase what an IML contestant a few years ago proclaimed during his speech: “World peace has to come from somewhere. What better place than this community?”
Leaders of the GLBT community have been saying for a long time that discrimination based on affectional preference or gender expression makes no sense. And it doesn’t, any more than discrimination based on skin color, race or ethnicity. And discrimination on the basis of kink preference or disapproval also makes no more sense than, say, discrimination over ice cream preference:
“Well, I’ve often dreamed of trying the triple-mocha caramel, but I never actually would. What would people say if they found out? It’s just not respectable. (But, oh, I bet it’s delicious!)”
Or how about, “Watch out for that one—I hear he goes for tutti-frutti.”
Or maybe, “She’s so staid—she only ever eats vanilla.” To which she answers, “Yes, I prefer vanilla—but only REALLY GOOD vanilla!”
As I sit here at the completely homosexual end of the sexual-preference bell curve, I clearly see the artificial and limiting nature of our society’s current “vanilla” sexual paradigm. But what would a less enforced, less rigid, less vanilla world look like? Would kinksters lose that outlaw thrill? Would we be just like everyone else? Could we stand it?
No, we wouldn’t be like everyone else, because our preferences are not everyone’s. But we’d be like everyone else as far as human rights and human dignity were concerned. Wouldn’t that be a good change?
We crusade for sexual freedom as a fundamental human right for everyone. That means freedom to consensually enjoy any sexual flavor du jour. Yes, even the freedom to be monogamously vanilla—which some of us think is the ultimate kink.