It’s smug kind of “I told you so” that this year the conversation has turned from an almost kink critical “they can’t consent to that” to a reminder that we very much belong. When I bashed out the ideas that formed the skeleton a few months ago, suggesting kink in public was actually ok was enough to get me blocked by people.
Don’t take my word for it, check out the ever insightful Kat Blaque or Watts the Safeword. They don’t necessarily agree with me on all points, but before you read me, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some other perspectives to understand that in writing this I accept my take is probably the most radical, it’s coming from a larger nudge to the Overton Window from everyone. You don’t have to agree with everything I am going to say. You can take some of my arguments and discard others. I just ask that you assume I am arguing from a good faith place.
I believe BDSM belongs at Pride, and the arguments not include it are fundamentally against the spirit of the event.
But first, a caveat: If you don’t think kink belongs at Pride, or you disagree with me, you probably aren’t a bad person.
Sometimes these arguments against kink are trying to be protective, either of people at large or minors. The problem is that they rest on claiming any awareness of kink anyone could have is a comparative level of lewdness to reenactment of a Public Disgrace shoot. Another is to suggest that it’s a derail, that being kinkyed has nothing to do with any of the different identities we choose to address. Sometimes this attitude is because a ham handed kinkster tried to make a one-to-one comparison at some point in the past about how their marginalization was equivalent to a group with worse troubles. Sometimes the person perceives kink as a peculiar hobby that could also traumatize people, putting it in the same camp as the “no cops at pride” conversation.
Kink isn’t actually as lewd/filthy as people make it out to be in its totality. BDSM, as a subculture evolved so concurrently with the queer communities it weaves in and out of the fabric of the latter’s identities that separation of impossible. Additionally, the wholesale rejection of kink is explicitly ace-excluding, insisting on a very narrow definition of sexual and non-sexual.
My radical take: I think the whole enchilada should be there.
Yes, the Leather folk. The people on leashes. The pup masks. They not only should be there, but not quarantined off in a special “after dark” space. And I push more progressively, that there’s even significant context in which a “scene” in public is also not a violation equivalent to vanilla genital fucking either.
This isn’t going to win me many friends to be the weird lady who actually thinks that say, the cherry tree shibari shoot that happened a few years ago in Toronto (not at Pride but in a public park) is fine. It’s not because I think I should be dragging everyone into being actors in my own personal fantasy re-enactment. I do feel that even just flying the leather pride flag and allowing a few sashes and corsets, or just carrying the paraphernalia of kink is still conceding unfair ground. And I do not personally put myself in the business of having elaborate public bondage scenes (etc…) in public not because I think they are morally wrong. I do so for the same reason I cover my breasts even though it is legal in my country. I decline to do certain things because of my own self protection against coercive harassment.
But Miss Pearl, you say, how can you force your sexuality onto people?
I dunno, I have a hard time taking that sort of pearl clutching (snerk) about kink when people wander around wearing special monogamy rings and inviting their whole family to watch them celebrate their monogamous commitment in a monogamy dress, with a monogamy cake, and two very sex themed optional monogamy imminent parties, in a monogamy ritual where they often make a big deal about exposing and tossing special underwear and showing how pair bonded they are in public.
Or walking past lingerie ads, or ads for dating services, or lovers lanes of steamy making out. The monogamous, ostensibly vanilla pair bond is seen as so wholesome that naval boats raffle the first kiss with your spouse at port as a ritual, and force everyone else to watch. At a certain point, the decision of what is and isn’t allowed is going to be pretty arbitrary to the culture it exists in. The concept of “private” grapples with the problem that relationships that are vanilla are interwoven with the culture and desires of others. People can be sincerely offended if they aren’t invited to a wedding of someone they care about. People WANT to gather to wear penis veils, or chained to a blow up doll, and run about the street collecting pre-wedding forfeits.
Ok, you might argue, but BDSM is sex, that stuff is less sexy. It’s romantic.
So, if you mean to tell me a collar is a constant tool of overt arousal and ALL public play is the most vile of exhibitionism, prepare to be severely disappointed. Not only does the tokens we wear have a lot more on par with stealing your lover’s hoodie (or in Silver’s case me thiefing his white cotton t shirts), but usually they signify more of the romantic/belonging aspect of a BDSM relationship than the sexual one.
Not only that, but the bizarre pageantry of kink, precisely because things like leather are off the mainstream, aren’t particularly obviously sexual unless you have a subtext decoder.
Sure that guy might get aroused by being called “pup” as well as get emotional fuzzies, but the leather pup mask he is wearing is so much a fetish that it’s not even sexual unless you share his kink. And we allow plenty of sexy things as empowering- the wearing of revealing clothes and lingerie, padding, etc…
Ok, fine, you may argue, but non-consensual exhibitionism is bad. The world is not your free audience. Why did you need people to know about your private business?!
Sometimes I shouldn’t need to hide. Part of Pride challenges and pushes back on the norms that decide, say, my tits need to be in a top, but the same chest on a man can flop and wobble in the sun. This might be a feminism thing, but its an argument that pokes at what gender even means. Banning kink is part of collectively enforcing that the rituals of relationships and families that people take for granted have to be that way.
In the case of kink in Pride, it isn’t about flashing people, for the most part it is about freedom. I know that a fuck ton of frightened arguing pops out about how they totes saw triple fisting pony butt plug tails, but while I won’t bother telling you it NEVER happened ever in the history of humans being dumb, I can say it’s a fixation that indicates a complete lack of education about what kink and fetishes look like.
While people fret about the overt stuff they easily note, most fetishes pass. It’s sometimes the Pleasers on the Drag Queen. The day collars. The body parts and clothes that the average person would never never think you could find arousing (like wool knit!)
But what if it *IS* obviously sexual damn it!???
Yeah, you might see a vagina costume or a packer. But the lady on the float in the strapon probably isn’t particularly wet right now, she is enjoying feeling so safe about herself she can be open. She, or the big pink labial mascot, or any other permutation of this nature also may be making a transgressive point about gender. We live on a planet where multiple human cultures still explicitly display dicks on stuff, including things like the incredibly wholesome Japanese penis festival or Michelangeo’s David.
Inversely, we tolerate loads of vanilla stuff that is in the borderline if you have plausible deniability. This is the unfairness to kinky folk- what we do doesn’t get this space. Have a wedding in a park and people may even cheer, hold a collaring ceremony and it’s uncomfortable stares.
And sometimes the sexual is important because it means more. The strapon scene in Sense8? Where you see a wet rainbow dildo bounce on the floor? That’s the sexual turned to convey a profound amount of meaning, of acceptance of one of the character’s core identities.
Love is love is all very well and good, but we live in a world where the public regulates the private. Sex is also sex. Sex toy bans, porn censorship and even regulations around sodomy all make the intensely personal NOT have the right to that privacy. You cannot say that a dildo is a secret thing and then demand that you can only buy one for “novelty or educational” purposes in certain US states.
Nor would it be ok to tell queer folk they could love who they liked, just to abstain from sex all their lives. Again, all love is the same love until your “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” is actually in effect outside of the most superficial or sanitized expressions of what love might look like.
But, what about kids at pride? Pride is a family event now! And gay kids benefit from attending, if there’s anything sexy they might not go.
I am glad you have thought about the children. As minors with less rights they need protection… however!
We already went through a great deal of time insisting that people being gay or trans in public were requiring conversations kids just weren’t ready for. People tried to argue two guys together meant having to explain the mechanics of anal. And various other permutations of being ok, grudgingly, with kids figuring out a bit of hetero but being in Grave Danger if they had any inkling anything but Barbie and Ken dream wedding was afoot. This is nonsense, you can age appropriately scale the conversation to protect a minor- the same way you can simplify or go into detail as appropriate on subjects like pregnancy or why Aunt Jo uses they pronouns.
I get this is a fraught topic. Again, everyone is still iffy about things like (O.W.L.) Our Whole Lives and fighting over abstinence only education and how and when kids get to know things.
But, if you mean to tell me “some adults like dressing up, feeling different sensations or playing with who is in charge” is too hard for you to say, oh dear.
And if you think there’s really anything at Pride that isn’t popping about in kids cartoons, as comedy or dramatic peril, you haven’t been doing a good enough job screening your kids media. If you are freaking out about pup masks while letting your kid grow up on paw patrol, yikes. Don’t like Bondage? Take Disney off the net blocker white list, and toss out superheros. If you think your kids aren’t integrating these “innocent” scenes into their fantasies as their sexuality develops, I have news for you.
Further, our habit of waiting until anyone is 18 before thinking they can acknowledge kink exists is not really a solution. There’s precious little sex ed, outside of Scarleteen that even acknowledges kink is a thing, outside of closed communties and the intentionally lewd. This is doing harm.
I will never advocate minor/adult kink relationships, but I wouldn’t advocate them as a vanilla thing, either. However! I explicitly believe you can have age appropriate awareness, the way we teach condoms, biology and consent as part of a healthy sex ed. I further feel that when someone who has sexuality but must be protected to discover it can only find one version, it will cause as much shame as abstinence only sex ed does.
By shutting kink out of a public festival of Pride, you are projecting a simplified perception that this is exclusively a weird extra sexy sex thing that can’t be scaled up or down. You are not allowing minors to receive holistic sex ed in a context where they aren’t directly engaging with adults. Ultimately this goes back to my point that sometimes it’s just thematic resonance or romance, and if you don’t know that, it’s not fair to fail to let kink folks show otherwise.
Ok, but what if BDSM *is* sexual? You write a porn blog, god damn it!
Sex (in that larger sense) in public also already is a conversation that varies by culture. Who gets declared more or less lewd and what it means where you do things is variable not just by place of origin, body proportions and what we think about that role.
Thus we can have the most wildly erotic dancing in no kissing Bollywood films, or have cultures that consider someone more sexy in more coverage, not less. Generally most humans like full say in whose engorged and moistened genitalia they are exposed to, but even so, the codpiece, the merkin and the penis gourd exist. And none of these are anything other than ok, normal clothing, albeit generally formal.
Further, there is validity to exploring that edge of presumed acceptance, as well. As an intersectional thing, you are under extra scrutiny for being “sexual”. If you are fat, femme, or even just gifted with prodigious breasts or buttocks, for example, you are more policed than you are slim, masculine and so on. Just being seen by other people as being more lewd can, in fact, be a form of discrimination. This effects everyone Pride is meant for, and accusations of predation and more desire are a historical part of the violence such groups experience. It’s a very real double standard.
While flashing people for your jollies is not ok, being able to make people acknowledge that you have sexuality and it should be celebrated is extremely Pride, and so is declaring your sexuality is no less shameful than another person’s.
What was that about BDSM being Queer?
BDSM is, among many things, a loose collection of subcultural norms. Today and for all of its history, its place as part of alternative culture has made it not so much an ally as an active part of Queer cultural history.
Aspects like “Leather” are more Queer than not, with the adoption by straight people following after their popularization in gay communities. While today people may be more familiar with things that are profoundly heteronormative, like the popularization of 50shades, in practice, while BDSM communities may have explicitly Gay, Lesbian, etc… off shoots, and some pockets that are homophobic hot messes, for the most part it is a space built on norms that are some of the most accepting of being queer.
Further, BDSM’s parallel evolution interweaves with the same counter cultural pioneering that created space to be increasingly openly gay, trans, etc… TES, possibly the world’s oldest continuous BDSM group, was participating in Pride when it was still branded as Gay Liberation. The early community building of kink explicitly modeled itself after the same going on in feminism and gay rights.
Sanitizing this from display is selectively determining that some parts of being Queer and Queer history are not ok, and Queerness is ok as long as it’s only a gender swapped version of some sort of 1950s dream.
Right, great, we will let the queer kinksters in, leather daddies and dykes on bikes are go! But you F/ms and M/fs who aren’t containing one or more trans people can simmer down.
(Here is the point that the people tend to lose patience and get unfollowed. You can be mad if you like, but I ask only you bear with me, to my next point…)
For a significant part of the kinked population, the answer of what your sexuality is, is to say BDSM and/or fetish. Sure they might have a gendered preference for who they do that with, but something we don’t talk about is how common it is to be kink dependent for attraction to function. And this is where people get frustrated and tell me BDSM is not an orientation like gay or straight. True!
It is actually under the A for Asexual.
Although not everyone *needs* kink for a sexual or romantic response to work, if you do require BDSM to have functional sexuality, you meet precisely the criteria laid out for demisexuality or other parts of the spectrum of asexuality, aka Grey Ace or Aspec. A lot of kinksters, themselves, have their minds blown when they realize this is them. But yeah, you, reader, if kink is the only thing that makes your sexuality function, could identify as Asexual.
What is Demisexuality/ Grey Ace?
A less understood part about being Asexual is that it is an umbrella term. It can include the obvious complete absence of a sexuality, but it also includes being Aromantic (where you can be sexual but simply not experience romantic love); and the so called grey or demisexuals, whose.sexual experience is pending a limiting factor.
A common experience for demis is romantic love being the gateway to experiencing attraction. This means that until that bond is there, nothing can happen. People generally get this, and the modern branding of Pride, “Love is Love” make this incredibly accommodating. Another way one might be on the asexual spectrum is for it to be sporadic, say a libido that is very low or unpredicable.
But for an asexual person, another condition one might have to experience sexuality or attraction is having a paraphilia or fetish.
In my case, if you tried to have me have a sexual and romantic relationship without kink, the answer is, I couldn’t. I mean, I could fake it and be utterly miserable, but my kinks are my kinks. And for me, love and kink are two factors that regulate my sexuality. Unfortunately this part of sexual knowledge is so removed from the conversation it took a lifetime to learn this was a hard truth.
As a result, I had years of painful, bad sex that was in no way coerced by my partners, with everyone telling me it was just a matter of time and practice. I can’t blame them, although one party was outright abusive, the rest were largely good, giving humans who tried to find the clitoris, etc…
The most giving, foreplay granting hot vanilla human will waste their time with me, and I them. In my case, I can experience some easier physical attraction if I fall in love (almost universally facilitated by a text based medium and kink) and my bits have the right nerve endings to use them conventionally, but subtract my fetishes and that relationship will die on the vine.
Further, my porn consumption follows that pattern- screw gender, I am just looking for a certain intensity and activity set. Gay, straight, agender… although the consumptive scope means I write what I like, I also consume a lot of romance and fast flip through perfectly well done sex scenes. This is my life.
I wanted to be “normal”. It would have made my life, including my dreams of sex work, much more feasible. But my body and heart needs something very specific. If I get that, fireworks. If not, it has all the erotic thrill and romance of looking through a 1960s wallpaper catalogue.
But what about Pride? You don’t mean to tell me all kinky folk are Ace do you?
Sure, for some people kink is a value add not the main event, but that’s not on you to decide from a distance. I wouldn’t say my experience is a one to one comparison with every other kinked person, and I definitely personally don’t go blundering into Pride declaring it needs to be all about me now. But! You cannot celebrate people being Ace with the same commitment to equality if you won’t actually acknowledge what Ace can and does look like.
I can understand when you are getting murdered for holding hands in public, this is not comparable to me lying on my back wondering why this is the bad kind of pain while a very considerate vanilla partner tries their best. I have amazing passing privilege, just like people tend to not notice my bisexuality or my gender fluidity.
I also acknowledge my fully radical position on kink inclusion is not going to win me any friends. But I do ask that you consider how much ground we give up by conceding to even a very sterile kink, and how arbitrary even our definition of scene/ not scene is. I do not think it’s fair to let people who are not even kinky have such a strong voice in defining what is both sexual and not actually means. And I have some concerns that our caution that we violate consent to even let people know we exist is a form of internalized shame.