No Tricks, Just Treats
Dispelling Common Myths About Kink
by E. White & Delphi La'Shayel
The weather is cooling down, the leaves are beginning to change color, and fall has arrived at last. And since it’s the season of shadow and spookiness, what better time to delve into one of the most misunderstood aspects of sexuality, the wonderful world of kink?
For those who don’t know, kink is defined as an intimate experience involving a consensual exchange of power or mutual exploration. A kink experience can be physical, sensual, sexual, psychological, spiritual, or any combination thereof! Kink is a broadly understood term that can refer to a wide range of activities, fantasies, and communities. You may have heard the term kink used alongside words like fetish, or used interchangeably with the acronym BDSM. Kink, fetish, and BDSM are terms that have some overlap, but all mean distinctly different things.
A fetish most often involves something very specific that MUST be present for someone to achieve sexual arousal, whereas kink can be an optional additional activity for some people, and is not inherently sexual. In contrast, BDSM, or Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism, is a specific subsection of the kink community. BDSM is the most specific of the terms, referring to consensual power exchange. Activities that most frequently come to mind when we think about getting kinky — such as restraints, impact play, and pain play — all fall under the umbrella of BDSM. While it is common for an exchange of power to be involved in lots of kinds of kink, BDSM is unique in that it is defined by the power exchange.
In addition, the word “scene,” in reference to kink refers to a single encounter of kinky activity. Not all kinky play utilizes elements of BDSM; some are entirely different. Pet play, for example, is undoubtedly a kinky activity that doesn’t quite fit under the BDSM umbrella. Sensation play can also apply, such as temperature play, tickling, sensual massage, and more. Things like fisting, water sports, and role play also fall somewhat outside of the traditionally understood boundaries of BDSM, but are undoubtedly kinky activities. In short, kink can be almost anything, as long as it makes you tick. Think of it this way; if BDSM is an umbrella term for many activities, then kink is the entire rain cloud.
We’re here to pull back the curtain and demystify kink (as best we can in a single blog post) from the tyranny of misinformation. And what better place to begin than one of the most pervasive and yet inaccurate avenues that people use to begin exploring kink: E.L. James and her bestselling Fifty Shades book series.
We know that this is a hot-button topic within the kink community, so let’s be as clear as we can: Fifty Shades of Grey, is a depiction of a single couples experience in BDSM. It is also not what many members of the kink community would consider to be healthy BDSM, or even kink. This statement isn’t meant to invalidate anyone’s enjoyment of those works of fiction, but simply to affirm that they are absolutely fictitious, and to highlight the severely narrow scope they showcase. To its credit, Fifty Shades brought a ‘taboo’ topic into the mainstream, and helped many individuals think more complexly about their wants and desires. But on the other hand, it also presented a romanticised version of a poorly communicated and under-negotiated dynamic, undermining the foundation of informed consent that is at the core of kink, and setting a dangerous standard for what Dom/sub roles look like.
Thanks in part to the popularity of the Fifty Shades series, there are many widespread myths surrounding the world of kink. We’re here to break a few of those down:
Myth 1: Kink is Always Inherently Sexual
At its core, kink is an intimate experience between two or more people. These experiences can involve sexual activities, but sex is not a required aspect in a kink scene. For example, many people don’t incorporate sex into their dynamics of dominance and submission. Sometimes, a kinky relationship manifests as purely service based. Another good example of how sex and kink can be seperate is the practice of bondage. While some people participate in sex alongside bondage, for many others, bondage is simply a form of artistry, connection, and self expression. For these people, bondage is not necessarily sexual in nature, and does not include sex acts. For many, the act of tying or being tied is the entire experience. Pet play is another common kink that isn’t inherently sexual. Predominantly, pet play is centered around just that — play! Participants of pet play often derive joy from engaging in activities common for a house pet, including playtime, treats, and cuddles. Adult babies are another kink that can fall into this category. Role play is also not inherently sexual, even though it is typically thought of that way. Kink is simply designed to help people navigate and explore their desires. If that exploration is sexual, that’s fantastic, but if not, it’s not any less kinky.
Myth 2: Kink Always Involves Pain
This is a common belief, but this view is hopelessly reductive of what kink really is. You can find people who exclusively experience kink as an exchange of pain, but there are countless ways to experience kink that do not hurt at all. As mentioned in the previous myth there are several aspects of kink that involve no pain. In fact, most kink, even the parts that involve ‘pain,’ aren't solely about inflicting or enduring pain alone. Of course, everyone will have a unique experience of kink, but we often find that kink that does involve administering or receiving pain (sadomasochism) is about finding and experimenting with one’s own limits. For example, impact play — such as flogging, spanking, caning, whipping, or other play that involves striking the body — is about so much more than pain for many people. It can also be about experimenting with physical and mental processing capabilities, sensations of power, or building trust with your partner. Everyone has a unique experience and reason for indulging in kink. Sure, maybe for some people it’s the pain, but it could also be curiosity about experiencing a loss of control, or something else entirely. So even the aspect of kink most closely associated with ‘pain’ isn’t exclusively about pain.
P.S. If someone seems only interested in inflicting pain upon you, without any open communication or compassionate regard for your boundaries, that’s a red flag. Informed and enthusiastic consent is a pillar in the kink community, and abuse is not kink.
Myth 3: Kink Means Living a 24/7 Lifestyle
Immersive, full-time D/s dynamics are undoubtedly a part of BDSM for some, and can be very valuable and affirming relationships for countless individuals. However, they are not the end-all for kinky fun. Many folks incorporating those roles into their play don’t indulge in the permanent lifestyle, instead preferring to sample bits and pieces whenever the mood is right. There are also many myths surrounding 24/7 dynamics, or really any level of dominance and submission. Often, folks assume that this style of relationship stems from abuse or unhealthy control practices. While abuse can and does occur, healthy kink must be built on a solid foundation of communication, consent, and trust. Negotiation is an essential component to a safe power exchange, and kink can’t occur without it. Written contracts aren’t as common in real-world kinky relationships. Instead, most kinksters simply discuss their boundaries and desires as they come up, which allows for change and flexibility within the relationship. If you think that having a written contract would help affirm your boundaries, of course that’s okay, just make sure to leave room for comfort, trust, consent, and communication trying to write up something binding.
Myth 4: Kink is for White, Cisgender, Heterosexual, Able Bodies
Kink — and we cannot stress this enough — can be for any consenting adult. It doesn’t look like just one scene, person, dynamic, or activity. Anyone can safely learn and practice kink. Getting the right information is the hardest challenge when stepping into Kink. As Fifty Shades of Grey has shown us, not all kinky media is good media. Enjoy porn, erotica, and other kinky fiction, but take it with a grain of salt. Do your best to look at your kink through the lens of intersectionality, and unpack any bias you might have been holding onto subconsciously. As with so much of what society presents us, white, thin, cis-het, non-disabled bodies make up the vast majority of the representaion we are given. This is a grossly inaccurate depiction of kink, which creates a false narrative about who can practice. Not only is this limited perspective wrong, it creates potential rifts and allows for discrimination within the community. It also further discourages people from venturing into kinky play, especially if they don’t fit into the tiny box presented to them. But kink is as unique as each practicing member, and if you feel attracted to kink, then kink is for you.
Myth 5: Kinksters Were All Abused Growing Up
E.L. James didn’t invent this stereotype, but she did reinforce this line of thinking, especially among the average ‘vanilla’ person, or non-kinkster. There is no doubt that some people who grow to experiment with or enjoy kink have experienced trauma. Yet, this belief is only as valuable as the fact that some people have experienced trauma. Trying to draw a direct correlation between kinksters and past trauma is both impossible and disingenuous. An abuse survivor isn’t more likely to enjoy certain kinds of food, or drive a certain car, or enjoy a certain type of kink. Many abuse victims find themselves interested in kink, but still many others do not. Furthermore, people who have never experienced abuse can be interested in exploring kink. There are absolutely no assumptions that can be made about a person’s past experiences because of their interest in kink. And whether you are a survivor or not, your interest in kink is normal, healthy, and valid.
Myth 6: Kink Doesn't Belong at Pride
Just as queerness isn’t inherently sexual, kink falls under the same categorization. Both queerness and kinkiness offer a sense of community based on shared unique experiences outside of the mainstream, and the two groups have an inextricably intertwined history. During the AIDS crisis, leathermen and leatherdykes were some of the first folks to step up to the responsibility of caring for ailing LGBTQ+ folks. Kinksters were widely known for hosting fundraising events for medical bills, and were often the only people willing to provide human touch and affection to those that much of the world treated as lepers. Barring kink from Pride is ignoring an entire facet of our own community and their insurmountable contributions.
One of the most frequently made arguments against kink at Pride is regarding minors, stating that kink is inappropriate for children. This myth often involves belief in a simplified, one-dimensional imagined version of kink that is hugely sexual and always in your face. If this misconception sounds familiar, it’s because many of the arguments against inclusion of LGBTQ+ identities include sexualizing queer relationships into an inappropriate display, unfit to be seen, especially by children. Have you ever seen a straight couple making out in public? Does it bring up any feelings of discomfort, uneasiness? What in the double-standard makes those feelings change about a queer couple?
Of course, we aren’t advocating for anyone’s children to be exposed to explicit sexual content. No one is saying that minors should be forced to participate in any form of kink or related play. However, it is important to us that individuals who practice kink shouldn’t be shamed or excluded from a community they helped construct.
Some Final Kinky Thoughts
Kink is one of the most misunderstood aspects of sexuality. Some people find kink scary, but we promise that the only thing you have to fear about kink is the misinformation about it that persists. If you are interested in getting kinky, we encourage you to find ways to safely explore! We carry several books — both educational and erotica — that might serve as a more healthy and realistic entry point for potential kinksters than Fifty Shades. If you’re kink-curious, check out one of the many amazing books in our kink category. Or, if you’re ready to go beyond reading and get into doing, we also have a specially curated selection of beginner-friendly kink and BDSM gear to choose from.
Whether you’re kink-curious or a seasoned fetishist, we want you to know that you are welcome here at As You Like It. After all, being sex-positive isn’t about personally being into absolutely everything; it’s just about being open to what attracts you. And if you want to explore but aren’t sure where to start, feel free to stop in the store. We’re here to help. With your consent, of course.