Scaring the Vanillas

Anything for fun in BDSM, right? Whatever gets us off is grand, especially stuff that makes us cooler than the rest of society. F’rinstance, vanillas can’t take pain. They don’t even bask in it. That makes me better than them. Vanillas have missionary sex, which makes me cooler than them, too. Kidnapping role play? It’s not my kink, but if you’re into it, that makes you cooler than me. Domestic abuse role play is even cooler than that, especially when you make me believe that it’s real. Right?

In drug addict circles, this mentality would be called ‘junkie pride’. In any rehab worth its salt, heroin addicts are cooler than pot smokers, who are not as cool as meth heads. Anorexics are cooler than overeaters, and bulimics fall somewhere in between. Junkie pride: I did a gram of heroin a day and all you did was weed, so I have more bragging rights than you. Junkie pride: I was hospitalised and tube fed for my anorexia, and you only reached a size zero, so I’m cooler than you. It’s a thing.

And so it is with the “scaring the vanillas” mentality. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it: A couple gets its rocks off by doing a dab of capture and conquer in a public parking lot. A masochist gets a giggle out of telling the woman at the checkout counter that her black eye comes from her abusive husband’s bad night out at the pub. The joy community members derive from scaring the vanillas is as nonsensical and potentially harmful as junkie pride.


In the kink community, we may hurt, but we try not to harm. Well, hopefully.

I’m an emotional empath (feel free to gag on that one). I look away when I pass a car accident. I only have to see the pileup to feel the blood drop out of my head. I once came upon a mugging victim who was in tears on the side of the road. I did what I could for her, and while only her experience in this situation matters (yes, I’m saying it), my response speaks to the “scaring the vanillas” mentality.

After I’d arranged transport for her, I felt (very lightly) traumatised for the rest of the day. Because her mugging happened in my neighbourhood, I also kept away from those streets and changed my movements for three weeks. After all, criminals hang out in the same neighbourhoods much of the time. We suffered a power outage on one of the nights following her mugging, and I got locked out on the streets. I panicked. Had the mugging not happened, I’d have waited for the power to come back on, but given the circumstances, I asked my landlord to rush over and let me in. My fear sent the rest of my well-planned night for a loop, and my day was wrecked. My landlord’s plans for the night were ruined, too.

The butterfly effect says that one tiny change can have larger consequences that can last…and last…and last. They are often more complex than the ‘flapping wings’ that began the effect, and they are random. There is no real way of knowing what chaos will transpire from the consequences of a tiny event.

I live my life according to its potential consequences, particularly as they relate to others. Creating consequences for myself is something I can give myself minor permission for, but creating them for others is unacceptable to me. I avoid it where I can.

I once met a stranger on the street who had been abused by her husband. I spent three weeks making calls, wringing my hands, and going to great pains to find shelter for her. She never bit. She had requested my help but hadn’t wanted it. The pain was squarely in her court, but it had an effect on me. That was inconsequential because she was doing the actual suffering.

When scaring the vanillas, that does not apply–they are doing the suffering. We have consented to whatever depraved and painful acts we participate in. Strangers on the street who are exposed to our play without knowledge of our consent suffer consequences when they are forcefully turned into observers. We have our fun, but those who believe what they see is abuse may, as in the butterfly effect, suffer larger and more complex consequences than we imagined.

We shouldn’t need to hide information about our lifestyle, but lies and nonconsensual observers are quite another thing. Trauma victims may be triggered by what they see. Empathic individuals may concern themselves with what they believe is abuse long after we’ve had our fun. Observers may change their way of life out of fear. Junkie pride is not cool. Doing a bag of heroin is not cooler than smoking a bag of pot. Kink is not cooler than vanilla sex.

And the non-consensual inclusion of vanillas in our play is not cool in even the tiniest way. It is not funny. It is not inconsequential.


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