If you asked my 20-year-old self what I wanted from sex, I’d have said an orgasm before intercourse because it feels good that way. What did I know about BDSM? Cosmopolitan was my Sex 1.01 Textbook, and their best example of kink was “kitchen sex”, so I didn’t know there was much to explore.
Now GQ is pushing sex swings, and Cosmo is into strap-ons. The term “kitchen sex” has vanished into the plumbing where it belongs, but that doesn’t mean BDSM has lost its stigma, as we’ve seen in the media this year. Fetlife is where murderers hang out, doncha know? All kinksters are evil. </sarcasm> We are better off than we were in the Eighties, but in many ways, we’re bigotry’s last accepted target.
A few years back, we’d all have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders merely for enjoying a little rope. Kinks are no longer automatically labelled as sick. If you’re years late to this party, the DSM now classifies disordered fetishes as paraphilias, but you only get the “mentally ill” label if your kink causes harm to yourself or others, among other qualifiers.
The main reason paraphilias are still in the DSM at all is that they’re usually diagnosed after a crime. People are imprisoned or committed on the back of this diagnosis so, in many ways, we’re only labelled “deviant” to help lawyers do their jobs easily. If we commit a crime, we can be sentenced for being kinky because paraphilias are said to make us more dangerous. That’s a crock of shit. It’s one thing to use psychiatry to inform a court case, and quite another to write the diagnostic manual to support the law.
Let’s not even get into the fact that BDSM is illegal in some countries. We all know how that story plays out.
We all like to pretend we’re evolved enough to know our sexualities are healthy, but dig deeper, and society’s “deviant” label might not be as benign as it seems. Keeping secrets amplifies shame. I can call my kinks healthy until the butt plugs come home, but a part of me still reacts to the fact that I can’t be open about my sexuality. Hiding something that doesn’t deserve hiding comes with cognitive dissonance, and I resolve it by seeing my sexuality as too strange to be shared. It’s not my most overt belief, or the most dominant. I know I’m normal, but somewhere in my less conscious thoughts, there is that tiny sliver of shame.
Shame is necrotic. It spreads to healthy places, but there’s an antidote: you. Fetlife is nearing the eight million mark, and many of our local communities have events every week. Our mere existence is a cure because we’ve cleared away a huge space to feel normal in. Simply by being here, we’re changing the lives of others for the better.
Call me a Pollyanna if you must, but our community is powerful.