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How the word "kinky" helps tackle BDSM stigma

Posted at 09:50 on 18 Nov 2020 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: advocacy, BDSM, book, cut section, fetish, freedom of expression, kink, sex, sex positivity, sexual freedom, sexual liberty, sexuality

As I'm revising my manuscript, I'm cutting out the sections that don't quite fit and posting them here. Become a Patron to get access to cut sections about my personal kink, and excerpts from what I'm keeping.

 


The word ‘kinky’ is a useful one. It sounds reassuringly harmless: playful, quirky and unthreatening. It’s my preferred term when I’m discussing my fetishes with people who don’t share them. (We can move on to the question of whether or not we want to reclaim ‘pervert’ later.)
 

I never imagined I’d talk about my kinks outside of my close-knit fetish community - let alone write a book about them. It’s an endless source of surprise to me that I find myself doing this.

 

When I was nine years old I thought I was a total freak, the only person on the planet who found the idea of spanking erotic. I was sure that I would never meet anyone else in a billion years who shared my fascinations. Something miraculous happened after I hit puberty: the internet landed in our home. I got online and soon realised the world was full of delightful weirdos like me. 
 

Emboldened by that discovery, I've gone on to make my stamp on the weirdo world by making my own fetish porn films. I’ve been criminalised, and told by the UK Government that I should be ashamed of myself for liking what I like. They censored me; I fought back. Now I campaign for free expression, and it frequently puts me in the odd position of talking publicly about very private things. 
 

I would never have guessed that being an outlaw pornographer would lead to me becoming a talking head on mainstream media. Being able to talk about this stuff with such a large platform is exciting and strange. The porn I make is called ‘violent’ by some - usually people who don’t understand how consent works. The stigma is real. Nonetheless, I keep on getting invited back by places like the BBC and Sky News.
 

You could blame white privilege. With pale skin and a "well-educated" accent I'm seen by those in power as a "respectable" spokesperson for something that would otherwise be  frowned upon. Being read as female helps too, lending me credibility in an industry which has a reputation for misogyny.
 

For whatever reason, I've given talks at universities, the British Film Institute, the National Theatre and on Woman’s Hour. I’ve even given a talk to the Women’s Institute in one London borough, who turned out to be delightfully sex positive.  

 

I’ve had articles about porn and sex work published by the Guardian and the New Statesman. Honestly, given their appalling record of perpetuating dangerous misinformation about trans people and sex workers, being published by the New Statesman was far weirder to me than the fact I like having my bottom smacked. I like to boast that I’m the most shameless pervert quoted by a Radio 4 presenter to score a point against a Government minister. 
 

It’s ironic that these august British institutions are so keen to give me a platform, given how relentlessly the UK Government has criminalised and discriminated against people like me.
 

While our legislators work hard to suppress independent porn, other corners of the UK establishment find my kinky pornographer life fascinating, and keep coming back for more. It's a tension between salacious voyeurism and contemptuous suppression which will be familiar to any sex worker. But that voyeurism can be useful too, if we play the dangerous game of engaging with it enough to make our voices heard. 
 

In all these conversations, the word ‘kinky’ works hard for me.

 

The association of ‘kinky’ with fetishistic or sadomasochistic activities dates back to the early 1960s. It became colloquial when the stars of The Avengers, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee, performed their 1964 pop song “Kinky Boots”. Long leather boots, the kind worn by dominatrixes in the popular imagination, have become an ideogram for fetish and BDSM. They are suggestive, perhaps a little risqué, but not depraved. And best of all, they're nudity free and "safe for work". Now there's a Kinky Boots film and a Broadway musical based. The Avengers brought kinky boots - and, by association, kink itself - into pop culture. 
 


 

(Model: Vix Vixxxen, Photographer: Pandora Blake, source: Dreams of Spanking)
 

In the 21st century depictions of some fetish and BDSM activity are relatively common in mainstream film and TV - not to mention bestselling erotic fiction. We see a little light collar-and-cuffs bondage, some mild spanking (or at least posing about with a riding crop), perhaps a cage or St Andrew's Cross. It's hardly representative of the creativity and intensity available within the bondage, spanking and BDSM kinks - never mind the vast swathe of imaginative fetishes enjoyed by countless individuals beyond those shores, from Abused Shoes and Aliens to Wigs and Wrinkles.

 

Unlike older words for That Thing We Do, kink suggests that unconventional sexual tastes are nothing to fear.
 

When I started exploring this topic I used words like fetish and fetishist. I still use these words when talking to others in the community.  It's common for spankophiles to refer to our "spanking fetish". What we mean by that is that spanking is a thing that isn't genital sex which turns us on, and sometimes that it's pretty much the only thing that turns us on. If you want to get technical, psychologists define fetish as being turned on by an object, rather than an action, but nonetheless many of us identify with the word fetish, and are very happy to associate with it.

 

The reason I don't use fetish when I'm giving interviews on TV is that for many people it still carries sordid connotations. Dictionary definitions of fetishist use words like ‘abnormal’, ‘excessive’ and ‘irrational’; all associations that increase social stigma. 
 

Pervert fares even worse, although I know many people who embrace the word with fierce joy. Pervert is not deemed ‘abnormal’ by dictionary writers, but also ‘unacceptable’, ‘degraded’ and ‘corrupt’. Like all slurs, this is language that can be powerfully reclaimed - but if you’re trying to put newcomers at ease, it’s best to find a more relatable starting point.
 

‘Kinky’ has nonjudgmental and unthreatening vibes. If you say you have a ‘kink’, it may not even mean your sexual taste is particularly unusual - just that your reaction is very strong. For instance, the first entry for ‘kink’ in Urban Dictionary defines it simply as "a sexual taste", and gives the example “My friend totally has a thigh kink.”

 

If you think being aroused by a pair of gorgeous thighs is unacceptable, wait til you watch my porn.

I work as a BDSM service provider, creating bespoke experiences for people who fantasise about spanking or submission. Before the pandemic, in those heady days when we still met face to face, I saw people every week who had feelings of uncertainty, worry and shame about their sexual fantasies and tastes. As a BDSM porn purveyor, when talking to customers  I take care to always use language that is positive, and does not make anyone feel judged for their turn-ons. ‘Kinky’ helps. It’s liberating to be able to talk about our most secret fantasies without suggesting, even unintentionally, that they are abnormal or unacceptable. 
 

Imagine a world where none of us worry about how ‘normal’ our sexualities are - and the only words we need are those describing the strength of our preference.

 

Sadly, that’s not yet the world we live in - and it's my mission to change that.

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I wish you success in your mission!

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