Shame, Kink, and Privacy

Leatherati has had some interesting articles lately on kink shame; and I’ve seen a (somewhat obnoxious) video floating around espousing the basic tenets of coming out as kinky to friends or family. And then yesterday rauber wrote a personal post about his own tussle with privacy over his kinky interests. So it all got me to thinking about my own perspective on kink, privacy, and shame.

Ever since I accepted that I was gay, I’ve not felt ashamed of myself. That didn’t mean I instantly came out of the closet, though. I have a life-long policy of not debating fundamentalists, or really even listening to them, so I didn’t outright tell my family not for fear or shame, but because I didn’t want to deal with their judgmental ignorance. But that was a mistake, because my being gay isn’t a phase, or a choice, or a passing interest. It’s my identity. Who I love is who I am. And those I loved deserved to know that. Today, I don’t exactly leave a glitter trail wherever I go, but I don’t shy away from describing my husband. This is a part of my identity, and I’m not ashamed of it.

But the fact is, I don’t apply the same standard to my kink. Yes, being a kinkster is a part of who I am, but I don’t feel the same need to announce it to everyone who passes by. Kink, leather, submission or BDSM do not make up the whole of my identity. What I do — in the bedroom, dungeon, conference, hotel — is not who I am. For most people, it’s none of their business. I don’t ask my family how they like to have sex, and I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business how I like to have sex. But if I was ever asked, or if the concept of kink and BDSM came up with friends (because it just never would with family … it just wouldn’t), I would defend it and describe it for those who are uninformed. Because I do believe that the kinky community is misunderstood and often maligned. And I would freely admit my interest, in context, because I’m not ashamed of it, I just enjoy my privacy.

Scene Names

In his article on the topic, Loren Berthelsen brings up a lot of concepts in a very short article. How do we deal with events, say, if going to IML and being asked why you’re traveling to Chicago. Do we just say “a convention” or do we describe exactly what IML is. And for that matter, what is IML? I think for those of us who travel to events like that, we are choosing to shed some of our right to privacy and have that responsibility to educate those who might be interested. But there’s a difference between being open and educational and ramming it down people’s throats. Just as those of us who wrestle with dual gay-Christian identities have to disassociate our love from our sex for the sex-obsessed fundamentalists, we kinksters need to be able to describe the community and enthusiast aspects of our events without leading people to being that kink-cons are just great big orgies (even if they are great big orgies … it’s all about proper messaging).

He also brings up scene names derogatorily, and I suppose there are those who use scene names in a scene to mask their real identity. I agree with him if that’s the case, but at the same time, I use my “rook” name to describe a distinct part of my personality and selfhood. But I don’t hide behind it. Doms I’ve played with call me by my real name, I tell people I chat with my real name, and I’m an open book about who I am – all of me, everywhere. Even here on this blog, I haven’t created an alternative personality; I talk about my real, day to day life and work, I just embrace a sense of privacy and anonymity as well. But if you got to know me, that filter would be taken away pretty fast. For me, my scene name is not a badge of shame, it’s an important aspect of my personality, and I actually enjoy being called “rook” because it legitimizes this part of my psyche, in a way.

So I think there’s a difference between acting out of shame and acting out of a sense of privacy. For me, I’m a private person; I don’t think myself ashamed of my kinky side because I’m willing to talk about it and embrace it. Shame comes from feeling wrong, and I don’t feel that way. I know who I am – and I’m a crazy mix of conflicting interests and identities – gay, Christian, married, kinky, self-employed, self-conscious, asshole, service-oriented – all these things that might not go together but they make up me, and I embrace that conflict and enjoy it.

The Other Side of the Coin

But in closing, I want to throw something else out there; the articles on Leatherati, especially the one by Sir Chris, could be construed to put ourselves in a victim’s chair on the issue of being shamed. Society, Christianity, Puritans, our families – joining forces to internalize shame in the hearts of kinksters across the country. But I think it would be good to remember that our group is perfectly capable of doing the same thing to others. I have often felt shame – not at being gay in a straight/Christian world – but at being Christian (sorta) in a gay/kinky world. Or for not being perfectly fit/skinny/muscled/sexy as the gay world would demand.

It’s wrong to associate every kinkster as deviant, twisted, maladjusted or generally icky. But it’s also wrong to associate everyone with faith as fundamentalist, evil, judgmental and domineering. In New York, I felt shame as my gay “friends” lambasted not just fundamentalist but “Christians” as a whole, and that’s not fair. In the same way, I feel shame every time I walk into a bar; shame and self-consciousness about my looks have kept me from diving into the scene full tilt in Denver (I’m slowly wading in … sorta).

So it’s important to remember that people on all sides can inspire shame, and we need to be able to fight it from all angles and just accept people and all their conflicting weirdness, because that’s what makes us all awesome and sexy.

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Comments (2)

  1. It’s really good to see someone writing about this at such a personal level. Yes there are plenty of ideals out there that people can throw around, but knowing that it’s something others go through is a nice thing to see.

    I’m glad to see you speak your mind there is little more important!

  2. dave smith

    I have often thought/felt that those who call themselves “christian” try to shame any involvement/interest in kink. I hope you can reconcile this issue if you choose to remain both christian and kinky. In the long run, a proactive attitude toward sex-positivity, may eventually turn the tide of shame against kink.