Whether you are a longtime member of the kink world or a newbie just exploring, you may have noticed something a bit concerning. Kink often has an issue with elitism. In the kink community, there is often a sense of hierarchy: what kinks are the best kinks... and the kinkier, the better.
We praise those who are the most dedicated to a 24/7 lifestyle and those who can participate in the most extreme acts. Yet, kink isn't, and shouldn't be, a competition.
This conversation is especially important for those just entering the kink community. Without foundational knowledge, they can be easy prey for people who will manipulate and pressure them for their own agenda.
Read: BDSM 101
To help folks navigate this topic, I reached out to my fellow sexologists to get advice on how to make kink a non-competitive activity.
Why Did Kink Become Hierarchical?
The first thing I wanted to explore why kink become hierarchical. Where does this stem from? Dr. Dulcinea Pitagora, the NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, explained:
“Because many kinky interactions involve some sort of power exchange role-play, power dynamics can easily flow over beyond a single scene or interaction into relationships and broader communities. This is a neutral (not inherently good or bad) phenomenon, though it can be instituted and enacted in better or worse ways. Some hierarchies happen intentionally while some do not, but, ideally, thought and practice are put into an intentional hierarchy to make sure it’s desired and consented to by all parties prior to establishing it.
There is no such thing as a kink that is better or more true than any other. There are kinks that are worse or more untrue—those that are enacted non-consensually, however those are no longer actually kinks, but instances of abuse and assault. The reason why some people think that some kinks are better or more true than others, however, relates to how people in the kink community are a cross-section of society. It follows that the vast majority of everyone in the kink community started out socialized to believe in normative systems and structures, and even subcultures that deviate from the mainstream tend to have those who believe that a rigid set of cultural constraints should be followed. I call this kink-normativity, which is in practice not much different than heteronormativity, in its constriction and non-acceptance of diverse consensual behaviors.”
What Can the Kink Community Do to Change This?
In other words, because we are socialized to see specific identities, presentations, and titles as better or worse than one another, this bleeds over into kink expressions and culture. To change this, we must first examine why we think of certain acts of desires as ideal and others as “less than.”
As sex counselor and author, Eric Marlowe Garrison, echoed:
“My favorite phrase from the kink community: "Don’t yuck my yum." (Don’t put down something (usually a kink) that brings me pleasure, even if you don’t do it, we won’t do it, or if you tried it and hated it). “
Kink is a place where shame should be left at the door. This is particularly true for those just entering kinky spaces for the first time. I asked Dr. Pitagora for her advice for newbies and handling the pressure to be less-vanilla or even just thinking they need to engage in certain kinks to prove themselves. She advised:
“Before engaging in any kinky interaction, it’s important to remember that there is no obligation to participate in any regard before there is the desire to [do so], and engagement in the scaffolding of consent as described above. It’s also a good idea to have a plan for how to avoid the inevitable person who attends group spaces and acts coercively to push limits, which depends on the person’s internal and external resources in the moment. Going with a friend or a date is a good approach. If [you're] going alone, it’s okay to completely ignore the person and walk away if that feels best in the moment. [You can] say [you're] not interested at the moment [and you'll] let the person know if [you] change [your] mind. If someone is acting in a pushy manner at a kink event, it’s not necessary to follow any sort of protocol, because protocol is something that should be consented to before followed…
Group spaces typically contain a high percentage of extroverts and exhibitionists, and it’s a good idea to remember this and remember that everyone has different intra- and interpersonal boundaries. The best way to understand and maintain interpersonal boundaries is to understand and talk to a trusted friend or partner about intrapersonal boundaries before exploring with others.”
Kink Is Personal
Identifying as kinky, or just being interested in learning more about kink is an entirely personal and individualized experience. Do not think that belong to kink groups or to visit kinky spaces you have to qualify as “kinky-enough.”
Research, discuss, and experiment with what feels right in your body, mind, and spirit. In the same vein, don’t look down on kinks that you find weird or unappealing (as long as they are consensual). Let’s commit to taking the hierarchy out of kink and making the community one of true love and acceptance.
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