Being labeled as kinky is a complicated thing, whether that label was something you have chosen or that was given to you. In some ways self-identifying as kinky can be empowering and a point of pride.
The World-Changing Kink Community
When others hear us being labeled as such it can get more complicated, as we can easily be fetishized and judged. Even when we embrace our kinky identity, we may feel conflicted by being a kinkster and other identities, such as professional, religious, modest, or introverted.
When I work for clients, who are feeling conflicted about coming out to themselves or others as kinky, it is often about the assumptions they are retaining around what the term and community mean for them. Many people have deep-seated negative connotations around what it means to be kinky.
They may imagine that if you are into one thing you have to onboard with anything, or that kinky people don’t hold regular jobs or have family dinners or blend in with the rest of society—things that these clients hold as valuable and important to how they perceive themselves.
They may also have the belief that kinksters as a whole are a deviant group that lurks in the shadows and has done nothing of worth or value.
Kinksters and Social Change
By coming to understand the multiple ways that the kink community has made the world a better place they can come to fully embrace their desires and preferences. For example, the kink community was one of the first to highlight the importance of safer sex; from barrier methods to communication.
Before the kink community started talking about affirmative consent in the 1980s, the mainstream Western narrative included little to no dialogue about what that could even mean. With kinkster’s focus on the safety and well-being of participants in scenes having long been paramount, they have caused a sexual revolution with the world at large.
Kinksters have also played a pivotal role in de-criminalizing and de-pathologizing queer sexuality. From early trans and cross-dressing members being accepted and affirmed to fighting for anti-sodomy laws to be overturned, the kink community has allowed what was once seen as dirty or abnormal as just another aspect of healthy human sexuality.
Without the kink community, oral sex or anal sex with your spouse might still be illegal, as it was until 1962. Kink’s landscape of embracing those whose sexual preferences of identities were otherwise outcast led to the manifestation of the conversations around inclusion that we are having today.
Kinksters and Sex Ed
I recently asked my friend and colleague, Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF, about some of the ways that the kink community has brought awareness to important issues that had previously been ignored by the mainstream. She replied:
“The kink communities have provided adult education about consent and safer sex for decades, and we're very good at teaching people how to communicate about their sexual desires and relationship needs. That's why the mainstream has been turning to kink lately to understand the dynamics of consent: when is it freely given freely, how to withdraw consent, and how to set your own boundaries. Our kink organizations are also setting an example with our consent policies and consequences for non-consensual actions.
Kinksters should feel pride in our community. We are fighting for sexual freedom and bodily autonomy, which are essential for a free and equitable society. Check out the Leather Archives & Museum and the Carter/Johnson Library to find out more about our history and how kinksters are changing the world for the better.”
Kinky and Proud
Being kinky is nothing to feel ashamed of or a thing we need to hide away in the darkest recesses of who we are. By exploring our history and community’s culture and contributions we can feel a deep sense of pride in embracing kink as part of who we are.
Yes, kinksters have often gotten a bad rap through history but we can consciously decide to change that by educating ourselves and others. We also still struggle, as a whole, with inclusion around racism and accessibility but led by many amazing activists are see those issues being addressed. Kinksters have opened the world’s eyes to many sexual social justice issues that have transformed the world for the better.
Be kinky and be PROUD.
Dr. Laura McGuire (they/them or she/her) is an internationally recognized consultant, survivor, researcher, seminarian, and author of the book Creating Cultures of Consent (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021).
Dr. McGuire is a certified full-spectrum doula, professional teacher, a certified sexual health educator, and a vinyasa yoga instructor. Their experience includes both public and private sectors, middle schools, high schools, and university settings.
They currently are earning their Masters of Divinity at Earlham Seminary where they are studying the intersections of Judaism, trauma-informed care, and restorative-justice in faith settings. Dr. McGuire lives in the United States, where they work as an adjunct professor at Widener University and consultant at The National Center for Equity and Agency.