My Kink Isn’t Your Misery Porn

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Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Maybe an early autumn hike up Mt. Rainier was a bad Tinder date idea. We certainly weren’t prepared; I drove us nearly two hours out of Seattle and up a mountain only to find snow. We were not prepared for snow in late September. We skidded up the trail for about twenty minutes before mutually deciding the laborious drive back would be more fun than tripping uphill to look at a glacier.

It was on the ride back that my date began to ask me about my kinks. We’d already fucked; he was already aware of my collection of bondage gear and toys. In fact, he’d enjoyed using an array of them on me. What he wanted to know was why I enjoyed them.

As we escaped the snow-covered Mt. Rainier, he asked me point-blank: “Do you like being tied up because you were abused?”

His question took me aback. Not just because it was a very personal, very intrusive thing to ask on a date, but also because I had never told him I’d been abused. This was an assumption he was making; a fabrication to explain my apparently bizarre interest in BDSM. A bizarre interest that, up to this point, he had enthusiastically enjoyed.

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Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

“My kink isn’t connected to trauma,” I told him flatly. And it was true: I became interested in bondage and power play as soon as I became interested in sex. It was never an attempt to process abuse or assault. It just turned me on. I didn’t really have a “why.” It just always had, ever since I’d become sexually active.

My date, however, didn’t seem to believe my response was genuine. Speaking with the kind of bullheaded authority one can only truly possess by being a person of extreme privilege, talking about something one didn’t really understand, he continued:

“Well, other kinky people I’ve been with were abused. That’s why they were kinky to begin with.”

“Did they tell you that their fetishes were related to their traumas?” I asked. He didn’t seem interested in answering my question.

“I was just curious about your history. If you’d been, like, molested or something.”

At this point, I was still driving down a mountain and getting very, very angry. Driving down a snow-slicked mountain while very, very angry is not the best combination. Don’t worry, though. We made it out of the park without any physical damage. I was currently taking quite a bit of psychic damage from the man demanding to see my Resumé of Past Abuses, though.

“Do you want me to have been molested?” This question produced a series of flighty nononono’s in quick succession. He tried to recast his little drama as concern for my well being. Like he’d trotted out the possibility of molestation (something that I had never, ever brought up with him) for my benefit.

Here was this wealthy-ish man, with his privileged view of the world, dictating my experience to me based on someone else’s experience. An experience full of sexual abuse that he may or may not have been fetishizing.

What was especially distressing to me was how little agency I was assigned in his narrative. To him, it wasn’t possible for me, A Woman, to enjoy bondage and humiliation without having been victimized — presumably by other men, but I didn’t ask because I was tired of him and of our conversation. Worse yet, his theory of “only abuse victims enjoy BDSM” did not apply to him and other men — it only applied to me and the other women/femmes he’d enjoyed tying up and whipping.

Which got me thinking: why didn’t he need a reason to enjoy non-vanilla sex, but I did?

The BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism) community, despite its often negative & abusive portrayals in media (looking at you, 50 Shades of Gray), is overwhelmingly sex positive. It emphasizes consent and enjoyment for all involved, and it’s here that I believe my date’s first mental roadblock appeared: enjoyment. Being into BDSM and openly talking about it/engaging in it is an admission of sexual enjoyment. And while my date never said “women don’t/shouldn’t enjoy sex,” that is a thought that is culturally ingrained in all of us. Sex is often seen as a thing that happens to women, not something that we seek out or actively enjoy. Even our language reflects this: men fuck, women get fucked.

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Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

Meanwhile, subtlety has never been my forté. As soon as sex is on the table (literally or figuratively), I am showcasing my collection of harnesses, cuffs, and gags to see if there’s a mutual interest. I am talking about scene preparation, safe words, and what forms of verbal humiliation would be hot. I clearly enjoy sex, and to some, that means that I am broken. If women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex, or at the very least shouldn’t enjoy sex, that means something has gone wrong. And what could that “something” be? Sexual trauma, of course!

Because so many men sexualize all the women in their lives, it’s often hard for them to imagine women as complex creatures who are capable of being motivated outside the parameters of their sexualization. I believe that, for my date, this was the second mental roadblock. There wasn’t a world where my kinks (if not my entire personality) hadn’t been defined by my sexual experiences with men. My date chose to interpret this literally. If I enjoyed bondage, submission, and humiliation, this was only because someone had done those things to me in the past, and this was my coping mechanism. While it was perfectly reasonable for him to enjoy the reverse (being the dom), it was abnormal for me to enjoy sex at all, let alone enjoy the fetishization of power we were experimenting with.

My date saw me as this maligned creature, filled to bursting with imagined sexual trauma that he could gratify himself to, either by getting to fulfill some twisted fantasy of abuse, or by getting to play the role of the chivalrous knight who got to pick up the pieces of my broken psyche and put me back together. The reality of the situation was much more boring: I like sex. I like kinky sex. And I don’t need a reason.

Queerdo. Writer. Gamer. Witchy. She/They. https://linktr.ee/eewchristman

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