I’m just going to come out and say it, I’ve got a banging RACK. No, I’m not rambling on about my own set of knockers – I’m talking about Risk Aware Consensual Kinks.
In this post-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey world, kinks are well and truly becoming the norm in many of our bedrooms. From bondage and orgasm control to roleplay: we’re becoming more comfortable in our kinky sex lives.
As amazing as the sex-positive movement is, especially in its inclusion of kinks such as BDSM (because you know, who can ever have enough sets of handcuffs?), many kinks which fall outside of what is a ‘societal norm’ such as choking or golden showers are often kink-shamed and that is definitely not sex positive.
What is kink-shaming (and how can I stop it?)
Oh, I am so glad you asked! Kink-shaming is a term used to define acts where people are humiliated or criticised over their kinks. It is used to discourage people from certain sexual acts or fetishes and is actually very ingrained into our societal norms.
Take foot fetishes, for example. I will bet that you’ve heard at least one joke about a foot fetish in your lifetime and maybe you’re thinking, but what’s the harm? Well, I’m about to hit you with some facts. Sexuality is a factor of health; expressing your sexuality and fetishes in a safe and comfortable environment is essential for healthy development, satisfying sex, and all-round wellbeing!
When we turn fetishes into the punchlines of jokes, we add shame to something which is quite possibly a massive turn-on to someone else. Just like it would be incredibly rude, inappropriate, and detrimental to someone’s self-esteem to laugh at them after they show you their naked body for the first time, it’s similarly unkind and detrimental to mock the things that turn other people on.
I have some good news though: stopping kink-shaming is really easy.
I’m not saying you’ve got to enjoy or participate in every kink you hear about – that’s just unrealistic. However, if a partner tells you about a kink they have, instead of saying ‘ew’ or ‘no way’, a good alternative might be listening. Have open chains of communication, let them tell you what they like and then you can make an informed decision about whether that’s something you fancy trying.
You are totally within your rights to say ‘no thanks, that’s not my thing’, just do it nicely. There’s no reason to hate on someone else’s kink just because it doesn’t float your boat.
However, it’s really important to highlight the difference between kink-shaming and genuine concern for a family member, friend or partner. If you feel like a person is vulnerable or partaking in RACKs that are potentially unsafe (where they are not recognising the risks involved) then it is important to discuss this in a kind and safe way.
Consent, consent & even more consent!
I am all for the kinks. I’m down with the cuffs, ropes & paddles. You want to choke me? Yes. Amazing. But you know what the super, important and defining factor in the above sentence is? Consent.
My partner and I have been together for almost two years. I’d say we know each other, and our own preferences, pretty well. Still, every time we have sex, we check in numerous times throughout the steamy sessions to ensure we’re both down for what’s happening and that we’re both happy & comfortable.
This is because there is no such thing as implied consent. Just because you’ve done something once with a partner doesn’t mean you or your partner will consent the next time through. Consent is sexy, it doesn’t have to be robotic. It can be as simple as ‘are you enjoying this?’, ‘is this okay?’, or ‘do you mind if I do this to you next?’.
One of the massive issues with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey was the portrayal of consent. In the film, Ana is in love with Christian, who is turned on by the power differential of submissive and dominant roles during sex. However, Ana doesn’t feel very comfortable about being a submissive to him but doesn’t want to lose him, resulting in her participating because she is too nervous to say otherwise.
There is the crux of the issue: a huge power imbalance which doesn’t represent healthy and safe BDSM practices, one which was romanticised and idolised by millions.
Kink-shaming is not your kink
In 2016, at the height of its power, a video arose on the website Vine where the phrase “kink-shaming is my kink” was used. Now, I’m not out to cause a fight but I am about to do some myth busting for you. Kink-shaming is mocking or criticising someone for their particular kink(s) and, unless you asked that person if it was okay for you to be cruel towards them and their fantasy, it’s not consensual and as such it’s not a kink.
People are usually rude about other people’s kinks when they don’t fit their idea of normal – but here is some ground-breaking news for you all: everyone’s normal is different.
Kink-shaming functions on a higher societal level than just in our bedrooms at home. Normalising the attachment of shame to kinks and generalised negativity towards sex feeds into a culture of contained sexual liberation. Can we really say that we are liberated if there are such strong societal constraints? We’re only liberated if we’re free to do whatever it is that turns us on, and if we’re made to feel rubbish about what we like, it pushes us towards having sex lives that are deemed ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’.
Let’s face it, the world would be boring if we were all having missionary sex all day, every day.
Is vanilla the winner?
So, is the answer vanilla sex? Well, I guess it sort of is. However, just as much as vanilla sex is part of the answer, kinky sex is too. Whatever kind of sex you like, that’s the kind of sex you should be having. As long as it is consensual, safe, and you’re having a good time then go forth and enjoy. If you don’t want to have sex at all? That’s good too!
While you go and enjoy whatever sex you want, it is equally important to allow others the same rights to enjoy the sex they enjoy – again, as long as it’s consensual and risk aware – without judgement.
These are our bodies, and we should be living out our sexually liberated lives free of shame, judgement and prejudice. It’s like my mum said growing up, ‘they’re only saying mean things because they’re jealous’.
Away you go, lock the doors and have all the kinky (or not kinky) sex you want!