LGBTQQICAPF2… K? There are many arguments about what should be included in the full LGBTQ+ initialism, and one of the most recent has involved the inclusion of “kink”. Supporters of its inclusion insist that, as a marginalised sexuality, it has earned its place there. Critics of its inclusion insist that, as it has nothing to do with gender-based discrimination, it has no right to muscle in. Kink is a case of how you have sex, they say, and not who with. Neither is it inherently concerned with gender identity. So should we let the cis-hets in?
Dr Patty Stokes, Associate Professor of Instruction in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department at Ohio University, understands where those who wish to add the “K” are coming from, but feels they stand on tenuous ground. “A group of people who’ve been historically persecuted, who have shared oppression, is one way to draw a line,” she says. “Another way to draw the line is to look at people who live a life not necessarily outside of heteronormativity, but nevertheless outside of [sexual] normativity. However, one of the things that makes kink different from being gay, lesbian or bisexual… is that kink can be kept completely private, at least in theory. It can be done in the privacy of your own home or in a kink club, whereas LGBT people obviously find it harder to stay under the radar.”
Polyamory and kink
Stokes does concede that there are exceptions. “That said, it can come out. Someone you know might see you coming out of a kink club. You might have got into polyamory through kink. It could come up in a child custody battle as a weapon used by one of the parents against the other.” She points out that many “straight” people involved in the kink scene also use the argument that, like LGBT people, kinksters can’t help the way they are. “The original fight for gay and lesbian rights leant on a sort of ‘born this way’ narrative, although these days it’s more accepted that they deserve legal protections regardless of whether they were born that way or became that way… A lot of kinky people claim that kink is also hardwired and therefore comparable to an orientation and not just a preference. For some kinky people, however, it’s just a way to spice things up and for others it’s a mandatory part of sex. It could be compared to the fact that my cats are carnivores and I’m an omnivore, so I can choose to eat no meat or little meat but my cats can’t. Some kinky people see themselves as obligate ‘kinkivores’!”
Grace, 40, is a 24/7 domme to her girlfriend. “She’s collared, but she works in a very corporate environment so we chose a very delicate collar that could easily be mistaken for a locket necklace. So far nobody has the faintest idea that we have a BDSM relationship, but everyone she works with cottoned on to the fact she had a female partner pretty early on.” Grace is somewhat bemused by the fact that so many in the BDSM community see it as inextricably linked to the LGBTQ+ community. “We have a number of heterosexual kinky friends and a number of very vanilla lesbian, gay and bi friends. I find it interesting that amongst the former category, there are some who attend LGBT events, and yet amongst the latter group there has been no interest whatsoever in attending BDSM events in the hopes of attracting a same-sex partner or meeting likeminded people!”
Patrick, 29, is a firm proponent of adding in the “K”. He tells OutNewsGlobal: “My girlfriend and I were on a pretty much ‘anything goes’ Facebook kink group that we didn’t realise wasn’t private. In retrospect it was incredibly stupid of us not to check, but we just assumed… A week after we both joined, my girlfriend was called into her boss’s office and dismissed because she was ‘harming the company’s reputation’ by ‘advertising her interest’ in such things.” Patrick believes that BDSM enthusiasts are at the same (or perhaps even a higher) risk of discrimination as those who are LGBT. “I believe in safety in numbers and in this case, I’m more than happy to scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine. Perhaps not the best choice of words, but you know what I mean.”
Every year the kink presence at Prides across the world seems to escalate, with complaints expanding beyond “Why are you on a Pride march if you’re a cis-gendered heterosexual?” to “Is it really a consensual practice to force other people to look at your bits?” LGBT individuals – and in particular bi women and gay men – are already stereotyped as hypersexual, without people crashing their parade in outfits and accessories that leave little to the imagination. There is no doubt that many queer people enjoy BDSM practices, and this may of course be due in part to the fact that they have already had to tussle with the fact that their sexuality is outside the “norm” and so are less afraid to be creative in how they express it. But this doesn’t mean they outnumber straight people in the BDSM community. BDSM is for everyone who fancies it. LGBT is for everyone who is LGBT.