probably kicking a hornets’ nest

There’s this discourse that goes around every now and then. Someone says that kink and polyamory don’t belong under the general queer umbrella because something something respectability. Someone else rejoins that actually kinky and poly people have been part of queer communities for decades and that there’s more overlap than you might think. Kink and poly are queer, goes the second argument, because most kinksters and polyamorists are queer.

I don’t actually disagree with B here. The respectability-fueled splintering of queer communities is pretty recent; certain subcultures have historically been entwined with queerness. But I’m always a little confused after reading that discourse, because – well, as a straight poly person, where am I supposed to fit?

It’s not like I’m champing at the bit to be “allowed” to identify as queer or anything. I don’t really care about terminology. It’s hella cognitive whiplash, though – the fact that there’s so much overlap between queer issues and poly issues, but I feel like I’m not supposed to address that or compare notes because I’m in love with two men instead of two women.

I read something yesterday, for instance, along the lines of “straight privilege is never having to pretend your lover is just a friend”. Uh, I *do* pretend – at work, anyway – that one of my lovers is just a friend. But there’s so much ambient “don’t compare oppressions” bullshit that I’m pretty sure I’d be shouted down if I mentioned that, at least in my meatspace social circle. Because then I’d be some entitled straight (white) appropriator.

Sometimes it seems like even people who acknowledge that categories have changed in the past still think, explicitly or implicitly, that it would be blasphemy for them to change again. As though all of evolution were working up to *right now*. We didn’t think about poly people when we were forming the LGBT coalition, which must mean they don’t “belong” in some cosmic sense. The current boundaries are the most natural and correct ones, after all. Maps are territories, right?

I find it incredible when folks who must have heard queer antagonistic assholes be like ‘but if the gays marry then people will want polygamy and bestiality’ and yet still think that somehow Straight™️ folks are a-okay on the non-monogamy train.

Have people lost their shit? Like okay go call your parents and be like ‘oh yeah uh hi so I’m bringing my two partners to our next big family event’ or any similar sort of line and what do people think parents are going to do? Be like ‘yeah okay’? I mean aside from the tons of different negative responses from derision to rejection, having to explain yourself and be asked for personal details that people aren’t entitled to, there’s the sexualization of non-monogamous/polyamorous folks. Like ‘have you had a threesome’ and people assuming you’d be into them just bc you are non-monogamous.

Additionally consider legal issues! Marriage, kids, etc? What part of the law does anyone think is in ANY way prepared for this? Do all polyamorous folks even have marriage equality?

Honestly I’m tired. How do people not think of this stuff. How do people not realize that the above stuff sounds exactly like every other sort of bigotry directed at queer folks ever?

I’m totally in agreement with the poly side of this post.

I also very much dislike the whole “you have to have an oppressed or marginalized identity to be part of the LGBTQ community” thing. This results in things like pissing contests about who is more oppressed, ace exclusion, excluding cishet GNC people, etc.

But I also think things are somewhat more complex when it comes to the relationship between kink and being queer.

There are some forms of “kink” which are extremely mainstream and deeply immersed in cisnormativity and heteronormativity. The “degradation” element of kink is also often used to enforce sexism and sometimes transphobia. And in fact sometimes this culture is so dominant in kink culture that it makes people who experience certain types of queerness in their sexuality, find it hard to get away from. I wrote about this in this post which I would encourage ppl to read if they haven’t.

I think when we talk about kink it’s important to make a distinction between a healthy and consensual kink culture, which often involves reclaiming slurs, or using role plays as an empowering way to subvert destructive elements of mainstream sex culture…and the mainstream sex culture itself which often takes elements of kink and uses them to directly reinforce those problematic elements.

I can’t even count how many blogs I run into on Tumblr, when I’m not looking for them, where it’s someone promoting either a daddy kink, a degradation kink either directed at themselves or others, some sort of transfetishization, or some combination of the above, and nowhere on the blog is there any explanation or link to or sharing of material promoting healthy kink culture or healthy sex culture in general, so there’s no way to see that the person isn’t just promoting the bad things you see at face value. And that’s often how it comes across, especially when these blogs show anons or psuedo-anon accounts interacting with the person and the person egging them on.

In most cases, there’s often nothing remotely queer about these blogs. And it’s like, mainstream conservative Christian culture might frown on these sorts of “kink” out in the open, but how do you know that the same people aren’t all just going behind the scenes and participating in them secretly? After all, they reinforce many of the same values and ways of thinking about sex.

Kink can go two very different ways. It can go the healthier, consensual way, which I agree belongs under the queer umbrella, and it can go this other way. I think it’s important that we make this distinction when we talk about it. The one way is very much overlapping with polyamory and also to a large degree with LGBTQ issues. The other one overlaps little and is often even opposed to the LGBTQ community.

It’s disingenuous to try to claim that problematic or abusive kink is somehow a different quality of thing, I think. A gay guy can be sexist, or transphobic, and he can be so in a way that interacts with his gayness (the classic example would be gay guys reinforcing ‘vaginas are gross and disgusting’), and a gay guy can abuse his partner – these are both bad things that ‘the LGBT community’ doesn’t wanna be promoting, but that doesn’t make them not gay.

Kink communities often don’t acknowledge this as much as they should, but they owe a huge amount to gay/leather communities, and there’s historically been a huge amount of crossover. There’s nothing inherently straight about degradation. The language used in conjunction with ‘sissies’ or forced crossdressing kink sounds transphobic and homophobic – but I’ve also heard about it being how people figured out they were some manner of not-entirely-cis, and it being a supportive community for that. If it turns out autogynephilia is a thing that’s connected in some way to some trans peoples’ experiences – or even just if that’s a thing people are going to keep arguing – then people are actively using stigma against kink as a weapon against trans people, which they couldn’t if there was less stigma about kink. 

So daddy stuff? Gay guys do that. Degradation? So not a straight thing. Transfetishisation? I’m not sure what you specifically mean by this, but it’s almost certainly not just a cis thing. And I’m sure it’s also difficult to handle for some queer people, but competing access needs in queer spaces isn’t actually new. It’s a similar thing to how ‘some people need pride to be a big in your face sexy thing because it’s a break from having to hide that side of you, and some people are uncomfortable with being around that and/or want to fight the idea that being gay is all about sex.’

Like saying ‘these kinks will be acceptable, and these kinks won’t be’ is never going to work – even if you could get everyone to agree, the end result is not accepting kink, it’s just moving the goalposts. ‘Bad wrong sex that makes you a bad person for doing it’ – i.e. kink –  is still a thing, you just moved some acts from one category to the other. The only way this works in proper synergy with LGBT stuff – bearing in mind how ‘they have weird freaky wrong sex’ has always been a way to dismiss LGBT people or a reason to hate or distrust them – is if it’s ‘risk-aware people consensually doing what makes them happy is fine, whatever that might be.’

I agree with what you said about LGBTQ people being able to act out harmful things like your examples of gay guys acting out sexism or misogyny, or transphobia. I’ve even encountered a lot of transphobia and binarism directed at me from other trans people.

I still however think that there is often a fundamental difference between “bad” or problematic kink, and healthy kink.

In my experience, they are often so far from each other, they are often very divorced in terms of subculture, mindset, and ways of playing out.

Like when 50 shades of gray came out and got popular, there was this HUGE outpouring of support in the BDSM community that seemed, to me, like a near complete consensus, of “This is really bad.” and furthermore, an overwhelming majority of people were saying “This is not BDSM. This is not kink. This is the very opposite of what our community is about.” Like the idea is that there is a superficial resemblance, but on a deep level, it is very different.

Yet there are a whole bunch of people out there in society that think of 50 shades when they think of kink and BSDM.

I think you may be missing the point that I’m trying to make here. I’m not trying to say “these kinks will be acceptable, and these kinks won’t be.”

What I’m trying to say is that there is a way to approach kink that subverts existing power structures, and there is a way to approach kink that lives within and reinforces power structures. And I think there’s a fundamental difference between these two.

They may superficially look similar, and they may even activate, appeal to, or stem from the same sort of fetishes or kinks in people’ sexual experiences. But I think they’re fundamentally different.

And I think the one goes hand-in-hand with the LGBTQ community and the poly community, whereas the other is often very much at odds with it.

Does this distinction make sense?

I don’t think any kink, if done in a fully consensual negotiated way, reinforces power structures.

For example, I had a scene in an RP with a partner, who is disabled both IRL and in the RP, where my character tried to make his character do something his disability prevented him from doing and mocked and abused him when he failed. Which sounds like it’s reinforcing existing power dynamics, right?

Except that before that, I asked him what his comfort level would be with that kind of scene, and he knew the whole time that he could opt out of it.

There is a fundamental difference between power dynamics as an explicitly negotiated and consensual thing and power dynamics as a coercively enforced social norm.

Just like there’s a difference between a masculine guy topping a feminine guy because they both prefer it that way as opposed to the masculine guy topping because masculine people are ‘supposed to’ top feminine people. Or between a man and woman having children and the woman staying at home because she wants to be a stay at home parent and her husband would go nuts with boredom, versus making the same choice because they’ve been taught that a good mother has to stay home while the father has to be the provider.

The point of liberation isn’t to stop anyone from doing whatever society has deemed the norm (or a parody of such). It’s to stop people from being forced into doing those things when it doesn’t suit them.


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