Where Kink Is Concerned, The Whips and Chains Are Optional
Content Warning: This is an article discussing alternative sexuality and many of the links provided are not safe for work.
“I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.”―Oscar Wilde
“Oh honey, you’re kinky!” This was something I’d never expected to hear. Despite my being out of a disastrous first marriage in my late 20’s, I felt like a sexual newbie. I was at an ethical non-monogamy meetup, navigating the tumultuous waters of an unexpected single life again without a clear vision of who I was as person. This woman’s proclamation about my naughty nightly nuances had come after I’d answered her kink-related questions with what I thought were rather mundane intimate activities I’d shared with my then ex-wife.
It seems everyone has an opinion about what is too much for sex to be normal. According to some rather grouchy people, any form of sex that isn’t between a married cis male and cis female, for the exclusive purpose of procreation, is by definition a hell worthy trespass. It’s the eternal paradox: one person’s damnable transgression is another person’s fun Friday night. Arguably, if you aren’t hurting anyone, unless in a consensual and informed way, what is really wrong with it? Some people are complete busy bodies in how others get busy with their bodies.
For some people, sex needs to be very vanilla. Even oral sex seems out there for some people, despite columnist Dan Savage defending it as standard. The idea of adding optional accessories can seem weird, dirty and unsexy to many people. For these people, there is nothing inherently wrong as long as they are able to develop mutually enjoyable and fulfilling sexual relationships with one another.
However for others, the rabbit hole goes a very long way down. Just a visit to a sex shop, online or brick and mortar, will offer up for your perusal products that can boggle the mind of even the hardest core kinkster. There will be things that make you go hmm, maybe, hell no and “thank you sir, may I have another?”―assailing every facet of your imagination and curiosity. The entire realm of kink can be as simple as the inclusion of a vibrator to the complete embrace of BDSM, an initialism abbreviation which stands for different, but not necessarily separate aspects of the scene/Scene (a dual term to denote an individual play session, or capitalized to indicate the BDSM community as a whole):
- Bondage/Discipline: this can be as simple as silken scarves and bare handed spanking to complex rope bindings, leather (or faux leather) or metal cuffs or even specialty furniture restraints for full elaborate bondage play, with much more sensual components. Discipline can include OTK (over the knee spanking), flogging, caning, paddling or other forms of sensation play. With the designation of tops and bottoms for participants, the play often ends at the conclusion of the scene.
- Domination/Submission: Erotic power exchange is probably the most popular variant of the Scene, which can often include intense one time play scenes, to lifelong complex relationships involving collaring (often synonymous with partnership). Doms and Dommes denote one end of the spectrum, and subs (typically not capitalized) represent the opposite. There are many variants of role play dynamics such as CGL (Caregiver/Little, the most popular being Dom Daddy/little girl), puppy play, pony play, military play, police play, etc. that all exist to convey and explore different aspects of sensual and sexual play. This is about forming emotional/psychological relationships to serve various needs that are often left over from lifetime experiences. Often dynamics such as parental worship, in the case of positive supportive childhoods, exist as the impetus to capitalize on those wonderful emotional connections. Conversely, negative childhood experiences of neglect and abuse can be re-invented, not to replay past trauma but rather in reclaiming, empowering and reprogramming the psyche to alter the perception of self. For people in dominant lives, or submissive lives, claiming the opposite paradigm in the sexual and emotional context of kink play can also be exceedingly powerful, not to mention extremely cathartic. Some engage in 24/7 play where they are never really out of the scene, even while going about their jobs and normal lives.
- Sadism/Masochism: is probably the least understood dynamic, but the line between pleasure and pain is very thin, if even existent for some. The expression “hurt me so good” alludes to this blurred concept. For someone who is scrupulous in being gentle in their life, the attraction of letting go and inflicting pain with a willing partner can be unbelievably enjoyable in a consensual setting. Additionally, many people enjoy receiving pain, and can find sexual climax incredible heightened by its presence. Something as simple as an ass slap during sex can frequently push boundaries and buttons.
For the purposes of simplicity a bottom, submissive or masochist will collectively be called a sub, while a top, dominant or sadist will be called a Dom―participant gender is not assumed or implied. Another common acceptance in the kink community is simply that not all kinks are for any one person. If something squicks (grosses you out or feels uncomfortable) you, but is done by others in a consensual, safe and sane way (SSC), it’s simply “not my kink” (NMK). The idea is that there should be no judgement in what others do, as it’s just simply not your cup of tea. The mindset that most subs wish to achieve, called subspace, which is a trance-like deeply emotional surrender of self in the experience, with topspace being the dominant opposite, a deep focus on the needs and experience of your sub. Whole books can be written about these states.
I’m not seeking to define any of these three aspects of BDSM, as each has entire collections of books and online resources explaining them in incredible detail. Each has a place, and many people who appreciate them in their play as something that helps build their complete relationships with others, as well as their inner identities. As many have stated, this is not what you may have read about or saw in say Fifty Shades of Grey (a story about an abusive relationship, not consistent with the BDSM community as a whole), but rather part of sensual practices, sexuality and a history that goes back a very long way. I mention them for explanation only, as kink as a whole is not all or nothing.
I’m reminded of that startling personal revelation all those years ago, in that I didn’t think I was kinky, or more correctly that kinky. I had explored different things with my partner because she enjoyed them. For me, it was more a desire to please my partner, to find ways to make her feel good and enjoy pleasurable experiences together. Albeit our intimate encounters didn’t explore much pain, but stimulation of pleasurable responses. I found that I wanted to explore more.
In time, I found myself going to various Hollywood clubs which were more focused on dancing, but the dark aesthetics of the goth subculture lend to fetish being a welcome, if not expected, inclusion. This is where I first got to see Doms and Dommes showing off their sensual talents. Granted it was decidedly more performative and definitely more PG-13 in nature. However, it was quite intoxicating to watch while cooling off from interludes of dancing to the haunting melodies and swatting of the ethereal flies that seem to pester the average goth / industrial dancer. What drew me in, beyond the blindfolds, the ritual and the outfits often being not much more than the creative application of electrical tape, was the intimacy often shared between seemingly newly acquainted partners. It wasn’t the impacts that intrigued me, but the tenderness expressed. The simple caresses and attention to a sub was very beautiful to behold and I wanted to experience it myself.
I started doing my research and made purchases, as well as some very personal hands-on acquisitions, of various restraints, toys and particularly floggers. The idea of many of these toys was less about the hardest application to flesh, but the softest. Dragging a flogger gently across exposed skin can have a greater reaction that any aggressive impact. For kink it is often the subtlety, not the intensity, that factors the most.
But toys are not a requirement. With an imaginative mind and a willing partner, an incredibly erotic and powerful bond can be shared easily. A gentle caress of the fingertips across the exposed nape of the neck can cause amazing reactions. The brushing of lips below the navel can run shudders up a willing spine. I noticed that the most bonding moments would occur between partners, not when using implements, but by the simple contact of their bodies together. A single momentary embrace can be more powerful than all the tools in a toy bag.
Safety, of course must be adhered to even in less intense play and intimacy. I personally use a three word safeword scheme:
- Green: This is simply a term to establish if things are fine in the scene, to be used by the Dom. With a newer partner, understanding their responses can be difficult. Simply saying this when unsure as a Dom, will allow a newer sub to respond with another harder safeword if necessary without removing either partner from the scene. With experienced partners, this can be dropped altogether.
- Yellow: The scene is simply getting too intense. This is a good method for pushing soft limits, things that border personal limits but are still something a sub wants to explore. If a sub is particularly tired, or in a bad headspace, then this is a good means to redirect a scene, but not end it.
- Red: The sub has passed a breaking point and things must stop. Restraints need to be removed and aftercare (post scene care and bonding) needs to start. Later on, discussion of what went wrong is critical. This doesn’t mean a weakness in the sub, or even a failing in the Dom. Many things can trigger an adverse reaction, as well as simply miscommunication and error.
The reality is that nothing within the spectrum of kink is a requirement for any practitioner. You don’t have to subscribe to any particular aspect of it either. Your labels are entirely your own, despite what people may claim for you. Personally, I have frequently fallen into the service top aspect with past partners, as my personal enjoyment is often derived from the pleasure and experiences of my partners via intimate acts of service. In more recent days, my vibe has changed more to Daddy energy, a type of nurturing and protective father like dominance. I tend to be a dad to many, but a Daddy to some. I can enjoy much more vanilla play, and something like a full body massage can feel very much like a scene too. I’ve had partners that wanted absolutely nothing to do with any part of kink, as well as partners who wanted to visit the sex shop on the very first date. All of these experiences have become part of me as sexual being and the ecstatic gasp of a partner, whether in my bed or in a darkened corner of a club or party, is what drives me.
But What of Vegan Kink?
I’d originally written this article a couple years ago, but I wanted to update it to add to the interesting nuances of who I am as vegan for well over a year.
After I’d become vegan, I realized my toy bag was from from such. I had a luxuriantly soft elkskin flogger, as well buffalo skin and many leather implements. Leather restraints and feather ticklers. I wasn’t just eating a plant-based diet, but was in fact 100% ethical vegan. The thought of these animal components being used for pleasure squicked me to a fundamentally spiritual level. I was such a proponent of consensuality in intimate and sensual settings, but these living sentient feelings beings certainly hadn’t given consent to lose their lives and flesh for the pleasure I would impart to my partners. It was wrong to me, and I had to make a choice.
I was pleased when a mutual vegan friend, who crafted alternative clothing and jewelry, often worked with second hand leather products for her work, but with nothing that she had purchased. I packed up my floggers, crops, belts, restraints and everything that could makes someone yelp “yes, daddy, may I have another?” and sent it to her. I no longer had any instruments of “ooh la la” that came from the final cries of pain of an animal.
But what is a former leather daddy to do, when the leather is all gone? I looked into other alternatives. I realized many of my toys and restraints were in fact various types of faux leather. Caution had to be applied to things like PU leather, that often use some real leather in their construction. I replaced leather restraints with faux leather ones, neoprene and even nylon climbing webbing. I starting making my own vegan floggers from Paracord, and they have great complexity and versality of sensation. I also enjoy making things from rope, webbing and the like, and my toy bag finally looked like what it should be. Hemp rope, such as that of Twisted Monk, is almost always vegan. I invested non-allergy prone, latex-free, vegan lubricants and barriers such as Skyn and Sliquid, for when such things were needed. Stockroom offered a selection of beautiful restraints that were 100% vegan, their Vondage line.
My personal sense of style in the Scene was a factor as well. But being a fan of Verillas kilts, I discovered the wool they used was acrylic and most of their clothing was vegan too. I custom ordered from them a beautiful kilt belt and sporran for events. My boots switched to vegan Dr. Martens and Demonia. Even my necklaces had their leather cords replaced with steel chains. I was no longer a leather daddy, but a pleather daddy. The only pain I would inflict would be on willing consensual partners, and those that heard my bad dad jokes.
I know it’s hard to remove the allure of leather from the Scene, but I needed to remove that cruelty from my life. I still have a few boots that are made of leather, and when they wear out, I will replace them with vegan alternatives. My food, soaps, body products, clothing and entertainment are all free from animal use. I love animals, and refuse to eat or harm them. I love submissive partners, but will only hurt them in only ways that drive them to pleasure and powerful emotional, and fully consensual, subspace.
I define my kink level. I define my capacity to adore, cherish and share with my partners, in the ways that fulfills both of our needs. I enjoy doing my best at becoming a truly attentive lover and kink practitioner with them, whether they’ve been naughty or nice―preferably both.