This subject blew up on Twitter recently.
Since I did a post about polyamory because I’m polyamorous, I think it’s reasonable for me to touch on this subject because I’m kinky. Also I’m a masochist so infer what you will.
Full disclosure, I’ve never actually attended a Pride event in person because I am what you might call an awkward autistic introvert who is often afraid of people, only occasionally crawling out of my shell to grasp at straws of socialization to sustain me before running back home to my cats, baby, and polycule. I can only discuss this from a theoretical perspective using understanding of Pride events I’ve gained from watching videos and being part of the online LGBT+ community, though do hope one day to go in person. Maybe.
I think there’s two different questions that are actually being asked when someone talks about kink at pride. The first and more simple one is, should people at Pride represent their kinky side freely? The second is, should the kink community be part of what is celebrated at Pride, as the kink community includes the straights? In fact, I honestly thought the second was the reason for the Twitter explosion because the first is just… really people? But apparently it was the first. So I’ll address that first.
To answer the question: should people at Pride represent their kinky side? Basically… yes.
Kink At Pride
What is considered kink? That’s an important question to answer here. To different people, it means different things. Some people imagine wearing tight leather, carrying a whip, and punishing submissives when you say “kinky”, and someone else might think that using a vibrator is kinky. Simply defined, “Kinky” just means unconventional so it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what is kinky for everyone. Once upon a time (and to some people, still now), trans people existing was considered kinky. Even though, you know, they were just existing. You can’t police kinky because one person’s kinky is another person’s existence. What’s kinky today may be conventional tomorrow. Pride is a place to push for tomorrow.
Given this, to me, the answer is simple. Let people represent their kinky selves. If someone wants to walk around in leather pants and a harness, let them. A bit of kinky clothing is just another form of expression. If you don’t like it… get over yourself and stop trying to control what other people wear.
I do think that, given the laws of the land, nudity should be restricted to 18+ areas. Though my understanding from reading about people who have been to Pride events and listening to their stories is that this actually isn’t as common as some people would have you believe, so it’s more of a non-issue than the internet at large thinks it is. There are youth Pride events and family friendly events and kinksters know not to be kinky there. So, there’s space for everyone and this isn’t a real issue.
I do agree that performing any kink scenes in public non-age-restricted areas wouldn’t be okay because that would involve people who haven’t necessarily consented to it in your sexual experience. Dress in something BDSM-y to represent your version of kink and have a paddle on your waistband while walking around at Pride and celebrating your sexual identity? You do you. Spank someone in public and cover them in hot wax while they beg for more? That’s less okay because the people around you become unwitting/unwilling participants in a voyeuristic capacity, and consent is key to kink. But just dressing a certain way is not forcing anyone to be involved in kink. Importantly, my understanding is this is mostly people crying wolf, and that this isn’t common at all, so stop clutching your pearls. There’s so many bad things actually happening to the LGBT+ community that it is silly to me for people to be upset about something as ridiculously harmless as kink at Pride. Get upset about something that matters instead of trying to control how others celebrate their sexuality.
BuT ThINk of tHe ChILdRen!
Oh, shut up. Kids see more at the beach with bikinis and speedos than they do with a person wearing a pony hood and skin-tight latex. Honestly, I’d love to see the Venn diagram of people who want to ban kinky clothes and people who want to ban hijabs. That would be a really funny overlap. Also, neither should be banned, but we’re getting off topic.
A lot of kinky clothing choices can be explained away in a non-sexual manner to children. Just say, “Some people like to dress in costumes”. Do you feel the need to ban heterosexuals from dressing up as a sexy cat on Halloween? Probably not, and if a kid asks a question about said sexy cat, all you have to say is someone felt like wearing that costume. End of story.
Of course, there is actually some benefit to knowing that kink exists. So yeah, let’s “think of the children” for a sec. There is an age appropriate way to discuss sex. That’s why we have sex education for pre-teens and teens. As such, there is an age appropriate way to address kink. It can be as simple as “Some grown-ups enjoy playing dress up when they kiss each other.” Or for older teens, it can include a few definitions and an assurance that having interest in, say, a fetish doesn’t make them a bad person. Explain to them that they can explore their sexuality on their own terms when they’re old enough.
I think that having some sort of healthy acknowledgement that the kink world existed would have spared me a lot of internal torment as a teenager. For a long time, I legitimately thought there was something wrong with me for the fantasies I would have. I mean, obviously if I want to know what it would be like for someone to tie me up and hurt me I must have something wrong with me, right? No one should want to be chained up like Prince Philip in Maleficent’s dungeon in the Disney Sleeping Beauty movie because the goal for him was to be freed!
My only real education around sex was, “Penis goes in vagina, something called orgasms exist but we’re not going to define it in a thorough enough way that you know what it actually is for anyone who doesn’t have a penis, HERE’S ALL THE STDS THAT WILL ABSOLUTELY RUIN YOUR LIFE IF YOU TOUCH A PENIS BEFORE MARRIAGE, and this is how pregnancy works and you will probably get pregnant if you ever have sex.” The discussion of “people can be attracted to different things” consisted of “sometimes people think that arms are attractive, some people think eyes are attractive, and that’s okay”. I didn’t hear the phrase “safe, sane, and consensual” that is a staple of the kink community until I was an adult trying to teach myself. That is a very important phrase to know. It is really disturbing in retrospect that for a lot of things, porn was my teacher. We can do better than that. So think of children like me and do better.
Kink Community At Pride
There are a lot of LGBT+ people and queer people who are part of the kink community and obviously I think there shouldn’t be any real argument about whether they’re allowed a place at Pride. The question to me that is a little more difficult is whether the kink community as a whole, including the cis-straights, has a place at pride.
Kink is a little different from something like polyamory or LGBT+ identity. Polyamory, same-sex attraction, and gender identity are about who you are every day and about love and relationships, so it’s more than “just sex”. Not that people in the kink community can’t have kink centered relationships or live the lifestyle 24/7, but generally speaking, kink isn’t something that has a place in everyday public life. And maybe there’s an argument to be made that we should be more open about sex. Western society is very prudish about sex. Relationships are okay to be open about (though, of course, people have prejudices as to what they think relationships should look like), but you can’t really admit how you have sex without repercussion. I was grounded for losing my virginity at age 19 and a part of the reason for that was definitely the light bruising I had from getting a little bit rough. It didn’t help that I overshared things I knew they didn’t want to know about regarding getting kinky to try and get my parents to stop prying and let me be an adult. That backfired spectacularly.
My parents and their decision to ground me when learning that not only had I had sex but the sex I’d had wasn’t exactly vanilla are a decent microcosm representing the culture in a lot of places in the US. While it’s not and never has been illegal for kinky-minded heterosexuals to get married, it would be considered shameful and something to potentially be fired for if, say, a man were to be outed as enjoying being a submissive. So if a factor in “do you belong at Pride” is “Have you experienced oppression?”, then the answer for kinksters as a community is yes.
But there is more than that. I think Pride is meant to be subversive. The pink line included in many versions of the rainbow Pride flag is meant to represent sex and sexuality. Pride isn’t meant to make outsiders comfortable, it’s meant to normalize things that aren’t wrong but that have been demonized and sometimes even criminalized throughout history and around the world.
In my blog post about why polyamory belongs at Pride (Found here: Does Polyamory Belong at Pride?), I give the following reasons.
- People who identify this way are subject to discrimination in these ways:
- It’s often considered immoral [despite not being immoral]
- Being open about it can have professional repercussions
- It can be used against you in child custody arrangements
- Family can disown you over it
- Many people feel it’s an intrinsic part of their sexuality and identity
- Gatekeeping identity is wrong (to be addressed further below)
All these things can be applied to members of the kink community. Given these points, there is definitely an argument to be made that the kink community has a place at Pride.
Where the kink community differs from polyamory is that there are conventions and events and parties for kink. Cis-straight kinky people don’t need a new place because they already have one. Polyamorous people don’t have that, at least not to the same extent, which I think is a vital box that needs to be checked.
I also have another point that is important to this discussion. There is more to belonging at Pride than answering yes to the question “do you have a historically oppressed identity?” To draw a parallel, I’d like to bring up interracial, cis-straight relationships. When race and pride in POC identity intersect with LGBT+ identity, it is welcome (or at least should be welcome) at Pride. But there isn’t a Pride flag just for cis-straight POC, or cis-straight interracial relationships. It’s just not the place, not the discussion being had with this venue. Is there a discussion to be had about the issues people with these identities and relationships have and do they need support in the face of a world that isn’t always kind to their existence? Absolutely, no question. My own interracial marriage only exists because brave people in love before me challenged norms and changed laws by having that discussion. Is Pride the place for heterosexual interracial focus? No. So perhaps, in a similar vein, the answer for “should kink be at Pride” should be no.
“Queer”, a term I use here as a more all-encompassing way to refer to the LGBT+ community, is an identity that is forever changing. We’re always adding letters, always trying to assure ourselves and each other that our identity is valid. Sometimes finding where we fit is difficult. There’s a common joke that the most queer thing you can say is that you don’t feel like you’re queer enough to be queer. Which, as a bisexual in a marriage with a man, I can totally relate to. Sometimes queer doesn’t look queer from the outside. But anyone who would go up to someone who identifies as queer in some way and say, “You’re not queer enough, get out” is a trash human being.
I don’t think a lot of straight kinksters identify as queer because our general definition of queer doesn’t include them right now. And that’s okay, as long as the reason is that it just isn’t their identity rather than feeling pushed out. I think there’s an argument for it under the umbrella of what queer sex means. Maybe in a hundred years two lesbians having vanilla sex will just be considered normal sex and two (or more) straights dressing up in latex and gas masks to have sex with handcuffs on will be queer sex.
As we as a society have more and more conversations about sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender, and relationships, Pride will expand. Where’s the harm in that, as long as everything is between people who can and do consent? But every time it does, some purist is going to say, “That’s not who we’re here for!” That purist is clinging to a past where someone felt excluded instead of moving forward to a world where everyone can be who they want, love who they want, and fuck how they want, preferably free of retribution (given the gold standard of consenting adults and safe, sane, and consensual relationships/sex).
Honestly, I don’t know if kink belongs at Pride. I think there’s good arguments for and against, as I’ve gone over here. Since there’s no clear cut answer, I think that whether or not someone in the kink community thinks they belong at Pride should be a decision they make. If someone’s kink identity is so strong that they feel Pride is where they belong, I won’t be the one to tell them they don’t.
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