Sometimes your kink is NOT okay

Originally posted on Tumblr

Sometimes I think a lot of kinksters just expect everyone to drop whatever critical lens they may have upon entering the public scene. “Your kink is okay” is drilled into people as a way of making room for the wide variety of things that fall under the kink/fetish/BDSM umbrella. It’s a useful thing to remember when you encounter things that squick you, or that just hold no appeal. Just because it’s not your kink doesn’t mean it’s bad.

But what about when you’re pretty sure that someone’s kink is *not* okay? Are we supposed to drop our ethics or our ideologies? Are we supposed to behave like once the leather and latex come out then we’ve entered a critique-free zone? Is BDSM the key to a mythical, objective, ideology-free world? That what some folks seem to think.

“If you don’t like it, then don’t participate,” they’ll say. “It’s not your place to judge.” As if scenes, fetishes, and relationships existed in a void, neither affected by nor affecting anything not directly connected to them.

But sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, misogyny and all the systems of oppression within which we live don’t miraculously disintegrate once you enter the dungeon. We can still engage in problematic behaviors under the guise of BDSM.

That race play scene may have been the best thing ever for the people involved, but it could still bring up very real memories and fears for the people who saw or heard it. And even if race play is your kink, that doesn’t mean that it’s not fair game for analysis, for wondering how actual racism interacts with it.

You may have a fetish for corrupting young girls, but your swooping down on every young woman who is a newcomer still reeks of rape culture.

“Forced bi” activities might get you hard as a rock, but they still interact with, and possibly reinforce, homophobia and biphobia.

Sissification may be where you feel most at peace, but it still plays off of misogyny, transphobia and transmisogyny.

You might buy into a kink fandom built on the idea that women should be submissive and men dominant, but the fact that it’s your kink doesn’t make it not sexist.

And you’re right. People who have problems with these things don’t have to play with those people. It’s true. But the effects of the prejudices that are interwoven with these kinks don’t dissipate just because they happen to turn someone on. They still work to create an environment that’s often not welcoming to the people most affected by types of oppressions that inform the kinks. And as long as that’s happening, then “Don’t judge. It’s just not your kink,” doesn’t cut it for me. I will critique. I will criticize. I will bring my full self, ethics, ideology, and all, to any situation. I may take my glasses off to fuck, but my critical lens stays in place.

And maybe you don’t like that. Maybe you think I’m harshing your mellow judgment free zone. And that’s fine. But critique is my kink. And my kink is okay, right?

Quiet

O God, make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.
~ St. Clement, from The Doubleday Prayer Collection

I have been wondering lately how the ubiquity of the Internet and the culture of the Internet at this point in time affect the ways we communicate and the ways I communicate. I have been and am thankful for the technology that has allowed for disparate voices to be heard and for connections to be formed despite geography. So many people now have the platform to share their thoughts with countless others, and to do so directly, mediated only by the technology. It has undoubtedly changed my life for the better.

But in some ways the effects have not been so wonderful. In the din of billions of voices I’m desperate to be heard, and I feel that most of the other people I encounter online are as well. We, perhaps, become more and more solidified in our thoughts (and in our hearts) because we are competing for a limited amount of attention from others. If we simply say it louder, strong and without compromise then we’re bound to get a stronger response, a stronger validation, right? Right?

I look at my own desire to be heard and the ways I’ve shaped my ways of thinking to fit into the instant-response culture of the Internet, and I’m not sure I like the ways I’ve been speaking and writing. If I don’t immediately respond to a discussion, it moves along without me. If I take the time to consider my response then by the time it’s ready to be shared it has become irrelevant. Faced with communication possibilities hardly dreamed of when I was younger, I see that slow, measured, considered communication is lost. Again I’ve given circumstances in which loud, strong, uncompromising communication is valued, especially when it’s instant.

In some ways we’re losing ourselves in the flood of humanity we’re exposed to daily. We respond to that by holding ourselves to stronger ideas of self, by having instant responses, by talking louder and faster in the hope that something, anything will be heard in the deluge of voices. We’re so desperate to be heard that we don’t listen. We don’t stop. We don’t allow ourselves to be changed by others. We’re so afraid that our silence means our own death that we refuse to listen each other into existence.

I crave more silence. I crave more listening. I’m afraid of losing myself in that listening, but if I truly believe what I recently wrote, that I only exist in relationship, then in order to live my self I have to allow for the vulnerability of hearing and being heard. That means letting go of the hard hearted core of “self” to which I cling and opening to the question of who I am and who we are. That means silences, both in turn and shared. I’ll never be more myself than when I truly hear and am heard by the Other.

O Jesus, Son of God, who was silent before Pilate, do not let us wag our tongues without thinking of what we are to say and how to say it.
~ Irish Gaelic Prayer, from The Doubleday Prayer Collection

Who dat say dey gonna own dem words?

In January 2010 someone at the National Football League said, “Holy shit! People are paying attention to the Saints!” and proceeded to send cease and desist letters to businesses selling merchandise with the phrase “Who Dat?” on it. The NFL eventually backed off under massive public pressure. Of course the fact that someone else had the phrase trademarked before the NFL claimed exclusive rights helped push them to back off.

At the time I was most struck by the absurdity of anyone claiming to own two words that are so much a part of the culture. It’s ludicrous. And I knew that trademark would eventually come back around to bite us in the ass again. Now Sal and Steve Monistere and their company, in an effort to assert their right to the phrase, are suing local businesses who are selling Who Dat merchandise. Once again there’s going to be an outcry against this, but it’s going to be much more difficult to stop the Monistere’s.

The problem here isn’t greed, it’s intellectual property itself. Somewhere along the way people decided they could own ideas. Anything that had been part of culture could now be privately held. Where once poems could inspire books which could inspire operas that would inspire other operas, now licensing stood in the way.

For nearly all of human history our stories, our songs, our poetry, our language was held in common. Stories would evolve as they were retold, adapting to fit different circumstances. Poems would be recited by anyone who knew them. Songs were sung by anyone with the ability. Now all of that has been taken away. To sing a song publicly, you have to pay a fee. To share a poem, you have to get permission from its owner. To retell a story, you have to pay for the license to do so.

And apparently to print a chant widely used by the population of south Louisiana, you have to pay Sal and Steve Monistere.

I say, along with most folks in this area, that “Who Dat” belongs to everyone. I’m not just saying that because the chant predates the trademark claim. I’m not just saying that because the phrase has grown beyond its use by the Monistere’s and thus transcends their right to ownership.

“Who Dat” belongs to everyone in the same way that Cinderella, Rent, “Howl,” “Stairway to Heaven” and the letter B belong to everyone. Art and language are not private property, but cultural property. No one person can claim any of it. Stories, songs, poems and chants grow out of their cultures and belong to everyone.

Who dat say dey own “Who Dat?” Me. And you. And everyone.