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What is kink? In a patriarchal society that closes doors on all open talk about sex and sexuality, can we open up to demolishing misconceptions about kink?
In a country where sex remains controversial, consent is misunderstood, and the laws deem PDA, porn, and sex toys as illegal, kink would be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Yet there is an increasing number of Indians who are active participants in the kink community.
But what exactly is kink? And from what we know of it (from the one movie everyone has watched), is kink really fun and consensual?
In sexuality terms, kink means any sexual practice or behaviour that is ‘non-conventional’. I’m using the word non-conventional lightly, because, until 2018, ‘normal’ only included penile-vaginal sex.
Kink can fall into three broad categories.
However odd or explicit it may sound, all these activities are carried out by consenting adults.
In highly collectivistic cultures, like India or Asia, individual desires and wants are secondary. Maintaining a balance within society and family has higher importance. Pair this with how we view consent and sex, and it becomes difficult to communicate and normalize kink.
What Fifty Shades of Grey did right was open the floor to conversations about kink and BDSM. What it got wrong were the many stereotypical portrayals of the BDSM community.
BDSM, in its many forms, is one of the most common kinks or fantasies for many individuals. But the way mainstream media portrays it leads to unrealistic and problematic perceptions of it.
It stems from trauma
Christian Grey’s distant behaviour and fetishes are related to traumatic childhood and negative sexual experiences. This leads viewers to rationalize the reason for his sexual preferences, leading to a generalization that everyone who likes BDSM is somehow ‘damaged’.
When a consenting adult enjoys receiving or inflicting pain, it does not mean they hold the same beliefs outside the fantasy setting.
They are cold-hearted and only care about sex
The Kinky Collective (KC) is an active BDSM community in India. Two members of the community, who are in a long-term relationship, identify as asexual. Many often misinterpret that people in the kink community are always craving for sex. But in reality, sex is either completely avoided or the least interesting part.
“It’s not about sex, it’s a power exchange.” — KC’s member.
People reveal a vulnerable side of themselves during play (referring to BDSM activities). Thus, an emotional and intimate connection between partners is the most important aspect when practising BDSM.
It is abusive
A gross misconception is that BDSM is abusive.
Consent is not a negotiation in BDSM. It is mandatory. With hard and soft limits to determine what one can and cannot tolerate, safe words to stop the sexual act, and aftercare to check-in on their partner, consent forms the basis for each aspect of the play. In fact, consent is so comprehensive and extensive that it should be adopted in all acts of sex.
We lack the fundamental grasp of sexuality and consent. To this day, a victim’s role in their assault is a debate. Many find excuses about their sexual behaviour, morals, clothing, etc., to shift the blame on to them. In our own media, Bollywood movies in the 80s and 90s repeatedly depicted tropes of bondage and domination in assault and rape scenes. It would be natural for most viewers to associate BDSM to be non-consensual, immoral, and derogatory to women.
Given all this, when women still face the same kind of discrimination and violence in most sectors of our society, it is understandable when people question or disapprove of the kink community.
But as I mentioned before, what differentiates is consent.
When women play out submissive or masochistic roles in the comfort of their bedrooms, they are 100% in control of the scenario. They are choosing to do so. The diversity and consensual foundations of kink allow it to shatter heteronormative power equations and focus solely on what arouses an individual. It breaks traditional gender roles and offers a liberating space for everyone to express desire.
According to recent reports by That’s Personal, it was found that Indians are indulging in their kinky desires. Secretly.
It’s clear that no amount of restrictive laws or the conservative society can stop an individual from exploring their sexuality. Instead of hiding it all away in shame and guilt, isn’t it better to communicate those desires in a more open and positive manner?
Sex-positive organizations and platforms are making that possible. That’s Personal sells legal sex toys in India, while also promoting and educating their customers about pleasure and sex. The Kinky Collective conducts workshops across major Indian cities to raise awareness of practising kink and BDSM in a safe and healthy way.
The mainstream media is also catching up. What caught my eye is this lovely short film by Sonam Nair called Khujli, that portrays an older couple talking about kink. The husband has no idea about it. And though the wife is playing the submissive role, she is clearly in control and explains what kink is to her husband. The film shows how vital communication is. This definitely indicates a positive shift of narrative.
At the end of the day, fantasies are like dreams. They do not necessarily define an individual’s actual thoughts or personality. Living them out is a personal choice that allows someone to share a more intimate and vulnerable bond with their partner and themselves.
It is human nature to alienate, ridicule, or demonize something we don’t perceive as ‘normal’. What makes a difference is when we learn to accept peoples’ different opinions without reducing them to ‘immoral beings’. Trying to understand that opinion, well… it can open our minds to something we never knew we wanted.
First published here.
Image source: a still from the film Fifty Shades of Grey
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