I recently gave a workshop on kink to several vanilla people at the New Culture Spring Camp in Yucca Valley. It was the hardest workshop that I have ever given.
1. Some of the people viewed kink as some kind of weird lifestyle and thought it was wrong or that kinky people were troubled or deviant. Of course, they also thought kink was all about pain and were unaware of the head space and the power exchange.
2. Some of the people wanted to “get into kink” in order to get dates. They said that their dating pool was small, and that they often got rejected by people who weren’t looking for vanilla.
3. Some of the people had dated folks who were kinky in the past and forced themselves to do kinky things that they didn’t enjoy for the sake of their partner.
Keep in mind; I have only ever done workshops for kinky people before. I talk about scene negotiation, specific fetishes, and all sort of other stuff; but I do this with folks who are open and accepting of the material because they are already kinky. I knew going in that this workshop would be a challenge, but I had no idea how much of a challenge it would be until I was actually giving it.
It turns out that I don’t even know where to start when trying to explain what kink is. If someone thinks it is all folks who dress up in animal costumes or whip each other with barbed wire, where do I even begin? Obviously I wanted to try to convey the fact that it’s a power exchange more than anything else. I wanted to say that not everyone even likes pain, and that there are a lot of different kind of kinks. And yet, with a time limit of an hour, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of material I would need to explain.
Don’t worry. I did my best to represent us in a positive light. I tried to focus on how we are an open and tolerant community, and how our motto is “safe, sane, and consensual.” I did my best to explain that we are not scary, nor are we dangerous. I wanted them to see us as normal people who just happen to enjoy different things in bed.
The truth is, it was the people who wanted to “become” kinky to get dates that I felt the most empathy for. How many of us have found a person we really like, only to discover that they are vanilla? It is the subject of blog after blog, and article after article. On the BDSM subreddit there are always posts by kinky people who are trying to decide if they can be satisfied by vanilla sex because their partner is vanilla and won’t try anything kinky.
I hate to say it, but I think the sad truth is that we are born how we are born. I know that I was masturbating to kidnapping fantasies and spanking fantasies when I first figured out how to get off (around 5 years of age for most girls.) At the time, I didn’t even know what sex was. I didn’t know that boys had penises, and I hadn’t even discovered yet that I had a vagina.
(For the confused: women don’t cum from penetration, we cum from clitoral stimulation. I feel like I have to explain that because I know at least one person who reads this will wonder “how could she be masturbating before she found her vagina?”)
At many munches, we have gone around the table and talked about when we knew we were kinky. For all of us, it was when we were very young. Some folks even figured out that we were kinky before we knew we were gay/bi/straight. You don’t have to focus on what gender person is doing things to you in your fantasies if you are blindfolded.
For those who want to “get into kink” to get dates, I guess I have to pause and wonder if you can.
And then of course there were the folks who forced themselves to do kinky things to please their partners. It is not my place to judge what you do for love. Obviously you should do whatever you need to do to be happy. However, it did rub me the wrong way. It sounds so rapey to be pressured into something you don’t want to do, doesn’t it?
In the end, I walked away hoping that I represented myself as a normal human (not a scary monster) and that those vanilla folks at least thought of us in a more positive light. I don’t know if I succeeded or not, but I did my very best to be patient, enthusiastic, and positive.
I respect that some folks are just looking for vanilla sex. I am sure there are lots of exciting things to do within those boundaries. And, as kinksters, I hope we can all do our best out in the world to be respectful of vanilla people and to put our best foot forward, showing them the same tolerance and acceptance that we show each other. Your kink is not my kink, but that’s okay.