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Your Sex Life Could Reach New Heights If You Stop Kink-Shaming

August 14, 2019DMT.NEWS

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What Is Kink-Shaming? (And Why You Should Avoid Doing It)

You’re hooking up with someone for the first time — or the second, the tenth or the hundredth — and you think you know what to expect, but then they ask if you can try something new. 

Immediately, you’re a little cautious. What if it’s weird? They blush a little bit. “Well, you see, I’ve always wanted to try this thing … but it’s a little kinky…” You gulp as they lean in and whisper the secret desire into your ear. You want to make them happy because you’re not a jerk, but this fetish is way out there, and not at all something you’re used to.  

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“Gross,” you say. “You’re really into that?” Your hookup buddy looks embarrassed. “Never mind,” they say, grabbing their clothes from the floor. “I should probably get going.” 

What just happened? Well, there’s a name for it: kink-shaming. And even if you don’t think you’re doing it, you probably are.

What Is Kink-Shaming?

“This girl I met on Tinder told me she wanted to try this thing called ‘caking’ — spreading cake batter all over your naked self. I was like, ‘Hmmmm, no.’ Very unsanitary, and I don't like wasting food.” - Miguel, 28

Kink-shaming is basically exactly that — shaming someone for their sexual desires when they don’t line up with what you think is normal. 

“Kink-shaming is when you embarrass someone for their sexual preferences and believe something is wrong with them because of their sexual interests,” says Dr. Janet Brito, a sex therapist based in Hawaii. 

This could be about a fetish, a kink, a preference, a history of certain behaviors, or even just an openness or willingness to try something that the other person considers unconventional.

“I would define kink-shaming as the negative judgment and criticism of all sexual contact that isn't considered vanilla or ‘mainstream,’” says Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness.  

Brito notes that some common targets of kink-shaming include “fetishes that are uncommon, such as titillagnia (arousal to tickling other people) or urophilia (arousal to urine or urinating on others), dressing up as a furry or a desire to be choked or spanked.”

However, there are some that are gender-focused — men, for instance, often kink-shame “their girlfriend’s/wife's interest in group sex, public sex, threesomes, double penetration, having a rape fantasy, masochist or sadist interestsl,” notes Brito. Or when talking to other men, they might be judgmental toward things like “same-sex attraction, same-sex fantasies, autogynephilia, men attracted to transwomen or non-binary folks.” 

This kind of thing can play out in all different ways. It could be as simple as making fun of your friend for a hookup story with an unexpected detail in it, or it could be your long-term significant other trying to make you feel dirty for asking for something new in bed. 

While it might not be coming from a place of hurtfulness — it’s as often a sense of surprise or shock rather than outright cruelty — it can still be incredibly demeaning. 

How Does Kink-Shaming Negatively Impact People?

“I had a man recoil and tell me he ‘doesn’t do that weird sh*t’ when I placed his hand closer to my neck. It made me feel super uncomfortable for the rest of that interaction.” - Maria, 29

“Kink-shaming really only serves to make people live in silence and fear of judgment,” says Caraballo. “It creates negative internal emotional consequences, leaving the receiver to question the validity of their own desires. This could exacerbate any lingering questions of self-worth, depression or anxiety that the receiver already has about their sexuality and identity. It can negatively impact their ability to have and enjoy sex, and might kill desire altogether.”

It can also have a serious impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being, ultimately causing psychological harm in the end.

“They may feel invalidated, dismissed, misunderstood,” says Brito. “It can negatively impact their relationship with their significant other, cause someone to withhold information or hide their kink from them. [And] at its worst, kink shaming can be used as a weapon against someone, and can cause someone to lose their job or their family.” 

That might sound extreme, but instances of people’s sex lives becoming public knowledge are often weaponized against them in some form; the belief that a certain non-conformist sexual interest is unacceptable or somehow indicative of a person’s core moral character lives on in popular thought.  

As a result, it’s worth thinking about how kink-shaming functions on a greater societal level, rather than just instances of one person shaming another. When we normalize kink-shaming and general sex-negative attitudes, people grow up feeling ashamed of desires they cannot control.

How Can You Stop Kink-Shaming?

“When I was in my teens (and probably even into my early 20s), I thought it was really funny to make fun of furries. But at some point, I realized that I was belittling people for sexual desire that I didn’t understand, even though it was being practiced by consenting adults. There was no real justification for it other than that it felt good in a shallow, sh*tty way to mock outsiders and people who don’t conform. I never tried to shame anyone directly, but I definitely carried that prejudice for many years.” - Ian, 30

Considering the widespread societal consequences of kink-shaming attitudes, and the seriously negative consequences it can have on a person’s wellbeing, it’s worth considering how we can move away from kink-shaming in general. 

To that end, sex education — not just about the physical ins and outs of sex, but how desire works — can be a huge factor. 

“I think that education is the biggest way to combat kink-shame,” says Caraballo. “There are a lot of misconceptions about why people enjoy kink (or certain forms of kink) and getting exposure to accurate information helps combat negative, internalized puritanical views about sex and kink.”

Brito agrees that education is important, but notes that there are lots of ways we can help shift our culture away from its current kink-shaming state. 

She suggests “being willing to learn more about the diversity of human sexuality by being exposed to more sex-positive messages, by de-stigmatizing sex and knowing how to distinguish the difference between a sexual fantasy and reality, [and] by speaking up when someone is shaming someone’s kink.” 

Brito also notes that some of the most common kink-shaming occurs within the self, meaning people shaming themselves for their own desires. If you struggle with that kind of thing, it’s worth putting in the effort to shift gears “by practicing self-acceptance, since working on embracing one’s interests is the first step toward accepting others.”

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Finally, she adds, you can make a difference “by embracing the notion that everyone is different, and that having unique or non-traditional sexual interests does not mean something is wrong with you.”

Experiencing sexual desire is normal, and what exactly turns you on is often largely out of your control. Until you recognize that your desires alone don’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, it’ll likely be a struggle for you to genuinely accept yourself and your sexuality. 

But if you commit yourself to working through these issues — with a partner, perhaps, or in therapy — it’s absolutely possible to arrive at a healthier, more confident place where your own comfort with your sexual desires means you’re not looking to ridicule, diminish or shame others for theirs. 

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Alex Manley, Khareem Sudlow

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