Time To Stop Kink-Shaming

By Andrea Gonzalez

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Odds are, half the people you know has one of them, but no one ever wants to acknowledge it. If they do, they can be labeled sexual deviants and sick, troubled beings. I'm talking, of course, about kinks. There are those who barely dip their toes into the kink pool⎼⎼maybe they don’t even call it a kink⎼⎼ and then there are others who have surrendered and shed all pretense of "normality" and succumbed to their kinkiness. Whichever you are, I'm here to tell you to be comfortable with what makes you happy. If role-playing gets you going, then by all means, you should be able to engage in it without the fear of being stigmatized.

But first, what are kinks? What's the difference between a kink and a fetish? There is a lot of disinformation and misconceptions surrounding this topic, which is the primary cause for the stigma associated with kinks.

According to Sandra LaMorgese, Ph.D., a “kink” refers to that which is out of the realm of what we deem "normal”or traditional, meaning two cisgender people engaging in missionary style sex. A fetish, on the other hand, refers to an object or body part that sexually arouses someone without the necessity of a partner. Another source states that the difference lies in the fact that fetishes are more exclusive, in the sense that a person with a fetish won't be able experience sexual arousal without it. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be referring strictly to kinks.

First of all, kinks are more common than you think. A study published in The Journal of Sex Research surveyed 1,040 people in regards to their kinky preferences. From those, 45.6% reported would like more kink in their lives, while 33.9% claimed to have partaken in a kinky act. If this were macro-scaled, that would be almost half the population. Remember, a kink can be anything that enhances your sexual experience but that doesn’t necessarily restrict it.

By definition, it doesn’t seem odd at all for the majority of us to have one or more kinks. Why is it, then, that we often mentally put up a red flag whenever someone brings up the topic? Not too long ago, in fact, not even two years ago, being “kinky” was deemed a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Traditionally, kinks and fetishes were associated with deeper underlying psychological and physiological issues, products of a society that pretends we’re not sexual beings.

According to a study published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine, people who partake in bondage, role-play, and other forms of BDSM are actually on average mentally healthier than people who engage in otherwise “vanilla” sex. It is worth mentioning that the participants were only told that the purpose of the study was to document ‘human behavior’.The participants who reported practicing BDSM scored higher in a series of personality and psychological measures.They are no more or less troubled than the general population. What’s more, they exhibited higher levels of well- being that could be related to awareness of their sexual needs and desires, as opposed to “vanilla people” who could be frustrated in this regard.Therefore, the common misconception that people who practice a kink probably have a history of abuse or rape is only that, a misconception that has no founding.

In light of multiple studies that reveal there is no evidence to suggest having kinks is a symptom of a mental disorder, the American Psychological Association (APA) has since depathologized kinks. Those who engage in non-consensual sex and/or sex with a child, are often diagnosed with a Paraphilic Disorder. LaMorgese adds that, "fetishes tend to have deeper roots in the psychological and physiological levels of the being." In other words, being kinky does NOT mean you have a mental disorder or a tragic past. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that having kinks is a symptom of a mental disorder.

On that note, whether it is feet or hands or, heck, noses, don’t let anyone shame you for it. Kinks are a crucial part of your sexual health, and as long as you and your partner[s] are okay with it and you're not harming anyone, enjoy it.