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Archive for July 27th, 2009

As if by magic, this week I’ve had a question dropped in my lap that touches the root of all the discussion that’s been going on here triggered by that old post about not asking why. This one takes it away from the radfem discussions and the political questioning of desire that so often leads to self-loathing and into the more fertile realms of the self. That is: what if I’m not worried about whether my kink is influenced by the patriarchy, but I am worried that maybe it’s a bit sick?

I just hope I can answer it in fewer than a thousand words.

In thinking about kink and fetish and alternative sexuality, how important do you think it is to understand the root of a person’s kinks? If you derive mental and physical joy from, say, being flogged or filling your socks with pudding, how important is it to know why that is? How useful is kink as a tool for self understanding and how risky is it to expose the root? Does understanding remove mystery and passion?

Obviously this varies with the kink/fetish at hand. More historically problematic areas, rape fantasies for example, prolly merit a more exhaustive investigation. On a personal note, I have a recurring kink that is hugely arousing to me and socially taboo. In my case, it’s also not even possible but nonetheless, it troubled me until I figured out the root.

The root of it is that trust is really my kink. (veiled cleverly under several guises)This was a hugely instructive thing for me and has not, so far, rendered the fetish in question less effective. It’s just…less troubling now.

Whoa nelly. Where do I start? So, just to get this digression out of the way: if I were Dan Savage – and even if I weren’t – my first response would be, what’s the fetish?? Dude, I so want to know, don’t you?

But putting that aside: it seems, gentle reader, like you’ve come to terms and a kind of peace with your particular kink, and from your own experience, knowing what its root is didn’t kill its erotic charge for you.

Now, for you, this is a pretty nifty way to have it both ways: here you have this kink that was super hot for you but a bit disturbing, and now that you know better what it’s really about, it’s less disturbing but still super hot.

I can see situations where that might not be the case. I can imagine, for instance, a scenario where someone finds out that their kink really does originate (in that classic sense) from some past trauma that he has been repressing, and in digging up the trauma, he both re-traumatizes himself and loses the power that the kink had to gradually heal it in his own subconscious.

On the other hand, I’ve known cases where knowing the root of the kink made the kink more powerful and made the healing of the old trauma more profound.

I think the short answer is the one you already have given yourself: if your kink is troubling to you – not to your friends, not to your community or people on the Intarwebs, but to you – then it’s worth investigating its roots. Does your kink cause you to feel shame and guilt? Part of this might be alleviated by finding a community of people who share your kink and knowing you’re not alone. But if your shame and guilt goes beyond the typical “I’m a freak” worries that many closeted kinky people have and into “I think I might be sick,” then it’s probably time to sit down and think about where this is coming from. Automatic writing is a great tool. So is dream journaling. So is hypnosis. (Speaking of fun kinks.) If you have a kink-friendly therapist, you might want to explore it there. Or even better: with an understanding lover who knows you deeply.

There are dangers, of course, digging into that well. Opening old wounds can be counterproductive, even harmful. But if a kink is powerful for you and you can’t accept it for what it is, then that’s a choice you have to make.

Nobody knows for sure where kinks come from, but the one thing that does seem clear is that practicing those kinks does not make them go away: they are not demons that need to be exorcised. If anything, they’re demons that need to be exERcised. So long as you’re doing no real harm, the best thing for kinks is to let them out to play now and then and get all tuckered out so they can sleep for a bit. Just know that they’ll wake up refreshed and ready to play again. In general, this is probably the best thing we can do for ourselves: let our kinks out for some light and fresh air. It’s amazing how this simple act can burn away the shame, pain, and doubt so often associated with kink.

So that’s a pretty squirrely answer to a pretty squirrely question, I know. But here’s my recommendation, to those of you with kinks that cause you distress. Start by doing them more. Write stories about them. Perform them with a partner, if possible. If they’re impossible, do dirty talk about them when you’re in bed. Masturbate to them. See if exposure doesn’t take away some of the problematic parts.

If it doesn’t, and if in fact it makes it worse, then you have my permission to dig. Just make sure it’s in a safe space. It’s possible you’ll fall into something deep and difficult, but I bet it’s more likely that you’ll find it’s something simple, like the writer of our letter did.

Made it in under a thousand.

Send me your questions!

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