Controversial, maybe. The fact is, if you are participating in public kink then you are crossing a line in consent culture. This conversation came up at the end of May on Twitter and I am very grateful for it as well as for the people that participated whether in comments or subtweets.
I did a full Twitter thread on this topic but, with comment conversations and more, it quickly became a many headed hydra I couldn’t quite keep in light and easily readable. I figured the best way to do that would be to created a blog post for this topic. If you want to read the original tweet threat and comments, click here.
I ask that you reserve judgement until the end. I know its a long blog post but that is because this is a topic that isn’t easily approached and set aside. I promise that even peeps I didn’t agree with at the beginning I was happy to come to at least one agreement with and that was pretty damn cool.
Kink, Pride, and Inflammatory Statements
The whole conversation started when I saw a couple of posts about how some Pride events are labeling themselves as “Family Friendly” and have, because of this new label, asked attendees not to wear fetish gear including or specifically Pup hoods.
If you do not know about the history of Pride, LGBTQ+ and Kink, you really ought to do some research. These are blended territories with deep roots. With this in mind, I completely understand why there is uproar, even if I don’t agree with it.
My issue with some of the commentary came when I saw people making statements that these actions and rules of certain events were “purity policing” and that Pride is not an event that kids should attend anyways. To be honest, it pissed me off.
“Telling people it’s not ok to display their kink publically where there are children is not “purity police” it’s FUCKING CONSENT! If you’re all about kink and bdsm and leather culture you should fucking know that!”
and thus the conversation began…
Pride is for Everyone
Before I get into the more nuanced conversations this post created, I wanted to focus on something that really bothered me about many of the Kink and Pride discussions.
While some people feel like asking people not to wear kinky items is censoring an adult event, I feel that acting like all Pride events should be adult and containing adult activities is gatekeeping.
LGBTQ+ Kids and Families and Adults that want to avoid certain adult activities for whatever reason (including but not limited to PTSD, abuse, and addiction triggers) are valid. They should be honored at Pride events as well and deserve Pride events too.
To say that Pride isn’t for kids or that families should not be there is like saying LGBTQ+ kids don’t exist and, community, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t demand that LGBTQ+ people are born this way, that these kids exist and need to be acknowledged and space held for them and their needs in this world and NOT hold space for them at major, public LGBTQ+ events. That’s not how this shit works.
Fetish vs Nudity
One of the biggest arguments I keep coming across is the comparison of fetish gear to nudity. When I brought up not wearing what I call overt kink gear (I’m talking something that can’t be called a costume, a goth couldn’t accessorize with, or a public collar but something that is obviously for kink play and/or sex) I was asked about how nudity is allowed in certain spaces – like nude bike runs, naturalist events, Mardi Gras, etc.
Firstly, many of these events, like Mardi Gras are openly “adult” labeled. Nothing is mentioned as family friendly or all ages.
Secondly, stating that nudity is sexual is crossing a line that I think most commenters are not really thinking about seriously. The naked human body is not inherently sexual. To better grasp this consider that asexual people can be naked, children can be naked, breast feeding can involve an exposed breast, etc. None of this is sexual. We all have bodies and that does not make them sexual even when exposed.
I bring up this second part because, while kink is not inherently sexual, it is inherently adult. Kink can only be done with consenting adults, otherwise it is abuse. Kink gear is made specifically for adult use.
Kink in Public and Issues of Consent
Wearing and acting out kink in public is part of exhibitionism. Exhibitionism is a kink that requires 2 things – exhibition and a voyeur. The voyeur must be a consenting adult.
When you wear over kink gear and participate in kink action (being led on a leash down the street, paddling, leg humping, open abdl diaper wearing, etc) you are performing an exhibitionist kink. When you force this on people to see who have not consented or children who cannot consent to be voyeurs, that is Non Consent and abuse not healthy kink.
Note that none of the examples I just gave, other than leg humping, is obviously sexual. Kink does not have to involve sex. However, it is still adult activity that requires consent.
Who Can Draw the Line and Where?
“Where is the line drawn and who has the right to draw it?” Is a great question and I can’t say I have the perfect answer but I think it’s still a consent issue. What activities and clothes are ok for public? Who says?
One answer that 2 people gave me was the law of the country. I get where they are coming from as there aren’t any laws that I know of that say what specifically can be worn in public (I’m sure there are some but I don’t know of them).
Laws have 2 issues.
First, just because something is a law doesn’t mean it should be and just because there aren’t laws around a certain topic doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be.
Secondly, there are laws and there are rules. The Pride events that catalyzed this conversation label themselves Family Friendly and set out rules – no fetish gear/no pup hoods. Just like there are no laws saying you can’t have a cell phone out in the theater there are rules stating that and, so everyone can enjoy the event, everyone should follow the rules.
Fear of Censorship
I want to say that I get it – fear of the law or authority stepping in and dictating what you can wear, do, write, say is a real thing. Its not unreasonable to fear this at all. I’ve been there as a woman, sex blogger, writer, and bisexual. The last thing I want is some patriarchal authoritarian cop telling me what can and cant put on my body.
That being said, I’d be horrified if my desire to wear an accessory, even one that I felt defined my self expression in my sexuality, meant that a huge population of what Pride is about couldn’t attend comfortably. Even more so if there were less overt ways of showing that sexuality such as a patch on a leather vest, flagging, or a t-shirt that made a fun statement.
I Saw It and I Was Fine
I hate the whole “I saw a dick/kink activity/sex as a kid and I was fine” argument.
First of all, cool but I don’t know you or how “fine” you actually are/were.
Second, these statements are dangerous as they act like children exposed to certain things are fine and therefore should be exposed and told to dry it up if they do have issues.
Third, to suggest that because one person was unbothered that everyone should be unbothered is outright ignoring that everyone has very different backgrounds and experiences, triggers, health issues, etc.
Open Communication and Content Warnings
One thing that most of us agreed on is the concept of Open Communication. This, like Consent, is a very Kink Foundation topic.
This whole thing came up when an event labeled themselves as Faimily Friendly, All Ages and asked attendees to act accordingly.
Another suggestion might be that instead of assuming if an event is not labeled Family Friendly then it is a hedonistic adult orgy. Instead, I think Content Warning type language should be used on posters, site pages, flyers, etc.
When hosting an event that has adult activities consider letting people know before hand what will be happening. Think of it like Content Warnings in threads. CW: drinking, kink, etc
Open Communication to allow for Informed Decision Making is very Kinky in the best way.
Thank you to everyone who was part of this conversation. Special Thanks to The Big Bad Wolf, DomSigns, C Pells, Nobilis, and Switchy who participated, had strong opinions, and were polite and understanding. You all rock my socks.