I’ve been thinking for a while about this “Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is OK” adage (aka, YKINMKBYKIOK, or YKINMK for short). Mostly because of the libeled and disgraced RCMP officer in Canadian national news; but also because of some asshole just south of the border, who got the brilliant idea in his head to tie up a nude woman and suspend her from a war memorial art installation in a military graveyard, and then take pictures and post them on the internet (because apparently the news of the news of the RCMP officer didn’t spread far and fast enough to discourage similar decision-making). And even this wasn’t enough for me to call this guy an asshole. No, it was when he got caught and his story hit the news too, that I finally crossed that threshold. Instead of conceding that what he did was offensive to the families of the people who are buried in the background of his photo (and an offense to the memories of the people for whom the art installation was built), he and many others started bitching, whining, and complaining about being “snitched” on. Then came the “but intent is fucking magical!” arguments about the model’s motivations. Yeah. OK, there, buddy.
The issue that is common to the RCMP officer’s national news story (which was also partly about a second man) and the dickshit who suspended a nude woman over a military graveyard, is involuntary participation of the public in their kinks. When the public found out about the RCMP officer, the community members and families of missing and murdered women — for whom justice has been mishandled, denied, given little to no priority, or just slowed down to a near-stop — were legitimately horrified. As the investigations proceeded into every lead that sprang from the community this man used to wade within up to his shoulders (he’s very tall), tax-payer dollars were paying for all of it. As the RCMP drew in extra bodies from two separate detachments to help handle all of the leads and witnesses, tax-payer dollars were paying for all of them, too. And as all of those policing resources were being diverted to investigate what turned out to be mostly libelous fiction, tax-payers were undoubtedly paying for that too. And when the scandal broke out about the search warrant for defamatory libel? Well, guess who picked up that bill, too!
Then we’ve got the guy who was caught with his model’s pants down when the photos they posted on the internet were exposed to the public in press coverage about the story. All the same issues of who’s paying for the unfurling investigations for trespassing and general shit-headed nonsense apply here, too. But instead of grieving families and community members of marginalized women who were treated by authorities as though they are disposable, we have viscerally offended families and community members of people who died serving their country in a time of war (which for the United States, it seems, is a near-constant, but I digress).
The sheer scale of these events is almost mind-boggling — surely, if you had any reason to doubt the power of one person, let the shared stupidity of everyone involved in bringing about these two events be a lesson to you, to think a third time about your doubts. Nevertheless, thinking about these events has given me time to reflect on analogous interactions that are more intimate, and thus, more invisible. The kinds of interactions that no one talks about — involuntary participation in a single other person’s kink.
I’m thinking of someone I thought of as a friend, even despite incredibly uncomfortable interactions with them from time to time, until they decided that because I didn’t feel comfortable hugging them as soon as I entered the room (I had just seen them the day before and often feel overwhelmed when I first arrive at very busy social gatherings, as this one was), that this was the end of our friendship. A fairly standard over-reaction to me and my occasionally upsetting quirks by this particular individual. At least in my experience with them.
The first time I was involuntarily drawn into their kink was the morning after they had stayed the night with me when we had been drinking the evening before. We had discussed cuddles and other various topics of physical intimacy, but hadn’t reached any apparent consensus (which is just fine). We had even been swinging my BDSM toys around in a flirtacious manner, but no one was being aggressive or invasive with them. So in the morning, we started to cuddle a little. But before long, they were pushing their sexual organs against my buttocks. Then their pants came off and their hands reached up onto my upper arms. I did not respond, because as confusing as this may sound, I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted cuddles but not sex. And apparently what is cuddles to me borders on molestation to them. When they grabbed my hand and put it behind me, I took my hand back and simply said “not right now” before it crossed that very extremely thin line, to an exact repeat of so much of my history of sexual trauma. We never cuddled again. We never spoke about this event after that.
The second time, they told me that we need to talk, but wouldn’t tell me even a hint of what we needed to talk about. We needed to set a date, that date needed to be more than a week ahead of time, and we needed total privacy, but they couldn’t tell me for how long. When the day finally came, and we were alone in a room with the expectation of privacy for a relatively extended duration, they finally came out with it: they wanted to try wearing clothes that are not gender-normative. I was honest about the fact that I did not understand what all the build-up was for. I told them the truth, that while I am myself gender non-normative, I still have a difficulty with some particular forms of gender expression (in that they make me feel uncomfortable, primarily because it triggers my past traumas around sexual objectification and non-consensual gendering). I said that while there is nothing innately wrong or bad about these particular forms of gender expression and gender exploration, I may simply not be the best person to talk to about it. They answered this by reminding me of how important I am to them, and asked me for advice. I asked some questions, and gave some answers for questions they asked me.
When the conversation was finally past the tension it brought up for me, I assumed we had an understanding. But we really didn’t. I remarked later that I still didn’t understand what the build-up was for, for essentially telling me they wanted a new wardrobe. They seemed offended and uncomfortable, so I didn’t pursue it any further and apologized. A few days later, they were telling me about spotting something they liked and having a chat with the sales clerk about it. I felt uncomfortable, and again, simply didn’t know what to say, so I just waited to see what happened. Same as before, when it was over, we never spoke about it again. Now we’re not speaking at all, and I still haven’t been able to tell anyone about these experiences and the way this person treated me and made me feel. I just honestly feel a sense of relief, mixed in with confusion and grief, from the distance their continued silence has afforded me.
And as these experiences and the news stories have been all simmering in the same pot for a while now, it’s gotten me thinking about what they all share in common: I got dragged into someone’s intimate affairs without my explicit consent to be involved, just as those grieving and angered families did with the disgraced RCMP officer and the asshole photographer. But involuntary participation isn’t part of YKINMK. It’s not even part of kink.
Involuntary participation in someone else’s kink is also known as being victimized by a person with a paraphilia. Consent is the only distinction between a paraphilia and a kink. If kinksters can’t (or won’t) engage sincerely in where that line is drawn, they are merely re-building and repairing the very social barriers so many among them work tirelessly to tear down. And perhaps most unfortunately, that same resistance to engage the issue walls them in with people who genuinely do have paraphilias, giving criminally minded individuals a sense of security and privacy from the invasive speculation of the public, while putting everyone else in the community at risk of being victimized by a person whose sexuality is constructed entirely on a foundation of non-consent.
And the truth is, this one person I described isn’t an anomaly. Its not a coincidence that there are enough stupid people with cameras posting offensive shit on fetish websites, that two of them in two different countries made the news in rapid succession, either. This extremely permissive and frankly dangerous approach to consent is pervasive within kink (especially among men in my experience), and it is outrageous that there aren’t more people trying to do anything to hold offenders accountable. It’s time to start re-framing our conversations before more people get hurt. Take accountability for yourself and be prepared to admit when you’re wrong, when you’ve offended or hurt someone, or you made an ignorant decision. Because otherwise, your alternative is being lumped together with pedophiles and rapists, by your own actions. I know how unfair that feels. Get angry if you have to after reading that. But then change the things you can’t accept or you will only have yourselves to blame for what happens next.