I have such mixed feelings about what J.A. Rock calls The Uncomfortable Language Of Kink.
I’ve talked a lot, like A LOT a lot, about kink’s often problematic relationship with gender and with race. And I firmly do think that, like this article points out, what consenting adults do with each other is their own business. That kind of socially charged play does beg for introspection and awareness between partners, just to make sure that the social structures being played with are being done so with knowledge and respect and to make absolutely certain that there is a clear line between dynamics within scene and those outside of that play. But whatever happens between you and your partners, so long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, have at; it’s none of my business and I don’t have, and no one else has, the right to interfere. I don’t think that people who play in those kinds of scenes need to defend themselves. I don’t think that they need to be held accountable by anyone. Not to me. Not to anyone not involved in the scene. What they do is between them.
But, as for what happens in the pages of fiction…
As an erotica writer—as an author of erotica that often plays with things like race and religion and age and gender—I think we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
Our introspection shouldn’t go inferred. That kind of play between partners begs further thought to its implications; our writing about that kind of play, our putting it out contextless into the world who may or may not have the understanding to consume it ethically, ought to require it. And not just on the author’s part. I haven’t read Slave Hunt, but it seems like Rock has done her research on the subject. Good on her.
I would be curious if her book comments on that. If, at some point in the story, she allows her characters a moment to address and confront that history. Because shouldn’t they? If they were real people, in the real world, dealing with the same problematic social structures and historical baggage the rest of us are, wouldn’t they have thought about this at some point?
I would hope that any character worth reading about would.
So show us that. Show us kinksters being the incredibly intelligent and conscious and woke people we are. Show us kinksters who are concerned about how their actions affect the world they live in and the people they share it with. Show us being more than the sex-driven, hedonistic, Bacchanalian orgasm-fiends we’re so often portrayed as.
We can be sexy while also being smart, I swear! Let us.
I know that many writers, kinky and not, are afraid that admitting and acknowledging the awkwardness of walking this ethically-ambiguous line takes away the sexiness of the scene. Opens itself to heavy topics that no one wants to think about when they’re trying to get off.
Except, as real-life kinksters, we do. We have to. And not only still manage to get off, we have a better experience for having done the extra ethical legwork. It is part and parcel of our stories. How we find a way to be okay with our kinks is a pretty universal everykinkster story. It is our hero’s journey. Never acknowledging it, choosing instead to just let that journey go assumed or unspoken, prioritizes the acts you as the author want us to act out rather than the story of who we are as people. It makes these tellings more catalogs of acts for the reader to wank to rather than stories about the challenges and joys we as kinksters actually face. It allows the world to continue to think of us as just a series of odd and deviant acts and never allows us to be known as more.
Because what is kink if not the strange alchemy that somehow takes traditionally horrific acts, like bondage and spanking and flogging and domination, and turns them into shared pleasure between partners. It is what makes our stories unique. It’s our brand of magic. Are you really telling our stories anymore, if you’re leaving the crucial spellwork that makes it all happen out?