Kink Responsibly

There’s a guy I follow on Twitter who posts illustrated fantasies involving variations on chastity and reducing guys to pussyboys. He posts some pretty hot stuff. Last night, he posted a fantasy about “pussifying” boys by giving them vaginoplasty, a procedure sometimes referred to as “bottom surgery” for male to female transsexuals.

I responded to him and suggested that he might want to rethink that particular fantasy, because it looked like he was reducing trans people to a simple fetish. Given that trans people encounter a lot of bigotry even within the LGBT community and that there is a long history of people viewing trans women in particular as fetish objects rather than real human beings, I felt I needed to say something. He replied and clarified that he didn’t feel he was fetishizing trans women because his characters were still presenting as male. I didn’t want to get into a longer conversation with him because I’m not the kink police and I didn’t want him to think some stranger on the internet was haranguing him, so I after one exchange, I stopped. He had clarified what he was saying, so hopefully his viewers won’t feel encouraged to fetishize trans women just for being trans women.

Kinky sexuality violates social norms by its very nature; that’s what makes it kinky instead of vanilla. The moment bondage becomes a standard mainstream practice, it will stop being kinky. Blow jobs lost their kinky quality a decade or two ago and are now just standard vanilla sex. So trying to police someone’s kinky fantasies is not only pointless (we can’t control what other people think), but it also violates the whole spirit of kink.

I firmly believe that we have a right to fantasize about anything we want, and we have a right to pursue those fantasies with any partner who is able to give informed, legal consent. (So, just to be clear, that means that children, animals, comatose people, and corpses are all unacceptable sex partners.) What you do with a willing adult partner in the privacy of your bedroom is nobody’s business but yours and your partner’s and your god’s, because it affects no one other than you. So be as transgressive as your dick wants you to be. Rape fantasies, incest fantasies, black slave/white master scenes, Nazi-Jew roleplay, pseudo-bestiality with someone in a furry suit, they’re all fair game because you and your partner understand what’s really going on. You know there’s an Inner Layer beyond the costumes and the verbal abuse and the rough fucking and whatever else you’re doing.

For me, the problem comes when you start posting about your fantasies online. Porn sites (including Twitter, BDSMLR, xtube, and so on) tend to strip away the Inner Layer and leave only the Outer Layer, the stuff an audience can see, the stuff with no context about what the partners do and say and think off-camera. And at that point, your kink starts having an impact on wider society. I believe that ethical kink requires us to think about the messages our kink sends to people who might see it.

If I’m in the privacy of my home doing a scene in which I’m a Nazi threatening to send my Jewish partner to the gas chamber, no one gets to tell me to stop doing that. But if I post that scene online, I’m putting Nazi propaganda out into the world at a time when actual fascism is genuinely threatening to overtake American democracy. That means there is a very real risk that someone might see my Nazi role-play and view it as support for the extermination of Jews and gays. So if I’m going to post a scene like that online, I better make damn well sure it’s clear to my audience that I abominate the Nazis, that their ideology is repugnant bullshit, and that I love my Jewish partner and friends. Frankly, that’s such a tall order, I can’t see a way to do it. So in that situation, I have an ethical duty to keep my Nazi role-playing completely private. Otherwise, I risk doing real-world harm. (And to clarify, Nazi role-playing isn’t my fetish, as much as I love leather. When I find Nazis following me, I block them.)

Let me give you a more concrete example. There’s a guy I follow on Twitter who is obsessed with so-called ‘alphas’ and their ‘fags’. He posts some hot videos, but a lot of his content is kinda problematic, because, at least from what he posts, he doesn’t distinguish between the fantasy of the alpha ideology and the reality. Last night he posted a video with a caption that said “Consent is irrelevant. Alphas take what they want.”

For anyone who missed that, let me repeat. “Consent is irrelevant.” Given that consent is the only thing that makes sex sex and not rape, he’s essentially saying that rape is acceptable if you’re strong enough to do it.

Now maybe this guy understands that what he’s posting is just fantasy. Maybe he entirely understands consent and respects his partners and just uses Twitter as a chance to indulge his fantasy of never having to worry about consent or the needs of his partners. But there is no sign of that on his account. He is, for all appearances, advocating for rape. And there is a LOT of this sort of stuff on Twitter and BDSMLR and similar sites. There are a lot of people (mostly younger guys, I’m guessing) who really buy into this fantasy, and some non-zero percentage of them are eventually going to move from fantasizing about it to actually doing it. Incels pose a genuine threat to attractive women (their victim of choice usually) and other people who get in the way, and while Incels are generally straight guys, there’s no reason to think that bi and gay guys might not be similarly inspired to engage in violence against their chosen targets.

Back in the 1950s, the Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was grappling with the problem of why World War II happened. As an Existentialist, his answer was ‘choice’, because Existentialism emphasizes the notion of human choice as the thing that creates meaning in our lives. He wrote

“When we say that man chooses his own self, we mean that every one of us does likewise; but we also mean by that, that in making this choice he also chooses all men. In fact, in creating the man that we want to be, there is not a single one of our acts which does not at the same time create an image of man as we think he ought to be. To choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose…”

In other words, we are free to choose as we want. We can do whatever we want. But we are responsible for our choices. When we choose to do things, that choice is inherently a statement about what is good and an encouragement for others to make the same choice. When a guy chooses to wear a Nazi uniform, he is actively promoting Nazism and saying that others ought to embrace Nazism, even if he never says a word. The simple act of wearing the uniform is itself a statement that shapes the world. Choice cannot be separated from responsibility. We are responsible for our choices, the consequences of them, and the meaning those choices create in the world.

So when you post your erotic fantasies online, you are responsible for the messages they send. And that means you need to make clear the message you want your fantasies to send. You can’t completely control how someone will view your posts or videos, but you can explain them and try to avoid people getting the wrong message from them. The bigger the risk of your posts hurting someone, particularly marginalized peoples like trans people or Jews or effeminate gays, the greater effort you need to make to ensure that your posts are unlikely to hurt those people. And in some cases that means you shouldn’t post something at all.

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