Why Is Kink Fun? A Guest post by Greta Christina


Unzip your mind. Sit back, relax with your drink of choice, and read the following with a healthy spirit of inquiry. Many of you won’t even need to do that much – you’re kinky yourownselves, and you’re ready to go dive into the book without advance preparation. Some of you aren’t kinky at all, or haven’t ever discovered more than a mild, currently socially-acceptable kink within yourself (fuzzy handcuffs, eh? Nice!). Some of you have been conditioned to believe kink is sick and horrible and never ever good.

As with many things, you’ve been lied to. And Greta will attempt to explain why this thing you think is no fun at all is actually very fun and healthy and mucho bueno for many folks. Ready? Then go:

 

Why Is Kink Fun?

Guest post by Greta Christina

"Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More" - by our own Greta Christina - is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” – by our own Greta Christina – is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Why is kink fun?

Why is it that some people — in very specialized, negotiated, enthusiastically consensual circumstances — find it not just acceptable, but actively and deeply pleasurable, to be controlled, dominated, physically hurt, used, objectified, shamed, humiliated, and/or have their freedom curtailed?

Quick bit of background. I’ve recently published a collection of erotic fiction — mostly kinky — titled “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” (Currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords — audiobook and paperback are coming soon.) The book has gotten an excellent reception so far, with lots of lovely gushing reviews. But it’s also been received with some bafflement, and in some cases even hostility, from a few readers and people who’ve seen excerpts or read what I’ve written about it… and who don’t understand how it can be healthy to get sexual pleasure from experiences that are so obviously unhealthy and negative and bad. Example: I got this message on Facebook recently, which I’m printing with the senders permission (anonymously at their request):

I am right in the middle of your book “Bending”. As someone who has a very “vanilla” sex drive with no kinks (literally, none.. I’m as bland as they come) I don’t quite see the appeal to feeling shame that comes with BDSM-style punishment and discipline. As someone who’s been shamed in real life by religion in years past, and by friends and family who don’t understand my hobbies and quirks, I find it hard to empathize with how shame can be a turn-on for some people.

I ask this in the most non-judgmental way possible… but, what is the appeal? I’m a little hung up on your book because I don’t understand how humiliation can be erotic. I think the book is very well written but I’m just having a hard time reading through it because there is a stark disconnect between my sexuality and the sexuality of the characters portrayed in your short stories.

Thank you very much for your time. I love the work that you do and look forward to possibly hearing back from you.

I’ve been doing kinky sex for so long, I sometimes forget how incomprehensible it sometimes seems to people who aren’t into it. But I do recognize why this might be hard to understand. In some ways, consensually sadomasochistic sex can almost be defined as sex that eroticizes, and makes pleasurable, experiences that would normally be actively unpleasant, and in some cases even horrific.

What about that feels good?

There’s a limit to how well I’m going to be able to get this across. Sex is such a personal, subjective experience. Explaining why you like any kind of sex that someone else doesn’t — kinky or otherwise — is tricky at best. Try explaining why you like sex with someone of the opposite sex — or the same sex — to someone who really, really doesn’t. It’s like trying to explain what it is that tastes good about broccoli, to someone who totally loathes it. But I’m going to take a stab.

Caveat #1: I’m just talking about myself here. I know that my experiences are shared by many, but I don’t presume to speak for all kinky people. Caveat #2: This is a complicated issue — what’s the phrase the social scientists use? Multi-factorial? — and anything I say to explain this is going to oversimplify pretty much by definition. All that being said, I’m going to take a stab.

For me, much of what it comes down to is intimacy.

The thing about pain is that it gets through. I can be a very well-defended, self-contained person: I don’t let myself get close to people very easily, and it’s hard to just let those walls down and let someone else in. But pain gets through. It’s impossible to ignore. The very intensity of it — the fact that my body is processing the sensation, on some level, as unpleasant — grabs my attention, wakes me the fuck up. If someone is hitting me, I can’t tune out the fact that they’re touching me.

And it isn’t just pain I’m talking about here. In my experience, most forms of sadomasochistic sex have to do with breaking down barriers. Shame and humiliation break down the barriers of dignity and composure. Bondage and domination break down the barriers of self-containment and self-possession. There is an intense intimacy in putting yourself in someone else’s hands, handing over the reins, letting them control what you’re going to be feeling for a while. And again, the very intensity of the experience, the fact that some small part of my brain is screaming, “This is not okay! Get away from this now!”, can — again, in the right circumstances and with the right person — be an intensifier, a magnifier of experience. Including the experience of intimacy, of connection, of being touched by another person.

There’s a lot more going on here, of course. I’ve found that I tend to fantasize about what I don’t have — and when my life is micro-scheduled and overloaded with responsibility, as it so often is, it can feel like a huge burden being lifted to just let go and let someone else be the decider for a couple/ few hours. (You know the cliché of the high-powered business executive seeking out a dominatrix, to relieve him of responsibility for a short while? It’s a cliché for a reason.)

Also, I should point out that kinky people aren’t the only ones who think power is sexy. Humans are hierarchical apes. Get three of us in a room together, and we’ll create a dominance structure. It’s not hugely surprising that many of us would eroticize power. And it’s not hugely surprising that some of us would eroticize power in an overt, explicit way: not simply by being attracted to politicians or moguls, but by being aroused by a person standing over us with a whip.

Then there’s endorphins: the brain’s natural opiates, which kick in as a response to pain, and which under the right circumstances can get us high. And which sexual masochists will tell you about in loving detail, and at great length. If you understand why many athletes experience pain — and pushing through pain to get to the endorphin high — as a pleasurable experience… then you can understand at least part of why sexual masochists experience pain as a pleasurable experience.

And for me at least, there’s a certain hard-wired quality to these experiences that’s fundamentally inexplicable. I have been aware of being kinky for as long as I’ve been aware of being sexual. And I don’t mean since I was eighteen, or since I was thirteen. I mean since I was eight. I have been aware of being kinky for about as long as I’ve been aware of being queer. That isn’t true for every kinky person — but it’s true for a lot of us. I don’t entirely understand this stuff myself: yes, I have intimacy issues, but I think pretty much everyone has intimacy issues, and most people don’t handle those issues by intentionally eroticizing getting beaten and pushed around. Most people probably couldn’t eroticize pain and submission and humiliation, even if they wanted to. (There are people who come to kink later in life, and who nurture a kinky sexuality intentionally — in response to a partner who enjoys it, for instance — but in my experience, most of them had at least a seed of kink to start with.) The way my body processes pain, the way my mind processes power… I can’t entirely explain it, any more than I can explain why I like girls. The clit has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.

But what it mostly comes down to, for me, is intimacy. Kink gets through. It breaks down my walls. I have formidable walls at times… and the intensity of kink sets dynamite underneath them.

I’ve so far been writing about this from the bottom’s perspective: explaining why it feels good to receive pain, to be humiliated, to be controlled. But I’m a switch, and I can tell you that it feels good on the other side as well… and for much the same reasons. Just as it feels good to both penetrate sexually and be penetrated, it feels good to be on both sides of the connection of sadomasochism. It feels good to break down walls, just as it does to have your walls broken. It feels good to touch, with the intensity of pain or power, just as it does to be touched.

If this still doesn’t make sense: There’s an analogy that some of my readers have made in some other conversations about this. Kink is like a rollercoaster, or a horror movie. It can be fun and exciting to subject yourself to otherwise unpleasant emotions — like fear — in a safe, controlled setting. There is a thrill to fear, a rush… and when you can experience that rush with people you trust, in a place where you know you’re safe, it can filter out the unpleasantness, and leave only the thrill.

Ultimately, it may not be possible to really convey what this experience is like. I will probably never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy broccoli, or what it is that people find pleasurable about that experience. And someone with no interest whatsoever in kink may never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy getting beaten or shamed or controlled.

And it may not matter that much. As long as you have an intellectual understanding of this stuff; as long as you have an understanding of the basic fact that people do like different sexual things from you, and that this doesn’t make them sick or bad; as long as you understand that there is literally no medical evidence suggesting that kinky people are sick or bad, and in fact plenty of evidence pointing to the conclusion that we’re every bit as healthy and good as everyone else; as long as you understand that no matter what your sexuality is, there is someone in the world who finds it incomprehensible and weird — and as long as you can use that understanding to accept kinky people and treat us with decency — I don’t know that it matters that much whether you can deeply, viscerally grasp what it is about this experience that people get off on.

But getting a glimmer of the visceral experience can help with the intellectual understanding. It may even help people who do have kinky feelings, and who have been shamed into thinking that they’re sick or dangerous or wrong, come to an acceptance of them, and feel more comfortable exploring them.

And anyway, it’s just fun to think about.

“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve found that I tend to fantasize about what I don’t have — and when my life is micro-scheduled and overloaded with responsibility, as it so often is, it can feel like a huge burden being lifted to just let go and let someone else be the decider for a couple/ few hours. (You know the cliché of the high-powered business executive seeking out a dominatrix, to relieve him of responsibility for a short while? It’s a cliché for a reason.)

    Do you know or have experience with the opposite happening? That is, does it ever happen, in a significant way, that someone who may be feeling powerless and without agency might choose to feel powerless and without agency within a sexual context (so they are still powerless but at least it is a choice that they are making)?

  2. rq says

    Thank you, Greta. It’s a lot to think about and I think you’ve made a valiant effort at explaining why kink works for you. Definitely eye-opening, and extremely thought-provoking.
    Any advice on how to discuss the topic with a more sexually conservative partner/spouse? Or at least, bring it to the table?

    • baal says

      I spent a very long time trying to bring my wife along rq and it turned out the easier way to get our needs met with regard to kink was to open the relationship (with lots of reading & discussion along that path).

  3. rork says

    If I like you, I’ll want to do what you want (top or bottom as it gets). This is how I’m built, I don’t know why. If I know you well, and what you want is a bit unusual, it can be more interesting. This is performance art. We script a little play, designed to increase tension, thereby increasing release.

  4. freemage says

    I’d suggest one other reason that might be common among kinksters (it’s certainly one I’ve encountered in conversations on the subject)–there is a certain degree of frission that arises from knowing that you’ve transgressed against the social order in some way. There’s an adrenalin rush that comes from knowing that you’re doing something “against the rules” (even if, or sometimes especially if, those rules are purely social rather than formal and legal)–and adrenalin is as potent a mood-enhancer as any other hormone.

  5. Yellow Thursday says

    I’ve been into being bound and dominated for longer than I knew was sex was. I think a large part of it, for me, was my Catholic upbringing. Anything that wasn’t the “approved” kind of sex was “naughty.” So I felt that I could engage in those naughty things if I was forced into it. And if I enjoyed what I was forced to do, that brings in an aspect of shame and humiliation, which I then eroticised as part of the experience.

  6. Greta Christina says

    Do you know or have experience with the opposite happening? That is, does it ever happen, in a significant way, that someone who may be feeling powerless and without agency might choose to feel powerless and without agency within a sexual context (so they are still powerless but at least it is a choice that they are making)?

    augustpamplona @ #1: Not sure if this is exactly what you mean, but I know that there are some abuse survivors who use kink as a way of processing their abuse and feeling like they control over it. Sometimes in very direct ways, like incest survivors doing daddy play. (There’s actually a story in the book that deals with this, “Deprogramming” in the Religion section, in which a couple who had been in a sexually abusive religious cult is re-playing their abuse in a consensual way.)

    Any advice on how to discuss the topic with a more sexually conservative partner/spouse? Or at least, bring it to the table?

    rq @ #2: Not that I could really sum up in a brief comment. But I’m pretty sure that many of the how-to guides on SM address this. Here’s a resource guide with a list that might help: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/06/11/bending-resource-guide/

  7. Eristae says

    I have been aware of being kinky for as long as I’ve been aware of being sexual. And I don’t mean since I was eighteen, or since I was thirteen. I mean since I was eight.

    Kink is an interesting topic to me because I haven’t been kinky for as long as I’ve been sexual, but not in the usual way of my kinkiness arising after my sex drive. No, my kinkiness actually predates my sex drive by a good many years. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in bondage. We moved from one state to another when I was 5, and I remember being intensely interested in bondage before the move. I thought sex was gross for many years after the move, and my sex drive didn’t kick in until middle school. I didn’t integrate bondage into sex, I integrated sex into bondage. I’m not actually aware of anything that predates my interest in bondage. Now that I think on it, my interest in bondage is quite possibly the most stable and persistent aspect of me as a person, which is actually incredibly weird. My personality has changed over time, my generalized taste in things like food and clothes have changed over time, my specific interests (videogames, books, etc) have changed over time, and even my feelings about my interest in bondage have changed over time, but my interest in bondage itself never goes away. Why is this the case? I don’t know, but it’s true.

    People are strange.

  8. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Kink is an interesting topic to me because I haven’t been kinky for as long as I’ve been sexual, but not in the usual way of my kinkiness arising after my sex drive. No, my kinkiness actually predates my sex drive by a good many years.

    I wouldn’t put it that strongly, but some of the weird things I have been known to think about while masturbating (but haven’t incorporated into my sex life, at least not in meatspace) are things that were “thrilling” to me to contemplate, even well before I knew much of anything about sex.

  9. Indy says

    OK, all this talk of taste and acceptance was reasonable and convincing until you got to broccoli. What kind of person doesn’t care for broccoli?! You cannot be good without broccoli! Oh, and if you like brussels sprouts, too, that’s really nuts!

    /jk