Sex vs. Kink

I was recently asked what the difference between “kink” and “sex” are. It’s a good question, which people will vary wildly in their opinions about. Following is my take on the subject. I encourage others to disagree and to articulate for themselves differently than I do here — one of the most important things we get from talking about sexuality is an evolving and broadening scope of understanding about how things function differently for others. These varied articulations can, in turn, help us understand ourselves more deeply, or in new ways. I am all for that.

I will start by stating that “sexuality” is something separate from “sex”. Sexuality is a general blanket term which describes the factors surrounding how someone likes to (or does) get off, or feel turned on. Peoples sexualities can be identified (sexual identity) in multiple ways and within different categories such as: kinky, vanilla, queer, straight, gay, bi/pan/omnisexual, asexual, leather, fetishistic, Top/bottom/Versatile, D/s, switch, Sadistic, masochistic, hedonistic, primal, so on and so forth, etc… Sexualities evolve, grow, change, are discovered and rediscovered, and emerge throughout one’s life as one has new experiences, is exposed to new concepts, and generally learns more, and accepts or rejects more about what they find. One’s sexuality is influenced by one’s behaviors, though frequently sexual behavior and sexual identity do not go hand in hand (more on this later).

“Sex” is a word which encompasses a series of activities that one can engage in (or not), and which contribute to a person’s view of their sexuality. What is and is not (what “counts” for) sex is defined differently by different people. For the sake of ease I usually define sex as “anything ending in the word sex or job”. By this definition I would include sexual intercourse (PIV intercourse, genital or anal penetration with toys, all types of fingering, hand jobs, fisting, anal sex), also oral sex (cunnilingus, blow jobs, rimming), scissoring, frottage, masturbation, mutual masturbation, and generally anything which includes the rubbing, sucking, or licking of genitals for the intention of getting someone turned on and/or in an orgasmic state, to be “sex”.

Sex is not just about activities though. How we feel about the activities we engage in, and what we want to believe “counts” accounts for what people label as sex as well. “Energetic fucking” can be as much (if not moreso) sexually satisfying, sexy, and pleasurable as plain old vanilla intercourse is. So is energetic fucking sex? Some would say it is, others would say it is not. The same goes for a lot of activities including some of the ones I have labelled specifically as sex above.

Did you have sex if PIV intercourse only happened for a second with someone you wish you hadn’t hooked up with? What about if it was someone you desperately wanted to fuck? It turns out that we’ll label what counts and what doesn’t count as sex differently depending on how we felt about the situation. People often also say things to the effect of “we sorta kinda had sex not really” in situations where they feel grey about consummation. Is it sex if no one orgasms? What about if only one person involved in the equation does? I don’t believe there is any hard and fast rule to completely defining what is sex and what is not sex. There are a lot of “sexual activities” though, and some of them sometimes seem to count more than others to the general population. It is absolutely possible to believe you have had sex with someone who does not consider the time you spent together sex at all.

Moving in the direction of our next subject for definition, I personally would consider all of the activities I outlined above as examples of “vanilla sex”. I am sure a lot of people would consider at least some of them to be “kinky” though.

A “kink” is a bend or an irregularity in the system. What is kinky and what is not kinky resides entirely in the realm of speculation and personal definition too. The first question one must ask when deciphering whether an activity is “bent” must be: whose system are we evaluating for kinks? Fact: what’s kinky to you may be completely vanilla to me. Things that were defined as kinky to me in the past, may now be viewed as mainstream and vanilla as I’ve gained understanding or experience of the activity in a new way. For instance, consider activities such as spanking and oral sex. Some people consider both of these things to be kinky, some consider both of these things to be vanilla, and people also believe all the variables in between. There is no hard and fast definition about what’s kinky until a person who wants to define it for themselves does so as such. Lines in the sand, all.

What’s the point of defining something as vanilla or kinky to begin with? Well, I think like all perfectly imperfect language useage, it’s shorthand to find others who might be into what you’re into. We take a general idea (rather than our stringent personal definitions) of what’s “normal” behavior and label ourselves on one side of the divide in hopes to attract or repel people who we believe may identify similarly or differently than ourselves. The follow up questions are the important ones to anyone you wish to engage sexually or kinkliy with: ok, so you’re [vanilla/kinky], what types of things do you like to do? What feels good? What drives you wild? What should I do/not do to turn you on?

Now let’s revisit that idea from earlier about “Identity vs. Behavior”. Someone may not identify as kinky, but may also get really turned on by, let’s say… being tied up. Their behavior, when they decide to get turned on by going out and getting tied up a bunch, may be viewed by others as kinky. So is that person kinky? To much of their community, the answer may be yes. Does it matter? No. It matters to the person identifying the way they identify why they choose the identity they choose. Even if they are enjoying categorically “kinky” activities on the regular, if that person identifies as vanilla, they are vanilla. We don’t know all there is to know about that person or their reasons for choosing one identity over another. A person’s identity is their right to define as they choose for their own reasons in whatever moment they are sharing it with others. It’s important that we trust and respect people and their processes of uncovering and defining their own lives. This doesn’t mean we can’t ask questions or have a great conversation about how we view the definitions of these words differently, and we can also discuss the finer points of growing and discovering or rejecting new facets of identity over time. This also doesn’t mean we should deliberately hurt or mislead others by being opaque to the meaning of our behaviors and the expectations we set up when we use certain words exclusively to people we’re sharing our identities and sexualities with either… At the end of the day, we are all works in progress for better and for worse. We are all responsible for meaningful clarity and reasonable transparency about our interactions with others. We do not all agree about where these gray definitions land, hence the need for multiple ongoing conversations about our needs, wants, and expectations from the people we’re sexual and sensual with.

How you feel about these subjects is important. How you feel about them helps you figure out your own personal boundaries and articulate yourself more clearly than if you only thought in black and white dictionary definitions about what “should” or “shouldn’t” make you feel turned on, sexual, or sensual with another person. Also, as important as it is to respect people’s differences, community standards exist and account for some degree of safety and general information dissemination for reasons. The young person who believes oral or anal sex “isn’t sex” may be more vulnerable to STIs because they believe they are still “a virgin” and therefore invulnerable to the consequences of engaging in sexual activity. Here we see that differing community standards can contribute to education and/or potential harm through an unexamined ignorance of all the contributing factors which play into behavioral reality. Does it matter that you’re [gay/kinky/monogamous/heteroflexible…]? Only to the extent that responsible conversations with the people you are engaging with sexually/sensually/kinkily/romantically with are able to happen relatively transparently.

So go to it! It’s the most natural thing in the world to be turned on. Let’s talk about sexuality, sex, kink, behavior, and identity…

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

T is for TRUST

“Tiger Scratches”, from a delicious and fun pre-negotiated scene where I got to say “yes” to straight razor cuts happily, and feeling safe. Photo by Jon Gunnar

Lately I have been feeling growth uncurl within me. A number of “I want tos” and “I wish I coulds” have been calling. I am ready, I think… Gulp. I read an article, imagine a scenario, pen a response… I want these things. Yes, I do.

This matters because all my life wanting has felt very unsafe to me.

Trust is an elusive imp playing tricks on what we think we want, pitting our desires against the gut’s “mmm… I don’t think so, no”… We learn to push this imp away our whole lives, listening to those around us who we feel pressured by. We learn to say “yes” when it feels like biting off more than we can chew. It’s hard to swallow, the experiences we motion ourselves through, after negotiations like these. Trust deteriorates in time, and we don’t know where we are anymore, what is good, or what we do because we think we’re supposed to. It takes time for us to learn to listen better to our guts, to our trust imps, in this life full of advertisements about what we’re supposed to want.

I do not really love sex. Perhaps this is because my first sexual experience happened at age 4, and it was a coercive, threatening, and manipulative situation which robbed me of my trust in friendship and trust for my own feelings of attraction. Maybe it’s because I was punished directly after escaping the situation, and so I carry this eternal kneejerk reaction to sexual attraction of distrust. Relationship negotiation holds within it a visceral fear that I’ll get in trouble if I pursue the thing I think I want… I get quiet and go even further away when people get angry or frustrated during sex, I glaze over when people make demands, and it’s been hard for most of my sexual history for me to stay present. I feel generally unsafe around other people’s perfectly natural desires for sex. I don’t want this though. For a lot of years I just did what other people wanted, or I measured the success of my relationships based around how regularly “it” was done, because I didn’t know how to actually connect during sex. Sex felt like a game I didn’t understand, a game I was always behind on the rules about, and I did what I thought I was supposed to because I couldn’t find my own desire for sex most of the time.

I’m glad I’m not there anymore (entirely). For me the key to trust and opening up was learning to say “no” and having my “no” respected and celebrated by those around me.

I was at a sex party once, and the theme was “asking for what you want”. Everyone came to the party prepared to practice asking for what they wanted — nothing was off the table. When everyone arrived we started our opening circle, we all had a turn introducing ourselves and revealing our first “ask” to the group. Mine was this:

I want to practice saying no. Would anyone be willing to spend some time propositioning me about various activities so I can practice saying no to them?

At the time it seemed kind of silly and counterproductive to (at a sex party) ask people to let me reject them. However, I have to say, this was one of the most healing and brilliant experiences I’ve ever had. That night’s exercise launched me into years of being able to practice my nos, so that I can actually now locate my maybes and yeses.

It was so hard to do, it turned out I needed a coach. I was approached by a few people at the party who wanted to play. They asked questions, to which I was supposed to say “no”, or “no, thank you”. It turned out I was impossibly bad at just saying no.

Them: Karin, may I kiss you?

Me: Oh, I love kissing, but maybe not right now?

Them: Well, can I pour hot wax all over your body?

Me: Wait, no fair, I love that activity! Um, maybe another time, not right now…

And so it went, with my “I’m really sorry I have to say no right now”, “well maybe later, it’s not personal, I just can’t right now”, or “that sounds interesting but I don’t think I can right now”, and so on…” Every “no” I gave was actually a maybe (?) or in reality, it was a “not-no”. I was finding it emotionally and psychologically extremely hard to pause, find my actual “no”, and simply say it while looking in the faces of my friends — friends who actively wanted me to say no!

I don’t think I’m the only person like this. I believe it’s a pretty normal response from a lot of people. I might even go as far as to say it’s probably exceedingly common among people who have experienced sexual trauma, from AFAB people in general, and I assume it’s a well practiced response from other minority people too. I think the art of “not no-ing” is heavily enculturated in our society. Part of what not no-ing is, is positioning yourself passively around a larger animal that might hurt you. Compliance is self-preservation. We hope to ease away from a situation while appearing compliant when we “not no”.

Simply put, I couldn’t put my foot down firmly because I was afraid to. Deep deep down, even in this safe space surrounded by encouraging friends I was terrified of saying no. I had one friend, let’s call her Jane, who was amazing that night. She kept asking the same question over and over again until I simply said “no” or “no, thank you”. After every qualification I made she shook her head and re-asked:

Jane: May I go down on you?

Me: That sounds really nice, but not now…

Jane: No, try again. May I go down on you Karin?

Me: No thank you, but not because I don’t like the idea of it…

Jane: May I go down on you Karin?

Me: Um, no, but ask me again sometime?

Jane: May I go down on you Karin?

Me: … … … (deep breath, crying a little, terrified) … … No. Thanks.

Jane: (Looking me in the eyes) Thank you, Karin. I’m really glad you told me no.

(I’m still really emotional reading that.)

I wish I could say I was cured from that point onward, but I haven’t been. I do know a lot more about my feelings now, and I know how to slow down and listen to myself better. As a rule these days I pause after being asked for something sexual or sensual, I try to find my “no”, and I don’t say “yes” until I can imagine doing the activity and imagine (or feel) myself wanting to do it. If I can’t imagine doing the thing, or doing things leading up to the thing, I say “no”. If I can imagine doing it and enjoying it, I say “I’d like to try”, and sometimes also “I don’t know if I’m totally into the idea, but I’d like to see if I can get into it, so I’d like to check in a bunch while we try”. If I’m ecstatically into the idea of what’s proposed, I say, “yes, I’d love to!” Sometimes when I realize I’m not into a proposed idea, while I’m finding my “no”, I’ll think of something I want to try instead. In those moments I’ll say “No, I don’t want to ____, but I’d like to ____ if you’re interested in that instead?”. Honest negotiation is what ensues.

If I can’t trust your “no”, I can’t trust your “yes”. This is where I have learned to stand, and it’s a radically helpful idea to hold onto. It has helped me communicate more directly, clearly, and unapologetically about sex, BDSM, and my boundaries with people. After practicing it over the years it’s become more and more easy to communicate about (and even feel) my feelings. I’ve found a lot of people I’m negotiating with appreciate these conversations too. Most people are struggling on some level with social expectations or worse when it comes to sensuality and sexuality. When I am direct and lead with my boundaries and desires, I find other people often feel safer talking about what they do and do not want as well. I’ve been able to negotiate lovely and crazy-seeming things with people consensually and to great end because we negotiated by asking one another about what we don’t want, which then frees us to outline exactly what we each do want. This in turn leads us to more deeply trust each other and ourselves in the process.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and support me. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

Power of Right and Wrong

Don’t let my tits stop you from calling me “Sir”.

We all like different things. While there are a lot of objects, experiences, activities, places, etc. many people enjoy, there are probably no things which everyone enjoys — certainly not enjoys equally. There are multiple ways to do the vast majority of tasks… So, why do we frequently teach within the paradigm of “right” and “wrong”? I think there are better ways. What is the value of teaching without an exploratory sense of one’s subject? Is critical thinking an important skill across the board? When we make mistakes are we resilient enough to call them out ourselves or do we cling to the intention we had when we made the mistake? Are you willing to look at the ways you might harm someone? How hard is it for you to apologize when that occurs? Can a conversation be reset when it gets tense? How? Do you prefer thinking of yourself as “a good person” who’s intention is not harmful — end of conversation? How do we learn if we believe we are “good” at our core, instead of accepting that we also sometimes fail which may make us look “bad” to others?… How do we reconcile these points of view within our communal outlook and interactions with others?

When navigating conversations with actual people intersectional understanding can come in handy. It is entirely possible to be knowledgeable about one community and fail interacting with a person from another affinity group when we don’t understand that a different approach is more respectful than the one we’re used to. This does touch on the dreaded concept of identity politics, but there are more and less useful ways to look at the politics of one’s identity than black and white rules of conduct. People’s identities are more complex than their affinity groups, and even identity itself is not “who a person is”, it’s simply representative of aspects of that person.

I’m suggesting what’s potentially helpful in this scenario rather than what exact phraseology should be used, but take these two phrases:

  1. “Never say things like that to a ___ person”.
  2. “I don’t appreciate being approached in that manner, it feels disrespectful considering my identity as a ___ person”.

The first sentence, though straight forward, condemns a person for not knowing something, for making a mistake within their engagement of the speaker. It implies they are bad for having done something wrong and could feel like a scolding. The second sentence takes responsibility for the speaker’s feelings, tells the other person something about why it’s important to change their approach, and invites them to engage in a more respectful way. Obviously there are many different ways to have this conversation, and wording preference or tone consideration can be helpful but shouldn’t be taken to extremes. Intent also matters (to a degree) within the imperfect conversations we all engage in. Nothing is all one or the other completely.

What this boils down to is power dynamics. It seems to me that people who don’t think a lot about power dynamics (often because they have been more empowered throughout their lives as they’ve navigated the world) frequently complain or double down when it’s brought to their attention that their approach toward another person isn’t working or is actually hurtful. What if instead of needing to be “right”, that person could find it within themselves to be curious — to know that they meant well yet also failed at being good to the person they meant well towards?

To open my heart to others means getting bruised sometimes, and it also means unintentionally bruising. The alternative to trying and failing is to be shut down, shut off, incapable of compassion, not curious about possibility, and eventually, I think, to become nihilistic above hopeful concerning the human potential for peace and evolution. I believe in our better selves. I believe in struggle leading to understanding. I believe in being uncomfortable for a while while I struggle with situations or concepts which hurt my head or heart. I believe in these things because questioning will make me understand the mechanism I’m confronted with better than arrogance. When I treat people as they wish to be treated (rather than how I wish to be treated), when I apologize for my mistakes, when I care to learn better ways than the ones I am familiar with, I become a better person to the people I am around. Learning to fail gracefully and adapt graciously is far more useful, in my opinion, than being right all the time within a small world constructed from a  bubble of self-congratulatory homogenous ease.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and support me. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

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