Kinks as Reasonable Accommodations

Posted: July 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

As long as I’m posting things, I’ve had this tiny, brilliant, little gem of an idea from Air on deck for ages. I keep wanting to write a longer post about it, but since it’s been literally more than a year now and I still haven’t, I’m just going to post what I’ve got.

Here are Air’s succinct and lovely original words:

BDSM is a plan to meet sexual needs.
A dom’s relation to my needs is different than my own.

For example, being held down or bondage lets me not worry about shaking/ kicking/ struggling. To be mentally present beyond just experiencing, and physically active.

In rolequeer this is just accessibility.

In BDSM this is a reason for someone else to use me for their story.

I know ASD people who do eye aversion because it doesn’t become a disability disappointment to the cultural narrative of gazing true love in the eye; it becomes something just as erotic with a different behavior.

I like to be spanked because I feel the sensation pleasurable.

In rolequeer this is just a fact.

In BDSM this is an excuse to tell me that I am essentially all these other things and that I need to team up with someone who enjoys controlling and giving pain. (I like neither.)

All BDSM is is convincing people that their needs are reasons for someone else to abuse them.

Kink used to be purely accessibility (other than abusive sadists.) Then we institutionalized it.

A lot of people who come to this blog ask about how rolequeers differentiate between “BDSM” and “kink.” Air does a fantastic job here of illustrating one way that kinky (or clinky) play can be used as a form of disability accomodation. Meredith touches on the same idea in her comment here: “As a personal example, there are some strong outlier characteristics about the way my body processes touch. Sometimes it gets stuck on ‘everything tactile is uncomfortable’ for days. And through negotiated, mutually intentional experimentation with trusted play partners, we’ve learned that flooding my sense of touch with sufficiently high-amplitude pain, broadly distributed (i.e., lots of body parts, not just one) can basically flip that circuit breaker.”

I believe Air’s key insight is that, regardless of whether or not we are disabled in the traditional sense of the word, our kinks are akin to accommodations for ways in which our needs and desires deviate from ableist heteropatriarchal intimacy norms. When we understand kinky play as the process of providing reasonable accommodations to a partner in an intimate situation, we totally eliminate the need for some complementary counterpart who gets off on the specifics of the “doing to” as much as their partner gets off on that which is being “done to” them.

“Dominating my partner helps them with [x, y, z problems]!” is an excuse often heard in the BDSM Scene; essentially that someone is being dominated “for their own good.” But within a disability framework, domination is not necessary for supporting someone’s unique needs, except in the extremely narrow (but occasionally present and legitimate) case where those needs are specifically to be dominated. Otherwise, to use a partner’s request for accommodations as an excuse to dominate, rather than support, them is predatory behavior.

In short, if you are my partner and you need some atypical type of assistance feeling safe, getting aroused, getting off, processing your feelings afterwards, or anything else, then I want to provide that assistance because I respect and care about your needs, not because your disability turns me on — or makes you easy to abuse.

  1. i think the folks who use kink as a narrative veneer over their personal disability needs are less common than this post implies, but i do agree that they exist. the last paragraph of this post is especially interesting to me because it aligns with a longtime concern of mine in the fanfiction writing community.

    when i think about consent ethics, fanfiction is where those consent ethics are most applicable for me, since i’m not currently involved in sexual relationships and i don’t attend kink events that frequently. i’ve been in the fanfiction community for ages and i’m primarily interested in the way some stories write abusive dynamics that are considered “consensual” because the contractual model of consent is being used. i’m not really interested in shaming those authors, but rather i’m interested in telling my own stories that deconstruct this phenomenon but still exist within the fanfiction community lexicon.

    the last paragraph of your post especially reminds me of a story i’m working on that involves a “dominant”-role character deliberately acknowledging that there’s a part of him that finds the sub-role character’s atypical needs arousing on a power-imbalance basis, and he has to choose to consciously reject those parts of his feelings, and choose instead to try his best to accommodate his partner’s needs on the basis of his partner’s well-being, deliberately rejecting his own instinct to eroticize those atypical needs.

    i think the ideas in this post, even if i don’t think they’re /always/ applicable, would totally make a great educational seminar in any kink community, even or especially the bdsm community. these are some great ideas that are immediately applicable in lots of ways.

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