FRIEND: Hey, can I bother you with personal shit? I feel like asking a smart kink critical person this and I’m reluctant to do it publically:
So, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately analysing the relationship between my submissiveness and the fetishization of oppression. Because I assumed that it would go like “realizing I get off from oppressive shit -> being horrified -> no longer finding that shit sexy and only getting off on non-problematic kinky shit”.
And well, the mind is a weird place and the result was the exact opposite. It went more like “realizing I get off from oppression -> getting off harder and getting of from kinds of oppression I never even found sexy before”. Which is not what I wanted. So now I’m kind of stuck. And I’m kind of embarrassed about it.
Any thoughts on how to sort that out? Or am I just missing the point by trying to get rid of my problematic kinks?
. . .
“Because I assumed that it would go like “realizing I get off from oppressive shit -> being horrified -> no longer finding that shit sexy and only getting off on non-problematic kinky shit”.”
Yeeeeeah…that is so not how it goes.
At least, not in my experience. What you’re describing about your kinks getting even weirder and more complicated sounds much more familiar to me. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, because it helps me to understand that my own experience isn’t abnormal, and also helps me think through it more consciously.
Hm. So, I’m gonna kinda ramble and think aloud here. I hope that’s ok. First of all, obviously, I don’t really have any answers to this. I feel like all of this kink critical, rolequeer, etc. stuff is such a new landscape that right now I’m just kinda stumbling around, exploring, and seeing what happens. It turns out that what happens is often not what we might’ve immediately expected. Well, that’s a useful thing to discover.
So, here’s one idea. When I read your message, oddly enough, the first image that came to mind was fascia — the layer of thin, fibrous connective tissue that encloses your muscles (and almost every other structure in your body) and holds them in place. It’s kind of like plastic wrap, in that it can bunch up and wind up and get stuck to itself, and over time it will do this in ways that sort of limit your range of motion by restricting your muscles into only the movement patterns that are habitual for you. Often, these patterns are somewhat asymmetrical, because we’re humans and we don’t use our bodies in symmetrical ways all the time, or because we’ve suffered some injury or trauma that causes us to move in a weird way or compensate for an injured limb, etc. But having your muscles locked into an asymmetrical structure can eventually cause a lot of wear and tear on your skeleton and other problems over time. We call these “postural distortions.”
I’ve been thinking about fascia a lot recently because I’m learning a bodywork technique called myofascial release, which is all about correcting postural distortions by manually releasing fascial restrictions. (You do this with various stretching techniques, application of heat, etc.) Here’s what’s interesting about this: Sometimes, when you release the fascia that’s holding a postural distortion in place, the distortion actually becomes even *more* exaggerated for a time. So, to start with, someone might’ve had a right shoulder that was half an inch higher than the left shoulder. But when you release the fascia, the right shoulder ends up being two inches higher than the left, although you would’ve expected it to come down so the shoulders could equalize. The reason this happens, it turns out, is because the bunched up fascia doesn’t just automatically go straight back to neutral — it actually has to unwind slowly backwards through all the stages it went through in order to get into that distortion. (Think about pulling apart a piece of plastic wrap.)
Anyway, because we do weird shit with our bodies all the time, fascia gets wound up in all kinds of unexpected, complicated ways — and so the unwinding process is equally complex and unpredictable. Of course, I have no idea what’s going on with your brain, or anybody’s brain including my own, but I think it’s interesting that this image of fascia unwinding is what automatically came to me as an analogy. In other words, it’s possible that our erotic desires get kind of shaped and restricted and habituated in certain ways as a response to the environment we live in (and the traumas we experience in that environment)…but then, on some level, we notice that those erotic habits seem extreme or out of balance, so we try to compensate in some way, to “tone them down”, without actually exploring or resolving them. If, at some point, we then decide we are actually going to try and resolve the “knots” in our erotic psyche, it makes sense that the unwinding of those knots might not be quite as simple as them just “relaxing”…they might actually have to unwind backwards the same way that restrictions in our fascial tissue does.
That’s sort of a long-winded way of saying “it might get worse before it gets better” — but I think the specific analogy is apt because of the backwards unwinding concept, and also because of the fact that most fascial restrictions are ultimately the result of either chronic or acute trauma to the body. (Even though some of that trauma is just, like, the inevitable result of being a biped dealing with gravity.)
For what it’s worth, since I started analyzing the relationship between my kinks and oppression culture, there have only been two things that have meaningfully changed what I get off on:
1. Having a partner who gets off on stuff that it had never occurred to me to explore before because I was “submissive” and “submissive” people weren’t into that sort of stuff.
Getting together with Maymay caused me to really deeply re-evaluate and reconstruct the boundaries of what I was aroused by because, ultimately, I was aroused by *them* and in love with them and wanted to be with them and if, as two “submissives” we both continued to hew to the party line of what “submissives” liked we’d never be able to figure out how to have sex with each other. To be honest (although maybe this is obvious), a HUGE motivating factor for all the theorizing around rolequeerness etc. was the result of hours and hours of May and I sitting around, frustrated as all hell, trying desperately to figure out how to have sex with each other. (And, similarly, the “dominants are rapists” stuff came out of trying to work through the masses of sexual-violence induced trauma Maymay was dealing with that made them feel unsafe and scared about being intimate with anybody.)
Ultimately, however, the changes to my erotic sensibilities that have come from my relationship with May have still mostly been additive. I find stuff hot now that I didn’t before. But, honestly, I also still find almost all of the stuff from before hot, too. And even that additive process wasn’t as simple as us just reasoning our way through it. We did a lot of stuff in the effort to hack our D/s-programmed brains, including taking ecstasy and some other drugs together, allowing a beloved ex-partner of maymay’s guide and counsel us through some of our early sexual interactions, and so, so, so much trial and error and incredible frustration and breakdowns and breakthroughs and crying. Even with all of that, it probably took almost a year from when we first started trying to be intimate until we reached a point where it reliably felt like we knew how to safely have sex with each other in a way that honored both our “submissiveness” without requiring either one of us to play “dominant” — and, over the course of that year, there were a lot of moments where I almost gave up in total despair because it seemed impossible. So, y’know, it’s complicated.
And we’re not even close to done yet. Almost three years into our relationship, we still go through periods where one or both of us has a shift in perspective about what our kinks mean to us, what they’re rooted in, where they’re taking us. Something that felt really hot before suddenly feels scary, or gross, or just kinda boring and weird. Something that felt scary or unapproachable before begins to feel accessible, inspiring, sexy. Sometimes this happens simultaneously as part of our sex with each other, and sometimes it happens separately as part of our individual processes.
In either case our ability to be intimate sometimes breaks down. We have to start over again at square one and ask, “Okay, what does sex even mean? What feels safe right now? Maybe we should try this…oh, whoa. No. Holy shit, let’s NOT do that. Okay, how about…” Over time, a few things have gradually aggregated. At the beginning, when something shifted, we’d often lose the ability to be intimate at all. Like, we couldn’t even figure out how to physically touch each other in a non-sexual way. By now, I think we’ve gotten pretty reliably to the point where we can be like, “Okay, sex is obviously not working right now. Let’s cuddle and watch a movie. We can try and figure out sex again later.”
Incidentally, one of the tricks we used to use a lot when we were first figuring things out was just to name our problematic kinks as problematic, in the context of playing with them. “I’m having this super hot, really problematic fantasy. Can I tell you about it?” “Omg, that thing we did last night was SO hot and SOOO problematic.” It was almost a kind of inside joke, but in a certain way just acknowledging that our kinks were problematic — that, in fact, some of the hotness was *in* the problematicness — and not making too big a deal out of that sort of…took some of the erotic power out of the more problematic stuff. I’m not sure why. Maybe it removed the taboo in a way that helped those kinks…unwind.
There are a few things that I used to find really hot that I’m pretty sure would now turn me off — at least, in a partnered sex/play situation. They still sometimes turn me on in fantasy land. But these are things that I can directly relate to specific sexual traumas from my childhood, and I went to therapy to deal with them specifically, and did a bunch of somatic work and EMDR and, like, went to massage school. 😛 And the reason I did all of that wasn’t because I found those fantasies particularly wrong or more oppressive than other fantasies, but because I experienced them as viscerally disturbing, and they were fucking up my ability to be intimate with people I loved because I kept having panic attacks during sex etc.
And here’s the thing…resolving those fetishes did actually make me less “submissive” in a way that made it almost impossible to continue to be intimate with my D-type partner. In fact, even though it was the result of trauma resolution, my changing sexuality kinda totally freaked them out, and I suspect that was one of the factors that ultimately led to our breakup. So, that sucks.
Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, sorry, I’m totally rambling.
“Any thoughts on how to sort that out? Or am I just missing the point by trying to get rid of my problematic kinks?”
I mean, I guess, y’know…This shit is complicated. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to get rid of your problematic kinks if you don’t want them. I also don’t think doing so is, like, necessary in order to be an ethical sexual person. Rolequeerness, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t about reprogramming ourselves to have a different set of non-problematic kinks; it’s about investigating and being curious about the kinks we do have, and looking the ways they are problematic in the face, and exploring them and understanding and unwinding and deconstructing them, and then seeing what’s left. That’s what I think, anyway. YMMV.
Maybe indulging in your oppressive kinks (or your kink for oppression) is a form of self-destructive behavior. Maybe it’s a form of self-liberatory unwinding. Maybe it’s a little of both. It’s worth thinking about, which is what it seems like you’re doing. It’s also important to acknowledge, while thinking about it, that you can’t reason your way out of trauma. Trauma resolution is a *lot* of work, and it’s complicated, and nobody should be expected to do it overnight or on their own.
I will say this: Probably 80 – 90% of the orgasms I currently have, I have while fantasizing about incredibly problematic shit. I don’t want this to be the case. I also like orgasms. And what excites me more than anything is that, now, maybe 10 – 20% of the orgasms I have are while fantasizing about stuff I *don’t* find incredibly problematic — and that is SO MANY MORE “non-problematic” orgasms than I was having five years ago. They’re still rare enough to make me sit up and take notice when they happen. But when they do happen, I feel *really* good about myself and try to take that as a moment to feel encouraged and celebrate.
TL;DR: I do think there’s merit in trying to resolve our problematic kinks. (Especially if they’re linked to personal trauma; because there’s just merit in trying to resolve our personal traumas, for our own sakes.) But rather than treating non-problematic kinks as the baseline and feeling bad about our lingering problematic ones, I think it makes more sense to treat problematic kinks as the baseline and feel good about ourselves for whatever progress, even if it’s “backwards” progress, we make towards unwinding them. Because that shit is not easy.
Anyway, that’s my 3c.
(Also, I don’t know if you saw this, but possibly relevant re: Maymay’s process: How to have hot, kinky sex with other Submissives without inviting a Dom)