«Master, what is the secret of the universe?»
The weathered sage holds his inspired silence for a moment, observing the glide of a dragonfly over the Zen garden. Then he whispers: «When you are hungry, it is better to eat.»
Profound truths do this, sounding like embrarassingly mundane self-evidences. Yet, upon closer inspection, you find how the meditation behind those simple words opens far more intricate meanings and reasoning. Kind of «Be yourself» as we heard it in eighteen thousand Disney movies, but typically you only truly understand around the age of forty, because nobody had bothered to better clarify the matter.
I had one of such enlightenments a few days ago. I was giving an online lecture on how apparently silly events – like the craze for strippers in cakes, or the butt-pricking epidemic of 1819 – can reveal fascinating truths about human nature. More specifically, I had just finished recounting the details of the fifth example when… bang! All the puzzle pieces collected over three decades fell into place, and I understood where so many problems for kinksters come from and, above all, how to solve them.
Spoiler: it looks trivial at a first glance. For me, however, it felt a surprise akin to when I realized that BDSM was the art of making yourself vulnerable – all textbook definitions be damned. And, since I can’t stand gurus, I thought appropriate not only to share it but also to explain the reasoning behind it. Please let me know if it makes sense to you.
In the previous episodes
I have been studying alternative sexualities, or kinks, for roughly 35 years. They have always been a huge passion of mine, which I approached out of curiosity to understand what that strange feeling inside me was and which then captured me in a rather logical journey. After the initial «what is this all about?» many more questions emerged in order of urgency.
«What do they consist of, exactly?» led me to accumulate a wealth of technical knowledge.
«But how do they work?» opened the door to their scientific aspects and revealed wonderful connections between very different disciplines.
«And what do they mean?» uncovered the Pandora’s box of considerations about the relationships between sex and society.
«So what are they used for?» is a still-open question – like the others, to be honest – that led me to the intersection of psychology and philosophy.
In short, I’ve covered a significant portion of a journey that looks infinite… and the passion has never waned. In fact, the more I study, the more convinced I become that consciously and serenely living out your erotic fantasies is one of the best routes to wellness. However, in all honesty, this is where we need to ask yet another question. «So why are people with extravagant sexual tastes so often unhappy, or at least troubled?»
Unfortunately, this is not just a passing impression. I vividly recall the friend who, surveying the room at one of the first Italian BDSM munches in the early 1990s, took me aside to comment: «Wow, I feel like I’ve ended up among the alien monsters of the Star Wars cantina!»
I also remember the article I wrote some twenty years later, in which I criticized the excessive inclusivity in the so-called ‘community’, which, in the name of tolerance was still teeming – and suffering to death – with individuals who would be unacceptable in any other context.
Later on, I became convinced that the interest in erotic dominance games is frequently one of the many ways to address minor traumas and, above all, to regain control over one’s own life. Even more recently, maturity and a greater awareness of neurodivergences among kinksters have further softened my perspective.
So, although the situation is gradually changing for the better, it’s been over three decades that I’ve been observing plenty of signs of something somehow not going as it should – to the extent that I became a kink coach to assist those who wish to overcome distress related to their private preferences.
I am under the impression that the key to everything is sensitivity, or rather: an above average sensitivity, for the better or the worse. It is the kind of attention that, when directed inward, makes instincts, sensations, and doubts so clear that ignoring them becomes impossible.
Most people feel a small discomfort at the worst for stuff like that, and then they quickly fall back in their myriad of everyday preoccupations; however, certain individuals remain obsessed. They dig, ponder, and rack their brains until they discover that life offers much more varied stimuli than one usually thinks. At that point, some people get into poetry while others find new, more tangible and conventions-defying pleasures.
Sensitivity however also goes outward and makes the judgments of those around us especially harmful. It is not even necessarily their fault, but their habit of believing in social dogmas makes them cruel without even realizing it.
They are the friends who laugh at those who are different, the lovers that recoil at an unusual proposition, the families and employers with whom it’s advisable to hide your nature to prevent negative consequences, the institutions ready to label and reject as an ‘unnecessary risk’ any “inappropriate” trait even if it doesn’t really concern them.
Either way, it is that sensitivity that trips you and makes you wonder whether you might truly be a monster. The dictionary’s definition of ‘remarkable, portentuous, exceptional’ is exhilarating – yet the fact remains that monsters are hunted down or, at best, put on display as sideshow freaks.
It is not an easy position. On one side, existential doubts; on the other, the ruthless judgment of a society that’s undoubtedly becoming more progressive, but just as undoubtedly is still built on conformity, approval of performance, on a “success” that by definition excludes those who refuse to follow the rules or just can’t manage to do so.
It is natural, then, to search for something more comfortable, or at least comforting.
Monsters like us
The moment when you realize that your erotic fantasies exist beyond the realms of pornography, that real people – people like us – truly live them, and therefore “there is hope” for you as well, is always disconcerting, no matter what your inclinations are. Imagine, then, when you discover the existence of entire kinky subcultures in which what we thought no one else would enjoy has in fact long been studied already and systematized, complete with convenient labels to identify with.
Suddenly, you’re no longer ‘that weirdo’, but a member of an chosen tribe, with its initiatory jargon, its identifying marks and, above all, virtual and real gathering opportunities where you can openly express your nature. And not only that: in those same spaces, there’s finally the opportunity to find partners with whom to bring to fruition many forbidden dreams!
Is everything resolved, then? Well, not quite.
In fact, most problems with alternative sexualities arise precisely from here: from those who only see the tip of the proverbial iceberg, ignoring the enormity of the foundations that support it. Exhausted by the frustrations encountered up that point, whether simply unaware or acting in bad faith, they have no patience to continue seeking for answers. Even though happiness is just within reach, they remain sadly dissatisfied.
These are the unpleasant individuals we have all encountered, polluting the environment by behaving as if everything is owed to them; they are inept and predatory sex workers; they are the ones who, instead of taking advantage of the countless resources for deeper understanding, flaunt a smug and harmful ignorance; they are, essentially, responsible for the bad reputation of certain activities.
To these characters – but not only to them – the general advice is to change their approach and make good use of what others have painstakingly created. «The more you study, the more you come», say geeks of all sorts, who are abundant in circles like bondage and BDSM, where technique matters and can make the difference between a great experience and a trip to the emergency room.
They are right, of course. However, this is only part of the solution. To finally fix the remaining slivers of distress and any internal conflict, the best medicine is your fellow tribe members, or at least those who have already faced them and are therefore in the best position to offer support and a good example.
Any culture isn’t just about information. Reading books is important, but so is cultivating a social network that goes beyond getting laid and also helps to counteract that sense of isolation we started with. Also because the more you internalize the principles of sex positivity, the more unbearable the violence of “normality” feels, with its absurd hypocrisies and a lack of respect that no kinkster would ever dream of showing.
So, it is better to rely on the understanding and camaraderie of people similar to us even after we’ve finished playing, when we’ll have to go back and face the insensitivity of the rest of the world – at least until we persuade it to love itself a little more. The recipe against fragility, in the end, is just that.
And now we’ve come to the bit of sage wisdom I mentioned at the beginning: «To happily live your kinks, finding your tribe is even more important than finding your partner».
I told you it was more complicated than it looked, didn’t I?