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The three open secrets of the kinky scene

«Talking with you I realize how differently we see things» sighed the famous sexologist at the end of a great fusion sushi dinner. «Working with unusual sexualities, I unfortunately notice more and more their pathological aspects, while you still appreciate their playful side.»

«Well, even considering all the issues we discussed, BDSM – just like many other paraphilias – remains a wonderful way to step out of our comfort zones. Where else can you find such fun opportunities for growing wiser?» I answered.

That’s when his wife, a sexologist and psychologist herself, smiled at me in that caring way usually reserved to kids so innocent they come out as simpleminded. «You know, you ought to realize not many people see it as you do.» Which is, indeed, true.

The list of grievances mentioned above had begun with a summary of my recent experiences on Facebook, where I have been republishing for a few weeks now the articles written for www.ayzad.com. The response has been enthusiastic overall, but small sentences in the posts have somewhat frequently triggered rage-filled reactions by people who felt invoked in the matter. This is how it generally goes: while I never refer to anyone in particular, somebody reads my criticisms as specifically directed against them or their approach to eroticism. Objections and confutations ignoring objective data follow, then an infinite repartee over growingly marginal details, until the argument closes just like in a kindergarten squabble, with «you don’t understand anything anyway!». So much for discussion and maturity.

The reason is an open secret kinksters don’t like to talk about, for it would almost feel like treason of that idealized vision that describes alternative sexualities communities as a paradise of wonderful harmony, whose rainbow tints solve every problem of drab vanilla society. Which, truth to be told, is often quite correct: a surprising amount of research through the years proved how exploring uncommon sexual practices even has a positive influence on mental health and general wellness – so it is no wonder they have so many happy fans. Even the brightest light casts shadows however, which in this case are similarly well studied and known.

Briefly put: erotic subcultures are necessarily founded on the utmost respect for diversity, tolerance and the wish to inform any interested party about whatever fun their members have discovered. The most niche kinks of course count less enthusiasts, so they found especially welcoming communities in order to gather more potential play partners.
All of this is charming, but setting few or no entry requirements inevitably also attracts questionable characters. They go from actual undesirables who have been already banned from other social groups, to fellows who, rightly or wrongly, believe themselves to be outcasts or “failures” in wider contexts. To them, communities as open as the kinky ones represent incomparable chances to build a spanking new identity – maybe enhanced by an unsullied pseudonym. This path can even happen unconsciously: trust a guy who took many years to realize he had become ‘Ayzad’ right when a professional crisis drove him to abjure a long career in mainstream journalism!

So far there is nothing bad to it… if it wasn’t that for part of these persons the journey ends there. The relief of feeling accepted, or the gratification of being appreciated for their skills with “strange” (but actually rather simple to learn) practices such as whipping, or wearing outrageous fetish outfits, satisfy them enough. Also, they find nice guys and sharper minds than your average television drone, so the mere pleasure of socializing pulls them in the ranks of those who cruise kinky environments… without ever getting down to actually do anything kinky.
This phenomenon is even more widespread among those who experience unusual sexualities exclusively online. As odd as it sounds, keeping it virtual only is rather common. And given the even greater ease of acceptance on the Internet, many solve their distress by merely taking on an alias and inventing an impressive bio for themselves. Mind you, if this is the full extent of their need, they aren’t even entirely wrong. Just think of the desperate housewife accessing a website as ‘Lady Succuba, Carpathian dominatrix’, publishing a half-assed picture of her pedicure, and getting swamped in hundreds of adoring offers by “no-limits slaves” in a matter of minutes… her resulting effortless serotonin and dopamine rush works like a charm for restoring self-esteem!

Naturally, the snag is that this type of self-serving role play can be one element of eroticism at best, but not represent it in full. The very meaning of sexuality, whatever the kind, is meeting and measuring yourself with partners; it is sensory and emotional exploration; it is the art of making ourselves vulnerable, receptive to new stimuli out of our comfort zones; it is a quest for transcendence which can aim for the ultimate, especially if sex is – you guessed it – extreme. When lived in this spirit, in addition to being fun alternative sexualities can represent a fantastic tool to better know ourselves, grow up and even live borderline spiritual experiences. Wallowing in a backup identity sure is simpler and less demanding, but also rather dangerous – if only because the more crystalized the identity, the more fragile it becomes. This is the case of those who feel threatened by a bunch of words online, like in my initial example, because they could undermine those few founding elements of their self-perception.

The above brings about a refusal of constructive dialog, perceived as a risk of having to acknowledge they have “failed” once again. Serene people – who are, I repeat, the majority of kinksters – are happy to engage with different points of view, learn new things and possibly question themselves; conversely, those who live eroticism defensively prefer to maintain the status quo, refraining from stirring the pot. The best way to do that is to surround yourself with likeminded people, in a phenomenon similar to the filter bubbles made famous by other environments, such as social media political siding and fundamentalisms.
And this is where we can finally go back to my sexologist friend’s statement. How does pathology fit with unusual eroticism?

The Internet plays a big role in the cases I just described. Today, the ease for sexually unresolved people to meet online, shut the rest of the world out and incite each other with quirky ideas is one of the main causes behind even serious issues. Think of the incels, insecure manchildren sucked into a terrible Manichaean outlook on life you can only escape through self-destruction or violence against women. Think of the pseudo-transexuals who, instead of facing their turmoils – often a normal part of puberty – or aspiring to a positive outcome, foment each other with toxic self-pity on dedicated websites. Think of the racist delusions of interracial cuckoldism, which originated the myth of “white genocide” exploited by professional haters. Think of the criminal smugness of pedophile communities on the Deep Web. Think of the imaginary subculture of financial domination, and of its very concrete victims. Think of the fetishistic fantasies over sexually transmitted diseases and their real bug chasing consequences. Think of the ultraviolent sadism of those who celebrate mutilation and murder as sexual practices, so removed from the “safe, sane and consensual” culture of actual BDSM. Think of… well, maybe let’s not think of that now, so we can avoid getting nauseous – I believe I kinda gave you the general idea anyway.

The Net is clearly not to blame, as it is merely the facilitator in making timeless pathological excesses emerge: this goes for paraphilic disorders as much as for extremisms, conspirationisms or the basest populism. While social stigma kept the more ill-fated ideas at bay in the past, today it is easy to find virtual support inciting you to express them. It is therefore inevitable for a mental health professional to notice them more than before, and feel discouraged.
To be totally honest I notice them just as inevitably – but as we said in the beginning I remain positive. It is just a matter of perspective. And of the second not-so-secret of the kinky world.

I know unusual sexualities communities – the offline, flesh and bones ones – from the inside and, differently from the average therapist, I am well aware of how different they are from the hellish circles people often think they are. True sexual explorers cultivate ethics and respect to extents inconceivable to those used to see the world through the scaremongering lens of televised news. Getting to know them shows to even the most porn-addled person how de-virtualized extreme eroticism is above all a serene affair, quickly defusing the dangerous aspects of unusual sex fantasies. Visiting dedicated clubs and education events isn’t just an occasion for playing, but also to learn safety principles, or to see with your own eyes how other kinksters live their desires in harmony at the least.
Social opportunities for enthusiasts are numerous in every sensibly-sized city these days, if only for a munch. The one thing you have to do to reveal the third secret is just to put yourself out there, and you will find out that as a matter of fact “the people who see it as I do” are far from being a few.

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