I’ve written before about the coming out model and how it falls flat, especially in the developing world, because it’s very much based on Western notions on gender and sexuality (and specifically American/European, white, middle class notions). But it’s also a pretty shitty model in the US, and I think it leads to a lot of problems because queer people end up with the expectation that there should be one formative moment, the “coming out” moment, and then they should know their sexuality, and if they change identifiers, or deviate in terms of who they date or have sex with, it’s a bad thing. Words like “confused,” and more harshly, “betrayal,” come to mind.
The same is true, I think, in kinky communities. I’ve come across this idea a number of times that a kinky person is supposed to go through a certain progression in terms of sexual awareness. First there are inklings that one might like some type of kinky sex, whether very early on or later. Then there’s the research phase, these days probably mostly online. Then, at some point, there’s an expectation that you go out into that kinky community, meet people, possibly at sex-free social events, but at some point there is a critical threshold that leads to Comfort at Play Parties.
Of course, not everyone falls into this model. If you don’t it can be frustrating, for example, to mention that you haven’t actually had very kinky sex before and then have recommendations for 101 resources thrown at you. Well-meaning, certainly, and the resources may be great, but I always find it kind of funny. Kinky awareness is not the same thing as kinky activity.
It’s also a bad idea to suggest to someone that public scening is a natural point in the kinky progression, and that if they aren’t comfortable with this sort of space, they just haven’t “arrived” in their kinky evolution. Not everyone is comfortable with public sex or scening. Even very sex-positive, sex-aware people can prefer to engage in sex only in private, or only in relationships, or both. There are many, many ways to skin a cat.
This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.