Can Kinky Play and Fantasies Be a Healthy Place to Play Out Identity-Based Fears?

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop on extreme play and playing with fear. The audience was entirely queer, and when we were were asked to list some fantasy scenarios in the realm of the class, participants eventually moved beyond more general fantasies such as rape, torture, and playing with phobias and into fantasies involving homophobia, transphobia, bashing, and rape scenes with a specific queer-shaming component.

Perhaps this is surprising in a room full of mostly healthy, sex-positive, self-actualized queers, but I actually find it to be a fairly predictable direction for fantasies to go. When relieved of the need to be okay with something actually happening, it seems fairly normal for fantasies to tend towards the taboo, and perhaps especially towards the directly personal taboo. After all, those of us who are marginalized in some way spend much of our days dealing with people being jerks about our identities or simply exercising privilege, explaining our identities to others, setting boundaries, commiserating with similarly-identified friends, etc. For many of us, one or more identities are constantly on our minds, whether that’s our preference or not, and we spend a lot of time policing what’s okay with reference to our identities. We may also spend a lot of time being policed by those in and out of our identity group–“are you just going to let that slide?” “You need to spend more time on activism!” “Before you have sex, be sure to negotiate language around your body, or they’ll walk right over you.”

In this context, it’s no wonder that some of our minds wander to a freer space, even to the point of fantasies that sit firmly in the realm of taboo. When we spend so much time fearing the worst, hearing about violence and bigotry, carefully walking linguistic tightropes, it’s unsurprising that our fantasies might wander right into that “worst.” So what if it happened? What if after all the time policing gender boundaries and pronouns, someone calls you a slutty girl, a boy in sexy panties? What if you had no control? In real life, this would be non-consensually violent and terrifying, but in fantasies the brain can wire these things as hot, and the forbidden nature may exacerbate that feeling rather than serving as a cold shower.

And what about real life? I’m reminded of two things I’ve heard from local educators tangential to the subject. Whitney, an educator in trance, tantra, and other spiritual sexual modes, warns not to use negative thoughts when accessing the subconscious, because the subconscious has a funny way of turning “I would NEVER do that!” into “ooh, that sounds hot!” Apparently the subconscious is focused so heavily on subject matter that it ignores the “not.” And Mako of the Big Little Podcast frequently reminds listeners that kink may be therapeutic, but it is not therapy. So, taken together, these taboos can be super hot to play with when the surrounding context is safe, and perhaps the more wrong something seems, the hotter the scene. It may even bring a sort of therapeutic release to just let the monster under the bed out to play for a bit. But at the same time, it’s not therapy.

Frankly, I don’t see that as much of a limitation. To me it says that if you’re ready, in a safe environment, with planned support and aftercare, such a scene can provide new erotic experiences. And if you have other things going on mentally and emotionally, you might want to consider whether you’re ready to play or may require some kink-aware professional support alongside your play. Really, this is no more daunting than the general guidelines around kink.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.


  1. for me as a survivor of sexual abuse it’s a horrifying idea that some people have fantasies about rape and find that hot or erotic in some way. there should clear boundaries between consensual sex and erotic pleasure and rape, and i’d be afraid that by fantasizing about rape in an erotic way it brings rape back into the realm of sexuality and that’s where it clearly doesn’t belong, with rape being not a form of sexuality, but violence. i’d be scared of people who have such kind of fantasies because i wonder what’s so erotic about things that happen to actual people in the actual world. but perhaps i have misunderstood your whole post and it’s not about that at all. you also wrote that queer folks shared their fantasies involving homophobia, transphobia and so on. so is it about turning the tables? that i understand, i guess. but still, when it comes to rape, i find this quite offensive, at least for me, personally.

  2. I’ve long supposed that one of the psychological functions of kinky sexuality is to take things that provoke anxiety and eroticize them; as anxiety and eroticism cannot coexist (that’s anxiety, not “tension” or “nervousness”), the eroticization provides a safe space to deal with the anxiety-provoking thing.

    (Some psychological accounts frame the kink as an unwholesome response to the anxiety. I think it’s a positive response. Certainly having a kink, at least one that’s ego-syntonic, is a better way of dealing with anxiety than being crushed by it.)

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