David Davis XVIII: on kink as therapy


Tweets against BDSM are a dime a dozen. They’re one of those internet gimmes: an easy way to go viral without having to be humiliated as Twitter’s main character of the day. These tweets are the descendants of a bygone Tumblr, made by people with the courage to publicly admit that drinking piss is yucky; with the temerity to throw their weight squarely behind common decency and status quo to proclaim***:

(It’s not irrelevant to note here that Tumblr is bygone in large part because whorephobic sexual censorship decimated the platform’s audience back in 2018.)

I’ve written fairly extensively about SM, kinks, and fetishes, only in part because these are personal interests. When examined, fantasy—the indubitable star of DAVID (ha)—can reveal so much. This “survivalist lie,” this “middle ground between desire and reality” is fertile for self-reflection and discovery, which is important, I think, for cultivating political self-awareness followed by, you know, actually doing something with it. Praaaaxis.

I believe that our responses to perversion, knee-jerk and otherwise, offer a wealth of information about our own values, desires, and political commitments. Whether or not one believes that kinks are “good” or “bad” has bearing on other, more ostensibly significant, beliefs. I’ve quoted Gayle Rubin on this topic before: “Disputes over sexual behavior often become the vehicles for displacing social anxieties.”

Which is to say, I’ve never come across an anti-kink take that offered a solution to its perceived problem that didn’t include punishment, policing, and imprisonment; nor have I ever come across an anti-kink take that didn’t somehow, either directly or more subtly, implicate sex workers, transsexuals, neurodivergent and mentally ill people, or trauma survivors, though one or more of these are often invoked (alongside the ever-nebulous children) as the beneficiaries of a purely vanilla world.

These connections are telling, and we should pay attention to what they’re telling us. As I tweeted recently, those who arrange taboo fantasies in a hierarchy reveal to their audience the subjectivity of those taboos, as well as of desire and even harm. If anyone is less trustworthy than a Focus On The Family-ass anti-sex crusader—who at least has the consistency to dismiss every aspect of my lifestyle as devilry—it’s someone who believes they have the authority to decide which aspects of sexuality are acceptable (being a faggot) and which are not (being a faggot who enjoys a little piss now and then). Of course, even piss goes down easier than some of our more challenging kinks. My little piss metaphor is child’s play compared to the stuff that y’all claim to really be worried about. Just because I’ve chosen to write sparingly about it doesn’t mean that I’m not firing off spicy opinions about ageplay, incest, and certain aspects of sadomasochism, etc., in the gc!

Which is why I have to do the following caveat: When presenting a contrarian take—like “‘Genital preference’ is transphobic, actually”—I want to make it clear that my critique is not prescription. For many, drinking piss is beyond the pale, and if this is you, I highly advise you don’t try it. (As someone who has pissed in dozens, if not hundreds, of mouths, I might be tempted to make the claim that my opinion should outweigh those of someone scared to succumb to the forbidden lemonade, but I’ll resist.) I also want to make it clear that I am highly aware of issues of consent, and ask that anyone engaging in my arguments take them in good faith, i.e., I am not arguing that anyone should have sex with children, that nonconsensual violence has a place in BDSM subcultures, or that our perverse desires and—more importantly—activities don’t deserve the same level of interrogation and intentionality that everything else does. Sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. etc. etc. violence is real, in the world at large and in leather, something that we as perverts think and write about and engage with extensively (for newsletters by other leatherdykes that touch on these topics, check out DaemonumX, DollyRose, and The Bottom’s Line).

But I’m not here to make a case for BDSM. Unless you’re a hate-reader, you’re probably on the same page as I am, and I’d like to think my own political commitments to bodily autonomy, anti-racism, and liberation from supremacy logics & systems have long made the case for me. I don’t need to apologize for my sensual experience of the world any more than I need to apologize for being a devastatingly handsome transsexual. With regards to kink, the lines in the sand have been drawn, and we’ve all sorted ourselves accordingly. It’s 2021, for god’s sake.

Some topics, however, are less clearly defined, which finally brings me to the purpose of this entry. As the first installment in a series that will explore the “kink is therapy” phenomenon, one of the things I will be arguing is that this discourse has arisen, in part, as a rebuttal to some of the general anti-BDSM sentiment I’ve discussed above. And as I hope to make clear, just because I am, I suppose, pro-BDSM, doesn’t mean I am onboard with arguments that seek to legitimize it through respectability. But more on that later.

David tweets at @k8bushofficial. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

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***After this entry went live, a reader pointed that, considering the tweet in question was made by a black woman, I should have used another tweet for my example rather than spotlight a black person with justified reservations about BDSM. I didn’t call out the fact that many black people avoid or distrust kink/kink communities because of racism and anti-blackness in white leather subcultures, as well as structural barriers.

I genuinely appreciate that the reader spoke up, and apologize for failing to contextualize that tweet within this post, as well as to anyone my insensitivity affected. Thank you for reading, engaging, and bearing with me!