In lieu of “Mailbag Monday” today, I wanted to give an extended answer to a question posed in a discussion group that I am a member of.
Last month, Slate published an article by Jillian Keenan titled “Is Kink a Sexual Orientation?” There has since been an ongoing debate about this question. As it happens, I began to identify kink as MY orientation just a month or so before the article came out. So when someone asked the question in this discussion of what we all thought of the article, I was happy to answer from my own experience. Here is that answer, edited only slightly.
What I think is most interesting about this debate is the WIDE variety of definitions and understandings of what “sexual orientation” means. A lot of people are lumping in gender identity. Some people are limiting it to procreation.
It is important to remember that gender expression is only tangentially linked with sexual desire. Many straight men go through sexual reassignment surgery to become women and then identify as a lesbian.
Also, the mere existence of gay people contradicts the notion that sexual orientation is an evolutionary characteristic associated with “mating” alone. Since being gay has no evolutionary advantage (increased chances of passing on one’s genes to the next generation). So I think we can move beyond baby-making as the sole motivation for sexual attraction.
I suspect that many people are debating here without actually having read the article. Because the author actually addresses many of the points raised here.
I like this paragraph:
“For years, I identified as bisexual because I’m sexually attracted to both men and women and have acted on that attraction. But in recent years, as I explored my own sexuality more, I’ve realized that’s not quite accurate. I’m not attracted to men or women as a group—I’m attracted to “tops,” or sexually dominant people, as a group; their gender is irrelevant. Many kinky people describe similar feelings.”
As for me, about six months ago, I began to start exploring the notion that “kink” was my sexual orientation. The reason for this is that I began to realize two very important things. First, that given the choice between sexual intercourse and an intense scene, I choose the kink. Second, I felt most of the same things (fulfillment, joy, pleasure, excitement, etc) from kink scenes as I do from sex, but those feelings are stronger in kink.
I am all but certain that I will never again have a sexual relationship that does not include kink on some level. Just as I am all but certain that I will never have a sexual relationship with a male person. I desire neither. I am attracted to neither. I cannot differentiate between my attraction to females and my attraction to kinky fuckers. And I can control neither. There are men who I feel absolutely no attraction to whatsoever, but if they can play hard, my inner-sadist gets a boner and I will pursue them with all the tenacity I would a hot woman.
This is a new thing for me to admit. In fact, this is the first time I have talked about it online. But my truth, my reality, is that my kink preferences override and overpower my gender preferences. Someone who is kink-compatible with me will capture my attention ahead of someone who is physically attractive, and someone who is physically attractive will be uninteresting to me if they cannot do kink the way that I do.
So for me, I have been, since before this article was written, identifying kink as my orientation. I came to this conclusion for the simple fact that my kink desires take priority over either preference or aversion to a particular gender.
This may not be true for everyone. In fact, I would wager that people like me are an extreme minority, more so than homosexuals or bisexuals. I have met and talked with many people who identify as asexual. They still like to play with kink, there just isn’t necessarily any sex involved. Perhaps some of those people are actually kink-oriented, too, but certainly not all of them.
The point that the article meant to raise, as I understand it, is society would do well to expand its definition of what orientation is and how human attraction works. For some, gender is the first and most important criteria. For others, like bi/pan/asexuals, gender makes no difference at all. So isn’t it possible that orientation can be more complex that the simple question of penis vs vagina?
Is Kink a Valid Sexual Orientation/Identity?
I say yes. I think there are valid arguments for saying now. But I say yes.