Whether you’re just curious or already ingrained in the kink scene, you may be experiencing shame around your sexual interests and desires. Given how sex negative American culture can be, it’s no wonder that many experience it. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Shame can be a difficult emotion to experience, and it does a very good job at getting in the way between you and your authentic self. While shame is often used interchangeably with guilt, guilt refers specifically to negative emotions about something bad that we did, while shame refers to feeling bad about who we are. If your kink involves consenting adults—you’re good to go! Now: let’s get to the root of dismantling kink shame.
Know that Kink is not “Abnormal”
If you’re reading this, it means that you’re aware that you are or may be kinky—which puts you a step above many others. Addressing and putting a name on something helps take away the power shame has over you. While it may feel shameful at first to think of yourself as a kinky person, repression is what what tends to increase problems, where people bury and ignore their healthy sexual desires.
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine surveyed over 1,500 people and found that very few sexual fantasies are actually atypical. For instance, 64.6 percent of women-identified participants and 53.3 percent of men-identified participants shared fantasies related to kink. In fact, all sexual fantasies of dominance and submission were found to be common, meaning more than 50 percent of respondents shared them. While 50 Shades of Grey perpetuated some untrue myths about BDSM (for example: being asked to sign a contract is not expected; no research supports that kinky tendencies arise from childhood trauma, as is the case with Christian Grey), there’s no denying the series not only normalized kink, but also brought BDSM into the mainstream. So, rest assured, you are not alone in your kink!
Understand the Source of Shame
The U.S. is steeped in sex-negative culture. Even if you avoided an abstinence-only sex education in school, you likely grew up with some impression that sex is shameful or “dirty”. Many of us were taught that sex was solely for procreation—not pleasure, and only for monogamous and committed relationships. Many adults think that sex means intercourse done in the missionary position, with all the lights out, and that anything else perverted or risqué. If that’s how they want to have sex-fine- but everyone has the right to choose the sex that is best for them.
For many people, sex this means kinky sex. When you unpack the source of your shame, which is often rooted in deeply ingrained myths about sex learned as a child and adolescent, you can better understand and therefore free yourself from it. As sex-negativity is insidious and often deeply-ingrained, it’s often helpful to work with a sex-positive and pleasure-positive therapist to unpack sexual shame and learn coping techniques for managing sexual shame.
Life is too short to let shame hold you back from being yourself and having the type of sex and pleasure you want to have!
Connect with Like-Minded Individuals
From friends to lovers, there are other people out there who share your kink. Connecting with other kinky people is not only a great way to meet potential partners, but also build communities that understand and accept you. Of course, not all your friends will be kinky or a part of the scene. Likewise, you probably won’t want to be friends with every kinky person you meet, but having friends and partner(s) who accept you for who you are is crucial.
One wonderful, easy way to connect with others is FetLife on social media. There, you can join a group specifically created for your kink and discuss it with others. The site also usually lists as kink meet-ups or kink-friendly parties where you can meet up with others in person. Additionally there are kink/BDSM events listed on meetup.com and kink specific apps such as trykinkedin.com.
If you live in a bigger city like San Francisco or New York City, rest assured there is a vibrant, accepting, and welcoming kink scene waiting for you. If you live in a small city, suburb or rural communities, know that kinky people are everywhere and the internet can connect us beyond our geographical communities.
Practice Self Care
Developing a community of friends who accept and understand you is part of self-care, as is working with a sex-positive therapist to work through kink shame. Other forms of self-care and stress management are meditation, exercise, sleeping enough, and healthy eating. Not practicing self-care can reduce your patience or ability to manage internal and external stressors such as sexuality-based shame. It’s hard to feel good about anything, let alone your sexuality, if the rest of you isn’t well-cared for!