Kink shaming? Not really.

“Kink shaming is not ok!”

I am seeing variations on this message more and more frequently of late. This gives me pause, not because I think that kinks are shameful or that kinksters should be shamed, but because of the context in which this message routinely pops up. In the vast majority of cases, what is going on is not kink shaming: people are being shamed for being creeps or sexual harassers, not for being kinksters. The issue isn’t their kink: it’s the setting in which they choose to manifest it.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you have a shoe kink. Some people may think that’s a bit off, other people may think that it’s cool, and some won’t have an opinion either way. Most people, however, will respond badly if you choose to volunteer information about your shoe kink in a non-sexual setting. If you go up to a colleague, a random stranger, a shoe salesperson, or literally anyone who is not consensually involved in your kink and you spark up a conversation about how you want to fuck their shoes, they might be a bit taken aback, to put it mildly. The issue isn’t with your kink per se; it’s with the fact that you’re being a total creep by forcing sexual information on people who haven’t asked for it. You are violating boundaries as a minimum, and you could easily venture into the realm of sexual harassment. If people respond badly to your behaviour, they are not kink-shaming you: they are creep-shaming you, and they have a right to. And it’s no good turning around and trying to shame them back because kink-shaming is eeeevil, because that’s not the issue here.

This applies to all kinks in all settings, including the interwebs. If someone is having an online conversation in a non-sexual space about a generally non-sexual issue and you interject information about how it is a source of sexual arousal for you, you are being a creep. If you tell an individual who is not involved in a consensual sexual interchange with you that whatever-it-is makes you want to fuck them, you are sexually harassing them. If they challenge your behaviour or straight-up ban your ass, you are not being oppressed. They are not asking you to stop with your kink; they are asking you to take it elsewhere. They are asking you to stop behaving like a creep around them. They may be giving you extremely helpful advice about how to stop being a creep in general – advice that could save your bacon if you heed it, as well as saving a lot of people from having to deal with your misbehaviour.

This isn’t an issue of critical mass, either. If two or more kinksters bump into each other in a non-sexual setting and fall into a mutually enjoyable and publicly visible chat about kink, that doesn’t make it alright. They are still violating everyone else’s boundaries, because they are still forcing sexual information on unconsenting third parties. They are still being creeps; they are just being creeps together, which doesn’t make it any less creepy. The fact that they are all having fun doesn’t erase the inappropriateness of their behaviour, or its impact on third parties. They don’t have to stop having fun together, but they do need to take it elsewhere.

Literally and metaphorically speaking, most people don’t want your sexual stuff thrust down their throats without prior arrangement. It’s all about consent, which applies to words as well as actions. If you don’t know how to establish consent, there are plenty of good resources out there. And if you routinely violate people’s consent… Please don’t. You are making the world unnecessarily unpleasant for a lot of people. And if those people respond badly, it’s not kink-shaming, and it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

People may also object with particular vehemence to certain kinks because of additional factors. For instance, people may respond very differently to hearing about a shoe kink, a pregnancy kink, and a lactation kink, and that’s not a sign of repression or oppression. Quite simply, people feel generally less protective of inanimate objects than they do of pregnant parents or breastfeeding infants. By expressing kinks centered around vulnerable individuals in non-kinky settings, you are triggering people’s natural instinct to step into a protector role. And this is still not oppression because what you are experiencing, yet again, isn’t kink shaming. It’s creep shaming. It’s sexual harassment shaming. It’s potential pedophile shaming. It’s also the result of the very real dangers posed by the sexualisation of early parenthood on real parents and real children in the real world. A study from 2020 revealed that one in six women have faced unwanted sexual attention while breastfeeding in public. If you don’t understand why that would make most people twitchy, then I don’t know how to explain that to you, but here is a suggestion: have a lactation kink if that’s your jam, but take it to Kink.com, not MumsNet.

The same applies to literally all kinks. If you want to share your kink, go to kink spaces and find other kinksters to kink with. If you have the urge to wax lyrical about it, plenty of people on Archive of Our Own will be glad to read all about it. FetLife is free and full of great people. Whatever your kink is, there are plenty of spaces where it is not only accepted, but welcome and valued. You can’t expect the same reaction in non-sexual spaces, however. There’s a place for everything, and that ain’t it.

And if you slip up in a non-sexual setting and people call you out on it, do yourself a favour, and don’t use your kink as a shield – or, if you do, think about the impact of your actions. You might just be trying to save your ass in the moment, but if people actually buy into what you are saying, you will end up paying for it later. Plenty of people are kink-positive but will baulk at the prospect of having to accept a kinster’s right to interject sexual content into any and every settings. Do you really want to teach them that kink tolerance is an all-or-nothing deal? That there isn’t a difference between a kinkster, a creep, and a sexual harasser, and that to accept one they must accept them all? That your right to your kink trumps their right to consent? And do you honestly believe that kind of argument isn’t going to turn around and bite you and the entire kink community in the ass?

Be a kinkster if you want. But Sir, this is a Wendy’s.