Ms. Behaved is proud to feature this excerpt from Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams’ new book “Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities” (Greenery Press, 2012). BDSM has become a hot button topic in the mainstream following the popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey books, but this series does not provide any useful guidelines for real-life kinky relationships: it’s purely fantasy. That’s where “Playing Well With Others” comes in- it’s a book that goes over almost every imaginable detail of exploring kink, from seeking kinky partners, attending conferences, dungeon etiquette, to managing community involvement when your parents are actively kinky as well! (It happens .) I cannot imagine a better pair of authors to tackle this subject than sex educator rock stars Lee Harrington and Mollena (Mo) Williams– stay tuned for an interview with this dynamic duo on Friday. PWWO features cute illustrations, personal anecdotes from the authors, and a wealth of resources to make the book accessible to both experienced kinksters and curious newbies alike. Enjoy this excerpt from the first chapter! - Bianca James
Why Are People Into Kink?
Before we unpack the nuts and bolts of getting involved with alternative lifestyle communities, it’s important to know why you think you are into kink. This will allow you to set realistic expectations and goals as you explore. If what you get out of kink is a deep sense of intimacy and the thrill of taboo exploration with only yourself or your partner, you may be satisfied by leveraging the kink community to gain access to those specific resources. If what you are drawn to is the opportunity to make new connections, relax with friends, or become an activist… you may be drawn to different types of events and gatherings, or you may approach the same events with a different intent.
Are you here to keep a partner happy? Or have you been waiting your whole life to find just this type of connection? Is being kinky a way to cope with desires that you haven’t ever had words for? Do you see this as an occasional escapist retreat? A coping mechanism? Or is this a wholesale shift in the paradigm of your life? Is it all about sex, or is it something beyond the carnality of a sexual liaison? Spiritual? Secular? All these in turn? You may not have the answers to any or all of these questions, but keeping them in mind will help to ground you as you further your explorations and delve into the wealth of information and sensations becoming available to you.
So, what are some of the reasons people are into kink? Everyone has their own answers. We have interacted with many thousands of folks about their reasons for enjoying kink, kinky sex, fetishism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, erotic power exchange, swinging, fantasy role-playing, leather, cross-dressing, BDSM, swinging or consensual non-monogamy, so we can share with you some of the myriad reasons that people enjoy these explorations.
Because it’s sexy!
That’s right, kink can be flat-out sexy. It is a chance to make noise, moan, experience adrenaline highs, and get turned on. For those of us that are thrill-seekers, the physical rush is an opportunity to dive into the intensity of experience, to explore strong sensations, and to enjoy the tactile “realness” of it all. Kink is an opportunity to sample everything on the buffet of erotic life, to manifest joy with our bodies.
Some are sexually aroused by the beauty and aesthetics of their erotic explorations – the curve of a heeled foot, the sounds of clanking chains or cracking whips, the pungent scent of leather. Others have a specific fetish or paraphilia, and the kink community is a safe place in which to explore that desire. Some folks want the sexual arousal that comes from trying something new, or with someone new, or in a new place – an opportunity to “walk on the wild side,” be naughty, and be the delightfully depraved sexual human beings that we read about in porn stories.
Being into kink gives us permission to embrace what gets us wet, hard or riled up. Whether that is being turned on by aggression, aroused by surrender, titillated by the sensual touch of a thousand hands or deeply connected as two bodies unite in a single breath… we are granted permission to embrace, not just accept or cope with, our desires. It’s one thing to secretly contemplate your innermost sexual fantasies, and another thing to celebrate them with others who will celebrate right alongside you. The heat of desire can fuel the engine of your imagination; becoming a part of this community can, in and of itself, be an adventure in arousal.
Because it is an adventure.
Exploring kink can be a great way to try out novel things, make new friends, stretch your boundaries, and have a good time. Some people discover a chance to identify and meet their core desires, while others wish to splash around in an erotic playground. The adventure can also lead to the creation of vivid memories, maybe only a few fleeting moments, that may stay with us for a lifetime.
For others, the adventure was proposed by a lover or friend. By exploring the shadows of their own psyche and facing the unknown, these individuals can make the unknown known, and shine a light onto parts of them they might not know otherwise.The adventure need not always be profound – it may just be a chance to try something that feels good, is new, shiny, exciting, fascinating. It may be a chance to feel more alive.
Because we are wired this way.
There are those who have longed for alternative sexual practices for most of their lives; for such people, kink comes naturally. Engaging in kink activities is their “normal” sexuality, not a form of fringe sex. To deny their organic longings would harm their own emotional and psychological health, because they are hard-wired this way. They may have been deeply kinky without any instruction, direction or guidance, and they may not have formal names for their desires for SM and power plays: “rough sex” may be as far as descriptors go for some who have had an organic lifelong attraction to kink.
Sometimes the desires for kink and adventurous sexual practices come later in life. A hot porn story or image on the internet can get the fantasies working overtime, unleashing heretofore unknown desire. A book,music video, movie, television series, magazine advertisement, or theatrical production can awaken us to a world of possibilities. Something as innocuous as seeing someone wearing a collar at the mall or science fiction conference can trigger for some long-held desires that have no specific source… they just are.
Because we need decompression and touch.
Whether decompressing after a hard day at the office, or grounding back into a touch- and sensation-deprived body, many people report that kink activities help them reach emotional or energetic equilibrium. Relaxing, letting go, or succumbing to sensory experiences like ice cubes melting on skin or leather caressing our flesh might be a powerful reason to embrace kink.
Role-playing can be an excellent way to hit your “reset” button. By getting out of our heads and away from our day-to-day worries for a few hours, becoming naughty nurses or surrendering slaves can give us the opportunity to return to our daily lives with new eyes and refreshed hearts. Others report that the intensity of play gives them room to abandon “rational thought” and the minutiae of daily life. This physical approach to clearing the mind can create sensations of cleansing the spirit – removing the debris from our lives so that we may return refreshed, shaking up our brains like an Etch-A-Sketch. Kink, in its myriad forms, can provide a chance to recharge our emotional and intellectual batteries and boost our overall quality of life.
There are also people for whom kink is an opportunity to get more physical contact in their lives. We live in a touch-starved culture where we have to ask for hugs… and even then, social situations do not always allow us the amount and quality of physical contact that we need. For those hungry for human contact, the ability to receive sensual massage, cuddling after intense experiences, or an erotic spanking can feel incredibly nurturing. Loving touch comes in a variety of intensities, and being able to ask for the type of touch we long for can be fulfilling and empowering.
Because it is a challenge.
Screaming, moaning, and tears are not always a negative thing. They can be a tool for pushing through our fears, purging our personal demons, and therapeutically releasing pain from the past. For those who long for catharsis, kink practices may help them face their fears and sorrows, embrace them, and reclaim their bodies or personal power. In some parts of the kink community,this sort of BDSM practice is often referred to as “work” rather than “play,” because work can be required to dive into the underworld of our spirit and come back again. By creating scenarios or “scenes” where our challenges can be faced in the form of ordeals, we can reprogram ourselves, find personal strength, and discover new frontiers of our being. For others it is not about pushing past our limits or demons, but finding power in acknowledging our limits and embracing our ability to stand up and say “no.”
Many individuals come across these transformations during their journeys, even when such experiences were not planned. The opportunity to overcome shame, explore boundaries, and reach into the shadows of ourselves can leave us profoundly altered. Not all of these revelations are easy to accept, but sometimes we do not want or need the easy path in our lives – whether facing our own strength and suffering, or discovering some new part of our true selves hiding behind the masks they wear in their daily lives.
Because we want to connect with others.
For some individuals, kink activities are a way to express love, passion, desire, devotion and connection. When we feel our power or pleasure reflected in a lover’s eyes, we have the opportunity to connect with them on a whole new level. Exploring erotic trust games can deepen and intensify the levels of intimacy between partners, even long-time companions. Using kink as a way to get into our significant other’s heads can also create a deep sense of oneness or attachment.
Romance, love and affection for a partner (or partners) is another reason some individuals explore kink. It can feel great, and be a means toward closer bonding, when someone helps their lover fulfill a fantasy. Some do kink out of a sense of obligation, to a partner to whom they are profoundly bonded – and even there, many find satisfaction in giving pleasure, pain, or other blissful and desired sensations to those we cherish. There are those who fall in love as a result of these deep glimpses into the hearts and minds of another.
Participation in these communities can be the gateway through which some individuals pass in order to build families of choice, tribes of the heart, places they feel they belong. For those who feel that power exchange or non-egalitarian relationships feel more fitting than an association between “equals,” exploring kink can be a wonderful way to find those who understand their desires.
Because it is personal and profound exploration.
Though many people engage in kink for fun and to indulge hedonistic desires, there are others who are called to their erotic exploration as a tool for spiritual, energetic or personal exploration. For these individuals, kink is a tool for altered states of consciousness, and sensation is a quest for transcendence.
By playing with taboos, breath, rhythm and ritual, some individuals can fulfill a spiritual calling, connect to divinity, or embrace their faith. History has a rich collection of energetic psychonauts who used sexual or bodily practice to connect with the universe or specific spiritual traditions. Others use similar techniques to embrace their personal identities or gender, re-claim their own unique journey, or find profound self-awareness. This can include finding clarity of thought that strips away ego and leaves the journeyer aware of their pure instincts.
Some are called to harnessing and channeling power, some to consciously relinquishing power to another, others to expressing vulnerability, still others to finding acceptance for themselves and their dreams. Some may see themselves on a pilgrimage with kink and sacredness entwined, the path and the journey and the destination flowing seamlessly into one another. Some folks seek this quest specifically; still others find themselves wide-eyed with wonder at a newly discovered spirituality within the realm of the kink.
Why are YOU into kink?
Reflecting on what draws you to the wide varieties of sexual adventure out there will help you understand why you might want to be part of a kink com want to be part of a kink community. It will also help you determine what kinds of kink gatherings are right for you, and what intent might serve you best for making this adventure be the best it possibly can be for you.
If you are embarking on this adventure into the community with a lover, a partner, a friend, or an entire tribe diving in together as a group, discussions about why you are exploring this lifestyle can help you learn more about each other.If you dig kink because of the profound intimacy, and your sweetie loves the risk and adrenaline rush, it can be helpful to understand the difference before jumping on that ride together.
It can take a profound act of bravery to embrace all aspects of ourselves, and it takes gumption to put trust in yourself enough to seek your joy, even if it is the road less traveled. Taking responsibility for our desires and our actions is a big deal. Deciding to explore kink, regardless of whether you bask in it occasionally or immerse yourself in the murkiest depths, is a testament to your personal responsibility and commitment to living a deeply authentic life.
This excerpt was posted with permission from “Playing Well with Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities ” by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams, Greenery Press 2012.