We do not often think about the gravity of our words. As we speak, words flow freely without much thought, and many times these words have consequences that we never see. When we compliment someone who has been feeling particularly insecure, we cannot begin to understand the positive impact that those few words could have on their mood. In fact, many, if not all, are entirely unaware of the power of the words we speak. I would like to think that most of us try to use our words to heal, but I have noticed that there is so much room to improve just how we use these powerful words that come out of our mouths.
I have noticed this beautiful part of the kink community, the space where kinksters protect and defend one another. Where they make sure that they do everything in their power to minimize both physical AND emotional harm. This often comes in the form of warnings about behaviors, words, history, and rumors of others in the community. We are playing this massive game of telephone, and while it is spectacular to feel like I have the power to protect others, I have noticed that my language and the language of so many others is actually quite problematic.
So, what are the words that I am talking about that are problematic? I imagine if you have been in the scene for any amount of time, you have heard them over and over again; real/fake, good/bad. The idea that there are “real” or “fake” or “good” or “bad” kinksters is not only incredibly invalidating to those who identify as kinky, but it can be a dangerous game. What you can be is dangerous, inexperienced, or reckless. You can also be responsible, attentive, or considerate. When we are discussing others in the scene, it can be incredibly problematic when our language is not accurately portraying what we mean. To describe someone as “bad” when we really mean that they are “dangerous” is doing a disservice to our community. Word of mouth can be so incredibly influential when trying to venture into this new world. If we are not careful about the way that we use language, we can be steering newcomers (or as I like to call them, baby kinksters) in the wrong direction.
When entering into the kink scene, it can be enormously helpful to connect with those who are more experienced. If those experienced kinksters want to open their hearts and minds to newcomers, it is crucial that it is done with caution. We have the power to ultimately shape the experience of another and we should take that responsibility seriously.
When we are looking at shifting language, it is important to become mindful of not only our words but our intentions. Are we steering someone away from a new play partner because they are dangerous? Did we personally have a bad experience with them? Are there unresolved feelings, so we are not ready to see them with another person? All of these questions and so many more can allow us to gain insight into the choices that we are making and will enable us to give advice in a responsible and helpful way. When warning a friend about a person, saying they are “fake” will not be as impactful as saying that they had a scene with them in the past, and their boundaries were violated. On the flip side, saying that someone is “real” could mean just about anything. Are they real because they are experienced? Do they have formal training? Did you play with them once and enjoy it and now they are “real” to you? The next time you try to describe a fellow kinkster, think about these questions. How can you accurately describe them in a way that is helpful and perhaps a way that you wish they were described to you.
Lastly, I think it is important that we talk about the association between “fake” and inexperienced. Inexperienced does not make someone invalid as a kinkster. I am finding that using these words synonymously is causing significant emotional harm to those who are trying out this new way of life/play, particularly those who begin later in life. Not every person in this beautiful kinky world has entered it immediately into adulthood. Many find their way here at various points in their sexual development and downplaying the validity of someone’s identity by calling them “fake” is a likely way to deter them from truly reaching their potential as a kinkster.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose our words wisely and intentionally. Our language is powerful, and making sure that we are using our words from a place of authenticity and integrity to truly help others can allow our entire community to be a safer and more welcoming place.
Elyssa Rice is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in the Kink and Alternative Lifestyle community. She is a writer, lecturer and advocate for sexual empowerment and sexual freedom. She has a private practice in Los Angeles, CA and is dedicated to shifting the narrative about both the mental health and Kink community.