Stereotypes About Kink And Alternative Sexualities

Molly Ren’s post at The Frisky about the ridiculous assumptions people make about BDSM/kink got a chuckle out of me. Yes, a lot of folks assume that practitioners of BDSM (short for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism) are sex-crazed deviants… but that’s generally not true.

In fact, if anything, practitioners of alternative sexuality lifestyles such as BDSM/kink and polyamory tend to have a heightened sense of consent and boundaries (arguments have been made about BDSM being a sexual orientation, but for now we’ll go with lifestyle). If anything, the insights and communication strategies from queer, poly, and non-normative relationships offer many benefits to straight, monogamous, and vanilla folks.

Further, our social conditioning predisposes people to be judgmental about alternative sexualities. This happens due to what I call the adjacency effect, or a conflation of sexual activity with morality (or lack thereof) and a concurrent pollution/stigma that affects everyone around the deviant person. There’s also the stereotype that being sexually submissive means you’re automatically bad at some things in life – nope, totally not true. How the hell would we go about proving that, anyway? Need I rant about the difficulty in studying stigmatized sexual behaviors in a controlled fashion? We need to lift some of these stigmas both for lofty civil rights reasons and to make my job as a sex/gender studies researcher easier, c’mon people!

I’ll leave you with a reminder that in our society there’s a tendency to act judgey toward people for their consensual sex acts, and to assume that anything other than what does it for you sexually is evil, immoral, gross, or at the very least kinda icky. Perpetuating stereotypes doesn’t really do us any good here: sexuality occurs on an incredibly diverse spectrum of human behavior, so making narrow-minded judgments keeps you narrow-minded, and prevents you from learning about the awesome diversity that’s out there.

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.