Today, I’m talking about kinks that mimic illegal or unethical acts. So content warning for discussions of pedophilia, rape, incest, and other stuff that is bad.
First, I’m going to define some kink terms and dynamics, for those who are unfamiliar:
Consensual Non-Consent (CNC)- a dynamic between two (or more) consenting adults where one of them does unpleasant or harmful seeming things to the other, who looks as if they’re not enjoying it, or not consenting. However, before any harmful-looking interactions between them actually occur, they sit down and carefully negotiate the limits of that interaction. The person who is being “attacked” indicates what they want that to look like, and the person who is “attacking” them does not stray from those boundaries. They often set up something called a “safe word” – so even if saying “no! stop!” won’t stop the scene (because they agreed that it won’t), saying something like “red” or “avocado” does actually stop that interaction. This might look like a violent sexual assault, or someone being manipulated to have sex when they didn’t want to, or it might involve hitting, slapping, or saying degrading things. All of this was consented to in advance, even if during the interaction the person being “attacked” is crying, yelling, saying “no”, or looking really miserable. They may even feel miserable, or in pain. But they have a way to make things stop, with that safe word.
DD/lg dynamic – this stands for “Daddy Dom/ little girl”, but is often abbreviated as cg/l – “care giver / little”. This dynamic can contain a host of actual dynamics, but what it boils down to is this: one person in a relationship pretends to be young, or deliberately regresses to a childlike mindset, and the other person takes on an adult caregiver or parental role. As above, both people in this dynamic are consenting adults who pre-negotiate what kinds of interactions they share. The Daddy or caregiver will often make rules, enforce discipline, punish, reward, and care for their partner. The little partner may enjoy being taken care of, or pushing boundaries and experiencing discipline, or just coloring/taking baths/playing with toys/getting to be childlike and not a stressed out adult. Sometimes, participants in this dynamic have sex with each other, sometimes they do not.
Role-play – role play is anything that happens between people where they pretend that reality is different than it is. They can pretend to be a teacher and student, or siblings, or high school lovers, or sex workers. They can pretend to be strangers. They can pretend to be another gender, or to be from an online date, or anything. I can’t possibly list all of the things that someone could role play. If someone is pretending to be someone or something that they’re not, especially in a sexual context, they’re role playing. And whatever it is that someone role plays, if their partner agrees to that interaction, it’s consensual.
So now let’s talk about public perceptions of these kinks.
Over the weekend, one of the facebook groups where I spend some time had a serious conversation about childhood sexual abuse. In that thread, someone mentioned a kink that’s tangentially related – DD/lg. The response was immediately vitriolic, and frankly horrifying:
“if you get a sexual thrill from someone acting like a child, you’re a fucked up person”
“all Daddy Doms are bad”
“your sexual fantasies literally mirror CSA [childhood sexual abuse]”
Here’s the thing: a kink that LOOKS like an illegal or unethical acts is NOT the same thing as an illegal or unethical act. What goes on between consenting adults is exactly that: consensual.
Most Daddy Doms (or other gender caregivers) do not in *any* way want to have sex with a child. They don’t even want to have sex with a child in an adult’s body. They want to have sex with an adult who is occasionally in a mindset that is childlike. Their partner still has their 18+ years of experience, knowledge, and communication ability, they have an adult body, and they have the adult ability to negotiate before hand and set boundaries and limits. That is not childhood sexual assault, and that does not in any way mimic childhood sexual assault.
Most people who play with CNC do not in *any* way want to rape someone, or sexually assault anyone. They don’t want to do anything to another human’s body that that other human did not explicitly consent to. The reason that there is generally SO MUCH negotiation before any kind of CNC interaction is to make perfectly sure that no one’s consent will be violated.
I don’t know of ANYONE who plays the role of the “attacked” person in a CNC interaction who ever, ever would want to actually be sexually assaulted. The reason it’s an attractive dynamic is because they have total control over the interaction, and can call it off at any moment using a safe word. And their partner will always respect that safe word, and immediately stop. Because if they didn’t, they would be committing actual sexual assault, and it would no longer be Consensual Non Consent.
People who role-play things like incest, or having sex with a student, are enjoying the parts of that dynamic that make it sexually appealing (the forbidden nature, processing through the “this is wrong” feelings, illicit-feeling power dynamics), but would never, ever actually want to have sex with someone they were in a position of power over.
People who have sex in situations where they have actual, real world power over their partners are not engaging in consensual kinks, they are either bordering on, or actually engaging in sexual assault. Professors that sleep with students, parents sleeping with children, bosses sleeping with employees – even if all participants are over the age of the 18, the power that one person holds over another makes it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain actual, un-coerced consent.
There are innumerable reasons why someone might want to engage in a kink that looks like something unethical or illegal. I can’t tell you all of them, but many of them are just this: power can be sexy. Control can be sexy. Thinking about having power or control can be sexy. It can built intimacy, to engage in something so vulnerable as handing over or receiving power.
One person in that thread that I mentioned above said that DD/lg (and other CNC scenarios) are “maladaptive coping strategy after sexual assault”. I have two objections to this. First of all, many practitioners of sexual power dynamics have never experienced sexual assault, and their sexual desires for CNC don’t stem from any kind of abuse or assault. Second of all, who is that person to say that all CNC as a coping strategy for dealing with sexual assault is maladaptive? Processing hard trauma through BDSM is often a really healthy, meaningful, productive way to deal with that trauma. Getting to have sex that feels erotic and looks like assault, but you actually have *complete control over*? To some survivors of sexual assault, that can be healing and empowering. To others, it could be triggering and damaging. And only that person (and maybe their therapist) can say which it is.
Here is something that does happen sometimes. Not often at all, but I’ll indulge the people who are going to make this argument in the comments: Sometimes, someone has genuine sexual desire connected to violating someone else’s consent. They realize they experience pedophilic desires, or incestuous ones, or the desire to sexually assault someone. And many, many people quash those desires and never act on them. But some people have an adult partner, or find adults on kinky social media websites, and they say “hey, I’d like to do something that looks unethical in this way, but I’d like to pre-negotiate boundaries, and make sure it indulges the kinds of desires that you have, and fulfill your needs while we interact in that way.” And they find a way to fulfill those unethical desires by interacting ethically with another consenting adult human being.
I feel fine about this. I hope anyone who finds themself in this position talks to a therapist, and gets help processing the parts of their desires that distress them. But if you never act in a way that actually perpetuates harm against people in disadvantaged positions? You’re fine. You’re FINE. (But you cannot download or stream pornography made by filming rape/ pedophilic acts/ manipulation/ coercion, etc. You watching that fuels the market for it, and perpetuates its existence. I recommend finding pornography that shows people role-playing those dynamics, and has an interview with the “attacked” person before or after, showing them being fine with that interaction.)
Any sexual act only must only involve adults who have consented on all appropriate levels. Remember FRIES – consent must be Freely Given, Revokable, Informed, Enthusiastic/Explicit, and Specific. But any sexual act or relationship dynamic that involves only consenting adults and does not coerce or harm other people or the people involved is fine.
Do not ever, ever mistake something you find personally distasteful with something illegal or genuinely unethical.
8 thoughts on “Consensual Kinks Aren’t Unethical”
Great post. Just because some things seem similar doesn’t make them the same. Kink is all about consent. I also love that I learned a new term “FRIES.” I will definitely be sharing and linking to your post on my blog.
This was quite helpful for me, because I’ve been thinking about CNC (as the ‘attacked’) roleplay for a while, and have felt quite ashamed about it because… I mean, I’d never want to actually be assaulted, but, it really appeals to me, and everything I’ve read and heard about so far has been so negative, like by wanting it I’m somehow spitting on those who actually go through something like that.
These are interesting points, however there are still things about unethical kinks we have to consider that go beyond acts between consenting partners. For example:
1. Indulging in Non-Consensual Consent can cause someone to associate rape and sexual trauma with something alluring, or sexy. Taking the taboo away from something like rape culture and turning into something empowering is never a decision that goes well in the long run. (Bedroom fantasies bleed into real life, a dominant problem in this discussion)
2. This also helps people trivialize personal trauma
3. Enabling someone who is genuinely abusive on the pretext of a kink
4. Unhealthy coping mechanism (while it may help, it’s never healthy. See point 1.)
5. Detrimental effect on partner who doesn’t have the same rape/incestuous urges you do (this is considering you practice these with a long-time partner, not someone you picked from the internet who has similar sexual desires)
6. Cherry-picking scenes out of a much bigger, more dangerous picture (see point 1)
7. Certain kinks are illegal for good reasons.
8. Since pedophilic, non-consensual and incestuous kinks create a market for that content, that content is created. While the majority of it is created in an “ethical” environment, since there is demand for it, or at least something similar to it, shady producers create legitimate child pornography or create content in dangerous, unethical ways that contribute to exploitation and abuse.
I agree with a lot of what you said in this post, but you are leaving out a very, very important discussion. This is the tip of the iceberg, and I think 90% of the population, including myself, agree with your point that kinks are okay if you seek out another consenting adult and set guidelines. That’s hardly an argument, and the only point here. Really, more needs to be discussed. Thank you for sharing 🙂
I feel like the issue with what you said is you’re putting the responsibility for one person’s trauma (rape, incest, etc) on the person/s indulging in kinks, when in reality they’re unconnected to that trauma. I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom doesn’t “take away from”, or add to, my trauma, in my eyes it is a completely unconnected event.
Additionally, I find your comments about people engaging in pedophilia related kinks, etc “creating a market” for legitimate pedophilia, absolutely backwards. There’s a difference between “make believe play” and real life situations. Pedophilia, rape, etc and other sexual violences and forms of sexual degradation have been around for a long time. I have never personally engaged in one of these kinks described in the article. But I truly don’t see how someone can not see the difference in real sexual violence and playful kinks.
Real sexual violence-
– involves extreme hate, disgust
– shock or a surprise attack involved
– may be vicious
-one person may be a literal child
-one person may be physically harmed or incapacitated
-may involve one person being forcibly drugged
-person filled with hate and disgust ends the attack when they choose
– chosen by both participants
– terms agreed upon beforehand
– may or may not be in love
– communication, possibly extensive
– high levels of trust
– can stop at any time
I agree with you 1000000%! You put into words my discomfort with all of these.
As someone who LOVES CNC and indulges in it quite often, your points that it desensitizes someone to REAL rape and sexual assault are completely wrong. Most to all people who participate in CNC or other unethical seeming kinks are able to see the real differences in the actual illegal practice and the kink. Rape is one of my WORST fears, I’ve had multiple nightmares of it and many of my close friend have been raped. I am a HUGE advocate for survivors and am disgusted by the thought that anyone would want to rape someone. But CONSENSUAL non consent is still that, consensual. People who practice this know what they’re doing and they know the rules. They are still disgusted by rape and pedophilia and are very aware of how damaging and disgusting it is. Kinks are not something anyone can control so demonizing it and making people feel awful for being who they are is messed up and unfair. Those who perform real rape and CNC are very very very different and should NEVER be compared. (Before you ask, the porn I consume is 100% animated so no one is harmed in the making of it.)