This post is for the March Carnival of Aces about Asexuality and Kink. Once it goes up, make sure to go over to Asexual Agenda to take a look at all the other wonderful entries. I’d also like to thank Asexual Agenda for the shout-out last week. It means a lot to have just started this blogging adventure and see that other people read what you write and think it may have some worth.
When kink shows up in the media, it is oversexualized, forbidden, tantalizing, and a sign of social deviancy and/or something broken. What a lot of people don’t really understand is that kink is a word that covers a massive range of activities and people. A kinky scene can be anything from the media image of black leather and whips or two people just pigging out on cupcakes and happily drawing in coloring books. A kink is basically something you like doing, that’s all. It is good to keep in mind that many kinks are things that society might think are odd for grown adults or anyone to be doing. It doesn’t have to be sexual. Part of what binds this community together is that they share a concept of “safe, sane, and consensual” or something similar. This goes hand in hand with a painful, but oh so necessary, process called negotiation. This is what aces can borrow from kink and to a large degree already are.
Even before I sat on the edge of the kink community in my area, as I do entirely by chance at present, I had some friends who were kinky and I had a very basic idea of what kink was. I still blushed at it’s mention or kicked myself for doing things like asking a friend why some handcuffs were sitting next her bed. (Seriously…I thought she’d been a cop for Halloween or something…I blushed through her answer, self-application is not where my brain goes when I see hand-cuffs…) Then, I started reading more ace blogs. A good chunk of ace narrative about how to interact in terms of intimacy borrows directly from the kink community. Some of the blogs acknowledge that debt or are written by bloggers who are also part of the kink community, while other bloggers have likely run into it in other situations and gone, oh, that, that could be useful. I learned a good chunk of what I know about consent and negotiation from other ace blogs. One example that totally acknowledges that debt is Shades of Gray which sadly appears to be no longer updating. If you read her post How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person and have already hung out in the kink community much, the framework of the post will be familiar. That post was written partially to scare off people who just wanted to have sex with an ace for fun or to convince them they were sexual etc, but it is actually full of good advice. It is definitely worth a read and she has put a lot of work into making that post fairly comprehensive.
At the very base of negotiation is the radical concept that every person is different. If you don’t talk about what each person is interested in, you have no way to know. In kink this refers back to the point I made above, that kink is a massive category that the media has kinda narrowed down to whips, black leather, and bondage. (Not that any of those things are inherently less/bad/*insertnegativewordhere* for those of you who prefer it, just making the point that the media has a very specific view of kink that it has passed out to all of us peons.) For aces, this is incredibly useful because we come in so many flavors of comfort with touch and for a good chunk of us, the heteronormative script that starts with kissing and ends in penetration just isn’t right. Even if that script works for an ace that has sex, their partner (whether ace or allosexual) won’t know that unless they are told. If the script works for you and you are happy with it, I am in no way telling you it is a bad thing either, just that it doesn’t work for a lot of people.
Another vital concept that is essential to negotiation is consent, clear-as-a-bell, explicitly stated consent. Not guilt-tripped consent or didn’t-say-no consent or half-hearted-you-really-want-this-go-ahead-I-guess consent, but a clear, definitive yes, with the right to safeword in the middle of things if you realize you don’t want this or can’t handle it. Consent is talked about, negotiated and visible. Is this always practiced perfectly in the kink community? No, it isn’t, but it is the idea. Safeword, by the way, is a word you can say to pause or stop whatever is happening. The traffic light is a pretty common setup, with green meaning go ahead, all is well, yellow meaning pause/go carefully, red meaning stop all activities, hands off. People also come up with their own safewords, generally words that don’t sound like anything one says during enjoyable activities.
For aces who aren’t kinky, but are interested in intimacy (whether it is cuddles while watching tv, cuddles in a bed, or sex, or anything else you define as intimacy) this definition and practice of consent and negotiation could be so useful because it lets the ace talk about what s/he wants, what s/he is comfortable with and what s/he is not comfortable with. S/he hears the same from the partner, figures out where the two of them match up, decides how they want to do safe words and much less hurt, startlement, and boundary crossing takes place. I know that I am lucky my partner was already familiar with negotiation and consent because it made it easier to find the balance of what both of us were comfortable with.
If there are any activities that fall into the category of, “this is a thing you like and I am not that interested in but am comfortable with it if you ask me first,” then instead of partner B just doing this thing and partner A being upset/startled/hurt, partner B gets to do the thing s/he enjoys when partner A is willing. Not everyone has this category and it is okay to say, if I don’t actively like a thing, I don’t want to do it. This goes for both partners, not just the ace.
This post ended up really long, so I broke it up into two parts, which you can find here. Read on for a continued discussion on consent, negotiation, and limits. A third part is in the works that is on the theme, but a bit different.
Note: If I have made any terminology or implication mistakes regarding kink in this post, feel free to drop me a line. I happily hover around the edges of the community and could totally have missed a thing or had a different understanding than is common.
Cross-posted on my Tumblr