public kink =/= LGBT rights


I was reading a thread on Fetlife recently asking “Do you feel AB/DL should be so taboo?” asking if AB/DL (adult baby/diaper lover) deserves the negativity it gets in the media and amongst other kinksters. It’s an interesting question, as I’ve had my own struggles with it as a kink and finding acceptance around it.

I think that it’s generally pretty easy to turn away if someone is engaging in a kinky activity that doesn’t do it for you, so I don’t see why kinksters don’t do more of that instead of being so scornful. As for the media, well, the sooner everyone realizes that most media around sex is only there to be sensational and shocking, not educational, and create their sound bytes accordingly, the better I say. However, I got really annoyed when someone (a white, straight cismale, natch) equated kink rights to LGBT rights. Um… no. Sorry. I just don’t see it. While this particular article focuses on AB/DL, I think it can easily be used for a great many kinks.

I do not feel that I have a “right” to flaunt my kinks. My kinks are not something that need to be explored in all/any public settings. Context is important here. I think that I can make my boy feel like a little boy without involving other people in our kink or having him dress up in such a way that it makes others uncomfortable. I don’t know that I would argue that M/s relationships have a “right” to use collars and leashes in public, either, or that human puppies “should” be allowed to run around in kit at a dog park.

While I will certainly fight for consenting adults to have the right to do as they like in private, I do also feel that all public space is not an appropriate place for sexual behaviour. People have a right to not be in sexualized space when they haven’t sought it out- never mind the fact that sexual energy can be triggering for people. I’ve done a lot of public play, but it’s either been pretty subtle or explainable, or it’s been empty of other people. For example, these images from the tube, I just explained to people we were going to a costume party. Then they thought we looked adorable!

I think it’d be amazing if there were more spaces where you can enjoy public kink, same as I like having spaces to enjoy public sex. I love that people wear chaps at Pride, or that I get to watch hot boy on boy sex sometimes. I love Folsom and Dore, where public kink and sex are fairly common. But they’re restricted spaces- entry means consenting to being around sex and kink. I mean, I live in SF, where, to be honest, you can probably do many kinky things in public under the guise of public performance and keep it playful without any issues. I think that’s awesome, and that’s why I live here. There is a social agreement that makes a lot of stuff ok. But there *is* a line, and I’m ok with that.

I do feel that I have a right not to lose a job for having a sexual life outside of work- say, by doing sex work, or by appearing in AB/DL porn. However, I think if I was to show up at work dressed like an AB that would be totally inappropriate. I think making people at work deal with a dirty diaper by tossing it in the work bathroom is kind of uncool, because it’s a biohazard. These are also things to reflect on.

It’s true- it’s more socially ok for women to wear, say, Goth Lolita or other styles that look particularly ageplay-ish in public. There’s ways to work around that (the boy tends to wear super hero tee shirts and shorts, for example), but in general, yes, that’s true. That’s partially because culturally we infantalize women as a matter of course, certainly far more often than that men (unless we want to take men’s power away and humiliate them). It sucks that women have more freedom of clothing choices than men (though frankly if we add up male privilege to female privilege… yeah, men win out big).

But then, I also rarely see female public sex at these various kink/sex in public type places, certainly not as often as men. Sure, as a woman I can dress like a little girl and its “cute”, but then I also live in an entitlement culture that socially restricts my sexuality and makes me worry about sexual threats if I’m perceived to be “slutty” all the time. If I engage in sexual behaviour with another woman at Folsom, say, the likelihood that men will try to physically involve themselves with my scene is a lot greater. So, it’s a double edged sword, this “freedom” I have. It’s a freedom that comes, often, with a price of dealing with male entitlement.

Finally, there are many people who say they use AB/DL to relax, to let go of adult responsibilities, to decompress. Fine, fair enough. However, as someone for whom this is just one kink I like playing with in many, my personal feeling is I’m cool with that for myself or a partner as long as it’s not a crutch. Like… I’m all for having the occasional beer after work, but that’s different from needing a drink to relax after work. One indicates a dependency I don’t find particularly healthy. The face of AB/DL is a pathologized face, pretty often, so if people have even heard of it, they hear about it in the context of issues with family, or running away from problems. A great many of the AB/DL men I’ve met do have issues with being irresponsible manchildren. It doesn’t do a lot to help their cause.

No wonder it seems taboo- there aren’t enough people who treat it as a kink to enjoy with others, rather than a secret shame, a need to be met, or a reflection of issues with parental neglect/abuse. Maybe if there were more people out for whom it was just an aspect of their functional lives, it would get a different reputation.

I don’t think people should be assaulted no matter how I feel about their choices. I don’t think the Westborough Baptist Church should get assaulted for their beliefs, though I really disagree with them. I don’t think AB/DLs should get assaulted for wearing diapers in public either. However- while I believe kinksters should have the right to marry, kiss in public, and not have their kids taken away simply because they’re kinky or sexual, I just do not think it’s reasonable to say that kinkster rights are the same as LGBT rights. I have not heard that stories of people wearing AB/DL clothes in public and being raped or killed, while a week doesn’t go by where I don’t hear a story about that happening to a trans person.

The people who are almost always the loudest about how kink should be treated as an orientation have been straight while cismales, in my experience. They don’t realize how problematic that is. It feels like they’re trying to get a piece of the “we’re oppressed too!” pie. Basically, I don’t think you can entirely separate AB/DL (or kink in general) with the gender, race and class issues that it raises, never mind the potential psychological issues. I do not believe that all or even most AB/DLs have issues- but I do think that self awareness is important when you embark on any kink to make sure your reasons are ones you understand and are able to clearly articulate to someone else.  Again, I think that’s important for any sort of behaviour! I like to sleep with different people, but there’s definitely a difference between doing it because it’s fun and gets me off vs it’s a way to increase my self-esteem.

As I’ve met more AB/DLs who are super on it, able to have functional relationships and a responsible life, I’ve personally changed my mind about this kink quite a bit. I realized correlation is not causation- that even though I had met some people into this kink that squicked me, that wasn’t the norm. It may take a while for other people to feel the same way, to separate the kink from the media depiction and social stigma of it. One way to help with that? If a bunch of women/people of colour/queers are saying “wow, dude, check your privilege”, how’s about not being defensive, and saying, “wow, ok, yeah, I will”?

With all that said, I’d gone to parties and Pride as a clown or a little girl with my partner as a little boy with little to no negative attitudes. I think that it also depends a lot on how you engage with other people- if you’re dressing in what looks like a costume out and about you have to play that up and give eye contact, be friendly and open, and disarm people who think you’re a freak. I find that being cheerful and telling people I’m off to a party or something means compliments instead of vitriol. I do not dress in a way that suggests kink unless I’m willing to talk to people about it in a friendly way- because like it or not I become the face of that kink, and being cuntish reflects badly on the whole thing. You have have fun, even naughty public fun- just try not to be a douche about it!

Maybe at some point I’ll write my own tips for working out how to have kink dynamics in public in ways that don’t upset people around you. What do you think, dear reader?

Kitty Stryker

Kitty Stryker is a geeky sex worker, Burner, rabid writer and feminist activist with one high-heeled boot in San Francisco, California and one in London, England. In London, Stryker worked with the TLC Trust, an online organization connecting people with disabilities with sex workers experienced with emotional or physical limitations. She is the founder of the award-winning Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, and was nominated by the Erotic Awards as Sex Worker of the Year for her charity and activism work. Now back in the States, Stryker has been presenting Safe/Ward, a workshop on combating entitlement culture within alternative sexual communities, along with being the PR rep for the Bay Area Sex Workers Outreach Project promoting sex worker rights. She has written for Huffington Post, Filament, and Tits and Sass, built a social media strategy for Cleis Press, and consults with sex workers about their online presence. In her copious free time, she enjoys switching things up with her two hot lovers. Read more from Stryker on her personal blog, Purrversatility.

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