When I started getting actively into kink play, I expected a lot of things: new bruises, surprising emotions, an inability to discuss my weekends truthfully at work. I wasn’t expecting to find self-love and body acceptance.
I’ve always been kinky. It’s been part of my identity as far back as I can remember, long before I understood sex. I have always drawn to power exchanges, especially when they involve bondage and restraint. As a sexually active adult, I began to explore my desires in this area in some tentative ways: light scarves for restraint, hesitant dirty talk. My fantasies far surpassed the tiny toe-dips into the waters of kink, though. I began to research actively and learn the different ways people explored this type of relationship. Most significantly, my husband discovered his latent kinkiness and dominance, and we set out adventuring together.
As soon as I ventured into the kink community, which for me was entirely online and anonymous, I was struck by how different it looked from the porn I’d been consuming. Having only been exposed to professionally produced pornography, I was used to skinny white women crying in basements. There was always a concrete floor, a brick wall, iron restraints, running mascara, an aura of despair. It was the only thing I had known. Upon exploring the world of real BDSM, though — real kink — I saw photographs and videos from actual playing couples, and they looked like real people. There were fat people and short people and people of color. They had physical flaws, stretch marks, piercings, tattoos, body hair. They looked like me. And they weren’t always crying, either. They were smiling, laughing, relaxing, content, enraptured. They represented a vision of myself that I had never thought had a real place in this world.
In 2015, my husband and I went to the Geeky Kink Event. My experience there was life-changing and profound. I wrote a silly MS Paint recap about it, and I also contacted the owner about featuring it in one of my books. With his permission, I sent my main characters to the event in the climax of Tied Score. Part of the significance of this event was the experience of being suddenly surrounded by people of all different shapes and sizes who were enjoying their sexuality in a way that had not been commodified and packaged for mass consumption.
Kink is, by its nature, fringe. It’s not something most people think they’re interested in. As a result, kinkiness in practice has a freedom to deviate from “normal” sexuality and “normal” sexual hang-ups. In this environment, my body stopped being a source of embarrassment and became a vessel for my pleasure. It was the means by which I could experience new sensations. It felt natural to volunteer to be zapped with a violet wand or tied by someone practicing bondage or smacked with a paddle we were considering buying. My body wasn’t being viewed in relation to traditional beauty standards, but instead, what it could feel and do. It felt like I was test-driving my body like one test-drives a car: looking for performance, not flash.
I had never been naked in public before this event. Surrounded by this kind of positivity, though, and by unselfconscious bodies as imperfect as mine, I had no problems taking off all my clothes in the dungeon and letting my partner flog me. I thought I might get distracted by people watching, but instead, the opposite happened. Having others watch me enjoy myself sexually, knowing they were enjoying the sight of my pleasure, made me think of my body as something beautiful. After all, it was a big dungeon, and they could have chosen to watch anyone, but they were watching me. Something shifted in that moment, and I knew I was only beginning to understand the depth of this experience.
I enjoy a lot of strong sensations, and in the space of kink, I have to be able to let go of my body insecurities in order to fully experience the physical and emotional things that are happening to me. This doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. I’m not living in a body-positive kink event all the time… although if I could, I probably would. I still sometimes feel undesirable. When that happens, though, I’m more readily able to remind myself that my body is remarkable regardless of my appearance. Because of this vessel, I can experience a range of sensations that are profoundly satisfying both physically and emotionally. In kink, I can let go of my insecurities and get caught up in the wonder of my capacity to feel.