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CULTURE | TRUTH | INTELLIGENCE

CULTURE | TRUTH | INTELLIGENCE

Kinky Feminists

A MODERN LOOK INTO THE CULTURE OF KINK AND FEMINISM

 

When traditionalists think of a sex party, they imagine an underground network of masked perverts who enjoy getting drunk or high to engage in anonymous, aggressive sex. In the midst of the #MeToo era when so much of the world seems to be struggling with consent, there are signs that the highly organized world of kink appears to have the answer.

 

I should note that the world of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism contrasts strongly with my conservative orthodox Christian upbringing, where only men can be priests and abstinence-only education was the norm. Though my thoughts on sex have evolved and I pride myself on being open-minded, I still subconsciously believed that those involved in kink might be just a bit, weird. I reached out to Toby Medina, a young woman I found through Instagram. Her Instagram bio, “Why can’t sluts change the world too?” piqued my interest. I asked her for an interview and she excitedly agreed.

Medina tells me that so many of her “civilian” boyfriends mistreated her and cheated on her, and that no one she has met in the kink community has ever treated her badly like they had.

I pick up Medina outside of her house. Before she gets into my car, I notice her long blond hair is straight and parted down the side. Her eyeliner is pitch-black and winged to perfection. Her lips are pouty and glossy. She flung open the door to my car and jokes, “Hi! Thanks for not trying to traffick me!”

 

I notice her piercings, because the outline of a heart protrudes from her chest underneath her pink tank top. While talking she pulls her top, and starts massaging her nipple, saying, “Sorry, I think these are infected. They hurt so bad.” I look over to the passenger side and can’t help but let out a nervous giggle. As we drive to Demitasse, a small coffee shop in Little Tokyo, she casually tells me about her Sunday plans: a gangbang.

I listen to her talk about her life, and do my best to not seem shocked by what I hear. She notices my tinges of anxiety and comforts me, explaining that she knows how crazy her lifestyle may seem to “civilians”—her term for those not (yet) in the kink community.

 

Medina told me about a birthday party she attended where all of the doms (dominants — the person in the relationship who, with consent, has authority) stood around beating up the birthday boy. They were throwing cake at him, lighting candles and dripping the wax on his body. They also ate the cake off of him while spitting on him and calling him names. Medina recalls looking up and seeing the hired “civilian” security guard staring at everyone with a stunned open mouthed expression.

She laughs while telling me this story, but it is part of her normal. Yet, she has a Monday-Friday life as a marketing executive for a government agency.

She got to the really surprising things about the sex parties she attends: there’s rarely any have alcohol. “At sex parties, no one drinks,” she says. “No one wants the alcohol to blur the lines of consent.”

 

Whereas in “normal” life, conversations about consent are often tinged with uncertainty, in the kink community consent is straight-forward. Even the conversations about being STD tested, which can be awkward in bars, are handled very maturely in her world. People will just straight up ask you to show your test results, she says, because no one wants to risk getting infected or infecting others.

People love to talk to you about everything and how you feel no one wants you to feel uncomfortable

 

During our three-hour interview we talk and eat. At one point, we swap drinks and pastries for a bit and talk about our lives and the woes of dating in Los Angeles. Medina tells me that so many of her “civilian” boyfriends mistreated her and cheated on her, and that no one she has met in the kink community has ever treated her badly like they had. “The kink community is very inclusive and open. People love to talk to you about everything and how you feel no one wants you to feel uncomfortable.”

 

At the end of our unexpectedly long and pleasant day together, she invites me to an all-female lingerie party she is hosting soon after. Curious, I accept.

“I had such a huge problem with myself because I’m dark skinned and mixed, so when I see people who look like me, loving their bodies, I love mine too.”

I nervously arrive at the address Medina gave me for the lingerie party and wait for her to let me in. The door opens and the warmth of pink fluorescent lights greets me. Medina welcomes me and leads me through the different rooms in the apartment, the first being the BDSM space, which has hooks and ropes hanging from the ceiling, waiting to tie people up. We then walk through the “props” area, which debut different instruments, like nipple pinchers, paddles for spanking and ornate butt plugs.

 

After seeing me cock my head to the left trying to take it all in, Medina seeks to comfort me. “Don’t worry, we sanitize and clean them each time we use them!” Medina says.

 

There is an old bathtub full of rubber balls, a stripper pole in front of a white leather couch full of white flowers and twinkle lights, an old school chalkboard full of sex-ed rules, and the kitchen was lined with ramen packets. I walk around the event talking to all of the girls, and eventually ask them for interviews. A woman who goes by the name Waifu Next Door, who frequents sex parties, tells me about her experiences in the kink community—and why she enjoys it so much. “It’s just really empowering to be really comfortable with your body,” she says.

“I had such a huge problem with myself because I’m dark skinned and mixed, so when I see people who look like me, loving their bodies, I love mine too.”

Such feelings seem to be part of the general consensus for the women there. At least five women tell me, excitedly, that just being around other women and being able to talk honestly about sex, makes them feel confident.

 

Shelby, who doesn’t give her last name, explains, “I think a lot of women have been forced into being ashamed of their fetishes. It’s nice that there’s a safe space for women to explore their fetishes and act them out in reality.” In the hours that follow the party, the interviews continue and one woman tries to teach me the proper technique to twirl on around the pole.

 

To the lingerie partiers, it is all so obviously empowering, but the concept of power is not as clear-cut. Amelia Jones, the vice dean of critical studies at USC. Jones, who is an expert in sexuality and feminism, explains, “I think it’s become more mainstream to talk about that [kink and sex] as possibly a form of empowerment. Any rigorous feminist thinker will tell you that it’s not simply empowering. It’s a really complex thing, it can be disempowering and empowering.”

Crystal Frederick, a psychiatric counselor who specializes in BDSM, thinks kink can be a source of strength if there is the right intention behind it. Frederick explains that some women and other marginalized groups can often find a source of power in the kink community because people tend to be non-judgmental of each other.

 

Frederick also highlights the importance of consent in the kink community. “Just having a choice is empowering.”  While many people may assume that the subs (submissives, the person in the relationship who gives up the power) is being taken advantage of, Frederick says this usually isn’t true. Since there is always consent, subs tend to subliminally find their power by being submissive.

 

“People look at BDSM like it’s this alternative sexual culture. People have been doing these things forever,” Frederick says. “It’s not abnormal. There’s so many people doing it; it’s probably your neighbor.”

 

Yet, the concept of power is not as clear-cut as some may believe it to be. Amelia Jones, the vice dean of critical studies at USC, is an expert in sexuality and feminism. She discussed the duality of empowerment, “I think it’s become more mainstream to talk about that [kink and sex] as possibly a form of empowerment. Any rigorous feminist thinker will tell you that it’s not simply empowering. It’s a really complex thing, it can be disempowering and empowering.” There is no simple recipe for empowerment, it’s a complex issue.

 

Crystal Frederick, a counselor who specializes in BDSM thinks kink is empowering, as long as there’s intention behind it. Frederick explained that women and other marginalized groups often find a source of power in the kink community because no one is really judgmental of each other.

“People look at BDSM like it’s this alternative sexual culture. People have been doing these things forever,” Frederick says

Frederick emphasizes the importance of consent in the kink community, “Just having a choice is empowering.” While some people may assume that the subs (submissives, the person in the relationship who gives up the power) is being taken advantage of, Frederick says this isn’t true. Since there is always consent subs tend to find their power by being submissive.

 

The kink and BDSM community is not a perfectly utopian society where everyone feels powerful and valued. BDSM is the way it is now, because it transformed and grew past its prior abuses and injustices.

 

It is ironic that these supposed sexual deviants have learned to listen to each other to make sure everyone is on the same page, when so much of America continues to argue about the meaning of “yes” and, especially, “no.”

 

 

Words by Cathren Killedjian

 

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