The limits of kink
Last week my post about taking a stand against so-called “financial domination” caused a veritable stir. Many people applauded it, some deliberately distorted and criticized it in order to protect their – apparently rather unreliable, if one post is enough to endanger them – interests, and some other took it as an occasion to politely discuss kinkiness. One line of thought in particular came up over and over again, and it can be summarized as follows: «What does ever entitle you to cast judgment over other people’s kinks? Everyone has different ways to enjoy their erotic lives, and they have the right to pursue financial domination games just as much as you have the right to do BDSM, or whatever it is that you do in your private life». Which sounds like a perfectly reasonable argument – except it is not. At all. Allow me to clarify.
As it stands, not all kinks are created equal. While it is true that everyone should be allowed to express their sexuality in peace, limits do exist and for very good reasons – none of them involving prudery or personal preference. First among them is the principle behind any behavior listed in the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders adopted by mental health professionals worldwide. Paraphrasing it, it goes: ‘any and every behavior and inclination is perfectly acceptable, as long as it doesn’t cause discomfort in the subject or in those around him’. The implication being that, if it does, the “subject” should seek professional help – and if they refuse it, authorities should impose it for the affected party’s own good and the society’s.
In practical terms, this means for example that you are very welcome to be the greatest shoe fetishist in the world, living in a house filled to the brim with footwear, spending your evenings licking boot soles clean and so on – but if you start robbing ladies of their stilettos to further your collection, or stop eating to dedicate more time to sniffing clogs, your kinkiness has to be curbed. That sounds sensible enough, doesn’t it? In fact, it also goes hand in hand with another legal principle dealing with the physical side of unusual sex.
This gives your State the right to exercise its duty, namely to protect its citizens. Even from themselves. Think about your average BDSM enthusiasts: with the notable exception of some surprisingly oppressive countries, they are free to partake in pretty much any extreme act they favor including very intense whipping, deep fisting, toiletplay and so on. This is because of course personal freedom is treasured more or less everywhere. But only up to a point.
Here in Italy, for example, that specific point is legally determined to be ‘any lesion requiring over 21 days to heal’. Should a law enforcement or a medical professional notice, say, black bruises or a broken bone presumably caused by an excessively wild play session, they are obliged to report the wounds and to press charges against whoever caused them – even if it was enthusiastically consensual. Other countries have similar laws governing the matter.
The reasoning behind it is that people might not be able to correctly assess the risks involved in their own behavior, due to mental illness for example, or they might have been coerced or brainwashed into accepting harm. If you need clarification, just ask any battered wife: unfortunately they are much more common than you think.
This of course opens another whole can of worms when it comes to some really extreme forms of play. Is willingly and daily stretching your anus in order to attain a prolapse or the possibility of receiving a three-handed fisting a sanctionable behavior? Is bisecting your penis? And what about your tongue? Again, the DSM principle helps finding your answer beyond any gut reaction you may have. In case of seriously borderline paraphilias such as apotemnophilia, where people feel a deep-seated urge to amputate their own limbs, some legal systems allow the same kind of assessment and counseling provided to transgender individuals to distinguish actual dismorphism from temporary delusions. Generally speaking, however, the matter is much simpler.
I am referring to the key concept of consent, which kinksters often reduce to just a third of the tried and tested SSC slogan but which actually is a much more complex principle. As mentioned above, giving consent is not enough: it must also be valid, and this means four things:
- It has to extend to every person involved
- It must be informed of everything it entails and its long-term consequences
- It must not be forced
- You must be able to consent: legally, mentally, and in every other way
It doesn’t sound too far-fetched, does it? Let’s take these points out for a spin, then, one by one.
Can you consent to a golden shower scene during dinner in a restaurant?
No, because other patrons would probably not enjoy that.
Can you consent to a cell popping session based on how innocuous it sounds?
No, because that’s a fancy and improper way to indicate burning your skin with heated metal, and it leaves long-lasting marks that may become a source of embarrassment if unplanned.
Can you consent to a “consensual nonconsent” scene?
Fucking no – and get out of my face now. I don’t speak Idiot.
Can you consent to any sexual activity if you are a child or a dog?
Well, I’m glad we are all definitely on the same page here. So, what’s so hard to understand about financial domination being way out of these boundaries, pray tell? I am asking because findom impacts whoever shares the victim’s life too; it is presented as a kink, but it aims to bring financial ruin to the “pay pig” in an utterly real way; it involves heavy-handed manipulation of the vicim’s perception of reality; it targets feeble-minded or cognitively distressed people. Four reasons for invalid consent on four, no less.
To sum it up, sure kinks have their limits. While findom is a glaring example why, they also influence pretty much every other form of sex, vanilla or otherwise – and I for one am very glad they do. Especially because, once you are familiar with them, everything within those limits becomes your playfield. And a damn huge one it is. Let’s go back to explore it, shall we?