The Key to Kinky Happiness

Gloria G. Brame,PhD,ACS


The Key to Kinky Happiness
by Gloria G. Brame

The following piece originally appeared (in different form) as the introduction to the book, CONSENSUAL SADOMASOCHISM, by Dr. William Henkin and Sybil Holiday (Daedalus Publishing).

Self-acceptance and self-esteem are the cornerstones of a happy life. For people who are sexually unconventional, this foundation is often shaky and, at times, non-existent. In our culture, it is difficult to feel good about yourself when the sting of a whip is your idea of a sensual caress.

Ever since psychiatrists in 19th Century Europe first classified kinky behaviors as abnormal, ugly myths have prevailed over honest information. Sexual variations which are largely the outgrowth of normal and innate human impulses have been labeled as perversions and sicknesses; people who long for intense sensations or unusual erotic experiences have been branded sinners and sociopaths. We have no public role models to show us that it is possible to act out unusual sexual fantasies safely and lovingly. The popular image of the "sexual pervert" is of a shady, neurotic character who lurks in dark bars, incapable of intimacy, consumed by morbid, even violent, urges.

Whether we crave the elaborate rituals of goddess worship or the complex structure of Master/slave relationships, the liberating captivity of bondage or the playful discipline of adult spankings, those of us who explore the world of sexual dominance and submission are repeatedly sent the message that who we are and what we want are all wrong. We are told this by people who represent authority in our lives--our parents, our teachers, our doctors, our clergy. When we dare to confess our fantasies to lovers, we face rejection and ridicule.

In the face of near-universal disapproval, we feel ashamed of who we are; we resist our emotions and repress our needs. Sexual sadists fear that they may be serial killers in disguise; sexual masochists worry that they may secretly have victim- complexes. Fetishists feel isolated and guilty, believing that a desire to worship feet or to wear rubber is a kind of mental illness.

Many crossdressers endure desperate cycles of binging and purging with clothes, the way bulimics do with food. They become obsessed with their fantasies, amassing whole collections of garments, wigs, and accessories. When the lust wears itself down, they throw everything away in disgust, vowing to change. Inevitably, of course, the needs resurface, the binging begins again, and the cycle repeats.

The anxiety about being sexually unconventional is so pervasive that even those who have come to terms with their own kinks may find it hard to accept the kinky things that others do.

I once attended a fetish event where a group of corset enthusiasts refused to be seated near the "whips and chains crowd" because they believed the myth that people who enjoy giving or receiving pain are dangerous to others. Sexual variations such as the erotic interest in enemas (klismaphilia) or the desire to wear diapers and baby clothes (infantilism) make some kinky people so uncomfortable the topics never even come up at kinky support/education groups.

So how can we overcome the prejudices--both from without and within--which have made it so difficult for us to feel good about ourselves? First, by looking towards the dozens of writers, psychologists, and activists who are now creating a new literature of sexual enlightenment which shows us, for the first time, that being unusual is not really as unusual as we think. There are quite literally millions, if not tens of millions, of people who enjoy sexual variations of one kind or another.

We can turn to alternative sexuality projects and educational groups, both on-line and off-line, which provide forums for candid dialogue about formerly taboo needs and desires. There we can read about and talk to kinky people who lead positive lives and have satisfying, long-term relationships.

But the most important step is to take stock of our own lives and to recognize our personal achievements. Whether it's our success in meeting obligations at home and at work; our contributions to our communities or our churches; or the loyalty and compassion we've shown relatives and friends, our own lives demonstrate a simple fact. Being sexually different does not us any less moral, any less decent, or any less precious than other human beings--it is simply a facet of our complex lives. When we learn to accept ourselves, as we are and for we are, we will build a foundation for personal happiness that no myth can shake.



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