Kink is supposed to be a realm where you can safely and consensually express the desires from the deepest parts of your subconscious. And there lies the problem.
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
For as long as I can remember, certain sexual acts were deemed "freaky white people shit" by the vast majority of my black female friends. From my earliest memories of teenage slut-shaming as a Toronto high school student, it was agreed upon in our young black and brown minds that white girls were the only ones who engaged in oral sex, for example. We would grow up to find that not only was this complete and utter bullshit, but also wonder how that stereotype started in the first place.
The more I followed sex-positive black women on social media in my mid-20s, the more curious I became about kink and everything it meant. I started to wonder about my boundaries and limits when it came to sex. Though I didn't go into it head first, I obsessively read erotica, essays, blogs, posts, and tweets by people of color who were into BDSM.
From sex clubs to online websites dedicated to kink, zeroing in on other people of color in BDSM can be tricky if you don't know where to start. These same online voices I'd learned so much from seemed so (literally) far away when it came down to it. While tons of men and women have taken a "colorblind" approach to who they share their sexual experiences with, I found out it's a bit more difficult to maneuver this community as a black woman.
I learned there's a considerable amount of room for black dommes and other such figures, but it can get fuzzy for those of us who fall under submissive categories and as a black woman, there's something that rubbed me the wrong way about having a white male dominant. Politics and sex don't cross paths for a lot of other people, but there were too many implications of power at play for me to ignore or not be troubled by. I decided very early on that I was really only interested in "playing" with black male dominants, but they seemed so few and far between that I wondered if that was even going to work. A couple years back I signed up for FetLife to look around and see how comfortable I really was. Almost immediately I started receiving messages. Ping. Ping. Ping. "Oh God," I thought after opening one of the first few. A bright, beige penis sat in my inbox. Not that I didn't expect that sort of thing considering the kind of website it was, but I just wasn't moved in any way.
"I've been looking for a dominant Ebony goddess," read another message. Which was funny, considering my profile specifically said I myself was a submissive. So how, Sway? There were tons like it, and the assumption that a black woman would automatically be a dominant was just as annoying as the opposite propositions presented to me. Nevermind the implicitness of said power struggle, there are men who will straight up approach you for race play. From flippant slur use to disturbing reenactments, you will get requests for things you never knew even existed. There are entire groups that discuss and plan out antebellum slave scenes, and since these spaces are meant to be "no judgement zones," people are comfortable sharing them openly.
About a week after signing up, I was browsing my recent messages and noticed something I'd never seen before: a brown face! "Fuck," I thought. "He's black and not ugly. AND not in the States." It felt like such a rarity to find a black guy into kink who wasn't specifically into cuckolding for white couples. I felt a strange kind of relief. We started a conversation almost immediately and tried to gauge each other's likes and dislikes. He seemed to already be in play mode when we spoke and let me know his own fetishes included vomit, watersports (a.k.a. urine play), and a call to "share" me amongst other friends. "Ummm," I said, "so..that's not going to happen." We discussed boundaries and he assured me they wouldn't be crossed, so despite my initial apprehension we ended up meeting up for drinks and going back to my place.
The sex itself was amazing, but I felt unsafe at different times throughout the night. I explained to him the concept of aftercare, a sort of debriefing laced with plenty of affection after an encounter, or scene; which he didn't seem to fuck with at all. He did it begrudgingly, likely because I didn't oblige the fetishes we didn't both agree on. I wondered if I was in way over my head, and if I was far more tame than I had previously thought. I understood then that above all else, trust was the most important part of any encounter, and that what I was looking for was not going to be found in casual sex.
In another much more vanilla sexual experience, I tried my hand at being open-minded and ended up with a white guy I met on Tinder. A usually enjoyable bout of name-calling quickly turned left as the words "black bitch" fell from his lips. I stopped and stared silently, knowing it was something I couldn't do again. Ever. It's easy to just set that aside as careless words from a shitty person, but it's something that can be traumatizing if you're someone for whom historical context matters. Kink in particular is supposed to be a realm where you can safely and consensually express the desires from the deepest parts of your subconscious. That can be a tricky thing considering the unconscious prejudices and ideas that exist in the minds of even the most liberal people. Fetishizing is a pretty good example of this, as preconceived notions about a person's race or ethnicity could inform much of what you assume about them in a sexual capacity. There already exists plenty of tropes about black women's inherent hypersexuality, and it's something that made me shy away from my curiosities in the past.
I tend to chalk much of these apprehensions up to some pretty conservative notions of sexuality, closely linked to religion. With my own Jamaican mother being born on an island with more churches per square mile than anywhere else on earth and some enlightening discussions among my peers growing up, it didn't surprise me that people of color are statistically more religious than white people. It can be hard for everyone, but hyper-traditionalism, cultural customs, and religion play an important role in leaving most black and brown kids to figure this sex thing out for ourselves.
Admittedly, my experiences in kink have somewhat scared me off from experimenting with it again—for now, at least. I might not be ready to dip my toe back in the waters just yet, but I know when I do I'll be a lot better prepared.
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