For many people, coming out is a process of revealing their true identity—whether it's being gay, trans, or a Democrat in Texas. It isn't always easy, and there isn't a pre-written script explaining how to do it, but coming out can be freeing.
When you have a sexual fetish, though, should you always "come out" about it? How do you decide who to tell and from who to keep it a secret? And when you do decide to tell someone, what's the best way to explain: "Mom, Dad... I like to be electrocuted during sex"?
We posed these questions to a few people who have come out about their fetishes. Some are publicly out (and working in fetish porn), while others have only told their closest circles.
Some of my kink interests are bondage, impact play, and electrical play. A few quick definitions: Impact play is when one person is struck by another person for sexual gratification; electrical play (also known as erotic electrostimulation) is like impact play, but with electrical toys that give off a jolt of energy to your body parts.
I first discovered my fetishes some 20 years ago, while going through a divorce. I was actively chatting with people in online chat forums, and I went to my first dungeon party—a place for people with various kinks to gather and openly express themselves. It was just mind-blowing. Some of the stuff I saw shocked me, repulsed me, but also turned me on. Through this dungeon, I got to know a lot of people, and discovered they were regular people who just had an unusual hobby.
After that, I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to tell everyone. I was working in a commercial insurance job, and I even told my boss, who was also a friend of mine. It turned out she had a kinky history too. So for special occasions after that, she'd get me gift cards to a local kink store.
I also came out to my sister. I figured since she had had multiple partners in college and seemed open, she would be fine with this news. "Someone wrapped me up in saran wrap, cut out holes, and used ice on me," I told her. She told me that my kink was "dangerous." After that, we never talked about it again. She still has no desire to hear about my lifestyle. If I had known it would upset her, I wouldn't have told her.
Now, I'm more conscious of whom to come out to. I don't come out to someone unless I have received some kind of encouragement to do so; I also feel that my friends and family have the right to not know this side of me. It doesn't bother me that talking openly about fetishes is off-limits information for lots of people because for me, this is a bedroom activity, not a 24/7 lifestyle.
I'm told that when I was still only about one years old, I was obsessed with pulling the diapers off the boy next door. Freud wrote about toddlers getting stuck in the "anal stage," and I guess that was me. When I was a little older, I dared the boy next door to take off his clothes, bend over, and spread his cheeks so I could see what was between them. I'm not sure it was a "dare" as much as it was my own sheer curiosity. And when I saw an asshole for the first time that day, I might as well have heard hosts of angels singing. He turned around and saw I had an erection.
I'm a gay man who's obsessed with butts... but I'm not interested in fucking them. I like licking, spanking, and fisting them. I like poking them with electro zapping thingamajigs and plugging them with fruits and vegetables and opening them up with proctology kits. I like playing with rim chairs and enema bags—and I'm not afraid of a mess—but that standard way of playing doesn't do it for me. For a while, I kept that a secret, since gay men nowadays seem so obsessed with conformity and either/or-ing, and the vast majority use language on Grindr and other apps like "TOTAL TOP!" or "100 PERCENT BOTTOM!" as if there isn't a single sexual activity gay men have discovered besides inserting a penis into an anus.
I host a podcast called RISK! where people tell true stories they never thought they'd dare to share in public. About a year and a half into the show's history, someone dared me to go to Dark Odyssey, a kink camp in Maryland, for a weekend. I did, and it was a transcendent experience for me. I came home and created a 90-minute true story called "Kevin Goes to Kink Camp" for the podcast. It was the most "out" I'd ever been about any part of my sex life up to that point—not only to the strangers who listen to my podcast, but my friends.
My parents don't know about my fetish. They don't know how to download podcasts, so they're not exposed to RISK! I think they're mainly just thrilled that I'm finally doing something that is successful and meaningful, even if they don't wanna know all the nitty gritty.
Hundreds of people have reached out to say that the RISK! podcast has saved their lives. We get emails almost every day saying things like, "I was feeling suicidal... but then I heard that story and realized I'm not such a freak after all," or, "I never thought I had anything in common with people who do such-and-such a kinky activity, but the emotional journey you took me through left me feeling changed."
I started pony play at age nine. I tied myself up every night with a wire "bit" in my mouth. I kept a large mound of wire under the bed. My amateur radio hobby was a coverup excuse for the wire.
As an adult, I first came out to a close colleague at work. We were on a business trip and were a little drunk. I was thrilled to find he shared similar interests, but it was a huge risk that could have backfired badly. I'm glad it turned out wonderfully, but I don't think I would do it again, as it could have ruined my career.
My brother, on the other hand, found out by accident. He saw some pictures of pony play on my computer. I explained what it was, but my brother didn't take it well. He said that I'm welcome to do what I want, but he didn't ever want to see that again. The rest of my family knows, but does not want to hear about it.
The first fetish I was aware of was pantyhose. I was probably four when my mom dragged me to her jazzercise classes. I had to sit in a mini-van with all her friends in their leotards and pantyhose. Then, at 12, someone told me an urban myth about a bunch of cheerleaders holding down a guy from their high school and fucking his ass with a broom stick. The story really turned me on. I wasn't masturbating yet, but I remember feeling something that I knew was horny. Later, I developed fetish interests for women wearing pantyhose, fishnets, and spandex; women arousing men while hurting them; and things like sissification (a form of erotic humiliation in which a man is feminized and emasculated) and bimboification (like sissification, but sluttier).
When I was 23, a friend of mine saw my internet browser history, which I guess "outed" me. The friend thought it was hilarious, but I was embarrassed and very defensive at the time. I was like, "I like normal porn too," when I was mostly jerking off to fetish porn. I was worried he'd tell other people, it would become a joke, and that girls would lose interest in me. I didn't want women to think, He's only going to want me to fuck him with a strap-on. I was worried people wouldn't understand.
I wasn't fully "out" until a particularly rough breakup with a girl, at which point I was just like, Fuck it. What's the point of pretending I'm someone else? I started a fetish porn company, and I filmed clips of me being kicked in the balls, jerked off, and fucked in the ass by women in pantyhose. I put them all over the internet, and I made a lot of money that way.
After the business took off, I told my brother and sister-in-law. They were surprisingly cool about it. My brother mostly just wanted to know I was being safe and legal. We both agreed to keep it from our parents.
Not long after that, my parents came to visit and were asking lots of questions like, "What are you doing for work?" and "How are you making money?" I was purposely vague, telling them I was selling software—something I did for a while before porn—but they put things together. I can't remember if they googled me or someone sent them a link, but they found out. The first scene they saw was me getting fucked by a trans lady, and they freaked out. Eventually they came around, and we're fine now, but they asked me to never bring it up again.
I don't think it's a choice to be turned on by stuff, but it's totally a choice who you tell. You don't have to tell everyone. You can still scratch that kinky itch behind closed doors.
Follow H. Alan Scott on Twitter.