How Do I Know If My Kink Is Good Or Bad? And What Can I Do About It?

Do you feel unsure about your sexuality, specifically your kinks? Have you been concerned whether what you enjoy is “good” or if it’s “bad”? Have you asked yourself, “Is it OK that I’m doing this?” or “Is there something wrong with me?” If you have, it’s normal. People have these concerns — sometimes to the point of causing great distress — that something is just not right about the “kinky” things they enjoy, but they have difficulty considering this objectively.

When trying to get some insight, it’s important to remember that since everyone has different likes, dislikes, levels of comfort, etc., and what feels good for one person may not be for another. “Good” and “bad” can be used as a shorthand for a value judgment and these values don’t necessarily apply to everyone. Because of this, I encourage you to instead think of them as either “healthy” or “unhealthy”.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help evaluate where yours fall:

When engaging in your kink, do you…

MistressTissa_Strippedrequire that you first become intoxicated? Are you unable to engage in your interest without first needing to get drunk or do drugs?

…ignore boundaries — whether your own or someone else’s? Do you routinely allow yourself to be pressured to do things you don’t want to do? Or do you pressure or “trick” someone else into doing things? Is “consent” something you let someone else decide for you or something you believe you should decide for others? (This does not include the practice of “consensual non-consent”.)

…not know when or how to stop? Do you have a compulsive need to do your kink? Does it feel like you’re “addicted” to it? Do you want to stop but you believe you can’t?

 …feel guilt or regret afterward? Do you wish you hadn’t done what you just did? Do you experience anxiety or depression afterward? Perhaps feeling bad about yourself, beating yourself up, or even go so far as to have thoughts of self-harm?

…see that it has had an overall negative impact on your life? Such as preoccupying much of your thoughts at the expense of other important things? Compelling you to recklessly spend money? Causing you be late for or miss work? Affecting your interpersonal relationships, such as with family or friends? Or generally decreasing your quality of life?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you may have an unhealthy relationship to your kink. (If you didn’t then your relationship may be healthy.)

What’s important to note with feelings of guilt or regret is that while they may indicate a problem they don’t necessarily mean that the kink itself is the problem. Sometimes people feel guilt or regret because of their own beliefs about their kink; such as that they are a defective or bad person, something which our culture may teach us but may not be true. Some people feel guilt or regret after secretly engaging in their kink because they assume the people in their lives will not understand or approve. In both these cases, the issue may not be the kink but the attitudes and circumstances surrounding the kink.

What do you do if you think you might have an unhealthy relationship to your kink?

I recommend finding a qualified professional who is trained in mental health and has competency with human sexuality, particularly kink, and experience helping people with the kinds of emotions you’re having (e.g. shame, guilt, anger, addiction).

Where can you get a kink-competent* provider?

One place I’d recommend looking is the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom’s Kink-Aware Professional database. This database does not include all providers; only those that have requested to be listed. So, if you don’t see someone in your area, that does not mean there isn’t someone out there.

Another place to look is a search engine. Try searching for “therapy” or “counseling” or even “coaching”; your city or state; and your specific kink, or just “kink”, or even “sexuality”. See who comes up. If anyone looks interesting, give them a call. You may find other directories this way as well.

What if I have/don’t have insurance?

If you have insurance and need the provider to be in-network, contact your insurer for a list of mental health professionals in your area and then do a quick web search for each of them. See if they have a website with information about their competencies. If you’re unclear, give them a quick call. Most providers will be happy to answer a few questions about their qualifications and if they think they might be able to help you.

If you can’t find someone in-network, don’t despair. Sometimes insurers will cover out-of-network providers if their rate is comparable to those in-network. Or, they will cover a certain amount and you pay the rest. Ask your insurer about this. Then ask the provider you’re interested in if they are willing to work with your insurer.

If you are able to pay out of pocket you are likely to have more options. So consider if you’re willing to go that route and how much you are able to afford. I recommend thinking about this before you make any calls so you’re prepared to discuss it if you find a provider that interests you. (Note: unlicensed providers are not able to take insurance.)

How do you know if the person is right for you?

This is usually not immediately apparent. It’s like going to a doctor or restaurant or even meeting a new friend. Sometimes you may feel like it’s a good fit from the first visit, sometimes it takes a little more time. Prepare yourself for there to be some trial and error.

Before you make an appointment with someone, know that you are completely within your right to vet the person with whom you will be sharing many personal details of your life. This means you’re allowed to ask them about their education, experience, attitudes toward and competency with your specific kink (and even kinks, in general), and how they have helped people like you in the past. If they do not welcome your questions, this is, in my view, a red flag.

Also important is to be aware that if you do find someone and they in any way try to shame and tell you that you should not be kinky and are bad for being this way, I recommend that you STOP seeing them. This is not the behavior of a kink-friendly or competent provider and is not an appropriate match for kinky people. (They are also likely to not be a good mental health practitioner in general.) Seeing someone like this would be like a gay person wanting support for being gay and the provider telling them that being gay is bad and to stop being gay. If you do not feel they are offering reasonable support, then try someone else.

Does having unhealthy thoughts or feelings make you “crazy”?

If you are worried about the possibility that because you might have an unhealthy relationship to your kink that you are in some way “crazy”, please understand that having any of the above thoughts or feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “mentally ill” in the way a lot of people think of it, but that understanding unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and the processing and modification of those things, is what therapists, counselors, and even some coaches are trained to do. This is why they are a good choice to support you through these types of issues.

(*Not just kink-friendly. Anyone can be “friendly” to a situation or type of person; it doesn’t mean that have any idea of how to appropriately help and support them.)

Interview with Coalition Radio

On Friday the 16th, I was interviewed by Pat of Coalition Radio. In the interview, I discuss the SESTA bill. I touch on various related issues, but focus on what I believe are the psychosocial origins of the legislation.

You can listen here:

(This is an hour-long interview. Those who have attention issues [raises hand] may find it more palatable to listen to it in smaller chunks.)

Article: “The Thrilling, Messy Lives of New York’s Freelance Dominatrices”

I find most of this article problematic, but there is one part I did very much appreciate.

What I had issue with were that the examples they use of “freelance” (i.e. independent) Dominatrices are kind of odd, and ironically paint them (Us?) in an unprofessional light. The two Dommes they selected to represent New York’s independent were portrayed in a very unflattering way — one of which is running a Cyrano-de-Bergerac-esque operation. I can’t help but wonder if this was a ploy to draw business to houses by making independents look, well, “messy” —  and even dangerous.

The part I did like discusses the pathologization of kink:

The American Psychological Association defines a mental disorder as a “clinically significant behavior” associated with “present distress, disability, or a significant increased risk of suffering.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a compendium of these disorders, is the text American psychologists use to diagnose patients.When the DSM was first published in 1952, it included “sexual deviation”—a category that included transvestism, pedophilia, homosexuality, fetishism, and sexual sadism. The second edition included masochism. The all-encompassing term was changed to the less-pejorative “paraphilias” in the third edition. When the fifth edition comes out in May, people who practice BDSM and feel distress about it will have a “paraphilic disorder.”This distresses the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group which considers DSM revision a “key project.” “We want to make sure that distress from society doesn’t mean a mental disorder,” says National Coalition of Sexual Freedom spokeswoman Susan Wright.

The DSM listed homosexuality as a sexual disorder until 1973, when extensive empirical evidence concluded that homosexuals performed no differently on psychological tests than their straight counterparts. Five different studies conducted on masochists since 1977 point to high functioning—measured by high educational level, income and occupational status—compared to the general population. Furthermore, other studies show there is no link between masochism and past abuse. Why should one atypical orientation be treated differently than another?

Charles Moser, a California researcher who asks exactly that, has emerged as the psychologist most active in advocating for BDSM’s removal from the manual. In an article co-authored with Peggy Kleinplatz this year, he wrote: “The situation of the Paraphilias at present parallels that of homosexuality in the early 1970s. Without the support or political astuteness of those who fought for the removal of homosexuality, the Paraphilias continue to be listed in the DSM.” No characteristic unifies paraphiliacs other than their sexual interests, he points out, just as no single trait is shared by all homosexuals besides same-sex attraction.

On the other hand, Richard Krueger, a Columbia University researcher who was part of the workgroup that authors the paraphilias section, is among those favoring retention. He cites people like Richard Benjamin who asphyxiate for sexual excitement: “There are people who hang themselves, and we felt universally that dying that way is very different from accidentally hanging yourself in the process of becoming sexually excited.” Indeed, a study conducted in 1972 found 50 people died each year in the United States from this practice. Thus the reasoning: Homosexuality isn’t innately dangerous; some forms of masochism are.

How dangerous is BDSM? “It is said that the most common reason for an emergency room visit in New York City on Sunday mornings is a hand laceration from cutting a bagel,” Moser says. “I can find essentially no emergency room visits related to S&M injuries in the professional literature. So if danger or injury is your criteria, then cutting a bagel is the sign of a mental disorder, and S&M is healthy.”

One thing Moser and Krueger agree on is the lack of studies on BDSM. Michael W. Wiederman’s 2003 article “Paraphilia and Fetishism,” which appeared in the Family Journal, argues that this lack of research could stem from the misconception that sexuality researchers study topics of personal relevance which makes them want to avoid taboo subjects. Meg Kaplan, a psychologist who also happens to be Krueger’s wife, says she frequently receives referrals from other doctors who are either unable or unwilling to discuss BDSM fantasies with clients.

“There’s very little money for studying typical sexual behavior, nevermind atypical sexual behavior,” Kaplan says.

[Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/the-thrilling-messy-lives-of-new-yorks-freelance-dominatrices/274582/]

Human Nature

Society tends to view people like Me as things to be criminalized and eradicated. Likewise with others whose livelihood involves eroticism or sex. When people like them are faced with some aspect they do not like about themselves, such as an interest in being tied down and flogged, people like Me who joyously do these things (consensually, of course), become scapegoats for their repressed sexuality.

One reason why I do what I do is because I am genuinely passionate about people expressing who they really are. I am especially interested in matters of identity, sexuality (especially kink), and intimacy. All of which are conscious elements of how I approach and practice BDSM.

Sadly, our world attempts to define and control these things from the moment we are born. We are color-coded and assigned roles and expectations about how we dress, behave, have sex–and with whom. We are told what is okay and what is not. And when we don’t fit into those boxes and express our true nature, we are often shamed.

I don’t think most people fall neatly into “woman” or “man” or “straight” or “gay”. I don’t even think most people are strictly “vanilla”. Identity and sexuality are far more interesting and nuanced than what we are lead to believe. Challenging and experimenting with what we have been taught about them can be very exciting, gratifying, and liberating.

I am here to provide a safe space for you to explore these things that you may feel afraid to express. I am here to usher you into a new awareness of yourself.