No True Umbrella Term

A short post about the term “kink,” consent semantics, and the No True Scotsman fallacy, among other things.

I’m not going to link where I found this, just because it’s someone’s about page on their personal blog and that would feel kind of weird, but today I came across a series of statements that defined “kinks” as “non-coercive paraphilias” (isn’t “paraphilia” a sexual term? so already what the heck) and other things (sometimes grouped in as kinks, at least according to some other junk I had the misfortune to read) as “coercive paraphilias” and therefore not “kinks” because they’re nonconsensual.

This seems kind of like the argument over whether the phrase “nonconsensual sex” is the definition of rape or whether it’s oxymoronic because sex has to be consensual to be called “sex.”

On the one hand, I’m inclined to think that “kink is consensual and if it’s not consensual it’s not kink because kink is consensual” is kind of a weak argument and also isn’t much use in addressing abuse within the kink community/within to context of kinkiness.

But on the other hand, I really would like more separation of terms, so that I could have an easier time separating some areas of “kink” (ex. sensation play, roleplaying) from others (ex. D/s, impact play) from still others (ex. flashing, “slaves”) in a way that still preserves the utility of umbrella terms.  It would be personally useful for me, anyway.

Yet I’m not sure that’s really possible, given how “kink” is pretty much defined by the kink community and those who identify as kinky, and it seems like everything gets throw in and lumped together in that realm, with little differentiation.  Like I’ve said, I have limited experience reading kinkster’s accounts, but in general (& aside from kinky aces) it seems like that community has the opposite trend of the ace community, as far as we have a habit of prying things apart and sub-labeling every single little thing.

And then again, yeah, I’m not sure what schema or criteria system I would even use to create different categories, since the obvious “sort by dangerous-ness” could become illogical and misleading really fast, and I don’t think I could dream up a consistent framework for that.

But… some things just… don’t go together, to me?

Like, for instance, there’s what amounts to pressure stimming and “autistic traits” or traits associated with or bound up in nuerodivergence, which can be accomplished by weighted blankets and various forms of bondage (among other things), up to and including the more extreme variants like full-body restraints and mummification, which I figure carry about the same kind of risk as rock-climbing.  Kinda scary maybe, but so is rock-climbing.

(seriously, I’ve had some bad experiences of being pressured into/expected to do climbing as a kid and it was terrible and I’ve never seen strenuous/dangerous athletic activities mentioned among things that require genuine non-coerced consent — so make of that what you will)

Point being, I don’t see pressure or texture sensation play as having a moral element or being innately morally fraught anymore than rock-climbing.

But there are examples of so-called-kink that unnerve me in a different way, whether because they sound too similar to/reminiscent of red flags or because they’re just outright a problem (something else I won’t link seemed to consider it just another brand of kinky to want to watch someone “without them knowing” ???).

How does anyone even begin to sort this kind of stuff?  And where do I find other people talking about it?

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10 responses to “No True Umbrella Term

  • demiandproud

    I always liked my lit teacher’s advice best… though it was about essays on whole books… start with one detail that sticks out for you and gently start prying it apart from there. You won’t ever get all the way through but you’ll get somewhere.

  • epochryphal

    heh, i’m glad you found that series of statements weird too. i get where it’s coming from, trying to preemptively shut down common “but if you say kink is ok, you’re saying xyz horrible things are ok if someone calls them kink!!” but, like. ugh.

    behavior vs internal experience again. and can we ever split apart “hey yeah just cuz you call x bigoted preference a kink doesn’t make it ok” from “yeah you can be ethical about having these internal experiences, they themselves are not Condemnable Thoughts” (hellloooo thought-action fusion).

    and yeah, No to the whole circular definition of rape and kink and sex.

    i wish there were clearer splits sometimes too. even D/s vs SM (maaayyybe remembering B/D) get all thrown together. sensory play is one of the few i see separated out actually?

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    I generally think of sex and kink as tools whose *usage* determines their moral status. So it’s really bizarre when people argue that the terms have a moral status as inherently not-problematic. There are important political reasons for not referring to rape as a type of sex (because retraumatization), but those reasons shouldn’t include “because sex is an inherently good/consenting/enjoyable thing.” In terms of sex as a tool, rape would a *usage* of sex, not a *type* of sex. Sex and kink can absolutely be used in abusive manners, and to say sex and kink are inherently not abusive (or inherently abusive) obfuscates abuse.

  • doubleinvert

    I know a young trans woman who identifies as both ace and a kinkster. I could put you in contact with her, if you like, or I could just direct you to her Tumblr. She is not remotely sex-averse, but she is ace. — Connie

    • Coyote

      Heh. That’s fine, but thanks for the offer. I think it’s harder to find a kinkster who shares my views than a kinkster who’s ace (there’s a surprising number of those).

  • code16

    As someone else who wants to talk about this kind of thing –

    “But on the other hand, I really would like more separation of terms, so that I could have an easier time separating some areas of “kink” (ex. sensation play, roleplaying) from others (ex. D/s, impact play) from still others (ex. flashing, “slaves”) in a way that still preserves the utility of umbrella terms.”

    “Point being, I don’t see pressure or texture sensation play as having a moral element or being innately morally fraught anymore than rock-climbing.

    But there are examples of so-called-kink that unnerve me in a different way, whether because they sound too similar to/reminiscent of red flags or because they’re just outright a problem (something else I won’t link seemed to consider it just another brand of kinky to want to watch someone “without them knowing” ???).”

    Do the three areas in the first quote correspond to the three categories in the second quote or is there a different categorization behind them? *curious about other people’s categories and things*.

    Also, oh, “similar to/reminiscent of red flags”, that is a really good/important category thing I had not thought of! *glad to have run into*.

    Also mm kink exceptionalism examples…

    • Coyote

      Maybe. I don’t even know what categories to use anymore.

      …Actually, that’s not true. Lately I’ve been thinking of this as a framework.

      • code16

        I apologize and feel rather… some self-derogatory term: I’ve read the violence/violation post, and I really like and appreciate its thoughts and find them really relevant and useful (and related to consent discussions!). But I’m not exactly sure how that maps onto the kink categories you were discussing/wanted to talk about? (And partially since, as you touched on, a very lot of things can/will be experienced as violating for some people in some circumstances and not by other people in others, etc. So those things wouldn’t really have a consistent category). Or is the violation division just a different thing from the things discussed above and you’re saying you find that framework/distinction considerably more important etc, as opposed to trying to sort particular kinks into categories? (Or something else?)

        Apologies again…

        • Coyote

          No need for that. I guess it wasn’t that clear in retrospect. Mm… I’m thinking in terms of categories to apply different ethical rules to, so — flashing, for instance, which I used as an example above, would be an example of violation (sexual harassment), and so it comes under a completely different category than, say, being into leather, which doesn’t necessarily relate to violence at all. But D/s? That *can*, depending on how it’s managed. So that raises a different host of issues. And then there are kinks/fetishes that deliberately invoke trauma and violation, like slavery and “noncon,” and that gets its own bracket. I’m not really sorting things based on whether the Thing itself can be violating (because, as you said, pretty much anything can) but rather… whether enacting or mimicking violation is centered as part of the point.

          • code16

            Oh! *gets it now*. mm!
            So in flashing you are in fact trying to violate people, that’s kind of inseparable or some word like that.
            Leather or say balloons are just – orthogonal, or some such word, in this sense.
            While the deliberately-invoking ones are – like what I call problem-tangled. They’re different from flashing in that they don’t just enact violation in and of themselves, but they do – invoke it, as you said.
            mm!

            (Also, oh, wow, I had completely failed to think before of needing to be clearer whether in a given thing re kinks ‘slavery’ is being used as in/to mean m/s or it’s being used as in/to mean a kink for slavery in the other sense. /Noticing when I might be thinking of the wrong one. That… might be very relevant to some other posts I’ve run into and stuff. (Where I’ve though one but now it occurs to me they might have meant the other one). Also some to think of it the scene doesn’t separate this out very well either… (*sigh* what else is new…)).

            Thank you for your time/explanation (and thoughts!).

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