the bedroom is a social construct

I saw something again — not linking on purpose because of context — mentioning, secondhand, a claim paraphrased as “if your kink bleeds into your everyday life outside of the bedroom, it’s bad for you.”

And like the responder I found, I take issue with that entire premise.

As far as I can tell, it’s basically a slight rewording of the common kink apologetics catchphrase — that XYZ earn their acceptability by being “only in the bedroom,” i.e. sure XYZ could be a bad thing, but not if it happens “only in the bedroom,”  …which is a line of argument that has multiple, multiple problems, some of them more significant than others.  They’re all so interrelated, though, I don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start here: Why does the locale of “the bedroom” grant some kind of moral/harm-metric exemption status?  As best I can figure, it’s because “in the bedroom” (aka “during sex”) refers to some of the most private moments of the most private room of a private dwelling — supposedly far removed from the “public sphere” and “everyday life.”  And therefore, it doesn’t affect anyone.  And therefore, it doesn’t affect you.


Why wouldn’t your private, personal, intimate experiences be one of the things that can affect you and your everyday life?

I think, based on what little I have to go on, the unstated premise is that people can split and box up parts of their lives as separable, disparate, clean-cut isolated plates, that they can simply decide to “not be affected” by something, and that they can just tell their brains how to cut the fabric, sort all memories, and keep them all from touching or casting shadows on each other.

And I remain entirely unconvinced that our psychology works like that.

Chronically isolating parts of your nature from the present demanded of you…  Is called being in the closet.  Is called emotional labor.  Is, itself, “bad for you.”  But even if it weren’t–

I’ve always believed in the capacity of storytelling — novels, movies, television — to influence our thinking and how we perceive the world, despite how many times people have challenged me on that.  It seems to me that the stories we live should be at least as able to affect us.

I don’t believe in “choosing not to let it affect you.”  One something is dissolved into the stream, there’s no picking it back out again.  There’s no taking scissors to a body of liquid.

Nobody is a neatly-divided pie chart of discrete, intentionally-accepted influences.  Nobody’s lifestory is as simple and siloed as that.

Maybe I’m too much a believer in the butterfly effect.  Maybe I think in too geometric terms, where turning one degree to the left instead of to the right will vastly affect where you end up several miles down the line.  Maybe I’m starting from a philosophical premise that I can’t expect anyone else to share.

But this — this faith in the rigid clarity of a private/public binary and corresponding slots inside the soul — is, also, a starting point you should not expect everyone else to share.  It’s not even about the appropriateness or moral status or cost-benefit rating of your weird kink, at that point.  It’s not even about that.

It’s about “privacy” and “private property” and “private family business” as a weapon in abuse apologetics, to the point that we have a specific designation for violence that occurs “inside the home,” as if its location makes it a specific kind of violence.

It’s about “just don’t let it affect you” as the snide retort of abuse apologists who refuse to understand the psychological impacts of being an abuse survivor are involuntary, not a character flaw or a marker of incorrectly-distributed willpower, or for that matter that the psychological impacts of anything have a tendency to include the involuntary, and the how willful misunderstanding of that fact churns out some kind of bizarre condemnation for receiving sensory input in the first place.

It’s about “private life” & “____ life” as concepts, as a claim that multiple overlapping narratives, situational boundaries, and points of focus breaks one chronological life into multiple lives, and that it is “healthier” to keep these multiple “lives” in your life as separate as possible, and that it makes sense to even conceptualize them that way — as an individual’s many lives, instead of many interpersonal relationships.

Here’s the sorry inconvenience of it all.  Brains are weird and messy and mysterious and tend to synthesize.  What ever you call this faith, this pretension that brains are tidy and simplistic and siloed and don’t do anything you don’t want them to do, is a faith I don’t follow, and have never followed, for as long as I’ve been capable of reading.

A bedroom is just four walls and a door.  You’ll have to work to convince me it’s anything else.


2 responses to “the bedroom is a social construct

  • epochryphal

    *one million thousand hundred billion snaps*

    i’ve been mega fucked up by the whole…bizarre contradictoriness of it all (and sexuality too). the sort of binary, keep it locked tight in the bedroom only when all consent is perfect, OR, infuse it into everything automatically at all times. respect other people’s right to not…have you be attracted/into/think about them (?), OR, respect your right to…sexualize everyone constantly?

    and ahhh the beautifully illustrative hypocrisy of, sexuality as natural and not hurting anyone by being attracted to them and thoughts don’t hurt people as long as you don’t turn them into hurtful actions, so it’s So Unreasonable for folks like repulsed aces to be upset at being thought of sexually…. but *how dare* you have kink thoughts outside of a pre-established relationship where you already know the person is down for that (somehow, without ever thinking about or discussing it i guess).

    but damn this is good framing you’re so right. ty.

    • Coyote

      hahaha yeah I forgot about that one, contradictory sex/kink standards.

      Imagine if they applied this one to sex… Sex is okay “in the bedroom” but if sexual desire bleeds over into affecting your everyday life… ….??? Is it just me or does that come off as bizarre framing?

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