Race and BDSM

by | Oct 5, 2020 | BDSM, BIPOC and BDSM, Power Dynamics

Navigating alternative cultures like BDSM/kink in a society that still has a number of puritanical views is difficult enough. For many, opposition to what brings them joy only needs dealing with only a few or fewer points. People of Color, however, are usually burdened with numerous opposing forces as they strive for sexual liberation. Foes in the form of white supremacy, fetishization and low/negative representation are contributors to false narratives, stereotypes and treating the melanated and marginalized as less than human. Factor in a history of cultural conservatism in relation to religious beliefs and you have the right ingredients for intolerance. What hurts most is how often that same intolerance comes from those who look like you.

Being a Person of Color taking part in alternative culture means always being hyper-aware of your race, ethnicity and skin color. Why wouldn’t you be? Representation matters, and where there is none there lies the communities of the marginalized. Beyond that, you’ll find a gate. It’s a barrier where the other side is devoid of those with our same hopes, dreams, experiences, joys and pains. The other side is also where you’ll find magazines and television screens packed with white bodies. Western beauty standards and practices continue to poison the wells as many become content with what their eyes drink. Those standards have created a pool saturated with white skin through which POC must wade and struggle to be acknowledged. Set by colonialism, conquest and a host of other elements, they still affect us today.

When we are acknowledged, we are reduced to that of less than human. Porn is a shining example. Pornography, being the double-edged sword that it is, often does more harm than good. Sexual awakenings are one thing, but internalizing a problematic reality surrounding sex and the treatment of marginalized communities is something else. Look to any porn site for an Ebony category. Look further and you will find the Asian, BBC, Desi  and “Thug” categories, with the latter containing an overwhelming amount of videos depicting young men of color. Where is the “White” category? These aggressions viewed in print and displayed on screens are one of many places where the fetishization of POC begins. Porn was actually one of the contributing forces to the discovery and subsequent adaptation of BDSM in my life. It was also one of the first places I noticed a clear difference in the way POC are treated in regards to their white counterparts. 

Additionally, work must be done considering the conservatism we as POC still enact viciously which stems almost directly from religious indoctrination, toxic/fragile masculinity and society’s treatment towards POC, especially Black men, in America. We have a penchant for community cannibalism, as many marginalized communities do for obvious reasons. Consuming one another is precisely what is wanted in the eyes of oppressors. Your adopting of new interests or failing to do something which would be performative for you, but synonymous with your culture means that your identity, as part of that culture, is questioned or even denied by those who look like you. Black and Brown Lives Matter, but make sure they all do to you. The Black and Brown Lives that are part of the LGBTQIA community, the ones who are homeless, the ones who betray your ideas of beauty, the ones who are poor and rich, the ones who are fat, the ones in hoods and projects across all of America and the rest of us; we ALL matter. 

The way that POC can effectively stake a claim to alternative communities, spaces and sexuality in the faces of white supremacy and familial opposition is through visibility. Being seen and heard are cornerstones of visibility and is how communities grow. Sure, visibility isn’t always the best thing for safety, but it is an indispensable tool for changing the status quo. No one will do it for us so we have to make it happen ourselves. Someone has to be the first “domino” so that every hurdle may fall in their pioneering wake.

Visibility is a beacon. It tells people that they are not alone.

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