Guest post by Meredith Kirby
In my time as a sex worker, I’ve worked for a phone sex service, a webcam modeling site, and several different strip clubs. Throughout the course of my work, I’ve met all kinds of people, and I’ve had the privilege of getting to see some of these people in a special kind of vulnerable light.
A sex worker is someone with whom you might confidentially share certain things about yourself, which you might not want to share with others in your life. When I’m spending time with a client, part of the service I’m providing might be a listening ear.
When it comes to preferences, fetishes, and kinks, I’ve pretty much heard it all. I’ve met tit people, I’ve met ass people, and I’ve met leg people. I’ve met people who are into feet, and people who love a good pair of shoulders. I’ve met people who want to give orders and people who want to take them. I know a guy who wears silk panties under dress pants, and I know another who just wants to brush a girl’s hair.
I’ve learned that there’s a broad range of physical and mental kinds of play that people like to engage in.
When someone wants to chat with me about a sexual preference or activity, often their main motivation is seeking reassurance and validation, which I’m happy to provide. People want to know that they aren’t too “weird” and that the things they like are “okay.” My clients are looking for freedom from shame.
Guess what? There’s no reason for you to be ashamed.
There’s nothing wrong with liking something in bed that is different from what the majority of people are “into.” You might also find, upon exploring the thing you like, that more people are “into” your “thing” than you realized, however unconventional it might be.
There are many reasons why we might feel shame about what we like in bed. It could have to do with how we were raised, or broader sexual repression in our culture. It could be related to past traumas, our worries about the future, or our fear of what others might think of us.
The reasons really aren’t important, though, as long as we are able to let go of the shame. Allowing oneself to embody one’s unique, authentic sexuality is one of the most empowering and freeing experiences that a person can have.
There are some important questions to ask yourself before you explore your sexual eccentricities. These questions are also good things to keep in mind for “regular” sex, or really any kind of activity that you might engage in with a partner.
Is it safe?
Is there an unreasonable risk of causing injury to yourself or another person if you participate in this activity?
Study up on the use of any equipment and make sure you know what you’re doing before you start. For example: if you’re playing with rope or handcuffs, it’s important to make sure there’s no loss of blood circulation, which can cause nerve damage. Make sure your partner can breathe if they’re wearing a ball gag or a mask. It is often wise to try things out yourself first to see how they feel, before using your partner as a guinea pig.
Not every sexual activity will require this kind of research, practice, or awareness in order to ensure safety; but if yours does, it’s your responsibility to both yourself and your partner make sure you’re playing safe.
Is it sane?
Emotional safety is just as important as physical safety. It’s important to note the mental and emotional state of all parties involved in an activity and to recognize how personality and prior experiences might affect this experience for an individual.
Do you trust your partner to care for you in a state of vulnerability? Do you trust yourself to care for your partner? This is very important if you’re participating in something like BDSM, where there might be an exchange of power involved in your play.
Emotional wounds might not be outwardly visible, but they can last a lifetime. Make sure you’re not emotionally harming yourself or others with your sexual activity.
Is it consensual?
Do all parties involved in this activity actively and enthusiastically agree to participate? Unfortunately, consent is not something that everyone is educated about. It’s pretty much the only thing that can turn your very okay kink into something that’s not okay.
Things to remember about consent:
Consent laws vary by country, state, and situation; but speaking from a human perspective, it’s really not rocket science.
Consent is positive communication
Ask questions like “is this okay?” to communicate about the type or degree of a sexual act. Explicitly agree or disagree with words and phrases like “yes,” “no,” “if we do it X way,” “I’m open to trying that,” or “that would cross a boundary for me.” Use physical cues and body language to let your partner know if you are comfortable escalating an activity.
Consent is fully withdrawable
Anyone can change their mind at any time about participating in a sex act.
You might want to consider a safe word, which is an “everything stops right now” signal that you can use with your partner. Generally, things like “no” and “stop” should be treated like safe words, unless you have discussed different rules with your partner.
You also can’t assume that you have permission to engage in an activity because you’ve done it in the past. You need to get consent every time.
Consent cannot include:
- Refusal to acknowledge “no”
- Someone being under the legal age of consent
- Someone being incapacitated by drugs or alcohol
- Pressure, fear, intimidation, or coercion
Ask yourself whether there is a fair balance of power in the relationship between yourself and the partner you choose. There’s a reason why relationships between students and teachers or bosses and employees are often considered to be sexual misconduct. A person who is threatened by the idea of something like getting fired or getting a bad grade can’t freely consent.
One of the things that I love about humanity is our cornucopia of strangeness. The world would be awfully boring if we all took pleasure in the same things. Our diversity and variety as a species is part of what makes us beautiful. We shouldn’t ever feel bad or wrong about something that makes us different; sexually, or otherwise.
No matter what you’re into, it’s part of what makes you, you; and that is something to be celebrated.
So go and celebrate!
Related reading: Healing Sexual Shame