Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Kink Going Mainstream?

Often when BDSM is portrayed on the Fox Network -- whether a series episode or a news note -- its with heavy doses of sensationalism, titillation and mythology. Well, if the latest column from their resident sex & advice columnist is any indication, then the times they are a-changin' ... or are they?

To be fair, Yvonne Fulbright is a bona fide Ph.D. and certified sex educator with AASECT, which has long promoted greater awareness and acceptance of consensual kink. And compare how many people will see her web column versus the stuff Fox puts on all of its media outlets.

Then again, there have been more enlightened and positive portrayals of BDSM out there. Lady Heather has been a favorite recurring character on CSI, not least of which because she is more complex and realistic than many portrayals of kinksters in the media. More and more media sexperts praise and even recommend mild forms of kinky play like simple bondage and erotic role-play.

Yet all of this is still mixed with an overwhelmingly negative caricature of the BDSM world. Kink is seamy at least, downright dangerous at most, and kinky people must have something "wrong with them". A lot like portrayals of LGBT people in decades past (and still, to some extent). Not to mention sex workers, swingers, polyamorous people, and so forth.

As much as we can try to dispel the myths, perhaps it is time we faced an awful truth. Perhaps the reason we often see sexual outsiders in such negative and distorted ways, is that our society's view of sexuality in general is negative and distorted.

Look at the other end of the extreme -- the "abstinence-only" programs put forward as "education" in so many schools. They are laden with misinformation and stereotypes about sexual health and gender roles, and all slanted to perpetuate the view that sex is dangerous unless contained. That's why I refuse to call it "education", because they are more about promoting ignorance through fear.

Dr. Fulbright's column is a step in the right direction -- a small step. We all need to take a bigger one, to go outside of our comfort zones and actively question what we've passively learned.

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