Posts Tagged ‘words’

The personal and the societal: What do I mean when I say ‘kink’?

{reposted from my kink blog here}

As a general rule, when I say ‘kink’ on my kink blog, I am using it as a way to say ‘I have a thing for’. I have a thing for punishment, I have a thing for honorifics, etc. And, it seems that a lot of people use it in this same way (case in points, kink memes). This usage can then means several things.

  • “This thing gives me specialfeelings. They are a particular kind of specialfeelings that are kink feelings”.
  • “This thing thing gives me specialfeelings. They are sexual feelings.”
  • “This thing gives me specialfeelings. They are are particular kind of specialfeelings that are kink feelings, which are a subset, a superset, or in some other way related to my sexual feelings”.

(The first is the one that is the case for me).

However, I also use ‘kink’ in a way that means something beyond the personal. If I talk about ‘kinky people’, I don’t mean ‘people who have things for the stuff I have a thing for’. I mean something wider than that. Well, what do I mean?

Now, the one thing this could mean would be ‘they have a thing for some thing(s), in one of those aforementioned ways. Just like I have things that give me specialfeelings, they have things that give them specialfeelings (though their things and specialfeelings are possibly different from mine)’.

However, in practice, there’s often another distinction. Often, kink doesn’t just refer to having specialfeelings for anything, it refers to having specialfeelings for things outside the mainstream. So, if I were to have PIV sex with someone as equals, this would not be considered a kinky activity even if I had a thing for it, while if I were to tie someone up, this would be considered a kinky activity whether or not I had a thing for it.

I do think both definitions have their uses. The second is important for group identity in the face of social non-inclusion, and generally acknowledged as such. However, it is also important to not lose sight of the distinction between ‘I have a thing for this’, and ‘having a thing for this is outside the social mainstream’. Because personally, I don’t have a thing for either PIV sex or general bondage, I do have a different kind of feeling about both of them, and the fact that one is considered kinky and one isn’t has no bearing on this for me.

Meanwhile, the first is useful as a way of thinking about things. Thinking of things in terms of ‘what do I have a thing for? What gives me specialfeelings?’ (as opposed to in terms of ‘this is How This Is Done, this is the Way of Things’) is important, and it’s important for everyone, including the people whose ‘what gives me specialfeelings?’ does end up lining up with the cultural mainstream.

Conceptualizing Relationships

{reposted from my kink blog here}

As someone for whom being able to conceptualize things is very important to thinking and feeling about them, and who also has both a practical and theoretical interest in relationships, including non-mainstream relationship structures, I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to conceptualize relationships. I also repeatedly run into issues that show me holes in various existing conceptualizations.

Zack was trying to explain to me that he likes one book series more than another because of the lack of friendships in the second, and we spent a bit of time with me arguing with him and him trying to explain because I couldn’t figure out what he was actually talking about. The moderator of a blog on alt relationships stated that they don’t understand the difference between a queerplatonic relationship and a very close friendship. I for at least the second time ran into the problem of not knowing how to refer to a significant-other relationship that is sexual but not romantic. Etc.

At the moment, the conceptualization of relationships that works best for me in terms of capturing everything I want to be able to capture is a combination of two axes and a tag system.

The two axes are used to plot two measures of significance: 1) How emotionally important a relationship is to you, and 2) how large of a role this person has in your life. Emotional importance runs from ‘complete strangers’ to ‘focus people’, with focus people being the term I’m using for ‘most important people’ – people who would be your ‘hostages’ for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, who would be the best targets if someone wanted to blackmail you into something or haunt you with visions of horrors, for whom you would drop everything if they needed you or were in trouble. Role-in-your-life is about time and ‘utility’ – how much do you interact with this person, are they meeting some of your day-to-day physical and emotional needs, etc.

For some examples (note: I’m using some personal examples because I find this works best for me when thinking, but I’m basically making up the exact numbers here, and they should not be taken as any kind of declaration of who is how important to me and such):

  • My best friend is very emotionally important to me, however I see her about once a year and don’t talk to her much more often than that.
  • Some villains will abandon their right-hand minions in time of trouble, because while these people are practically useful for what they do, they’re not emotionally important to the villain at all.
  • Zack and I used to live closer to each other than we do now. This change decreased our presence in each other’s lives, but did not decrease his emotional importance to me.


The tag system covers everything else. Is this relationship sexual? Is it romantic? Is it a Relationship? (I’m using capital-R Relationship to mean the ‘we’re in a relationship’ kind of relationship, wherein this is how the people involved see it and think of it). Is there a legal bond involved? A biological connection? A financial connection? D/s? Is one person in authority over the other? Do they have shared responsibilities? Etc.

This allows me to answer the earlier questions. A queerplatonic relationship is distinguished from a close friendship by the ‘+Relationship’ tag. The thing Zack wants in books is relationships that are high up on both axes, but do not have ‘Relationship’ ‘romantic’ or ‘sexual’ tags (in other words, are –Relationship, -romantic, and –sexual).

It also allows me to talk about some other things I want to talk about. For instance, I’ve been struggling for a while on how to define ‘significant other’. This gives me a definition – ‘significant other’, to me, is the intersection of ‘very emotionally important’ and +Relationship. Likewise, I now have a definition for what ‘primary‘ means to me – it is the intersection of either-or-both ‘very emotionally important’ and ‘very large role in life’, and +Relationship. So, a life partner can be a primary partner without being emotionally important (as, say, for a sociopathic villain), and a significant other can be a primary partner without having the largest role-in-life (as, say, in a long-distance relationship).

Meanwhile, when I talk about culturally conceptualized ‘idealized monogamy’, I mean that in our culture it is considered the right way to do things to have a relationship that’s in the top right corner of the graph (very emotionally important and very large role in your life), that is +Relationship, +romantic, +sexual, and preferably +married, and additionally that no other relationships in your life should be that far in that corner, or have those tags.

So – possibly more adjustments to this system as I do more thinking, but meanwhile, this is what I have.


{reposted from my kink blog here}

So, I’m reading some polyamory writings, including a bunch of definitions, which led me to a thought on the multiple things that people mean when they use the word ‘primary’ for a partner. Here are three that I’ve encountered (note that they are not mutually exclusive, and a lot of people use ‘primary’ to mean more than one of them at the same time):

  • Some people use ‘primary’ to mean what I use ‘significant-other relationship’ for. So, a centrally important intimate relationship wherein all the partners have such feelings and have agreed that they have such a relationship status.
  • Some people, for instance here, use ‘primary’ to mean ‘building a life together’ and such. I would probably use ‘life partners’ for this.
  • Some people use ‘primary’ to mean people with whom you set rules about each other’s other relationships. I don’t have another word for this, but I think it would be good to have one, because it’s a very particular thing that it’s important to be able to talk about. Until I get a better word, I’m going to be using the term ‘bounds-primary’.

Personally, I don’t use the word primary much myself. If someone asked me if I had a primary/ies, I would say yes, meaning my significant others. I think being life partners with someone, for me, would necessarily also mean being significant others with them. And I don’t have a third-type primary/bounds-primary at all, and don’t really forsee having one, because I have a different relationship philosophy from the one that concept is part of.