Sexual Freedom is Intrinsically Linked to Social Justice
By Luna Matatas for ASN Lifestyle Magazine
I logged into my Fetlife account during the week that the BLM protests were all over the news, curious to see what other kinksters were saying about Black Lives Matter.
Fetlife is a kinky social network, like Facebook for kinksters. Unsurprisingly, I either read racist comments or business as usual — white, thin bodies all over the site’s main page catering to the cis male gaze.
One comment complained, “BLM is all over social media, this [Fetlife] is the only place where we can escape and this platform is about sexuality, not politics.” I saw many white cis women who are sex educators remain silent, even though they frequently appropriate from communities of colour, e.g., Tantra and smudging.
Sexual Freedom is Political
Sexual freedom happens when the social conditions allow us to prioritize the well-being of our emotions and bodies in our sexual activities. These conditions include consent, trusted knowledge on sexually transmitted infections, affordable and accessible contraceptive choices, communication skills, support to navigate shame-free pleasure, and a feeling of belonging to communities that celebrate our identities and sexual selves. We all deserve this, but we don’t all have this.
It’s unsurprising because I have long experienced and witnessed racism and other forms of systemic oppression in sex-positive communities claiming to be inclusive, diverse, and champions of sexual freedom. For my fellow kinksters and those of us on a path to be liberated from our sexual shame, we fight for our right to express ourselves as empowered sexual beings — without checking the unearned privilege that comes along with that.
Promoting kink visibility, no yucking someone’s yum, and supporting consent is NOT enough to support sexual freedom. The fact that the rest of the internet is flooded with BLM conversations — and my corner of Fetlife is not — speaks volumes to the apathy of our kinky community.
Privilege and social power have always been part of kink in who are considered ‘experts,’ whose knowledge on kink is valuable, who shows up and feels like they belong in kinky spaces, and who fetish events and kink retailers market to.
There is also the fetishization of Black bodies, interpersonal racism in kink spaces on and offline to, cultural appropriation, and self-appointed leadership of mainly cis-gendered, heterosexual, white men.
Many kinksters have long perpetuated these behaviours, making many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) feel that they don’t belong and are unsafe in kink and sex-positive communities. If we BIPOC people aren’t coming to our events, it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because from who is featured on the poster, to where the event is promoted, how the event is organized, and the atmosphere when arriving — there are clear signs that this party wasn’t thinking of BIPOC people when it was planned.
Pleasure is Political
Detangling issues of race, gender, sexuality, and my body is not an option for me and many BIPOC communities. A trauma-informed approach to sexuality understands that structural and interpersonal oppression impacts the ways in which we show up in our sexual selves and how safe we are to do that.
If your sex positivity doesn’t include an understanding of the intersectional ways that sexual freedom and kink spaces exclude marginalized people — that’s privilege. Make an effort to learn how your privilege shows up in ways that you never noticed. Some more ways privilege shows up:
- If you have the ability to divorce your sexual, gender, and kinky identities from one another — that’s privilege.
- If you show up in a space or a relationship and expect others to be able to leave their 'politics' at the door — that’s privilege.
- If you open up Fetlife, attend a kinky space and shop for kink gear, and can see people with your skin colour, your fantasies, your body type — that’s privilege.
- If you go to an event, a play party, a cruise and you can easily look around and connect with people who look like you — that’s privilege.
- If your body and spirit can be silent and feel safe under the status quo — that’s privilege.
- If your race isn’t a fetish on a porn site — that’s privilege.
What Do You Do with Your Awareness of Your Privilege?
Exploring our privilege by learning, reading, and LISTENING to voices of people most affected by systemic oppression is where we begin to transform. Turn those ‘what abouts’ and ‘what ifs’ and ‘why don’t they’ inwards to yourself, to the resistance inside of you.
Ask yourself, ‘what am I missing? Why is it hard for me to trust what they are saying?” Your narrative coming in conflict with marginalized people is based on believing the current system works — because it works for you. Interrogate that feeling by reading, reflecting on your discomfort, and listening without centering a conversation on your feelings, your narrative, and your experiences.
How to Start Unpacking Privilege
- Understand that this isn’t a quick study. Read books and articles and be gentle with yourself during moments of discomfort, but keep going.
- Hold space for your partners lived experiences that are different than yours.
- Don’t fetishize someone (e.g., by race) unless you have their consent to do so.
- Have conversations with other people who share your privilege.
- If you are an active community member in an online or in-person kinky space, learn what you can do to ensure the space is safe for everyone’s needs. ‘Open to everyone’ usually doesn’t mean ‘everyone is safe.’
- When you feel resistance to this learning, when you experience shame or guilt, hold space for that in yourself and seek support or rest, but carry on, this work is healing.
- Support Black businesses, artists, healers, educators, spaces, and people — especially this week but ongoing as a way to broaden your world to see what it would feel like if we were closer to equity.
It’s easier to look for voices that support your own way of thinking — dig deeper. It isn’t enough to make a declaration of anti-racist values, it is an active and daily practice that has to start with accepting our narrative is not the experience of everyone else. Trust the books, the organizations, and the voices that have been saying the same things for far too long.
This work isn’t easy, but it’s worthy.
- Here’s a list of anti-racism resources to get you started
- Here are two Black-owned sex shops to buy your sexy things from:
- Porn that features Queer and Trans BIPOC people:
- Crashpad Series: http://www.crashpadseries.com/
- Afrosexology is an amazing resource to continue to learn about issues of Black Sexuality and Black sexual freedom. They also make AMAZING merchandise! http://www.afrosexology.com/
Keep the conversation going, join our Race and Kink Discussion Series: http://www.bit.ly/RaceKink.
About Luna Matatas
Luna Matatas is a Sex and Educator with over 10 years experience teaching sexual health and pleasure workshops. She celebrates body confidence, self-adoration, and building shame-free pleasure in and out of the bedroom. She teaches a wide range of topics; including threesomes, BDSM, and sexual confidence. Luna is a self-identified craft slut and you can often find her making glittery nipple pasties. She created Peg the Patriarchy and Polishing the Pearl brands as part of her line of sex-positive and feminist merchandise. Visit her website for webinars, live events, and one-to-one Pleasure Coaching at https://lunamatatas.com/.
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of ASN Lifestyle Magazine.