There’s lots of discussion in the LGBT community about allies, advocates, and how to be one. The ethics of tolerance have fully integrated themselves into the LGBT struggle for equality and acceptance. However, the same can’t be said yet for people in the Kink collective, even though Kinksters have been long time allies of the LGBT community.
There is a palpable fear from Kinksters of being shamed by vanilla folks for the activities they engage in. Worse yet there is real danger of discrimination in the workplace, doctor's office, and courtroom. So much so that a national advocacy organization centered on sexual freedom was founded to protect the rights of Kinksters and educate medical and law professionals.
Luckily, more often the insult is not intentional, but just a social faux pas that can be corrected. Don't make me break out the ball-gag and flogger before you learn how to be ally.
Don’t assume you understand the subculture because you saw that fucking movie.
There’s a spectrum of involvement here. Some people are bedroom players, some people are lifestyle players, and for some people this edges spiritual levels. There are people who have spent 20 years refining the skill of throwing a whip. Equally, there are people who have spent years learning how to process pain, how to serve with confidence, or the philosophy and theory of sadomasochism.
Coming into a community like you're the next Mr. Grey will not make you any friends. In my experience, Kinksters appreciate humility and willingness to learn. We want to play safe, and we want you to play safe because we want to play with you! Don’t try to pretend you're more knowledgeable than you are. We’ll see straight through it.
Better to ask questions when you don’t understand or want to know the accepted etiquette in a situation. (Yes, there is Kink etiquette!)
Don’t out us in public.
The freak flag flyer gets to decide when to fly the flag and when to fold it up and tuck it away for everyone’s comfort. Don’t look at me weird and giggle when Rihanna’s “S&M” comes on at the bar. Don’t run up to me at the coffee house and gush about how much you loved watching me take stripes from that whip at the play party last night. Just don’t.
The etiquette for running into someone you know from Kink is different from city to city, but a good rule of thumb is if you only know them from Kink - do not acknowledge them in vanilla life if you see them. I’m serious. The fear of discrimination is so great among Kinksters that we avoid each other in public altogether. You just never know whose family member or coworker might be around and listening.
Likewise, remembering to use someone’s scene name while inside Kink safe places is also important to protecting people’s privacy. Many times, Kinksters will be acquainted for years only by names chosen specifically to hide their vanilla identities and protect themselves from potential discrimination. Either calling someone by their real name in a Kink safeplace, or calling them by their kink identity in public might get you a reputation as someone who can’t be trusted to maintain privacy, and therefore unsafe.
Accept that we geek out on Kink like you geek out on Dr. Who.
We see kink everywhere. Home improvement and tractor supply stores are our favorites. So. Many. Kinkables. Some of us also spend hundreds of dollars on toys, equipment, furniture, travel to conventions, costuming. This can be an expensive hobby/lifestyle.
Yup. You read that right. There are kink and fetish conventions all over the globe. Probably one in your own backyard. They are kind of like comic cons but with leather and corsets. Super geeky.
Treat Kink ceremonies and rituals with equal respect that you give other subcultures.
You want to be respected your pagan hand-fastening or your Skydaddy promise ring. Kinksters want people to respect collaring ceremonies, and other ceremonies, rites, and rituals. You don’t have to agree, you just have to not be an asshole about it. Some kinksters are really laid back about this stuff and to some its a big fucking deal.
It goes way beyond role play. These things are real and they mean things to people and their relationships. If your kink friend comes to you and tells you she was “collared” or is “owned,” celebrate with her. And when he tells you that his Mistress uncollared him, let him cry.
If you’re around Leather people for any length of time you’ll meet people who run the gamut on this issue. Some Leather-people wear their Leather titles proudly and talk about the Old Guard. Others smirk at the pomp and circumstance. Laura Antoniou hands out “Middle Age Guard” pins at her workshops. Full of smirk that one.
Don’t perpetuate abuse causality myths.
If you know your friend is a kinkster, and you see bruises or other marks on him, don’t assume he has been abused. Don’t ask him if he needs help. Don’t passive-aggressively cut down his Mistress.
In fact, submissives are often proud of their marks to the point of wanting to run and admire them in the mirror after a scene. If you can muster sincerity, you might comment on pretty they are. It’s an easy way to get any masochist to blush and smile.
Let people identify however they chose.
Just as many are learning now from the transgender collective, people have a million ways of self identifying, and one of the easiest ways to be an ally to someone is to just let them. If he walks like a puppy, barks like a puppy, then scratch him behind his ears like a puppy (assuming you have consent to touch him.) Even if your definition of that word is different. Even if it make you grit your teeth to think that Synthia might dare identity as a “slave” when eeerrrrybody knows she’s only a bratty sub at best. Gimme a break. Give us all a break.
Don’t add shame to the game.
There’s a saying in kink. “Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is ok.” YKINMKBYKIO. You’ll find this string of words said just after another Kinkster has wigged everyone out by being the Most Taboo Player In The Room. There are a lot activities that are too much even for a lot of Kinksters - too dark, too triggering, too whatever. Not everyone is into human-puppy play, and that’s ok. But we don’t ask the Kink players not to wig us out. We respect their space and autonomy to play. We listen for safe words. And we let them be.
You might have noticed a pattern to what I’m saying here. Let us be. Just let us be. Let us have our safe play spaces. Let us wear our collars as comfortably as you wear your wedding ring. Let us enjoy other human beings the way that we choose, the way that everyone else on the sexuality spectrum gets to do. That’s all there is to being an ally to anyone. Just let people be.