Friday, March 13, 2020

Growing Up Kinky - My Story

I came across a news article about research into the formation of kink/fetish identity, and it suggested several stages of development. So I thought I'd take a look at these stages, and see if I can identify anything matching that in my life experience.

1) Early Encounters: This stage encompasses early inklings towards kink, typically taking place before the age of 10, where kinky people experience an attraction, draw, or fascination with a kink or fetish interest, often without the words or concepts to understand it, and often without sexual arousal. Examples include always wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show.
This stage definitely defined my childhood. One of my earliest memories is of watching The Jungle Book, around the age of 4, and getting fascinated by Kaa, the hypnotic snake, to the point where I wandered around preschool the next day bugging my eyes out and singing "trust in me".

With regards to my interest in disabilities, that came later. I had a sometimes-friend in elementary school who had cerebral palsy and a mental disability, but I remember liking her in spite of her differences, which quite frankly repulsed me a bit. I also remember being forced to read about Louis Braille, and resonating with his conflicts with teachers while having basically no interest in his blindness.

It wasn't until right around the cusp of puberty, age 10-11ish, that I suddenly developed a fascination for disabled people. I remember my attention being caught by an autistic child I met, though I have no idea how much of that was dawning fetish and how much was a subconscious recognition of a person with a similar neurotype to myself. On the other hand, the fact that seeing one kid about my age with a limb difference at the pool prompted me to obsessively draw similar limb differences in my school agenda is pretty clearly an early sign of my fetish for disabilities. And even more so my reaction to my school's unit on disability awareness, which motivated me to spend time pretending to have various disabilities as well as learning the Braille alphabet and fingerspelling.

2) Exploration with Self: This stage encompasses kinky people exploring their kink or fetish interest with themselves, typically between the ages of 5 and 14. This exploration typically occurs via fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.
OK, here I feel like the stages start overlapping. For mind control, forced transformation, kidnapping, whump, etc, this stage started in elementary school, several years before the dawning interest in disability I mentioned above. I was obsessed with the Animorphs series in elementary school, going to the point of conceptualizing my least favorite teachers as Controllers as a coping strategy. I also liked this one series about the daughter of a veterinarian who investigated crimes against animals, and thought up elaborate hurt/comfort scenarios involving tortured animals. I also developed a fascination for the 1994 movie Pet Shop, which featured an alien couple disguising as human and starting a pet shop with the intention of kidnapping humans to sell as pets on another planet. In the movie, they were foiled quite easily - in my fantasies, they succeeded, and I had long-running stories about kids in cages, trying to cope with captivity, wondering what fate awaited them. After I got anti-drug education around 10-11ish, I'd always throw in an addict character undergoing withdrawal.

For me, this stage continued well past 14, easily into my twenties. It's important to note that all of this occurred through fantasizing, first expressed through playing with twist tye people, and then later through writing these stories down, and none of it involved me paying any attention to my own physical body. The only scenario I recall where my body was even relevant at all was one where I was a giant who'd captured tiny people to torture and play with.

I certainly never conceived of any of this as erotic, or paid any attention to my genitalia whatsoever. I generally tried to forget that I had genitalia altogether, and apart from trying to make sure they remained clean, I never touched them. Any conscious awareness of sensation in my genitalia was likely to trigger flashbacks to my childhood sexual abuse, so I suspect that I heavily dissociated from my own body.

3) Evaluation: This stage encompasses the process by which kinky people evaluate what their kink interests mean for their identities and lives, and typically takes place between 11 to 14 years old, at the same time when other identity development processes are often in full swing. It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.
I probably unconsciously stigmatized my own kinks due to both a fear of any sort of sexuality and the negative reactions I got from people (mostly my teachers) who took my fantasies too seriously and stereotyped me as violent. In addition, my kinks heavily line up with my mom's triggers, so any discussion of them with my mom tended to get shut down very quickly, leaving me feeling guilty for having upset her.

My first exposure to direct kink-stigma, however, was through the Courage to Heal book, which quoted from a contributor who'd used BDSM to self-harm. Her account heavily implied both that BDSM was inherently unhealthy for anyone to participate in, and that healing from trauma could and should involve shifting your sexuality away from BDSM to more vanilla interests. At the time, I uncritically accepted this account, and even proceeded to try to convince kinky people I met online later to believe the same way.

I remember at one point posting on an LGBT forum wondering if there was something wrong with me for liking stories where characters were tortured and hurt. Some people mentioned hurt/comfort fics, but that just left me feeling more broken, because I didn't really care about the "comfort", just the hurt. I felt like I was supposed to feel bad for characters who had bad things happen, and write about bad things mainly as a serious exploration of dark themes that resonate with real life, but I still found myself relishing descriptions of characters being tortured and feeling disappointed when they got rescued.

I also regularly, starting around 10-11ish if not earlier, had revenge fantasies about torturing and maiming harmful people and this somehow leading them to be reformed. Those bothered me because a) I couldn't think of how to make it realistic, and b) my self-insert character doing the torturing and maiming and proceeding to use the character's vulnerability to manipulate them into reformation usually came across at least as villainous as their victim, if not more so for the extreme measures they took.
4) Finding Others: This stage encompasses the process of realizing that there are other kinky people out there and often takes place after the age of 11. The discovery of other kinky people often occurs via the internet, magazines, and is often accompanied by a feeling of kinship, such as finding their home, tribe, people, or family. This stage often includes a process of developing resilience against kink-related stigma and developing a positive sense of kink identity. Physically attending a kinky club, group, event, or conference also often comes up during this stage, though typically not until they are at least 18 years old.
In July of 2012, when I was 23, I wrote a description of several categories of "identity weirdness" I'd discovered, including ABDL and transabled. I had absolutely no inclination that either would be in any way relevant to my identity, or any idea that it was anything more than my ongoing special interest in psychology and my recent encounters with a trans boy that led me to be interested in the subject. (Ironically, I've since realized I am somewhere on the spectrum of each of those, though not the particular points I described in that post.) Around that time, I remember wondering briefly if I might be interested in ABDL, and then firmly shutting away the possibility because I didn't want my life to get harder.

I don't remember how I first discovered ABDL, it might've been through transabled discussions, given how I mention the potential confusion between the two. (I still think a significant subset of DLs would be accurately described as transabled/BIID people who desire incontinence.) But later on, I rediscovered ABDL sites while researching incontinence for a story I was working on, and this time, I stumbled across ABDL fetish fics. At first, I skipped past them as irrelevant - I was there to research, not read fiction! - but I kept getting distracted by them and sucked into reading them despite my efforts to stay focused.

One of those times, I was 26, sitting in the backseat with my parents on a road trip for my mom to do a job interview. I was researching incontinence on my phone, and I once again got sucked into reading fetish fics instead. And this time, I noticed a wetness in my crotch - the first time I remember ever noticing anything about my genitals while engaging with my kink fantasies.

My immediate assumption was that I'd started my period. I don't remember what I did for supplies - I might've had a tampon in my jacket pocket, or else asked Mom to give me one from the glove compartment. But I do remember vividly the shocking moment when I wiped myself and it came out clear, not red. And I remember suddenly realizing that it was sexual arousal, not my period, that had made my crotch wet.

I was horrified. I fortunately had a counseling appointment only a couple days later, but those couple days I waited were miserable. I kept feeling compelled to read fetish fics and then hating myself for it. Once, I hung out in my office reading fetish fics while my family were painting (we run a law firm as a family business) and I was feeling guilty for not helping, but I couldn't convince myself to stop reading. And then my brother walked in to ask what I was doing, and I was horrified. I stammered out something nonsensical and fled to the bathroom, and proceeded to have a panic attack while cleaning myself up. I had another, very similar panic attack when my dog sniffed with interest at my crotch at home right after I'd been reading fetish fics and I realized that she could smell my arousal.

That counseling session helped me calm down. The counselor talked to me for quite awhile about the difference between fantasy and reality and encouraging me to remember that fetish or no, I absolutely didn't have to kidnap and torture someone in real life just because I'd fantasized about it. During that session, I realized that for the sake of my mental health I had to come out to my family, and we talked about that, too. And afterwards, I called a family meeting and had one of those awkward, formal and anxiety-inducing "coming out" discussions that you see people posting videos of online. Ironically, when I came out as asexual at 18, and more recently as nonbinary around 28 or so, those were nothing like the standard "coming out" narrative you tend to hear, and yet telling my family about my fetish felt exactly like that narrative in every excruciating way.

But fortunately, as my logical mind had known all along but my self-hating kinkphobic inner voice refused to be convinced of, my family was completely fine with it. My Mom took some time to accept it, and we've had some arguments about how to balance her triggers with my need to speak openly in order to accept myself, but we've gradually worked out an amicable solution. And my Dad and brother have had absolutely zero issues with it whatsoever. It felt like a weight off my shoulders when, a couple hours after my awkward coming-out, I was grocery shopping with Dad and he started asking me questions trying to analyze exactly what it was about my kink fantasy that appealed to me. We've always bonded over analysis, so it was the perfect sign to me that he fully accepted my kink as just more fodder for our ongoing analytical discussions.

Shortly after I came out, I made a Tumblr account with the express purpose of exploring my fetish and what it meant for my identity. I became notorious among the more kink-negative sections of Tumblr for being "that ableist kink person", but at the same time, I stumbled into two communities that helped immensely with my self-acceptance - pro-shippers and the paraphilia/minor attracted person communities. When Tumblr banned porn, I followed both of these communities to Twitter.

Both of these communities accepted my kinks without question, and included people with far more taboo sexualities than my own (MAPs in particular have probably the absolute most stigmatized sexuality it's possible to have). And both regularly argued with trolls who were saying the same sorts of things my negative inner voice often said to me, and arguing with research citations, logically-thought out arguments, and civility and respect against people who uttered death threats and had arguments consisting of illogical one-liners attacking strawmen. I found watching these arguments incredibly healing, as if I was bandaging the wounds in my souls with the reasoned and compassionate voices defending people I identified with.
5) Exploration with Others: This stage encompasses the process of actually engaging in kinky play and/or kinky sex with another person, and typically takes place after 18 years of age. For many kinky people, they only really felt kinky when they actually engaged in kink with another person.
I've done a little bit of experimenting here and there, but mostly I haven't done any kink play, and yet I very much see myself as a kinky person regardless of whether I practice it IRL or not. I'm content with reading and writing fiction, to be honest. The stuff I've tried IRL I've enjoyed, but it's not really necessary to me, and right now I have other priorities that are more crucial to me, such as starting a family.