Guilt, Shame, & BDSM
If you're anything like most of us, you weren't raised on a steady diet of regular, positive interactions with kink. The majority of us didn't hit adulthood to receive a mentor who would talk to us about the different ways we could healthily express our sexuality - and the fact that we might be turned on by more than just putting Tab A into Slot B.
Instead, if you're like most people, you were raised on the opposite of that. Your favorite TV show probably added that the murderer was fond of spanking his partners. A movie you saw in theaters probably made passing jokes about someone into BDSM - even making them the "loser" because they were into it.
Assuming you never watched TV, social cues were still given to you. Friends might have laughed off someone who wanted to use bondage restraints during sex. Jokes might have been made about a local homebody who rarely leaves their home. Discussions of crimes may have included assumptions that those perpetrating the crimes also had deviant sexual practices as well.
Even the media that attempts to frame kink as a pleasurable thing, like 50 Shades of Grey, still insinuates that Christian Gray was only into kink because of past abuse and trauma! (And while trauma certainly does bring some people into the world of kink, it certainly isn't a prerequisite!)
All of this can lead to feelings of shame and guilt when you think about your kinky proclivities. And that's totally normal for a lot of people!
After all, if you've been raised on a steady diet of "this is wrong", you wouldn't expect to magically believe all kink is great, right? Everything you've ever been exposed to has always told you the opposite.
In fact, you might even have fell into the trap of the Binge and Purge cycle.
What is the Binge and Purge Cycle?
You might recognize this terminology from eating disorder lingo - though it's used to describe a variety of different experiences out there.
For most, experiencing shame and guilt about their kinks doesn't do much to stop the thoughts or desires from happening. In many cases, the "taboo", "can't have it" aspect actually makes the urges and feelings worse.
At some point, for most people, the feelings of wanting to do the kinky thing bubble over - and they end up partaking in something kinky in some fashion or another. It might be some self-play, attempt to get their partner into it, or simply browsing pornography that features their interest.
Once they partake, the feelings of guilt or shame may not settle in right away. After all, they're still riding the high of getting the try something they've been wanting to try for years! So the person may forget to think about how "wrong" it is - and may continue to enjoy it for awhile.
But after the novelty begins to wear off, those feelings of guilt and shame begin to creep in - and the person feels weak for giving into their urges - and regrets having done it in the first place. They vow to never do it again! Depending on the kink, this may involve tossing out all of the kink apparel/gear they purchased - or deleting all of the porn they downloaded.
But give it a bit of time, and those same desires and urges come creeping back in - even after they vowed to never think about it again.
That is the Binge and Purge cycle as it relates to kink. You might even recognize yourself somewhere in there. It's totally normal if you do! Quite a few kinksters go through multiple rounds of the Binge and Purge cycle; some people do it their entire lives!
And the only way to break the cycle is to stop being interested in kink - or drastically reduce the guilt and shame you're feeling for your interests. Totally eliminating your desires is a job for the professionals (and if you find that your desires are negatively impacting and destroying your daily life, you may want to reach out to a professional).
But for the majority of people, the solution here will be to reduce the guilt and shame around their kinks. That way, you get to enjoy your kink – and don't feel bad about it!
Overcoming Guilt and Shame in Kink
The harsh reality is that it's hard to overcome guilt and shame. You've had decades of negative feedback telling you how to feel about your interests. The solution isn't going to come overnight. In fact, it's likely going to take years.
It's a bit like someone telling you that you need good self-esteem. You're aware of the idea of it, but simply "getting" a positive opinion about yourself is a long, drawn-out process with a lot of ups and downs. The same can be said about starting your journey to overcome guilt and shame.
The second unfortunate reality is that the path to overcoming your guilt and shame is a very personalized path. What works for you isn't going to work for someone else. Your brain is unique - and the negative messaging you received about kink is also unique to you. Your particular fetishes are your fetishes - and the shame and guilt you feel around them will be unique to you too.
So if you find that one method isn't working for you, don't worry: simply try a different option. Remember: any option you choose may take awhile. It's all about rewriting all of the negative messages you've received around kink - and that can take years.
But if you're ready to start seeing what changes you can make to your views of kink, some great places to start are:
Find Positive Online Communities
If you've been trapped in the Binge and Purge cycle, the only exposure you have to your kinks is probably through porn - and through media and conversations that tell you that the activity is "bad".
If you think of it like that, it's no wonder that you feel guilt and shame about it!
I always recommend that you start exploring non-arousing, factual discussions about your kink as a first step. This might look like participating in The Cage (hi there!) forums - or reading blogs or websites from people who practice these kinky things on a regular basis.
This works for two reasons: for one, you're starting to view the kink/fetish when you aren't entirely aroused. As arousal has a habit of short-circuiting our brains sometimes, this gives you extra space to think about your kink as an activity - not just something that really gets your engine running.
It's like the difference of thinking about exercise when you're eating dinner – or thinking about exercise only when you're at your cardiovascular breaking point. If your only real experience or thought of exercise was in the few miserable moments you can barely breathe, you would probably have a very different viewpoint. It'd be a viewpoint that didn't include how much better your body felt when you regularly exercise during all of the non-exercise times.
Spending time in online, factual spaces also gives you a lens to the other "deviants" practicing this kink/fetish. You're likely going to find that they seem like boring, everyday people - because they are! Discussions will likely focus around the practicalities of your kink - or relationship woes. There will likely be boring, everyday discussions about the banalities of people's lives. These are simply people living out their everyday lives who happen to enjoy something kinky.
You might even find some discussions about people came into this kink - which can be really reassuring when you find that many people took the same path as you!
Even if you don't participate in the discussions, simply seeing them as a regular part of your life - and reading the normalcy of the discussions - can begin to make you more comfortable with your kink.
Think of it like a newspaper being dropped off at your front door. The first week of your new subscription, it'll be exciting to see the newspaper sitting on the porch. By the second month, though, it's simply just something that happens - likely without any strong emotions attached to it. Regular exposure to discussion about your kink takes it off the “taboo and disgusting” shelf – and places it as something you just think about sometimes.
Think about Who You're (Not) Hurting
The chances are that your kink isn't hurting anyone who didn't want it - and that can be an important thing to recognize. Your sex life is your sex life - and no one else's. So if your kink isn't hurting anyone, is it really such a bad thing?
Even if your kink involves hurting someone (like wanting to spank another person), you likely wouldn't go and spank a random stranger who wasn't expecting it. For most kinksters, they want their partner to want to be spanked. This means your spanking isn't hurting anyone either; you're simply taking part in an activity that causes pain - that someone else actually wants!
(And yes, wanting various forms of pain is pretty normal! Think of acupuncture - or deep tissue massage. Various sports and activities - like rock climbing - come with regular amounts of pain too. Quite a few of us are gluttons for various forms of "ouch" - even outside of the bedroom!)
Ruminating about who your kink actually impacts - and whether it's a big deal or not - can be a huge step towards feeling more comfortable with the idea of your kink.
Read Educational Kink Books
For decades now, people have talked about the transformative capabilities of books. It's one of the few ways to really "live" someone else's life.
That's just as true in kink as it is for other aspects of life. Reading someone's real-life, honest account about their kink life can give you a peek into the journey that others have had - and seeing how it fits into their lives can help too. There's a lot to be said about non-fiction books that focus on a real person's experience - not just the arousing, for-porn aspects of a kink.
At the same time, non-fictional, educational books can be an amazing resource as well. Not only does it help you ensure you're doing your kink with safety in mind, but it also gives you hundreds of pages that normalize your kink. The author may touch on some of your shame and guilt points - and discuss strategies that are unique to your kink.
And simply reading a book about your kink - instead of stuffing the idea into the mental closet! - can be a huge step towards removing some of the guilt and shame you feel about it.
I'll count that as a "win" for books.
Talk to Other Kinky People
If you've been exploring online, you're probably aware that those other people on the internet are actually people too - and if you wanted, you could have conversations with them.
If you find someone with similar interests - both kink and not - making an online (or in-person!) friend who's into kink can be a fantastic step. Not only does it mean that you're not "alone", but it also gives you someone to talk to. You can see the full "life" of someone who's into kink - including the day-to-day activities that make them a well-rounded person - and how their kink fits into their life.
More conversations with more kinky people will slowly acclimate your brain to begin to see kink as a part of a well-rounded life - not necessarily the all-encompassing deviancy that a lot of media likes to portray it as.
Find Positive In-Person Communities
This is a big one - but it can make a large difference. Seeking out an in-person BDSM community is a huge step. Not only is it hard to find them (to avoid people harassing the group), but it can be terrifying to step into a space where you know literally no one.
Just remember: BDSM groups are kinda like knitting groups. Yes, one focuses on a sex/kink-based activity and one focuses on knitting, but the basics of the group are the same. In both, groups of people meet up to talk about their interest. They likely meet up often and are friends, so the conversations can actually end up about everyday life - and not knitting or kink. Sometimes people might partake in the activity they're meeting about (like if you attend a play party or a knitting circle), but the focus is on learning new things about kink/knitting and getting to be surrounded by people who understand the thing you love.
And that's exactly why in-person communities can be so powerful; you're, literally, surrounded by people who understand why you might be into that thing. They might be into a different kink, but they understand the basic premise of feeling "othered" for your sexual preferences.
You can walk into a kink party and find people, openly, participating in the kink that you're turned on by - and other people are happily watching! It can be a really freeing experience to see something you've viewed as "wrong" so freely enjoyed. It can (and has been, for many!) quite life-changing.
So getting into your local in-person community might be hard - and a bit terrifying! - but the pay-offs can be worth it.
Remember It's a Journey
Remember: it's a journey. This won't be an overnight success. You're going to probably fall back into the binge and purge cycle sometimes. You're probably going to feel shame or guilt at the kinks that you're trying to normalize.
All of this is normal. However, instead of assuming that your kinks are problematic and "wrong", you now recognize that shame and guilt for what it is - something you want to change. That, in itself, is a big step towards reducing the shame and guilt in your sex life - even if it seems like a minor step some days.
Just keep at it.
Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (https://kinky-world.net/category/bdsm-advice/femdom-advice/), trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (https://kinky-world.net/).