Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.
I’m exploring my sexuality and experimenting with different kinks, but I’m getting kind of worried about the kinds of things that I’ve been interested in. I’m not hurting anyone or anything, but some of the things that I find through online or in my imagination are… not as typical to what other people are into. But they turn me on. Am I a freak or what?
-Turn Me On
Turn Me On,
Your question immediately made me think of a Dear Sugar columns [trigger warning: mentions and slight details of rape, incest] to which Cheryl Strayed responds to a reader concerned that her interest in submission means something with a line that stands out completely: icky thoughts turn me on.
The thing about what turns us on is that it’s both connected and independent from the rest of us. The things that turn us on, like everything else, don’t exist in a vacuum. Your curiosity and interest in them could be coming from a subconscious pull or it could simply be the sensation of something — the feeling of leather on skin, the look in a domme’s eye as they train their pet, or something else entirely — that just speaks to you.
You’re not necessarily required to dive deep about the why of what turns you on. If it’s something that you are consciously consenting to, are ethical about, and aren’t harming another person (or yourself) with, then I say that you’re free to explore to your heart’s content. What turns you on doesn’t need to fit into a box for others to consume neatly.
But what’s really speaking to me in your question, Turn Me On, is your focus on the respectability of what turns you on. The question of whether it’s right for you to be into what it is you’re into resonates with me. Sexuality is still a topic that is laced so deeply in shame and guilt for people who to explore it separate from these emotions are almost impossible. But you shouldn’t feel this pressure to dissect these things so deeply, in ways that you don’t necessarily need to.
The how and why things turn us on unless they’re rooted in the oppression of ourselves or others is one of the few things that can exist on its own, I think. The freedom in that is something that a lot of people — especially BIPOC — can have a hard time grappling with.
And when you think about it, we all have “icky” thoughts that turn us on. For some people, vanilla sex or missionary is a nightmare; for others, they hate anything involving food, or certain body parts, or in places that stretch their comfort zone. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule about what makes a kink “icky”. It’s all up to personal interpretation, and you know what? There’s so much space for all of these interests and nuances to coexist together in all of us. That’s part of human sexuality.
The real question that it seems that is being asked here is, what exactly makes these things “icky”?
Are these thoughts icky because they’re not what you think you should be turned on by? Are they icky because they involve something that you feel guilty, or shame, or resentment about? Are they icky simply because you’re not sure if others will feel the same way about these thoughts as you do?
I feel that the hesitation in your question, Turn Me On, comes from insecurity around your sexuality. And that’s perfectly normal. Sexuality is a constantly evolving thing – part of the fun is exploring new things and figuring out what we’re into or not as into. There’s a pressure, I think, to politicize and hyper-consume and water down our desires to make them more palatable for other people. But that’s not necessarily the healthiest thing.
Your desires, first, exist for you. If you’re too worried about what other people think about them to enjoy them in the same way that you would if you were alone, then I think it’s worth reconsidering what is making you feel so self-conscious.
I would also suggest seeking for others with the same passions online. Whether you go as far as to join a community or group centered on whatever tickles your fancy specifically, that’s up to you. But sometimes, just knowing that you aren’t the only one with these “icky” thoughts can be incredibly helpful.
You’re on your way, Turn Me On. Enjoy the process.