Counseling the Kink Community: What Clinicians Need to Know
In response to an increase in kink representation in popular culture, Yates and Neuer-Colburn (2019) straighten out some of the myths surrounding kink and advocate for kinky folks who are seeking counselling. Highlighting the shortcomings of various definitions of kink, the authors note that integral aspects of acceptance, presence of community, building trust, finding empowerment and fulfillment are often absent in many, less familiar, individuals understanding of the culture.
Folks within the community practice kink in a variety of ways and are unlikely to necessarily know the ins and outs of all types of kinky practices. Kink does not necessarily involve sexual contact, though sometimes it does. Some might be surprised at the heightened intimacy that can be a significant effect of practicing kink.
Detailed communication facilitates folks to come together safely and enact fantasies that are either shared or where both parties have consented to participate. These exchanges include timelines for both the relationship and the length of a scene, as well as activities that are part of the scene and hard limits. Furthermore, consent continues to be negotiated as a scene progresses often with safe words in place to help hone communication in what can be a highly charged environment. Sometimes power is negotiated and one individual may take the role of enacting the scene while the other participates in a receiving role.
In 2013, kinky practices were removed from the DSM. Only acts that interfere with an individual's functioning or do not involve consent remain. A key factor when determining healthy kink from abuse is to understand the motivation of the individual in question. In consensual kink, individuals are seeking closeness and mutual pleasure that can look a variety of ways. Through aftercare, even if a scene is particularly intense, parties involved can often conclude their exchange in a mindful and caring way.
Despite stereotypes, violence and mental illness have been disproven to be more prevalent in the kink community than the general population. Benefits such as less prevalence of neuroticism, more openness to new experiences and increased conscientiousness have been documented. Another disproven stereotype is the subjugation of women and misogynistic practices. With around half of practitioners identifying as women, the evidence available shows empowerment of women to explore themselves and their personal experience of desire and connection.
Additionally, healthy long-term relationships thrive in the kink community with members experiencing financially stability and often seeking higher education.
Kinky individuals suffer in many ways due to misconceptions about the practice of kink. Only 1% of practitioners reported only negative impacts from their involvement in kink, while a whopping 85% reported it being a positive part of their lives. As clinicians, it is important that we do not continue to perpetuate misinformation that is harmful to the community. Educating ourselves on the differences between abuse and kink is essential, as well as continuing to explore our own personal limits around knowing when we can be a supportive force in the life of a kinky person and when we need to refer on so clients get the best possible help they need.