Kink. Belongs. At. Pride.
Okay, y'all. This is going to be a very, very long thread because I am very, very tired of hearing "BDSM requires consent and therefore you Bad Queers should go back in the closet and leave Pride to us Good Clean Queers."
So we're gonna talk history, and we're gonna unpack shit.
Before anyone gets it twisted, BDSM does require consent and must require consent and we're going to later come back to why that's a bullshit argument when used against a man wearing leather pants on the street.
But yes, of course it does.
I think it's important to investigate what people are actually responding to in a lot of these 'debates,' and what it actually means. I will link some reference threads at the end from people who break that down from a philosophical standpoint, but...
1) Operation Pridefall is absolutely a thing. Every year, 4channers attempt to get people on social media riled up by pretending to be queers who "just wanna talk'" about the 'degeneracy' (actual Nazi term for queers) of f*ggots, a term they freely use to describe us.
I, personally, have seen and reported probably a dozen accounts like this. The most recent was someone going by "soisoisoiso1", who described himself as an 'Internationalist Libertarian Socialist' and had a ton of nonsensical stuff in his bio
... making it very clear that this person calling himself "soy soy" wasn't an actual queer but a 4channer referencing the epithet "soy boy," used to describe trans women. So, like, a lot of this "concern" is simply not genuine, but a literal attempt at a psyop.
2) One of the big 'gasp gasp gasp' things that is circulating in this discussion are videos of sex acts which people say 'were taken at Pride.' This gasping includes a video of a man being fisted in a public BDSM display, and a woman tied to a flogging cross.
This description of these things as 'taking place at Pride' is technically true, because the Folsom Street Fair, which takes place in a permitted, highly-regulated, no-children-allowed-past-this-point, age-verified environment, is part of Leather Pride Week.
It is literally what the 'this should be in an 18+ space' crowd is advocating for! This IS that space!
But people are (deliberately in many cases, ignorantly in others) conflating Leather Pride, three months from now...
...with the Pride which sprung from the 1970 Christopher Street Liberation Day March organized by Brenda Howard, among others. That March, a continuation of the East Coast Homophile Organization's 4th of July Marches started in Philly in 1965, gave birth to Pride Month.
Folsom, by contrast, began as a protest in San Francisco against gentrification of a historically gay neighborhood, and was specifically a queer/Leather pushback against people trying to re-closet the queer community during the AIDS crisis.
San Francisco was specifically using the AIDS crisis as an excuse to close bathhouses and regulate bars, which started in 1984, so it's not a surprise that the first Folsom Street Fair took place that year.
Both were protests against the ways in which white cishetalloperikyriarchy has tried to crush our community over the decades, but they are independent events with independent origins. They should not be conflated; if nothing else, it's a disservice to our history.
3) Pride is not, and never has been, a family-friendly event; this protestation that it should be is rooted in protoTERF & white cis-gay sanitation attempts & ignores the history of the event itself.
Pride was begun by kinksters, including Brenda Howard, famously quoted as saying, "Bi, Poly, Switch - I'm not greedy, I know what I want." She was a Jewish disabled leather-community sex worker, & that identity is emblematic of the people who founded Pride in the first place.
This 'santization/cishet-friendliness' of Pride completely plows over & astroterfs (NOT A TYPO) its roots:
* All of the central figures in Stonewall were not cis, or gender-conforming, and Stonewall itself? Owned by the Mafia, since only they would bankroll gay bars at the time.
(In fact, the rename of it was an attempt to keep the Mafia from having 'ownership' since they owned Stonewall - there were concerns that the Mafia would say 'this is our event, you're using the name of our bar.' A far cry from Wells Fargo & Merck sponsorships, that.)
* A few scant years later, in 1973, people were booing one of the activists from Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera, because the TERF-and-cis-LG pushback had already begun. The cis white LG's were beginning their calls for respectability.
This is the famous 'Y'all Better Quiet Down' speech. People who were NOT at Stonewall were already trying to sanitize Pride, & there's video from a radfem screaming at Sylvia and misgendering her. I will not name said radfem, may her name be obliterated.
Pride has ALWAYS included Leather and has ALWAYS included Kinksters because it was founded by them and this sanitization started as soon as the Comfortable felt like they could take Pride from the Most Afflicted and those who had been there.
Like, the group Sylvia and Marsha founded was called Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, run by trans sex workers for trans sex workers. This was NEVER the neat-and-tidy acceptable-to-straights corporate-friendly bullshit that people seem to think it is/should be now.
4) Did I mention that Stonewall happened bc cops were enforcing vice laws targeting trans people?
At the time, it was illegal to wear more than 2 items of clothing associated w/'the wrong gender,' so a trans woman wearing bra, panties, and a skirt, you were illegally dressed.
So they were literally raiding bars, getting people's IDs, and comparing their junk to their clothes and deciding who was illegally and immorally dressed.
Let that one sink in for a minute, in context.
I WONDER why Pride had so much emphasis on kinky queers & trans queers & GNC queers being out loud & Proud in whatever the fuck they wanted to wear on this ONE DAY when they were all together & physically more people than the police could stop.
And they still try to stop us.
So no, I'm not down with this whole 'weh weh weh you have to be dressed nicely for Pride.' Fuck that. It dishonors the actual roots of the riot.
5) And now that we've established that Pride, the protest March, not the street fair for corporations, is and always has been by and for the leather daddies and the Dykes on Bikes, the revolutionary contingent who actually got into fights with cops...
... and had been doing so for years, by the way, Stonewall was just the first **well documented** violent conflict between cops acting on repressive vice laws which targeted femme queens in specific and the people they were oppressing with the weight of the law...
Let's actually talk about consent.
Those vice laws were based on *consent*. The idea that the general public didn't *consent* to seeing trans women in public. The idea that the general public got to have a say on whether or not they *consented* to seeing trans people in public.
But it's different! The anti-kink-at-Pride crowd cries. This is explicitly sexual clothing!
First of all, no. It's not. Kink is not inherently sexual.
Second of all, even if kink is inherently sexual, even if what you object to is clothing which signals sexually to other people, why is this clothing which signals sexually to other people what you object to?
Why aren't you objecting to cishet women in plunging necklines or wearing tiny bikinis to the beach? Why aren't you protesting billboards where m/f couples in almost nothing, or sometimes totally nothing, literally have their tongues down each other's throats?
Is it because this clothing is indicative of what you think of as deviant sexuality?
I'm willing to bet it is, and if that's the case, then there's an awful lot to unpack there about who and what has a deviant sexuality...
...and why we hypersexualize and condemn queer displays of sexuality, especially QTPOC sexuality.
(There is a lot of very racialized bias in this conversation but that is not mine to unpack -- I just need to stop and say YES THIS EXISTS, because boy it sure does.)
Why exactly do we think queer sexuality displays require MORE consent than the hypersaturated cishet sexuality surrounding us like a dank BUYTHISNOW miasma every time we turn on a TV/walk out the door?
The answer is internalized homophobia & transphobia. That's yours to unpack.
6) The idea of consent in BDSM centers around the idea that someone should not *do something to you* without your consent. It's a good one! I like it! It's correct that it is a cornerstone of BDSM and it SHOULD BE.
The idea that someone wearing a pup mask in public is *doing something to you* while a woman in a thong bikini is *not* requires you to be examining the world through the homophobic lenses which society smacks on all of our eyes.
The idea that you need to consent to seeing a leather daddy in a harness, but skinny cishet white girls at clubs aren't *doing something to you* by wearing bondage pants & harnesses (which they do, all the time, & no one blinks) comes from internalized homophobia and transphobia.
The way that we view queer sexual signaling no more overt than what cishet people do constantly and base entire economic systems around as doing something to us in a way that requires us to consent to even seeing it is based in homophobia and transphobia.
It is exactly the same mentality that meant my school administrators in the 90s fired a gay teacher because kids might see her at school events with her partner.
It is exactly the same mentality that meant that the administrators first barred the only lesbian couple at my school from holding hands & kissing each other goodbye in the halls and then barred the straight couples from doing so too when rightful claims of discrimination flared.
7) All of this argument requires us to think of Pride as a singular event with no variations, striations, separate areas, etc.
This is clearly not the case. If you look at the slate of events for any major city's Pride events, there are very clearly multiple different events across multiple days for most of them. If you want to create a PG-13 event, or attend one, most places have those!
Expecting the entirety of Pride to be kid-safe is ahistorical, treats adults like children, and requires you to smack them homophobic glasses right back on your eyeballs and insist that the Bad Queers go back into the closet.
8) And now let's talk about the 'pedophile' angle of this that keeps coming up, and the 'grooming' bit:
Fucking stop it.
Using those words against queer adults who are literally just there enjoying the company of other queer adults is fucking violence. Those are the accusations which got (and still get) queers evicted, fired, and beaten to death.
Fucking stop it. Using those words at a man wearing leather pants in public is obscene, and it's fucking violent, and it removes the strength from those words which we still need to have strength...
bc if we make people who hear those words think 'oh, that's probably nothing, they're probably raging because that person is an adult doing kinky consensual things with other kinky adults' then ACTUAL problems will get swept under the fucking rug.
So, IN CONCLUSION:
How DARE you come to an event founded by kinksters and swarm around them like the other animals clamoring at the Little Red Hen for the bread she baked?
How dare you look at the leather daddies who survived AIDS and say "we climbed on your back to where we are now, where big corporations see the dollar signs in the queer community rather than condemning us to literally die in the streets...
... now go away, because you're unsightly and we don't wanna see you anymore?"
How DARE you look at Dykes on Bikes who nursed and buried their dying friends when no one else would and say "mmm, you're a pedophile actually because you want to go topless in the sun and show off the tattoos that you got in defiance of a world that didn't want you to live...
... and ride through the street with your lover's arms around you for one day, pretending this world still doesn't want you dead?"
How dare you wield the very important language of consent like a fucking scythe against your fellow queers?
That is a tool, not a fucking weapon.
Do not use it to attack our history, this event that your elders made for you.
Do not climb up on the backs of the dead who went before you and sneer down at the ones who lifted you up.
Make your own Kiddie Pride if you want to.
Leave your elders alone.
One thing I'm gonna add here because I find it ironic:
The "homophile societies" whose marches preceded Stonewall?
They often had signs on their door:
They were so concerned with LOOKING CORRECT & PROTECTING THEMSELVES that they abandoned queers in need.
They were so worried that people might think they weren't "respectable" that they wouldn't associate w/kids at all! No, young gays, go away, or people might think we're pedophiles!
Go away, drags! (At that time this included cis drag artists & transfem ppl) We're not like YOU.
So in the ultimate of ALL ultimate ironies, if the "respectable homophiles" of the Stonewall Era had their way, PRIDE WOULD BE AN ADULTS-ONLY EVENT, and an all-cis one.
I guess we're lucky the deviant queers were the ones who founded Pride, hunh.
Look folks. The 80-year-old leather daddies that you see marching in our Pride parade in MPLS with a huge Leather Pride flag watched a ton of their friends die while our government and our society laughed at them. Their Leather families were sometimes their only families. 1/
People who are too young to remember AIDS need to take several steps back and learn some queer history. Those folks deserve our respect, and deserve our collective joy that they can be who they are now, and our collective grief that so many of them are gone.2/
All across this country, the first Pride parades saw a ton of violence and push back. Many of them were radical, unpermitted events. Stonewall was a riot. The corporatization of pride is a very new thing. It's not because they care about us, it's because they care about our $ 3/
Queers have been indicating to each other through various means since forever that they are queer whether it's where they're wearing their keys, or what color their bandana is, because they were afraid of getting killed by people If they were more overt, and rightfully so. 4/
Pride is the only time where we get to collectively publicly celebrate our queer elders who died so that we could stand here, and take advantage of the full freedom they fought for, such as it is. Erasing kink and especially Leather from Pride erases parts of our history. 5/
If you don't like it, don't go. If you don't want to have conversations with your kids about our dead elders and why those leather daddies are dressed like that, don't go. There are kid-friendly events all over the place. But corporate Pride is not our history. 6/
A lot of people want to enjoy the benefits that our elders fought and died for, without honoring the history, and frankly it's fucking gross. And it's gross that so many people are so loudly proclaiming their ignorance, and their lack of love for our elders. 7/
If you think Leather and kink don't have a place at Pride, you are not my ally. Just say you want to have a big party with all of the free stuff, and a giant parade, without having to learn anything about our history, and leave. /
Let’s break down this claim!
In this thread, I’m going to demonstrate how I would take a claim like this and break down its underlying assumptions and conclusions to see if it still holds under scrutiny. Let’s practice thinking philosophically together!
Proposals: “Adult sexuality can only ethically be performed or shown with the consent of all involved.”
Supporting argument: “People, regardless of age, do not consent to seeing public sexual displays, therefore such displays are unethical.”
Conclusion: “Because not everyone’s consent is obtained at public Pride events, kink and other expressions of sexuality are unethical at public Pride events.”
Okay, so now that we’ve clarified what this claim is, on the surface, saying, we can break it down further. First, we need to investigate what “the expression of adult sexuality,” and what “kink” is.
“The expression of adult sexuality” and “kink” as it turns out, are not at all specific terms, which is why claims like this begin on incredibly shaky ground. Kissing could be seen as such an expression, so could even an exchange of flirty looks.
We could take any number of practices as “sexual displays.” Would getting dressed up in a non-kink outfit (we’ll delve into how that is not a specific term but we’ll use it for now) be considered such a display if one did it with the intention of finding someone to hook up with?
Generally, a sexual display is defined as anything one does with the intention of attracting another. Are people who go on dates in public places putting on sexual displays that this violate the consent of all those around them?
Much the same for “kink.” Kink is generally defined as engaging in non-conventional sexual behaviors or having non-conventional sexual interests.
Uh oh... we’ve just hit a huge snag.... what is “conventional?”
“Conventional” is another word for a range of “normality” within a culture or subculture. It’s, essentially, what most people are doing. In this case, kink, then, is outside of what “most people” are into.
This is where it gets even messier, folks, and it’s not looking like it’s going to clear up anytime soon. What is “conventional” is not only incredibly context dependent, but tends to vary depending on who’s doing the defining!
For many straight and cis people, queerness itself is outside of normality, no matter how much it’s expressed. So, by those terms, the entirety of Pride could be considered a kink.
Even if we narrow our scope and look only at queer subculture norms, could luck finding a solid definition of “conventional” sexuality at all
Even if we skip over that conundrum of defining exactly what kink is and approach it as it’s often used, we still don’t clear up any issues, because there are literally so many kinks!
Try and look up how many different clothing fetishes there are, for starters. It’s not all leather, you know. There’s fetishes for certain materials (fur, wool, cashmere), certain outfits (uniforms, suits), and far more.
So really, it doesn’t seem that this claim has a problem with *all* kink, does it? If it did, none of us would ever be able to leave our homes! Even more so if we include all sexual displays!
Instead, it seems that this claim really has a problem with expressions of kink that can be explicitly and immediately recognized as relating to kink. Leather and BDSM wear, most likely.
Then we have to ask, are those forms of wear more acceptable if someone just wears them because... they like the way they look? What if I had NO sexual association to leather-wear, but I just liked how it looked on me as an outfit and chose to wear it? Is that still not allowed?
If it isn’t, why not? Is it because it shows so much skin? Why don’t you have the same issue with someone in shorts & a crop top that covers the same area? Or is it bc someone *else* could see it as sexual? Sounds like my shorts and crop top friend might still be out of luck too.
We’ve taken a lot of time with the clothing and kink bit of this argument, and we could go even longer, but I’d like to move on to the argument about consent, as it’s the point on which this whole argument stands.
First, we need to think about this standard of sex is not even the remotest option for many people in the world. There are many situations in which multiple families live in a few rooms. Is ethical sex and sexuality a privilege only those who can afford total solitude can access?
Second, we need to investigate the heavy lifting the word “consent” does in a claim like this. Here, consent shakes its standard usage “permission for something to be done to one/agreement to do something” and expands to “permission to let *others* do something.”
An example for this distinction: it’s my claim that bodies are not inherently sexual. I have no problem with someone being nude in public. However, if someone in a trench coat came up & flashed me, that would be a violation of my consent because it’s a *targeted* action at *me.*
So, at what point do consenting adults need to ask the permission of all those around them to do something together/wear something? What is the basis for such a claim that getting such permission is an ethical mandate? What are its limits? Is it consistently applied?
We’ll find, in asking these questions, that the answers are applied incredibly specifically to... sexuality considered to be ‘deviant.’ You don’t have to throw away all your clothes someone has a kink over, nor your shorts and crop top that shows just as much skin..
A shirtless guy can absolutely still jog down the street, a beachgoer can still wear a bikini, you can still go flirt at a festival, even if any or all of those things are meant to attract someone to then have sex with.
It boils down to the reality that the specific person making this claim has certain things about ‘kink’ that make them uncomfortable, and are seeking to expand that discomfort into a far-reaching ethical claim, breaking down ‘consent’ into something nonsensical in the process.
If we can’t find the limits of an ethical claim, if it can’t be applied consistently, if it has exceptions that fit in well with general cultural expectations of ‘normality,’ we have to question and challenge it as a meaningful ethical claim.
We have to ask “who gets to set the standards for what is conventional, or not?” “Why are deviations from constructed ‘normality’ seen as unacceptable, repugnant, and an assault on those who witness it?” “Are these standards something new? Or a repacking of the same old values?”
We have to investigate the historical context of these assumptions and the claims that follow them. In this case, it is on a massive backdrop of a history in which sexuality itself is seen as base and shameful, and queer sexuality most of all.
We especially have to ask: who does this serve? Who are we protecting, really? Are we really holding consent as sacred? Or are we using the language of consent as a means to continue to do what we’ve always done: police the bodies of those we see as Other?
Do we really want a definition of consent this wide? How would such a definition be used? With some reflection & study we can see that it’s already been used: “I’m fine with the gays so long as they don’t throw it in my face.” “If my kid sees gays in public they’ll be corrupted.”
There is SO much more to say but I hope I’ve said enough to be helpful. Not just in breaking this one claim down, but showing the practice of breaking claims down in general. It’s a vital skill I want to help people cultivate! If y’all like this, I’ll do it again in the future!
I’d also like to add that going through this inquiry does not mean that you will then automatically become comfortable with “kink” at Pride/anywhere else or that you’re fucked up if you aren’t.
What it does mean is that you can now investigate *why* it makes *you* uncomfortable!
Once we realize that what we thought was a broader ethical claim is really a statement about *ourselves* (rather than kink gear being unethical in public, it’s a matter of you as an individual being uncomfortable with kink gear), whole new realms of reflection open up to us!
We can ask: why does kink gear make me uncomfortable? Why am I not uncomfortable about other outfits that show a similar amount of skin? Or why am I uncomfortable with skin showing in general? What is it about X expression of sexuality that bothers me? Where did that come from?
We can reflect on our own past, our broader historical context, our personal associations, media depictions, political rhetoric, and more to find answers to these questions. And the wonderful thing is that this is how rich and nuanced analyses are born!
For example, certain expressions of sexuality make ME uncomfortable! But I’ve learned over time to understand that that feeling is about *me* not about others doing something wrong. It’s about my past and my trauma and the fucked up shit poured into my head at a young age.
And understanding that has also allowed me to sit with the discomfort, or make the decision to remove myself from the situation I’m in, rather than deciding that my discomfort needs to dictate what everyone else is doing/can do with their bodies.
There are many issues where there IS a substantial ethical claim to be made as well: where it’s not just about individual discomfort but a larger structure of harm. By doing honest reflection and analysis like these, we can learn to differentiate which is which!
Pride should be a family-friendly event.
And sometimes a family is three leather dyke mommies, a ball-gagged twink, and a value pack of electrical tape.
But genuinely, when I brought my young kids to pride and they saw people walking around in puppy leathers and all sorts of strange gear, it was extremely chill and easy to navigate? People have the discretionary capacity to co-exist in public spaces while pursuing different ends.
"Mom, look, he's dressed up as a puppy! That's silly. For halloween I'm going to dress up as Skye from Paw Patrol!"
And when things are genuinely not cool for kids to see, you just pivot and walk in a different direction, and you don't worry about it because it's not your biz.