Panel : Kinky Spaces + Youth of Color

Caveat: I separate PoC from Black usually because PoC experiences will never match Black ones. However, in this post, I don’t do that. 

As people may or may not know, I identify as a kinkster. More specifically, I identify as a filthy femme switchy Dom.

I’m also Black. Folks tend to not assume that those two things mix, but it happens. We rarely have discussions about being kinksters of color, something I wanted to dismantle. So when I got invited to speak on a panel hosted by Project Speak Out Loud in NYC, I was excited as hell! It’s not everyday we have a safe space to speak about our past experiences.

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Me and a few folks that participated in the panel. It was so dope!

Recently, I was blessed to be part of a panel with other kinksters of color to have a discussion that centered around youth of color and accessibility to kinky spaces to them. Because of odd circumstances, I ended up being the only “youth” of color on the panel. Even though this was the case, I was so glad to share space with other queer people of color, regardless of age.

Despite the age disparity, I was glad it turned out this way. I was mentally making comparisons about varied experiences we had and how we wanted to create safer spaces to talk about kink to youth of color. Despite me growing up in a different time from the older folks, we still had similar grievances about how sex was talked about to youth of color. This meant that despite everything, so much needed to be done so youth could feel safer in spaces to explore and be candid with their experiences.

Here are some of the things that I noticed we all had in common, regardless of the age of the panelist and the situations that we shared :

We had to find out about kink and sex in general through our own means : This meant that as youth of color, we didn’t have access to adequate sex ed classes to figure out we had bodily autonomy by ourselves. How we all found out differed, in my case as someone who is still within the age range of what a youth is, I used the internet to guide me and to help me figure out what sex was and what sex looked like. The other folks mentioned either finding out through experience or sneaking into the library to read books. To this day, this is the experience so many people have because of inadequate sex education. Especially when it comes to queer youth of color, we don’t often have a form of sex ed that reflects our experience and find out through dangerous ways.

We all practiced kink without realizing it was kink until later on:  When asked about how we discovered kink, a lot of it went into the realm of “We practiced or liked certain things  but didn’t put a term to it until much later.” This goes back to the first statement, we had to find out about this ourselves. This meant that along the way, we ended up making mistakes or had traumatic experiences to realize what we had liked. The difference was when we realized we deviated from the norm in terms of pleasure. I realized and put a term to it by the time I was in my mid teens. People were in their twenties by the time thy were able to put the word “kink” into usage. As it shows, while we had different experiences at different times, how we experienced it didn’t change.

We all thought that kinky spaces continue to be White as hell: As much as people want to believe that the kinky community has no flaws and is accepting of various people, regardless of race and ethnicity, this is the real world. A lot of times, I don’t feel safe enough going to play parties or munches unless being hosted by people of color. There is still an overwhelming amount of white folks that are present in kink related events. This also means, there is a prevalent amount of racism and microaggressions that tend to happen.

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Me at Project Speak Out Loud facilitating a workshop a week before the panel.

We want kinky spaces to be more accessible to youth:  As mentioned from the first point, queer youth don’t often have a form of sex ed that is accessible to them and have to find out through dangerous means. When they end up exploring, along the way they might meet people that want to take advantage of the age difference. They might end up getting an STI  because they didn’t understand the risks of not having safer sex. Consent issues might come up because no one has ever talked to them about consent or what abuse looks like in a kinky setting.  This is why when I facilitated a Kink 101 workshop that Project Speak Out Loud invited me to, I also included a quick Powerpoint about what abuse in kink looked like. I included a reference sheet that talked about other tips that I couldn’t cover in the limited time I had. I made sure to discuss safe words and negotiations. The fact of the matter is, there aren’t spaces that queer youth of color would feel safe in. Even the spaces that are centered around younger people, there isn’t room for queer youth of color to explore their likes and dislikes without being reduced to a fetish or an experiment.

Lastly, we discussed the importance of giving bodily autonomy to youth. One of the main issues that I have noticed today was that the reason why sex ed is horrible and why youth have to find out about sex through dangerous means, is because of the assumption that they are not able to make sound choices about sex. As someone who was a teenager only a few years ago, I do agree that youth will make mistakes. But I also want to say that people within the age range of adulthood will continue to make mistakes as well. All of us will have had made poor choices at some point, but does that mean we don’t have the ability to have control over our lives? I don’t think so.

One thing that I definitely took from this panel was the various points of view that I got about what kink is. I also took home the importance of creating spaces for youth that are under 21 to explore. I’m not specifically saying creating play parties for teens, but spaces where they can talk and debrief. We need to accept the fact that youth can fuck up but also make sound decisions. We need to give them the tools to help guide them along.

The youth of color are important as hell, we need to value their opinions. We need to educate instead of sheltering them and ignoring the questions that they want to ask and figure out. Especially in a culture where their parents are probably doing that for them already.

 

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