Clarisse Thorn's picture

Coming out BDSM: upsides and downsides

A lot of us kinksters use vocabulary similar to the kind of thing people are accustomed to hearing from LGBTQ folks. “Coming out” is a great example of this: a lot of BDSM people struggle with the question of whether to come out to our employers, our friends, our parents … all the people we love. And BDSM is stigmatized and frowned upon enough that most kinksters never come out.

Some professional fields are more BDSM-friendly: for instance, kinksters who work in computer science frequently don’t have any problem with coworkers knowing about their sexual identities. Some fields are less BDSM-friendly: schoolteachers who are into BDSM have to be incredibly careful. Likewise, some subcultures are more BDSM-friendly: kinksters in the goth subculture, for instance, don’t tend to have any problems within that subculture. But again, some subcultures are less BDSM-friendly: not just the obvious ones like religious evangelicals … there are also some feminist groups that are very intolerant of BDSM, and many liberal groups still exhibit prejudices.

When I came into my BDSM identity, it was a very sudden realization for me, and my circumstances effectively outed me to most of my friends. (It’s a long story.) I think that this was ultimately a positive thing, in my case — for the most part, my friends were totally cool about it, and I was able to talk to some of them about the panic and horror and shame I was feeling. (”I’m so screwed up! I’m such a bad feminist!” … that about sums up how I felt.) It was still really hard for me to deal with it, but thank God I didn’t have to do so in strict secrecy. (I really like hearing people’s personal stories of how they got into BDSM, by the way, so if you’ve got any — leave a comment, or send them my way by email!)

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Storytime with Clarisse: Switching — have I always been a domme?


Planning all these sex-positive events keeps me busy, and my non-activist life is eventful, too. Lately, that’s made it hard for me to find time to actually … you know … have romantic encounters and process what’s going on in my head. (I guess that’s ironic, huh?) But although keeping up with myself has been challenging, there’s been an unmistakable shift. Namely, I’ve gone from being “pretty sure” that I’m “mildly” interested in topping, to “dead certain” that I love topping. I thought I might be a switch; now I’m sure. And the way that’s playing out is making me rethink all my previous relationships. (For those unfamiliar with BDSM terms: “switch” refers to a person who feels comfortable either as a top — that is, a dominant and/or sadist — or a bottom — that is, a submissive and/or masochist.)

I’ve written before that I always had sadomasochistic fantasies — since I was very, very young. Apparently, I was wired for BDSM since day one. (I don’t think everyone who practices BDSM feels it as quite such an intrinsic identity, but there are a number of us who do. I’ve had the “you mean, you tied up your Barbie dolls when you were a child too?” conversation many times!) In my early teens I had a bit of a freak-out and repressed it all; then BDSM came and found me almost a decade later. With a vengeance.

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