Our history is haunted by the lengths we’ve gone to to suppress our human desires, and the shame and secrecy that have been attached to that still lingers on. However, a new era is emerging, and as a society we’re finally getting the chance to see our sexuality as something that not only exists, but deserves to be celebrated and explored. Though of course, taboos still exist.
Kink and fetish are often spoken about in hushed tones. Sometimes the butt of a joke, or only brought up after several glasses of wine on date 18, these aspects of sexual desire still linger in the background. When they do see the light of day, they can be sensationalised in bawdy romances like a certain movie and book series generally shunned by kinksters (hint: it involves many shades of grey), though more evolved representations have started to appear (like Netflix’s popular shows Sex Education and BONDiNG) that are encouraging the conversation to open up.
It may come as a surprise, but kink and fetish are quite commonplace. While the studies vary, the Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance states that at least ten percent of people have engaged in some sort of kink play, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are even more likely to do so.
So you may be asking what even is kink? It’s really any sexual practice that’s apart from the norm. For some that’s handcuffs and whips, for others it’s dressing in their finest leather or rubber suit, or it can even just be adopting a submissive or dominant role without any accessorising necessary. FetLife, the popular kink community platform with over six million members, lists thousands of fetishes.
People may have just one kink, or they may embrace a multitude of practises.
As diverse as the field may be, there are commonly held values that the kink community works to engage and educate around. Principles such as ‘Safe, Sane and Consensual’ or ‘Risk Aware Consensual Kink’ impart the importance of consent and understanding in engaging in activities. The use of ‘safe words’ give boundaries for exploration. And most importantly of all, the very existence of kink communities not only give opportunities to meet like-minded folk, but also allow for education, safety and activism.
QUEER KINK AND COMMUNITY
The kink and LGBTQ+ communities have a long shared history. When the movement for equality began, being queer was seen as aberrant sexual behaviour. And throughout the fight for greater LGBTQ+ rights, there has always been a presence of those fighting for the acknowledgement and respect of our sexual identities, even those most on the fringe. The leather bars played their part as places where people could meet and organise. The Hanky Code allowed queer people to signal their interests to others at a time when being open about it could land you in big trouble.
Today, kink communities play a big part in organising and fundraising for a wide range of LGBTQ+ causes, and continue to play an important role in educating on safe sex, consent and self acceptance.
THE KINK COMMUNITY IN IRELAND
While Ireland may not feature the sights and sounds of the leather bars and fetish clubs found in places like Berlin and Manchester, there is an ever-growing and developing scene emerging. Long running events like Geared and Nimhneach have provided a space for kinksters to come together, and in recent years new groups have emerged such as the Leathermen of Ireland, Rubbermen of Ireland and Pups of Ireland, amongst others.
One of the most recent additions is Out in Kink (also known as OinK) who are creating space for people of all kinks, persuasions, and identities to come together to share their interests and take pride in their identity. Founded by two former Mr Leather Ireland titleholders, Fionn and Kevin, the group formed in the months just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“We wanted to create opportunities to make kink more visible, so it can be more accepted in the Dublin queer scene, and beyond. It was also important to us to create a fully inclusive space, it’s great having the groups that focus on particular kinks, but it’s really important that we get the chance to come together, and to support each other’s activities as well,” says Kevin, who was crowned Mr Leather Ireland in 2015.
So far the group has held a number of pop-up events in venues around Dublin city, with an added aim of bringing kink into ‘normal’ spaces. “It’s been important to us to bring kink out of the shadows,” says Fionn, the Mr Leather Ireland 2019 titleholder. “People often forget that kink is more than what happens in the bedroom, for some of us it’s part of our identity. When you put on your leather and rubber, it can be a moment of confidence, positivity and embracing a part of yourself. Having that present in regular spaces helps break down the stigma, and we hope gives others license to explore that side of themselves if they want.”
COMING OUT KINKY AND WHERE TO START
For those who are starting to explore their kink side, it can feel a little intimidating - ‘Where do I meet people?’, ‘What do I need to get?’, ‘What if someone learns I’m kinky?’
First of all, everyone is different when it comes to their kink identity – some will shout it from the rooftop, others will choose to keep it as a more discreet part of themselves.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember that it’s not something to feel shame about, and if you choose to open up about it with the people in your life, it can allow for important conversations about sex and sexuality.
There are a range of safe spaces to embrace your kink in Ireland where you can meet people who share interests, whether that be in virtual spaces and dating apps like Recon, or live events and meetups as they begin to resume.
For many kinksters, the gear you wear is an important part of embracing your identity, and feeling confident and sexy.
Oftentimes the price of a pair of leather pants may seem as intimidating as renting in Dublin, but the truth is there are a lot of creative and low cost avenues, such as second hand and seasonal gear sales, scouting through vintage stores, or starting small.
When coming onto the kink scene for the first time, it’s important to remember you’re going to be meeting people who have shared interests, and a shared experience of the worries and nerves involved in stepping out of the kinky closet. Take a breath, relax and come say hi!
OinK is an inclusive kink social club based in Dublin, they hold monthly events, with their first outing of 2022 taking place on March 19. Find out more by following them on Twitter or Instagram @OutinKink.