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PRIDE is part of BDSM & BDSM is part of PRIDE

We teach a class on the history of BDSM (you get to read a dirty Sumerian hymn to Inana from around 3,100 BCE), and a good part of that course is the integral part Queer history plays in BDSM history. Part of the reason BDSM is so accepted in modern day culture can be directly tied to gay rights, and most specifically to PRIDE. So, in honor of PRIDE month, we're going to briefly address how kink and BDSM are inexplicably linked to the PRIDE movement and queer rights.

NOTE: unlike a lot of our other blog entries, we use a lot of references in this entry because it's a statement about truth. This is not our opinion or a statement made by people with over 40 years of combined experience. This is a statement of fact about our history combined with that informed opinion (and the similar opinions of many other professionals). As such, we cite our sources.

This time of year, we hear 2 arguments, nether of which are valid and both come from the same logic. The first is that straight people also do kink\BDSM and thus it has no place at a specifically queer event (Baker-Jordan, 2021). The other argument is that kink\BDSM isn't specifically queer or gay, and thus doesn't need to be associated with queer\gay rights (Savage, D. 2019). Cool story, you're both wrong. BDSM rights wouldn't exist without gay rights, and the gay rights moment wouldn't have succeeded without the presence and support of BDSM interest groups.

A LOT of the push-back the PRIDE events get are from younger people who have not gained the historical knowledge are are made uncomfortable by these groups and from family-oriented groups who feel that sex has no place at PRIDE. Historically, kinky people (specifically leatherfolk, but others as well) were present as organizers, participants, and supporters of the first riots in Compton and Stonewall as well as at the very first marches (Limoncelli, 2005 & Teeman, T. 2020). The aesthetics of much of gay male culture came from Touko Valio Laaksonen's drawings under his pseudonym Tom of Finland where he drew images of gay men in BDSM scenarios and power-exchange relationships (Greenhalgh, H. 2019).

We won't pretend to argue that overt sexuality shouldn't be publicly displayed, especially at events open to all ages. Absolutely, there should be limits on what is shown or done in the presence of people not consenting or not able to consent to see such things. It's in public, and if they didn't or couldn't consent to see things of an explicit nature, then you shouldn't be doing it in front of them. However, that doesn't mean that, as kinky people in kinky but still street legal outfits, you shouldn't be allowed to participate. That's just exclusionary. You should be able to be open about who you are and be proud of it. IT'S PRIDE! And since kink and queer history are irrevocably linked, your participation in support of queer rights should absolutely be encouraged. It's part of both BDSM and queer history (Glover, C. 2018) If you're organizing a public pride event but you exclude kink culture, you're not only removing some of your biggest historical support groups, but you're also excluding key sections of queer culture (Leach, R. 2021). Basically, being a gate-keeping Karen and the internet will call it out (Brandabur, M. 2021).

On the flip-side, you also cannot have BDSM rights without the gay rights movement, and queer culture is linked to the foundation of BDSM acceptance within the west (Kingsbury, K. 2021). Not only throwing back to the fact that leatherfolk blazed the way for a LOT of BDSM acceptance, but that a massive amount of our kink aesthetics are based in a lot of queer art (Thompson, M 1992 & Greenhalgh, H. 2019).

So, if you're trying to keep kink out of PRIDE or trying to keep PRIDE out of kink, please stop. Look to your history, look to the people who have made the biggest steps forward for your community, look to your biggest influences, artists, and leaders, and stop trying to keep them apart (Kerri, A 2019).

We started this fight together, we stand together, we are stronger together. Happy pride month!


If you feel so compelled, we would encourage you to donate to a local queer charity such as:

  • Triad Health Project - Making sure those living with HIV survive, assisting all those with STIs, and helping humans be respected and cared for in the Greensboro Piedmont area https://triadhealthproject.org/

  • The Trevor Project - helping young people navigate self discovery and giving suicide prevention & supporting the mental health of young queer individuals all over the world https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

  • The Matthew Shepard Foundation - preventing hate-crimes before they happen by changing minds through education, representation, and confronting the foundations of hate. https://www.matthewshepard.org/

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