Things I not longer understand #1:
Kinky people judging one another for their kinks. I used to do this myself, so I look at it now and I'm puzzled at my own puzzlement. I remember being utterly opposed to D/s dynamics, terrified they were harmful in general. Now I identify as a Master.
Now I'm just, well... not. At all. Even my visceral OH MY GODS disgust at cuckoldry is pretty much gone. Still not my bag, to the point I'd send anyone who suggested it packing. But I'm no longer... bothered.
(Warning: I mention kinks in here that really bug some people. Specifically, Nazi play. Skip to the next set of bolded parens if such things trigger or upset you, please.)
I was discussing Nazi role-playing with my dissertation committee today, because I talked about it in one section as the quintessential Baaaaaaaaaad BDSM If Anything Is. (I'm probably taking that part out of the diss.) I was basically saying that people who have the intuition that role-playing that consensually and privately is bad might have different intuitions if they changed it, putting at more and more of a remove from mimicking Nazis (say, wearing outfits like this -- clearly neither of those is a Nazi uniform, but Red Armband With White Circle comes from somewhere, kiddies...)
And so I'm sitting there and my chair is going "Well, tell us: is this play morally permissible? Or is it, which I would say and makes more sense, always morally impermissible?"
And I just gawked at him, because...
I can parse the intuition that such play is sometimes morally impermissible. Those symbols are symbols of something very horrible and very, very real. Exposing people to it who are upset by it is wrong, as is pressuring people into it or mentioning it to them specifically after they've said not to do so.
I can even parse the intuition that such play is usually morally impermissible. I don't share that intuition, but I'm also not Jewish, so I'm speaking and thinking and living from a place of privilege, a place disconnected from that history.
But I just can't even get my brain around the idea that there are some fantasies that consenting people, in private, who are never going to mention it to anyone ever, just morally ought never act out. Fantasy just doesn't work that way in my head. It parses to me like asking someone not to think about something, which...
...well, ever had any bratty friends pull the "Don't laugh!" trick on you? Like as not, you wind up laughing, whether you were actually going to laugh or not.
And yeah: actually role-playing as Nazi and captive is different than confessing that you thought about it last night, which in turn is different from masturbating and no one ever knowing what images played in your head as you stroked your dick/clit.
(Okay, you can all come back now. WB!)
And actually living in a relationship that has a steady power relation in it is different than fantasizing about surrendering or even of serving.
I get all that. I get that we can come up with thoughtful defenses or criticisms of various BDSM practices, and that once we do that we can, say, come up with
"Whipping is perfectly acceptable, and race play is not"
"Submission in a scene is great and dandy, consensual slavery is not"
But I no longer have any of those gut reactions that inform so many of us about sex and what we get to do and not do, sexually. I consider this a good thing, honestly, but there are a lot of people that would call what happened to me an elaborate form of desensitization.
Is it? I don't know. My sense is that that word gets highly overused, and used for forms of "getting used to" that aren't actually morally problematic (which "desensitization" implies; "desensitization to violence," in particular, usually means the person is beginning to fail to experience degrees of empathy she ought to experience.) I do think I've gotten used to kinks and fetishes and needs that were strange to me. But I think that just comes with experience and thinking.