It has been awhile since I have posted on this blog. There have been a number of personal reasons for that, largely related to my working through how I feel about — and how I express to others — my sexual preferences, and particularly those that venture into the kinky realm. I’m breaking that silence today to express something I feel needs to be said.

Apparently, being kinky in this world runs a few dangers. Arguably, it always has. People  whose sexual preferences stray away from the domain of ‘vanilla’, missionary-position heterosexual sex have often struggled with the acceptance (by themselves first, by their partners and by society in general) of their sexual preferences.

Last week, an RCMP officer was identified in a CBC news article as being under investigation for violating the RCMP’s code of conduct. The subsequent rush to judgement has been nothing short of overwhelming.

The specific issue is that an RCMP officer posted (or allowed to be posted) pictures on the internet (specifically, on a kinky social networking site known as Fetlife) in which he was identifiably engaged in BDSM activities. The matter was initially dismissed by the RCMP as not in violation of the code of conduct, in that it was a private matter in which the person in question did not identify themselves as an RCMP officer, and was therefore not in conflict with the code of conduct. ‘Additional information’ (which is not disclosed) led to a code of conduct investigation being ordered. In the same article, a pscychologist (whose practice focusses on working with police officers) suggests that the officer’s behaviour is, “way up the scale in the abnormal range.” He further suggests that it is “conduct unbecoming” and that the RCMP was wrong to have minimized this.

Now, some context is possibly helpful here, for those not in Canada. The RCMP as a police force has an image problem, and has had for some time. They have been accused of arrogance, of attempting to minimize wrongdoing of their members (including the wrongful death of a Polish man who was tasered at Vancouver airport), of a culture of sexual harrassment (including harrassment of women on the force, sexual misconduct and extensive and widespread mistreatment of women within the RCMP).

The RCMP is very much trying to make sure that they are visibly ‘doing the right thing’ in terms of dealing with these challenges. Their existence going forward has been called into question. So to say that this particularly issue doesn’t come at a good time would be a significant understatement. I am quite sure that there are those that would like to make it simply go away. In that they cannot, clearly the alternative tack of vigorous, public and puritanical pursuit seemed like a good ‘Plan B’.

What I have not yet seen is anyone actually parse out and be specific about the offense that is being viewed as ‘way up the scale of abnormal’. Is it being kinky? Taking pictures of it? Posting those pictures? Posting those pictures when one is identifiable? Posting those pictures when one is identifiable and in a position of responsibility? Posting those pictures when one is identifiable and in a position of responsibility as a police officer?

Distinction aside, what this has led to, by both bloggers and the mainstream media, is a question of whether someone who engages in S&M practices can be a member of the police force. The larger question appears to be whether someone in a position of any authority can engage in kinky behaviour. Clearly from the perspective of Murphy (the blogger post first referenced in this paragraph) it cannot.

In a breathtaking piece of sophistry, she marshals a number of arguments, assertions and assumptions to make her point. She damns all views that suggest that private behaviour should be private, that kinky sex might actually be acceptable or that people can in fact make the separation between sexual fantasy (and consensual behaviour) and their public responsibilities. I don’t know what her personal experience is. She does not discuss that in any way. What she does do is engage in a sweeping damnation of kinky practices as abusive, those who engage in them as misogynistic (for they are, according to this post, all men dominating women) and an absolute dismissal that there should be (or can be) and separation of what happens in public and what happens in private. There are no facts supporting her argument. There is no research. There is only assertion, opinion and semantic device.

Articles like this are entirely unhelpful (unless one is trying to illustrate how reactionary people can be breathtakingly righteous when they have an issue that they believe they hold the sole, true, morally correct opinion about). I am kinky, and have been my whole life. And I have struggled with that identity, for fear that I would be considered weird, abnormal or sick. Posts like the one above go a long way to justifying that view. Except… I am not alone. Sexuality comes in many forms and flavours. People are gay. People cross-dress. People wear leather, latex or underwear of the opposite sex. People like to be spanked. Or flogged. Or whipped. Or caned. People like to be tied up. To feel helpless. To be infantilized. People fetishize balloons. The panoply of sexual preferences is enormous.

My fetishes are my fetishes. I am coming to terms with owning them. I am blessed with a supportive partner who enjoys and is willing to share them. And whose preferences in return I also share, and respect and enjoy. And even then, I have struggled at times to be truly honest about what I do want, for fear that she will judge me, or mock me, or find me wanting. And yet, what we do in the privacy of our own bedroom is… what we do in the privacy of our own bedroom. I’ve been tied up, spanked and teased, and loved every minute of it. And then I’ve lovingly cuddled my wife and gone to sleep. The next day, when I get up, shower, dress and go to work, my kink stays in the bedroom. I do, in fact, separate my personal and private sphere, thank you very much. And my submissive tendencies in the bedroom in no way colour my ability to be a successful executive in the boardroom. They do not influence how I negotiate a deal with a customer. They do not change how I interact with my employees.

I am still acutely conscious, however, that not everyone shares my fetishes. And that people (at least, some) probably would judge me were they to be common knowledge. I am concerned about how it would affect my career, my job and my standing in the community. It is that fear, more than anything, that has been the basis of my struggle with myself – because I cannot completely own and be up-front about who I am, because there are scenarios where that is hidden. So my friends do not know. My family does not know. My wife’s family do not know. My colleagues and customers certainly remain ignorant. Being comfortable with me, and being comfortable with the boundaries I set about who I am, and who knows that, is a difficult balance I am still struggling to get right. Posts like the one above are singularly unhelpful in helping to navigate that journey. And a younger me probably would have been once again shamed into quiet admonishment of my preferences as being disgusting and wrong.

I am equally sure that has been a challenge for the RCMP officer at the heart of this, and I can’t imagine how difficult the last week has been (or how difficult the coming weeks are going to be). I know many people who are on Fetlife, and who have until now viewed it as a community where such behaviour was accepted, where they didn’t have to worry about who might be looking over their shoulders. Clearly, that was a misjudgement. When you put something out on the internet, anywhere on the internet, you lose control over how that will be used. While I choose not to do so, it is up to others to make their own choices – and I will not judge them one way or another. This is, however, where the private and public spheres do intersect. What we put on the internet becomes public domain, no matter how secure we think it is, or how trustworthy we think our immediate social network might be. So we need to be clear about where our private acts stop, and where public visibility begins – and that is alot closer than many have considered.

The media coverage has made this a much larger issue, however, calling into question whether someone can and should be in a position of responsibility if they are kinky. Can someone be a police officer? Or a teacher? Or a member of the military? Or a politician? I can guarantee you that they are, and anyone not believing that is deluded. Statistics suggest that one in ten people are kinky (although recent studies hypothesize the number is even higher than that) . That suggests that one in ten police officers, and one in ten teachers, and one in ten corporate executives are kinky.

Is a tenth of the workforce wrongly employed? Are we going to preclude people from occupations because of their sexual preferences? Is that a more acceptable form of discrimination than any other form that has been, in the face of bigotry and hatred, fought down? I certainly hope not.

More importantly, does that mean that they are compromised in their ability to do their jobs? I believe that it does not. But, given the events of the last week, does that mean that they are needing to be more watchful of how they present themselves and what they reveal? Clearly, I believe the answer to be yes.

It is sad, on the weekend that gay pride is being celebrated in England – when a group who has been marginalized for so long for their sexual preferences is finally able to now celebrate them openly – that another group has needed to once again start looking over their shoulders.

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