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How Kink Let’s Black Folk Get Free: The Liberatory Potential of BDSM

I pray everybody Black finds freedom in kink.

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Written by B. Vanessa Coleman.

Art by Jéssica Felício.

The first time I saw him, I somehow knew I was witnessing freedom.  The FUBU edition of Cruise LA at the Eagle in Silverlake (a bar that typically caters to white, cis gay men), convened Black kinksters of all genders for the ritual of music, drinks and dancing, with a light layer of kink.  Sweat teased his temples as he maneuvered stations; sides shaved, his long honey brown locs were corralled into a ponytail on top of his head before cascading down his bare back.  He wore only black leather pants and matching boots, paired with a smoldering air of confidence.  The twin scars spanning the breadth of his chest told me that this body was self-determination realized.  I watched him lash the backside of a Black femme who willingly restrained herself against the flogging station, a giant metal X attached to a backdrop with rods and chains shaped into a spider web; ironic since she’d volunteered herself the sadists’ prey.  Though I’d been to the Eagle before, this was my first kink-related event and first time seeing a Black woman consensually receive pain for the purpose of pleasure at the hands of a Black man, trans or cis,  and I was transformed.

For Black folk, fear is as constant a sensation as freedom is a constant struggle – courtesy of the white supremacist, capitalist violence of poverty and (over)policing, which share a core tenant: racism.

There is something special, improbable even, about a space dominated by queer and trans Black folk participating in BDSM; an activity that’s often considered “white people shit.” Is it because the white (and often wealthy) are the most at liberty to explore sex and sensation, to command one’s experience with pain and pleasure? Unlike most of my peers, I was fortunate to be introduced to the kink scene through the gateway of Black/Brown QT kinksters and sex workers.  The DJ for FUBU was a good friend of mine who lived at the Altar House, a mostly intentional, often transitional QTBIPOC home in South Central, LA.  Everyone who came to the Altar was non-white, non-straight, radical and moderately-to-very low-income, with most folks working in retail, entertainment or service.  

Spirituality was the Altar House’s foundation.  Altars could be found all over, anchored by the original altar erected for a trans housemate named Ki’tay – who’d passed away in their room in 2014 – and tools like tarot and astrology were integral to the culture.  The Altar was also a highly body positive and pro-sex space; one housemate was a nudist, others performed sex work, supplementing their income by offering criminalized yet essential services.  Like it would for many, the Altar facilitated my own spiritual journey and self development, especially through kink.  Just like I’ll never forget my first time seeing consensual Black on Black flogging at FUBU, I’ll never forget that time I heard spanking noises come from a bedroom in the Altar, cracking up as one roommate gleefully rushed toward the sound to sign up for their spanks.  It’s my experience at the Altar that convinced me of the unique liberatory potential that kink held for all marginalized identities, most significantly Black folk.

My favorite definition of freedom is from Nina Simone: “No fear.” For Black folk, fear is as constant a sensation as freedom is a constant struggle – courtesy of the white supremacist, capitalist violence of poverty and (over)policing, which share a core tenant: racism.  In a world where the Black body is relentlessly exploited, policed, and violated in ways that deny our autonomy and leave us perpetually navigating pain and trauma, kink+BDSM set us free by centering consent and encouraging self-expression and exploration, creativity and play.

In kink scenes then, Black folk can live free of the fear of experiencing any violence, harm or anything we didn’t choose. 

Certainly enslaved Africans never consented to the kidnapping, torture and theft of their skills and labor that literally created the world we know. Through consent, Black people can experience the liberation that lies in having a choice and is central to how kink and BDSM have provided Jet Setting JasmineTM (Master fetish trainer and clinical psychotherapist) with a sensation of liberation.  Kink has “a protocol for how we derive consent from the parties that we will be playing with,” she tells me, “and this has not been my historical relationship with shared intimacy of any sort.” Consent practices, like RACK or SSC, involve establishing boundaries/limits, safe words and agreements for all parties during play.  In kink scenes then, Black folk can live free of the fear of experiencing any violence, harm or anything we didn’t choose.  Annoyed by the number of white people present at my first legitimate kink party, marketed as QTPOC, I limited my play from their gaze. instead getting the number of the loc’ed Dom from FUBU so we could play another day.  That was empowering.

Extending the demand for consent into our everyday lives (from hugs to conversations), we curate experiences that feel safe and honor our autonomy.  Kink “has allowed space for me to learn myself and the power dynamics that I experience on an everyday basis,” says sensual creative and member of BIPOC-AIC Xerlina Devine about BDSM’s impact on their self-exploration, “it has revealed to me how I respond to authority and how to find authority within myself.” For anyone like me who’s struggled with recognizing and respecting boundaries in relationships, kink creates opportunities to strengthen those skills, while also affording Black people a priceless space for self expression. Where creativity and play are usually reserved for children, kink lets us free ourselves to be ourselves, as affirmed by Lasha Lane – fellow SW and BIPOC-AIC member.  “Black people have the ability to liberate ourselves. Role playing, power exchanges, bondage can be therapeutic AF.” Jasmine concurs “it is acceptable… to express yourself sexually in a very unique way.  And to me that’s yet another opportunity for us to feel liberation and freedom – to be able to express ourselves uniquely and it not be frowned upon or looked down upon.”  In my experience as her pup, I can testify to how freeing it is to have my tastes and choices affirmed versus shamed or judged. I pray everybody Black finds freedom in kink.


About The Author

B. Vanessa, aka Halo theGxdbody, bka Bee, is a Queer, non-binary kinkster and magical Black radical, anti-capitalist, lover, dream chaser and shift shaper recently relocated from South Central LA to Pineville, Louisiana after 10 years of living and loving in Los Angeles. Professionally they have evolved from DARPA consultant to dog walker and cooperative developer and are passionate about Black liberation and Black joy by any means necessary. Bee is the creator of the #fuckthesystem workshop in the 2020 Navel ASSEMBLIES cohort which explored the role of radical thought, sacral healing and sex magic in re-imagining Black liberation. With the opportunity created by the pandemic, they have started to explore a lifelong love for writing. You can read published pieces from the last year via https://linktr.ee/Beehold_halo

Follow on IG: @beehold_halo


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