I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a hard time tapping into my kinky side during the pandemic. Being stuck in the house day after day doesn’t exactly have me feeling inspired to explore. This has been particularly disheartening after discovering the depths of my kinks in 2019: it’s been like discovering an entirely new palate of food that I love but not having the appetite to eat.
So I was intrigued to come across Race & Kink, a bi-weekly discussion series hosted by Marla Renee Stewart, sexologist and founder of Velvet Lips Sex Education, and Luna Matatas, sex and pleasure educator. The objective of these conversations is to discuss how race and racism show up in kink spaces. I’ve been doing some reading lately on racism in polyamorous communities and wanted to complement that research by increasing my awareness about racism in kink.
I attended the second conversation on July 28th with guest Dirty Lola, sex educator and creator of Sex Ed A Go Go. The event was a small, intimate conversation of just over 20 people on Zoom—most in attendance had their cameras on and the attendees ranged from white and white-passing people like me to other people of color.
The hour-and-a-half conversation was mostly Dirty Lola speaking about her personal experiences in the kink scene with little prompting by the hosts. I could try to summarize the variety of topics covered, but Dirty Lola had so many great soundbites that I’ll just share some of my favorites:
On her own privilege: “I’m looked at as the good kind of black: I’m looked at as the acceptable, palatable, as my friend calls it, I’m a ‘starter pack black’ […] When it comes to kink and dating, I get the gamut of defending myself and my blackness, having to explain that we come in different shades and colors, having people talk to me as if I’m not black, and as if, because I’m light-skinned, I will hear them or entertain their racism or their bullshit.”
On having to remain guarded and vigilant in kink spaces: “It’s a lot, and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to have the breadth of experience that I would want because I have to be very careful. People who I am interested in many times will fuck up and so I have learned that I need to put people through their paces.”
On having to constantly represent your race: “White people do not go into a space and go, ‘When I leave here I need to make sure they think good about white people.’ You’ve never walked into a room and felt like you needed to be good because you don’t want people to think poorly of white people when you walk out of that room. I can promise you every BIPOC person has been in a space where they have felt, ‘I have to leave a good impression. When I leave I need people to think good things about me because I’m an ambassador for whoever, for whatever my ethnicity, my race, whatever that is […] Do you know how much pressure that is? It’s not allowing people to be human […] This is oppression.”
One of the most salient parts of the discussion for me didn’t have to do with kink specifically, but rather when Dirty Lola talked about the difference between an ally and an accomplice:
Allies are people who say they stand with you. Accomplices are people who show up and stand in front of you. Accomplices show up with leaf blowers and hockey sticks and masks, and they stand in front of you and protect you and they make it so that you don’t have to be exhausted once again talking about a thing. Accomplices are people that get to the thing before you get to it, and that’s the real action.
As someone who is continually working on moving from an ally to an accomplice, that clear distinction helped to cement what it is that I need to do in order to better show up for people of color in all situations.
The moderator left the chat box open during the discussion, and towards the end it opened up for questions from attendees. As far as online events go, this is one where I got an incredible amount of value for the money I paid. I also received a recording of the event afterward, so I’m grateful this is a resource I can turn to again and again.
Marla Renee Stewart and Luna Matatas have accomplished a great feat here, creating an inclusive space for people of color to find community and for white people to learn and ask questions about topics that sometimes feel taboo. And for me, being able to engage in kink intellectually has helped to scratch that itch while I’ve been less able to immerse myself in it literally lately. This is a discussion series you shouldn’t miss out on.
Buy tickets for an upcoming discussion on Eventbrite, with a special exclusive BIPOC meeting on September 22nd. Tickets available on a sliding scale.
Catch the panelists on the following podcasts: