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An op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday argued that parents should show their children “kink” to lift stigma surrounding sex and encourage freedom and “self-expression.”
Lauren Rowello, a writer based near Philadelphia, wrote the piece, titled “Yes, kink belongs at Pride. And I want my kids to see it,” after taking her children to a pride parade and seeing dozens of “kinksters” marching and mimicking sex acts on top of floats. Rowello described the scene:
When our children grew tired of marching, we plopped onto a nearby curb. Just as we got settled, our elementary-schooler pointed in the direction of oncoming floats, raising an eyebrow at a bare-chested man in dark sunglasses whose black suspenders clipped into a leather thong. The man paused to be spanked playfully by a partner with a flog. “What are they doing?” my curious kid asked as our toddler cheered them on. The pair was the first of a few dozen kinksters who danced down the street, laughing together as they twirled their whips and batons, some leading companions by leashes. At the time, my children were too young to understand the nuance of the situation, but I told them the truth: That these folks were members of our community celebrating who they are and what they like to do.
The experience was a teachable moment to educate her children on self-expression and the importance of the freedom that LGBT activists have fought for, Rowello said. She went on to advocate that all parents expose their children to kink culture to destigmatize sex and break down social boundaries of what it means to be “presentable.” She said that showing children kink at a young age may help them “[come] to terms with their own experiences with desire and embodiment.
Rowello criticized members of the LGBT community that have argued against allowing kink in pride parades because of the presence of children.
“I agree that Pride should be a welcoming space for children and teens, but policing how others show up doesn’t protect or uplift young people,” Rowello wrote. “Instead, homogenizing self-expression at Pride will do more harm to our children than good. When my own children caught glimpses of kink culture, they got to see that the queer community encompasses so many more nontraditional ways of being, living, and loving.”
Rowello said she does not want her children to “limit their understanding of what relationships or expression look like to whatever’s most familiar,” and that viewing kink would teach them about the “scope and vitality of queer life.”
People who argue that kink is a sexually perverse act that should at least be kept out of public eye are guilty of “the same socialized disgust people have projected onto other queer people when they claim that our love is not appropriate for public spaces,” Rowello said. She claimed that “kinksters” are living out their understanding of who they are: “we cannot confuse their self-expression with obscenity.”
She said the LGBT community has wrongly “internalized” “mainstream cultural standards” about respectability.
“Kink embodies the freedom that Pride stands for, reminding attendees to unapologetically take up space as an act of resistance and celebration — refusing to bend to social pressure that asks us to be presentable. That’s a value I want my children to learn,” she writes.
“Affirming the kink community helps our children to love themselves and others with courage and resilience,” she said. “If my wife and I had seen such fierce and determined role models as young people, we might have learned to be ourselves much sooner. We didn’t have that chance, but my children have that community in Pride, and I want to keep it that way.”