Dear Kinky People: Cut Vanilla A Break, Will Ya?

Sex map - vanilla depicted as mundane and repressed
Thanks to Violet Blue, I found myself perusing Franklin Veaux’s Human Sex Map, a very clever visual representation of all the various kinks, fetishes and sexual practices that people enjoy. The map groups together sexual behaviours and depicts them as countries, or mountains, or islands. Thus the Land of D/s includes the counties of Orgasm Denial and Old Leather.

I found the map to be quite fascinating and marvelled at the many intersections of fetish. I was also impressed with the way Franklin had been so comprehensive in the coverage of the map. He’d also been careful not to make any judgement calls on the various fetishes and kinks.

And then I scrolled down and discovered where he’d put vanilla sex. And then I got really, really angry.

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As you can see from the picture, Franklin has depicted the “land” of vanilla sex as repressed, mundane, frightened, walled in by religious shame and conformity. Oh, and right next to the phobias and acts of non-consent.

Really, Franklin? Is that what you really think of people who don’t choose to partake in fetish and kink? Do you really hold such contempt for all those “ordinary” heterosexual couples who may be perfectly happy with monogamy or “simple” forms of sex?

I found myself fuming at the unfairness of this depiction. Especially given the author’s determination to be non-judgemental about every other sexual practice. It seems to typify a certain attitude within the kink community that demands the spurning of “normal” sex to prove one’s credentials. It’s the same kind of attitude that prompted a gay couple to call me a “breeder” when I was cheering them on at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. To be part of the group, you have to deride the “other.” In the case of kink, the “other” is vanilla sex.

This attitude fails to acknowledge that plenty of people willingly choose and prefer vanilla sex. They may do so exclusively or they may also engage in other kinds of sex acts. No doubt plenty of kinky types enjoy a nice session of missionary position sex every now and again because, well, it’s just a nice way to have sex.

And yes, I’m standing up for vanilla because I’m a straight married vanilla girl. And I’ve deliberately chosen this lifestyle because it suits me and because it’s part of my committment to my relationship. Not because I’m repressed or frightened or religious or boring.

And dare I say it but repression, fear and religious upbringings may well surround every other fetish or choice of sexual practice as well.

Kinky people have fought long and hard for respect and understanding. They demand we step away from stereotypes and assumptions about motivation. It would be nice if they returned the favour.

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20 Replies to “Dear Kinky People: Cut Vanilla A Break, Will Ya?”

  1. I agree that people shouldn’t denigrate vanilla sex, but remember it isn’t just straight people who enjoy vanilla sex. There are lots of queer people who also prefer it. Assuming that vanilla = straight just plays into the belief that queer sexuality is somehow inherently deviant.

    You weren’t called a breeder for being vanilla, you were called a breeder for being straight. “Breeder” is a defensive epithet created to counteract slurs like “faggot” and “dyke”. The word “breeder” exists because of homophobia, not because of the BDSM community. Don’t confuse GLBT with BDSM, they are not one and the same.

    1. QRT, I well understand the meaning of “breeder” My point was the same: I was being respectful and not getting respect back. Given that I have never used those hateful words about gays, I found it upsetting to be abused for the simple fact of being straight. AND given I’m NOT a breeder because I’m not having kids… it rankles a tad.

      You’re right though, I should have included homosexuality in my discussion of vanilla. Still, given that Franklin created a “gay homeland” in his map it seemed to suggest that the negative land of “Mundania” was hetero oriented in his view.

  2. Oh please. I’m so sick and tired of that “Will someone please think of the poor vanillas?!” bullshit. Like kinky people are vilified by the mainstream as freaks and weirdos, all of a sudden to be proud of ourselves is to make you poor vanillas seem insecure. You don’t like it? Cry me a fucking river.

    1. Lola, may I suggest you read the blog post again before spewing your hate on my blog. Insecure? No. Just asking for a bit of respect. Mutual respect. Franklin’s map didn’t offer this respect due to the language used. And you are not offering that respect either.

  3. Thanks for this Ms. Naughty!

    I’m all about sex positivity b/c the opposite, sex negativity, leads to sexual violence. I consider myself open to all (safe & consensual) sexual practices, but have found monogamous relationships with men, and things that the map places as “vanilla” sexual practices to be right for me so far.

    I recently joined a group for sex positivity and was surprised when all the ideas for events were sex parties (sorry, I hope this term doesn’t come off as derogatory). While I absolutely think events where people are encouraged to (safely and consensually) engage in sexual fantasies and exploration are sex positive, I think its sometimes confused with: to be sex positive you *must* be interested in this type of sexual expression, which in general, I am not.

    I think shaming “vanilla” sex is incredibly sex negative,

  4. Also @Lola: I’m so surprised by this attitude! Isn’t it all about affirming EVERYONE’S sexual needs & desires. In a world where sexuality is so shamed, why add more? Because of this culture of shame it took me a while to even feel comfortable talking about masturbation – very vanilla, right? – but it was an important step. It often takes survivors of sexual violence a long time to even be comfortable with touch. I just don’t think having “vanilla sex”, and taking pride it it, is as easy and unfraught with insecurity and shame, or even as mainstream, as you are characterizing it.

    Everyone needs to be welcomed into this movement. Please don’t close the door.

  5. When I hear vanilla people getting mad about their sexual choices being derided, I often think of a different kind of diagram — the diagrams of walls and inner/outer circles in Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex”. Rubin’s diagrams are pretty old now, and if we look back on them we realize that sexual mores have changed enormously in some ways over the last 30 years. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk personally or privately about being kinky, in some places. But they still apply to the public world. Kink, fetishes, D/s, SM and all the kinky domains on the sex map are still deemed fairly weird to speak of in public, even if mainstream porn derives a huge amount of income from representing them. That Sex Map has been around for years; it represents the effort to redress kink/porn/BDSM’s marginalization from what usually counted as “proper sex” then (and often now). Being vanilla hasn’t always been a choice, for a lot of people. It’s been forced on us. And vanilla has not, historically, been used to talk about people who CHOOSE NOT to engage in BDSM or fetishes, but to talk about the practices dictated that one SHOULD be engaging in, or fear losing one’s job/partner/friends/life because anything else was unacceptable.

    I would also argue there are different ways to read the map (and to read the idea of kink/vanilla). The “Land of Mundania” is not labelled as vanilla per se; there are plenty of acts on the “mainland” that look vanilla to me, like erotic massage. So there isn’t really a set way of dividing vanilla from kink. For me, that’s the point of identifying as a pervert: to point out that pretty much everyone is a pervert, and that sex is never “normal”. No matter how vanilla you identify as, I bet you still engage in sexual acts that people would consider pervy from time to time. So, why do we need sexual labels like this at all? Why do you imagine sexual identity to be a process of choosing which side you’re on?

    By all means, remind those kinksters who act like they’re better than you that they’re not. Arrogance sucks. But the point of the map was, I think, not to make fun of vanilla sex but to point out that there are many, many other sexual practices than the ones recognized as “normal”, which are often the only ones people feel comfortable enacting because they are ashamed of doing anything else. Please at least acknowledge the power differentials there when you think about kinky characterizations of “vanilla”.

    1. Thanks for this comment, you make a lot of good points. I completely understand the need for previously marginalised communities to make themselves heard and to also illustrate power differentials. Yes, for too long Vanilla was held up as the ONLY way to have sex by religion and “upright” society and that has led to a great deal of repression and trauma for people. So I can see that it may have been a motivation behind the placement of those things on the map.

      My main point is that in this effort to create a separate space, there has been a “choosing sides” attitude and sometimes vanilla/hetero/monogamy is treated with derision. As someone who wants to feel inclusive, it can then feel frustrating and hurtful to be rejected by the very people you are trying to embrace. And I do see this occasionally within the online sex positive/porn community. There’s this vibe that only kinky sex is hot, that vanilla is boring and unimaginative. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

      I guess, to sum up… “Can’t we all just get along?”

  6. I’m a leather queer, and not real happy about the walled imagery around Vanilla either. But yanno… the guy drew it with his own stereotypes and presumptions.

    Someone doesn’t like it, they’ll draw a different map. Sex is still, thank the heavens, a do-it-yourself proposition.

    I do have one request, though, which is; get a little perspective.

    So you got called “Breeder” *one time,* wow. I’ve been called “breeder” (because of being female) AND I’ve been called all kinds of homophobic things to boot. And being called Breeder didn’t make me feel terrified of impending violence the way “F*cking lezzie bitch” did.

    “I’ve been respectful and not gotten respect back.”

    That’s what it’s like, an awful lot, for GLBT folk– on all those days when it isn’t gay Pride.

    But I agree with you that vanilla is, especially nowadays, a choice. I bet one person in a thousand might not have heard of some kind of kinky practice– probably heard about it on a prime time sitcom. it isn’t because people are walled off.

  7. Thanks for your comment Stella.

    I’m not trying to deny that GLBT people aren’t abused or threatened or discriminated against regularly, just as I know that kinky folk have to fight against prejudice. Rest assured, I do have perspective; I realise I’m part of a majority that, as a cultural group, can be oppressive.

    But I still have a right to be personally pissed off for being abused like that. I’m not responsible for the bad behaviour of others; I want to be treated as an individual. I was there to show my support and solidarity for GLBT people, to wave the flag for gay rights, to tell the world that I may be straight but I have gay family members. And instead I was treated as the enemy. Yes, it made me angry.

  8. ONE derogatory word, from one couple, equals being treated as the enemy?

    Ouch. I hope it didn’t ruin your whole day. You know, the day where no one *else* called you anything rotten.

    Look, I know that kind of thing takes the winds out of one’s sails. But it seems so naive to me, that you would expect perfect peace and harmony of every single person there. That doesn’t allow them *their* individuality, when you think about it.

    Being oppressed does not make people into saints, it does not confer wisdom and understanding, it does not instill gratitude for majority people who *happen* to not take place in that oppression. It doesn’t confer a magic eye that tells guys who approves of their gayness and who wants to kill them for it– quite the opposite, in fact. A lot of minority folk suffer PTSD like whoah because of their experiences with the majority. Its safer not to trust anybody.

    Being oppressed doesn’t automatically mean someone is a better person than the oppressors. It doesn’t build character.

    1. No doubt you’re about to tell me to “man the fuck up.” This is starting to feel a little like the Four Yorkshiremen Monty Python sketch. “Oh, that insult was NOTHING. *I* was insulted by an entire ARMY of homophobes… You call THAT being a VICTIM?”

      Your determination to paint me as “naive little straight person who doesn’t really understand” is pretty much illustrating my original point. I am on your side, I get what you’re saying. I am not the “other” who has to be hated or educated in a calm slow voice. And you don’t have to belittle my experience as a straight person to validate your very real experiences of homophobia. Because now you are bravely defending some obnoxious abusive asshole in your determination to make your point. You are still making me into the enemy.

      As I said before, can’t we all just get along?

  9. Normally I am not one to put up replies in blogs or sites but this I had to give a kudos to. In my net browsing, it was lovely to come across this, though really I’m not all that surprised that I’ve not seen it before. Why? Because even in mainstream media, being a monogamous, vanilla, dedicated couple (whether that is gay OR straight!) is often derided while at the same time shown to be everyone’s actual romantic ideal. (It shouldn’t be, it isn’t and can you stop already, Hollywood?!) Which is sad and I personally am tired of seeing it. Mainly because I am part of a monogamous marriage, I’ll admit. And I waited for married too which apparently means I am a repressed weirdo. But, wait for it, I like kinky sex! I do. And no one knows that because, as maybe one too many will point out, there’s the risk of stigma, rejection and so on and so forth. Then again, maybe I should tell the world! Heaven knows the looks I’d get would be no worse than when I try to explain that, yes, I’m married and have children and am under 30.
    Sorry. I’ll quit with the personal rant. Mostly, I want to show support to someone who (I think, anyway) seems to view the world as I do. There is a great and beautiful variety of people out there and we ALL are unique, even the ‘normals’. Vanilla is a yummy flavour too.
    Now, if people want to attack me for my views, here’s my other cheek, go right ahead.

  10. msnaughty,

    I can tell that you’re upset at people for telling you to “man the fuck up.” I can also see that you’re actually getting angry about people telling you that you’re experience wasn’t that bad or that they’re belittling you in some way. You’re also handling it very respectively by drawing firm lines in the sand.

    But no, you don’t “get it” and you won’t. Try having to deal with that sort of situation almost every day of your entire life.

    The same thing applies to this drawing. There’s many different ways it can be interpreted. One of thos ways could be that the author/artist personally felt that their life as “vanilla” was oppressive and enforced by religious shame and they expressed it. Once. Here you come along getting pissy and uppity about it. “HOW DARE THEY DERIDE THE LABEL WITH WHICH I IDENTIFY?!”

    I think you could benefit from taking some time contemplating “privilege” and just how much of it you have. Then consider having some compassion for people who don’t have the privilege that you do. *One* couple out of hundreds (or thousands) of people who have to deal with oppression every day said something that made you feel “othered.” *One* couple was hurting so much that they snapped at an “ally.” That’s it? Many members of the marginalized group that I am part of can’t expect *one person* to treat them with dignity and respect once a month.

    I’m definitely not one for “othering.” In fact, it pisses me off whether it’s used to make someone feel better about themselves or if it’s used for a cheap laugh. However, I don’t feel the need to go preach about how a single instance where I could be othered in my otherwise privileged life made me feel angry. As someone else already said “cry me a river.”

    1. Yeah, thanks for telling me about all the things I don’t know and making lots of assumptions about who I am. Thanks for that. You sure showed me.

      Obnoxious behavious is obnoxious behaviour. You are excusing it on the grounds of the abusive person’s sexuality. Not good enough.

      That is all. Beyond that, I refer you to my previous reply.

  11. msnaughty,

    Am I wrong in understanding that you’re a cigendered heterosexual married woman who prefers “vanilla” sex who also gets upset at anyone not treating you fairly so much that you need to go blog about it? That’s all I’m basing my response on.

    I’m not excusing anything based on a person’s sexuality. That’s what you’re applying. I’m excusing it based on a potential lifetime of hurt and/or abuse and/or oppression and I’m suggesting that instead of judging this *one* couple (out of however many) for having a moment of weakness and snapping at you that you try to exercise some understanding. Then again, I guess you can just continue to feel entitled to be treated well.

    But you don’t seem to get this. You think it’s just about a person’s self-identified sexuality. This is why I bring attention to your privilege because, from what I’m reading here, you’re totally oblivious to it.

    Honestly, from your attitude, I think you being treated this way could be a character-building experience and that you should be exposed to more of it. Maybe eventually you’ll be able to develop enough empathy to understand why on earth someone might feel the need to treat you in an unfair manner. Maybe you’ll accept that it might be more complicated than “derision.”

    > As someone who wants to feel inclusive, it can then feel frustrating and hurtful to be rejected by the very people you are trying to embrace.

    Welcome to our lives. Every. Damned. Day.

    > But I still have a right to be personally pissed off for being abused like that.

    … And it obviously upset you enough that you had to tell people about it, but this *one* couple shouldn’t be allowed to express their anger? I guess you’re better because you don’t say it to people’s faces, but instead go write about it on the internet.

    > I’m not responsible for the bad behaviour of others; I want to be treated as an individual.

    This is exactly what I hear from practically every member of the GLBTQ community. Again, this is where your privilege starts to show. You can expect that your labels do not convey any meaningful stereotypes that stifle your individuality. You expect it so much that when you’re not allowed to be considered as an individual *once* by *one* couple, you don’t forget it and you cite it as an example of how you have suffered categorical derision.

    And you fault these people who deal with derision on an every day basis for not treating you with the entitled, privileged position that you expect and take for granted?

    Keep playing the victim. I’m sure there’s a violin out there somewhere playing just for you.

    1. Raspberry, I am very tempted to not respond to you further, simply because the minute you decided to say I was being “pissy and uppity” I figured you were just a troll. I’m surprised you didn’t just call me a breeder and be done with it.

      But since you’ve decided to come back and take rather a lot of time to lecture me about how I just don’t understand and how I’ll never get it (and no amount of replying to you will change your opinion of me), allow me to give you a lecture back.

      I am not your enemy. There are millions of fundamentalists and bigots out there who are. May I suggest you put your efforts into fighting them, rather than coming to my blog and going on with this sanctimonious crap.

      Here’s an example of the kind of straw man assumptions that you are making about me: the incident I outlined above (as a small example to my larger point) was not the only time I have encountered this attitude – it’s happened on numerous occasions to me and to other straight people I know.

      Simply, for you to suggest that I don’t understand the reasons why I might encounter that rude attitude is a determined blindness on *your* part. And to repeat my point: understanding the reasons behind a behaviour doesn’t make it any less offensive or insulting. That is my point.

      I could go into great detail about all the other things you don’t know about me that invalidate your assumptions about who I am and what I think, but I’m not going to bother.

      But by all means, carry on. No doubt you are feeling very superior for putting this dumb breeder (ooh, sorry, “privileged cisgender white heterosexual married female”) in her place. Hooray for you. Another victory for the queers. Now the world is a better place. That violin comment just really nailed it, don’t you think, cheer squad?

      Or you could instead go an spend your time fighting a REAL battle against people who actually hate you and who want to discriminate against GLBT people. No doubt your passion will be far more useful there.

  12. OK. I’m going to temporarily close comments on this old post because I’m trying to participate in NaNoWriMo and I don’t need the distraction of this thread. I’ve already lost too much time this morning feeling grumpy. So, that’s it for this post, for now.

    1. Hmm, well, our intrepid commenter couldn’t leave it alone and she sent me an email. And, foolishly I read it.

      So here it is for all those tuning in for the ongoing battle:

      —————————

      Nice closing posts on the article. However, this is for your own good:

      Your contradictions are blaring and fierce:

      >I could go into great detail about all the other things you don’t know about me that invalidate your assumptions about who I am and what I think, but I’m not going to bother.

      vs

      >Or you could instead go an spend your time fighting a REAL battle against people who actually hate you and who want to discriminate against GLBT people. No doubt your passion will be far more useful there.

      I’m not being sanctimonious. I’m merely pointing out your basic inconsistency. Your approach of being victimized while just trying to be inclusive reeks of a “holier than thou” attitude.

      Here’s some more:

      >Dear Kinky People: Cut Vanilla A Break, Will Ya?

      >Another victory for the queers.

      > I’m not responsible for the bad behaviour of others; I want to be treated as an individual.

      Do you not see your blatant hypocrisy? Do you not see how you demand to be treated as an individual and you’re hurt and upset when people don’t do that for you, but you’re here painting broad strokes of judgement over the kink and queer communities based on the words, art, and actions of a few?

      Do you not see how many assumptions that you’ve made about me? How do you know that I’m not also a “privileged cisgender white heterosexual married female?” You don’t. You declare (and might I suggest that you *need*) me to be someone who doesn’t share these labels because you need me to be “other” based on labels and categorization rather than allowing me to be an individual without being stifled by my labels.

      Maybe you should allow others to have their individuality without judgement and bias before you start demanding that others allow the same for you.

      Have you ever asked *why* these people have made these artistic representations, what they mean, why they said what they said, etc. ad nauseum?

      No, you don’t. As evidenced by all of your confused butt hurt. Something happened, you had a reaction, you came up with a solution that allows you to be free of guilt and responsibility by accusing the others without gathering clarification. You denied them their individuality by making assumptions about their intentions and their position. You decide that they are “the bad guy” who is only trying to hurt *you* maliciously so that you can feel good about yourself.

      You prefer to petition a “greater power” to recognize derision and infighting of the masses rather than confronting them on an individual basis. People call you “breeder” or draw a map that threatens your personal world view? Do you say anything about it *to them*? So far, I’m seeing a 100% evidence that you don’t all based off of what *you* have shown *us*.

      You also flip flop between demanding recognition as an individual and aligning yourself with a labelled group as it suits your wants and needs so that you are always “good” and “right” and so you can make a point.

      I see you, as an individual, as cowardly, opportunistic, judgmental, entitled and hypocritical all based on your own words.

      I am not basing it on your sexuality, your preferences, your gender, your race, etc. I’m basing it on your actions. If you still need to insist that I’m trying to deride or categorically discriminate against you, that’s your problem. You have flaws that you might decide to spend time working on (or not depending on how much it is worth to you).

      How about you turn your request on yourself and cut these other people some slack because, as you’re so quick and eager to point out, they’re flawed too.
      ————————–

      Good oh.

      At least I got 1700 words of my novel written before I had to think about this again.

      But you know what? Whatever.

      She’s right. I’ve assumed she must be queer. I might be wrong. So, good call on that.

      But besides that, whatever. This person thinks I’m wrong, that I need to be taught a lesson, that I’m horribly self righteous etc etc. That’s fine. If the rest of you want to think that, fine.

      I just write what I think. And what I was essentially thinking in the original post was “Can’t we all just get along?”

      Apparently not.

      I’m going back to writing my novel now. My privileged, ivory tower novel. Because having arguments about this kind of shit are ultimately a waste of time.

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