Kink! (and poly, trans*, bi, etc.) is weird, strange or dangerous

Other items have explained that sex is generally represented as happening only within heterosexual, able-bodied, young, white & conventionally attractive couples, and that it generally involved penis-in-vagina penetration ending in orgasm. When forms of sex, gender and relationships other than this are represented in the media, they tend to be presented as either ridiculous, freaky, or damaging. So, for example, we often see comedy around somebody dating a person who is trans* (particularly trans* women). Crime dramas often link kink practices to murderer and psychological damage. People in openly non-monogamous relationships, such as polyamorous people, are often depicted as weirdos and oddballs who need to explain their strange behaviour and can’t possibly have good relationships. There are similar issues for representation of bisexuality, asexuality, fetishes, etc. Occasionally articles and documentaries are a little more positive than this, but the author or presenter generally finishes by making it clear that, of course, they (and by extension any ‘normal’ person) could not handle being polyamorous or kinky, for example.

All such depictions are clearly damaging to people in these groups, and are also problematic for those who might be, but feel unable to even consider the possibility due to the obvious ridicule, stigma, and marginalisation that are reinforced by such media. It is likely that many people remain unhappy in their gender, sexual practices, and relationships, due to intense fear of how people who stray outside the ‘mainstream’ are treated. There is also a lack of consideration of how relatively few people actually fit into rigid gender roles, and how many people have kinky fantasies (up to two thirds) or have secretly non-monogamous relationships like affairs (a similar number). The rates of hate crimes against trans* people are a particular concern in relation to sensationalising and stigmatising media depictions.

It would be better to see sensitive and thoughtful representations of these, and other, groups when editors and producers do feel the need to write about, or film, them. Even better would be to see trans*, kinky, poly, bisexual, asexual, and other people represented in ways that are incidental, for example a TV character who happens to be trans*, or an article about a businessperson who mentions kink as one of a number of identities or interests.

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