This research explores the relationship between kink and everyday life, how affects are related to kink, and how community and belonging are important for kinky individuals. The main research material consists of themed writings, which deal with kinksters’ relationship to the community and their own kinkiness. The materials also include photographs of kink objects and homes, as well as participant observation and interviews on kink events. The materials are understood as dialogical: they are in dialogue with each other and with the researcher. The research methods are based on cultural analysis and draw on theories on affect, community, and everyday life.
Kink communities, whether in person or online, are important since they may be the only places in which an individual can be openly kinky. The sense of community is built through forms of solidarity such as sharing information and volunteering at kink organisations. Shared affects play a role in creating a sense of identity and belonging. Sometimes kinkiness may be experienced as shameful and is kept a secret, which may cause feelings of loneliness and anxiety. The acceptance of one’s kinkiness enriches one’s everyday life and improves one’s general well-being and is often achieved through finding the community. Kink may offer transgressions of everyday life or be a constant part of it. While drawing attention to the positive aspects of kink might alleviate the stigma, a certain secretiveness is part of the allure of kink. Kink enables the safe exploration of taboo subjects and the acting out of scenarios that are otherwise avoided in everyday life.
This research contributes to the international discourse on kink as an identity and way of life and continues the discussions prevalent in Finnish ethnology pertaining to cultural norms and what is considered accepted or deviant. Kink is a nonnormative and often misconceived phenomenon, which, however, is often experienced as a significant and positive part of identity and everyday life.
“I’m a Queer kinkster and a Leather dyke from Finland. I entered the local kink scene while doing my bachelor’s studies in European Ethnology at the University of Turku. I soon realised this community and these kink events would provide a perfect scene for ethnographic research. So, I did my BA on kink events, my master’s on kink and everyday life, and later continued with the kink theme for my PhD.
My motivation to start this research was the disconnect I saw at the events and inside the community versus what the general idea of kink was back in 2000s and 2010s. There seemed to be a lot of misconceptions and false ideas about what kink is in the vanilla world. The community felt warm and welcoming – while the outside world often depicted kink as violent and sick.
With my research, I wanted to highlight the meaning of kink to individuals, and that in addition to sexuality it is also so much more. Which is what most have said while writing about kink already back in the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., Brodsky 1993; Kamel 1980). For many in my research material, kink is affection, love language, and an identity – a way of being themselves and a constant way of being in the world.
Obviously, kink is also hot spicy sex, even though I did not discuss this part in my research as my interests were the community, everyday life experiences, and affective elements, i.e., the emotions and feelings, related to kink. With my research I wanted to move past the “is this normal” -narrative and rather show the “why” or “how” of kink. I.e., why kink is important, why the community is important, how kink and everyday life are intertwined, how emotions are involved in kink.
Besides my research, I am passionate about Leather history, and I see the importance of the Leather scene of the ’80s and ’90s and earlier for the existence of current day kink communities.”
—Johanna Pohtinen, FT, Etnologia | PhD, European Ethnology, November 2023
Published: 28th November 2023Tags: Johanna Pohtinen, University of Turku
Categorised in: Article