Jillian Keenan’s youtube videos ‘Do all Spankos think the same?’ sparked more questions than Boris Johnson’s Covid speeches in my close circles. If you haven’t already watched, I highly recommend watching Keenan’s Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this post!
I’m a big fan of Keenan and think she is a really great voice for the spanking community. I have been enjoying lockdown with her book Sex with Shakespeare and have had moments throughout shouting ‘Yes!’ in agreement. Yet, my initial reaction to the first video on whether all Spanko’s think the same was ‘Oh, maybe I’m not a true Spanko?’ A problematic view, especially to anyone who’s spanked me or watched me be spanked, who will beg to differ with it! I will be honest, I was mainly watching to begin with because my dear friend Katie-Jane is starring in the panel. Which I should add, is still a very worthwhile reason for viewing, she comes across delightfully and I giggled to myself when she made comments about a female disciplinarian that I also very much admire. I certainly didn’t expect to find myself questioning my sexual orientation and having a mini identity-wobble! However, the confusion and contradictions I found whilst watching, eased as I began sharing and debating the video with other kinky friends, not just ‘spankos’. I will do my best to share some of the key points covered in these discussions, exploring the main themes of sexual orientation, non-monogamy and what is sex or kink?
‘My fetish is my sexual orientation’ was one prompt that made me feel like an outsider. Everyone in the panel sat down to agree with this, articulating their love language as spanking full stop. Whilst spanking is my biggest fetish, I had never put it in the same camp as being bisexual. So for me this was rather confusing. At first, my thought process was, they must have been born with a spanking gene and maybe I wasn’t … but then I don’t believe I was necessarily ‘born’ bisexual any more than I was ‘born’ with my love of being over someone’s lap. I was quite late to discovering and embracing my kinky side. Despite having playground memories of power play games scarily close to my sexual role-play now!
Another fetish of mine is rope, admittedly not on the same level as spanking, and peers agreed that they weren’t ‘born’ into rope but it’s bigger for them than sexual intercourse, and they could live without it although they’d choose not to (in the same way all people can live without sex, it’s not actually a need, read Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski if you don’t believe me). I guess whilst I can’t imagine my life without spanking, it’s in the same way as my close mountain man can’t imagine his life without climbing. Spanking is intimate, but is not always about sex for me. Therefore I just can’t choose between the two. I’m a spanking fetishist and sex-orientated. I personally prefer the broad open label ‘kinky’ where I feel less pigeon-holed. I felt a tad uncomfortable after the video about my love of spanking, like I wasn’t in the true spanko community of pure, spanking-only fetishists. When I discussed this insecurity, my rope friend shared ‘It sounds a bit elitist’. I just don’t feel like the panel represented me here, and actually I do know a lot of other people really into spanking who also love other forms of power play and kink varieties and/or sex.
I was further baffled, when the question of non-monogamy came up. This split the panel, mainly due to people’s different semantic understandings. I was with Keenan on this one, and class myself as non-monogamous due to my playful relationships with other kinksters, yet romantically would say I am monogamous and most often (but not always) sex is kept within my romantic relationship. A lot of kinky people I know are poly, but hardly anyone defines themselves as monogamous – so this was another shock to me to see many did! I found this extra weird following the prior emphasis on their fetish being their sexual orientation. If spanking is someone’s primary sexual orientation, then how is spanking play not seen as multiple play relationships? Semantics are so important in the kink community in order for everyone to be able to communicate clearly and play in a safe and consensual way with one another. Whilst I’m trying to adopt Keenan’s progressive view of sexual orientation as a bisexual fetishist, I do think the panel should have all recognised their non-monogamy, even if they are not polyamorous. That said, at the same time, I understand the resistance here. My ‘vanilla’ family and friends who know a little of what I’m into, have no problem at all with spanking or rope, but seemingly have a huge issue with the idea of multiple partners, even if ‘play’, any label other than social norm of monogamy is often met with judgement. The definitions I find helpful can be found here, non-monogamy can simply mean more than one relationship.
What even is sex?
Keenan didn’t actually ask this, but my friends and I ended up discussing it, A LOT. My initial problem with defining my own sexual orientation was my narrow interpretation of the word ‘sexual’, but then I realised you can be bisexual and asexual just basing it on attraction. If it helps, we all watched this lady’s inclusive definition of sex before tweaking it to decide on our own understandings. To bring it back to spanking, what is it that makes it someone’s sex? Or any other fetish? I realised after considerable debate, that ‘sex’ for me, includes physical genital stimulation of some sort. So spanking or rope at a workshop or play event with a new person may be intimate and make me feel alive (like dancing or a mountain view) but it’s mostly playful and non-sexual. Alternatively, it might be non-sexual but emotionally liberating and cathartic, helping me to let go of some personal pain with a trusted top. Yet other times, say with a repeated play partner or someone with whom I am very physically attracted to or hold a strong power play dynamic, a spanking may feel ‘sexual’ because I am incredibly sexually aroused, and any genital touch would make it suddenly a ‘sex’ act in my head. Should only ‘sexual’ spankings like this count as non-monogamy? The definition of sex seems to differ for everyone though, some may class phone sex as better than the physical act, or dismiss the word ‘sex’ altogether and I think with reflection it makes sense that different forms intimacy can impact people in individual ways, and any fetish could be more meaningful and essential to someone than anyone actual physical touch of their genitals.
I later attended Durham munch where the great discussion with a variety of kinksters started with the prompt ‘what does kink mean to you?’. For instance, my kink is not only spanking but rather my innate attraction to power exchange. The fetish-sexual orientation question was also discussed, and it was a much more mixed response, with most people agreeing they weren’t born kinky. I guess I currently feel my sexual orientation seems separate and less important than my ‘kink’ orientation. The problem with mixing the two, and Keenan’s graph, is that it leaves no room for asexuals. I would like a kin’k’sey scale where you can be vanilla – fetishist to varying degrees depending on how you love, accompanied by a private-exhibitionist measure. I’d adapt the Kinsey sex orientation scale to include room for asexuality and pansexuality and keep it separate. For instance, if sex is nothing to you and you secretly only get off on tickling, you could be asexual and a private tickle fetishist. Or in Keenan’s case, she would be bisexual and an out-and-proud spanko, with more emphasis on the latter. Just an idea. Like sex and gender, I think the definition of kink needs to be inclusive and variable.
Keenan’s other points that raised eyebrows included ‘do converted ‘vanilla’s’ exist?’ and ‘do you trust kinky people more?’ To the latter I would say no! I might be more open and not face judgement with fellow kinksters, but that’s not the same as trust. If anything, I have experienced boundaries being crossed and narcissism, so now tread more cautiously and mistrust sadists on average more! As for the vanilla question, my friend pointed out the word ‘vanilla’ is now thrown about as an insult, when actually, a lot of kinksters once held different views and were seemingly ‘vanilla’ at some point, just as some people may be privately kinky behind closed doors but not social about it. Having tried a kink free long-term relationship which just didn’t work out, I agree on the one hand that on some level you just can’t change people. Yet on the other, I think people can change themselves, and I have definitely helped some’vanilla’ people who were curious on how to spank and tie rope, and found they are naturals. I think a lot of it comes down to attitude and openness. For me, accepting the non-monogamous nature of kink has really been enlightening. I don’t expect to find a life partner who fulfills every single need of mine, rather I would like to find a romantic partner that I can connect with on a least some of my preferred levels of intimacy, who is open-minded enough to let me embrace other playful relationships. Again, I’m not sure an elite ‘kink’ club is a good thing, I would like to encourage a bit more fluidity here as I think you get different levels of kink, people outside of any kink community who enjoy sex, could often still be somewhere on the kink spectrum, even if they don’t prioritise it like a fetishist would.
Does spanking correct you?
Finally, another thing that really struck me in the video was the gorgeous Kelly May’s description of why spankings do not work for behaviour modification, specifically when she described her earlier self ‘I had to keep breaking myself so someone could put me back together’. I identified with this 100%. Personally, I don’t now want a disciplinarian to actually correct me. We can play at it, DEFINITELY, the scolding is a key part of the fetish for me and helps me feel smaller/get into a subby headspace. But I am already extremely self critical, so to be spanked for behaviour that actually needs correcting feels unnecessarily mean, abusive or just annoying. I have actually tried it for small things I’d like to change and failed, so I know empirically it doesn’t work on me. People sometimes pick up on the submissive elements of my nature and decide I must be dangerously vulnerable and in need of their saviour, they often try to ‘fix’ me or try to show kindness by taking control, and ‘sexually’ it makes me unattracted and want to run. I am a free spirit, proud of my softness, yet very much in control of myself thank you. I value my ability to submit. Then when I do let go, I feel truly free and not coerced. But it’s taken me a lot of trial and error to get to the headstrong place I’m currently in, and I have a genuine fear based on experienced manipulation. I find it fascinating that some people rely on spanking as an effective part of actual behaviour correction (not in isolation), Keenan included. I can identify on some level having enjoyed cathartic pain, I think trauma lives in the body, and in some way this need to mentally go somewhere beyond pleasurable appears linked to making sense of injustice or uncomfortable feelings. I’ve found for instance that some older spanking fetishists who were actually abused in school with implements, find a need to re-live this extreme pain and ‘own’ this experience of submission, re-experiencing the trauma again and again, something I can’t completely identify with but appreciate the intensity of this d/s interaction.
I would love to discover where other people identify in terms of sexual orientation, non-monogamy and where they sit on my vanilla-fetish spectrum. I’m so grateful to Keenan for creating these videos, in particular for highlighting her views around sexual orientation as it has really made me reflect more critically on how I view myself as spanking fetishist with a broad sexual and kink appetite privately, and it has highlighted the importance of power play for me (which comes with a zillion warning tags and it’s own issues/debates). Discussing this has also made me realise that a key trait for me in any close relationship is open-mindedness. I hope reading this and watching her videos has sparked similarly interesting thoughts for you. Maybe another good adjustment to debating from prompts in Keenan’s video would be rather than to answer yes/no, to have scale of 1-10. I would add the questions, Do you enjoy play with people other than your romantic partner(s)? Were you born with this fetish? Most of my spanking friends are social and open in the kink community, but I’m curious how many private fetishists there are out there! I would love to explore this further so please feel free to reach out or comment on this.
Thank you for reading if you’re still here! I got a bit carried away!