In the Habit of Being Kinky: Practice and Resistance in a BDSM Community, Texas, USA
Luminais, Misty Nicole
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"Kinky" is a stigmatized identity in wider American culture. People in kinky communities renegotiate their relationships to themselves and others to incorporate their desires into a positive identity. People take advantage of bodily practices to modify their habitus, or way of being in the world. From an outside perspective, it may appear as if sex and violence are the overwhelming impetuses for the community. I argue these are only two in a suite of corporeal methodologies used to resist hegemonic ideals of gender, age, partner choice, and body size. Intense pleasure and intense pain (physical or mental) may result in a moment of crisis wherein modification of habitus is more possible than during other times. Parallels can be drawn to rites of passage, in which a person shifts from one status to another through the means of a liminal period. In the kinky community, violence and sex create liminal spaces without the subsequent immediate change in status. Over time liminality becomes its own practice through which people modify their identities and relationships to reflect better their perceived ideals. One result of this modification of the self through practice is a gender system that defies binary categorization. Dominance and submissiveness, as character traits, are disarticulated from masculinity and femininity, allowing for novel combinations not recognized by wider American culture. Masculinity and femininity are unmoored from the physical body. Gender becomes a performance, varying by context and audience. Additionally, a "switch" identity exemplifies the performative nature of gender by allowing individuals access to multiple gendered identities concurrently. This work contributes to the growing literature on how sexuality interacts with identity, focusing on gendered experiences in a community in "Cactus," Texas. People participate in BDSM (bondage/discipline/dominant/submissive/sadism/masochism) activities and engage in other social activities that support membership in a community that resists (and accommodates) hegemonic ideals through modifying bodily practices. The possibilities and limitations of embodied resistance have implications for an anthropology of power.