How would you feel if on a warm summer’s day, in the middle of a busy city centre, a group of (mainly male) heterosexuals paraded down the streets, proudly displaying their kinks and fetishes in front of crowds of shoppers and families? It would be a shocking and uncomfortable scene. This is how I feel about kink at Pride. To me there is no difference, and more to the point, there should not be a difference in how public sexual displays are judged.
Over the last decade Pride has expanded. Local Pride events have sprung up in small towns and cities all over the country, and it went from a day to a week, and now apparently a Pride month. I suppose the corporations need time to shift all that rainbow covered merchandise. But alongside the banks and fried chicken companies waving their rainbow logos, the event is widely seen as family-friendly. A nice day out to support diversity. But a mainstream, commercial family day does not mix with people displaying adult sexual kinks
The question of whether kink belongs at Pride divides opinion, and criticism can be met with tedious accusations of prudishness, kink-shaming, and more recently, and somewhat more politically, ‘heteronormativity’ and ‘queerphobia’. Recently on Twitter a blue tick declared kink at Pride is part of the values of the community, and members of niche groups such as furries and those who like wearing rubber dog outfits tweeted of their relish at having the opportunity to express themselves.
The argument is often that Pride should never have become family-friendly, and it’s about sexual liberation. But these people only speak for themselves. There is no community of shared values on kink, just people in society who happen to be same-sex attracted. To suggest these activities are LGB values is to conflate the right to have sex and relationships with the right to have a sexual kink. There also is a conflation with kink-shaming and shaming someone for their sexual orientation, when the two have nothing to do with each other.
I believe these attitudes harm LGB activism and the strive for normalisation. They also play into the hands of old school homophobes, who view homosexuality and bisexuality as sexual deviancy, rather than regular people who have sexual and romantic relationships with others of the same sex. Indeed, seeing the pictures of nearly naked blokes in dog masks, being led by their masters on chains makes it harder to defend the position that it isn’t all about sex. I would feel the same about any group or movement in society. Adult sexual activities and events based around that should take place in an indoor, adult-only setting. This is not prudish or homophobic, it is common societal decency.
More troubling still are the pictures of children standing next to those in bondage outfits. If you think children should not be there in the first place that is one thing, but we all know they will be there. While in my opinion kink should not be at Pride at all, it seems sensible that if it is to continue to play a part, it needs to be separated from the public, outdoor festivities, and private events or meetings need to be arranged instead. I think organisers need to draw a line for which events are currently not adult only.
To be clear, I am not saying all aspects of historic gay culture should be banned from Pride. The leather scene is a notable fixture, and the ‘dykes on bikes’ is another which has been part of Pride parades for years. But there is a difference between wearing leather, and wearing what is clearly sex gear in public. One is a celebration of a culture, the other does not belong at Pride.