Finding meaning: The purpose-driven kink life

  • by Race Bannon
  • Wednesday September 4, 2019
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For some kinksters, like these folks attending last year's Folsom Street Fair, the comradery and friendships the kink scene fosters are what gives them meaning. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
For some kinksters, like these folks attending last year's Folsom Street Fair, the comradery and friendships the kink scene fosters are what gives them meaning. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

I was reading Victor Frankl's iconic book Man's Search for Meaning again. Frankl, a psychiatrist, was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps from 1942 to 1945. During his imprisonment at four different camps including Auschwitz, Frankl's parents, brother and pregnant wife did not survive.

Those horrific experiences and his and other's coping mechanisms for survival in the camps brought Frankl to the conclusion that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to best handle it and, importantly, even find meaning in it. He was so convinced that the pursuit of what we personally find meaningful is life's primary driving force that he created a new school of psychotherapy called logotherapy founded on that concept.

This is typically a column about sexuality, kink and relationships. What could the pursuit of meaning have to do with such things?

The men of the Bare Chest Calendar, an army of volunteers who raise money for a cause they believe in, Positive Resource Center. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

As I read Frankl's book again, I kept homing in on this necessity for meaning as fundamental to a good life, a happy life, in all spheres of what we do as humans. That includes sex and relationships.

The more I thought about meaning as a core need, the more I reflected on all we do and are as LGBTQ kinksters. Puncture the veneer of the superficial armor of our displayed sexual proclivities and the most satisfying of them are founded upon a sense of meaning to who we are and what we do.

There are those who feel we are born with meaning. I am not of that camp unless mere existence is to be considered having meaning. I think we create meaning. I think we nurture meaning. I think we keep our eyes open for meaning.

When we can sync our natural predilections with an internal sense of meaning, we strike gold, the mother lode. This is what I think happens when those of us LGBTQ folks who might naturally lean toward kinkier sex explore those desires within the context of something we find meaningful.

When it comes to leatherfolk and kinksters, I contend those who are simply going through the motions of adopting a kink identity or parroting a sexual expression without attaching them to some meaning for it all are missing out. Of course, it's entirely their right to eschew the awareness or pursuit of an underlying meaning, but I believe for these folks the experience is more a diversion, a causal entertainment.

There is nothing wrong with that, but perhaps this is the true schism within our leather and kink scene — a divide between those who have attached some meaning to who they are and what they do and those who are seeing it as simply a fun sexual rollercoaster to ride or convenient welcoming community. It's difficult to articulate, but I sense that's the crux of much of the angst and division among some in the leather and kink ranks.

One of the many volunteers at a recent SF Eagle Sunday beer bust raising money for a worthwhile organization. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

How might we apply this concept of finding meaning that Frankl's logotherapy suggests in our personal kink lives? Here are some suggestions based on Frankl's concepts that I believe, if adopted, would improve individual kinksters' lives as well as the entire set of kink communities by creating more meaning and therefore more overall happiness.

Create something. It could be a fetish meetup, a gear social, a sex party, a work of erotic art, a community project, a discussion group, anything for yourself or others to give you a sense or purpose which can add meaning to your life.

Develop and nurture relationships. Deep interactions with others offer us a supportive circle in which we can find more meaning.

Abandon scorekeeping and comparison. Life is not fair. None of us are the same. No two situations are the same. If you judge your happiness based on being hotter, more revered, higher up the power chain, more BDSM skilled, with more awards, or on any such externals, you will be unhappy. Adopt a self-guided sense of self and those times when life doesn't seem fair will be easier to deal with and keep you centered on real meaning.

Do stuff for others. Focus away from yourself and toward others. How can you help a fellow kinkster? How can you help improve some aspect of the leather or kink communities? Volunteer. This is where you'll find meaning that will raise you up while doing the same for others.

Avoid tearing others down. Keep your eye on your meaning and away from idle gossip or piling on others such as takes place so often on social media. Those who engage in that are not happy people. Happy and fulfilled people bolster others, even when those others might not see life or an issue the same way they do.

When encountering those who habitually denigrate others or dismiss an entire group of kinksters, you may need to back away from them entirely. Their toxicity will do nothing but divert you from meaning in your own life.

Let's all try to enjoy this amazing smorgasbord of sexuality and relationship options to their fullest by individually attaching some meaning to it all.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." That why can be meaning, and that meaning can make us happier kinksters. Give it a try.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.

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