How Adults Play: Gamers and Kinky People

How Adults Play: Gamers and Kinky People

You are the curious seeker who leaves home, journeys into unknown realms, and returns from your quest transformed- bearing tales, teachings, and gifts for your community. 1

 

Who is this passage describing: a gamer or a kinky person?

 

Maybe both! Here are 5 ways that gamers (someone who plays video games for fun enough to identify as a gamer) and kinky people (someone who practices BDSM, leather, fetish, or identifies as kinky) overlap. Common challenges and benefits of both chosen interests manifest some similarities that I think are worth exploring.

 

1. Archetype of outsider as a hero

BDSM kinky gamer hero archetype

In video games there are certain archetypes that are common for players. Anthony Bean in his book Working with Video Gamers and Games in Therapy describes how the main character in a game is usually first presented as an orphan or outsider of sorts. That outsider then grows into a hero through the various archetypes such as the warrior, healer, ranger, rogue, spellcaster, engineer, or athlete with the player’s help. 2

 

In this case, the gamer is not just telling a story or listening to one but acting through it, and becoming the hero in a sense. The same is true for an outsider who engages in a sexual play scene. The video game archetypes may even hold some merit in the kink world as well.

 

With both folks, the hero archetype may extend to real life in which they claim the alternative identity, find other folks who share that identity, and find pride in that alternative. 1

 

2. Importance of play in adult life.

play BDSM kinky gamer

Play is something that is often ignored -or worse- exiled once we grow up. However, play continues to have the same benefits of development, creativity, and regulation for adults. The play just evolves over time and becomes balanced in different ways.

 

Play is a form of communication or language that engages the imagination, suspends belief, and is a way to process emotional content in a safe place.2 Play therapists work with children through the medium of play rather than talk therapy in order to meet the child where they are at developmentally. Play, art, and other forms of creative expression engage the right side of the brain which is vital in processing emotions. We still need to access this right-brained content as adults! It’s half of who we are.

 

It’s important to note the dynamics of power in play. Sometimes folks want to be aggressive, in positions of power, or violent through play. Examples include being a villain in a video game or being Dominant in kink play. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are wishing they could be bullies or abusers in real life. In fact it is the submissive person in kink play that has more power in the scene by setting clear boundaries beforehand. This brings me to my next point of some often misunderstood points of how adult play affects folks.

 

3. Facing prejudice and discrimination based on interests.

discrimination outsider BDSM kinky gamer

Unfortunately, gamers and kinky people alike can face rejection, misunderstanding, shame, prejudice, and discrimination based on their interests. There is a tricky relationship between the behavior you choose to engage in and identity. Sometimes the identity is claimed by the person and sometimes it’s imposed on the person. Nonetheless, the video game violence debate and kinky people as disturbed are both examples of separate accounts of moral panic.

 

Here are Cohen’s (1972) five key stages of moral panic to give you an overview of how this erupts in society:

  1. Someone, something, or a group are considered to be a threat to social norms or general community interests.
  2. The threat is depicted as a simple and recognizable form or symbol for easy recognition by the media.
  3. The portrayal and information about the form or symbol rouses public concerns creating an uneasy tension.
  4. There is a response from recognized authorities and policy makers to help quell the fear.
  5. The moral panic issues result in societal change. 3

 

I’m of course skipping over some history here but in present day there are diagnoses in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)4 that help rouse stigma.

Sexual Masochism Disorder and Sexual Sadism Disorder both reflect studies done with the criminal justice system rather than individuals who practice these behaviors in a healthy, consensual situation. 1 More recently Gaming Disorder has been proposed as a condition under review to the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases 11thRevision).5 I wrote a whole blog post on my thoughts on that here.

 

4. Managing authenticity and autonomy.

BDSM kinky gamer authenticity and autonomy

Thus, the choice to come out as kinky, or in some professional settings as a gamer becomes quite the pickle. To embrace your identity means risking acceptance but gaining authenticity and integrity. To hide your identity means maintaining acceptance and access to opportunities but at the cost of authenticity and trust. 1

 

In a similar vein, both interests are neutral in that they can be used in healthy or unhealthy ways. So, risk assessment becomes crucial for yourself or someone helping you (hi I’m a counselor!) to explore your patterns and intentions.

To rise above the stigma and embrace your interests to the point that you’re comfortable means that you are able to move in connection with similar others.

 

5. Being part of a subculture community.

Conventions BDSM kinky gamer alternative subculture community

Both gamers and kinky people have beliefs and resources for what is healthy physically and psychologically. In addition, each community has tools for information, exploration, and growth with regards to the specific kind of play. Being part of a subculture community means finding your tribe, your people, and a safe place to make sense of your play in relation to others. You are able to be both a unique individual and a part of something bigger than yourself.


Thank you for reading this lengthier blog! As always if you have questions or comments, let me know below. I’m available for individual counseling in south Austin, so reach out to me today to schedule a free 30-minute in-person consult to see about working with me.


Here are some resources to get you started in each of the fields of interest:

For kink:

CARAS (Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities)

BDSM Wiki

Leather Archives and Museum

Safe, Sane, and Consensual

Risk Aware Consensual Kink

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction book

The New Topping Book

The New Bottoming Book

 

For gamers:

Games for Change Festival

Child’s Play Charity (With a Therapeutic Video Game Guide)

RPG Therapeutics LLC

Twitch TV

PAX Conventions

Geek Therapy


References

  1. Sexual Outsiders by David Ortmann
  2. Working with Video Gamers and Games in Therapy by Anthony M. Bean
  3. Cohen’s (1972) stages of moral panic.
  4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition
  5. International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision

Julia Stamman, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Ann Stoneson, LPC-S

 

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