I spent a long time being virtually obsessed with the very concept of sexual kinks. If you’re not entirely familiar with the term, a ‘kink’ is any kind of sexual fetish, desire or activity outside of our collective understanding of what is ‘socially acceptable’.
My fascination with sex kinks came from a (quite prolonged) period in my teenage years, spent watching too much porn. I was a young woman coming-of-age, always horny and ashamed of it. I always thought of porn as a man’s thing to enjoy – influenced by the obvious male gaze that dominates the majority of pornography. I knew I enjoyed it, but I felt like I was trespassing. Still, there was excitement to be gained from finding out what I liked.
The video that roused my interest in kinks was trending on the homepage of some seedy website, the thumbnail a dark haired woman on her knees, straining to look up at the camera, eyes rolling to the back of her head, licking a toilet bowl. Obviously I clicked it – I had to know more about this woman, she stood out from everybody else, after all. It turned out to be an infamous video – known by porn connoisseurs everywhere, and much gif-ed on Tumblr. It was the brilliant and sexy Sasha Grey, wearing lashings of simply unforgettable purple eyeshadow that I did my absolute best to recreate.
Shortly after licking said toilet bowl, she and a rather inconsequential man have anal sex. His presence is so irrelevant to the video that he might as well not even be there. That’s the gist of it. It had hundreds of thousands of views – I’m almost certain people are still watching it now. Surely, part of its popularity is the tendency so many of us have: to become familiar with the unfamiliar, to investigate, to see how that unusual thing makes us feel.
Back then – and we’re going back years – I knew I’d watched something different to the usual porn film. Depending on how you felt about it; Sasha had either turned something literally dirty into something sexy, or she had just done something literally dirty. Either way, it gets a reaction, harbours the ability to rouse unexpected feelings. That’s important. For a long while, I had been trawling through thousands of dead-behind-the-eyes videos, desperate to find something that would get me off. Sasha Grey’s videos changed that for me. There was life and there was excitement. There was room to explore. And it turns out she was on a mission: “I want to tell young women that sex is OK […] You don’t have to be ashamed. People think that young women can’t understand sex, that there will be consequences for our actions, but we can be as analytical as anyone.”
Sasha worked in the porn industry between the ages of 18-21, and her reason for leaving, at the time, was “there wasn’t anything left for me to do”. She is known for being ‘extreme’ – so many of Sasha’s films dealt with kinks of some kind, from mild kinks, like foot fetishes, to those more extreme but acknowledged, like gangbangs, to those almost guaranteed to attract disapproving looks, like drinking her own urine or asking to be punched in the stomach.
Whether or not you consider her to be extreme, I don’t really think it matters. She was genuinely enjoying herself. The porn that Sasha made almost always had a strong focus on her, the woman actress, her pleasure, and her apparent love of performing in front of the camera. “There are plenty of us [porn actresses] that are just as perverted as the next guy, and who enjoy doing this!”, she said. So much of Sasha’s porn is artistic, in its own way. People are likely to sneer at the idea of porn as art, but I think that’s an incredibly misogynistic view to hold.
As I have gotten older, I have largely phased out sites like Redtube, or Pornhub, in favour of sites like Bellesa – a feminist site that markets itself as “porn for women” – everybody is paid fairly, is fully consenting, and the women always come, too. It’s been many years since I first touched myself. As I’ve learned more about my body, my pleasure, and what I look for when I want to orgasm – I have been thinking a lot about sexual kinks in a different way.
I’ve been wondering if I have any, the difference between watching something and wanting it to happen in real life, why some people do have kinks and some people don’t, why some people talk openly about it, why some people feel like they can’t, and who I’d be comfortable talking to about what flashes through my head when I masturbate. And also: what is ‘socially acceptable’, anyway? Especially when it comes to sex.
Who makes the rules and why were they allowed to dictate whether I’m fucked up or not? Why should I ever feel ashamed to talk about what I like? It feels freeing to know that I’m over that when I used to worry so much about it. Most people would agree that if everybody involved is happy, healthy, and consenting, then it’s okay and nobody’s right to judge. That’s hardly ground-breaking. But I do think we should feel more comfortable talking about what we like, beyond what we are told we should like, and Sasha Grey played a huge part in helping to form that belief and the confidence it takes.
I used to get off on choking, but that’s so commonplace now that it seems almost tedious to write. BDSM, sure! Voyeurism! Role play! Sometimes I think about dressing up as somebody else with the sole intention of having sex with a stranger I’d never see again, but I think I just get bored of being me sometimes. I like it when it’s rough. I think I’d enjoy watching other people have sex. I think a lot about group sex when I masturbate, but I’m not convinced it’s something I’d want to do. Still, who knows. Tie me up, please, but don’t forget to ask me my safe word. I’d try most things once. Sex is about exploration. I’ve never wanted to lick a toilet bowl, but I’m so glad Sasha Grey did and so glad I discovered her. She taught me at a crucial age that it’s okay to enjoy sex, and it’s okay to want more than missionary in the dark and a fake orgasm. I will be grateful eternally.