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Kinky Clients and The Origin Story

Published on 29 January 2023

This month's GSRD guest blog comes from Bay Whitaker.


Bay Whitaker is a counsellor and Director of the small group practice Sheffield Central Counselling (link since 2008.  She identifies as cishet and kinky, and has been involved in Clinical Discussion groups and CPD around therapy for kinky clients for over 10 years.



If you’re kinky, and over the age of about 30, I’m betting you’ve wondered about the origin story behind your kink.   The story that will answer the question: “why am I turned on by these things, and not those things?”

Most people think sexual preferences are developed during our very early years.  And we also know that much of our early years’ experience is not available to memory.   Obviously, we may have a few little shards of memory: postcard moments we might cringe at or treasure.  And some of these might have a sexual charge, even if we didn’t realise at the time that that was what it was.

For many of us, who from childhood were fascinated by, say, bondage, or rubber, or the smell of shoes, the origin story must be built - creatively filled in from those charged memory fragments together with other assumptions about what it means to be kinky. “I saw my auntie spanking my sister, that’s where it started”, or “my brother used to tickle my feet and I found it weirdly thrilling.”

What makes us seek an origin story? 

Vanilla folks (i.e. people who aren’t kinky), when I ask them what made them the way they are sexually, tend to look blankly at me.  They’ve never asked themselves that question! 

I sometimes run seminars for therapists, about working with kinky clients, and it’s an interesting moment when I ask this.  It can be a moment of realisation for vanilla therapists, of their sexual privilege.  Like being white, or straight, or able-bodied, being vanilla is deemed “normal” and hence, no origin story is required; no explanation is needed.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, being gay was considered a perversion by many people.  That word, “perversion”, literally means “a distortion or corruption of the original course of something”.  Hence, a lot of us thought there must be an origin story for people being gay – something must have happened to you, to make you gay.  This story would explain what had gone “wrong” with them… which is basically, what we mean by the term “pathologizing”.  It’s fancy way of saying, there’s something wrong with you.  Increasingly, I see the impulse of kinksters to find their origin story, as a form of self-pathologizing.

What’s good or bad about an origin story?

Since homosexuality has become more accepted, we’ve got used to the idea that some people just are gay.  No origin story is required.  And I think what I’m saying is, if we kinksters feel the need to have our own origin story, then sometimes it can feel that we are buying into the “perversion” view of kink. Something must have happened to us to make us this way.  Another bit of fancy terminology is “internalised oppression” – some of us kinksters have learned to think of ourselves that way, because society thinks of us that way.

Now, admittedly, some kinksters may be attached to their origin story.  Some have even  reclaimed the term “pervert” and proudly self-identify using that word.  OK.  That’s our right.  Yet if we do decide to create and hold on to an origin-story, it can, sometimes, feel quite a sad or bitter way to think of our life.

I say that because, to be kinky is to lack the privilege of the vanilla world.  Satisfying sexual relationships may be harder to find.  Sometimes a lot harder if your kink is a rare one!  We’re liable to be mocked, or blackmailed.  Our privacy is treated more like guilty-secrecy because of general prejudices against kinky people.  Framed like that, the Origin Story is a story of secret loss.  If that thing hadn’t happened, then I would have been ‘normal’.  My life, my romantic and sexual relationships might have been a whole lot easier.

(Incidentally, I’ve sometimes met kinksters who say they never thought about kink till some partner got them into it as an adult.  For those people, their origin story is of a different order, fairly straightforward, and not what I’m exploring here.) 

Replacing the origin story

When I asked the vanilla attendees at my workshop what made them sexually as they are, they had no answer.  But…. they did have memories, as many of us have – not sexual, but early inklings of the sexual.   And most kinksters have plenty of such memories too (that cowboy film where they tied up the young handsome bandit, that museum visit where we saw stocks and a pillory). 

What if we try an experiment?  What if we decide to view the memories that our origin stories hangs on a bit differently?  Perhaps seeing your aunt spank your sister didn’t make you kinky, but was an early inkling of your kinkiness.  Your brother’s tickling your feet didn’t give you a foot fetish, but your experience of it was an early indicator that you’re into feet. 

My guess is, that as kink becomes more acceptable (a very welcome revolution thanks to the internet) kinksters who are coming of age now will not automatically seek an origin story.  This may happen because kink is increasingly seen as just a different way that some people are.  And if some people just are kinky, we can abandon the ideas of perversion, and stop pathologizing kinky people.  In doing so, perhaps we will change the function and flavour of The Origin Story.


Bay Whitaker


Sheffield Central Counselling Ltd





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