First off, let me say I’m pro kink writing. I think it’s a wonderful way to explore character. Also, this isn’t an essay to try and narrowly define acceptable kink. Honest. Anything goes. If I don’t want to read a story, I don’t. There now, isn’t that easy? And that’s about where my authority on the subject of acceptable starts and ends. This is a bit of a rant on what I think has become the overuse of the now catch-all phrase “kink”. Seriously. I know it’s an umbrella slang term anyway, but things have become silly in fandom. It’s come to be used for readers’ personal ‘thing’ or story situations: trapped in an elevator, sex in the bathtub, using a condom on the dildo. So I have some terminology suggestions to help sort this out and clarify things.
Kink- still the slang umbrella term, but can we narrow it back down to sexually deviant acts? The key word there being ACTS. Deviant, of course, is much harder to define. How about something you would not even tell your best friend about yourself? Really, really don’t want the neighbors to know about? Can we at least agree that sex in a shower or bathtub isn’t that kinky? It’s just a place the characters had sex. Let’s use the word Kink for deviant acts that are a part of sex. This is in no way to narrowly define Kink as BDSM or D/s. There’s a whole range of Play authors have characters engage in. Maybe “Play” is the key here. I don’t know.
Fetish- not used often enough. Where Kink can be used for an act, can we start to use Fetish again for objects and clothing? One character’s preference to see the other in uniform; “you can leave your hat on”; strap-on dildo; high heels; Reid and his maps (Criminal Minds): let’s call this Fetish. Actually, having a fetish is a much narrower definition, but if we are tightening the use of Kink, maybe we can expand the meaning of Fetish in fandom. While some Fetishes are generally considered deviant enough to be called kinky (Reid and his maps), a Fetish isn’t necessarily Kink. In today’s climate is a dildo really that deviant? Much less a hat? And a character that is turned on by gloves isn’t by default going to have kinky sex. It’ll be much clearer if we start using this wonderful term again.
Phelia- can we start using this? I humbly suggest using Phelia for the ‘everything else’ we’ve started using Kink for: the ‘situation’ that’s hot, the reader’s personal thing, the character’s ‘switch’ in the back of their mind. A character’s fine until they’re undercover then the danger starts to get them hot and bothered? - Phelia. Can’t get enough hurt/comfort stranded at sea stories? - Phelia.
There will be overlap, some things will mix or run from one to the next. It would be phelialicious to read a story where Reid indulges in his map fetish while, unbeknownst to him, Emily watches; of course Emily is then caught by JJ who decides to get a little kinky and ask Emily to masturbate for her while they both watch Reid; only to end with Emily’s self denial of her own orgasm much to JJ’s frustration. (Criminal Minds) See, this can be fun. Or (Law & Order) Mike Cutter loves getting spanked by Connie Rubirosa but only with the fetish twist of letting his framed picture of Jack McCoy watch. (Any fandom) Leave the heels on in the tender love scene- the fetish is the character’s phelia. Or just have a simple kink whipping scene and be done with it. I just wish the sordid was a little more sorted out.