Tag Archives: kink

Editing the Vanilla Privilege Checklist

I’m still getting pingbacks on “Thoughts about Vanilla Privilege” saying “maybe, but as a POC/woman/queer, I also get shamed/victim blamed/commodified.” And, yeah, your possession of vanilla privilege doesn’t invalidate that or somehow make it less objectionable. What your vanilla privilege does do is make sure that the level of kink you desire/act upon is not a contributing factor to the shaming/victim-blaming/commodification. Which is nothing to be, like, overwhelmedly grateful for. But it’s everything to be at least fucking aware of.

I haven’t seen it stated formally anywhere else, but my definition of “privilege” is this: privilege on any given axis (be it class, race, gender, etc.) is the guarantee that the dominant culture won’t persecute you on the basis of your position on that axis. No one commits hate crimes against straight people, for example, so all of them have straight privilege regardless of the actual amount of violence any individual straight person has suffered. Being a victim in a differently-motivated hate crime does not mean that you don’t have straight privilege, it means that you quite clearly suffer from a different oppression.

With that in mind, this is my attempt to write a Vanilla Privilege Checklist. I modeled mine after Peacock Angel’s, which has been criticized for missing intersections between race/gender/sexual orientation and kink. (I would argue that a lot of hir statements with regards to the government and media availability are also western-centric).

But the ultimate problem with the original Vanilla Privilege Checklist is the same as the problem with a number of privilege checklists: it infers that the privileged people have all been given a set of benefits for being privileged on one axis without taking into account the fact that many “vanilla privileges” have been taken away from vanilla people on some other basis, like their race.

My checklist aims to refrain from making assumptions about vanilla people’s experiences. Instead, I focused on highlighting the ways in which vanilla people are not exposed to systematic oppression based on the level of kink they desire. Which is, somewhat redundantly, the reason they are privileged.

Most of the words are from this checklist; my corrections are made by crossing out the objectionable phrases and rewriting them in blue.

  • A vanilla person does not have to fear that discovery of their being vanilla will have an effect on their work life.
  • A vanilla person usually does not have to worry about the potential legal implications of sex in the manner they prefer with a the vanilla nature of sex they had with a consenting adult partner.
  • A vanilla person does not have to worry about their being vanilla as having bearing on whether they are considered fit to be parents.
  • A vanilla person doesn’t have to worry about their being vanilla being thought of as diseased or pathological.
  • A vanilla person will have an easier time finding depictions of people with sex lives similar to their own that are equally vanilla in the media.
  • A vanilla person will not have their sexual orientation called into question due to their sexual practices the vanilla nature of their sexual practices.
  • A vanilla person will have comparably easy access to reliable dealing with safety surrounding their sexual practices not be refused access to sexual safety information on the grounds that they are vanilla.
  • A vanilla person seeking medical attention due to an accident that occurred during sex will not face scrutiny or be treated unsympathetically because of the vanilla nature of their sexual activity.
  • Vanilla is not used as a pejorative. The word “vanilla” in this context will never be appropriated to mean “kinky but passionate.”
  • A vanilla person will not be assumed to be a sexual predator because of their vanilla sexual practices, nor will language used to refer to vanilla people as a group be used to describe rapists and perpetrators.
  • A vanilla person will have an easy time finding media that portrays people with their sexual preferences a desire for vanilla sex sympathetically and accurately will be easier to find than media that portrays kinky people similarly.
  • Vanilla people will never have their sexual practices the vanilla aspect of their sexual practices used for shock value.
  • A vanilla person does not have to worry about outsiders perceiving their relationship the vanilla aspects of their relationship as abusive or pathological.
  • Safe spaces for vanilla courtship and socializing are not privilege to legal harassment in the way BDSM clubs are.
  • A vanilla person will not have their being vanilla brought up during a rape investigation (either as accuser or accused)
  • Vanilla people can assume their relationship partners will not find their sexual arousal pattern the vanilla nature of their sexual arousal pattern disgusting.
  • A vanilla person will not fear their sexual practices the vanilla nature of their sexual practices counting against them in a divorce.
  • A vanilla person will not be asked about the origins of their sexual arousal pattern vanilla status, or have it assumed their sexual arousal pattern vanilla status stems from trauma or disease.
  • A vanilla person will not have to worry much about their roommate discovering their vanilla-ness.
  • A vanilla person’s actions will not be attributed to their being vanilla.  (Many people link people’s bad actions to their kinkiness, “Well of course he’s a thief, he’s kinky”)
  • Symbols of vanilla affection/romance will not be appropriated as “edgy” fashion statements (E.G. collars)
  • Discovery of equipment associated with vanilla sexual practices, provided they are otherwise privileged (condoms, lubricant, even a vibrator) although embarrassing will not result people’s drastically changing their opinion of the person in question.
  • A vanilla person will not have their masculinity/femininity called into question because of their dominance/submission in bed (I.E. A woman who enjoys being sexually dominant may be called unfeminine, or a man who enjoys being sexually submissive may be called unmasculine)
  • The discovery of a famous person having vanilla sex (provided it is within the other realms of privileged sex, monogamous, heterosexual, etc) Finding out that a celebrity prefers vanilla sex will not be considered news worthy.
  • A vanilla person’s sex related equipment (E.G. Condoms, lubricant, dental dams) will be regulated by government agencies and tested thoroughly for efficacy and safety.
  • Vanilla people can find numerous studies relating to their sexuality and sexual desire from the scientific community that do not treat them their vanilla status as marginal or pathological.
  • A vanilla person can count on the media to usually get the symbols associated with their relationships generally right (Here’s an example of the media getting it wrong, dominants generally don’t wear collars)
  • There is accurate medical research on the effects of vanilla sex upon the human body, kinky people are left with scraps here and there and anecdotal evidence.  We still don’t know if it’s safe to flog breasts. When researchers set out to study the effects of sex on the human body, they are thinking of vanilla sex.
  • A vanilla person will not worry about how their vanilla-ness reflect upon their gender, sex, sexuality, age group, etc etc etc.
  • A person’s political beliefs will not be called into question due to their being vanilla.  (For example, a heterosexual man who identifies as a feminist and acts as a good feminist but is sexually dominant may be told he is a bad feminist for enjoying a dominant role during sex, same for a heterosexual female submissive, or a sexually dominant woman may be called an angry feminist due to her preference for a dominant role during sex)
  • A vanilla person will have an easy time finding a counselor who understands and is sympathetic towards their vanilla status sexual practices.
  • Vanilla-ness is not vilified or exotified by the media (For exotification/vilification of the kink community check out basically any CSI/Bones/Law and Order type show with an episode that deals with kink, or numerous episodes of shows like 1000 Ways To Die)
  • A vanilla person can remain ignorant of terms involved in BDSM.
  • A vanilla person will not be assumed to be sexually experienced because of their vanilla-ness.
  • Vanilla is not taken to mean sexually available.
  • A vanilla person can go their entire life without being called vanilla.
  • As always, most importantly, a vanilla person can ignore their vanilla privilege.


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Thoughts on Vanilla Privilege

It exists, basically.

I’m kind of surprised that this is a contentious issue all of a sudden (or at least, among my circle of people on the internet). One of the “reasons” being spread around for the nonexistance of vanilla privilege is the fact that it can be mitigated by being queer or trans* (or sometimes a POC). Which is a weird argument because A LOT of privilege can be mitigated by other sources of oppression. That’s the whole point of the fucking kyriarchy. A middle-class fat person still has economic privilege, even though they might not be able to get the same quality of healthcare their thin, middle-class counterparts have (because the fat person don’t have thin privilege). But their experience of marginalization doesn’t NEGATE their privilege on other axises. The same applies for a vanilla queer person who is *also* told that their sexuality is resultant from childhood trauma (and therefore illegitimate, natch >.<)

But mostly, I think the people who are throwing around those excuses and refusing to really consider what vanilla privilege looks like are being defensive.

Guys. Having privilege is not a sign of poor character or a refutation of the discrimination you *have* experienced. Please calm down and listen to people when they tell you about how hard it has been for them to escape a bad relationship/get nonjudgmental medical care/stay employed/relate to their vanilla friends/etc because of a systematic, cultural oppression that you just don’t face.

Also, when all of the mainstream portrayals of kink are inacted by people who aren’t out as kinky and used solely to give the scene/song/flat, non-recuring character more “grit”—that’s tokenization. Yes, some kinky people use that ONE way in which we are EVER acknowledged as a source of pride that, by necessity, implies that vanilla people are boring. Assholes will be assholes, but trying to re-frame a stereotype that actively hurts us doesn’t negate the systematic damage that the “kinky = weird and edgy; vanilla = totally normal” paradigm does to us.

(cross-posted on tumblr)


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