Why are kinky people kinky? If you’re kinky, can you tell me why you are that way? Ask a kinky person this and I bet the most likely answer you’re going to get is “I don’t know; I just am.” Interestingly, ask a gay person why they’re gay, and you’ll get the same answer. Conclusion? It’s not rocket science. Kinky is an orientation, too.

But let’s delve a little deeper, noting for the moment that we will try to avoid the natural chicken-and-egg debate that always erupts from such digging.

We know there are lots of kinds of kinky, but they don’t. I know that a sexual orientation has lots of facets, different pieces that together form the make up of someone’s sexuality, the combined physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual makeup of an individual. But again, they don’t.

Sexual orientation itself is a word most often thought of as a definition for someone’s desire for a particular sex, as in a physical anatomical construct, even though the word sexual, as implied earlier is often understood as a combination of so many more things than simply physical sex.

So, today, I propose that submissive is an orientation—a facet of desired sexual expression—of psychological power, just as straight is an orientation of sex.

It’s not a radical thought. It’s been talked about before. It’s very straightforward, and I’m sure even without a thorough explanation of what I mean most of you already know what I’m talking about. You know what I’m talking about, I’m willing to bet, because you feel it, too. Some of you are dominant—a valid orientation, as top reciprocates bottom, as gay reciprocates gay, and straight reciprocates straight—and some of you are switches.

Yet, somehow, I think the reciprocal ideas and validity that a sexual orientation that defines a desire for a particular sex and/or gender has done for ideas like “gay,” and “straight,” have not done the same thing for “submissive” or “dominant” because these “power orientations” (for want of a better phrase) haven’t been recognized as valid pieces of sexual componentry, only of sexual expression. In other words, being submissive is recognized as a valid expression of sexual desire (and even that’s pushing it, I know), but it’s still not recognized as a valid component of one’s sexual psyche.

This is wrong.

Being submissive is who I am sexually. I can not imagine being any other way. Furthermore, I have always been submissive sexually. The very first sexualized memory I have is one of a fantasy that involves orgasm control, and ever since then and probably from well before, control and power have been inexorably linked to my expressions of sexual fulfillment. In other words, for me sexual arousal is tied to feeling submissive; I rarely, if ever, feel turned on unless I also feel submissive (in one of myriad ways).

On this very blog, before I could articulate such concepts (which, somewhat amazingly, was only last year), I see vestiges of my submissive self thinking about this very thing, wondering “Is there such a thing as regular sex?” Regular sex, I defined at the time, was sex without a dominant or submissive power dynamic, sex devoid of the expressions of power imbalance that, to me (I am learning), are intrinsic to the very core of my sex drive. Without this power imbalance, and specifically without the power imbalance shifted so that I am a submissive participant, the sex is not sexy for me.

This makes sense. There are, obviously, no surprises here, and I came to the same conclusion in March of 2007 as I did today. It makes sense that I would get off being the submissive partner because I’m obviously submissive, doesn’t it? What’s the big revelation?

The revelation comes from the observation that this fact, this obvious and self-evident expression of who I am and how I want to fuck is not given a status anywhere near that even of the still-oppressed gay and lesbian identities are given. Homosexuality is regarded by mostly everyone, including its vocal opponents, as a part of who someone is. It’s recognized and understood to be intrinsic to a person’s sexual understanding. Can the same be said for those of us who seek submission and/or dominance?

Are you sure? I’ve heard people ask, “Is kinky the new gay?” Maybe this is why they’re asking.

In this day and age when same-sex civil union is a hot-button issue, and we as a species are still seemingly so far away from any kind of reconciliation with one another’s basic anatomical differences (including skin color, for pete’s sake!), any attempts to challenge this perceived as threatening to our insular social order are literally eviscerated from the community as though they were cancers. This is somewhat more understandable when you change your perspective and notice the similarities between that behavior and the behavior of our own cells that attack tumors in exactly the same way. But at least we, as a species, are getting better.

As Robert Wright reminds us, cooperation eventually trumps competition. At one point in history each Greek city-state thought villagers from other Greek-city states were subhuman, but eventually all Greeks agreed that all other Greeks were human—it was just the Persians that were subhuman. With our networked world today, by and large, we no longer see geographical boundaries as the ones that divide us and instead of where we live we’ve come to focus on how we live.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t want to live like certain other men. More topically, I don’t want to have sex like them. I’m often asked why I feel that way, which is a bewildering question to me. “Why don’t I want to have sex like that?” I repeat, dumbfounded, nine times out of ten. “Because it’s not sexy for me!”

“Why not?” the issue is pressed.

“Well, why do you think that’s sexy for you?” I insist.

“I don’t know. I just do.”

“Exactly.” Because submissive is an orientation.