Being kinky, queer and vulnerable online

Written by @_desire_lines (she/her)

Photography by Lauren Brits (@laurenbrits) with assistance by Kayo-Fay (@hjuiuii) and Allas du Plooy (@hey_look_its_allas)

A guy sends me a dick pic. He gets horny looking at my Instagram pictures and at 11:47 pm sends me a picture of his wholly unimpressive thing with some misspelled, all lowercase words of desire. At this exact moment, your boi is happily curled up to her wife and snoozing in bed.


The message only hits my eyeballs the next day, at work, after some shitty meeting that went on far too long. I sigh. I screengrab the message, block him and share this disgrace in my stories with the caption “ew”, his thing blurred but his name still visible.


He gets horny and spends maybe two minutes of his life interacting with the idea of me, the little bits that I express online: bits of my sexuality not intended for his gaze, but consumed by him nonetheless. The real me spends fraught moments in the hours that follow trying to understand what the fuck he was thinking. Trying to understand his stupidity, entitlement, disrespect, arrogance, and loneliness. Trying to see his humanity. Did I deserve this for being so visible online? I wish I could just let it go and move on with my day. Mental real estate, so precious to me and so tenuous, is unwillingly and brutally occupied.


I created my Instagram account to be a place to document and share my journey with my body, sexuality and vulnerability through the lens of rope bondage. I chose the name @_desire_lines very deliberately: desire lines are those well-worn paths in fields, parks and public spaces, where people have opted not to use the paved path set for them by the authorities, but have created their own, organic path that better suits their purpose and the environment itself. The creation of this account was a deliberate carving out of a space for myself, publicly, where there was to be no other person in control of my sexual expression.

After a lifetime of censoring my sexual expression, this account was a means for me to truly own my kinks, desires and image. A way to plant my flag in the heart of shame. Through posting on this account, I have been blessed to develop my skills as a bondage practitioner, and as a photographer and collaborator. I have used this account to connect to varying degrees with so many people. I have had the honour of being many people’s “first” in terms of being tied. I have created and collaborated on images I am really proud of. I have been a safe harbour and willing ear for many humans trying to find community in sex positivity. I have created spaces for learning and sharing rope skills. So much good has come from being visible and showing up.


With my image and what I am putting out into the world, I try to be very conscious about how my white, cis and mostly able body is presented. I try to have nuanced conversations about rope bondage and what it means to me. Images are presented alongside text that adds context. Often this text describes the vulnerability I experience in sharing an image. Being naked and kinky on the internet is not easy, especially for fat, queer bodies like my own. It is fulfilling, joyful and liberating to have people see my body taking up space, to see a body experiencing and creating pleasure. But it is also fraught in a way: there is fear of judgment and being misunderstood. It takes emotional labour to be visible, but I do it because I simply will not live in a world where fear stops me from being seen.


Sometimes I share photos of myself where it is very clear that my body is not conforming to the ideal beauty standard of my culture. I do this because I want to be okay with my fat rolls, my cellulite, my sagging breasts, my “imperfections”. Displaying them publicly disarms some of the control these perceived imperfections have over my life. Taking and giving pleasure in my fat, queer body and taking pleasure in publicly sharing these things... is audacious. Outrageous! The world tells us our pleasure is to be hidden, or that it doesn’t exist for female bodies, fat bodies, queer bodies. My visibility has been a hard-won battle with myself. But I won, and I continue winning every day.


Of course, all this context is completely invisible to random internet fappers who just see flesh. As disappointing as this is, it is not surprising: in my experience, the context and fullness of my sexuality was invisible during intimacy with cis men.


There was a time before I fully accepted my queerness and made the decision to pursue it, that I would mostly have sex with cis men. I have had sex with many, many cis men and all except a precious handful were unable to see and understand the nuances, inherent emotionality, full humanity, and beauty of my sexuality. It was completely beyond most of them. Sex with cis men was hollow for me, not because I did not try to be vulnerable and seen, but because they were unable to open their eyes. My vulnerability was not seen as valuable - it was seen as a liability.


It took a lot of reflecting, questioning and healing to come to an understanding of my sexuality as inextricably linked with my emotions. That understanding only really came when I gave myself hard-won permission to have sex with a woman for the first time. This in itself was a process: having been raised in a conservative Christian environment, queerness wasn’t an option for me.

The shame was deeply rooted.

A few cautious and wary years of figuring things out followed and I am blessed to report that I have never had sex with a queer person that felt invalidating in any way. I am grateful that today I am able to have sex that is more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. I truly did not believe that sex where I came every. single. time. was possible for me.


Queer sex is totally unscripted. I have learnt from my lover and wife that the person you have sex with is not responsible for your orgasms. They are rather a witness, facilitator and holder of space. Together we have created a beautiful, unscripted rhythm wherein cumming is a natural outpouring of love, acceptance and trust. I am fully seen by her, as she is by me. We don’t pretend we are okay when we are uncomfortable with something. We let each other know when we feel internal pressure and performance anxiety. Often, the simple act of expressing our fear to one another dissipates the fear entirely.


For me, this kind of radically honest sex has been a revelation. Real, self-aware intimacy has given me so much confidence in other areas of life. Knowing that I am loved just as I am, without needing to change anything about myself, without having to present myself as an idea to be accepted, gives me power.


It is through this relationship, and the ever-deepening sexual relationship I have with myself, that I have come to understand my sexuality as an ever-shifting universe. I am turned on by a few simple things, many complex things and some deep taboos. I have found that there are many ways I am able to cum, and many ways that these orgasms manifest. I have found a deep trust in my own body. Acceptance of myself as an emotional being was the crucial missing piece.


Sharing bits of my erotic and kinky world online is about accepting myself and being proud of this journey.

I wish I could say that being deeply seen within my relationship has made being fetishised by poor bastards online feel irrelevant. The truth is that receiving unsolicited attention from people is triggering, whether it happens online or in person. Sometimes it feels like an abusive act wherein I am deliberately reduced to a sex object in order to be shamed and silenced. Sometimes it feels like a horny idiot’s unfiltered emissions. Sometimes it feels like a sad and lonely person longing to be seen. I understand more than anything the need to be seen. I just wish they would find ways of being seen that don’t include violating strangers online. But that would require being vulnerable themselves.


What I create is not for their gaze and never will be. I have long since chosen to tune out of the needs and desires of cis men. Now I am choosing instead to tune into the pleasure all around me, within me and of me. Be that the pleasure of nature, of laughter, of conversation, of taboo, of sexuality, or of just being.


Pleasure is conscious enjoyment. Presence and openness. Showing up honestly. And my pleasure is something impenetrable - it is mine and only mine.

 

Written by Desire Lines (she/her)

South African


Desire is a sex- and body-positive, pleasure-centric, nerdy human who goes by @_desire_lines on the internet. A scientist by day and a bondage practitioner by night, she enjoys experimenting with the human experience in myriad ways. She is also a passionate educator, and co-founder of RopeyThings, a collective fostering inclusive bondage education in South Africa. She believes that pleasure is political, and expressions of pleasure to be expressions of freedom.


Illustration by Rendani Nemakhavhani (she/her)