A number of times over the last week or so, this post has popped up on my Facebook and Fetlife feeds. It was written by Race Bannon some years ago about whether the world of kink should have its own form of certification for presenters and players. If I understand correctly, the whole point of certifications would be to ensure that you are playing with or learning from someone who actually knows what they are doing.
Bannon is less than fond of the idea, and raises some legitimate concerns:
He goes on to point out, and rightfully so, that these certifications can actually create a false sense of security.
The bulk of what makes someone good at sex (BDSM or any other erotic interaction) goes far beyond what can be taught or learned in the traditional sense. Good sex is about the character of the individuals involved. It’s about the level of attraction. It’s about their erotic moods and circumstances. It’s about their sensitivity to the erotic needs of their partner. It’s about how empathic and attuned a partner is to the other. Yes, in some cases it’s about skill and technique. But the other factors I’ve mentioned generally trump skills and techniques in most cases. Ultimately, good sex (including BDSM) is about connection. And you don’t need to be credentialed or certified to connect erotically with another human being.
And what are the dangers when a community looks to a BDSM credential and assumes it means safety and assumes it means competence. Bad players will inevitably get through such a system and graduate to perceived competence.
This phenomenon already happens more than most of us are comfortable admitting. A couple of years ago, Yes Means Yes posted about an incident where someone was severely harmed by a title holder. Anecdotally, I know more than a few people who have had their consent breached by well known community icons who most definitely know better. On a side note, I happen to be in a profession that requires me to have schmancy letters after my name. These letters are the result of work and training. As such, they provide me an authority I would not have if I were just some chick with an opinion on the Internet. That said, there are credentialed therapists and social workers out there who have engaged in highly unethical therapeutic practices. (I occasionally joke that there needs to be a #notalltherapists hashtag campaign.) Even still, I’m glad that credentialing exists, even though it is a far from perfect system.
Conversely, I think that the sexuality education community would benefit tremendously from the knowledge base that kinksters can provide. Kink educators tend to be better equipped to engage the many complexities and seeming contradictions of human connection. Kink educators are less afraid to tackle subjects that may be taboo. Also, kink educators know more about how the human body reacts to intense stimulation, and how to ride those edges without harming or sending anyone to the ER. I have to believe that everyone will benefit from the cross pollination of resources between kink and general sexuality educators.