What Kink Means

Lessons from HUMP!

Aaron Mayer
5 min readMay 12, 2020

Last Saturday, I had the immense pleasure of watching the 2020 HUMP! Film Festival.

For the woefully uninitiated, HUMP! is a collection of 5-minute pornographic films submitted annually by ordinary people like you and me, then selected and curated by Dan Savage, the man behind the Savage Love sex column. Usually, the festival is screened in theaters around the world so that, as Dan puts it, “You get to watch porn the way your grandparents did: in a giant dark room next to strangers.” But because of the ‘rona this year, I had to unfortunately watch it online, like a pleeb.

If you’re reading this before June 12th, 2020, there’s still time to buy tickets and watch the films for yourself! If not, there’s always next year’s screening. More details at humpfilmfest.com.

Not a paid promotion, I swear!

I’m not supposed to share too many details since the people submitting films are just regular folks, not pornstars, and they keep the films very private, but I will say this: the submissions were fabulous! I’ve seen HUMP! for many years, and this was definitely my favorite year. We saw folks fucking in rubber compression chambers, shower threesomes, googly eyes on genitals, expert bondage practitioners, pancake batter in all kinds of orifices, and much more.

It was a celebration of kink in all its glory.

To be clear, not all of HUMP!’s films are kinky — but there is a strong lean in that direction, especially since the whole purpose of HUMP! is to buck the trends of mainstream pornography, highlight diverse body types and fetishes, and showcase queer and gender non-conforming porn.

Kink is a sexual subculture (or domculture 😉) that is typified by whips and chains and black leather, but of course there’s so much more to it than that.

Anyone who practices the kinky arts will tell you that kinkiness is primarily about sexual freedom — it’s an expression of individuality.

Kink isn’t handcuffs and gags: it’s a sexual philosophy. A mentality of open-mindedness. A belief that nothing should be taboo and that humans are sexual beings who deserve sexual pleasure in whatever way they desire.

We are a horny species, and we’re one of the few animals on this planet that doesn’t just have sex for procreation. We’ve been harnessing our ingenuity and intelligence for sex since the stone age (seriously, we’ve found 30,000 year-old dildos). We invented birth control and vibrators and Ryan Gosling. Clearly, we’re a species that loves to get down.

And yet there are billions of people in the world (some of whom are painfully members of congress) who still believe that kink is grossly unethical. While being kinky may be fine in places like San Francisco, Berlin, or my home of New York City, it is still considered deviant in most places, and criminal in others. This leads to an atmosphere of shame and stigma, and so many kinky people face explicit and implicit hostility from those who insist that sexual variance is congruent with immorality.

This is completely indefensible. I have a degree in moral philosophy, and I can tell you with certainty that there are is absolutely no philosophical justification for declaring that any form of sexual behavior is illegitimate or wrong, so long as the behavior is being done by enthusiastically consenting adults.

That’s why public events like HUMP! are so important: they show that everyone is a unique individual with unique desires. Simply exposing an audience to those desires can chip away at the atmosphere of shame and stigma, which has political consequences as well.

In his introduction to the film festival, Dan Savage said how merely talking about sexual preferences that don’t fit society’s patriarchal, puritanical conception of sex is a modest act of resistance — a resistance that is necessary in order to overturn the regressive and oppressive policies that have caused immeasurable pain and needless suffering for centuries.

Personally, HUMP! has helped me examine my inner prejudices and take notice of the ways in which I harbor my own vestiges of sexual repression.

I grew up in an orthodox Jewish community in which we were told not to masturbate, not to touch people of the opposite sex, and certainly not to touch people of the same sex. It took me years to free myself from the grip of sexual guilt that my rabbis wove around me, and while I’m so tempted to make a joke here about kink and the black leather tefillin straps we used to wear everyday, I’ll spare you the mental imagery.

Thankfully, I’ve escaped the clutches of dogma, and I owe that largely to the wonderful people who have helped me along my journey by introducing me to things like HUMP!.

I’ve returned to HUMP! year after year because I’m always exposed to new ideas, new positions, and new gadgets I want to try out. Also, the films are really fucking hot. There’s no better way to learn something new about yourself than by watching porn; as my friend put it, “HUMP! makes you grow in more ways than one!”

But this year’s lesson was different for me.

The newest realization in my ongoing sexual awakening is that there isn’t a progression from vanilla to kink. It’s not like one side of the spectrum is more “advanced” than the other, and while kink may require some advanced expertise, that doesn’t necessarily mean it leads to better sex. I had been operating under the assumption that kink was somehow cooler than “normal” sex, and that I had to try out the blindfolds and wax and plugs and clamps and whips in order to “level up.”

Of course, that’s completely bogus.

I’ve learned that kink isn’t something you do to earn a badge, it’s a lifestyle that you adopt when you discover what you want and have the guts to do something about it.

You love getting slapped on the ass? Great! You fantasize about having sex with a fireman? Fantastic! You want someone to squirt in your hair? More power to you!

Rather than demonizing people for their tastes, we should praise them for their courage in speaking up for themselves (and laud their creativity while we’re at it)!

Watching HUMP!, I was proud and impressed by all the people — again, regular folks, not professionals — who were brave enough to explore their desires even in the face of hostility, and who know themselves well enough to embody those desires fully.

To me, that’s the epitome of kink: the practice of consciously choosing to follow your desires and not letting people or politicians stand in your way.

I believe that society would be far better off if we all strove to love consciously, to discover the sex that we truly desire, and have the amazingly fulfilling sex that we all deserve.

Frankly, that sounds pretty kinky to me.