A lot of my work is centered around alternative sexuality. That means, among other things, kinky sex…like the stuff from Fifty Shades of Grey. (Note: I use that example because of its popularity. I am very much not a fan of the books for multiple reasons, but I won’t get into that now.) I recently got into a discussion with someone who said they just don’t understand why anyone would want to engage in kink. It is a discussion I’ve had many times.
This person was telling me all of the reasons that they wouldn’t choose to many of the things that others choose to do sexually. First came the argument that they simply wouldn’t enjoy it. Then there was the litany of what I’ll call “logical” reasons – it could be dangerous or cause long term harm, it is a result of our culture’s need for extreme things, etc.
I countered those objections. I talked about how different people experience sensation differently, so what is painful to one person is enjoyable to another. I talked about how we often are willing to undergo some discomfort in the short term for long term benefit (for me that’s exercising!). I even suggested that we often do things that are harmful or potentially harmful because we deem the cost to be small enough and the benefit to be great enough.
Their response was that they still didn’t want to do any of those things and still had objections to them. And they should. My responses weren’t intended to make this person want to try any of the activities being discussed. The intent was to create awareness of how others might like something or choose to do something that this person wouldn’t.
There is a distinction here that often gets lost in the shuffle. It is entirely possible to understand how and why someone else likes something or makes choices that we wouldn’t make for ourselves without having to agree with them or changing our own opinions.
That’s the place were we can find common ground with people who are different from us. We actually do it all of the time. We all have different risk tolerances. We have different tastes and preferences. So we make different choices and enjoy different things.
Generally, we get the concept that someone can like something that we don’t. And when it comes to those things even when we have trouble imagining how someone doesn’t like chocolate, we aren’t shaming about it.
I’m not saying that there aren’t things that we feel are wrong for anyone to do. What I am suggesting is that we make sure there is room for understanding how others might make a choice even if we wouldn’t make the same choice for ourselves. Opinions are great. Those that know me know I have plenty. At the same time, leaving room to accept that others have differing opinions without being wrong or bad gives us a lot more room to connect.
The next time you disagree with someone, ask yourself, “can I understand why someone might make that choice, even if I don’t agree?” See if it doesn’t allow for more connection.