As that most hallowed month came to an end, earthly pleasures were once again for the taking. The past thirty odd days had been marked by persistent self-denial, an admittedly voluntary undertaking, where some of our most basic needs were deliberately neglected in order to focus the mind, centre the soul, and bring heel to the demands of our raging ids. But in the hours following the end, we spilled forth and indulged once more, wading into pleasure and celebrating our freedom to satisfy our primal needs.
Now is that Ramadan or Locktober?
It's a little weird being a Muslim kinkster, a practicing one on both counts – I only drink beer if it's been recycled - and I wonder if I really want to namedrop the man upstairs in the same forum where I wax lyrical about boot worship and gimpitude. On sheer numbers alone, I can't possibly be the only kinkster of faith out here, but then when was the last time I brought up theology in between extended bouts of flogging?
While I'd like to pretend that there aren't any glaring difficulties between faith and fuckery, it's fair to say you'd be hard-pressed to find affirmation for a kinky lifestyle from many, though not all, religious leaders. This isn't especially unique to Muslims either. The Jewish, Christian, and Hindu kinksters I call my friends similarly tend to hold their beliefs in one hand, their filth in the other, with no compulsion to let the two meet. While fashion and community factor into the fetish scene, it remains at its core a celebration of sexuality and pleasure, perhaps somewhat anathema to a tradition that, in its latter-day diaspora stereotype, pushes social and sexual conservatism as not only a norm, but an obligation.
"I recognise that self-acceptance is as much about accepting the mess of contradictions that define a human being, as it is about accepting one's right to both prayer and pleasure."
Holding your right to both heaven and hell at opposing ends rubs against the idea of the sexual self being the essential self, or that you can be brazenly authentic in kinky spaces, the kind which wider polite society still deems perverted or inappropriate. But no space exists in a vacuum, and to imply that I can be as authentically Muslim in the middle of Vauxhall Fire is like saying I can be authentically kinky in the middle of Friday prayers. I'm not asking for a prayer room to be set aside at the next Recon party, but that how we act and present ourselves in such spaces is only another facet of our identity, and not that person at their most basic and unencumbered.
Why do I bring this up? We already know how much sex, let alone kink with its multitude of props, rigging, and costumes, is theatre. Many of us talk of how when we peel ourselves into gear, we become by turns a different person, or a different, heightened version of who we might already be. That I cannot resolve my sexual tastes and my religious faith into perfectly watertight logic doesn't throw me into existential despair. I recognise that self-acceptance is as much about accepting the mess of contradictions that define a human being, as it is about accepting one's right to both prayer and pleasure. I don't have to see myself as any less Muslim when I indulge in kinky play, but how others see my faith in the same contexts is another matter.
I've been on Recon a long time. I've been knowingly kinky for most of my life, and active in the scene since my early twenties. But without the dead giveaways of my pictures or the date that announces when I first joined the app, if I disclose my religious heritage, when not inviting confusion or mild bemusement, it can provoke a range of stereotypical and widely inaccurate assumptions. That I am married. That I had little choice in said marriage. That in having little choice in said marriage, I am DTF with just about anyone. And that in being DTF with just about anyone, I'll resort to questionable behaviours.
So much fantasy remains wrapped between the twin Orientalist tropes of sexual conservatism - burkas and prohibitions on "fornication" - and the "Mystic East", with its cavalcade of concubines and harems. While I can't say I didn't experience holy terror as puberty hit me full swing, and my sexual orientation coincided with many deleted internet histories, or that I have experienced my sexuality in fits of incredible sluttery at different crisis points, the idea that an older, more experienced, and usually white man is delicately opening my sad, closed mind to kinky pleasures after a lifetime in the closet, loses its novelty after the fifth or sixth "first" time. Infidel dick doesn't fundamentally change who I am, regardless of how you see the notch on your bedpost as a conquest.
And it's hard to not imagine quite what that conquest means against histories of empire, holy war, and notions of the "barbarians" at the gate, and how the same ideas continue to reproduce themselves in the respectable clothing of modern "identitarianism" and Western fantasies of "Great Replacement". Like other millennial Muslims in Europe and North America, I came of age in the wake of 9/11, when public hostility to Islam not only skyrocketed, but it increasingly racialised a highly diverse faith, to the extent that, especially in Europe, brownness became synonymous with terror. My name, melanin, and sobriety continue to define me as the "Other", and I have often felt uncomfortable in explicitly kinky spaces on the basis of my religious and racial identities. Even as the powers behind the scene make concerted efforts at inclusion, the backdrop of near-ubiquitous Islamophobia, whether from the mouths of Presidents or pub landlords, means I'll still be asked by a jacked rubberman post-session about why I "throw gay people off the roof".
Islam, like Judaism, has a complex theological framework, that in many cases plays second fiddle to practical ethics and grander themes of community and siblinghood. I call myself a Muslim less for what I believe and don't believe, and more because I understand myself as a member of the worldwide "Ummah", and as the protector of behaviours and rituals passed down through generations. But if the idea of whispering prayers in the darkroom feels too difficult to reconcile with my faith, I can at least embody those values of compassion, politeness, mutual respect and, at least within the bounds of consent, another person's dignity. By no means are they uniquely Muslim, or even religious values, but that's an expression of my faith that I can easily reconcile with my love of rope and men.
And if you happen to also be kinky, queer and Muslim, then for the love of everything holy... …stop reading and hit me up.