I'm going to tell you a little secret that you'll probably think is ridiculously simplistic and obvious when you read it, except for the fact that it's not:
People want to feel good about themselves.
The people in the advertising industry know this. That's why they are constantly trying to convince us their products will make us happy, will give us what we want--because that is one way we can feel good about ourselves.
People in the entertainment industry know this. That's why they're constantly showing us things that make us feel smarter, richer, luckier, better than the next person--because being better off than someone else makes us feel good about ourselves.
We all want to be happy, and being happy means being content with who we are.
People who are content with who they are don't care so much about what other people are saying about them, because it doesn't matter. This doesn't mean they don't listen when someone tells them they've done something wrong; the exact opposite. They listen intently, and don't react defensively, because they can admit to themselves it's possible they fucked up. They are okay with this possibility because, deep down, they know the difference between doing something wrong and being something wrong.
Doing something wrong, making mistakes, is part of life. You can learn and grow from your mistakes. You can move on from your mistakes.
Being something wrong is a whole other bowl of fruit. It is hard, if not impossible, to change who you are. If you're an inherently selfish person, a greedy person, a manipulative person--if you've got some kind of negative trait that really needs to be dealt with--then you've got some hard questions to ask yourself.
But I don't think the vast majority of us are bad people. I think most of us, kinky and vanilla, are basically good folk. We just want to be secure in that knowledge.
That's one reason why people tend to look for others who share in their philosophies and core beliefs: because if so many others think like you do, how can what you think be wrong?
This kind of mentality is even more affirmed in the kinky world. If you go on Fetlife, you'll find people looking for something, or more often than not, someone: a person who shares their fetish; a person who complements their desires; a mentor, a lover, a play partner. A friend.
But underneath it all, people join the kink community to find others like them, because in their world, who they are is not okay, and that knowledge fucking hurts.
People who've been in the scene for a while know what I'm saying is true, even if they don't break it down in such simplistic terms. But they'll agree I'm right, and I'll tell you something else, dear readers: it's easy to recognize people who've been in the scene for a long time, even in a crowd. Not because they know so many people, and not because they're wearing the right clothes.
Because of the wealth of confidence in their eyes.
They know who they are, and they know the person they are is okay. Maybe not perfect, no, but fundamentally good. Not evil, and not crazy. Different, oh holy shit, yes--but different can be good, too.
I'm not saying there aren't evil people in the scene. I'm sorry to say there are. What's worse is that these evil predators use this knowledge to manipulate others. A predator's biggest piece of arsenal is his (or her's) ability to convince others that in order to be okay with who they are, they need to be willing to do x, y, and z for him. He can convince them they are good, there is nothing wrong with them--as long as they listen to him and give him what he wants. If they are susceptible, they will go along with this. If they are not, he will find someone else who is.
(I take it back. Maybe the biggest piece of a predator's arsenal is his ability to smell susceptibility. But that is a subject for another post.)
But real predators are rare. Like I said, most people just want to meet others who share in their kinks, their little idiosyncrasies--or at least forgive them, so they can feel good about themselves.
At the end of the day, all of us, no matter what the age, gender, what have you--all of us just want to be accepted for who we are.
The second step is accepting others who are different from us, but the first step is accepting yourself.
We are kinky.
And that is okay.