What is it about kink that seems to attract dorks? What is it that ties geeks and kink together? Whether it is cosplay, furries, or your run-of-the-mill fetishist, it seems that nerdery and offbeat sexual pursuits are inextricably combined. Anecdotally speaking, the BDSM “scene” I’m familiar with has a huge overlap with people who are intellectual at the very least, if not full blown nerds.

The theory put forth by Annalee Newitz awhile ago on i09 seems spot on to me:

“There is also something to be said for the idea that as geeks we tend to be inside our heads a lot. We like fantasies, whether they're about spaceships or demonically hot creatures of the netherworld. So when we have sex, we want to bring our imaginations along. Hence, the fun of roleplaying. Whether you pretend to be a fictional character, a coolly controlled domme, or a very bouncy werewolf, you're having sex that's half in the physical world and half in the world created by you and your partner(s)' minds.”

Perhaps that is also why there tend to be so many reformed theatre kids, smoldering introverts, and idiosyncratic quiet types with niche interests who find themselves in the kinky scene. Although all of these people fit into slightly different subgroups, Annalee’s theory holds true for all of them: They are all people who have spent an inordinate amount of time living in their own minds. They have learned to cultivate imaginative skills, and appreciate other people who have done the same.

I practically grew up on the stage, performing in one way or another (as a dancer, as a performer in a youth subset of a professional theatre company, and a singer) for fourteen years (that’s more than half of my young life, for those of you doing the math). Despite being highly neurotic, socially awkward, and obsessed with reading and model building (yes, really), I found comfort in performing. It was an opportunity to simultaneously step out of myself and become a version of myself that felt true. It allowed me to highlight the parts of myself that I had trouble accessing in daily life.

Many of the Dominants I’ve known “in real life” tend toward being somewhat socially awkward, shy people. While they may be very socially competent, there is still something about them that seems so...unassuming. Some of the quietest, sweetest people I’ve ever met have the capability of being devastatingly powerful when in scene.

On the other hand, a trope that does have some legitimate basis in reality: Many male submissives, especially those who hire escorts, tend to be men who are powerful and in charge in their day to day lives. They yearn to let go of control, of making decisions, of making the first move. I cannot count the number of times I have heard some variation of, “No one in my world would guess that I’m like this,” from the submissives I have played with during my time as a pro-domme.

This seems like it could naturally be exacerbated by growing up as a nerdy kid with specific obsessions and passionate pursuit of decidedly unconventional interests. Although I doubt there has ever been a high school in existence that actually has the adolescent hierarchy portrayed in most teen movies, being a smart kid with weird habits or hobbies can make an already isolating experience (growing up, being human) even more lonely. Perhaps kink is attractive to people in these groups typically marked by ostracization because it allows them to harness fantasy to expose a truth about themselves. It allows them to play the role they’ve always wanted, and be the opposite of who they “normally” are.

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

-Walt Whitman