At OtherCon 2022 and The Draconic Summit 2022, various panels shared a common theme of discussing the lack of reliable writings about the otherkin community, and particularly about personal and taboo subjects, such as nonhuman instincts. Page Shepard conducted a survey on “abnormal instincts” and provided a presentation on the results during the con. A significant portion of the community admitted to experiencing instincts and aspects of their identity which they feel they cannot express publicly for fearing of being judged.
In light of these discussions, I’d like to talk about my own experiences with nonhuman instincts. I will be addressing instincts of a sexual and/or extremely violent nature. So, proceed at your own risk. This is strictly an essay for mature adults. I’ll be dividing this into three sections to address different types of instincts.
I should preface this by clarifying for anyone who may be reading it out of context. I am dragonkin, fae, and a crow therian. I’m also a kakodaimon (κακοδαίμων), which translates literally as “evil spirit” and is the origin of the word demon.
Let’s Begin With Cringe
“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” – Aunt Frances, Practical Magic
There’s a wide range of nonhuman instincts to be found among otherkin and therians, as well as the wider alterhuman community. Often even the most harmless of these instincts are seen as “cringey” and people are made to feel ashamed of them.
I consider this a major societal issue. Cringe culture needs to die. As the Wiccans put it, “if it harm none, do as you will.” Nobody has ever been harmed by someone randomly howling. But lots of people have been harmed by judgement and shaming.
I vocalize to the best of my limited ability as a dragon and/or as a crow. Lots of chirps and trills. My mate even understands what most of them mean. I bought a crow caller just so I could caw back at the crows in my town. I have a literal hoard on a table in my bedroom. I have furry fandom buttons on my jacket.
Basically, let your freak flag fly, and if anyone has a problem with that, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Don’t let other people tell you who to be or how it is acceptable to express yourself.
“What is better – To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?” -Elder Scrolls
There is no such thing as a “thoughtcrime.” No instinct or thought or desire is ever inherently evil or wrong. Only actions can be ethical or unethical. A thought cannot harm anyone. Not even thoughts of violence or abuse.
Many otherkin and assorted alterhumans experience more violent instincts related to their kintype(s). Some have predatory instincts, causing impulses to chase small animals or to think of them as potential prey. Others may have territorial instincts.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having these instincts. What’s important is being able to control them, and knowing not to act on them inappropriately. The instinct or desire to hurt someone or something is morally and ethically neutral. Only actions matter.
Villainizing people for their thoughts is not only stupid, but also ableist. People with conditions such as OCD often has intrusive violent thoughts which they may or may not actually find quite upsetting, and they cannot prevent these thoughts, but they do not act on them.
I am a dragon, and a kakodaimon. A predator. I am subject to the instincts of an aggressive, territorial, predator species. When something runs, I want to chase it. When someone gets in my face and tries to cause trouble, my first impulse is to bite them. I used to bite people when I was a small child. That in my mind was the correct way to deal with a bully. I had to learn not to do that. I still perceive humans as prey, but obviously I don’t act on it. I just jokingly complain to my friends that people make me drool, and I can’t eat them because I don’t want prion disease.
I also have violent impulses. Some are intrusive thoughts that make me uncomfortable, but others are more like… daydreams. I choose to be nonviolent because I would look terrible in a prison jumpsuit. I choose to be compassionate because I want to be. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or in any way dangerous, just because I think about violent things, or might occasionally wonder how people I don’t like would taste roasted.
No one should be judged for their thoughts instead of their actions, and no one should live in fear of being judged for their thoughts. So, I’m openly discussing mine as a step in the direction of destigmatizing these kinds of thoughts for everyone else. No one may judge us by anything but our choices.
“Does it pass the Harkness Test?” -The Internet
When it comes to sexuality, consent is the only thing that matters. Absolutely anything that happens between consenting adults is completely fine.
But let’s take a moment to define consent. Consent is not the same thing as permission. Consent is not simply a yes. It must be fully informed, enthusiastic, without any form of coercion, and is fully revocable at any time. Three no’s and a yes means there has been no consent. If someone is being misled or there is an ulterior motive, that is not consent. When it comes to sex, consent can only be given by a sexually mature, mentally competent, sober, sapient being.
As long as all parties involved in a thing meet those criteria for consent, anything is acceptable. No one who is not a part of the interaction has any say in the matter. Period.
As I said above, I’m a dragon. I think like a dragon. My sexuality is that of a dragon. I am attracted to dragons. There are no dragons here, so I’m not really attracted to anything that can be found in this world. My mate is the sole exception. I generally describe myself as grey ace because it’s easier than explaining that I’m not attracted to humans.
I support otherkin/therians who are attracted to existing animals in this world but do not act on that attraction with any actual animals. Expressing those desires through writing and art is perfectly fine, as long as no actual living thing is harmed. This is also true of literally any other thing that anyone has ever created artistic works about.
Now, I know someone is going to send me hate mail claiming I support bestiality. Before doing so, go read the previous paragraph again. Refer to the earlier section where I said there’s no such thing as thought crimes. Thoughts and actions are not the same thing, and since only actions can cause harm, thoughts cannot be immoral. Just because a bit of fanfic or some porn makes you personally uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s immoral. You can choose not to look at it. Unless you can name the person who is being harmed by something, it’s just plain not unethical.
In fact, existing psychological knowledge tells us that expressing paraphilic desires through art without involving any actual living thing makes people much less likely to act in a way that’s actually harmful to anyone. It’s really the best option. Publication of a novel that perpetuates harmful stereotypes about oppressed minorities can cause harm, but that is very much not the same thing. Such things need to be analyzed with an awareness of nuance and context, but that’s beyond the scope of this essay.
If an action does cause perceived “harm” from the perspective of an outside observer, then it’s still ethical if all affected parties are consenting. So, for instance, BDSM which may involve pain, injury, or humiliation is perfectly ethical between consenting adults.
I had a very different relationship with the concept of consent before I lived as a human. I’ve always been a dragon, even in the Underworld, but it’s from one specific life I spent physically as a dragon that I remember mating rituals. We practiced mating flights, synchronized flight and aerial chases. Anyone who couldn’t keep up with me wasn’t a suitable mate. I don’t think it would have crossed my mind to want to say no to anyone who could catch me. It wasn’t unusual for sex to involve drawing blood, and that was the way I wanted it. Still is.
So now in this life, I’m very much into BDSM. I’m a sub, and I’m into pain and bondage. I also like vore, and “consensual non-consent.” I roleplay and write about these topics. There’s no reason to be ashamed of talking about these things. I sincerely do not care if people object to what I do with my own time.
Mind Your Business
“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.” -Marcus Aurelius
The portion of the community that harasses and shames people for these things really needs to learn to mind their own business. It’s okay to talk about all of this, and the otherkin community needs spaces where these conversations are encouraged, and people don’t have to fear being judged. Know that I won’t ever judge people for being open about these things. I hope that I can help people to feel safe to be honest about their experiences and instincts.