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Thursday, April 15, 2010

These are the things that I wonder.

I cannot sign on to Fetlife without running into an announcement for a class or demonstration by a famous dom. Various groups are forever heralding the arrival of Master Jean-Paul Satyr and his excellent knife play technique, or Sir Cruelteeth, here to talk to us about biting, all the way from New York! I have never heard of any of them, but I haven't been around that long, and other people get excited enough about them that they seem to have achieved some measure of legitimate fame. A lot of these events sound exciting, and like things that I would go to if I had a spare thirty bucks a week just lying around, but after umpteen invitations to see Mistress Faerie Venom discipline some worthless whores, I began to wonder:

Where are the celebrity submissives? Are there any celebrity submissives?

I know that the profusion of celebrity tops versus the seeming lack of celebrity bottoms makes sense; after all, tops have more badass - not to mention teachable - skills. I know, however, that I have also been invited to classes and seminars about various kinds of service, but those were always taught by local folks, not anyone imported for their expertise and the strength of their name. I wonder, too, that I have never been invited to see a celebrity bootblacker, since bootblacking is certainly a tangible skill, and once that I hear is totally hot (having had no personal experience with it). But no, I can think of none, given that Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn't count. Joss Whedon also does not count, although he has apparently admitted to being really into femdom. I'm looking for someone who is famous for their skills as a sub.

I asked around a bit, and a friend of mine mentioned Madison Young. I have to say, Madison Young occupies sort of a gray area for me. On the one hand, she is indeed famous, and I really do admire her. I like so much that she writes about being a feminist sub and a vegan in a culture of leather, that she makes her own porn (including a porno version of Macbeth, my god!), and that she runs a gallery for art by women. Madison Young is extremely cool, and I do not at all attempt to deny that. However. She did get famous as a porn star. She still is primarily famous as a porn star. I would really like to see a celebrity sub that can be famous without being preternaturally gorgeous, which Madison Young is, I mean it's really boggling, and without being objectified.

I don't know what that would look like at this point. I can only think of a couple of really awesome skills that a sub might demonstrate for an admiring crowd: bootblacking is one, and self-suspension another. I'm sure that I can think of more. The other alternative, I realized, is for a submissive to be admired and sought-after for his or her mind - for being an excellent public speaker, say, or for publishing something really excellent about BDSM, or service, or the nature of bottoming or whatever. I told Miranda, jokingly, that I was going to have to get famous, for the sake of submissives everywhere.

And that is how I came up with the title for a blog, and it is the blog you have just read.

I started this post off meaning to talk about hierarchy within the BDSM community - how relationships in the bedroom leak into everyday life - but I am frankly exhausted. I'm going to let this go now, while I'm still coherent.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

This being the very first entry (!), I'm going to treat it as an introduction, both to me and to the project. This is not just because leaping right into a critical analysis of, say, the situations in which we do or do not use the word "play" would be terrifying, and I am stalling. I am, of course, terrified, and stalling, but (liberal arts kid that I am) I also think it's important that my (imaginary) readers know where I'm coming from. Here goes:

I'm Susan. I'm in my early twenties. I have been involved in the scene (i.e. munches, parties, events) for as long as I've lived in a place with any scene to speak of, which is about six months. Before that, I'd been doing kinky things with partners for nearly four years, including spending several months in a non-romantic, but pretty all-encompassing D/s relationship. I identify as a submissive and a masochist.

When I first moved to this city with my roommate/amazing friend Miranda, we were beyond thrilled - I mean really over the moon - to be going somewhere with an active BDSM community. You have to understand, we were coming from a small college in the middle of nowhere, which, in spite of its reputation for being a stronghold of free-thinking, free-loving liberals, was the most prudish place I have ever spent any significant portion of time (and that includes Catholic middle school). This was a shockingly sexless campus, and even when people were having sex, they were not talking about it, and certainly not openly, and certainly not as though it was fun. There were of course, a few exceptions, and I am beyond grateful for my kinky - and just cheerfully slutty - friends, but in general the landscape was pretty bleak and devoid of sex toys. Miranda and I tried to throw a play party once, and it was a complete bust. Weeks of planning, shopping, inviting, explaining, explaining again, explaining again, and reviewing the guest list to make sure that all of our invitees would be comfortable with all of our other invitees concluded in a gathering that consisted of the two of us, my girlfriend, our roommate and his girlfriend, and our roommate's best friend. As it turned out, there was just too much platonic friendship in that room to allow play. C'est la vie. We talked and drank juice.

Given all of that, Miranda and I were so ready, oh so very ready to get somewhere with a scene. We both cheerfully created Fetlife accounts and joined all of the groups specific to our city. We found a weekly TNG munch that happens not too far from our apartment. We also spent enough time on some of the other Fetlife groups that we decided that if we went to said munch and met just one person who was not a complete creeper, we would count it as a win. As it turned out, the place was creeper-free, and we have since become regulars ourselves. We have also each been to a few events, some of which have been really lovely. (Getting hit in public is awesome.)

That said, I have had some problems with the community. It can be hard to tell, for instance, when someone is playing, and when they are just a big old sexist. Some of the terminology really squicks me out. There's quite a lot of dogma in place about how doms or subs always are, and what is always permissible. In fact, some of these are problems that I have with individuals, or with certain segments of the community, but the overarching problem is the implicit gag rule against talking about points of discomfort. When I have done this, either on Fetlife or in person, I either get brushed off ("It's just play, so why does it matter?" "If you don't like it, don't do it.") or vilified ("Don't we get enough shit from outside the community?"). I understand the drive to make this kind of community a safe space, and I do agree with it, but I don't think that it really is a safe space if I can't even bring up the aspects of it that make me feel unsafe, for fear of offending someone.

This is probably a good time to bring up my prejudices, since my (imaginary) readers are bound (heh) to notice them anyway. Lists are always good:

- I am a feminist. Actually, I'm one of those angry feminists. I see misogyny everywhere because it is everywhere.

- I am bisexual, which has made me hyper-conscious of how people see me in relation to the person I'm with. (Most obviously, queer groups tend to be a lot friendlier if I'm actually dating a girl.) It's been interesting (and sometimes icky) to be a bi sub dating a gay switch. More on that later.

- I was in an abusive situation with a dom some time ago. This has had a few different effects: First, I am sometimes still triggered, which is no fun, so I have been very careful with myself in joining the scene here. I didn't go to a party until I was sure that I was good and ready, and even more sure that I could trust myself to leave if things got scary for me. Second, I know that I am sometimes apt to project my own experience onto other people, so that someone who is a dom, and also a bit pushy, gets filed away as Probably An Abusive Fuckbrain, when in fact he or she may just be a dom who is a bit pushy. Third, the fact that I do not feel comfortable mentioning the abuse thing (my own, or in general, because it really is rampant) around fellow kinksters that are not Miranda, because my previous experience has been that the people I mention it to will immediately say "But we are not all like that! Surely you are not saying that I am like that! DO NOT TALK ABOUT THAT BECAUSE IT IS NOT FUN AND I AM NOT LIKE THAT AND MY FRIENDS ARE NOT LIKE THAT AND I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN AAAAAAIIIIEEEEE!!!" is a big part of what prompted me to start writing this blog. This is my safe space, and I will say whatever I damn well want about abuse, because someone really ought to be talking about abuse.

I think that's about it for an introduction. I'll get into specifics next time. It will remain to be seen how personal I want to get with this, and how much of it will be mini essays about things that bother me. We shall see.