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Thursday, April 15, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. "'Don't we get enough shit from outside the community?'"

    Doesn't that just sum up a whole lot of what goes on in the kink scene? Mostly it's silent, but there is this strange sentiment that self-monitoring is betrayal, which is really pervasive. People will barely admit to being uncomfortable with other people's practices at group functions--and even in a lot of kinky-feminist spaces. In more private settings, in not very loud voices, people will admit to being uncomfortable with That Guy, or That Practice. And even then, what usually comes out is not an explicit allegation, not a claim that the person in question has done something we should all know to condemn.

    And yet everyone goes on pretending that if those of us who have care about sexual ethics actually apply those ethics within the kink scene, this will somehow set us back. I don't think the facts support this viewpoint. I have more than a few vanilla friends who are very liberal when it comes to, for instance, LGBT issues, but who find BDSM completely baffling. I don't see why a greater willingness to problematize certain practices--which are, frankly, in need of a good problematizing--is supposed to set us back.

    I'm at least a little hopeful about this, though. It's worth noting that NAMBLA was, in the not-too-distant past, a semi-accepted part of the gay movement in the US, that it was eventually anathematized, and that the gay movement moved on--and indeed was in no way weakened by doing so. It's also important to note that there was a debate about this, and that certain organizations led the way in making NAMBLA unwelcome. It's worth asking what institutions the kink scene has that are ready to take on the same role in self-monitoring. It's not clear to me that there are any.