Archive for the ‘community’ Category
Every time I see “you’re not queer enough” or “you’re not kinky enough” all I want to is put up another sign on my proverbial front lawn that says “have the sex you want, with the people you love, and if you have the energy create the space for others to do the same.”
Sometimes I also want to stand on my front lawn and scream “who the hell cares!” But I don’t, because sex is actually really important. And group belonging can be very important. So this whole thing breaks my heart from all directions. And then I remember that time a friend and I had an argument about it, and he was sitting on the stairs later, trying to pacify me I think, and he says “it’s bad for everyone but for some people the good outweighs the bad.” And that’s true, but what he missed was that my heart broke in that moment. Sex is powerful and intimate and beautiful. It has the power to connect us and make use feel whole. People risk beating and jail time for the right to have sex they want with the people they love. And you want to take this precious, beautiful thing and put it in a place that’s “bad for everyone”? No. We can do better.
That friend was defending the BDSM scene. But then I see people who realize that the BDSM scene is sorta a cult of personality, or it’s broken in some way. Specifically it’s broken in that it hides abuse and puts itself out there as the only place to have safe kinky sex at the same time. So people try to break away from that, but then they police their new borders even more thoroughly. It’s the lavender menace all over again.
So I guess what I really want to say is that people have been trying to tell others how to have sex for 5000 years. Just because they are a leather title holder or they are a radical anti-bdsm queer fairy, doesn’t give them any more say-so about what you and your partner do wherever you do it.
Another friend told me a while back that “there is no such thing as radical sex.” You can work for cultural change, you can try to change social views such that everyone feels accepted and open about their sexuality. You can work to educate people about consent and change the frameworks we use to talk about it. But when the bedroom door closes, whatever you do, it’s about you and the person or people you’re with, and it’s normal and perfect.
Be kind. Be kind to yourselves and to each other because there are plenty of people who will be unkind. Spend that extra afternoon with a friend who has had a hard year. Listen. Listen past people’s anger and find the root of their pain and then find compassion for that. Or if their anger upsets you, walk away. Know that their anger isn’t about you, it lives entirely within them as your anger lives within you.
Most of all, have compassion for yourself and know that there will be better days.
And if this hippie massive contributed to your feelings of depression, email me, I will make you cookies :-p
Actually I was going to call this post “this is what fail looks like” but figured I’d be more friendly. I came across this convo on the Internet today…
“FWIW, Jeff Mach who I know does a lot of work with the Geeky Kink event is allegedly protecting sexual harassers at his events. See the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife report against Jeff Mach’s FetLife.com profile, copied here:
“I have been to two of Jeff Mach’s events, and both times, I was touched inappropriately by someone on his staff. The first time, it was at a Wicked Faire, and a security person grabbed my ass without asking or even warning me. The second time, I was at GKE and a female DM stepped into the middle of a scene with my boyfriend, interrupting, because she didn’t approve of the way we were playing. She touched me several times, while I was naked. After the first time, I quietly asked her not to do it again, but she told me she was an EMT and a DM. My boyfriend complained to Jeff, but was told ‘well, that DM’s boss is her boyfriend, and I’ve been getting a lot of complaints.” That’s it?
I do not feel that his events are a safe place for anyone who isn’t okay with random groping, touching, or disrespect. It’s scary to have a security person harass you, because who do you turn to? Other security people?
I tell all my friends not to go to JM events anymore. It’s scary and I haven’t been able to go to another public kinky event since.”
“that particular entry is a slight abuse of that reporting tool, but thanks for the info anyway. this is the first I’ve heard of either of those things, and I’m not seeing anything about him encouraging or even continually allowing that behavior. to be blunt, if that report is the worst thing that has happened at a JM event then they are doing really damn well.”
“I disagree with all your conclusions, Sparr Risher. To be blunt, the very fact that you have not heard about it except through this reporting tool showcases the intended use of said tool—which apparently you are not using? And secondly, I think your bar for “really damn well” is pathetically low. We are talking about sexual assault from a security person at a fetish event. One time is too many.”
It goes on, but I’m gonna pause cause, um, guys? What the fuck are you smoking? No, really, a DM touching someone without consent after being asked not to is “doing really damn well”? Perhaps you haven’t absorbed enough of the Scene’s advertising to see the irony here: the DM is in charge of preventing consent violations (and things likely to set the space on fire), and playing in public is meant to be the safer alternative.
And don’t you even think about telling me “well there’s rape culture in the over culture so of course some is gonna spill into BDSM…” I’m sick of it and it’s lazy, so here’s the deal once and for all: yup, there’s rape culture in the over culture. True that, but you know what, the over culture doesn’t go around parading Safe Sane and Consensual as its core tenants. The BDSM scene has two core advertising messages: 1) there are other people who like the kind of sex you like here, so come here to get laid and 2) the kind of sex you like isn’t safe, so come to our public (but super secret special snowflake) play parties and you will be safe. Don’t believe me? Why did you go to your first (or first 20) BDSM events? Where you there for the cheese plate? Yeah, me too, disappointing isn’t it?
Here’s another way to look at it: I live in an up-and-coming urban center that’s more coming than up. I know this, I chose this, and I also don’t lay my deepest sexual fantasies on this city’s streets. In fact, I put away my valuables before I leave the train station, I know that the answer to “give me your money” is “here you go sir, have a nice day” unless they touch you in which case it’s heel-of-palm-to-bridge-of-nose-to-right-knee-to-groin-to-left-knee-to-head or fight with everything you’ve got whatever that may be. It’s renter’s insurance that covers “incidence of civil unrest” and burglary, and the fact that I field catcalls with practiced ease. And that’s over culture, with all of its pitfalls and all my defenses; by and large, I’m actually pretty comfy in it. And then there is the BDSM scene, and sex/play parties in particular – this is not a 2am walk from a train station to my house with my diamond ring slipped into my pocket and my pepper spray in hand, this is supposed to be fun, sexy, naked, deep dark fantasy making fun. When you tell me that this is part of the over culture so of course rape comes not from BDSM but from wherever these kinky people came from, that’s fine, but what you need to understand is that no one in the over culture thinks it’s reasonable for me to be naked in a room full of strangers, no one in the over culture suggested that this is a great idea, or nominated special people (DMs) to maintain safety while I do so, nor does the over culture charge me membership fees for this BS. Furthermore, in the over culture I take full force self defense classes, that I suspect you won’t want demonstrated in your play spaces.
Oh yeah, you are also 50% more likely to be sexually assaulted in the BDSM scene than in the general population, so there is that.
Anyway, I wrote this post so I’d have somewhere to point when a friend or crush or whatnot goes “but why don’t you want to go to a play party?” The answer is because there is sooo much BS and so much casual violation of limits and boundaries and consent at these things that I don’t go in thinking “gee this will be a sexy good time.” I go in thinking “fuck, some asshole is going to grope me, and then I’ll break his nose, and then we’ll get kicked out.” The BDSM scene, and its events, just have a really crappy reputation in my mind – sorta like waking through a bad neighborhood in a short skirt at night, yeah sure I should have the right to do it, but it’s not worth the effort. The thing is, if you want your play parties to be sexy and fun, and you want steady attendance, sooner or later you’re gonna have to deal with this, cause like I said: there’s rape culture in the over culture but the over culture doesn’t make it’s money by selling [your sexual fantasy here].
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother
This of course is taken from a call to arms, and like so many things it struck me out of context. It struck me, for perhaps obvious reasons, when I was thinking about communities and how they form and what they mean to me.
Let me back up; I am a home and hearth kind of person, have been for a very very long time despite the fact that I’ve been to over 20 countries in that time. I also frequently describe myself as “community oriented” but I think that needs a little more unpacking. Eight-ish years ago I took a class on Community Sociology. There was a lot of hand-wringing about how the internet was changing communities, how communities of interest were popping up and all the benefits of geographic communities we would soon lose. The general idea is that you can have communities of interest: these are groups of people gathered together to do a specific thing, like BDSM, or skydiving, or science fiction – and you can have geographical communities based on proximity to people in your neighborhood. People have all sorts of crossover too, for example a church group is a community of interest that is often bolstered by geographical proximity.
Anyway, none of this gets me closer to the point that when I say I’m “community oriented” I don’t actually mean one or the other of these specific things. What I mean is a very internal compass kind of orientation. I was once involved very heavily in the BDSM community to the point where I explained that I go to play parties the way others in my cohort go to keg parties, as a normal Friday night outing. This had less to do with the BDSM part and more to do with the community part – that is a thing I crave.
But what I found over time is that monocultures don’t work. Basically I discovered through trial and error what any environmental activist or farmer could have told me – having a large group of people, crops, or other things that are all the same is actually a pretty weak position. While I was super duper involved in the BDSM scene and many of my friends were too, as soon as I had any sort of angst around BDSM, the community aspect of this fell apart. I am still in touch with some of my BDSM scene friends, but by and large the ones I had other interests in common with aside from kink. Who came in to fill the hole? People I was only sorta close to – weak ties, and people who were very different from my past self.
This makes sense, right? As I change, and suddenly don’t want the BDSM scene in my life anymore, I realize that wow, BDSM is all I’ve done for a while, so I try to do new stuff with my old friends and realize that wow, we only had BDSM in common?! So then I need to hang out with other types of people. What’s interesting is that it was the people most different from me who were most helpful during that transition – the people who had no idea why BDSM mattered to me at all what so ever, but dealt gracefully with me being upset, also made me realize that breaking up with the BDSM scene, no matter how painful it might feel, actually was going to be just fine cause they were all going “BDSM? Who the fuck cares?”
Which gets me to part of the original thing I was thinking when I started writing this: turns out I value groups of people who (sometimes) disagree with me and with each other very highly. Sometimes this is awkward. Sometimes not all of my friends like all of my other friends and that’s fine, and more than fine, I think that’s actually pretty healthy. But the thing that lets that happen in a way that stays healthy is an overlayed sense of, well, I’m not sure…trust maybe? Or good will. I don’t want to fight all the time, it’s exhausting, so now we have two things that I look for in communities: diversity of experience, opinions and interests, and the ability to operate gracefully and lovingly in that diversity.
But this still doesn’t get me to what is community? Maybe this is just an expanded conversation about what I mean when I talk about my “We.” Maybe it is the group of people with whom I feel safe disagreeing despite the idea that conflict is never safe. Certainly being scared to disagree with someone (because it might harm/end the relationship) is my canary in the interpersonal interaction coal mine. And community isn’t about proximity or frequency of interaction…it’s more of a background buzz. It’s the person who sat down next to me 2 years ago when I was at Noisebridge staring into the middle distance trying not to cry and started telling me about how everyone struggles with depression and it was ok to be in that boat too. It’s about the near strangers who are welcome to crash on my couch, or the fact that I experience my world through social interactions. It is, in the classic sense, about shared history and shared artifacts, and in the personal sense about borrowed power tools and roasted chickens. It is about 4 countries, 6 years and 3,000 miles between when she cornered me in the locker room and demanded an explanation for my very very Russian earrings and when I helped her into her wedding dress. It is about learning to be angry and still trying to be gentle because that matters. And it is not static, it is a living, breathing organism because the people in it are that.
And I am no closer to what community means.
I want to delete this blog.
Every time I think about it I burst into tears. I made a backup to protect myself, among other things, against overly enthusiastic future self. It’s not even “I want to delete this blog” it’s I want to walk away – it’s just too cyclical. I want to walk away because when I come back in 5 years – because as one brilliant woman just told me, “burnout doesn’t last forever” – we will still be having the same conversation about sexually submissive men, about rape and naming abusers, about BDSM as consumer culture. Think about it, the mainstream BDSM scene, as it stands today in North America, has had at least 20 years to address sexual abuse in its ranks. Clearly, it’s failed. You want me to believe it’s really gonna change this time? It won’t, they’ll still be arguing over if one should say the acronym SSC or RACK while molesting newbies at knife-point in the back corners of private parties.
It turns out that burnout is incredibly personal. It looks like “I did stuff that was hard and the payoff wasn’t that great and now I’m a little tired.” It feels like “I gave this thing everything I had, changed my life, and my hobbies, and the ways I walk through the world around it, and when I needed something to lean on everyone and everything disappeared.” That’s not true, depression is a lying bitch, we know that now don’t we? I am guessing burnout is too.
At least part of what’s happening is that I don’t see how this is a priority. BDSM just doesn’t matter when the best minds of my generation are dying or in jail. The food we eat is genetically modified and processed in ways that we don’t have any long term research on. Police violence is rampant. What were popular revolutions of the Arab Spring are giving way to Islamist reforms in the tradition of Iran. And you want me to care about anal fisting? Sure, as a personal thing, kinky sex is something I want in the privacy of my own home with someone I love, and I’m willing to go out of my way to find sexually compatible partners in that regard,* but to reform something you have to love it. You have to want to live in the world you build, you have to fight for your future self at least if not for your children’s children as that hippie song goes.
I don’t want to live in a world with a better BDSM community. I mean, yes, I want to live in a world with less rape, I want to live in a world where everyone has access to the sex they want with the people they love, I want to live in a world where who you sleep with and how you do so doesn’t impact your job prospects or your ability to get a spousal visa or custody of your children. But that’s not a better BDSM community, that’s a world that has obsolesced the BDSM community. And it’s a world in which I do not believe the BDSM community would survive because it needs the fear, and the isolationism to thrive. It needs its threats and its ways to enforce fucked up in-group norms.
So I want to delete this blog. What I am going to do instead is keep talking about the fact that the BDSM scene does not have a monopoly on kinky sex, and I’m going to figure out how to get backups of my tumblr blogs, and look into doing that with various other feeds that I follow. And I’m gonna figure out hosting just in case, because I think these things should be out there, and findable, so that I can be the last person who isn’t sure if their kink is out there cause c’mon, it’s the internet, “only one” doesn’t exist. And then I’m gonna go do things I’m scared of doing somewhere else.
*I don’t know if I believe that, I’m just not sure what else to say given, ya’know, my history. We’ll see.
There’s something personal I’ve been trying to post about that I’ve actually not yet figured out how to talk about. Instead I’m gonna talk about something even more personal because it kept me up last night. I’m gonna talk about suicide. Don’t panic, I’m fine.
When Aaron Swartz died I cried for days. I didn’t know him personally, though I’m all but certain everyone reading this has touched his work, and there was a sort of 2-degree social separation. I cried for Aaron, yes, but I also cried for what my social circle, and to some degree my generation, had lost: one of the most brilliant minds we’d had. More than that I cried because suicide scares me. In fact, the whole experience of depression makes me panic; I remember October, each and every October, when I lived on the East Coast and before Seasonal Affective Disorder was a thing people treated, was a frantic time of doing everything I wanted to do before the following March because next would come November with its crying fits and paralyzing fear. Despite having broken this time-bound ritual, I’ve given up exercise plans because I associate my lowest adult weight with my worst years, and I watch for the creeping signs of depression with a level of vigilance most people reserve for late-night muggers. But suicide scares me…differently.
I consider suicide to be a fundamental personal choice tied into bodily autonomy, and at the same time I consider it to be a collective failing. As much as I tell myself that depression is a lying bitch and no one is at fault, I keep coming back to how did we as a community leave one of our own so alone? Not one, also this one.
Suicide, and it’s more genteel cousin “end of life decisions,” typically reserved for ending a terminal illness early, are things I’ve been aware of since childhood both in familial and social context. It was such a ubiquitous occurrence that after the 9-11 attacks, at least one person I know thought the heightened police presence had to do with “another MIT kid jumping off a roof.” I remember not being at all moved by that possibility. That should scare you, it does me.
I don’t think suicide began to scare me until after college, until I realized the depression and alone-ness that’s tied into it. And that’s also when it became both a personal choice (again, not mine) and a communal failing. Because depression is a lying bitch, and because our inability or unwillingness to see eachother’s pain gives credence to those lies. And so I’m wondering (actually stayed up last night wondering) how do we find ways to support people we love, or people we care about, or hell people who just happen to be in the same spaces we’re in, without concern-trolling. How do we acknowledge other people’s pain without making them explain themselves to us? How do we maintain a presence while allowing space?
On the flip side, how do we ask for support? If you’ve never had an illness that goes on not for weeks but for months maybe it’s hard to picture just how carefully you start curating your asks in a vein hope to not burn out your support structure. How do we build more supports, and more security around those supports? And how do you let go of your own past failing as part of a community that let one of its own slip through the cracks? How do I?
And you feel the PAT-OKC chocking question is unfair because what you did is consensual, you say?
But Susan Wright will be the first to admit that “there is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.” What does this bring the Fetlife murderer tally up to now? Three at the least? Consent is fuckin’ confusing man!
By saying that not flagging a consensual kinkster as a potential predator matters more than getting as much information as possible into the hands of people who need it, you’re really saying that your poor, delicate ego is more important than other people’s physical safety. Their physical fucking safety! If you really believe that, you haven’t been mis-flagged. You are dangerously self-absorbed, if not outright predatory, and people are absolutely right to fear and avoid you.
Now might be a good time to take a good hard look at your community cause if you’re still trying to hide/deny/normalize abuse, you’re every bit as disgusting as your worst visions of mainstream backlash make you out to be.
Love Steven Thrasher’s brilliant and moving piece about the move of the LGBT community into a mainstream and military/corporate sponsored positions. It reads in part:
Listen up, fellow homos—you have been bought, paid-for and sold to the highest bidder. The military industrial complex is so far up the ass of the LGBT movement that it can feel what is being digested in its upper intestines. Talking points and “messaging,” not discussion and debate, are the preferred methods of “communication” in a movement now run and owned by PR-firm trained Professional Homosexuals. Dissent will not be tolerated, and the assimilation of homosexuals into the rest of the militarized American public is complete.
In the fall of 2009, on the eve of the National Equality March on Washington, I covered my first (and only) fundraising gala for the Human Rights Campaign. But before the crowd could be entertained by Lady Gaga, Judy Shepard, and the President of the United States, it was time for a word from our sponsors—the “honor roll”: a nearly 10-minute-long video extolling the virtues of player after player in the military industrial complex.
I understood why certain entertainment sponsors were HRC donors, given their audiences. I had no clue at the time why it seemed like nearly every defense contractor under the sun was shelling out money to a gay rights group. (As of today, confirmed sponsors for the 2013 HRC dinner, still six months away, already include Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.)
Regardless of what you think about PFC Manning, the connection between the LGBT movement and defense contractors is chilling. The corporate sponsorship of Pride events which turns the entire experience into a day-long ad campaign for Bud Light is disgraceful. And the fact that a movement born out of the suffering and frustration of a marginalized group has evolved into a movement that throws some of the most vulnerable members of our community under the bus is truly sad.
On a very personal level, spending time with other people who had similar desires as I did helped to legitimize my own thoughts and fantasies…
I am pilfering. I am pilfering shamelessly and entirely out of context, because I just realized something cool happened today: I explained to someone how I didn’t want to deal with the BDSM scene, how the community aspects, the political aspects of it, were deeply unpleasant to me…and I felt heard. Really heard, for maybe the first time, with openness and empathy. Without “but how are you going to find partners” or “some groups are ok.” Without the unrelenting “but this is the only place I/you/we can be accepted,” my sense of I don’t want to do this anymore and I want to be ok with that became…normal, feasible even.
But this thing I am pilfering, it’s important. It’s important because having examples of the things I want existing in the world is so very important. Examples let us shape the experiences we fantasize about, they give us language to negotiate these fantasies with others, they normalize what we want. So what if I don’t have examples of what I want?
“A desire that cannot be named or described is a desire that cannot be valued, acted upon, or used as the basis for an identity.”
Pat Califia in the introduction to Public Sex
You see, examples of what I want are hard to get because what I want is the sex I want with the people I love behind closed doors. I want a power imbalance in my relationships that is personal and intimate. I want it to be between my partners and I. I definitely don’t want to negotiate my relationships with complete strangers. I don’t want to play in public even though there’s a behavioral science voice in my head that’s all like “but third places and sacred places change how you related to yourself and others…” And you know what, I actually do want sex to be a sacred healing thing in my life (but not the only sacred healing thing in my life). I want to have the kind of sex that shifts my world not in “ooh yummy” ways but in challenging, emotional, sometimes scary ways – this is why BDSM has historically been more bonding for me than intercourse. I would also like to have ownership over this, and to have access to it, that is decoupled from the BDSM scene, which has been on my radar far more often for rape and abuse of late than for world-changing pair bonding experiences.
Seeing examples of, well, anything that happens behind closed doors is fundamentally hard. So while I know that there are people out there having amazing kinky sex without being part of the BDSM scene, I don’t have all that many examples. I don’t have the experience of my desires, my fantasies, being validated.
So fuck this shit. I’m a child of the internet, I know I’m not alone, the reason I’m writing this is because I just realized it’s important for you to know you’re not alone. By which I mean, if I don’t get the example I want, I’ll build it, but I want the next person to have something to link to.
I am not the first to break up with the BDSM scene. You will not be the last, so find the words for the things you really deeply want, and then share those word so we can expand the vocabulary of what is possible.
Lets say you have a diverse community with a vibrant grassroots organizational style where anyone can show up and start something cool. Say this community has been organized through loose ties and network affiliations for two decades with various groups using various methods to get the word out about their events.
Imagine, after two decades or more of this loosy goosy organizational system, a new system was available that let all the grassroots organizations funnel all their events through one central place. Sounds well organized and easier, right? But what if that central place was privately owned and operated and the groups, in switching over to this new system abandoned their own websites, mailing lists and calendars?
What if this central system had a financial crisis?
What if this central system no longer supported the events you cared about?
What if it simply wasn’t very good?
The problem isn’t that Fetlife exists, it’s that BDSM organizations no longer support their own calendars, websites, mailing lists and so on – they are completely dependant on Fetlife to maintain their group and publicize their events. Fetlife is owned by one dude, what if that dude gets bored and moves on to other projects? Single point of failure.
And the problem is that Fetlife really isn’t very good. You can search for events in the city associated with your account, but not in the city you’re visiting next weekend. You can search comfortably on your computer, but in 2013 mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools and Fetlife mobile sucks. No really, pull out your phone and try to find a cool event on Fetlife. It sucks.
And then there are certain things I expect out of event listings cause that’s how the world rolls in 2013 – I want to import it into my calendar, click on the address, and have my phone provide directions seamlessly. I want to do this without having to manually enter a bunch of events into my calendar line by line.
Sounds nice, right?
Staring blankly at a list of calendars wondering now what?
If you use iCal simply click on the webcal link, you’ll be prompted to open this with iCal so go ahead and do that, the calendar URL will pre-populate as you can see below so hit subscribe.
Make any stylistic changes you need and *this is important* set that auto-refresh option to something other than “no” if you want to know about cool new things as they’re added. Some other things you might do include renaming the calendar “night life” in case other people might be glancing at your calendar list and you don’t want to have your mom asking “what’s Fetlife,” or change the color so as to not clash with your work calendar.
And then sit back and watch your calendar populate…
Using Google Calendar instead?
Pretty much the same deal…
Open your google calendar or create one, in the “other calendars” area select the “Add by URL” option, paste your calendar subscription URL in the box (in my case it was http://fetlife.maybemaimed.com/icalendar/San_Francisco.ics but you can find yours by right clicking on your city of choice and selecting “copy link address”) and accept.
If you want to be a nice person, and help other kinky people in your area find cool munches and stuff to go to you can also click the “make the calendar publicly accessible” box. Once again, sit back and watch life be convenient.
Just make sure you import this into a new calendar either in gcal or ical so that you can toggle it on and off. Unless of course you like having your phone, computer, and roomba all beep in unison ten minutes before the start of every munch.
Oh, and no set of instructions for something this useful would be complete without the magical step 5: send Maymay a thank you for giving up his weekend to make this. You can buy him a cup of coffee here to help fuel the midnight coding
Interested in the technical side of things? Didn’t find your city on the list and want to add it? You’ll find what you’re looking for here.