Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Toolkit Tuesday

er, well I started writing on Tuesday anyways…

I think of a lot of skills as toolkits; research toolkit, design toolkit, activist toolkit, sex educator toolkit…but I am also spinning in a multidisciplinary world. The personal is political and the personal is a system at scale.  The political is deeply personal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about using human centered design processes to improve BDSM communities, but what I am a realizing is that there is no one tool kit, there are just building blocks to pick and choose from.  So for the next little while I will be putting up building blocks that I think would be useful in a kink context. Take what you want, leave what you don’t and feel free to call me on it.

Today’s tool is an intro to human centered design, which I use to mean a design process and philosophy deeply rooted in the observation of people’s actual behavior and experience.

Human centered design takes as a core principle  that the user is the expert.  This is a constant process of catching and correcting yourself as researcher – “Well they should just use the button,” the user is the expert. “They should know how to dress for this” the user is the expert. “Why don’t they just….” the user is the expert.  The user is the expert because they know their experience better than anyone else – designer, researcher or marketing executive etc.  Furthermore, the user will take what you give them and hack it until it works for them.  The user is the expert, ultimately, because he/she is the ones who will take this super cool awesome feature everyone is gonna love and find that they are confused by it, or it’s all wrong, or solves the wrong problem, or is lovely and good but not worth the extra money.  So given that the user is the expert, human centered design focuses on the user and believes that all else will follow.

Who is your user and your expert?  Maymay has been kicking my intellectual ass of late so I’ll borrow one of his gripes.  For a long time‘s Men In Pain content was produced by James Mogul, a dominant man, but sold to submissive men.  Submissive men are the experts on what kind of pornography submissive men want to see, did ask them?  I don’t know actually.  Being in The Bay, I like to think everyone does good marketing research, but having both listened to submissive men and seen the content of Men In Pain, I don’t know, they seem misaligned.  That said, Men In Pain is a profit making venture – presumably if profits were bad content would change…assuming of course they didn’t have a monopoly on the market, or consumer mindshare,  in which case they may not see declining profits as people flock to what is rather than what is good.

All that said, I could be wrong.  I am not the intended user and therefore cannot speak to the appeal or lack there of in Men In Pain content.  Instead I’ll speak to something that was aimed at me.  Once a month a local play space, the Citadel, hosts a play party celebrating female dominance.  This is cool! This is a whole party all about how I like to play, right? Well, turns out that no, either I am not the intended user for the Mystique party, or the organizers missed the mark.  First there is this line which makes me feel like the product rather than the audience…

All the Dominant Women of every variety that you could ever dream of all in one place!

Then there is the small matter of house dommes and house slaves  as well as a domme gauntlet ensuring “EVERYONE has opportunity to play at Mystique!”  Hmm, ok well that makes me feel a little uncomfortable…is this a pro-domme event? Do I have to participate in the gauntlet? Will I be allowed to if I did want to? This is starting to sound like an event targeted at submissive men, and in fact is giving me images of DIY Men In Pain but with less polished and conventionally pretty models.  So I spoke to a partner of mine figuring he likes it when I hit him maybe he feels better about this party than I do, but no, he too felt subtly put off.

So what’s happening here? If a party aimed at dominant women feels off putting to both a dominant woman and a male switch then either it’s going to be really awesome for submissive men and I am way way out of touch with that experience, or there is something wrong with me and my partner, or the party was poorly designed.

Because like most users I hate being wrong, I’m going to go with the party was poorly designed.  The organizers seem to lack empathy for and perhaps even direct experience with their proposed user base.  They did not bring an extra seat to the table, attempt ask-watch-try, or build radical collaborations, all of which I’ll discuss in future toolkit posts.  What’s more, the party organizers did not start from or work toward the rather humbling belief of user as expert but instead decided to generalize and/or project their own desires assuming that the user will read the manual and adapt their behavior instead.

Written by kinkinexile

November 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Posted in advice, blogging, toolkit

3 Responses

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  1. I haven’t been to any party at the citadel (yet), but from their newbie class, your description of their attitude rings true. That really is too bad; I thought the point of it was to have shared space where people feel welcome and safe and free to explore and learn. I wonder if other events are better – is it unique to the submissive men dominant women party?

    For kink dot com, I think indeed their entire site caters to a single specific audience, which is awful – but do remember it’s just a porn site after all, and it is much better than most “porn sites” in other ways – there’s just no reason to expect it to actually cater to the rest of us.



    November 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

  2. Hmm… it looks to me (though I might be even more out-of-touch, as a non-D/s kinkster) like either it’s geared to what (probably) dominant (probably) men think femdom/malesub is like (so, as you say, no consulting of user-experts), or that the intended market is men who have fantasies of being dominated. Which is not – quite – the same thing as submissive men; the distinction is subtle but disturbing.



    November 5, 2011 at 6:08 am

  3. “For a long time‘s Men In Pain content was produced by James Mogul, a dominant man, but sold to submissive men.”

    *Sigh*. Of course it was. I just don’t understand why people trying to sell anything, from porn to tickets to a play party, wouldn’t ask their target audience for advice. Particularly with parties, I don’t understand why you’d start one if you didn’t want to go to it yourself, which seems to be the case with the Mystique party.

    I think SunflowerP has it right, the intended market seems to be men who have fantasies of being dominated. The part about the domme gauntlet ensuring “EVERYONE has opportunity to play at Mystique!” would definitely appeal to the people who think that buying a ticket to a party should entitle them to play, whether or not they’ve done anything at all to make a dominant woman want to play with them.


    November 10, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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