baby with the bath water
Ok, so my body seems to be not so much with the working well right now, nothing antibiotics can’t fix, but I’m down for the count at the moment. I wanted to get a couple of thoughts out of my head, but if what follows is an incoherent rant, well, I apologize in advance.
First off, I am supper excited to be going to KinkForAll Denver in a couple of weeks. I’ve been following the email list and various unorganizing efforts in part to get excited and inspired for the event, and in part because I am toying with the idea of bringing it to San Francisco later in the year. (If that caught your attention please email me.) For those unfamiliar with the event, KinkForAll is “a serendipitous, ad-hoc unconference about the intersection of sexuality with the rest of life.” Maymay and Sara Eileen organized the first KFA in New York in 2009, I believe, and it has happened in several other cities around the US since. It’s an awesome event with an interesting branding problem: it is very hard, it turns out, to be an event with the word “kink” in your title, and not be about BDSM. I say this because I have been confused by this since 2009 despite maymay’s frequent and patient explanations, and from the chatter on the email list and the questions I get when I talk about KFA, I know I’m not alone.
The KFA wiki has this to say: “Kink” is an idea, not an activity, and ideas are free.” Following up with, “KinkForAll aims to inspire discussions relating to all sexualities as well as the intersections of sexuality and every other part of life; there are no bad topics, and no taboo conversations.”
Ok, great, so free (both as in speech and as in beer), open to any topic of discussion, and related to sexuality. Except chatter on the mailing list has recently turned to the merit of BDSM related presentations at KFA, and it seems there are indeed bad topics. Traditional BDSM topics aren’t being denounced as taboo, per se, but rather they are being called out as too readily available, too frequently represented, and not fitting well into the 20 minute presentation slot system of KFA.
Ok, I’ll buy that. The world doesn’t need yet another flogging class. Really, when we have the opportunity to come together as sex educators, activists, writers, and rabble rousers I don’t want to hear about how to flog someone. the closest topic I’d be excited about is how the BDSM sex toy industry normalizes the landscape of taboo activity (because in a capitalistic country you know you’ve got power when the powers that be market at you). Far more exciting would be learning how Black Cross Medics mobilize medical response with limited resources, how they address issues related to transgendered patients and what we can teach EMTs and ER staff about gender and sexual identity for triage.
But what I want to see isn’t the point. No bad topics means just that. There are topics I may not what to see. There are topics I may be unable to see for various reasons, but just like I believe free speech isn’t about your right to talk it’s about the village idiot’s right to talk I believe that “no taboo conversations” means just that. I’m seeing people on the mailing list arguing over the ubiquitous nature of the BDSM scene and whether BDSM centered presentations are within the realm of KinkForAll. I don’t understand how they wouldn’t be. The answer to bad speech is more speech, not censorship. Always. Not because bad speech doesn’t hurt me – it often does – but because the alternatives are terrifying.
Banning a certain type of workshop feels like throwing out the baby with the bath water, but there is an underlying point that’s more important. Why are so many of our conversations dominated by traditional BDSM presentations? How many people are still waiting to see their first “flogging 101” workshop, really? And as that number approaches zero, why not use that time slot instead to talk about what we as a community are missing, what we want to see, and what the best modalities for presenting that might be? More edgy perhaps, but since there are no taboo conversations, lets break open what it means to say “this is already well represented and we don’t want it here.” And I mean really break it open, without screaming reverse discrimination, without letting the pain caused by the status quo cloud our ability to respect our communities and the diversity of our backgrounds and our tactics. What does it mean to live in a world where we are over saturated by “flogging 101.” Who is benefited by those classes? Who is marginalized?
And if someone still wants to teach “flogging 101” at KinkForAll? I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed.