Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Wherein I fail to find useful insight in my navel gazing

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.

Written by kinkinexile

June 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Posted in community

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