The workshop on BDSM & Anarchism at the BASTARD anarchist conference last Sunday was fantastic; kudos to Submissive Boi for making it happen.

I started writing a response to the panel, discussing the issues that were raised there, exploring the ideas it brought up. I still intend to write more on the subject. But really, the thing I came away from the panel with was a new sense of just how much it’s going to take for me to ever be open about my sexuality.

I went into the panel hoping that I’d be able to engage in conversation about BDSM in a public setting, to be able to be out and open and talk freely about my ideas and desires. But within the first few minutes after I’d sat down, one of the panelists asked the group, “How many people here would say they have a fairly large amount of knowledge about BDSM?” I started sweating as I tried not to look around me at all the people in the room; my hand stayed down.

I was really, really happy to see such open and non-judgemental discussion taking place about BDSM in an anarchist crowd, and was excited that the panelists as well as members of the audience were able to speak from a personal perspective, unafraid of anyone else’s reaction. But I wasn’t able to participate. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand the idea of people turning around to look at me as I asked a question or made a comment that would, I felt, mark me as someone who is, gasp, kinky. More than that, I think my fear was being seen as someone who is, gasp, sexual.

It’s only been over the last few years that I’ve started feeling comfortable with myself as a sexual being. Part of that is because I’d never before been able to explore my masochistic and submissive side with someone who truly reflected that desire back in his sadism and dominance. Other lovers had always expressed a desire for me, of course, but it wasn’t until I felt someone truly desire me as a submissive and as a masochist — because I loved to be at his feet, not in spite of it — that I felt sexy and attractive. But part of it, too, is just being with someone who is completely comfortable with talking about his own sexuality and his own desires, and who encourages me to open up without being forceful or judgmental about it.

Sometimes, I forget that this is a long process. I write openly on here, and then am shocked and ashamed that I can’t speak in quite the same way in front of a group of people, or freeze up and break down before going to a class at the Citadel. I feel upset and worthless when I see other people, especially people younger than me, who can speak so freely about things I often still find difficult to think about.

I need to stop feeling so bad about that. Yes, it sucks that I’m so inhibited and shy when it comes to talking about sex. I want that to change. But it isn’t just going to happen overnight — not with decades of heavy repression of my sexuality still weighing me down. I can’t look at others as a model of what I should be, how I should speak and act, how I should look. I think I need to take the word “should” out of my vocabulary for a while.

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