BDSM Community, Anarchist Community

I haven’t written in a very long time. Life has been exceptionally busy lately, and I haven’t been spending nearly enough time having sex, let alone writing about it.

I’ve also been struggling, for the past few weeks, with writing a post on gender, sexism, and kink. A lot of it involves wrestling with some internal biases that I hold and contradictions that I embody, so I think it’s going to be a while yet before I publish something on the subject. It’s a difficult topic.

Meanwhile, my head has also been occupied with a lot of thoughts about the BDSM/leather scene, and what aspects are and aren’t appealing to me–and why I don’t think I’ll ever really feel comfortable there.

After attending the Beginner’s Dungeon workshop at the Citadel, I was feeling pretty positive about the scene, at least as it exists in San Francisco. I felt that it really was a group open to anyone, where I could feel like I fit in even if I didn’t have much in common with other folks beyond a handful of shared sexual fetishes. I felt no pressure to make the scene my life, and felt that it was pretty common for people to just come for a handful of events, only when a workshop offered a skill they wanted to learn or when they wanted to come to play in the dungeon.

I was also pleased that Angela and Iain, who led the workshop, were so adamant that problems within the scene need to stay within the scene, and that those who go to the police rather than first addressing it within the kink community are and should be immediately ostracized, because they put the whole scene at risk when they do so. Yes, I thought, There’s something we can agree on. The police aren’t here to help you. But that’s just not true; most people in the scene, I’m sure, aren’t anti-police. (I heard folks from the Citadel talking about taking part in a “neighborhood watch” program, essentially cooperating with the police to sweep out the homeless and other undesirables of SOMA.)

I’m aware that most people within the scene, like most people outside of the scene, probably don’t have a strong critique of authority in general. Like most people, they’re probably not all that opposed to certain forms of gender essentialism (which I’ll talk more about later). Like most people, they’re not interested in animal liberation, and would consider me strange (or perhaps “finicky”) for refusing to play with leather.

None of this is to say that I’m shocked that kinky people aren’t more politically radical, or to be judgmental of them for not “knowing better,” or anything like that. It’s to say that sexual preferences aside, I have the impression (and would expect) that kinky people are pretty normal. Sure, kinky folks come from all walks of life, but the vast majority of them are going to be, well, just like the vast majority of non-kinky folks. And I tend to have very little in common with those people.

The last event I went to at the Citadel, a very disappointing flogging workshop, made me realize that the scene is never going to feel comfortable to me, not completely, and that shared sexual fetishes don’t necessarily make for good community. There’s a certain “hobbyists” atmosphere that has pervaded the few kinky events I’ve attended, which is a turn-off to me. It’s taken for granted that you have the expendable income to be dropping $20-50 on workshops and parties, not to mention the corsets and floggers and trunks full of toys. And leather/BDSM is often, if not usually, considered a complete lifestyle in a way that I’m just not interested in. (Again: good for the people who are in love with kink as a lifestyle. Not judging; just not for me.) I am drawn to the scene because of the education and support it can offer, but it feels very strange to get involved in a group where I likely have nothing in common with other people outside of sex. I think I’d always feel like an outsider, like a weirdo.

Yet, at the same time, I also have very different issues and problems when it comes to dating, relationships, and sex than other people in my immediate scenes do. (I feel connected to a lot of overlapping scenes, but just for the sake of argument, I’ll simplify it to “anarchists,” even though I feel conflicted about identifying myself as a part of the “anarchist scene.”) I’m not just talking about those who’d judge me for my preferences, although that’s certainly a concern of mine. I’m talking about the fact that when my partner and I are having problems related to our d/s or to a scene that went badly, I can’t tell my friends about it, because it would make them uncomfortable. If I start wearing my partner’s bracelet permanently, I can’t explain its significance to people, or tell them how happy it makes me to wear it. I can’t tell anyone about a lot of honestly life-changing experiences I’ve had through BDSM, because describing them would probably sound icky or disturbing to most of my friends.

Now, of course, part of this is just my own fear of being out — but that alone indicates to me a need for some sort of group of people, however small, that I could talk to about this sort of thing without being afraid that they wouldn’t judge me (or that everyone in my extended circle of friends would know the next day). I crave a group of people to talk to, to share ideas and stories with, even to skillshare with or, maybe, to play with. But I want that group to also be people I’d want to hang out with regardless of our orientations/fetishes. I want to have discussions of d/s roleplaying with an understanding that everyone in the room thinks real-life authoritarian scenarios (e.g. cops, general power-over dynamics) are fucked up. I want DIY toy-making nights that don’t involve (and laud the qualities of) leather. I want workshops that are peer-taught and free.

Am I crazy? Am I just not looking in the right niches of the mainstream BDSM/leather scene (if you can believe I actually just wrote “mainstream BDSM”)? Am I being too demanding, or too unrealistic?

The jury is out. I’ll report back with the verdict.

8 comments so far

  1. alterisego on

    Although I don’t really think of myself as an anarchist, I definitely pay a lot of attention to the power dynamics of Real Life. I do understand what different worlds the BDSM scene and the collection of anarchist or otherwise politically “left” scenes are. (It’s always kind of odd to me that kinky folk don’t always take an obvious interest in philosophical issues surrounding power dynamics.)

    I’m probably not the best example of bridging the gap, but if I can understand what you’re getting out I’m sure that there are people in RL who do. They’re just difficult to find.

  2. Dw3t-Hthr on

    One of the things that’s become quite clear to me over the years is that I don’t really have anything more in common with people who are a part of my sexuality minorities (polyamory, kink) than I do with people who are a part of my sexuality majorities (heterosexuality).

    When I find people I particularly get along with, it’s generally in the intersections of things.

  3. Wanderer on

    Most of what you said really resonates with me. I tend to absorb random bits of the groups I identify with, rather than embodying the entire stereotype, which leads a) to people questioning whether I belong to the group in question and b) not having an easily-identifiable group of like-minded people to confer with. The leather bit of BDSM holds little appeal for me, just as I’m kind of a gamer nerd who prefers to wear bright colored clothes and makeup to the general ‘nerd costume.’

    Anyway, long story short, I hear ya. And my experience is that if you can’t find a group, you build your own.

  4. Meer on

    Scenes: they’re all in your head.
    (*sniggers*)

  5. Joscelin Verreuil on

    I’m a bit interested in your situation. The scene is different in every city, of course.

    For me, I pay about $15 for most parties plus a $20/year membership. That narrowly covers rent for the dungeon space plus munchies and caffeine for after-scene energy boosts. Things like workshops tend to be peer-given and donation-based.

    Corsets are less common among women than not. Something like half of all people dress up at all. Most people I see have a toybag they’ve put together over the course of years and years as funds become available.

  6. subversive_sub on

    Thinking about it more, the cost of things like workshops and parties are actually the least of my concerns. Obviously, stuff is going to be more expensive in San Francisco because, well, everything is more expensive here. I’m sure the rent on the dungeon I mentioned is pretty high, so of course they have to charge more for parties. And they always have free entry for volunteers, so it’s not like it’s totally off-limits to low-income people.

    But from my limited interactions with the scene here, it does feel to me like an awful lot of the big events that go on around here are either focused on shopping (Folsom Street, Fetish Fleas) or are expensive not because of high rent but because the presenter or host does this professionally. Nothing against pros — that’s great if you’re able to make a living teaching kinky sex ed! — but it does tend to make the cost of classes a little prohibitive.

    Additionally, I meant “MY peers” when referring to peer-taught; it’s mostly about a sense of feeling comfortable and among friends, which I don’t really get at kinky events. (And again, I don’t think that’s not the fault of the event or workshop for not being inclusive enough; it’s a matter of just not being a good fit for me.)

  7. […] The other reason I think I’ve found it hard to talk about both subjects is how wildly the respective communities do not meet. The (few) people I know in the kinky world are devastatingly not interested in giving up electricity and the people I know in the anti-civilization world (none) would probably be profoundly horrified by my sexual proclivities. Both sets of people, real or figments of my paranoid imagination, can, of course, kiss my ass if they have a problem with either. But it still makes me think. I think Subversive Submissive has somewhat similar issues with the intersection of her sexuality and her politics. […]

  8. […] people feel like they don’t fit into the public kinky scene despite being out and/or open about their kink. I started out with a, “Well, it’s […]


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