Monthly Archives: March 2012
Less than a week until a performance and I am fighting my anxiety. I am nervous about my endurance. Nervous about my injuries over the past few months. But more than anything nervous over my body and how it will be perceived.
This performance marks 4 years since I started taking belly dance lessons. My life was so different back then. I was in a long-distance marriage in addition to the legal marriage I am still in now. I had a girlfriend and was only barely flirting with Warrior. I was trying to please a Dom who lacked the consistency I really needed and craved. I was still recovering from being outed and I was in a job that was safe but utterly boring. I was feeling stuck in a pattern of my own fear, constantly focusing on what I seemed to lack especially when it came to having an outlet.
I realized not too long ago that I have been a dancer my entire life. Tap, ballet, figure skating, flamenco, ice dancing, the list goes on. When I went out clubbing I was proud to be one of the women to watch…and I used that power to urge otherwise neglected men onto the floor with me. Some of my favorite moments happened while dancing in a gay bar in Chicago during their salsa night. I was the only girl there who knew salsa and was a lifesaver for all the gay boys who only knew how to lead and not follow. Later that night I seduced one of the only straight men there and came while we danced on the floor. I’ve been involved in the arts in some way or another, but it is only in dancing that I feel like an artist.
Despite the hours that I work on my dancing, the fact that I can sustain a shimmy for 4 straight minutes and I continue to work on conditioning I am simply not what people expect to see of a belly dancer. my belly is lumpy and riddled with stretch marks. I am not lean and lithe like most dancers. I am curvy to an extreme. And while I have made significant progress toward accepting and loving my body, still the prospect of performing for an audience always puts a heavy dose of fear into me.
I have overheard people comment about my size, especially after fetish shows. Some negative and some positive. And for all the positive commentary I do receive, the negative sticks in my head even more. And as I put on my choli, bra and hip scarf I have to overcome those messages of “why the fuck do I want to see a bunch of fat notches dance?” that have become so internalized from a history of body issues.
I take some responsibility for allowing these messages to permeate but what bothers me is that people say them at all. Whether they hurt me or not is irrelevant. What bothers me is someone in the audience may overhear the comment and decide not to try out this form of expression (which is incredibly liberating and challenging for any gender or body type). What bothers me are the standards within the belly dance community that encourage us to cover our “less than perfect bellies” with mesh cover-ups. What bothers me is that message…from the shitty audience member or the belly focal queen who thinks she is preserving modesty in the community…is absolutely the wrong message.
The message I prefer to send when I am dancing is full of joy in my craft, openness in my every moment, gratitude in sharing this space with others and a freedom of expression nothing else in life can ever offer me.
So here I am showing this body, saying it is okay for me to be a little bit nervous…but even better for me to be proud of all the amazing, snake-like movements I can execute…and to surprise even myself a little with the curve of my body and the freedom and power in my spirit.
The Denver community is in a tizzy this week. The founder and “un-organizer” of KinkforAll made some pretty divisive statements (as summarized in the Silence is Golden presentation from the “unconference”) about the BDSM community which ended in discouraging the locals involved in the community from attending the event. Much has been made of his statements, including by me on FetLife and elsewhere all over the internet such as Twitter, Google Groups, the Denver Westword not to mention the site of the un-organizer himself, MayMay (please for the love of god, please do not click on the link or else you will be subjected to a load of mostly irrelevant links with 47+ linking back to his own blog or spaces that he has some primary control of most of the content).
While I take issue with the un-organizer’s uncanny ability to stay just as un-organized in his writing, making it virtually impossible to discern what he actually believes from the gratuitous, self-serving nature of making links back to his own blog, thus driving up traffic and feeding a narcissistic tendency that is wholly evident from a simple reading on its face…I only briefly visit that issue in this post. That is my personal opinion of him based on my read of him. Granted I have never met him in person and despite his “invitation” for someone to meet him for coffee before he leaves the Denver area on Tuesday, I just can’t after going through being triggered by another outing scare.
See, what I find utterly offensive and reprehensible about this man is how this self-proclaimed, sex-positive advocate and sexual freedom fighter has the gall to link someone’s legal name to their FetLife profile, thus effectively outing them. Involuntarily outing someone doesn’t seem like the work of a sex-positive advocate. In fact, it seems much like what happened to me when conservative bloggers decided to do something similar.
Even mentioning this incident today to my husband put him through a visible state of panic and fear. We both remember what happened when I was outed. It’s taken us over 5 years to fully recover and still haven’t financially. In the grand scheme of things I’m not sure which was worse…my rape or my outing. Both had a profound effect on my sexuality, inevitably inhibiting my freedom and the safety I feel in expressing my ideas even in such a general way here. And yet, for as much work as I have done to recover and heal, today I still had the knot at the pit of my stomach, afraid I’d be MayMay’s next non-consensual victim. Afraid I’d have to face difficult questions about ruining my kids by being kinky, queer and poly. Sex-positivity goes hand in hand with self-determination. All of us should be allowed to control the time, place and manner we choose to become open about our sexuality. It should never, ever be decided for us by someone playing blog-politics with our lives. And what’s sad…I have more forgiveness for the conservative bloggers who outed me than I do for MayMay at this point. Why? Because MayMay should know better.
At what point did sex-positivity become about outing people? I don’t care if it’s one person or a hundred. His selfish need to be -right- on such a small and insignificant event (which by the way the majority of the kink, gay and lesbian communities knew nothing about) blew away any credibility he had left as a sex-positive advocate in my book. And I have no problem warning other communities that he visits fall-out they can expect. For he fails to recognize the true human cost of his relentless pursuit of righteousness and justifies his disrespectful behavior with a taunting recitation of his own website where he calls FetLife unsafe. And yet, none of that excuses the shameless disregard for the human cost in his obvious pursuit of his spiteful agenda.
Denver will recover, it always does. Like I have said in the past I feel Denver has a strong community base. The Denver BDSM community has been having conversations about racial, gender and class privilege for the whole time I have been involved. We’ve been more active in calling each other out when there is a sex-negative agenda. We’ve been educating about queer leather, trans inclusion and a whole host of topics in between. Which is why so many in Denver were eager to be a part of KinkForAll.
The people who have been offended by the words and actions of the past few months are not Denver’s “elite”. These are the ones who have been in the trenches making “traditionalist leaders” re-evaluate their terminology, practices and even identifications. These are the people changing the face of kink everyday and doing so without recognition or thanks. And yet, despite all of this, these extraordinary men and women were brave advocates for those same traditionalists to be included and be welcome to contribute side-by-side with them. We may not like what they have to say, but they are part of the “all” in the title and we won’t leave them behind.
We could debate all day about the meaning of the word “kink”. I can say that back home it’s defined as someone who “lets you in the backdoor”; whereas in other communities I’ve been a part of it means you do more than just piss in someone’s mouth. But while kink isn’t always synonymous with BDSM, at the very least they are closely related and certainly never mutually exclusive. Excluding members of the kink community -or- specifically targeting them -or- outing them -or- exploiting them really betrays a weaker-minded agenda than the stated intent of providing an open forum for discussions about sexuality.
Sex is a difficult topic for many and must be approached with care and dignity for all present. BDSMers for the most part are able to talk about sex much more easily and openly than most people i have met and have a lot of value to add to any discussion about kink while still respecting the boundaries of those new to the topic. In fact, my topics were these: Conflict Resolution for Multiple Methods of Loving, the politics of slut-shaming culture, the impact of the Sexual Freedom Movement on racial and ethnic minority communities (and vice versa), Healing through the Sacred Whore/Prostitute Archetype, creating culture, responding sufficiently to sex offenders within our environment, the experience of recovery after being outed. None of these were exclusively BDSM-oriented and could have benefited the discussion.
Yet, I chose not to attend after finding out that a) the media had been invited, b) they would be livestreaming/videotaping the sessions and c) that as a BDSMer/queer leather femme I might be targeted by this man’s personal bias. What’s worse is that mine is not the only voice that was silenced by MayMay’s personal prejudices and agenda. Many more valuable voices were likewise left out as a response to not wanting to promote this problematic agenda even further.
I will always be supportive of the idea of a conference, a gathering, a teach-in or any other model that promotes open, safe and constructive (rather than “uncomfortable”) discussions of sexuality. I will fully support efforts to confront privilege whether it be in the BDSM community or beyond in an equally constructive way. But when it is executed poorly because of the directed and unchecked prejudices of one person, then the community must take up the responsibility to create a forum of its own where the stated intent of “all” is respected and openly welcomed.
This fall-out has shown me we still have so much further to go. In a world like this where Rush Limbaugh calls a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for wanting to testify about reasonable access to birth control (which can have health benefits unrelated to preventing conception) do we really need to nitpick over what the meaning of kink is? After all, none of that matters when examples like the Limbaugh one above exist every single day and members of his own party won’t even denounce him publicly for such egregious and unwarranted attacks on something as simple and easy to understand as birth control. The nuances of kink, BDSM, and fetish pale in comparison to the work we have to do in the rest of our world about basic sexuality. And if we ignore these opportunities and decide instead to exploit the precious freedom we’ve been able to create we do a disservice to our own selves and the vision we have for greater acceptance.
Liberate from the madness.