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.
It’s been a while and there is so much to discuss (Prop. 8 decision, bar exam, queer kinksters of color, polyamory, scening, upstart fucktards who pretend to give a shit but are really masking their own insecurity and narcissism, etc). But I’ve had a few epiphanies over the past few days and weeks that I think a few of you might be able to relate to, so I thought I would share.
Most of you reading don’t know me quite well. I often make that mistake when writing here. I forget sometimes that this isn’t LiveJournal where strangers become friends through investing in and commenting to a piece of writing that they see in the safe space of “Friends Only”. Here I’m utterly exposed (which should explain the lack of photos on this site—maybe I’ll add one just for some flair) and you have no context for why I’m saying the things I do or what I’ve gone through in my journey. You only get scant pieces of the puzzle. Some of you do know me, but not enough of you to be able to fully relate to my experiences or perspectives. I’ve been very pampered on LiveJournal with a small little following (that once peaked at 500 followers) that were eager to gobble up the latest slice of drama that I had to dish out. Drama Diner Special of the Week.
So here is some context: Once upon a time I was a dating a man in Texas. I was his first openly poly experience and he was my first stable poly experience. He was the first man I ever called husband other than my actual husband. It was a fantastic life, separated by way too much distance. He had someone in his life that was a thorn in my side…sometimes more than that, more often less than that. He had been dating her when we met and dropped her shortly after and now he is back with her after our relationship became flaming shards of the happiness we once knew.
During my relationship with him I had gotten mad about something she said or did and she emailed me. I don’t even remember the full content of what she wrote but the line that I do recall is “You create your own drama”. It set me off faster than anything I had experienced before. Next thing I knew I was raving through my office, unloading my anger and rage on every piece of paper and furniture I could find.
That’s how most of us react when we hear a truth about ourselves that we don’t like. That’s how most of us react when it’s shoved in our face so unceremoniously. It’s a shadowy side of denial.
Yes, I said truth. I didn’t admit it at the time, but I….she….he…all of us create our own drama. We choose to see the world a certain way through our own lens of experience. We justify our version of this vision with the victimization we think we’ve endured. It’s not that I create drama, I would say to the imaginary version of her, if you’d stop bringing it to my door there wouldn’t be any drama. Lookie there, me making myself the victim in all of that. In truth, I was indeed creating it or at the very least feeding it, in that particular scenario because I was intervening in a fight, argument or situation that frankly was none of my business and had nothing to do directly with me. In other scenarios it was because I thought I was defending a loved one. In others it’s because I wanted to make my opinion known (as if somehow my opinion is superior to anyone else’s). And in others I was reacting with the first impulse that came into my head that I wasn’t making conscious choices that would benefit me in the long-run.
I take responsibility for the fact that I built my polyamorous relationships to be inter-dependent, to have a sense that what impacts my loves, affects me as well and vice versa. But I think this was taking the idea of interdependence a bit too far. Too often my partners or I would literally take a statement made to one of us as a personal affront against all of us. We all lost potential partners over this…over this insistence of creating our own drama or at the very least prolonging the already existing drama.
But it’s not just when the “honor” of a loved one is at stake, we do it in our everyday lives. We take it all personally usually because we’re either prone to seeing ourselves as the victim or we are insistent that we are not the villain. We do it in such a variety of ways I’m sure we hardly notice it. That guy who cut you off on the highway this morning, I’m sure you’re convinced he did it on purpose. The bill collectors who won’t leave you alone have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you are overwhelmed with the amount of debt you have; they’re harassing you! The friend who is upset with you for not calling on their birthday just needs to get over the fact that you’re just way too busy and important to be attentive to their needs. I mean, like OMG, can you really believe how horribly mistreated and misunderstood you are? And it’s you and only you, right?
See, everyday we make excuses for our behavior and thoughts. We point fingers at the alarm clock that wouldn’t go off, at the boss who just doesn’t like you, at the overbearing mother who won’t respect boundaries (my personal go-to), at the ex who judges you for everything you say, at the kids who just don’t respect your authority. It’s all excuses. We constantly say how “drama-free” we want to be, but we rarely consider how often we are pulling ourselves into that drama, creating it from the ground up with our reactions and often over-reactions to things. How sometimes we’re making excuses to cover up for our own fears and insecurities, our own mistakes and inadequacies. We figure the world is going to judge us, so we judge them first. We impose our self-righteous rage on them before they can point out that we brought this upon ourselves.
Kids, we let drama get to us because it gives us the satisfaction of feeling like we are right. In this big, bad world of unfairness and inequity we are constantly subjected to people and situations that are out of our control. By giving in to drama and creating it we feel some power even in the midst of an acclaimed powerlessness. We can stomp our foot and stand our ground no matter how ridiculous the issue or insignificant the battle. And let’s face it, drama even when it’s self-imposed is exciting. It brings up rage and anger, euphoria and competitiveness. It gets the blood pumping and keeps us on our toes. And when we get really good at creating it, we know just what buttons to push to make it a show-stopping worthy display. And when someone isn’t bringing it to us, we resort to trolling our own lives to create it. Regardless, it gives us a reason to check twitter every 10 minutes, to ignore the mundaneness of laundry and dishes and fills the space left when our favorite tv shows (like MadMen or Walking Dead) are on an extended hiatus. It’s living on the edge: a maddening, harsh and wantonly critical precipice.
But there is a difference between feeling like you’re right and actually doing what’s right. What happens when you realize that living on the edge isn’t what it’s cracked up to be? What happens when you finally want to grow some roots into solid, soft soil?
The past few weeks have been eye-opening about the bar exam. If you want to really examine a drama of my own creation it is that one. I have made every excuse in the world for why I didn’t pass back in 2003 and 2004. And some of those excuses actually were self-critical judgements of my own decisions and lifestyle choices that created its own massive amount of drama. When a former professor told me two months ago that I could pass the bar exam this year I started really examining what that might look like. It’s not about luck. It’s not about whether I’m smart enough. It’s about letting go of all of the drama I had and was continuing to create about it. Being on the precipice of success and failure was no longer cutting it for me.
I was presented with a choice.
I could choose the same old life: living paycheck to paycheck because my law degree makes me overqualified for most types of jobs and I’m simultaneously underqualified for other gigs. Or I could choose something different. I could go through the hard process of figuring out where my problem areas are and I could get up and try again. I could keep calling myself a failure or I could stand up and create my success.
We each have a choice. We have a choice to step back from the edge, stop listening to the whispers in the wind, start to care only about those arguments and battles that truly have an impact on our passions and well-being and address those issues like adults. All it takes is finally making choices that match our intentions of “no drama”.
Feeding into the larger drama machine only keeps you trapped in a world where there are only victims and villains. Life isn’t a fairy tale. There is not good vs. evil. There is not a battle between the wicked queen and the innocent princess. But our cultural story encourages each of us to view ourselves as the victim of our situation. We even compete with each other to see who is most victimized and therefore most deserving a 2nd chance. But what happens when we acknowledge that we are not just victim but villain as well. What if this whole time we’ve been playing against ourselves? What if we have been playing out this grand drama inside us so we can avoid facing those insecurities, doubts, fears and troubles that have grown from our experiences? What if we are really sabotaging ourselves, our dreams, our relationships? What might you be able to accomplish if you spent that time fixing the drama within yourself?