It’s almost the new year-a theme heavy in this specific issue of Kink Weekly. Along with 2017 I’d like to offer a new era of kink. A lot of folks identifying with the “old guard” may not agree with this, however kink is changing and evolving and that cannot be denied or ignored.
I compare the evolution of kink or pretty much any activity to a quote from Midnight In Paris:
Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.
Those who cling to the past are not living in the present and thus cannot see the good things that are right in front of them. If you wish to keep to the idea that kink should only be practiced behind closed doors and whispered about in dark alleyways then I hope you can at least picture if you will an entirely new world where you can live your true self 24/7 and out in the open. Would you want that for yourself? I know I do.
Another year almost gone which means another year of both progress and regression. BDSM has continued to see the light of day in mainstream media with celebrities, books, and movies portraying (perhaps incorrectly) our lifestyle. So what do I mean by a new era of kink? There is a theory that due to the lifespan of humans, we completely “replace and regenerate our government, policies, and ideas every 100-200 years.” This would account for relatively slow progress (depending on your concept of time) and a circular nature to our progress. We have a new era of people ready to take the reigns but instead of going backwards, we’d like to move everything forward. We’ve already started with rise of BDSM writings in mainstream online magazines, the injection of BDSM themes into moves and television, and people both celebrity and everyday starting a conversation about kink.
We are ready to bring willing participants into this lifestlye. We are not afraid or annoyed by the influx of new people. By sharing and showing our kink we are expressing our passion and educating the masses. By branching out we hope to create even more positive ripple effects in our communities. For example the ripple effect of consent conversations and open talk about sexuality and gender. We do not want people to be afraid of kink but rather see the therapeutic benefits of safe, sane, and consensual kink and that adults are in charge of their own bodies.
In this same token we still seek the wisdom of those who have come before us. We know it has not always been “this easy” or accessible. We become too comfortable in our lifestlye at times and often experience rude awakenings if we’re not careful.
However, we are getting closer; closer to coming out of the shadows and seeing the future of kink.
I hope you’ll come along with me and those who know that kink can one day be mainstream!
Ernest Greene says
BaadMaster, I appreciate and reciprocate your respect. I agree with almost everything you said, but at the end you repeated a mythical principle that is probably more responsible than anything else for the hostility toward those of us who were here in the earliest days of organized BDSM activity. Here it is:
“And remember, there was once an Old Guard tradition that stated “To be a Top you must have bottomed.” Since I never bottomed, should I turn in my Dom card?”
This was absolutely never true of the community as a whole. Some sub-set of BDSM players who styled themselves on MC traditions may have practiced in that way, but from the time I attended my first T.E.S. meeting in NYC in 1974 there was no such “requirement.” Long before anyone started using the word “dynamic” it was understood that we were an extremely diverse and somewhat zany crowd of people who often had no more in common than a very general interest in BDSM. Back in the day we were a rather odd alliance of gay leather men and gay leather women, kink-friendly het swingers and cross-dressers both gay and straight.
People were pretty much accepted as they defined themselves. We had doms and subs, tops and bottoms and masters and slaves with no judgment attaching to anyone’s role, only to their practice of it, which was either ethical or not. There was no hierarchy through which one ascended in order to be considered a master. Then as now most masters assumed the title themselves and generally in the context of a relationship with someone who identified as a slave.
No merit badges were awarded and skill levels varied widely. Overall, I’d say that’s an area where we’ve made real progress. The technology and technique of kink has evolved steadily over time. I doubt ten people knew what Shibari was in this country two decades ago.
When I first moved to L.A. and became active in SoCal Janus most of the membership was over forty. Then a kind of synergy emerged with the local punk scene and the first kink-specific nightclub, Club Fuk, drew an odd assortment of speed-metal fans, tattoo and piercing enthusiasts, BDSM performance artists like Bob Flanagan and Ron Athey and plenty of puzzled voyeurs who couldn’t understand why someone would want their face sutured while listening to deafening industrial noise.
The notion that doms were somehow superior and one had to “earn” one’s leathers by prospecting is something left over from the pre-kink era of “Scorpio Rising.” It was not only alien to our way of thinking overall but would have been met by fierce resistance from subs who had demonstrated the courage to come out as such.
We had our share of posers and predators and you’re right that they were easier to spot when our numbers were smaller, but those numbers had already gotten pretty big by the time I finished my sixth term as coordinator of SoCal Janus’ successor organization, Threshold. We started with 64 members and when I finally handed off the gig to the next hapless soul to try and keep the circus inside the tent we were up to 750 members, and that was in 1990. I can’t think of one of those people from that time who would support the claim, now often used to discredit pre-shaders, that we ran things in a heavy-handed, authoritarian manner dictated by a few old guys in bar vests. It just wasn’t like that.
If anything, I see more rigid orthodoxy in the various new orientations that have emerged during the past ten years than I ever saw during the preceding three decades.
I was one of several people who presented orientations for new members of Threshold and we taught them, first of all, about affirmative consent and what it really means, confidentiality in a still largely-closeted sub-culture and physical safety in play. Other than that, the main point we emphasized was that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” BDSM, only the kind you liked and the kind you didn’t.
Though many of us are gone now there are still plenty of us left and more than willing to share what we’ve learned in all that time if anyone cares to listen, as opposed to assuming they were born knowing everything they needed to. While I never used any new toy or tried any new act without having it done to me first (a practice common among doms and having nothing to do with their own roles) I never cared to bottom to anyone and never came under any pressure to do so, which would have been a consent violation of the type we took very seriously.
I’m happy to give credit to the truly inspired and innovative newcomers who have brought new thinking and new opportunities to explore into our world. I would only ask that they lay off the revisionist history about how that world came to be. I know it’s a hot-button topic and I’m not out to push buttons, only to preserve an accurate understanding of what brought us to where we are now.
Ernest Greene says
I wish I could share in your optimism about this. I do think we’re getting less unsympathetic treatment from mainstream media, which has material benefits ini terms of being able to live less closeted lives.
However, much of what I see, hear and read from newcomers suggests not only an ignorance of the fundamental principles of consensual BDSM but an outright contempt for them. Much of the huge influx we’re witnessing consists of people who do not seem a bit interested in learning what they need to know, as they seem intent on redefining the reality of BDSM to meet their preconceptions. They routinely dismiss the importance of community history and have invented a variety of new definitions for their particular inclinations which they seem bent on inflicting on everyone.
A very important difference between how it was for decades and the way it is now lies in the attitude that newcomers bring. It used to be that one entered this complex world cautiously and sought mentoring from those with extensive personal experience. What I see now is a generalized tendency to dismiss anything that existed before the era of Christian Grey. The myth-making around the so-called “Old Guard” amounts to agist propaganda that describes nothing I’ve seen in 40 years of leather activism. We have absorbed a steady stream of interested novices over that time while preserving a sense of community and shared values.
That’s not what I’m seeing now. What I see looks more and more like an invasion of uninformed and often predatory personalities trying to plant their little flags on top of the hill where their forerunners did the hardest part of the climbing. Next week half of them will onto the next club crazy and frankly that can’t come soon enough.
One principle that must be respected when observing human interactions is the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.” (Not Heisenberg from Breaking Bad.) To paraphrase, it states that when you observe, you change that which you are observing. Or, you cannot accurately observe the merry-go-round while you are on it.
Ernest Greene, whom I respect, is right in that there is an influx of club-a-teers with no respect for the BDSM lifestyle. But has this not always been the case? I remember, in the early days of the Lair, there was a so-called Dom who walked around with a fistful of collars; he even collared a play partner of mine while I was in the bathroom!
The reason there seemed to be less of these predators was because the lifestyle was so insular and had so few members. Follow these hypotethical numbers to make my point:
In a “lifestyle” with 1000 members, if 10% of them are no-respect predator club-a-teer types, that gives you only 100 of these. Hardly worth noticing. Easy to drum out of the lifestyle.
But in a post Fifty Shades world with mainstream approval, there might now be 10,000 — or even 100,000 — members. Ten percent is now a virtual army, making it seem like the lifestyle has devolved into chaos. And with social media, these “club-a-teers” seem to dominate the lifestyle.
In retrospect, only a small percentage — even back in the “Glory Days” of the Old Guard — of those lifestylers would graduate to become serious Master/Mistresses/submissives who would carry on traditions with reverence.
Similarly with the so-called Fifty Shades inspired “Club Guard.” (My term.) A small percentage of them will grow and become the BDSM leaders of tomorrow, a larger percentage will just drop out and do their own version of kink, others will go back to Vegas and the EDM clubs and the rest will revert to vanilla.
Ultimately, where this will shake out is anybody’s guess. But to dismiss a new generation of lifestylers out of hand would be wrong.
And remember, there was once an Old Guard tradition that stated “To be a Top you must have bottomed.” Since I never bottomed, should I turn in my Dom card?
Times change. Traditions change. In the long run, usually for the better.
Such is life.
thank you for calling attention to a huge flaw in lifestyle bdsm