My girl and I are pretty involved in two different groups, the BDSM scene and SF&F (science fiction & fantasy) fandom. In many ways they’re, of course, very different. Yet there’s a significant amount of overlap between the two as well as some rather key differences.
I’ve been involved in SF&F fandom (or just Fandom as we refer to it) since at least 1986, with an interest that stemmed from long before then. Meanwhile I’ve only been involved with the Scene since 2007, having come to it late in spite of a lifelong interest.
So why the difference?
Simply put, Fandom was easier to stumble across. While I’d been reading about it for years, it was only when I began to regularly frequent comic book speciality shops that I came across a flier for what turned out to be my first SF&F convention. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who thought and felt the way I did. It was glorious.
And there were hints of BDSM in the cracks and around the corners; periodic Gor, Orion Slave Gir, or Dejah Thoris costumes; art with the same themes or subject matter; as well as mainstream and small press novels with strong BDSM themes. There were threads to pull if you were looking for them, but it was more a dirty little secret. They may have led to the Scene, but I wasn’t yet ready to pull them.
Meanwhile, what BDSM scene existed in the late ’80s-early ’90s wasn’t very easy to locate, and I didn’t frequent the sort of places where they might advertise. It wasn’t until the Internet made it to my door in ’95 that I discovered it. Sadly, being with a vanilla partner and not really understanding what it was all about left it tantalizingly out of reach.
Fast-forward to 2007. I’m now with a decidedly kinky partner, and we discover this new-fangled site called “Fet-Life”. Suddenly I can find the local scene and, in some ways, it seemed a lot like the one I’m already very familiar with. But over time I discovered some key differences.
Fandom is filled with what is generally a sub-section of humanity, the dreamers, fantasists, visionaries, freaks, geeks, and misfits. Maybe not exclusively so, but if you were to carve out a random sampling, I’d argue that 8 out of 10 would fall neatly into one of these categories.
And here’s the thing; they’re by-and-large, generally pretty good people. While it certainly has its share of people with psychological issues, they don’t seem to be the ones who’re evil or nasty. You’ll also see more than your fair share of people on the autism spectrum, or aspy.
Meanwhile the Scene is pretty much made up of a cross-section of humanity, people good, bad, and all of the places in between. Being fannish seems to attract a specific type of person, while kink covers the spectrum.
And sure, sometimes it may seem as if the scene is full of predators, narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and other bad-and-generally-selfish people, the reality is that… well, the world is simply full of those sort of people, mixed in with the rest of us. The Scene doesn’t really attract them any more than any other general activity. I mean, think of who you’ll encounter on your average dating site!
I’ve always felt that being kinky was a broader part of our personality, not really a subset. When you meet someone, simply sharing kink isn’t really enough, almost like simply being cis, gay, bi, or trans isn’t really enough to hang a relationship on.
If you’re into NASCAR, you’ll work best with someone else who’s also into NASCAR… and is kinky. If you’re into floral arranging, you’ll work best with someone else who’s also into floral arranging… and is kinky. For me and my girl, we work best with people who’re geeky *and* kinky. It’s a narrow subset, but we’ve got each other and a few close friends. But it works for us.
As always, this has been a broad generalization based on personal experience; your mileage may vary.
PirateStan has been involved in his local BDSM community for over 12 years, after having had a lifelong inclination towards it. He currently lives a contented life in Southeastern Virginia with his girl, zeirah, while working by day for a Major Metropolitan Publication.
What do you mean by “socially stunted”?
The Fandom community has had its share of “predators, narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and other bad-and-generally-selfish people” (looking over at Cordwainer Bird), but I believe that they’re fewer of them than in the kink community. However Fandom also has a lot more emotional cripples and socially stunted folks.