There was a time, not long ago, when getting involved in the BDSM community meant learning a certain minimum amount of protocols – depending on the group you hung out with, and maintaining a certain level of secrecy. Being “let in” was something special. It was more than just “Yippee! I found a bunch of kinky people like me.” It was more than finally being accepted for who you are by a number of people. It was special because this group of people chose to trust you, and to embrace you as not only kinky, but trustworthy enough to join them in their secret places and their secret rituals. (Play and socializing was more ritualized back then.)
It’s not like that anymore. It’s pretty much a free-for-all now. All anyone needs in order to “join” now is a computer. Everyone gets in – whether they ever show up in person or not. Bondage, leather, sadomasochism are now splashed all over mainstream entertainment. More and more it’s viewed as just another way of having sex. “Kinky sex” it gets called. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s insulting. Sadomasochism and power exchange permeate far more of my existence than getting my rocks off. There were thoughts and images of bondage and sadism swirling around in my head long before I was old enough for my cock to get hard. There are others like me, for whom all of this is more than sex.
Some see this free-for-all as a positive thing. After all, now that basically anyone can celebrate being “kinky” purely by virtue of enjoying sex in some manner other than heterosexual, missionary position intercourse, there is no real investment in claiming to belong to a “kinky” community. And now, lots of hangers-on are doing so just because of they think it makes them cool, or “edgy.” But honestly, what discipline does it take to play dress-up?
Additionally, a lot of folks nowadays try more and more to display their “kink” in the public eye. There seem to be many more people who somehow think there is some benefit to “coming out” and showing off their sexual quirks to the rest of the world. However, what I see is simply a competition between a bunch of people to see who can look and act the most outrageous in front of vanillas. And as years go by, these displays degrade more and more to the point that they look like little more than drunken frat-party stunts designed only to shock people and get a bunch of laughs.
This is creating a backlash on multiple levels. Take, for instance, the recent rash of sexual assault complaints in which the accused men (quite often, politically powerful men) try to excuse their violent behavior by claiming that the incidents were consensual BDSM encounters. Some examples include a tech executive who choked and beat a woman, leaving her face and neck bruised . Then there is an Alaska state Representative who allegedly got drunk with a woman, brought her back to his hotel room, and slapped her so hard he ruptured her eardrum. Apparently, she consented to being slapped, but he didn’t stop when she told him he was being too rough. Then there is the sleaze-bag New York attorney general who is accused of assaulting FOUR women without their consent. He claims that he was “engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” within “the privacy of intimate relationships.” Suuurre!!
My God! It wasn’t all that long ago that no rich powerful man would dare to publicly claim to the world that they were “kinky.” They’d rather accept the “abuser” label. But now that everyone worships “50 Shades” and assumes that everyone else is into BDSM, you would think that it’s open season on women. But when a woman goes to the police – well then, claiming “BDSM” seems to be an easy out for these shitheads. If these had been consensual BDSM encounters, the police would not have become involved – simply because in a consensual BDSM encounter, they would have STOPPED once the woman indicated that things were getting out of hand.
One of the things that made BDSM special, many years ago, was the fact than once you got into the lifestyle and community, you then walked a continuing path of learning, honing skills, bettering yourself and making the community itself a better place for those who enter in the future. I don’t see that so much anymore. Especially online, it seems to be more of a popularity contest over who gets more “loves” on their photos. It also seems to be a contest of who knows the most about this or that, with an attitude that all these pesky new people asking stupid questions need to go away. Of course, there are still plenty of people, like me, trying to help people learn and find their place within this lifestyle. There always will be. But there are fewer of us now, I believe.
I don’t think “pride” movements help us much, either. I understand that the original “Gay Pride” movement from the 70’s helped end a lot of serious discrimination an violence toward homosexuals. But, the original goal has been reached. It is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and there are enhanced penalties for hate crimes now. However, nowadays, it seems everyone has a “pride” flag and demands that everyone else respect their “pride.”
I’m not “proud” to be kinky. I just AM kinky and I’m not ashamed of who I am. I don’t march in parades or attend rallies. What I do in my bedroom or dungeon is my business. The “pride” movements seem to have devolved into an excuse to run out into the streets and be “in the face” of vanillas. I can’t think of anything we are accomplishing by dressing up in our fetish clothes and dancing around in the streets. You can disagree with me, (and NO, I don’t hate anyone), but I don’t believe that we are changing any minds by coming out and acting like clowns for the cameras. I think it’s high time that WE show the vanillas some respect and not deliberately seek to shock and offend them. I’m perfectly content practicing my alternative lifestyle out of sight, in private, and amongst my own kind. If vanillas want to see what I do, they can come underground and find me.
The very popular and not-even-close to realistic “50 Shades of Grey” has done a lot to bring in people who not only don’t understand what BDSM is about, but worse, THINK they know everything about it. I knew our lifestyle was in trouble a few years ago when I started seeing more and more guys showing up in our clubs and events in business suits they had clearly cobbled together from the thrift store. This phenomenon is so prevalent, that “Twitter Dom” is and actual term. Look it up on Urban Dictionary. Some women tend to get a skewed idea that the perfect Dominant is rich and powerful and that when you find him, you just submit to what he wants and he takes care of the rest. It reminds me a lot of the “World of Gor” subculture that has permeated the lifestyle for years. That’s not real BDSM. Real BDSM is consent, and communication. It’s learning skills and practicing them. It’s caring for a sub deeply, not seeing them as simply an object to use for one’s shallow desires.
Unfortunately, bringing BDSM into the mainstream world results in a lot of people simply imitating their favorite books, or playing dress-up to the point that BDSM events become more like a “comic con.” Hell, I’ve even seen kids leading each other around in public on leashes. WTF?? Why actually show up to a munch and learn anything when you can just put on a “pleather” dress and a silly wig and walk around watching the freaks? Maybe I’m just being an old fuddy-duddy, but it seems like nobody has to take any risk to be “kinky” anymore. It used to be that walking into a munch was taking a big step in your life. By the time you actually showed up to a play party, you had already invested time and energy into exploring this lifestyle. It really meant something.
I’ve never felt cheated by being “in the closet” with my lifestyle. I don’t need the approval or the adoration of vanillas. And I don’t need to force them to see what I do. I guess I mainly wonder if we still honestly feel like we have something special. Or are we just one more sex position? I agree that we always need new people, and we should be a friendly and inviting place for them. But I’ve always felt that this thing is spiritual – magical even. And it’s not for everyone. I know there’s no putting this genie back in the bottle. But I believe we are at risk of becoming a fad – like disco – rather than the deep and rewarding path that I’ve known for all these years.