That word gets bandied around a lot: “community.” It’s a stupid word. It doesn’t mean anything unless you define it, and since everyone has a different definition of what it means, you always have to define it. Which means you can’t ever use it and trust that what you say is what other people hear.
So, here’s my definition: “community” means a group of people who regularly interact socially within the same routines, typically at the same places, and often for the same purpose.
One example of a community? The group of people who go to sex-themed events and all know each other, who jump into one another’s conversations like they’re in a circle-jerk. You know the ones I’m talking about: divas at fetish parties, celebs at fundraisers and galleries with $75 a head admissions tickets, munches at those same ridiculously overpriced eateries, the coffee house whose owner is kinky and everyone always suggests meeting there.
I fuckin’ hate that community.
Now, since dem’s dere fightin’ words, let me define “I fuckin’ hate that community.”
When I say that, I don’t mean that I’d like to see that community destroyed. I think it’s got a certain value that’s really beneficial, especially to certain narrow slivers of people, and certainly to society at large. What I mean is that these social groupings incite within me an emotional response of such strong dislike that my feelings demand some kind of action.
Recognizing the value in something that I hate put me in a very difficult position for a very long time.
I remember a long, long, long time ago—a lifetime ago—when I was in New York City and a regular attendee at TES meetings. Elections were coming up and I had a lot of gripes about the way things were. The only two people I’d happily call friends at the time urged me to run for the board. I flat-out laughed at the ridiculousness of the suggestion.
“But you could do such good here,” they said.
“I don’t care about doing good here,” I replied.
And can you blame me? In the mid 00′s, TES was (and I’d put money on the table saying it still is) a sanctimonious pile of human dung whose board, it seemed, existed more so that its members can score play partners than actually do anything good for “the community.” And I don’t say this out of inference alone.
I remember—vividly—the very first “play party” I ever went to. It was in downtown Manhattan, at a converted dungeon space called Arena. I was 18 at the time, although I lied and said I was 21. I went with my then-partner, who went by the scene name “Cookie,” and who, several months earlier, I had introduced to the whole BDSM sex thing with a significant amount of trepidation using this book. (I even wrote a review of it the following year.)
At the party, a rotund man by the name of Bo Blaze, who Cookie and I had met a couple weeks earlier after he made a beeline for her at the first TES meeting we attended (where Boymeat and Luna were demonstrating flogging), sat with me at the back of one of the play rooms. He told me about how there were “wolves” in parts of the Scene, how things could be dangerous for newbies who didn’t know their way around, and how people like him—people respected in the community—were there to offer guidance and support around the whole subculture.
I knew part of that’s true; Cookie and I purposefully entered the Scene together, as a couple, with (readers familiar with me will be amused to know) myself as the dominant partner (“switch”) and she as the submissive. That half-pretense (we both switched with one another because we both leaned more heavily submissive) was specifically a protective mechanism for us, and for her especially, because by the time we joined we had both been reading enough bulletin boards and mailing lists and other material to know that certain social protocols were followed with a D/s couple—protocols like checking in with the submissive person’s partner that felt, to us, like they would offer some additional measure of safety—that would be missing with submissive-only self-presentations.
Months later, I realized that Bo, with his superb ability for social manipulation and, I should point out, as he often did, highly respected status as a TES Board Member, was not in fact interested in helping guide us—Cookie and I—through the subculture but rather merely interested in scoring playtime with her. Over the years, I heard him give the same exact speech, complete with “wolves” warning, to numerous other young couples that joined. And he was a shitty, do-little Promotions Chair, too, I heard from folks who worked with him. But that’s neither here nor there.
Cookie received her very first flogging at that party (yes, from Bo) and left the party feeling like she was on cloud 9. I left feeling fruitlessly optimistic, having had what amounted to an awkward conversation, but was described as some kind of mental play involving closing my eyes and talking. (Myself, Bo and another new-to-this-Scene-but-not-to-The-Scene woman named Alessandra were talking, and when she said she was a top, Bo took the opportunity to pair us and went to play with Cookie. Both feeling a little put on-the-spot, I think, Alessandra and I did the talking thing instead of any physical thing. Fair enough.)
For her part, Cookie, who had a thing for “Daddy” play, ended up his “little girl.” We broke up after she stayed the night with a smarmy NYU would-be journalist named Julian who, she told me on the phone the next day, started out wanting to play with her in a dominant role and then switched tactics mid-way through their scene and wanted her to top him. Typical douple-speaking douche-bag.
Cookie’s relationship with Bo soon fizzled in a relatively amusing fashion wherein she called me for some support, having recently moved to attend an out of state college. She was dating Boymeat at that time, too.
I’m reminded of all this because she called me recently, wanting to know if I’d sit down with her for an hour and talk about our past. She’s writing a book about it, she tells me. No, thank you, I told her, “that’s not a time in my life I want to recall memories from.”
So, I don’t think very highly of “the community.” Or perhaps more precisely, of “The Scene.” I think it’s putrid.
Yet it’s been completely inescapable for me because What It Is That I Do simply has zero visibility anywhere else. And so I’ve noticed a peculiar trend: when speaking with someone who considers themselves part of “the community,” I’ll hear something like, “Oh yeah, I know about Kink On Tap.” Or, as happened recently, “It’s hard to have a serious discussion on the femdom scene these days without someone mentioning Male Submission Art[…].” This is often a through-the-grapevine conversation, heresay from one person to another until it finally reaches my ears.
I think that’s peculiar because I haven’t put one iota of concerted effort into cultivating a listenership to Kink On Tap or a readership for Male Submission Art from within the Scene. I’ve frequently gone so far as to completely ignore and downplay promotional opportunities within that sphere. And yet I keep hearing these phrases from people who go to those community parties and events: “Oh yeah, I know about Kink On Tap.”
I guess that’s because I had roots there; I suppose this means people there know of me, even if they don’t know me. And maybe some of the things I’ve said even made some kind of positive impact I’m not around to witness. And that’d be great for would-be future me’s.
But as long as I’m doing this laying-myself-bare thing, let’s get one thing perfectly fucking straight: nothing I’ve ever done was for the Scene or the people in it. Not. A. Thing. Maybe that’ll help explain why I didn’t give a flying fuck that TES publicly made fun of KinkForAll New York City when it happened: none of it was ever for you. (See also: Scene rant.)
So who was it for?
Like I said more “nicely” the other day, it was all for the people who think they would like to be part of your self-satisfied circle-jerk with you. I used to want that. Now I know what a farce it is. I don’t give two shits about doing “BDSM community PR” work, to use Thomas’s phrase, a fact that made the anti-sex contingent’s attacks on me all the more ludicrous.
So, “community?” A fucking joke—sometimes literally. Fuck the community. I’m not interested in making those places better. I’m interested in making everywhere else better. And fuck, I wish more of you in the “community” cared more about that, too.
But I was right not to hold my breath because, as I said before:
[T]here is a fallacy, a lie, a self-protective disgusting self-consolement that the sex communities tell themselves to comfort themselves and hide their own massively, outrageously discriminatory practices[…]. And that lie is that those people simply “didn’t find the right space for them,” “wouldn’t fit in here anyway,” or some such bullshit. […S]ex communities do a fucking piss poor job of making it okay to want those things, and that in fact, sex communities are mostly filled with self-contented, complacent, lazy people whose actions make it clear they care more about getting their own lay than making it possible for other people to connect to them, or with others.