When I was contacted by Nix Rodriguez, contributing writer to the online BDSM magazine PredilectionAZ.com, who said he’d been following my blog(s) and wanted to interview me, my first thought was, “Wait, Arizona—that Arizona—has a local BDSM magazine?” Feeling skeptical and using justifiable caution, I asked for details and consulted some friends to learn more.
It turns out the online mag, which is “dedicated to providing information, education, and entertainment to the Arizona kink and fetish community,” has been publishing for only a little over 1 year, but seem to have strong community ties and showcase what I’ll call the formerly-silent majority. Their website has a mix of membership-only and public content and lists a lot of events in Arizona from groups like Arizona Power Exchange (APEX). If nothing else, this is at least a good reminder that even in America’s newly-christened “Mecca of prejudice and bigotry,” there are people who call such hostile environments home and are trying to sustain more sexually healthy communities there.
Which brings me to what Nix wanted to interview me about: the things I’ve done and challenges I’ve faced working towards sexual freedom on the largest scale I can. The entire interview was just recently published on the PredilectionAZ.com website, and it’s graciously not within the members-only sections, so I’ll encourage you to go have a look. The interview covers a lot of ground, but here are a few important snippets:
Nix: As a bisexual submissively oriented man, what challenges have you faced within the community?
Maymay: Bisexuals suffer a certain invisibility similar to what switches face. For whatever reason, many people are unwilling to accept gray areas, far less celebrate the possibilities inherent in ambiguity. I’ve been assumed to be straight in gay circles and gay in straight circles and, as you can imagine, this is problematic both in terms of fostering diversity in our communities and in terms of getting play.
It’s very difficult to occupy what others view as the “middle ground.” Not only do those of us who stand there get penalized for being “fence-sitters,” we also simply have a hard time just getting people to treat our sexuality as a legitimate, first-class entity rather than as two incomplete halves. I’m not half-gay and half-straight anymore than a switch is half-top and half-bottom. So rather than consider bisexuality the “middle” point between gay and straight, or switching as the “middle” between top and bottom, I’d much rather add a whole new dimension to the map.
Also, sometimes I find it hard to impress upon people that being bisexual does not, in fact, make me a switch. Even during my most vanilla sex, even while gripping my partner’s hair, there’s submissive intent in the act. Again, most people have been so indoctrinated with a dogma of false equivalency that they couple one thing, like power, with another thing, like gender, which in reality have no direct correlation. Their world is so thoroughly comprised of false dichotomies (men are dominant, women are submissive, or whatever) that they have trouble breaking free not merely from the particular misperception, but the entire way of thinking, the entire paradigm.
The good news is that breaking free from one false dichotomy usually empowers you to break out of many others; many lies are made of the same, brittle stuff.
Nix: Through your work and activism you have been called “unapologetically opinionated” and “brazenly outspoken” and have been censored in a few places as pornography. How has this affected your approach if it all? Do you consider it kind of a badge of honor or a sad side effect?
Maymay: I think what’s sad about being censored is that the people obstructed by the censorship won’t have the opportunity to determine what I’ve said that they disagree with most. Of course, the point of censorship is to quell disagreement and to dull inquisitive minds; censorship is cultural terrorism.
There is no more honor in being censored than there is in being terrorized. Sitting in a public library—in the adults’ section!—trying to access your own blog and realizing you can’t read it because it’s been censored feels very scary. It sends the unmistakable impression that someone out there thinks what you have to say is dangerous. But unless you’re just talking the talk, all it does is radicalize you. And that’s how freedom fighters are born.
Nix: Many would consider you an activist for sexual freedom. How are sexual freedoms being threatened or violated today? How do you think these issues pertain to the BDSM or alternative lifestyle community?
Maymay: Oh gosh, there are far too many attacks on sexual freedom to list, but I think what underpins all such attacks is simply the fact that otherwise smart people throw reason out the window when dealing with sexuality. It’s as if, to them, sexuality has completely different physics than other aspects of life. Pointing out inconsistencies with people’s way of thinking can therefore be a much more successful route to addressing sexual injustices—at least when it comes to the long arc of history—than pushing back against one or two specific beliefs.
When it comes to BDSM, for example, a lot of people ridicule the idea of dominant women. Female-dominant, male-submissive relationships, I’ve heard them argue, reinforces sexism by casting women in control as something “absurd.” But then why are these same people, these folks who think women in control of a man is ridiculous, so quick to argue that women are gatekeepers of sexual pleasure, that women either say “yes” or “no” and thereby are either charged with or derided for controlling men’s sexual urges? It just doesn’t make any sense, because despite what the mainstream says, neither dominance nor submission are inherently tied to gender.
Now, I’m one of the first people to argue that there are absurd depictions of sexuality out there, and I’m often critical of the BDSM community for doing its share of damage to sexual freedom efforts by buying into many of them. BDSM and leather communities are depressingly racially and socioeconomically segregated, with events trending overwhelmingly white and middle-upper class. Why do we, in so-called “alternative lifestyle communities,” create a class hierarchy remarkably similar to the very systems of oppression we claim to be escaping?
Too often, I see the accoutrement of “leather sex” (whips, chaps, boots, etc.) fetishized as status symbols. What’s the difference between that outrageously expensive Joe Wheeler signal whip and that CoDesign $7,000 sex toy chess set? Frankly, not much. Both signify the owner belongs to a certain class—and I’d dare say caste—within their community, not unlike the executive with the red sports car. Cultural stratification like this creates real barriers for people who don’t have access to whatever resource is made scarce.
Class issues even cross over to intangibles like transportation. When your conference or workshop or club or whatever requires a car to get to, people who rely on public transit options (youth, poor people, whoever) just can’t partake. That sabotages the reach of sexual freedom efforts—and of your event! We have to do better than making accessibility an afterthought or we’re just dressing up the same oppression in different clothes.
Read the whole thing at PredilectionAZ.com. Thanks very much to Nix and the rest of the PredilectionAZ crew for their interest in and support of sexual freedom work. I hope they’re able to continue providing Arizonans with accurate information about BDSM for many more years.