Polyamory As Orientation?

by Race Bannon on March 7, 2014

In a recent article in Modern Poly written by Saul-of-Hearts, a writer, musician and videographer based in Los Angeles and Portland, the idea that polyamory is an orientation, at least for the writer, was put forth. I posted the article titled “Polyamory As Orientation (And Why It Works For Me)” on Facebook and asked my online friends this question: “So what do you think? Is it similar to an orientation or not?”

The range of answers I got was interesting as discussions regarding polyamory often are, especially with my online friends who range from actively polyamorous to staunchly monogamous and everything in between. But one comment stood out and resonated with me the moment I read it. A friend offered this:

The writer assumes that all humans are not naturally capable of a romantic relationship with more than one individual. I don’t like the term poly. Most research into modern hunter/gatherer societies has shown that monogamy is a modern phenomenon and socially constructed for the purposes of property management and inheritance.

Monogamy isn’t an orientation, it’s conditioning.

Poly isn’t an orientation. It is our natural state.

This rings true for me. I also think being poly is our natural state and that monogamy has been imposed upon us by social conditioning. If you read heralded books like Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, they offer the same conclusion. Of course, this position is controversial for many.

But for those of us who identify as poly and who live a poly life now, or have aspirations to do so, I think adopting the mindset that being poly is a natural state while monogamy is not would serve us well. However, the only caution I would offer is that this stance should not denigrate the decision that some will make to configure their relationships in a monogamous fashion. Just because we might put forth the notion that poly is a natural state does not mean that someone’s choice to be monogamous is wrong or counter to nature, especially if that decision is truly made for reasons that work for the individuals involved and are not the result of social conditioning that makes those people miserable as they try to conform. Poly folks must always value the monogamous among us even as we live our lives in a different fashion. Diversity is the norm and therefore that means that people will decide to configure their relationships in diverse ways also. It’s all good.

With all that said, I guess the most accurate statement I can make is that poly is natural for many people. I contend it’s natural for most people, but the real point I want to make is that it’s most certainly just as natural as monogamy is and perhaps, if social conditioning weren’t a factor, might indeed by the more prevalent form of how we do relationships.

So while I don’t think of myself being polyamorous as an orientation, I do embrace the notion that my poly life is indeed a natural state. It’s certainly more natural for me than monogamy, both in terms of my sexuality and how I bond with others.

Let me know your thoughts about this by posting a comment.

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David Ortmann Interview

by Race Bannon on February 27, 2014

Every so often I run across a great interview with someone representing some aspect of the kink, BDSM, leather, alternative sexualities, polyamory or some other segment of the world encompassed by this blog’s focus. I just ran across one. I think it’s important to promote such interviews because it presents an entire body of kinksters so well.

David Ortmann was interviewed by David Perry on Perry’s show recently and I think it’s one of the best interviews I’ve seen lately on the topic of kink and BDSM. Ortmann is articulate, savvy and presents a side of our scene that I think lands nicely on the eyes and ears of newcomers and those who might not relate to the more stereotypical leather-clad or geared-up imagery so often put front and center when our scene is discussed.

Ortmann authored the book Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities along with co-author Richard Sprott. I also recommend their book highly. Check out the video and share it with your friends.

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Serious Academic BDSM Research

by Race Bannon on February 21, 2014

Whenever a segment of society has to deal with any oppression or societal misunderstandings, as those who practice BDSM must sometimes endure, one of the tools that can be used to blunt such negative perceptions is serious academic research on the topic.

I recently read about interesting study results regarding how BDSM experiences can lead to an altered state of consciousness, mirroring what some see as meditative states. If you’re interested in this research, I suggest you read The New Yoga? Sadomasochism Leads to Altered States, Study Finds published on the LiveScience site.

Those involved in BDSM are sometimes surprised to learn that academic research is taking place about this topic, but there has been and continue to be a number of such research projects undertaken in academic settings. The results of these studies are important. In many instances such research supports what most of us already know, that if practiced responsibility BDSM is a completely healthy expression of our sexuality. Such research findings can also bring about changes in how psychological or medical care is approached or in certain court legal proceedings.

I am aware of two important organizations that are currently doing their part to foster such research.

One is Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (often referred to as CARAS). I sit on their Board and their mission is to support and promote excellence in the study of alternative sexualities and the dissemination of research results to the alternative sexualities communities, the public and the research community. Check out their site and please consider joining the organization (click the Join button). Your membership will help support this important research. If you don’t want to join, CARAS welcomes donations as well (click the Donate button).

Another organization, The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (often referred to as TASHRA), is a newer organization seeking to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage in BDSM, kink and sexual fetishism. They want to create a world where all kinksters have equal access to culturally competent, non-judgmental and knowledgeable healthcare. I sit on the Community Research Advisory Board for this organization and am excited about its mission. The best way to support TASHRA’s mission right now is to donate to them (click the Donate button on their site).

There are certainly other groups that are trying to foster this sort of research, but these two organizations appear to be the only ones focused entirely on such research that encompasses a wide cross-section of the BDSM and kink worlds.

It’s really important to support the important work these two organizations undertake. It is only by providing factual results from rigorous research that BDSM will be treated as simply another of many avenues of valid and healthy sexual expression.

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San Francisco Bay Area Reporter Leather Column

by Race Bannon on February 3, 2014

I am the new writer of the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter (often called the B.A.R.) leather column. The column has a long history in the local leather and kink scene and it’s read nationally and internationally as well. I’m honored to have been asked to take over this column from the previous writer who decided to step away for personal reasons.

Here’s the link to the first column I wrote. The column is published every other week. So check back on my blog for links to my columns, or visit the B.A.R. site and look at the BARtab section for my column.

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Let’s Focus On What’s Important

by Race Bannon on January 26, 2014

This speech was delivered on January 26, 2014 as the Sunday brunch keynote address at the Southwest Leather Conference conference held in Phoenix, AZ. Here is a link to the audio recording of the speech on Leatherati.

Good afternoon. For those of you I have not yet encountered in person this weekend, let me offer my rather late welcome to this conference. I hope you’ve been having a great time. I certainly have.

I would like to thank all of the organizers and volunteers at this conference with a special thanks to Joseph for asking me to be here this year. And thanks to everyone in attendance, all of you, for taking the time out of your weekend to listen to what I have to say. I truly do appreciate it. Thank you.

For those who might wonder, I believe brevity is a virtue. So I promise I will not make you sit attentively for too long.

As some background on this speech, I want you to know that as I was writing the first version of this speech, I suddenly realized that I had something else to say and I scrapped that speech. Almost in its entirety. There are snippets of the original speech left intact. But what you’re about to hear is an amalgam of a bit of what I had wanted to say and, mostly, what I realized I truly needed to say here today. I mention this because I want you to realize how important I think this message is.

Anyone who has listened to the speeches I’ve delivered over the past couple of decades knows that they often reflect my activist, education or leadership leanings. However, today I’d like to take all of those hats off and simply speak to you as a fellow kinkster.

When I come to conferences like this the topics discussed typically drift toward educating our own, organizing events, providing leadership within clubs and organizations, hosting parties, securing our erotic freedoms, and other such truly worthwhile endeavors. But there is too often something lacking, something missing. There is a piece of the puzzle, an important piece, the most important piece, we seem to sometimes neglect.

Too often we seem to forget that we all do this stuff that we do for one ultimate purpose – so that we can bond, connect and play with others of like mind. We tend to forget that the connections and relationships we create and foster are really why we’re here. It’s about the connections. It’s about the relationships. It’s about the play. It’s about enjoying our individual erotic identities even as we celebrate them communally. Everything else we do must support those things or our efforts are way off the mark. At least that’s the assumption I operate under.

I think at times we all, myself included, suffer from what I refer to as groupthink. As we gather at events like this one and as we communicate with each other virtually or at gatherings elsewhere, or we read or view what others have to say, a phenomenon occurs that was less prevalent many years ago when we would all typically be more independent players and gatherings were a bit more ad hoc and infrequent. We begin to think alike. We begin to agree on certain norms. We begin to categorize. We begin to judge. We become self-righteous at times. We begin to compare ourselves to others. We begin to construct rigidity where there was once flexibility.

This all leads to what I’ve called groupthink and I fear that often this groupthink perspective damages why we’re all here in the first place.

Now please do not take offense if you work hard on some aspects of education, organizing, leadership, or some other nuts and bolts activity that supports our scene. Kudos to you if you do those things. I do those things also. My position today in no way negates those efforts. But I do hope that what I’m saying here today brings some focus to why we do those things. And for those among you who may not be involved in the scene’s inner workings and are here to simply have some fun and learn, perhaps it might bring some clarity to your own kink pursuits as well.

One of the things I try to do is to constantly strive to deduce life to its most basic ideas and propositions, to arrive at certain foundation principles that serve me well. Many of the world’s thinkers have done the same and have their own list of such universal foundation principles. It is these foundation principles that provide the overarching truths upon which we hang much of what we consider to be good and correct in our society, and that includes our own kinky subculture.

The two foundation principles I want to talk about today are uniqueness and change, with another word for uniqueness I’ll use sometimes being individuality. There are many such foundation principles of life, but I focus on these two today because I think they are fundamental to who we are as kinksters as well as at the core of what’s both good and bad about our scene, individually and collectively.

I sit in classes. I attend contests. I listen to speeches like this one. I participate in discussion groups. I work with organizations. And more such activities of course. And as I do these things it consistently hits me that we are often going through many motions that don’t always serve my true, deep needs or what I see as the needs of others like me.

I don’t think our scene is particularly different than any other segment of society. I really don’t. As a subculture like ours grows and matures it is perhaps inevitable that our actions and intents veer off course as we get caught up in the trappings and processes and habits that, for whatever reason, become comfortable and commonplace. But I’m an optimist and I think we can do better. And as a kinkster, I must believe I can do better.

I watch a contest, sometimes even as a judge, and wonder to myself in exactly what way does this serve my fellow kinksters and might it even perhaps send some wrong messages. I sit in a kink education classroom as I’m witnessing some terribly complex BDSM technique or a recitation of someone’s particularly rigid approach to play or relationships and wonder if the newcomers in the room with me are perhaps dangerously absorbing the rigidity and often misguided information they are being fed. In the many club and organization meetings I’ve attended I consistently witness in-fighting, maneuverings for power and strained processes for their own sake and realize all that is taking place before me serves their intended audience very little if at all. I sit and listen to a newcomer’s story of entrance into the scene and cringe at some of the useless and often damaging things they’ve been told are the gospel truth with no room for variation and I want to cry because I know this person’s story is likely replicated in countless people’s own story.

At these moments I’ve mentioned, and many others, when I observe or hear or read something in our scene that might serve those engaged in it, but not serve or might even damage the experience of the bulk of other kinksters, I am sad, and they happen far too frequently for my own comfort level.

Now, am I saying this always happens? No, I am not. I do meander through our scene and also experience vast joy and wonder brought about by people, organizations, projects and gatherings that serve their constituency in powerful and meaningful ways and by people individually living meaningful and authentic kinkster lives. But I fear that I don’t experience that nearly enough. Maybe I never can experience it enough. It’s that special to me. I know we live in a world of imperfection, but my instincts consistently nudge me to try and make things better, and to live a better kinky life personally.

In regards to us categorizing, judging and becoming self-righteous, language is often the culprit that spawns such perspectives. Language is always imprecise. All we can hope to do with language is approach precision. Yet we bandy about words and phrases and mantras as though they are always precise.

We use a variety of labels such as Old Guard, New Guard, TNGs, dominant and submissive, Master or Mistress and slave, handler and pup, Sir and boy, top, bottom and switch, gearpig, and on and on. None of these terms are truly precise. They only approach precision. Due to everyone’s uniqueness, their individuality, and their specific situation, they can’t possibly be an exact description of anyone or any situation. Yet we use those words to describe others, and even worse, ourselves, as though they are precise descriptions.

Adding to the language, the rules and processes we often talk about such as protocol, traditions, honoring elders, leveraging mentors, earning one’s leathers, valuing experience, standing by safety guidelines, encouraging certain levels of often unrealistic technique and skill requirements, and so on. Again, none of these are truly precise. And quite frankly, many of them are based more on mythology, ego or opinion than they are on fact.

And we violate the principle of uniqueness not only with individual people, but with the way people identify, play or configure their relationships. How often have we each heard, for example, that “this” is how a Master/slave relationship should look or “that” is a “real” player or some other such pontificating hogwash.

What we often neglect in this mix of judgmentalism, categorizations, self-righteousness, language and rules is the individual, the unique individual, and their unique situations. Our scene is made up of thousands upon thousands of individuals, like you. And like flowers or mountains or snowflakes, none of them are alike. None of you are alike. None. Not one. Of that I am quite certain.

In Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into The Words, Little Red Riding Hood says “The prettier the flower, the farther from the path.” I agree with Little Red Riding Hood. I do not reserve my highest admirations for those among us who hold the party line on garb, roles, rules, protocols, sexualities, memberships, and so on, but rather for those among us who stray from the path to find their own unique ways. They are the brave ones. They are the ones we should be following. They are the ones who allow their own internal kink compass to guide them rather than look to externals to validate how it is they should be or act. They are the rebels. They are the mavericks. They are the ones who fully understand that a scene based on an alternative view of sexuality, identity and erotic relationships must worship at the altar of the individual, not the conformist. It’s easy to conform. It’s difficult and brave to be an individual. I encourage you all to be individuals.

When it comes to individuality, we often give lip service to honoring it. We say we’re all unique. We say we’re all individuals. But then turn right around and tell folks there are only certain ways to act, certain ways to dress, certain ways to play, certain ways to be a Master, Dom, sub or polyamorist, or whatever. We in the kink scene are guilty of this a lot. Myself included at times.

Adding to the complexity of our uniqueness, our individuality, is that we change as people over time. We have to realize that a person’s uniqueness is an ever evolving thing. It’s just the way it is. We change professional interests. Social interests. Circles of friends. Topics we like to study. Hobbies. All sorts of things. Over time as we grow as human beings, we evolve, we change. And if we change in all those ways, why should we not also change as kinksters. And if we change as kinksters, should not the scene we manifest around us change also? If we’re not changing, we’re stagnating. I encourage you to embrace, not resist, change.

So when we play our special ways or identify as a certain type of kinkster or enter into nontraditional relationship configurations, we are doing so at a specific point in time at which we are exactly who we are for but a brief moment. You will wake up tomorrow not being exactly the same person you are today, not being the same kinkster you are today. And that is the same for everyone else in our scene.

And this leads me to the heart of why some of us resist embracing individuality in favor of conformity. The second of those foundation life principles I’ve already been alluding to. Change.

Let’s all do a thought exercise for a moment. Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine yourself in a time long long ago. That time before the internet. Let’s go back further to a time before we had kinky publications catering to our kind. Back further to before we had clubs and organizations within which we could gather. Now open your eyes.

Take note that in the grand scheme of the modern timeline, where you just went was not so far back in history. When you do this thought exercise and go back far enough, eventually you reach a time in the not too distant past where there were no organized leather or kink communities. Everyone was essentially a soloist, an individual sexual maverick desperately trying to get their needs met in whatever way they could, essentially seeking out people, experiences and knowledge on their own. Thus, there really were no traditions, rules, protocols and labels such as the ones we now look to when we seek to codify ourselves, others and this scene of ours.

So, if we can go back not all that far in history, and realize how kinky life has changed so dramatically since then, how can we say to anyone with a straight face that things should remain as they are? That things should not change?

The glaring ridiculousness of such a statement should be obvious, but evidently it’s not so obvious to some. Barring any acts that are lacking in respect for others or the safety of others, if anyone ever tells you to do something that does not sync with your own way of being a kinkster, especially if they preface it by saying “well, that’s tradition” or “that’s just how it’s done,” don’t accept it at face value. Challenge that notion. Be your own person. Embrace the growth and change in yourself and the scene that you and countless others like you manifest around you. The scene is just as much yours as anyone else’s, no matter what someone might say.

As the old Zen saying goes, the tree that bends in the wind survives, the tree that resists snaps and dies. So it is with both our own individual erotic lives and with the larger kink scene. If we adapt and go with the flow, we’ll thrive. If we resist and stubbornly cling to more conservative ways, we’ll cease to exist as a viable subculture. Or at least as a happy and fulfilled subculture.

So, why am I driving home the uniqueness and change messages today? Because I feel that our violation of these two principles of life are the root cause of what is often wrong with our scene. And our scene is too fucking wonderful and magical to not see it continue to thrive and improve. And let me say again, there is definitely a lot good about our scene. I contend far more good than bad actually. But that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on eliminating the bad.

I drive home this message because I have seen countless contestants in contests answering judge’s questions with what they believed the judges wanted to hear rather than the truth and presenting an image to win rather than an authentic version of themselves. Do we really want to place inauthenticity, violating the natural order of uniqueness and change, on a pedestal?

I drive home this message because I have answered one too many emails, phone calls or messages from a disheartened newcomer who has had their dreams and sexuality crushed because they were told in no uncertain terms they were doing it wrong, when they were doing it just fine all along.

I drive home this message because I too often sit in a kink education session and think to myself that the rigidity of the teaching style, information or opinion being disseminated is at that very moment squelching the full expression of sexuality and identity of someone else in that room.

I drive home the message because I hear a constant drone of complaints about how our scene isn’t like it used to be (which of course is what change is all about), yet people are so stuck in their rigid views and habits that finding creative solutions to invigorate our scene seem lacking.

So, I promised I would not make you sit for too long and I won’t. I’m going to begin to wrap up by saying to each and every one of you – be your own person, be uniquely you, embrace change, in yourself, in others and in the overall scene. To be anything other than yourself will prove to be less than fulfilling. To resist change is to be left behind in a scene that once was rather than a scene that is in the here and now.

Finally, let me end with some quotes. People who know me know I love my quotes. I find that good quotes encapsulate so much in a few words.

The first is by Kevin Hall who wrote a book titled Aspire. He wrote “No matter how alike we might appear, based on our race, ideology, where we live, what political party we belong to, or how we wear our hair – if we have hair – each of us is truly one of a kind. Over six billion people are on the earth, yet not one of us has the same fingerprints, or footprints, or even laugh. Every individual is authentic. Every person is an unrepeatable miracle.”

I contend that every person in our leather and kink scene, every one of you, is an unrepeatable miracle. Celebrate that and help everyone you meet understand that about themselves. As Frank Zappa said “Without deviations from the norm, progress is not possible.”

And if anyone ever tells you that who you are or what you’re doing isn’t normal, by our scene’s standards, remember what Stockard Channing said in the movie Practical Magic, “Being normal isn’t necessarily a virtue. . .it rather denotes a lack of courage.” So be courageous.

There is an old Chinese proverb that states “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” Let’s build windmills. Let’s tear down the walls. Let’s embrace the change that is inevitable anyway no matter how much we may try to resist it. The changes that will take place in you and in others, and the changes that will take place in the scene overall, are completely and totally natural. In fact, as Robert Redford once said “Change is the only thing that succeeds.”

If you are experiencing changes in yourself and you sense an internal resistance to those changes, check whether you are resisting those changes because of your own values, or someone else’s. Living up to someone else’s values rather than your own is a sure recipe for unhappiness. Unhappiness as a person and unhappiness as a kinkster.

Let me offer one final quote because it’s become one of my favorites. Morticia Addams of Addams Family fame once said “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

Embrace the chaos that are your own internal changes because it is the only path to a fulfilling and happy kinkster life. Embrace the chaos that are the changes that take place in the greater overall scene. It’s also the only path to true happiness as a kinkster.

Love each other. Be kind to each other. Connect and bond with each other. Have sex and play with each other. And most importantly, be the kind of kinky person you want to be. And never let anyone tell you what that’s supposed to be because they don’t know you nearly as well as you know yourself.

Thank you for your time. I love you all and wish you a happy, healthy and kinky life. Which is exactly what you deserve. Good afternoon.

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Are Clubs And Organizations Right For You?

by Race Bannon on January 10, 2014

A few days ago when a friend posted on Facebook some of the drama that had developed in one of the clubs he belonged to and why he was resigning, I posted a response that ended up drawing quite a few follow up replies – some supportive and empathetic, some more or less neutral, and a few downright hostile.

As you read my comment that I’m replicating here, please don’t interpret it as a condemnation of clubs and organizations because it’s not. If they work for you, wonderful. Different strokes for different folks. Once upon a time they worked for me more too. But this is where I’m at lately regarding clubs and organizations and I’ve sensed that many kinksters, especially gay men, are feeling much the same way lately. However, with that said, I also know many people, including gay men, who are still quite enthusiastic about them.

Here’s what I wrote. I would love to find out how others are feeling these days by adding a comment to this post.

Years ago I belonged to many clubs and organizations and as the years have progressed I have moved away from such memberships. For me, I don’t see the upside, yet I see many downsides. Drama ensues, almost without fail, the moment a club forms. I now consider myself essentially what gay men used to call a GDI (God Damned Independent) and I don’t foresee me changing that status. I also think many of us (I consider myself one of the culprits) made a huge mistake by promoting hyper-inclusion of the wide cross section of kinksters under single umbrellas. There are a few instances where such inclusion makes sense, but we have gone overboard. Each faction of the various kink subcultures (and we are many subcultures, not one) have their own norms, structures, languages, priorities, cultures, play styles, and so on. To assume these can all be assembled under single umbrella labels or groupings such as “leather” is a naive assumption of which I cop to falling prey to myself once upon a time. What we really are is a very loosely associated collection of networks that often share very little in common even though we often tout the party line that we do. I think it’s time to get real. You can’t continue to add to the mix of varieties of erotic propensities and identities and expect that mix to fully feed and nurture the needs of its constituents. Some separation simply makes sense if we are to get our individual and collective needs met. The pendulum swung far in one direction of hyper-inclusion and must now swing back toward the center with an understanding that sometimes it makes sense to mix, and sometimes it makes sense to do our own thing. I think we all need to do our own thing more often than we have been lately.

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Handling Jealousy

by Race Bannon on November 20, 2013

This blog is dedicated in part to offering intelligent information, ideas and insights about the adventurous side of relationships. In order to explore that territory, the issue of jealousy is something that often needs to be acknowledged and confronted directly.

For many people a large part of exploring adventurous relationship territory assumes some form of open relationships or the embracing of polamory. And lurking within such arrangements lies in some form jealousy. Perhaps not for everyone. Especially among those highly experienced in these many variations of bonding erotically and emotionally with other people. But for others jealousy arises at least to some extent.

One of the other blogs I follow often is written by Leo Babauta and offers a steady stream of wisdom on a fairly regular basis. His latest post, Jealousy & Suffering, offers up what I consider some rather wonderful insight and advice regarding the fact that most of us deal with jealousy in some form now and then.

Check out his post. I think you’ll find what he’s written well worth your time.

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Have We Jumped The Shark?

by Race Bannon on September 16, 2013

A brilliant friend of mine, Steve Ganzell, recently posted something to his Facebook wall that I thought was so on target and well written that I asked him if I could replicate it here. It is one of the best and most important set of words I’ve read about the BDSM/kink scene in a long time and it should be read by every kinkster.

These words echo exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. The call for embracing more diversity, education and other good things that the wonderful Tony DeBlase started years ago (I believe he was the initial impetus behind much of it) has jumped the shark and is now often hurting us more than helping us.

Read Steve’s post and let me know what you think.

Recently I met two incredible men who asked me to flog and single tail them. Each of them had been through their own process to prepare them for the synchronous moment that brought us together. I was privileged and honored to be a part of the transformative erotic experience we shared. We have stayed connected and had long conversations about our experiences. I became aware of what it is like for some new guy to finally find his way to the fulfillment of a long held fantasy.

I began to reflect on the role of community in creating transformative erotic experiences. I believe that male energy is very powerful but is also very fragile. When a group of men comes together in the right way, it creates sacred male space and magic happens. With some notable exceptions, many of the gatherings I had found most powerful were not produced by the organizations in our community but by individuals or small groups. They were limited to select invitees and not open to the public. They did not advertise or do “out-reach.” In many ways leather organizations have stopped promoting sexy fun activities where we could play and have become the equivalent of the Rotary or the Elks. This point was driven home one night when a “community fund raising event” was scheduled the same night as a group gathering in the outdoors to actually DO the things that create community.

In thinking about this, I realized that our community has abdicated leadership to the “educators.” These are the folks who run workshops, teach seminars, and lead conferences. We have traded those “transformative erotic experiences” for didactic presentations and “demos.” I believe that some of the “educators” are working from an unconscious dynamic of fear and envy. These are folks who were never any fun in the first place and are working to suck the fun out of anything somebody else might do. They “educate” because it gives them a platform to hear their own voices. For many of them, there are no other venues in which their opinions or even their voices are wanted. The idea of actual sexual energy intimidates them. Ask yourself, when was the last lecture or demo that gave you a hardon? AND, if it did, what were you “allowed” to do with it?

How does this happen? I think we as a community are SO hyper-sensitive to rejection that we have abdicated our role as gate keepers. Can we admit that NOT everyone should be welcomed to our community? Let’s face it, what we do is NOT safe, NOT sane, and NOT consensual if it is being done by people with limited insight, personality problems, deficient intellect, or mental illness. Many of these folks are drawn to our community because we are welcoming and friendly. They hang around for a while and we think there is no harm in letting them do things to “help out.” Gradually, they take on more and more responsibility. We accept the drama they bring with them because they are “good guys.” We elect them to be the presidents of our community organizations because it is “their turn.” For a while, their impact in minimal, but it is cumulative. Eventually they will drive the people we REALLY want to be there away. The good guys will get frustrated and leave while the rest of the organization is trying to deal with the crazy drama created by what my friends have termed the “broken wing club.”

Recently I overheard a conversation between a friend and another guy asking to borrow the pictures the guy had taken at a large event. The request was telling. “Can we borrow some of the pictures because so-and-so is the photographer for (one of the leather publications) and doesn’t have a camera?” Huh??? Meet the poster child for the broken wing club. When we stop requiring that people meet even minimum standards for the tasks they are assigned, it reveals how low we are willing to go to “be nice.”

It seems that the same thing is true for many of our “educators.” These folks are often not very skilled in their presentations or events that they organize. For new people it is important to note that if you attend these educational events, in most cases, you will NOT have the experience you want, you will just hear about it, or maybe see a demonstration of someone else having it. If you actually get to participate, it will watered down and devoid of any erotic energy. It will be in a venue conducive to lectures or meetings but not very erotic. You may get to see a PowerPoint presentation but you won’t be able to play. You will be disappointed.

It reminds me of the “sex education” portion of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. We have allowed these castrated educators to completely de-eroticize what is meant to be hot, sexy and edgy. How many times have we seen powerful, playful, erotic energy destroyed by the rule bound eunuchs who claim that there is a “right” way to do things?

I believe we are at a crossroads. We will continue to see the demos, the workshops, and the conferences because there will always be people willing to participate at that level. But gradually I hope that the true process of mentoring will start to emerge. I hope that we will see more activities that allow for spontaneous exchanges between men with skills and men who want to experience those skills in a way that will be intimate and connected. We will play in public and those who are interested will approach those who can satisfy that interest. It means that we have to take personal responsibility and cannot abdicate it to the “educators.” I hope the demos done in front of large spectator groups will be recognized for what they are…they are entertainment. It is to BDSM what a strip show is to sex. It is pandering. It is freak-show.

The good old days when being a member of a club or organization meant you had skills and credibility are gone. Just look around. But the good news is that there is a fresh wind blowing. Those clubs and organizations that are based in “education’ will be hard pressed to exist in a world where new people can connect and experience the real thing. I learned from my two new friends that they have no interest in being “educated” about BDSM. They want to EXPERIENCE IT.

UPDATE:

Someone posted a rather vehement rebuttal to Ganzell’s Facebook post and to my post’s additional content. In the interest of fostering open debate, here is the post. And here’s the comment I left on his blog:

I’m all for debate and discussion. So glad to see this rebutal. For the record, the post is a replication of someone else’s Facebook post that I posted word for word in order to not violate the original poster’s verbiage. Yes, there may be some hyperbole and perhaps even some divisive language in the piece, but I think it’s perhaps done for effect more than name calling because he feels a bit of dramatic pushback is necessary that is too often not taking place when this topic arises. At least that’s my take and I might be wrong. All I did was ask permission to repost his words and I can’t know 100% why he crafted the post as he did. And I do find it fascinating that Steve’s sentiments are popping up all over the place from multiple directions and camps all at the same time. Thus why I named the piece Have We Jumped The Shark because I think simultaneously many people in the scene feel we have indeed jumped the shark. Also, in defense of the partially incendiary nature of the original Facebook post, it was a indeed a Facebook post. It was likely fired off directly without planning. It was written off the top of his head and not carefully constructed, reworked and copyedited. And all of us know Facebook wall posts are often replete with the heat of the moment. I’m just grateful Steve let me repost it. I love both the sentiment and passion with which it’s written. So while I might have chosen somewhat different words myself, I think what he’s saying is something many of us in the BDSM/kink scene are already thinking. Let the debate continue.

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Using BDSM and Fetish to Sell Products (NSFW)

by Race Bannon on August 26, 2013

One of the complaints I hear occasionally is that aspects of the BDSM, leather and kink scene are being co-opted by outsiders and the culture generally. The video below is a prime example of taking BDSM and fetish imagery and using it to sell a product, in this case men’s underwear.

Personally, I like the video advertisement. I have no problem with it. In many ways it’s rather brilliant and I found it rather sexy.

I believe that virtually all aspects of cultures and subcultures eventually get co-opted in some way. Music, fashion, literature, movies, language and even schools of thought co-opt and poach from elsewhere to morph the various elements into something new or to use it for purposes other than originally intended.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the video does a disservice to the kink scene in some way? If so, how? I’m anxious to hear people’s thoughts about this.

Lights Out from QuinnCJaxon on Vimeo.

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Leather Archives & Museum Announces Online Catalog

by Race Bannon on July 30, 2013

This is wonderful news! From the Leather Archives & Museum email announcement that was sent today:

The Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) announced today an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) of the institution’s book and magazine collection has gone live. The OPAC can be found at:

http://webopac.infovisionsoftware.com/leather/

The catalog contains bibliographic records for over 12,000 periodicals and 3,000 books. During its testing phase, the OPAC has been used by Patrons around the United States to prepare for research visits and to navigate the library holdings of the LA&M. A significant number of books and more than 50% of magazine titles are held by no other publicly accessible library in the world.

Robert B. Ridinger, member of the LA&M Board and collection committee, said “The Leather Archives online catalog is an important tool for researchers using the collections both in and outside of Chicago. The OPAC can be used by our own patrons and can assist our participation in resource sharing consortia with other libraries around the country.”

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