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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