Monday, June 7, 2010

Finding tribe.

"Hey Maestro," reader Dolores (aka Lolita) emails to ask, "my partner and me would really appreciate it if you could give us more information on how to join the BDSM community. And thanks for being our Vergil on our slow, agonizing descent into... something infinitely fun!"

It pleases me to be your guide, your psychopomp, into your wicked descent.

In my memory, there was a time when the most networking one could hope for was through Latent Image magazine, or if you were really desperate, the backpage ads in Screw. I still remember when Diva and me would lay naked on her waterbed, perusing Latent Image for fellow kinksters we might play with, and me taking racy pictures of her for our own ad listing.

I put her in leather restraints and set her on all fours, standing back with the camera as she jilled herself from under her abs and between the cheeks of her lovely, fuckable ass. Nice memory, that. And nice memories of the two or so couples we would eventually meet through that magazine. Mm.

But its some years later, and we're not so dependent on pulpy and overpriced magazines anymore, are we? Not only is Google your friend, but there's damned good chance that the people you're bound (heh) to meet are more numerous, younger, collectively better informed, and better equipped with hot gear than many people were back when Diva wore my collar. The fetish and kink scene wasn't entirely nondescript when I first got into it, but it was certainly not the trendy thang it seems to have become today.

But that's a double-edged blade. On one hand, it's so much easier to network for kinksters-of-a-like-mind now, but are they as sophisticated? Some, sure. Many, maybe. Yet does the latest wave of fetishists understand the "community" element of their path that was, and remains for many, so vitally important to people? Or has the emergence of BDSM from its "underground" roots also sapped it of its connection to social trust, watching-out-for-one-another?

Here in Toronto, it seems that the fetish community is blended among the queer, post-goth, and/or polyamory crowd. Not necessarily a bad thing, and often scandalously excellent, but sometimes frustrating when al you want on a Saturday night is a venue where you can simply tie up and spank your partner's sweet ass strictly among one's own.

But, like the end of an uncontrolled bullwhip, I'm getting ahead of myself. How do you "join" the BDSM community?

Silly wabbit. You're already there. If your heart skips a beat when you think of being placed across your partner's knee, if you get wet at the thought of having your wrists and ankles bound in rope, if you get hard at the sight of Rihanna sporting Balenciaga gladiator boots... face it, you've already joined. But the next question is, how do you meet others of like mind?

The Internet is your friend. Even Wikipedia can reveal a host of resources and suggestions for the online kinkster. Master lists (ha!) such as Fetish, the BDSM Events Page, and links pages to existing networking sites such as Dark Desyre offer quickly-read listings for all kinds of events and groups.

Kinksters the world over (perhaps because they to felt isolated, perhaps because they were pissed off about police raids on their social events) have growed all up and become more and more organized. Resources exist today that were barely present only two decades ago, and almost certainly non-existent for long before that.

Welcome to the postmodern BDSM social world. If only Irving Klaw could have lived to see it.

At the most informal level, Google your regional area to find your most local munch. Fetish community spokesperson and author Jay Wiseman describes a munch as "a casual lunch or dinner with other local people who have an interest or experience in BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance and submission, sadomasochism) and/or Fetish.

"Munch groups have many different characters depending on locations of where they meet. Some are held in locations where a demonstration can be given on different techniques, but most are held in family restaurants or bars where 'play' or fetishwear is not permitted. A munch is a great atmosphere to meet like minded locals, discuss a variety of topics, and make friends and get validation without people behaving 'in role'."

Often, munches are coordinated by a handful of people simply for the enjoyment of doing so, but this also sometimes means that many munches have limited lifespans if coordinators begin to experience personal burnout. Ideally, its hosts are also outgoing and community-conscious people who may not be as prone to seeing their events succumb to cliqueishness. Part of the entire purpose of a munch, arguably, is to provide safe and relaxed space between newcomers and veterans.

Some munches include Knot For Everyone in New Jersey and MiChatOhs in Michigan.

More organized and with bolder scope than munches are the battalions of established fetish organizations that have developed over the years. They can be as wide and varied as the people within them, but all share some common ground in seeking to provide the networking, education, and play resources that, at one time, its founders also found lacking in their areas. Most typically offer workshops, social events, parties, and the like, but many also can serve as advocacy groups in legal matters or as representatives to the media or general public.

Seattle is the home base for the Center for Sex Positive Culture, also known as the Wet Spot (even though you can't take the SLUT there). The National Leather Association has a history of breaking a lot of important ground for the kinky community, and has expanded with various chapters throughout the continent.

In New York, the famous Eulenspiegel Society has achieved a respected status due to its longevity, and from the DC area, I've met activists from Black Rose who have definitely earned their stripes. (Hey, Whitney!) The Portland Leather Alliance is of service in the Pacific northwest, and sometimes I can't help but wonder if I have old friends among its ranks. (Hi Alix!)

In the southern United States, the so-called Bible Belt ocasionally finds itself loosened for a good, solid strapping. House of Saade in Texas, NOBLE in Louisiana, CAPEX in North Carolina, The Woodshed in Florida, and BESS in Maryland are all among the various groups under the Mason-Dixon.

In addition to their fetishes, some groups may focus their membership to other social niches as well. There are many queer-identified fetish circles, such as the Lesbian Sex Mafia or the Promethean Guard. A "TNG" or "Next Generation" group focuses on an under-30s crowd. The Black Beat convention, while welcoming all, is specifically geared toward black kinksters.

Annual kinky conventions also take place at select hotels conference centers, and while usually very restrictive to activities outside a private room, often offer exciting workshops, activities and vendor areas for everyone to enjoy. TESFest is coordinated by the famous Eulenspegel Society, and rope enthusiasts everywhere definitely have ShibariCon on their to-do lists. Peeking around on the net would likely unearth many such events, but one can allow oneself to neglect the deliciously (in)famous Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. Dubbed "the granddaddy of all leather events," I am told that its not something to be missed.

If it were possible to create a more intense, seductive, scandalous, and ribald event than a fetish convention in a hotel, it would have to be an outdoor retreat and camping event. On my personal to-do list for some time now has been Leather Retreat by Dark Odyssey. If I ever get to the Pacific northwest, Paradise Unbound in the Seattle area would be a likely stop for me, and I`m finding connecting with relatives of mine in Arizona, I`d make an effort for the Southwest Leather Conference. Again: Google, Google, Google.

I have a special place in my leather heart for clubs, and still enjoy daydreams of owning my own one day. On-premises clubs offer a great deal for the adventurous kinkster, and depending on its house rules and local laws, can be a place for superb debauchery. I`ve written before about how I made my own bones at New York`s famous Paddles. In Chicago, I never got to take Shayne to Galleria Domain. In San Francisco, my sexy online acquaintance Miss Ali Rose runs Edges, and Lair DeSade lies in somewhat-nearby Los Angeles. I bet my friends in the DC area drop into the Crucible from time to time.

Sometimes non-fetish adult "lifestyle" (read: "swinger") clubs, such as Choice Social Club in New England, will offer fetish-related events where you can meet fellow kinksters too.

Kinky dating sites such as BDSM Singles, Be Collared, and the once-iconic Alt.Com offer useful personals services, but then so does OkCupid with a much more user-friendly system.

But suave dominants and kowtowing submissives everywhere with any net savvy worth their skins are bound to be (ha!) on FetLife. Developed by Montreal kinkster John Baku, FetLife has quickly become the Facebook of the BDSM community. Frankly, the site stands in a class by itself when it comes to online networking resources, so much so that most any kinkster interested in doing any kind of internet socializing is doing themselves a great disservice to not sign up. Not only are members able to share ideas, pictures, participate in discussion forums, and peruse massive listings of events small and large, but profiles allow for specific (and user-directed) identifiers of everyone's particular kinks and interests. Simply put, FetLife is quickly becoming the central online networking hub of all things kinky.

And you can find me there too. Feel free to "friend" me and say hello.

The world is your oyster, kinkster. Twist the lemon, add the cayenne, and suck it up, because you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to rubbing elbows (or crops or clits) with others of equally saucy mind and heart.


Dolores YK Haze said...

Thanks for addressing my question. Unfortunately, Humbert and I had a difference of opinion, so I will be going to these lovely events and clubs solo, since I never want to hear the world "whore" used in earnest against me again.
Thank you ever so much, and if you know some ambitious young dom, feel free to send him my way.
Love always,

Kara said...

Oh Yk Haze,

Sorry to hear about you and Humbert ... the good news is that there are MANY amazing, caring people in the communities that Rogue talks about. You are amazing and knowing when to stand up for yourself is key! Thanks for the update. Yeah, I've followed your story ... a bit ... :)

Dolores YK Haze said...

Oh, really? ;) I'm touched, in the most high (and low) minded of ways.
I've been contemplating keeping a blog myself- would you be interested?
Dolores YK Haze

Rogue said...

How unfortunate. I'm sorry to learn that things haven't worked out they way you would have wished. But, you know, just by reading your emails and enjoying your questions, it's pretty clear to me that you're a smart one who knows how to approach things with a sense of self. I have no doubt that you'll persevere just fine.

And who knows... maybe, in time, if its your mutual interest to do so, things can change between you two. He wouldn't be the first man to say something before he thought it through.

Best of luck, and as always, your thoughts and comments are welcome here.

And a blog? Go, grrl!

Anonymous said...

great information! thanks!

Kara said...

Yep, I second Rogue on that. Yes, I would be interested in your blog if you were so inspired to write and share. I see writing and sharing in this style as a great gift. I learn sooo much about myself by my involvement and reflection on carefully selected blogs. Please let Rogue know if you do start blogging ... and he can let me know.

Meanwhile, all the best in your growth and adventures!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rogue - followed your comment back here and what a treat! Love the info here and having been a long time user of Fetlife have to say I concur with your sentiments!

I'll be back to read more!


Rogue said...

SapioSlut ~

Most excellent. You'll find an uncorked shiraz in a basket on the deck. Help yourself, and feel free to visit again and chime in often.