Shades of Grey
I am going to interrupt my own GLLA musings – and there will be more to come, I promise – to provide the public service announcement I feel is needed.
(Remember Emily Litella, from the early years of SNL? “What’s all this I keep hearing about “Presidential Erections?!” I feel a little like that, though I know I’m right. But then, of course I do, I’m a dominant.)
Anyway, this is the public service announcement.
What’s all this I keep hearing about how awful it’s going to be when the Shades of Grey folks find the larger community.
If you’ve been involved in any organized kind of community, you’ve probably heard it. It goes kind of like this:
Kinkster who has been involved for all of three or four WHOLE YEARS shakes his or her head and grumbles. “Have you read that book? Really awful. Not at all real. And you know, they’re going to start coming to the munch or the meetings or the groups or whatever, all those people who think that’s real.”
This is followed by dire predictions about all the people who are going to do it wrong, who are not informed in the REAL ways.
Am I making it clear how little I like this attitude? Good.
I really despise it.
I wrote on this same topic earlier on Fetlife, but it was much shorter. However, if any of this sounds familiar, I wrote it, I can steal it.
What most of the people I have heard complaining about this don’t remember is that I was standing at the door to greet them when most of them walked in.
I have been actively and publicly involved in the kink community since the mid-1990’s, and I am very easy to trace. I can actually prove I’ve been around since 1997, because I have the memories and the public personna to vouch for it.
My personal and private involvement began in the the early 1980’s, when I had a girlfriend who liked occasionally to be tied to the bed and vaguely threatened.
So, the people who came in on the Gorean wave annoyed me. Still often do, to tell the truth, but what the fuck, their right to claim the community is every bit as good as my own. But they annoyed me.
So did the ones who came in on the AOL wave.
Then the people who had found the Beauty series came in and they annoyed me.
So did the ones who came in on the first wave of easy and constant Internet access.
Then the people who found the early wave of publishing in the early part of the second millenia. They came in and they annoyed me.
Are you getting a picture here? Sensing a trend?
And, you know what? The people who came in because of Story of O were annoyed by me. The Leather men who are 15 and 20 years my senior damn well were annoyed when women, myself included, began invading their spaces with our pesky vaginas and radical ideas like Leather being open to people who were not actually attached to a penis.
It is the Circle of Life. You annoy your forbears and your progeny annoy you. In return, your progeny thinks you are old and stuffy and unbending, and your forbears believe you to be foolish and impulsive and reckless.
And we’re all right. It’s the role of the forbears to want to stay the course and the role of the progeny to change course. We need both. You never change direction and you have to weather storms and rough seas that a change in direction might have avoided. On the other hand, you set your sites on a goal and steer towards it. If you change every time the wind shifts, you’ll never reach a destination and you’ll waste precious time.
I wonder when I hear these kinky-come-latelies bitching about the next generation, what would have happened if you’d walked in, fresh from the first blush of reading whatever it was – Story of O or Beauty’s Release or Tarnman of Gor or The Loving Dominant or whatever thing it was that got your juices flowing and gave you enough Dutch courage to actually walk into a room of kinky people?
What if you walked in and my attitude was to sniff derisively and dismiss you because what brought you to this place was not as good or as valid or as true as the cave paintings that brought me here?
Think you’d have stuck around? Probably not. Or you’d have had a different experience and feeling, even if you had.
It’s so easy to forget, once you’ve gone through the initiation, how hard that initiation was. If you’ve been involved in public kink communities, remember the first time you walked in, most likely not having the vaguest idea of what to REALLY expect.
Would submissives have to wait on dominants? Would submissives have to ask permission to sit or stand or whatever? What if you’d never really DONE anything, just knew it was down there, kind of burning, maybe with a veneer of shame and self-loathing because NICE people don’t think that way, don’t want those things?
I think walking into that room the first time requires a certain level of courage. In the early days of the munches, I used to really try and convince people to come to a munch. I’d tell them how fabulous it was, how they should come, what a great thing it was.
Over time, I stopped. I developed a better response, a fairly standard one. It was, basically, that the things we do in this lifestyle require a certain level of courage and if venturing out to a public location to have dinner with some people like you, if that was more than you could manage, then it probably wasn’t the lifestyle for you.
So, this is what I would like. I would like us to remember that our community is going to grow, as it should. This is less taboo than it was even ten years ago, more “acceptable” in a lot of people’s minds.
And, as it always has, it will attract people who both belong here, and those who are just passing through. It’s not my place to say that one is less valuable than the other, or that their contribution or their benefit is less than anyone else’s.
Not everyone is going to agree on the right way to do things. But I think it’s easier to agree on the right thing to do.
And I think that the right thing to do is to make the newcomers, however they find us, believe they have found a place that they are not judged for their kink, however they came to find it.