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.

About MsConstanceExplains

Ms Constance has been actively involved in the BDSM/Leather community since the mid-1990’s. She is the Founder of the Louisville Munch as well as its hostess for ten years, from 1997 to 2007, and was christened as “Louisville’s First Lady” by her community. As a member of various BDSM/Leather organizations, she has been nominated for Pantheon Woman of the Year as well as regional awards, and has been nominated with her slave, drew, for Pantheon Couple of the Year. She serves as Special Events Director for the Great Lakes Leather Alliance. She produces the Bluegrass Leather Pride Contest, sending contestants to Great Lakes Leather Weekend, and was Presenters Committee Chair for Leather Leadership Conference 2010 Great Lakes/Ontario. She has produced and judged Leather events and contests, been instrumental in the organization and creation of various groups and clubs, advised and encouraged other communities and endeavors, and produced a performance by a BDSM comedian. Groups around the country use her writings in information and introductory packets, and she is an occasional columnist as well. She and slave drew hold the titles of Great Lakes Master and slave 2003.

Posted on August 29, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I really like what you say here. I think it would be good for all of us to look at the things we have in common rather than the things that make us different.

    -sin

  2. I read a lot. I always have a book on me. And I have to say most readers understand that there is not a rich man just waiting to fly me to wherever to have his wicked way with me. Anymore then that hunky prince is just waiting for me to fall into his lap. So sure people first reading it may think we all have this secret room that is for all that kinky stuff…and sure some people do. But more likely we have a duffle bag with our kinky stuff in it to show off.

    I just wanted to say that reading the book was fun and all and entertaining but it was not fact it was a great story for the imagination.

  3. {Stands up and applauds…}

    Well said, Ms. Constance.

    aisha

  4. This much fuller discussion, the promise of which was hinted at by the FetLife post, is excellent, and I commend you for articulating it so clearly and persuasively.

    The things you mention here are the very reason that the notion of orthodoxy has never really made sense to me. Of course that probably plays into (or is an outgrowth of) my iconoclastic attitudes in general, but hey.

    There are plenty of folks who will sneer and look down their noses at the 50 Shades folks, but I think most of them are only a short step removed from neophyte status themselves. I also think it’s highly likely that those who’ve been around long enough to watch the father-killing process a time or five will patiently bear the innocence and ignorance of newest to join us, and just as casually will slap down the mouthy folks still stuck in the adolescence of their leather journeys…

    How does that appeal to you, Ms. Constance? Slapping down the mouthy punks? >;^)

  5. I think one thing that has bothered me as much as anything over the course of my life is people conveniently forgetting how it was to stand where some one else now stands.

    No one – except me, of course – was born knowing everything. Even I, as little as I like it, am not always completely right. But I try to remember how it felt to be new, how it feels to not know what you’re supposed to say or do, even if you strolled into your first munch full of piss and vinegar without a care, there must have been somewhere you went, sometime, when you felt that way.

    I don’t like the people who pretend they’ve been around longer than they have been, or know more than they know, because they think it will win them some prize. I’m not sure what, precisely, but something.

    Those are usually the ones who are the most vocal about their lack of patience with others.

    If it’s not clear yet how annoying I find that, I can go on.

  6. clapping, clapping.

    I remember my first comment on a kink blog (I’m an internet baby). I was *shaking* at my temerity. About a year later, I started my own blog, still shaking.

    I remember, very clearly, that first year of exploration, pre-blog, walking away. Good girls don’t do this. Yes, exactly so.

    Staying away for a month.

    Risking another look. Getting turned on.

    Worried that I was addicted to internet porn.

    Realizing I was different.

    Realizing that I’d found something that resonated with a long lifetime of need/denial.

    Stayed away again, so scared to open that door.

    It took a cataclysmic event in my vanilla relationship to make me find another way. Over time the relationship healed, but not cleanly. So i remain divided, but accepting of who I am, what I want, what I do.

    Thanks for an incredible posting.

    nilla

  7. One of the quotations I always remember is from Terry Sweeney the first openly gay regular on network television in the 1985-86 season of Saturday Night Live. He said once that being gay was like living with guard dogs on patrol all the time.

    Being kinky is a lot like that. You try and remember what “regular” people say and do and think. How they act. What they laugh at, what they don’t, what they think is shocking and scandalous.

    That seems like nearly everything, fyi.

    I think having a place where you can feel comfortable, where you don’t have to censor the things you say, the things you laugh at, where you can be YOU, I think that’s one of the ways to stay sane.

    I also think that communities give us standards. If you talk to your conservative sister about your relationship, tell her that Master doesn’t allow you to do this or that, that you don’t have freedom to make this or that decision about yourself, she is likely going to be less than helpful.

    She’s going to see it all as wrong and bad and she’s not going to be able to give you good or even pertinent advice.

    On the other hand, if you have access to a community, then you have people you can go to, who will not automatically think that you’re crazy for letting some man tell you what to do, or tell you that your husband might be happier if you pretended he was smarter than you are sometimes…

    It’s also not helpful if there really IS an issue, if there’s really a problem with something, it’s only people who understand how this DOES work that can say, no, you know, demanding that you turn over your paycheck on the first date is NOT acceptable or normal.

    It disturbs me on a fairly profound level to hear people who were happy to help themselves to the benefits of the community complain about the others who come behind them and now it’s all different!!

    You can’t even imagine how many times it’s all been different for me, too.

    How many people I liked have come and gone.

    How many of them have come back, or not, who has stayed and who has gone.

    And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

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