NPR did a story the other day about the Fifty Shades trilogy. Now let me say right here, I have not read these books and have no interest in reading these books. I have heard them described as “This does to BDSM what Twilight did to vampires!” *Ouch!!!* And “mommy porn” (which is very funny at first and then kind of gross the more you think about it).
However these books have (and this astounds me) sold faster than either The Girl w/ the Dragon Tattoo or the seventh Harry Potter book!
So… this got me thinking… Just how out in the open do we (the kink/leather/BDSM community) really want to be?
To some extent, this is a very generational split… and I (aged 37 and first started sniffing around the scene in the late-90’s) am pretty much right on the hinge. On my left I see those older and more experienced than me who had to enter the community by having the balls to walk into a bar or club like the Eagle, the Woodshed, or the Sanctuary… They had to earn their way in, and were (in general) accepted gradually. You had to prove that (a) you were the real deal and not a “weekend warrior” and (b) you weren’t an asshole. Reputation was gold, respect came gradually… and the members of this community (many of them still gun-shy from the pre-Stonewall days when the scene had to stay in the shadows) didn’t want any public attention. If you were serious about it, then you’d find your way in… if you were just a weekend warrior, you weren’t welcome in.
Then I look to my right, and I see TNG. The 20-somethings are hyper-connected and social networked. They are out and open and have pictures of their tits and dicks online. They probably first discovered the scene online. They probably began by Google-ing (every time I say “Google-ing” an IP litigator loses his wings :) ) and made their way to social networks like FetLife. I can tell you… I have felt the impact of Fet since it appeared about 5 years ago – it really has re-shaped the community. We’re now in a flat-world (as per TomFreidman), and everybody is everybody’s business.
Now we have Fifty Shades… a mega-bestselling, mainstream, book that revolves around a BDSM relationship (that sparkles in sunlight!). Awwww… how cute!
So, just how big, visible, and mainstream do we want to be, really?
On the one hand… as the gay community has learned, that is the path to acceptance. Rosie, Ellen, and Will & Grace did more to move the gay-rights cause forward than every Pride parade ever. Marvel & DC comics have both introduced gay superheroes. (I think marvel actually had the first one back in the late-70’s w/ Northstar… but he was a minor character, and his homosexuality was only hinted at until the 90’s.) Certainly, Fifty Shades will make the job of NCSF a lot easier I would think.
Also, the more open and inviting scene has advantages for bringing new people… and the expanded population is certainly a boon for those looking for partners. When I first came in, it took me a year or two to build-up some regular play-partners… and it took a couple years more to find a 24/7, romantic partner. I don’t thing TNG today faces quite the same level of obstacles.
On the other hand… When I think of the ComicCon messes or the hoards of housewives fantasizing over Fifty Shades and identifying themselves w/ us… I honestly feel a bit “cheapened.” I’ve had the same issues since Fet took off 4-5 years ago. Suddenly we had “experts” appearing and calling themselves “Lord God Master Hugedick,” who had NO realtime experience. There was one kid (about 24 or 25 I think) up here in NC who started his own group who had NEVER been to a single, actual BDSM event – not a class, not a play-party, not a dungeon, a con, or anything! I admit… I was a little bit disgusted.
While Fet has made it easier to bring new folks in… it’s also made it a lot harder to identify and remove the creeps and predators. Things are too democratic now, and the genuine predators can hide in the noise of the internet “drama.”
It was as well, partly in-response to the rise of Fet that Shdwkitten and I started teaching out “Avoiding the Kink Ghetto” class… which we’re doing this weekend for Charlotte TNG, which is another reason why this is on my mind. Fet certainly exploded the population of the kink ghetto – those so stuck in the (mostly online) kink community that the rest of their life becomes sadly neglected.
I know that for me – and I think also for a lot of the older BDSM/leather crowed – we really don’t particularly want to “go mainstream.” I’ll admit, some of it might be childish, but, damn it, it feels “cool” to be in-the-know… to be one of the guys who know the secret handshake and all… I think that now masses of people are Google-ing all about what we do, and it, again, feels somehow “cheapened.” And mind you, I’m someone who’s made education the main focus of my activities in the community… but still…
It’s a question I don’t have an answer for: How mainstream do we want to grow? And… it’s probably a moot point anyway since the flat-earth is here and we’re not going to be able to stay in the shadows much longer even if we want to. Part of me thinks that’s good… and part of me thinks that’s bad…