Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Thousand Islands of Kink

 Somewhere out there there’s a Ted Talk about how greater options lead to less diversity.  It is counter-intuitive, but more variety of choices actually leads to less real variety in terms of actual exposure.  The more options we give people, the less they are exposed to.

Let’s take TV and music.  When I was a much younger pup, back in ye olden days, we had three TV networks and PBS.  You watched the best of what’s on among those four choices… or you went outside to play.  Depending on the size of the city you lived in you had maybe 6 or 8 radio stations, and if you wanted music, you picked among those.

Today we have hundreds of TV channels plus Netflix and Hulu giving you stuff on-demand.  We have Pandora and Spotify with seemingly limitless music options and highly customizable.  So today you can see or hear what you want, just what you want, and when you want it.  Result?  People work themselves into smaller and smaller niches, exposing themselves to less and less of the potential variety available.

This principal applies to the kink world.  Now the community has not become much bigger – but much, more fragmented.  Charlotte, NC in particular is super-saturated right now w/ kink groups and events, but it’s not just Charlotte.  Laura Antoniou recently talked about this at her keynote speech at Leather HEAT in California (which is really worth listening to, they have the audio at ): the community has become “a thousand islands of kink.”  There are more clubs, groups, events, dungeons, contests, titles… everything… and most of the groups are increasingly specialized towards a particular, little segment of the community. 

When I joined CAPEX in 2001 or 2002, there was basically just CAPEX.  Now… I can’t even tell you how many BDSM groups, events, and munch-groups there are within an hour or two of Charlotte, and some of them have things going on every week.  Most of these groups are fly-by-night.  They come and go in the span of about a year or two… but they keep coming.  In business terms, there is a “glut on the market.”  Too many choices.

My awesome home club, CAPEX, is 15 years old.  When it started, almost by necessity, it was a “big tent” group.  Since there were so very few other BDSM groups in Charlotte or w/in an hour’s drive of Charlotte, it had to be the group that accommodated everybody:  straight, gay, bi, lesbian, femdom, male-dom, Leather, fetishist, hedonist…  Everybody came to CAPEX.  Littles and Leather daddies.  Rope fetishists and pain sluts.  Being a big tent group from the start really shaped the ethos of CAPEX, and to this day I take great pride in how it is one of the most open, welcoming, non-judgmental groups around.  As one of my (male) pack mates put it, “CAPEX is the only pansexual group where I can play w/ another guy and not have to look over my shoulder to see who is giving me dirty looks.”

I 100% agree w/ Laura Antoniou that these big tent groups still serve an important role in our community… that we are stronger when we can come together over what we have in common and over our differences.  One of the first friends I made in the lifestyle was a fantastic guy who happened to be a dipper fetishist.  Before I walked through the door at CAPEX, I admit I would have been like, “I don’t want a fucking thing to do w/ that shit.”  But being around people of different kinks and orientations, in a non-judgmental environment, not only helps one internalize “Your kink is not my kink and that’s okay,” but it helps one meet great people and form some good friendships you’d miss out on otherwise.  Through CAPEX, I attended dozens of demos and classes I didn’t have (or wouldn’t have thought I had) any interest in… and often I learned something interesting or gained some insight that I could apply in some way.  It’s kind of the equivalent of the mix tape: you know, when a friend gives you a batch of new-to-you music and says, “Here give this a try.”

Back when CAPEX was almost he only game in town, you came out to the demo each month (early on we had demos twice a month) b/c that was just what the community did and that was where we all gathered.  Now…  Each month you have like 20 different choices of what you want to go to.  Can that be entirely healthy?

The scene today is made worse (I feel) by the fact that many of the little, fly-by-night groups are started and run be people who have had little or no actual contact w/ the kink community.  Of the countless groups that have come-and-gone w/in an hour or two of Charlotte, at least a few of them I’ve heard about were started by guys (it’s usually guys) who had never been to a dungeon, nor a leather run, nor a play party, nor even a munch group.  They just hopped on FetLife and started their own super-specialized little clubhouse.

There is a problem w/ the current scene where (to paraphrase Laura) everybody has their own kinky tree house w/ a “No ____s allowed” sign out front.  Now, you never have to interact w/ people who aren’t exactly like you… and that’s a net loss for all of us. 

A related, kind of political aside:  This is also why I, personally, don’t generally support home schooling or private/parochial schools.  (I do allow for exceptions.)  Most of the time the real purpose behind it is just so that our kids can grow up w/o having to interact w/ anybody who is too terribly different from them.  This was graphically demonstrated many years ago when Atlanta held a big conference for home schoolers and they took a stadium photo of everyone there – a few thousand kids – and it was pointed out that (in Atlanta, which has a high African American population) there was only one black face in the whole crowd.  There was also an article I read recently that explained how in Florida, after years of state government subsidizing for-profit schools and de-funding public schools (they call it "school choice" - remember, more choices lead to less actual variety), the students in the for-profit schools are overwhelmingly white and middle class and, in many parts of Florida, the public schools are almost entirely poor and darker skinned.  It’s a back-door way of re-segregating.  Just some food for thought…

There’s a principal of sociology (I’m sure there’s also a Ted Talk about it) that demonstrates that diverse cultures are healthier than monocultures.  Biology, evolution, and anthropology all prefer diversity… but human psychology and socialization often reject diversity (sometime overtly, but more often unconsciously) and prefer things the same and familiar.

In this new phase of the kink “community,” I worry about the future of groups like CAPEX.  We need these groups!  We need spaces for us all to get together and rub elbows (even w/ the friction that causes).  Where we can experience that joy of discovery of something we never thought we’d like… or even just the pleasure in learning something new even if doesn’t entirely apply to ourselves.

Okay, here’s my disclaimer:  My other main club is Atlanta Dominion, a tree house w/ a “No girls allowed” sign out front.  Here’s what I’ve always said: There is a place for both things.  There is a place to have your own, little, everyone-like-us retreat, and there is an important role for open-to-all, non-judgmental, pansexual, big tent groups.  But I don’t have to worry about the former; they are proliferating like stink bugs – or Leather titles.  It’s the future of the latter that worries me…

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to find the big tent, all-inclusive group in your area, and support it to the degree that you can.

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