Monday, July 25, 2011
I like kinky porn. Because of conflicting and troubling stories about the consent/enthusiasm of the performers, I've gotten pretty picky about the video/photo kinky porn I use (it's pretty much come down to "do I know the people who made it?"), but I still read kinky erotica. What I don't read, if I can possibly help it, is other people's comments on the stories.
The problem is, there are two ways you can enjoy a story about a woman letting her lover tie her down, beat her, and fuck her. The first is as a depiction of consensual BDSM that is fulfilling to both participants. The second is as the humiliation of a dirty slut. And reading the comments on a lot of BDSM erotica sites makes it clear that some people see it as the latter--and they like it.
This asymmetry plagues almost any sex-positive endeavor that's open to the public. Hold a BDSM demonstration that involves nudity, and some people are going to ogle it like a strip show. Produce enthusiastic-consent-modeling dyke erotica celebrating diverse body types, and some people are going to watch it as girl-girl porn. Host a gathering for kinksters to meet and socialize, and some people are going to see it as a great place to meet slutty chicks who are into freaky shit.
I'm phrasing these as differences of semantics, but they often result in differences in behavior. Someone who sees a play party as 360-degree porn for their entertainment is going to be bad company at best, an intrusive wanker at worst. (A literal wanker, sometimes.) Every person who thinks of munches as pure meat markets makes the community less safe and less welcoming. And it's disgusting and horrifying to have what you thought was a mutual exploration of sexuality with someone, only to learn that they just thought of you as a disposable slut who was giving it up easy.
I think this asymmetry of perceptions is mainly due to two factors: context and participation.
Being involved in sex-positive activities in good faith requires education. If you come into a sex-positive activity with only the knowledge you learned in the cultural mainstream--that sex is dirty, sluts are gross, women's sexuality exists for men's amusement, and kink is freaky-weird--then you're going to misinterpret everything you see. This is one of the reasons that I'm a big proponent of people settling into a kink community socially before attending parties.
I think that every sex-positive activity that's open to the public should come packaged with some sort of education on its context. It may be tiresome for the old hands, but when there are people in the audience who may never have been exposed to sexuality without judgement before, it's important to spell out both your ground rules--no wanking, ya wankers--and your conceptual foundations--this is a place for sexuality without judgement, ya judgers.
A big cause of asymmetrical perceptions at live events is when people are playing asymmetrical roles. People who put themselves in the role of "audience member" or "customer" at sex-positive activities tend to cause many more problems than people who put themselves in the role of "participant." When I've felt exploited after sex, it's because my partner saw himself as a normal guy fucking a slut, rather than one slut fucking another.
I don't think everyone at BDSM parties has to play. But I think everyone at BDSM parties should have to identify themselves as a kinkster, as part of the party, not as a spectator. In practical terms, I think it would help to require everyone to help in some way to create the event. This could be an entirely token thing--bring one bag of chips, pick up one piece of trash--and it would still help people feel more like community members, less like consumers. And this is a second reason that I think "munch before you party" is so important.
In a way, this is simply another aspect of providing context--letting people know that by engaging with sex-positive culture, they are now a part of it. Whatever false dichotomy someone had between "perverts like them" and "normal people like me" should be destroyed the instant they start getting enjoyment from the perverts.
Like watching what perverts do? You're a pervert yourself now--so you'd better come to terms with why that's not a bad thing. Like having sex with sluts? Guess what that makes you...