I learnt a valuable lesson. My "weekend off kink" that was supposed to be all about relaxing and resting up ended up being so horrifically stressful for RL issues that I am never doing that again. I'm still a bit frazzled by it all, so have nothing to report of an exciting physical nature. The most I managed was coffee with Captain on Sunday where he offered several hugs which did make me feel somewhat better. He also smelt really good, for those who are interested (pheromones interest me...)
So, some posts of a more philosophical or political nature for the next few days, at least until Festival of Sins at the weekend when I shall make merry. First off the bat is something that came out of a conversation at the midweek drinks last Wednesday, when I got into a discussion about the different generations of kink, how they interact (or don't) and how we understand the kinky social contract and rules of engagement.
Lots to take in, which is probably why we managed to clear the entire table within five minutes. Graphs were involved. Perhaps we might have got a little animated for a "friendly social" but I think what we were discussing was extremely valid. The nub of the conversation was this. Once upon a time, before the internet, BDSM was a smaller, more personalised community. People knew each other and there was a slower progress of meeting people, attending munches and eventually a party or a club. This meant (in theory, personally I was not entirely convinced at the idea of a golden age of kink) that generally, by the time someone got to a club they knew how to interact, what the rules were and were a safer, saner player than they might have been otherwise. With the advent of the internet and with a more open society, more people were able to find out about kink, reach out to kinky organisations and kinky people and get out there without going through that same process of "vetting".
So much the better, perhaps. After all, it has meant that those who might otherwise have been mired in vanilla misery, dissatisfied and unhappy, are able to meet other like-minded folk. The scene has gotten bigger (and perhaps more diverse). The scene has also gotten younger, which is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing, but certainly I got the impression from the conversation that the driving force behind the increased number of people on the scene was more people starting earlier on in their sexual careers.
What my conversation partner was concerned about was twofold. First, that there now appears to be a generation gap, of younger and older players, who rarely meet, especially now there are so many clubs and events, each with their own niche market and each which seem to tend towards one or the other end of the spectrum. The second point was that each tranche has its own modes of behaviour and ways of relaying information about the scene. To create a grotesque stereotype the older group is more likely to be more secretive, less public, less of an internet user and more of a private player. The younger group is more open, more club based and very internet savvy. The younger group also includes more recent joiners - so at any one time will have a higher proportion of less experienced players (which isn't to say there are no young, experienced players, there are many, it's just a group that contains a lot more new people and a lot of people who only play a little and not very often). I'd like to add that this is entirely from my own observation and conversations with others. Therefore totally anecdotal and without a single "fact" to back it up. I might well be wrong and there may be hordes of octogenarians racing to start their retirement by beating each other up. I hope this is true.
What this meant, and something we were both interested in was that the two groups do not really socialise or share information. This makes sense, because they do not necessarily share the same values, life goals or want the same things from BDSM. Worse still, there are difficult and challenging misconceptions that both groups hold about each other which prevent them from meeting in a friendly, open fashion: the old guard are laying claim to inscribing kink upon stone-tablets and citing privileges of rank whilst whippersnappers are arguing the natural ascendancy of the young-and-therefore-beautiful alongside our right to discover things for ourselves and not be told what to do. Neither side is entirely right. Neither side is entirely wrong - there are fools and heroes on both sides of the generation gap. What it does mean is that there is no one scene. There are multiple scenes. In other words, we don't have a kinky community. We have communities that are kinky. Some people don't even want to be part of any community, but still want to (quite understandably) tie each other up every now and then. This is a natural state of affairs for any movement that has grown through time but is problematic for us because parts of what we do are illegal. Other parts of what we do are certainly in the moral grey as far as society as a whole is concerned.
We have no real consensus, as a group, on what we hold as common ground. We are not a firmly established political entity. We have rules, but they vary from situation to situation. To take an example - what does "safe, sane and consensual" mean? Different people will have different views. There is also no process in how we explain this to new people, so a lot of the time, people pick things up as they go along. We are an informal, peer network, which is not necessarily a bad thing - it's certainly an open system, with no-one at the top handing down proclamations and it can foster a responsibility for each other. It does also have gaps. People get missed out, no-one is in charge so no-one is actually accountable. The way we share knowledge is very much catch-as-catch-can, which would be fine if we were all into knitting, but knitting isn't especially dangerous or illegal whereas parts of BDSM are. I'm sure we can all agree that it would be a good thing for everyone who was interested to get all the info they needed to be safe in case someone gets hurt or even (God forbid) arrested, but who will do this? I'm certainly not going to quit my day job and declare myself to be in charge of doing that. Besides, any number of people would then point out my total lack of qualifications for such a role.
So, the question becomes what do we do? I'm personally against any sort of hierarchical system of apprenticeship such as that operated by our cousins across the pond (a friend of mine was recently told he couldn't be a proper Dom unless he'd "served his time" as a submissive to an older Dom, which is not only extremely patronising to submissives - implying their status as a mere stepping stone to the "superior" position of dominance - but a bit unpalatable to someone who doesn't really want to be submissive). I'm also averse to harking back to a system whereby each person first had to find other kinky people, then jump through any number of hoops before actually picking up a crop. For a start, it's impossible in a world of the internet and high-street sex shops and secondly do we really want to be the Masons? I'm not sure what is the best way forwards. Certainly more open discussion, seminars and workshops would be wonderful, but you can't enforce attendance and I'm not sure that handing out brownie badges for kinky skills is within anyone's remit.
More thought required.