Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Deviant Nerd - Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Where Everybody Knows Your Name
The Deviant Nerd
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Question: Hey Pip,

So I’m just getting into kink. I’ve read stories and books and gone to sites online. I’m thinking about looking into my local kink community. But I don’t really know if it’s such a good idea. I mean, it’s pretty safe and anonymous doing stuff online, but meeting people face-to-face in real life… I don’t know. Should I do it? Is it worth it?

 — To Munch or Not to Munch


Pip: Hey Munch,

You should totally munch!

Like most communities, the kink community exists for multiple reasons. 

One of the nicest perks of having and being part of a kink community, particularly for the new and curious, is that you have so much knowledge and experience within reach. Wanna learn about Shibari? Chances are good someone in the community can teach you. Never tried wax play? Look, it’s happening over in that corner of the play party you’re at; go up and ask for a turn. Need know where you can get a good quality, vegan flogger? Someone out there has one and can tell you which ones are best. Kink is an ever-evolving thing; there is always something new happening, there’s always a new skill to learn, a new toy to play with, a new fetish to have. The kink world is made up of geeks and nerds and dorks who can never be satisfied with what’s out there and have to find new ways to improve it, enhance it, and discover new ways to do it. It’s just who we are. Without that ingenuity, kink wouldn’t—couldn’t—exist. It is perhaps our most defining feature. And community helps to fuel that fire, helping us share it and spur it ever forward.

Which bring us to the thing most people are seeking within the kink community, that sense of connection with like-minded and similarly-experienced people. To find folks who don’t immediately look at you like you’re crazy when you talk about something that seems so natural and obvious to you.

Hell, to have people whom you can talk about it with at all is something that is indescribably comforting to a lot of kinksters. So many of us can’t talk about it to our families or friends because it still carries so much of a stigma. Even those who are accepting, but aren’t in it...

Personally, I’m grateful—unendingly thankful—to have friends who are willing to roll with it. Who will listen to me and my crazy shit and still look at me like...I’m still me.

But there’s still something about talking to people in the community. The people who not only accept it, but get it. Who’ve been where you’ve been. Who are where you are. Who intimately know the joys and sorrows of being who and what you are. Who are not just sympathetic, but empathetic. 

Because the outside can be very hard to deal with alone. From right-wing Christians who think we’re going to hell to well-meaning, if ill-informed, feminists and psychologists who think that we’re all victims and abusers, there are reasons why most of us are still in the closet about this. Why we use fake names. Why we post faceless pictures. People have lost families, lost spouses, lost children, lost friends, lost jobs, and lost lives because being this way is just too different for those around them to handle. There are so many misconceptions of who and what we are that it’s hard not to internalize it, much less to combat it and defend yourself against it. Being part of a community allows you a safe space where, within it, you don’t have to. You’re always welcome.

Another thing it does is it offers safety on a practical level. Munches. Play parties. Social gatherings. Networking. These are things that couldn’t exist without that sense of community. Places where you can meet people who have been (in theory, if not always in practice) vetted and accepted by others. Where you can check references, hear about reputations. If someone is a predator, an abuser, a cheater, or someone who doesn’t respect limits or lies about their STI status, you’ll hear about it. If someone is awesome, if they are an expert at something, if they are teaching a class or offering a service or a product, you’ll know. 

It’s a checks and balances that, while not infallible, is helpful and keeps us safe and honest. People will behave better when they know that they’ll be held accountable, when they know that bad behavior will have consequences. 

Personally, I don’t play with people who aren’t in the established community, who aren’t known by the people I know. Who don’t have people who will vouch for them. Because, during any kind of intense, adrenaline-pumping play, I fully well know that I’m putting myself in a position of vulnerability. I’m opening myself emotionally, mentally, and physically. Laying myself bare to another human being. And if I’m tied up or restrained—hell, even if I’m the one swinging the whip—I’m screwed if the person I trusted proves untrustworthy. Checking references, doing my due diligence and research, keeps me safe. It makes it so I’ve never had a bad play experience—which is something too few kinksters can say.

Lastly, the most popular use of community is as a meeting place. A place to meet lovers, partners, significant others, friends. It’s a way of taking the shame, fear, danger, and isolation out of a life that is too often fraught with it. It does for kinksters what the LGBT community has done for gay people. It keeps us out of skeezy motels and strangers’ basements in the same way a sense of community helps to keep gay kids out of parks at night and bath houses. It means that we can have legitimate, honest, healthy relationships with fellow kinksters rather than sleazy affairs or shame-driven one-night stands. 

It gives a validity to the lifestyle and sets certain standards of conduct. It’s no longer advantageous to treat your play partners as less than human because now your play partners are, if not your romantic partners, are your friends or friends of your friends. You have to—have no other choice but to—acknowledge the humanity of those your play with, as well as your own. Because these are people you will see and will want to see again and again. You want to have good standing with these people. You want to maintain and extend and gain good connections. 

Community means, for better or for worse, you’re not alone in this. You have resources and support systems. You have accountability and scrutiny. You have family.

So, yeah, come find us, Munch. We’d love to have you.

 — Pip, Your Resident Deviant Nerd

* If you have a sex, kink, love, or life question for The Deviant Nerd, email Pip at PipJones.DeviantNerd@gmail.com
And read more about Pips story in Brought to You By.

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