Out Of Many, One

Why does it seem like the scene is so fragmented?

I can speak for New York only but have heard from others with similar observations that the scene goes through a regular process of breaking off into smaller and smaller pieces even as it tries to attract more people to it. Is the problem too many generals and not enough soldiers?

The spanking scene seems suited to being a tightly knit community. There are enough people who have lived their lives in a kink-less desert that you’d think that once together, would do everything they could to keep things as vibrant and drama-free as possible, if only to have an opportunity to explore the possibilities. As a member of the spanking community, I not only want a place to play but a place to meet people who are like me, people I can feel comfortable enough to call my friends.

However, it seems as if human nature goes out of its way to get in the way. I always joke about my own ethnic group that if you put three of them in a room they’ll decide to create a group or society. Ask who wants to be leader and they’ll all raise their hand and then promptly get annoyed and leave, now creating three groups of one person each. You understand what I’m saying? Sometimes a person has to realize that they can’t have everything their way. If one person likes spanking as merely a physical sensation, another likes it as punishment, a third as role play and a fourth a little heavier than the other three, that’s an encapsulation of the diversity of the kink itself. There’s no reason all of these things can’t coexist under the same umbrella. After all, this is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

My first foray into the scene happened on the evening of January 8, 2005. That was my first trip to Paddles and actual, real life spanking. In the span of an evening, I saw cross dressing, bondage and all manner of things unrelated to spanking yet didn’t run screaming from the place because it wasn’t “my thing”. Are many of us so conservative that it is an affront when people do things we don’t do?

I like discipline and all things related to discipline but that doesn’t mean that it bothers me when people do something differently and for their own reasons.

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23 Responses to “Out Of Many, One”

  1. A couple of thoughts spring to mind. Snarkiness may or may not follow. Getting up at 6 am is never my strong suit.

    Doms/Tops sometimes are of that “I know the way it should be” crowd and really like to impose their imprint on the local scene. That has all sorts of trickle down that sometimes leads to “well you CAN use this implement like that.. BUT that’s not how I do it” and various discussions that sets up little sects and fractions.

    Then there is the unity at all cost crowd. “we are one big family and should sing kumbiya and all be happy.” I have a family. One is enough. Oh please, one is enough. For us, this spanking stuff is fun, a love and we want it to stay that way. I want to, of course, spend time with our friends, but really have no need to spend time with people that I can’t relate to.

    Then there are those who use the scene to achieve some sort of status and control they could never achieve outside the confines of a subculture like “the scene”.

    You have people like this in a group and unfortunately drama usually follows.

    You give your example with 3 members of your ethnic group. I usually give the example of 3 doctors having 6 opinions.

  2. I think the division is ultimately about people not accepting themselves. When we’re not comfortable with our own desires, there’s a tendency to judge those whose related desires scare us. Well, and then there are people who thrive on drama.

    These explanations are not mutually exclusive.

    Laura, next time I’m at the same party with you, it will be very hard to resist asking everyone to hold hands and sing Kumbaya…

  3. Live and let live. I know many people who are into it for sensual playtime and others who like to be hung by their nipples (ouch). For masochists like me – it definitely is about the pain…which sends my endorphins into overdrive and makes me….erm….wet. lol. To each his own. Let’s embrace the diversity among us.

  4. Laura: Although I am far from a “Kumbaya” singer, I think that it might help the scene if there were slightly more effort to not be self-defeating. The number of people in the scene is small enough without it being divided up into smaller and smaller pieces. Although we all want to hang out with people we agree with, there comes a point when the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in.

    The scene can only sustain so many groups and divisions before there are just too many to survive. Although Sandy and I go to parties as often as we can (as well as Paddles), there comes a point when we can no longer justify the expense of yet one more gathering. Eventually, one or more of these parties, although good to have around, are going to be one or two too many. Yes, it would be nice if everyone’s itch got scratched the same way but it might make more logical sense if resources were pooled rather than divided yet again.

    Indy: You sing “Kumbaya” near me and there’s a-gonna be trouble.

    Barb: My “live and let live” attitude is based upon one guiding force – the fact that I really don’t care what other people do, only what I do.

  5. I don’t really understand the fractioning that goes on either. Once I started to become active on the different boards and such it boggled my mind at the close minded attitude people seemed to have at kinks or even different sides of the same kink that didn’t match their particular thoughts and ideas of what the kink should be. People who are afraid of being judged because they’ve stepped outside the box are judging others who’ve stepped out of the box at a slightly different angle? Just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  6. Mary: Perhaps it all boils down to something that people hate admitting about themselves – that deep down they are on some level prejudiced against the “other”. No one likes that word but how else can you define the attitude that states a person would rather hang with their “own kind” than a wider variety of people.

    I’m not saying it’s bad to have a circle of friends but having a tight knit group shouldn’t mean open warfare with other ones.

  7. Fragmented? Scene?

    You’ve viewing a new phase in the Sexual Revolution. Because of the Internet, it’s easier to find a place to participate in experimentatation that’s not is dangerous surroundings, that has a history, and that gets positive recommendations by a lot of different and unrelated people.

    The result is a lot of new people, with all sorts of desires and expectations, with all this activity being channeled into a few extablished meeting spots.

    In 1969, a result of the Stonewall Riots was that the New York City police would no longer enter a gay club as long as there was no trouble outside on the street. This led to gay baths, extreme S&M clubs, Plato’s Retreat. And this was all 30 years ago. The rise of deadly STD’s may have kept the growth of these venues down for a while.

    Then there were advances in medicine, and a communications revolution on several fronts. Loads of TV shows openly discussing sexual behavior in Prime Time, and the Internet provided a way to see almost anything you want and easily contact others about whatever’s on your mind.

    Add to this a new generation that has really, REALLY different thoughts about sexuality and privacy. Think about this: how does Girls Gone Wild get thousands of young women to undress for millions of viewers without offering much more than a T-SHIRT!! ??? How does Abby Winters find hundreds of normal-looking young women who’ll perform for their cameras?

    What was a secretive and difficult to fulfill desire to one generation is barely a second thought to another. Those who were brave enough to find or start a “Scene” may need to rethink – the new arrivals likely will not want or need to follow the old rules and protocols, and might not even visualize that there is a “Scene”

    Something new could randomly evolve.

  8. TVisiting: Although I agree that “The Scene” is more amorphous than concrete, my argument is more about practicality than anything else.

    I’ve certainly witnessed many changes in attitudes towards sex in even my 45 years – older folks even more so. There have been periods of loosening followed by backlash but the overall trend of society has been to reject artificial limits on what is considered “proper” or not. The spanking community (if that’s what it is) is an example of this although a small subset of the larger Sexual Revolution.

    The creation and popularity of the Internet and then the WWW have made it possible for kinky people who once felt isolated to form connections that would have been impossible in the mid-80s. The Shadow Lane party is an example of what happens when communication is nearly ubiquitous and utterly democratic.

    My argument is simply that the knitpicking that causes the rifts in an already loose confederation of people is counterproductive. By way of analogy: A neighborhood might be able to support two pizzerias but a third might find it difficult to survive. If spanking parties are held in a private home then there is no problem keeping things small. However, if a rental space is needed, dividing the groups into smaller and smaller splinter organizations might make it impossible to draw the numbers necessary to continue.

  9. Rad – I wonder if there are confederations or organizations with any large amount of committed members to splinter. I see something like small clubs that provide a convenient meeting place for as long as someone cares to be there to organize things and enough visitors find it convenient and safe to attend.

  10. DDon: I suppose the Shadow Lane group is the largest collection of spanking fetishists that I can think and their parties the biggest that I know of that are specific to spanking. The problem does not seem to be confined to large groups, though, but to any group – even small ones that can ill-afford to split up.

  11. carolinegrey Says:

    From my limited experience, it seems to me that emotions tend to run higher in your average spanking or BDSM group than in say, your local knitting group (I’ve belonged to both). For one thing, a lot of people feel their kink identity is something hard-won and incredibly personal, and are quick to get defensive. A disagreement is quickly percieved as a personal attack, and mayhem follows. Defensiveness leads to instability which leads to arguments and spitting. The same can be said of religious and political groups…anytime you’re dealing with something that people take very seriously and as an intrinsic part of their identity, you’re going to find volatile tension and the First Reformed Conservative Church of The Backhand Democratic Nipple Clamps.

    It’s frustrating and sad, because like you, I don’t have the funds and time to attend all the events I’d like to, and that means I won’t get to spend time with everyone I like because so and so from Faction A doesn’t attend Faction B events, etc.

  12. carolinegrey: Well said. Perhaps thicker skin or lessons in diplomacy might be in order for many members of the fetish community.

  13. Excellent, Rad, I’ll get right to work memorizing the words.

    Actually, if I sing anything near anybody, there’ll probably be trouble. Alas.

  14. Indy: You can sing it at the next Shadow Lane banquet.

  15. I think carolinegrey probably hit it on the head. Anything intensely emotional, personal, and moving to a person tends to incite equally strong reactions and a great deal of people don’t learn how/don’t care to take a deep breath and relax when it comes to differences. I’ve seen some vicious disagreements between Causeheads (Save the Whales people, Vegans, People for Ethical Treatment of Antelopes, etc.) who started out having a conversation they all agreed on but couldn’t agree to “play nice” about little differences because they were each so charged up about their own worldview.
    But if Indy sings, I think we can all get past it.

  16. Not sure if I am going to end up rehashing hash here, but I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I am most emphatically a live and let live sort. So here is stuff I notice. IME Those in power tend to attract others who are like them in some way, which flavors the whole scene (or church, or dog breeding group, or whatever). You have the insecure folks who want to be like the ones in power in order to be accepted or to gain power themselves, and pretty soon you have a set of otherwise arbitrary norms that does not include some. Those are the folks who may split off.

    Then in BDSM itself there is the whole “Old Guard/New Guard” thing. I am no expert on it, so I am going to fly by what I remember. Organized BDSM used to be (and still includes) “leather” which was started by gay ex-WWII military bikers who *wanted* to create a regimented world for themselves. One thing about regimented worlds is that they do create a sense of security, identity, etc. which IMHO can be very intoxicating to an otherwise stigmatized group of people and more comfortable to those used to military regimentation. It used to be that if you wanted to do anything kinky you had to make a connection somewhere, learn the secret code to get in the door, and attend some underground event. You started as a slave, were taught a certain way, and that is The Way you did it afterwards. Control and regimentation were part of the point, much as it is in the military. Times were tough for these folks, so in many ways this was necessary to preserve secrecy and community cohesion. These folks *couldn’t* afford to splinter, so I think they countered the human tendency to do so with strict control and an observance of hierarchy among all players. Leathers, boots, toys, etc. were all earned based on service and experience and adherence to group norms and survival. How much one embodied the militaristic values of the group greatly affected their credibility and power in it.

    Time has marched on yet has not… I know several “Old Guard” BDSM practitioners who still adhere to a more or less rigid code of conduct and dress. I’ve passed on a few events because I did not possess “dress leathers.” Then there are the folks who are not full fledged Old Guard, but were influenced by it. For as much as we may want to sing Kumbaya, many of these folks want their culture back and some, unfortunately, resent the presence of so many who are simply in it for the kink and who are “watering down” the whole thing. Those are the guys who will tell me I swing my quirt funny, or will want to know if I have “earned” that leather vest.

    TNG (The Next Generation of Kink) was started by a bunch of Gen Xers who did not want grandpa’s leather. And the splinters go from there. I for one was much relieved to spend time away from a fairly heavy duty M/s culture when I attended SL this last weekend. However, I do try to exercise some compassion when the “my way or the highway” folks come my way (this is just before I politely tell them to bugger off).

  17. Wednesday: That was interesting and most instructive. I fall under the “I just want to enjoy myself” crowd. I know that there is a need for rules just to avoid anarchy but an excessive number of rules, especially ones that seem arbitrary, are not to my liking.

    Most of the problems I see are encapsulated by what you and Shiny said about all groups – that the drama happens no matter what the focus.

  18. This is a really interesting conversation. I especially enjoyed Wednesday’s background notes; like Shiny, I think CaroineGrey is on to something, too.

    And Shiny? You asked for it– next time I see you, I’m breaking out into “It’s a Small World” or something equally revolting. (Then all the splinter groups can come together, just to agree that somebody has to shut me up).

  19. Indy: The splinter groups will come together all right but it might resemble a Shirley Jackson story.

  20. Oh god. I would snap if I ever got stuck in “its a small world”

  21. Me, too, Laura. Not to worry!

    Rad, I’m still traumatized from having to read “The Lottery” in high school. It wouldn’t be so bad as a spanking story, though, come to think of it.

  22. Indy: “The Lottery” would make for a heck of a spanking scene if not for the serious theme.

  23. It seems to me that a lot of the splintering is coming from exactly those types – they think things ought to be a certain way, including how people play. Some have gone so far as to label themselves as “spanking purists,” a term that REALLY gets me agitated because it implies the way THEY spank is THE way to spank, and everyone else is dabbling in other foolish things.

    The discussions you see pop up on some boards now and then are full of judgments. “I don’t need to be punished because I am a grown woman” suddenly becomes “there is something wrong with YOU because of your punishment fetish,” and then there’s the “spanking is not sex” vs. “spanking is all about sex” crowd who can’t seem to get along.

    Beyond all that I think there are new groups formed because one group includes someone that the other group is no longer comfortable with. Or one group banned people that the other group liked. I don’t know if that’s the case in NY. We go to parties where not everyone makes us comfortable, but we’re not in charge and we just go along with things.

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