Diversity – A Keynote for Colonial Kink by Sarah Sloane

Diversity – A Keynote for Colonial Kink

This past weekend, I was invited to present the keynote speech at Colonial Kink in Williamsburg, Virginia. They asked that I speak on the topic of diversity in the kink / leather communities, and since it’s something that I’ve been doing a lot of listening, thinking, and conversing with friends & peers in the community, I was pleased to do so. I have had a couple of requests from people for the text of the speech, so here it is…I hope that you find it enjoyable – but more than that, I hope that you find it thought and conversation provoking.
A little over 22 years ago, I found a community that changed my life; it changed how I viewed the world, how I accepted myself, who I gave my time and energy to, and ultimately it developed me into the leatherwoman that stands before you today. It was not the BDSM or Leather community that I found at that time – it was the community of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I’ve found that the ideals (or the Twelve Steps & Traditions, for those of you that are familiar with those sorts of groups) have shaped how I perceive my role in the kink communities – and how I see my community of calling & choice as it relates to the world today.

First, let me give you a little bit of my own history. I am a relative newcomer to the kink community; I went to my first group, the Escape group, in Richmond VA in late summer 1998. The first play party that I ever attended was held just a month later. What I found there were people who were pretty much just like me – mostly white, mostly educated, mostly middle-class, and all of whom found out about the BDSM scene via the internet. I needed to see those people – I needed to feel like a part of a group, and not so different from the people around me in order to embrace my sexuality.

From there, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and met the members of CUFF in Charlottesville, and the members of Richmond Leather Club. What I found there were people who were not all like me – many identified as gay or queer, a few as transgender, some in long-term marriages, many parents, some who had been involved in the leather or kink communities for over a dozen years, and some who were even fresher faced than I was. And while those folks may not have looked like me, I found that we shared a common ground – we all loved and fucked in ways that were not what the folks down the street did, and we all just wanted to find space to be who we were, without explanation or apology. And most importantly for me, those were the people that I learned from.

We do not, as human beings, learn anything new until we begin to see things that we’re not familiar with and interact with people and situations that are outside of our own personal norms. And as people involved in the various sexual subcultures, we do not learn unless we step outside of our own sense of who and what we are about, and become exposed to different ways and different people.

Not all groups are diverse; that’s fine, if it’s the intent and the mission of the group. I believe firmly that each person has a right to safe & sacred space; if that means that you only play with people of your own gender or orientation, or that you have a group that you meet with that is exclusively for people who choose the same role or relationship structure that you choose, that’s ok. It is not my place – nor, do I think, it is anyone’s place – to override a group’s focus or mission. The danger for all of us in the community is that we often default to only gathering with people who are just like ourselves without ever looking at why our groups are limited, and whether it’s truly in the best interests of the group (and, by extension, the community).

As with individuals, a group that does not fully understand and seek clarity on what they are about and their purpose as a group will end up a sorry mish-mash of expectations with little future to grow and carry forward in the world as a whole. When we’re talking about people, we often tell them to look at what it is that they truly want to do, or feel called to do, and to create ways to make that happen. With a group, it’s a little harder – we have to do that same alignment of our mission on a group level, but we are all called upon as members of that group to check our own motives and expectations as well.

If our mission is to be open to anyone who has an interest in kink, are we hard to for someone with minimal access to the internet to find out about us? Can a person in a wheelchair gain access to the meeting? What about people who are surviving on a subsistence income – do we have ways that they can get to meetings via public transit, or can afford the cost of attendance? Do we put people who are in the minority in our groups – racially, sexually, or spiritually – in the position of being the token spokesperson for an entire group of people like them? For many groups who promise accessibility, those answers are no – and not because it is the groups intent, but simply due to ignorance of the challenges faced by, again, people who aren’t just like us.

And again – it’s not just our organizations, it’s ourselves. We expect everyone to use a scene name, on the assumption that they should be as anonymous as we are. We assume that everyone that we meet has a basic knowledge of safe play & safe sex, and knows their STI status. We believe ourselves to be more evolved than the “vanillas” are. We, as my friend Q the bootblack puts it, end up drinking our own kool-aid. We get comfortable on our thrones, and in our groups, and we don’t challenge our own assumptions – and with that, we stagnate, we are caught up preserving the status quo, and we eventually wither and walk away.

The principles that I mentioned earlier, the ones that AA embraces? One is that in order to have a healthy community, we must be united. It doesn’t matter if we identify as pansexual, queer, bondage aficionados, masters & slaves, bedroom players, or “all of the above”, we must step outside of our smaller groups and come together to share information, to learn, to grow, and to encourage the growth of other individuals & groups. One of my most valuable learning experiences in my early explorations in the community was attending the BDSM 101 series in Washington, sponsored by SigMa & Men of Discipline (both all male clubs) and Black Rose (a pansexual club). The people I met there – both the leaders and the other attendees – came from a huge variety of walks of life, and it taught me that there are so many ways that we can work together, despite our apparent differences, to reach a common goal.

Another AA principle is that we expect our leaders to act as trusted servants, and that they (and we) remember that the good of the organization is not always the good of the individual. I am sure that many of us have heard stories of someone who has used their position to their own advantage – the people who limit membership, hold information & access to groups & events hostage, encourage animosity between members, or just mismanage their role in their group to the detriment of others. Sadly, it happens, and one of the challenges of living in the leather & bdsm communities as responsible, consent driven people is having to stand up & speak out about such behavior. Often, the lack of diversity and the schisms that wedge us apart from each other can be laid at the feet of such abuses of power – and it’s our individual & collective responsibility to ensure that our leaders are responsible to all of their membership, as well as the community as a whole.

And, most importantly we want to remember AA’s 12th Tradition: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. In an environment that deifies individuals based on roles and longevity, and one in which many people feel that there is something permissible and attractive about displays of such authority, we must consistently remember that it is the principles of the community that are important, not the individual egos.

We must dig deeper, in order to grow and thrive. We have to evaluate what our mission is, both as individuals and as members of the community, and whether we’re fulfilling that mission. And we must change. We must ask the hard questions, we must expect more from ourselves and from our organizations. We must, as the Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change that we want to see in the world. And when we find that, we have the right – no, the responsibility – to vote with our feet, with our money, with our energy, and with our passion. As activists, we have four things that we can do: We can accept it as it is, we can change ourselves to fit the role we must undertake, we can change the current structure, or we can walk away & create something new. The choice, as always, is yours.

The hard parts by Seth Godin

The hard parts

In an industrial setting, the obvious plan is to seek out the easy work. You’re more likely to get it done with less effort and then move on. The easy customer, the easy gig, the easy assembly line.

Today, though, it’s the difficult work that’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because difficult work allows you to stand out, create value and become the one worth choosing.

Seek out the difficult, because you can. Because it’s worth it.

[An aside for entrepreneurs and anyone starting a new project: if you can’t describe the hard parts, how will you focus on them? And if there are no difficulties ahead, what makes you think your project is valuable? When I meet an entrepreneur, I always ask this question first–which part of your project is hard?]

Thoughts on Leadership by Pete Mosq

This is a blog post from Pete Mosq on FetLife

Let me start this by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect for those people who choose to serve our community. Board and committee members, Event Chairs and Staffers, Presenters and Teachers, and anyone else who gives the gift of their time and energy.

There’s usually not a gathering I go to where someone doesn’t pull me aside and ask/rant/bitch about the current state of TES. I am not intimately involved with the governance of the organization at this point but will always consider it my ‘home.’ People are often surprised when I talk about my five years on the board with mostly positive things to share. How could that possibly be?

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Recommendations for ‘Dealing With Difficult People’

These are the books I’d recommend for further reading on dealing with difficult people. If you find that you deal with difficult personalities a lot it’s worth spending some time and money on what to do to cope, continue what you love and keep your sanity. Links are affiliates.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

The Power of a Positive No: Save The Deal Save The Relationship and Still Say No

Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate

These are sites where you’ll find helpful information about types of difficult people and how to understand & communicate with them

Out of the Fog – Information on Personality Disorders

These are some online articles that have further information & suggestions

Steve Pavlina

Think Simple Now

Psychology Today

“Somehow we forget this. I blame the Guarantee Fairy.” by IttyBiz

Oh, I haven’t introduced you?  How rude of me.
Sometimes you are well and truly stuck on making a decision because
every option you’ve considered has downsides you don’t want to
You don’t want to risk making a decision you’ll regret, so you’re
That tends to make you sit at the crossroads for the forseeable
future and ask yourself “Should I do X or Y?  What’s the RIGHT
choice?”, because both options seem painful.
When you ask these questions, you are secretly trying to summon the
Guarantee Fairy.

Speaking out against racism in Leather. A post by Mollena.

Mollena is a community leader, educator and is a vocal POC activist. Her writing style is passionate and bluntly honest, I recommend you check it out here.

If you’re just catching up on the issue of the Portland Eagle Blackface Problem, please read my original post here.

(Thanks to  Sprinkles McGillicuddy for making a captioned version available!)

Some people have stepped up to the place and stepped up as allies.

Being an ally means fighting alongside. It is about taking a stand, in front of everyone. Vocally. Holding people accountable. Not “agreeing to disagree” when people support racism. About saying “privilege is real.” and talking about ways to mitigate racism, ways to educate so that it is a shared responsibility.

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Frequency, repetition and the power of saying it more than once by Seth Godin [Marketing]

Frequency, repetition and the power of saying it more than once

“I’m only going to tell you this once…”

There’s a lot to be said for conditioning your audience to listen carefully. If they know that valuable information is only going to come at them once, they’ll be more alert for it.

Alas, as the nois-o-sphere gets noisier still, this approach is hard to justify.

Repetition increases the chance that you get heard.

Repetition also increases (for a while) the authority and believability of what you have to say. Listeners go from awareness of the message to understanding to trust. Yes, the step after that is annoyance, which is the risk the marketer always faces.

Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.

In many ways, the mantra of permission conflicts with the mechanics of frequency. If people are loaning you their attention and you’re delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages, your need for frequency goes way down.

If you’re using frequency as a tactic to make up for the fact that you’re being ignored, you can certainly do better.

For the rest of us though, saying it twice may in fact be twice as good as saying it once.

‘We Are All In The Selling Business’ A Keynote by Race Bannon

by Race Bannon on April 12, 2013

I delivered this speech on April 12, 2013 as the opening keynote address at Kink LINCS, a leadership and community-building symposium held in Seattle, Washington for those who are part of the leather, BDSM, kink, fetish, poly, swing and other sex-positive communities.

Good evening. Welcome to the beautiful city of Seattle, and to the great weekend the Kink LINCS folks have in store for us.

I would like to thank all of the organizers of Kink LINCS for asking me to be here this weekend…all of the volunteers who have offered their time and effort to make this event happen…all of the sponsors who have underwritten some of this event’s costs…and most importantly, thanks to everyone in attendance, all of you, for believing that our kink and relationship alternatives scene needs inspired, informed and skilled people to help keep us all moving forward in positive ways.

I’d like to say up front that no matter who or what I appear to take to task in this speech, or what institutions or sacred cows I appear to skewer, please know that I do not think our efforts are all going to hell in a hand basket. I do not think we work among incompetents or bad people. Quite the contrary. I see a very bright future for people who align with the identities and practices embodied in this conference. I think most people who work in these areas, and that includes all of you, are doing a fantastic job. I’d just like to see it all much improved, and I think we can do that.

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