Friday, May 27, 2011

Leather Bear Tails: Pride vs. Entitlement

It seems to me that over the last year or so stories of people acting out their kink in public venues have been on the rise. I have heard everything from people being lead into vanilla space on leashes, to public spanking to boot licking. The other part of the story I hear consistently is that when these people are asked to tone down or stop their behavior they answer with, "I am proud of who I am, and I am not about to hide who I am because I have a right to be out.” The implication here is that if we were all as proud as this person we would all be out at our local eateries routinely spanking our (or being spanked by) partners across the dinner table.

So let’s talk about pride.

Pride is about the self; it is about the feeling of accomplishment and joy that one has in their own skin. What is happening in the aforementioned scenarios has nothing to do with pride but rather entitlement. Entitlement is also about the self and also a perception of a person’s rights, and in this case, at the expense of others. When people experience or feel personal pride about their identity, sexual or otherwise, no one gets hurt. However when people express personal entitlement about their identity, there is a definite and marked reaction that can cost us all. Many people in this community (myself included) possess state held professional licenses, need security clearance for their jobs, have underage children, are going through messy divorces, work in politics, or are otherwise operating in the public eye. In other words, many people are in situations where what they do in their private lives can come at great cost to them if exposed. They may have pride in who they are and what they do, but they measure out there exposure because of what they feel they could possibly loose. That is there choice and no one is entitled to take that away from them.

Let’s not forget that before the gay rights movement in the 1960’s became massively public, police actively sought out and raided gay and lesbian public space. Due to excessive public pressure, law enforcement ferreted us out, arrested us or worse, beat and sexually assaulted gay people on a nightly basis.

We must ask ourselves, is that what this community wants? Do we want our being “out” to usher in excessive public pressure bringing raids to our play parties and events and the potential arrest of our leaders?

The more people continue taking scene behavior into vanilla space, as an act of exhibitionism and do so without consent, the more public pressure can arise to find out who we are and shut us down. That is the reality.

The next argument I usually get is, “Well you are a lesbian, don’t you kiss your wife in public? Isn’t that non consensual?” OK. Well, let’s get something real clear here. Public displays of affection are not the same as public displays of power exchange or fetishism. Many leather or kinky folks will tell you if asked, it can take years to understand our own desires and fantasies, to take those fantasies into actions, and then integrate those actions into our understanding of who we are in our everyday lives and in other forums of those lives. So how is it that some of us expect or feel entitled to others accepting us when they cannot possibly even start to understand our actions or the meaning behind them? On top of not being fair, it’s disrespectful and non consensual.

When did our pride become more important to us than consent?

In this day and age, many agree that those people whose anger is triggered by a same sex couple kissing or holding hands publicly are triggered by their own intolerance. However, people who are put in a position to view pseudo-BDSM behavior in public without giving their consent are triggered by something else entirely. Although intolerance or misunderstanding may be part of the equation, we cannot begrudge them their reactions or their right to refrain from viewing what we do privately. Some folks forget we live in a very violent society where many people have experienced violence and real time non-consensual power exchange (i.e. domestic violence, rape, or abuse) in their lifetime. And BDSM and power exchange look very much like this to the outsider. Our sense of entitlement gets in the way here. Because acts of power exchange, even if they feel right for us, the practitioners, look frightening and non consensual to outsiders. And the folks who may not understand this, who are simply not interested, are entitled to have dinner with their families without seeing images that remind them of abuse.

In addition, this behavior of acting out pseudo-scenes in public has a ripple effect.

One. It compromises the venues welcoming and supporting our community. If businesses have to choose between the families they serve and this small community who makes their customers uncomfortable, we will be the first to go. And just in case you are wondering yes, Albuquerque (and other groups nationwide) has LOST venues for this very reason.

Two. It confirms what people think about us already. We are the freaks, the weirdo’s, the unwashed, socially unacceptable, and out of control dangerous pariahs, we are "the them.” We lose more of our holistic identity when this facet of ourselves is picked off and made into a single thing defining us.

Three. In turn, being part of the "them" means others may be able to decide we should not be allowed to mingle in acceptable public, hold jobs that care for people, be allowed children, or hold public office.

You see where I am going here? We need to tread carefully and with a collective intention if we are to be out.

I am not saying don’t have pride and be out. I am not even saying don’t do whatever you want to. What I am saying is do it on your own time at your own risk. If you want to go out to dinner leading whoever on a leash then half way though dessert do a little over the table spanking-- hey go for it and on your own time, not at a munch or vanilla-dress-code kink social. That way, when you are thrown out, singled out, or arrested, you stop compromising the rest of us.

If you want to experience being proud and out then do something that matters, that doesn’t involve shocked stares from people that cannot possibly understand what you are doing or why it is important to you and your partner. Do something that actually initiates change, rather than perpetuates harmful stereotypes. Right here in Albuquerque you can put on a fundraiser for NCSF, buy at Self Serve, support EQUM, volunteer for Pornotopia, show up at the round house in Santa Fe, or start a fund for BDSM’ers who have had trouble with the law.

Pride matters but is worthless when we confuse it with our own sense of entitlement. And really, pride only matters if it goes hand in hand with consent and respect.

If you are interested in power munches, play parties, or hands on workshops in the Albuquerque area please contact:

If you are interested in an active online community please find:

Group Name: NewMexico Fetlifers

1 comment:

Shana said...

Thank you. I was at a loss to explain how PDA was different than dragging a submissive into a coffee shop on a leash. I'm so glad you post this. And that I read it. :)