Not an Odalisque

Discrimination in the Fetish Scene

with 4 comments

In my last post, I tried to stay away from the topic of whether some kinky events should have an age limit. Generally, I’ve found this to be a debate where many more people are speaking than listening, and everyone’s getting personally offended. It’s one I see often on message boards, and any discussion that will predictably reach the point where someone says, “you’re going to get sued!” within the first ten responses seems like one best avoided to me. However, Abel brought up the issue in his comment, and when my reply reached a certain length I decided the topic deserved its own post. So here I am, another voice in the din.

In my last post I tried to gesture towards an acceptable level of discrimination. In small scenes, that level is low. To make an analogy, when I lived in Coventry the gay community was small, so we all—gays, lesbians, bears, cross-dressers, leatherdykes, that man in the high heels and PVC—had to share a space, and the only acceptable discrimination was against the straight men who turned up looking for threesomes. That shouldn’t be overlooked: straight people seeking sex weren’t welcome. That’s acceptable, I think, because they were welcome in almost every other bar in the city, but it was discrimination nonetheless. In Manchester, where the gay scene is huge, different places cater to different groups, and there’s no reason for the lesbian femmes to encroach on the space of the gay men who like to party in their y-fronts, other than in the shared smoking area at Legends. People divide into their special interest groups when they get a chance. If there’s only one club in town, and they won’t let me in, it’s important. If there are three, and one of them suits my interest but I’m excluded from the other two, there’s no reason for me to be upset. I don’t go, for example, to the Gentlemen’s Munch, or rubber events, because I’m not a man and I don’t enjoy rubber. I don’t complain to the rubberists that I’m being left out, I just go to events that do interest me.

Of course, what may not be obvious on a club-by-club basis may be a wider cultural problem, leaving one group routinely excluded. So I have no problem, in a large scene, with the existence of clubs dedicated to black domme women and the male subs who like them (yes, they exist), even if I find the kink itself a little troublesome. However, if there weren’t places for white women or lesbians to go, if white women were a group generally thought to be unattractive, I’d have a problem. It’s the same logic that says it’s ok to have government initiatives to help women, gays, minority ethnic groups, etc, without a mainstream equivalent: they’re disadvantaged, and attacks on them are more troubling than attacks on the groups with more power and position. One of my many uncomfoprtable feelings about FemSub, is that it includes those who have a good position on the scene (female subs and male dominants) and excludes those who have a less privileged position (male subs) and anyone who maintains an ambiguous identity around their gender or kink (queers and switches, for example).

And so to the Under 35s. Manchester has a large scene, with so many munches that they actually clash with each other, the Under 35s with the Spanko munch, for example. And people over 35 aren’t a disadvantaged minority group. In the scene, they often have advantages of experience and the money to spend on toys and playspaces that younger people don’t. Yes, 35 is an arbitrary cut-off point, but all such boundaries are arbitrary. What definition of blackness are the clubs for black dommes using? How large do you have to be to attend events for Big Beautiful Women? How much do you have to like spanking to qualify as a spanko?

One of the reasons I came to Manchester was the fact that the scene was large enough to divide into groups by interest. When I was picking my city, it was SM Dykes that convinced me of the vibrancy of Manchester’s scene. Dykes excludes men, it’s a group of women who like to play with women. Yesterday, when everyone in my poly group was there except the lover, too male to attend, he probably did feel a bit sorry for himself. We had a Christmas party, during which I managed to be one of the last three bottoms still in musical spankings (yay!), and was tied up with tinsel for a Christmas bondage tableaux. It was fabulous, it was absurd, and it was peopled with woman from all over the North. I found myself chatting to a girl from my hometown about the club where I had my first lesbian kiss. Would she have come if we removed discrimination and let men in? I doubt it. People travel a long way to be part of the Manchester scene because they know that they can find an event that suits them. For the annual SM Dykes conference they come from all over Europe. Discrimination is in fact a strength, not a weakness, of the scene.

How would I feel if I was an older person with an under 35 partner who wanted to go? Probably not great. A bit like the lover feels when he’s told he has to learn how to make something to be allowed at the Crafty Munch, or I feel when everyone’s talking excitedly about the scene they did last weekend. It’s the same way I feel when I’m not invited to a party (although the last time it turned out that I had been invited but hadn’t realised, and didn’t get to go because I was too proud to ask). Well, you know what, have your own party. Show people how fabulous you are! If you’re anything like me, it won’t be a very big party, but you’ll actually like the people who are there. And if you have your very own, you’re in charge of who is excluded, so you can avoid getting stuck beside the nibbles with a girl who’s into spanking, having to listen politely as she goes on and on about culture and discrimination in the scene.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

December 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm

4 Responses

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  1. This is such a lovely, intelligent, and entirely reasonable discussion of this issue. Thanks!

    Indy

    December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

  2. I’ve thought a lot about why age-based kink groups don’t seem discriminatory to me — at least not in anything other than the technical use of the word. Your point that younger kinksters are in a less privileged position is a good one. I tend to see the core difference as the fact that age isn’t an essential quality of an individual. To discriminate against someone based on orientation, or color, strikes at the heart of who they are. But we all get to be young, and (hopefully) subsequently get to be old. Societies privilege age groups in all sorts of ways — bus passes for pensioners, playground equipment set aside for kids, etc. — and those useful privileges are often only *possible* by “discriminating” (as it were) against other age groups.

    It’s useful to ask why individuals *feel* hard-done-by when they’re excluded from such events. I don’t think much of it has to do with an abstract objection to a wider issue of discrimination. I think older men, in particular, are a bit blind to the privileged position they have in the scene, and aren’t used to seeing a closed door. It can key into insecurities about rejection they might not have addressed before — *especially* when the group they’re denied access to is made up of fresh meat; the very thing that causes them to be excluded is the very thing that makes them want to participate all the more.

    PaulAtNorthGare

    December 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    • Where’s my ‘like’ button? This is an excellent comment.

      Pandora Blake

      December 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Paul. I think you’re right that it’s very difficult to be aware of our own privilege, it challenges our visions of ourselves and our achievements, so it isn’t pleasant to face. Combined with the culture that values ‘fresh meat’, a lot of privileged people feel hard done by, in a way that middle aged men who can’t knit don’t seem to when told they aren’t allowed at the Crafty Munch.

      Not an Odalisque

      December 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm


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