Ask Patrick: Don't want to play a perpetual student

By on April 5, 2010

Dear Patrick, I have been a member of the kink scene since my twenties. I am now in my mid-forties, and still have memberships in a few of the larger groups and make a round of the clubs from time to time. I very much want to continue to be a part of the community. But here is my problem: I no longer feel that I need to sit through a workshop on flogging technique and safety, for example, or play piercing, or what-have-you. I understand the value of these presentations to newer members, but what about those of us who are seasoned players? What, if anything, does the kink scene have to offer people like me? I don’t see a lot of people my own age at the events I attend. Where did they go? I wonder if they felt as alienated or restless as I do.–TPG, not TNG

Dear “The Previous Generation”: People do sometimes come and go. They are no longer visible on the public kink scene for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are cocooning in relationships, or taking a break from the intensity, getting over a breakup, or going to school. Some of them feel that the scene is no longer something they want or need in their lives. Others probably look around, figure that it’s a young person’s world, and isolate themselves or use other methods to find play partners.

I’m glad you are still involved because it’s important for kinky people to have a sense of their own history. If we are ever going to be a real community, we need to have diversity in terms of age, not just class or race or some other politically-correct category.
I have to admit that I’ve attended introductory workshops with a hidden agenda. If it’s something I really enjoy doing, I want to see who is in the audience who seems super-excited by the information. The program provides an easy way to start a conversation with a potential play partner. And you never know when a workshop leader will have a new idea that somehow escaped my brilliance. If you aren’t interested in the S/M introductory workshops, maybe you could suggest some topics that have appeal to people who already know the ropes. I’ve enjoyed doing workshops on how to prevent burnout among tops, the phenomenon of switching roles as you get more involved in the community, conflict resolution in long-term kinky relationships, community history, how to take an oral history, organizing material for archives, and setting an agenda for activism.

Some people in the community long-term start teaching workshops instead of attending them. There are always psychology classes and other professional venues that want speakers about BDSM sexuality. Creating art about this sexual specialty or documenting the community are other options. You can also make yourself available as a mentor or support person for new people. This can be low-key and informal, like handing your business card to somebody who seems like they could use an anchoring point, or as ambitious as starting an organization that trains mentors and helps match newcomers up with the right person. BDSM and its related scenes can be a confusing and scary world, in addition to all the fun that it offers. Many newcomers would have a safer time exploring their fantasies if they had a more experienced person to listen to their needs and conflicts. I should probably caution you that mentorship works best if there’s no play or sex between you and your newcomer.

If you do start something new, just be prepared to have a handful of people get pissed off. Seems like anybody who dares create a new organization or activity is showered with the indignation of other scenesters who are jealous, disapproving, or wanting. Don’t let the clucking and carping stop you. Proceed according to your own ethical standards, and see what you can do. Becoming a community organizer is a good way to use your long-term involvement.

If you don’t have the time to do this, or perhaps you don’t have a clear idea of a project that seems appealing, get involved on a volunteer level with something that exists already.

Patrick Califia is a therapist in private practice in Northern California. His practice includes internet consultations as well as face-to-face psychotherapy. He is a prolific author who has published widely about BDSM and sexual politics. Patrick’s books include Macho Sluts, Sensuous Magic, and Public Sex: The Politics of Radical Sex.

This column is not intended to offer medical or legal advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you need medical or legal advice, see a doctor or lawyer!

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