Unmentionables

Person in Carnival of Venice mask and clothes, holding a gloved hand across the painted-on lips of their mask

There are many things I can’t write about on this blog because they would put me, my partners, my friends, and larger parts of my queer BDSM community here in Europe at too much risk of exposure.

Because this community is tiny. Our biggest international event has about 250 participants, our munches and workshops have around twenty guests on average, and our play parties usually have about 25-50 attendants. The overall number of queer perverts who are in touch with one or more parts of this queer BDSM community is of course bigger, but still: Compared to similar events in the straight-centered kink world, these are ridiculously small numbers.

This community is also intensely interconnected. Most of us are non-monogamous in some way, many of us have an extensive network of kinky friends that reaches across several national borders, and lots of us travel to queer BDSM events all over Europe. Like many other marginalized communities, we tend to have strong friendship ties even across different subgroups. We mostly value inclusion over separatism (even if that means we’ll keep running into all of our exes forever). We also remember each other’s faces, no matter for how many years people disappear before they come back, sometimes with a new name, set of pronouns, gender identity, degree, job, child, partner, disability, and/or kink identity. Compared to straight-centered BDSM contexts, it’s much harder to hide in an anonymous mass of people because the mass just isn’t there. Neither is the anonymity.

What is usually a benefit when it comes to community-making and (the good kind of) social control, is also a risk when it comes to unwanted outside attention. Since there aren’t very many of us, we’re easier to identify even by outsiders to this community, individually and as groups. And while some forms of BDSM have become a lot more accepted in mainstream culture in recent years, people can (and do) still lose their jobs or child custody, or get into trouble with their landlords, neighbors, family, etc. over being outed as practicing sluts and perverts. So the need for privacy still remains for many of us.

Aside from the stigma that comes with engaging in BDSM, literally all of us in this community are also marginalized by way of being queer, female, non-binary, and/or trans. Many of us don’t have even the vaguest veneer of presumed “don’t ask, don’t tell” cisheterosexuality to hide behind if we need to or at least one solid connection to a cis dude who can look intimidating if he wants to if we need to scare away annoying/potentially dangerous people. (Which is why the specific type and lived experience of someone’s queerness often still matters in assessing our realities of risk and access, even if we don’t believe that there are different “degrees” of queerness.) Not to mention that many of us are also disabled/chronically ill, neurodivergent, Black/people of color, sex workers, and/or poor and already experience discrimination and violence because of that, and not just outside our own community.

With the general right-wing backlash that’s happening in many European countries (and beyond), all of us (as individuals and collectively) are at risk of increased state scrutiny (e.g. the overly nitpicky attention that police and government agencies have paid to various queer sex/kink venues in Berlin and led to the Still-ongoing, months-long temporary closing of one of them), hate group attacks both online and offline (e.g. the trans-hostile attacks on London Pride last year as well as on the London Porn Film Festival last week), and multiple anti-sex/anti-queer internet regulations (e.g. last year’s Tumblr anti-porn policy that made large parts of queer and/or kinky self-expression and sex education invisible; or the upcoming British porn block). Not to mention the many supporters of the far-right parties who are still gaining parliamentary seats all over Europe and whose destructive actions unfortunately aren’t limited to “just” saying horribly inaccurate things about sexuality and gender (and related educational programs) to a public that still thinks it’s a good idea to offer them platforms to do just that. And then we still haven’t even started to look at how inequalities around race, class, disability, etc. further put queer and kinky people at risk and exclude them from the community support structures that exist.

So, to protect this beloved community and all of its members (including myself) from even more discrimination and violence, I don’t write about a lot of things I see other sex/kink bloggers write about all the time. I don’t mention the names of the kink events (such as munches, play parties, conferences, workshops) I go to. I don’t promote any of the workshops I’m giving in offline spaces. I don’t mention places, venues, dates, and try to remain vague even on countries. I don’t describe how people I interact with look in any detail. And I most definitely don’t post any pictures of any of us (including myself), not even with obscured faces (because in a community as small as this, our freckles, birthmarks, scars, tattoos, and piercings can be used to identify us just as much as our faces). And that’s not a risk I’m comfortable taking, especially not when it affects more people than just me, most of whom I can’t ask for their consent, if only because that would compromise my own anonymity and the partial security that comes with that.

I often regret having to make this choice. I often would like to be a lot more open. I often want to write about the whole range of topics I come across in this community (and give credit to the people, events, and/or FetLife discussions that inspired my thinking), to share details of the amazing events I go to (and create more of an archive of this community), to attach my face and legal name to this blog (and stop worrying whether I’ve told a personal story to too many people already to still feel comfortable with posting it — or vice versa), and perhaps even to link to the kink-educational work I do outside of this blog. I often worry that leaving out all this detail, all this joy, makes me sound aloof, inapproachable, or even fake. But I also know that there is no way back into the proverbial closet, so I want to be very careful with the bits and pieces I show of my own life and of the larger queer BDSM community on this continent (and in several of its countries). I do engage in risk-aware, consensual kink after all.

So I guess we’ll all have to live with this dissatisfying reality and my resulting hesitation to share information as generously here as I often share it in offline spaces or as I would like to share it in an ideal world. After all, I come from a line of queer and otherwise marginalized people whose names were put onto lists by actual Nazis (and whose names are put onto lists by actual Nazis again as we speak), who have found reasonable safety in obscurity (even if the price for that always was that we were harder to find for others like us), and who have good reason to be distrustful of the corporations that own social media and do highly questionable things with our data, the governments that make laws that criminalize more and more things related to sexuality, sex education, sex work, and/or LGBTQIA+ issues, and the actual Nazis (and other hostile assholes) in our very own neighborhoods.

Apparently, the sexual is still very political indeed.

(Edit: P.S. If any of you other sex/kink bloggers want to talk to me about your own risk management strategies, especially in relation to what I’ve said above, please feel free to comment here, use the contact form, or get in touch with me on Twitter.)


Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

This week’s topic for Wicked Wednesday was ‘unmentionable.’

This post marks my return to blogging after yet another absence during which I made shit happen offline which I unfortunately can’t write about for all the reasons spelled out above. Unmentionable indeed.


Image source: Pixabay

10 thoughts on “Unmentionables

  1. This post makes me sad. It makes me sad that you have to hide, that you can’t just come our for who you are, for your preferences, because of everything that is going on. I wish we lived in a world where there was mutual respect between people, no matter their color or sex or preferences. Just respect and lots of love. No more war and negativity and judging people on how they live their lives. Your post makes me sad that we don’t live in an ideal world…

    Rebel xox

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    1. I’m also sad (and angry) that the world is what it is right now, and I hope this sadness (and/or anger) will inspire us to work towards a more accepting and just world wherever and however we can.

      Sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m too worried or not worried enough about these matters… I keep asking myself whether I could afford to take more risks and be more out in online spaces as well, whether I’d be protected enough by the privileges I nevertheless benefit from. But as soon as it’s not just about me and my own kinks, I fall silent again, because I don’t feel comfortable with exposing others to a risk they have never consented to. Where is the line between the relative invisibility of the dyke/trans/queer BDSM community as a way to protect it and its invisibility as something that keeps those away who would really benefit from finding us? Where is the line between creating a visible record of us, a usable archive of our history, my desire to write us into history to begin with (because I’ve benefited so, so much from the generation who came before me and did just that – if perhaps not in Europe) and exposing us in a way that ultimately risks our collective existence (because our archives have been burned before: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/lgbtq-institute-in-germany-was-burned-down-by-nazis)? I don’t know, and I’m currently erring on the side of caution. But I hope there will come a time where the risk of becoming more visible will feel acceptable enough to me/us.

      Nevertheless, it remains baffling to me how hesitant I am to share certain things online compared to how much I’m comfortable talking about in a face-to-face conversation…

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  2. I also live in a small conservative community where my blogging must go unmentioned, but don’t have nearly the negative potential consequences as you and your like-minded friends do. It is a brave thing just to be you even if not in public.

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    1. I guess hiding your blog from (parts of) your offline life or hiding (parts of) your offline life from your blog is pretty common for sex/kink-bloggers, even if we won’t all face the same consequences if we were found out.

      That said, I never feel particularly brave about just being queer or kinky, tbh – it’s simply my normal! :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you very much for writing this post. I find it to be a very important one! I am sorry to hear that your sexuality is still political and that there is still so much discrimination and bullying going on.

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    1. To be honest, I don’t have any numbers for how much discrimination is actually happening on an individual basis due to practicing BDSM (I don’t think anyone is doing reliable research on that). But I do find it interesting to see what kinds of repercussions individual kinksters are *afraid* of when they consider coming out (or being outed) as kinksters: Is their biggest worry that their friends or neighbors will think they’re a bit weird? Are they afraid they’ll lose their (vanilla) BPOC and/or LGBTQIA community which is their only support group already? Do they fear losing their caretaker(s) without whom they might literally not survive? Do they feel they need to brace for a major personal attack on themselves or their homes by strangers, either physically and/or by doxxing or other remote attacks? Because we clearly don’t all work with the same threat model here.

      In other words: How much of our social support system, financial security, and/or physical safety is *actually* at risk in such a scenario? I believe this is a good question for all of us to ask ourselves every now and then to determine whether we could maybe be more out as we already are without too much of an actual risk (I still tend to think that being as out as we can is usually a good thing), and to realize how much higher the stakes are for people who are less privileged than we ourselves are in terms of race, class, disability/illness, age, location, etc. (and still keep their concerns in mind when we discuss the implications of being kinky and being out about it).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is such a great point, actually. How much of our fears are actually based on assumptions? And how do we prioritize what is important for us in life? For me it is more like: how much do I actually care what others think of me? And if friends and family are not able to accept me for who I am, are they really such a positive presence in my life? I think all those are questions that everyone needs to answer for themselves and that make decisions based on that. And whatever decision someone makes, might it be going public or keeping it a secret, it needs to feel safe for them.

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      2. True, sometimes we have to realize that we ‘simply’ need more accepting people in our lives. And yes, everyone must choose their own level of acceptable risk, within their BDSM and in relation to being out about BDSM, and no one gets to decide that for anyone else.

        Liked by 1 person

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