I generally love my job, but sometimes it gets so frustrating… Last week, for example, was dotted with exasperating incidents that however flowed together to reveal one rather big and uncomfortable truth.
It all started, as it often happens with annoyances, on an online forum. A notoriously contrarian young lady asked for some manual about impact play on males – and I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of people suggesting one of my books for its thoroughness on the subject. Except she rejected it «because it was written by a man, while clearly only a woman can offer the right perspective».
So I foolishly dove in and explained how my work is based on serious research and factual data, making it rather more reliable than the gross majority of the online opinions she was used to – yet my website also offered a huge list of suggested books by other educators. At which point a bunch of digital ignoramuses killed the conversation with a series of proud claims that amounted to «manuals are useless anyway because everyone just learns by doing, and anyone’s say is as good as anyone’s else».
Just a couple of days later, on another forum someone enthusiastically announced the MsDs Conference, an amazing three-days online kink event featuring a truly unbelievable roster of presenters. I jumped at the opportunity of so easily accessing their wisdom. Two unrelentingly stupid pundits dissed the event instead, vocally expressing their offense for the «haughtiness of these so-called experts who demand to be paid just to chat from their homes». The price for the whole 57 hours of lectures and panels was five pounds, by the way.
Again, I fell for it like an idiot and tried to rationally explain the difference between a professional educator giving a proper presentation and your average online denizen, or the ethical need of supporting activists – to no avail, of course. And what is worse is that not one single voice agreed with me.
In a funny-but-not-really coincidence, at the very same moment at the conference a panel was on where Caroline Shahbaz and other educators were lamenting the active resistance to their work they encounter not from the mainstream audience, but from within the Scene itself. Partially relieved by hearing that this is not just a local problem, I made a note of a semi-related observation by Stoltz Sinatra, who pointed out how there is not one “BDSM people” but two very different populations. The first is composed of lifestyle enthusiasts: true believers like those who were attending the conference; another one however is the much larger group of the tourists of kink, who are just looking for a momentary experience unencumbered with philosophies nor study.
And finally, just a few hours ago, I watched a (private, sorry) Facebook Live video by the same young lady I mentioned in a previous post about her bondage accident. She informed her friends that she got a much less scary diagnosis than she initially feared… but that she had been seriously harassed by the neurologist who examined her. Highlights included needles roughly jammed into her muscles «since you said you are a masochist anyway» and the closing remark to «tell your sick friends not to come over for medical care ‘cause I won’t treat them».
Such unprofessional, judgmental behavior reminded me of the time I held a lecture about the reality of kink for the staff of a rather large hospital. As I was leaving, the head physician himself approached me to confess that my presentation had him realize he had taken some questionable decisions in the past – for example when he had committed a girl to enforced psychiatric treatment due to her self-harm episodes… as evidenced by her nipple piercings. To this day, his professional disconnection from the real world keeps haunting me.
I think you will now understand if I say that weeks like this make me question my whole mission, especially when you factor in the social stigma and the severely underpaid work. I know most sex educators feel the same from time to time. And yet I believe there is a lesson to be learned from all of the above.
Despite the appearances, kink activists and teachers are not serving the barely existing “Community” we so often speak of. Serious deviants are sparse and well informed in the first place so they only need us for the most arcane aspects, while the horde of partygoers and hookup hounds can’t care less of what they perceive as complicated ruminations. Reaching out to them is therefore useless: there really is no point in bleeding for people who are only interested in exploiting our work without giving anything in return.
What this is really about is training everyone else – and not by forcing our lifestyles and notions down their throats, but simply by making our knowledge available to laypersons who would never even think of consulting specialized, obscure online forums, or to attend a Scene event. This requires a certain shift in our usual way of thinking and to face a different set of challenges, but the many hundreds of grateful messages from my sizeable mainstream audience prove it is definitely worth it. They all took the time to write and thank me, because my books and articles made them realize they were not monsters for their fantasies, or saved a faltering relationship, or prevented some technical mishap. And that is a priceless compensation indeed.
So I am growing the impression that the trick is simply resisting the senseless, overly politically correct notion of a kinky community of peers to which the educators themselves often fall prey to. As inelegant as it may sound, when you dedicate your life to real work on one subject, your opinion is not worth as much as any Yahoo Answers crazy cat lady’s: you become an authority, and authorities must walk their walk. I am uneasily feeling that this entails not only rejecting the haters and the pettiness of our usual circle, but to take a public stand and being there for those who really need guidance, who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality, who cannot find any help in their “normal” world where kink is often treated as a joke. Do it long enough, and what feels so obvious to us “perverts” (like, say, consent and mutual respect) eventually cannot but become common knowledge and trickle down to the rest of society, changing it for the better. One rude physician at a time.