Hipped to it by Audacia Ray, I spent Saturday afternoon at the LBGT Center in New York attending a conference entitled Kink For All. The building itself, on West 13th St., was remarkable, particularly the Keith Haring bathroom, painted in its entirety by the legendary gay artist in 1989.
As for the conference itself - eh. It was rich with presentations; and actually, I thought several of the topics presented were quite provocative. I was drawn to “Food Play” and “The Power of Punching” especially. (At first I thought “The Power of Punching” was sort of a clever name for something else, but no, it was really about Punching People.)
Admittedly, I’m a rough sex enthusiast myself. Whatever that means. And I’m sort of an amateur at the practice at the same time, so I was excited for a little discussion about the topic. But the way this whole Punching thing was introduced was disquieting, for some reason. First, totally nice facilitator. Absolutely. He was totally cool and non-agro. Sort of a nerd, in fact. And yet it was as if the facilitator expected that everyone attending understood that he liked to beat the shit out of people. Everyone in the audience was supposed to be COOL with the idea of punching someone, or getting punched and having bruises yellow up on you as you cry. I’m not saying people shouldn’t get punched and humiliated - very much the opposite, in fact. I happen to think it’s … interesting … and maybe sexy and deinitely fucked-up in that good way. If you want to do whatever it is you want to do in your bedroom, whether it’s smearing honey across your genitals or dressing up as Wile E. Coyote (seriously, that was brought up by someone, which totally sent me spinning off into a mental shitstorm about whether I had wandered into a Dungeons and Dragons play date, or was at a Ren Fair?) then DO it, be Kinky.
Yet there was this element (to the entire conference) of Preaching to the Choir that soured the whole thing for me. It was like everyone attending was supposedly “inside” the world of Kink - they had been initiated and were trading hints in regards to various methods to the madness. That air of insularity befouls everything, and whether it’s Young Male Republicans on U Street in DC knocking back Jamesons with a Fat Padded Wallet or Annoying Berkeley Liberals in the United Pot Smokers of All Expensive Colleges in America, conversations that purport to discuss anything very useful but have little to no diversity of thought to them don’t usually extend too far or too deep.
Nevertheless, I learned a couple of things about Punching:
“Where to punch. You want to punch in the chest, upper back. avoid the kidneys. upper leg, thighs. avoid the joints.”
“Don’t punch with just your arm. Punch with your whole body.” (Shows how to put your weight into it - let the punch come from your core!)
I guess the whole irony of the situation - to me, and I’m admittedly always going to be coming from a cynical place, because that’s just who I am - is that I found it hard to believe that this guy had ever been in a real fight in his entire life. The strong overall flavor of the Kink For All conference was one of social awkwardness. Does this apply to the BDSM world in general? To all enthusiasts of Mind Fucking and Power Play and all that? Or it was specific to this New York-based conference in particular?
These were very friendly people - complete with awkward, loud-ass laughter and forced gaiety. For some reason I couldn’t parse this image of this gentle, semi-awkward long-haired dude beating the crap out of his partner and making it hard for her to walk around the next day, with him actually fucking up someone in a bar or in a schoolyard.
But perhaps the reason some are drawn to power plays when it comes to sex games, is the simple fact that they felt infantilized and emasculated and weak when younger, in formative years. I believe this might be true for me, actually. Hmm.
Yes; it’s very true.
I had a bad bully experience when I was younger, in junior high school. Had to get into a few fights that I didn’t want to get into. I cowered. Eventually I scrapped, but my attempts to avoid the physical confrontations weighed heavy on my mind for years and years after. My sense of self was terribly impugned. It’s just the truth.
And then in porno I found a girl or two who was willing to let me wallop her. No punching, just smacking and choking. Scary stuff that I was proud of at the same time it made me feel repulsed and repulsive. The act of whacking someone in the face and mouth and neck was very charged for me. Perhaps I fit into the nerd category as well; the emasculated. Today’s group was not my community, but perhaps the reason I reacted towards them with derision is because I saw my awkwardness reflected in them.
“The difference between slapping and punching is one of THUD and STING.”
Maybe another reason more awkward people are drawn to Kink is that they can thus feel highly valued as sexual objects. A girl who’s not traditionally “hot” can be ignored for years, though inside she’s obviously just as desirous of attention and affirmation as anyone else. The slender girl gifted with good skin and huge tits finds an admiring gaze effortlessly and often. A fat girl with greasy hair and a dynamic mind and an open, inventive nature (not to mention a predilection for revealing and revelling in the strange and serpentine psychological twists that we all have, but not all acknowledge) finds nirvana - maybe - when she stumbles across this community of like-minded, friendly - and yes, geeky - confidantes.
. . .
Also witnessed a remarkable reading by a woman named Essence Revealed, a black ex-stripper who is staging a one-woman show, to launch in the fall, about her eight years as a high-profile exotic dancer.
What I especially liked about Essence’s show, or the 20 minutes or so that I saw of it, was that she was willing to showcase the GOOD elements of stripping alongside the more tragic or just simply idiotic parts. The truth is complex, and the great thing about sex work in the United States is that there’s nearly always an element of humor in it. Watch for Essence’s show. It’s gripping, well-executed.
. . .
So now I’ve participated in two sex-positive events, thanks again to Audacia Ray. It’s definitely giving me food for thought. I took such a hard right turn to the negative when I went down to Los Angeles and became a typically disgusting shooter. I don’t regret it, because it showed me the main sector of the porn industry, and that was my path, to learn about it, and to ultimately reject it. I had a lot of anger in me, and I think I was drawn to be around people who shared it. I often regret that I couldn’t have been stronger and clung to the better parts of my personality, which certainly are attracted to the “light.” But it didn’t happen. I don’t fault myself for not being more “sex-positive.”
But now the times have changed, I’m a grown man (mostly), and I have the opportunity to do things right - or at least, better. Much smarter, certainly .. and much more compassionately. I felt like I had graduated from sex work, but perhaps it’s worthwhile to consider whether there’s still a space inside of it for me. For instance, from an educator’s point of view. I continue to write about sex, and perform about sex - maybe there’s a way for me to work in or about sex, too. After all, sex pays a living wage. It does, and it always has.
This New York trip was embarked upon because of the death of my grandfather, but it might still turn out to be a serendiptious event. Depends on what I do with it, I suppose.