BDSM is Not Your Grandfather’s Construct: Stand Against Racism

I’ve been on a rant about racist elements in the BDSM scene with my FB friends recently. After much thought, it seems like now’s the time to share it with everyone else. Below, a collection of rants, ending with a truly important excerpt from Different Loving Too on what BDSM racism feels like to a black BDSMer.

It all started when a black woman was assaulted by a white man at Philly Pride and people began mansplaining the white man instead of dealing head-on with the assault.

 

Although I have tried to limit my Friends list on FB to socially progressive people like me, the conversation about race made a few people show their racist side, albeit in sneaky ways. They tried to bait me. They tried to whitesplain it. They tried to show me the error of my ways in being a white ally of Black Lives Matter. So I blocked them. Not so much for my sake but for the only goal I’ve ever worked for: sexual freedom and equality for ALL. Why should my black friends have to listen to racist bs on my timeline? Why would I allow them to be hurt in what I created as a safe space? Not happening.

I had hoped for a quick and equitable resolution to the Philly incident. Instead, it’s increased racial tensions as no one seems to want to take full responsibility for what happened and more than a few started victim-blaming rather than call out the perpetrator. This, naturally, only hurt POC even more. Now, instead of getting some justice, they were getting micro-aggressions from white people who insisted it was blown out of proportion or an accident or that the victim didn’t provide witnesses, like in a courtroom. WTF? What’s next, forensic evidence that someone called you by a racial slur??

So I mounted my soapbox again. I’m showing some comments on this one too, names blocked to protect my friends’ privacy.

 

 

One skill you develop as a therapist is an ability I talked about in the comments above: to understand that sometimes when people express rage and disappointment at you, it’s because they are totally stressed out. Your misstep or (to them) seemingly patronizing attitudes triggers traumas that go deeper than what just happened. This doesn’t apply just to POC: the gay person who got snubbed by hets, the bi person who got snubbed by gays, the Asian person who got snubbed by Blacks, the Black person who got snubbed by whites — abuse is a multi-headed enemy. There is only one truth to hang on to so hang on to it tight: you can stop the cycle of abuse. Right here and right now. You can be kind instead of defensive.

As another commentator observed, the process of breaking out of old assumptions about how race relations worked and learning to reject the racist threads that run continually through culture, all of that can only happen by looking inward, not outward, by changing yourself and not expecting the evolving world to bow to your fears of change.

Today, I read through dozens of posts and pages where people (black AND white) were outraged by one sex professional’s cavalier attitude towards racism and lame attempt to silence the black voices. It upset me, so off I went again.

 

 

BDSM is not your Grandfather’s construct! It’s not stuck in 19th century white European male thinking, though you may be. BDSM, like all communities of humans, is a living organism which has evolved massively since its formal roots in the 20th century.

Seeing people try to defend their entrenched stereotypes about race shows me that they gave themselves permission to be kinky AF BDSMers but aren’t willing to grant others the right to express their truths as they see fit. Hypocrisy, much? I actually had one white person pontificate about how BLM would be a better group if they did XYZ. Gee. A white person saying he knows what black people need and wants to tell them how they should behave….where have I heard that before? Oh yeah! From racists.

It’s undeniable: white patriarchy is strong in the BDSM Community. White male community leaders have an undeniable history of racism, and of dismissing the voices of women, transgender people, and POC in general (i.e., Latino voices, Asian voices, etc.). Until we dismantle it, as a Community, we will remain an unevolved, transphobic, racist, misogynistic culture.

A few people offered up the disempowered view of human potential, defending the BDSM Scene by pointing out that racism is entrenched in the larger culture, inescapable, and that at least we’re better than most. No. Until you’ve walked in a BDSM elder’s shoes and seen BDSM grow from a terrified group of ca. 1980s closet cases meeting in dark places at night to do our thing to today’s fluffy breezy articles in women’s magazines telling mainstream moms how to do it, you haven’t seen what BDSMers are capable of achieving. Try sticking around the BDSM Community for 30+ years and get back to me on what is possible, ok?

When people say, “oh, well, that shit is everywhere,” my feeling is, “that’s right, and that’s why BDSMers should do better.” We are not everyone else. We are people who *allegedly* broke with vanilla thinking and freed ourselves from toxic stereotypes. Racism is as vanilla as it gets! Don’t be complacent about it. Stand with honor! Stand with our brothers and sisters, no matter how they were born. Remember Gayle Rubin’s famous words: “leather is thicker than blood.” It’s thicker than genetic make-up too.

 

I even made a FB thingie. 😉

 

As a Community, we shatter myths! We reject stereotypes that limit our human potential according to our sex, sexual pleasures, orientation, or gender. We are the living proof that human progress through tolerance, acceptance, and education is possible. We just need to do a whole lot more tolerating, accepting, and educating until all BDSMers can feel safe in the BDSM Community.

Since, as noted above, there’s no substitute for a black voice speaking to the black experience, I’ll end with some powerful statements from my friend Guy DeBrownsville on being a POC in a racially-challenged BDSM world. This incisive analysis is excerpted from his interview in Different Loving Too.

 

“I grew up during the Civil Rights movement with parents who were intent on helping me to understand my history and culture in the midst of the turmoil of the struggles of the times. I learned how to navigate those waters. When I first came upon the BDSM scene, I really didn’t feel different, but I know that was because of the first people who I met coming into the scene. It was a good while before I met other Black people into BDSM. Then I became aware of groups that were almost exclusively for People of Color.

“In the beginning, I was a bit ambivalent. I was glad that there were other people who looked like me and shared my culture and common experience, but at the same time, I wondered why they felt the need to segregate themselves from the larger scene. I soon learned the hard way.

“There are people who don’t see us as people but as a fetish. I get unsolicited requests from “Queen of Spades” looking for BBC* (not the British television network). [ed. – *Big Black Cock]. I have been solicited for cuckold fantasies by people who don’t know me. I have heard many women of color speak about how they have been approached, some in very menial, vulgar terms, and others who are approached by fetishists thinking they are complimenting them by calling them “Ebony Goddess” and “Nubian Queen.” They’ll offer service not caring if the woman identifies as submissive, or speak to them in demeaning, racist terms.

“Even in classes about BDSM, there is often little talk if any about the differences between Black skin and white skin in terms of how it reacts. You’ll hear presenters talk about “shades of red” and other terms that should be – but seldom are – modified when dealing with darker people.

“I know of more than one Black BDSMer who has been mistaken for the only other Black BDSMer the non-black person has heard about. Several Black women with short natural hair have been asked if they are Mama Vi Johnson, in spite of their age, body and complexion differences. I know a Black titleholder who was mistaken for the only Black man known within a particular community. I’ve seen people make assumptions based entirely upon skin color. Indeed, some of them feel they can tell you not only what to be offended about, but how you should address the offense based on skin color.

“When a Board member of an organization I belonged to made a remark I felt was racist, another Board member who is also a person of color was asked if it was offensive. When he said no, my point was dismissed. Time and again, especially in various Internet forums, I have heard Blacks and other People of Color express their sentiments about a racial incident only to be told, “You should use this as an opportunity to teach others,” or “Instead of getting upset, why don’t you open up a dialogue?”

Recent news events have brought out hidden feelings and quite a few Black BDSMers have been shocked by the vitriolic and racist comments made by people we thought were friends, including some alleged pillars of the Community. Plenty of bridges were burned. It’s a cold reminder that not everyone considers you a part of their BDSM community.”

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Special thanks to Alutha for suggesting I compile these statements in a permanent place.