Saturday, August 15, 2020

The importance and benefits of real-life community

I spend a lot of my social media time on FetLife, interacting in both local and international groups online; and as a pro, it's a big part of how I market, advertise, and even sell content. In fact, I've been on the "kinky" part of the internet for a long time--since the early 1990s when I first connected to telnet talkers--and I've since watched as D/s, SM, and fetish websites have exploded online.

But today, I want to talk with you about the importance and benefits of the Real Life, Face-to-Face, Community--which is why I can't wait until we can kick this virus to the curb and get back to it!

One of the first pieces of advice that I read online and in books from experienced kinksters--people like Gloria Brame, Jay Wiseman, and Guy Baldwin--was this: Although the internet is an interesting place to gain information about WIITWD (What It Is That We Do), and a place to start making connections, there's also a lot of misinformation and bad, if not dangerous, advice. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

So although it's fun to chat and "play" online, if you are wanting to move it to real life at some point, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to start by going to a local munch/meet-up group. (A "munch" is a low-pressure non-playtime gathering for kinksters to socialize.)


Community does three things:

  • It connects us (acceptance, friendship, support, and networking)
  • It educates us (members share infomation & experiences)
  • It protects us (personal safety, respecting boundaries, dungeon rules, and an understanding of mutual privacy)

Community helps to weed out the people who just want to play online and not really do anything "real." There's nothing wrong with fantasy, but online play is limiting. Having a rich fantasy life is good and important, but real life is... more real!

Even if you've found someone you've hit it off with online, consider meeting up with them in the context of going to munches or play parties together until you're certain the person is on the up-and-up. Meeting up with someone one-on-one in private for the first time, for playtime is risky. Do they really know what they're doing? Will they respect your boundaries? Are they willing to respect privacy?

Think of it this way: even if you meet someone one-on-one for coffee a few times in public, there are still people who can put up a great front for awhile and "talk the talk," but they play in a risky way because they think they know what they're doing (they've read about stuff online, after all!). Remember: a little knowledge can be dangerous. There's nobody there keeping an eye on scenes, and no dungeon rules being enforced.

Also, remember, abusers are looking for someone who can be isolated away from the herd, because it's easier to manipulate a person when there aren't others around for "reality checks." When you're part of a community, there's a lot of opportunity for real-life education and support. Unsafe players or manipulators generally don't stick around for long.

Common objections I hear:

"But I'm shy. I won't know anybody." I know! We were all new once, too, and you can feel a little vulnerable when you're showing up somewhere for the [whispers] *kinky stuff* and don't know anyone. Try this: message the organizers ahead of time and let them know it's your first time. They will answer your questions, and probably be willing to introduce you to others when you get there, so you won't have to feel alone and disconnected. Another thing you could try is reaching out to see if anybody else is going that's also new, and make a pact to go, and agree to sit together. Voila, a new friend!

"But what if I see someone I know?" That's possible, but remember: if they see YOU... you're seeing THEM there, too. There is a real emphasis in groups like this on maintaining privacy and not "outing" other people. So everyone else is in the same boat as you are. There's mutual accountability for privacy. "Outers" are not tolerated.

If you'd like to learn more about this topic here are some links that you might find interesting:

"What the BDSM Community Can Teach a Kinky World."

"The Dos and Don'ts of Going to a Munch."

"What Happens At Your First Munch?"

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