I was at an event last weekend, where I had the immense pleasure to do some heavy impact with with two fantastic people who were willing to bottom for me. It was an amazing night: incredibly cathartic, fantastic energy, a beautiful transition from socializing to playing throughout the evening. There was also a really amazing mix of experience levels represented, a good balance of skilled players and first-event newcomers.
I had the fantastic fortune to speak to many (if not all) of the first-event folks between scenes, and several again after I was done playing for the night. At different points throughout the night, I heard some variation of, “Wow… that scene you did was so hot! I can’t imagine doing anything like that, but…whew.”
Those interactions got me thinking about how we, as people seen as “hard” players in the community, impact people’s experiences coming into the scene. I don’t believe we should censor ourselves or our scenes; I think we should all play the way that feels good and awesome and authentic to each of us. But I also think that we need to make a concerted effort to reach out to newcomers and say, “Hey… you don’t have to play like this. You don’t have to play like me. You’re welcome here, no matter what you’re into, because we have different kinks and that’s not just ok, that’s awesome!”
The face of kink is the face of hard players: gangbangs and cattle prods and suspensions in the woods over bodies of water, insanely intricate piercing designs and extensive bruises. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love these things. I love looking at people’s scenes (in person or in photographs) and seeing amazing skill, talent, and connection between people.
But if someone’s been on FetLife for a few months or a year, reading and watching the Kinky & Popular thread, and then shows up to their first event to see scenes that reflect that “hard play is real play” mentality… on one hand, it could easily leave someone feeling like they don’t fit in, they’re not kinky enough, and leave the community. On the other, it encourages people who haven’t taken classes or developed skills to jump in thinking they have some sort of extreme threshold to meet, and people get hurt (or consent gets violated). The first situation is a sad one, and one that leaves our communities stagnant. The second… I think about predators who prey on young, female newcomers, who don’t respect boundaries and utilize the fact that they are new to be abusive and manipulative, and the women believe they have to be tough because all submissives are tough masochists (or so the internet has led them to believe). I think of young, well-meaning doms who haven’t learned how to properly do impact and end up with a crowbar on someone’s kidneys.
Those of us who are seen as hard players shouldn’t stop playing, and we shouldn’t stop playing hard. This is a diverse, complicated community, and we need to create the space where we can all play safely. But maybe those of us who are seen as hard players should also be aware of the impact we have on the community- especially on those who are new. If you notice someone watching your scene who you haven’t seen before, find a moment to go speak with them when your scene is done. If this is their first time, be welcoming. If they have anything they are interested in, offer to introduce them to someone you know who could talk to them about that. If they bring up your scene and you’re willing to talk about it, talk about it. We as a community can be an intimidating bunch of folks, especially to newcomers. Those of us who play hard can be that much more so, because we embody the images that people see on Kinky & Popular, and whether we mean to or not, we set the bar for what it means to be “kinky enough,” even if no such thing exists.
For goodness sake, keep playing. Keep playing as hard as you want, and do you all the fuck over the place. But remember that building community is not just the job of an event promoter or organizer, and it’s not just the job of venue staff and volunteers. Each one of us has a responsibility to contribute to and build this community- a community from which we all benefit (else, why would we be paying money to be at this event? Or in this space?). And maybe us hard players need to think about making conscious efforts to reach out and be accessible to people just walking in the door, because our aloofness out of scene can easily feel like “you don’t belong here”…especially when we are full of life and passion in scene.
I want to see people thrive. I want to see people embody their sexuality and their kink in ways that feel awesome and authentic to them. I want people to stick feathers up their asses or watch from the corner or get fucked while suspended or get served coffee in espresso mugs while taking a break from kicking the crap out of someone. We grow and learn by being in community with other, by being exposed to resources that help us do kink safely, by holding one another accountable and watching out for each other. So let’s work to keep our community growing, thriving, and strong by being accessible, transparent people, no matter what we do or how hard we do it.