Community Apathy

By Mistress Ren
 

Tonight was Halloween, considered to be the scariest day of the year.  What scares you?  Snakes? Strange noises in the dark?  That the creepy guy down the who street peeps in your windows?  An audit from the IRS?  Perhaps that upcoming High School reunion?

This past July’s Newsletter scared me.  As I added – and deleted - information about upcoming events, I stumbled across the same frightening theme:

Northeast Fetish Games – cancelled due to lack of interest…

NLA-I’s Living in Leather – cancelled due to lack of interest…

Just recently, I have learned that ALUR’s Wicked Halloween Weekend had been cancelled, rumor has it due to lack of interest.

I also recalled my own Munch group and classes – as well as countless others - that have scaled back or even closed down due to - you guessed it - lack of interest.  Just what is going on??

In the past few years, our Community – countrywide – has bit hit with a major case of apathy.  Community members just don’t seem to care about events, organizations, or even community members seeking assistance.  Sadly, many members of the community have totally embraced the ‘me generation,’ and are more interested in what the community can do for them, specifically, as opposed to what they can do to help the greater community.

Did that sound a bit JFK?  Well…. regardless of one’s community, our former President had it right.  We cannot expect the community – ANY community - to support us as individuals if we, as individuals, do not support our communities in return.

And it is this apathy that scares me.

Years ago, the community cared.  And I was lucky enough to be a part of that divine moment in time…a time when community pride ran strong and deep among kinksters…

This pride shone brightly back in 1995 when the local police were harassing the Sinners Club just outside of Boston. The pride returned full force in 2000 when a quiet little BDSM warehouse gathering in Attleboro, Mass. was raided, and the host and a guest were arrested (the infamous ‘Paddleboro’).  In both cases, members of the community rallied and showed their support – some at great financial expense, some at the risk of allowing themselves to be outed.  But almost everyone felt a sense of community pride, and a desire to help in any way possible…..

Community pride wasn’t just reserved for times when the community faced opposition….’back in the day’, kinksters went out of their way to attend gatherings as a show of support.  Many a time, LesVoiles and I – and a carload of friends – drove from Portland, ME to Boston to support our friends who ran the Restraints club.  When the Attleboro club opened, we gassed up and drove an even further distance.

But we weren’t the only ones.  One couple who attended the CUFSmaine Munch traveled over three hours – each way – from north of Bangor to support our organization.  And when we held classes, we occasionally had attendees from as far away as Connecticut and New York.

As little as five years ago, BDSMers didn’t blink an eye when it came to paying $25.00 to attend a friend’s S/m club, even if there was no food, even if you had to park a quarter of a mile away….they did this because that friend spent every Saturday night – and a goodly amount of his own money - providing them with a place to socialize and play….

BDSMers used to travel a great distance to support a group or event that they believed in….they did this because they knew education and the opportunity to support newbies through discussion and play was important, and also because they wanted to support and thank those who spent countless hours (and money) organizing….. 

BDSMers used to assist each other unconditionally when a fellow kinkster needed help with moving, or needed a compassionate ear and a shoulder to lean on when tragedy struck.  They did this because the person in need was their brother or sister in Leather….even if they really didn’t know that person well.

But all that seemed to change a few years ago.

Since the days when I first entered the scene, I’ve watched community pride steadily nosedive.  Why is that?  I feel that part of the problem – believe it or not – is the growth of the BDSM community. 

Years ago, BDSM was not being featured on prime time television and accepted by the medical community as a healthy expression of sexuality.  Those who practiced the kinky arts did so ‘underground,’ and thus, BDSM groups and clubs were few and far between, and accessible only if you knew somebody already involved.  BDSMers banded together because they were a fairly rare breed, and the desire to support the small community was driven by a need to maintain all available resources.

Today, the BDSM scene is exploding.  Kinky folks are fairly abundant and coming out of the closet, thanks to changing societal attitudes regarding kink and fetishes.  Most states have at least three organized BDSM groups or munches – sometimes more than one in a given region…so kinksters don’t have to band together as previously…nor do they need to belong to one specific group.  Today’s BDSMers are ‘gypsies,’ moving from group to group to group to satisfy their needs

The other part of the community apathy problem?  Well…..plain old selfishness.

Oh yea…..I said the ‘S’ word.

As mentioned before, we are living in the ‘me generation,’ and this is especially true among the so-called ‘new guard’ BDSM community.  BDSMers in the past five years or so seem to care only about their own needs and not the needs of the overall community….“what can YOU do for ME?” seems to be the new motto.

The scene today isn’t about support, encouragement, or tradition….it’s about greed and selfishness. Kinksters willingly pour hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars into their toybags, but complain about having to drop a few bucks to pay for a class.  They whine about not having play opportunities, but raise a stink when they have to travel longer than a half an hour to get to one.  They publicly say, “Yes!  I’ll definitely attend and support your BDSM event!” but then privately chew out the organizers for the cost to attend or the inconvenient date it is being held.

Years ago, kinksters got together in droves just to hang out, chat, and learn.  Classes  and demos were packed.  Of course, those events still happen today, but the number of attendees is drastically reduced…..and why??  Because, frankly, if a group or an individual isn’t offering a play party after the ‘dull stuff’ (as one complainer put it to me), BDSMers of the ‘me generation’ just aren’t interested in ‘wasting their time’ attending. 

Ahhhh…….disregard for others, greed, selfishness, and indifference.  Apathy at it’s best.  Now that’s scary.

In the past couple of weeks, however, my faith has been restored a bit, thanks to some members of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts BDSM communities.  Following the recent flooding in the southern part of New Hampshire - and a plea for assistance from a scene member with water pouring into her basement  – the outpouring of help for this individual has shown me that there are still little pockets of EMPATHY in the scene.

And so I hold on to the hope that – like the droplet that begins the ripples in a lake – the empathy will spread, and more people will again begin caring about the community that so many in the past sacrificed for and worked hard to build.

Copyright 2005, Mistress Ren

 

  Page Updated 11/01/05

 

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