Warnings and ConsequencesPresented at Great Lakes Leather Alliance,
August 27, 2006, Indianapolis, Indiana
Copyright © 2006, Laura Antoniou. May not be reproduced without her express permission, although sections may be quoted for review purposes.
I don’t know why people invite me anywhere after the last speech I made. You might have heard of it, if you weren’t there choking on your scrambled eggs. In it, I suggested, gently, that the SM community might be better off if it didn’t have so many…colorful characters in it. That maybe, just maybe, Lord Viperfang and Princess Pudenda and their entire Order of Fries were not exhibiting the open and honest communication often spoken of in our classes, workshops and encounter groups.
It seems some folks took offence at what I said. And they let me know, in their e-mails and occasionally in person. Some of them went to great lengths to defend their chosen nom-de-scene identities and their interesting familial and erotic relationships. I was the recipient of more personal stories than I really cared to know, more explanations and excuses and of course, a bit of vitriol as well. Some people misunderstood my points and thought they should take me to task for telling people they had to come out of the closet. While I think that’s generally a fine idea, I can only say in reply that there is a vast difference between saying “I only go by the name Bob.” And “You may call me Hypermaster Googleplex.”
A few folks reminded me that there is no standard way to describe multi-partner arrangements and why not be a clan, a fiefdom, an order, because they were bold adventurers going where no six-person relationship had gone before. To which I can only respond, you go, girls. I hear where you’re coming from, especially since I keep referring to the relationship I have with my wife as a marriage and there is a determined right wing population, which says it’s merely selfish hedonism. My problem was never with the naming, per se. It’s with the idea that these modern relationships are based on some received knowledge inherently superior to other arrangements, if only by their exclusivity.
And speaking of bolding going, I did get a spate of angry letters from Klingons who were insulted to be used as examples of over-the-top window dressing. One in particular wrote, “Maybe it is kinda nuts to go around at SF convention with a horseshoe crab glued to my forehead, calling myself Krathark the Destructor. But for the rest of the time, I am Myron Finkleberg, assistant manager of the South Street Piggly Wiggly.”
Well. What could I say but, knock yourself out, Myron.
Of course, a lot of responses were positive as well! Many people wrote about steps they were taking to remove pretension from their lives, or wrote about some of the must egregious examples of self-invention I’d ever even imagined. But I knew I’d really entered the Twilight Zone when I got a thoughtful, heartfelt thank you note from someone who noted that he’d felt for many years the same as I, that pretension and artifice and made-up histories were a bane on the entire leather community. He commended me on my bravery, and signed himself “The master, Lord Nightlash of Naughtybottom Manor”, and included a jpg of his homestone.
What’s even worse is that he was one of the people I had obliquely referred to in the speech – the one who had a “compound” that was really just a double-wide? Yeah, him.
So, I figured, what the fuck does a speech mean anyway – the people who know it refers to everyone but them will continue going on their merry ways and the people who fear it refers to them and get their feelings hurt will send me whine-o-grams, and lets face it, no one else will hardly remember a word because they insist on scheduling these things at a time when civilized perverts are still recovering from the previous night’s debauchery.
But I was invited to speak again, and here I am, sadly without a speech.
You see, I had written a fabulous speech, even better than the last one, full of witty observations and savage jokes and colorful anecdotes. However, it was taken away from me at the airport because it contained sharp words. I promised to lighten up on the alliterative jokes, but before I knew it, my speech was being dissolved in a vat of shampoo, nasal spray and Gaterade.
But don’t think you’re safe because the Department of Homeland Security disarmed me. I had a back up plan. Instead of giving you a speech, I am going to give you a peek at the one thing everyone has sneered at yet secretly craved; the holy grail of the leather community; the alpha and omega, it is… The Right Way. The one and only authentic guide to doing what it is we do. Yes, it did really exist; and yes, it was under Joseph Bean’s bed all these years. But what you didn’t know is that there is an annotated, updated version, including useful things like web links, multi-media presentations and a massively multiplayer game version which you could have for only $15 a month, but you’d have to be in the “in crowd” to get access, of course.
Obviously I am not equipped to show you the added material, but what I could do was snatch a few of the printed pages before the Dobermans chased me over the fence.
I mean, some of the text, which has been cleared by the elite cabal of uberpervs who created the guide.
Most of this is from the chapter titled “Keeping it Real”
The old shall dream dreams and the young shall have visions – which means they are both seeing things.
The elders of our community are a precious resource. There is unquestionably tremendous value in the vast array of their personal experiences, their years of survival, and their stores of wisdom. Without them, we are without a past.
But lets be reasonable. The mere act of survival does not necessarily connote heroism and mythic status. Yes, you might have started the first SM club in Kokomo in 1947, daring to gather the 5 other perverts of the day in your living room for oft-told activities of a carnal nature. That’s great. But claiming a high standing now for that act of 60 years ago is about the same as bragging you used to program computers on punch cards while your contemporaries are linking their My Space pages together for a virtual SM network which spans the globe. No one owes you respect for being around longer than most – at best, you can only claim the respect due to the aged, and really, even when it comes with a 10% discount at Target or the early bird special at IHOP, it ain’t worth much.
Your power and status comes with retaining your relevance in an ever-changing world. While your stories of back-in-the-day are necessary for their randy titillation, abundant hilarity and personal history, we ain’t going back there no more. We will refrain from mentioning how those tales grew in the telling if you would promise to tell them no more than one a year, or when asked. And no, trying to join Next Generation groups is not “keeping in touch with the younger members of the community.” It’s being a horny old pervert. We, the elite, understand that – being horny old perverts ourselves. But we, the Uber-Pervs, get our fresh meat the true one SM way – by being so awesome they come looking for US.
The youth of our community are an investment in the future. From them will come the new scene, the new age of sadomasochism. Whether transgressive, questioning or downright doubtful, their energy, their fresh eyes and their imagination keep this community from becoming stagnant or dying of ennui.
However. Being young is not the same as being right. Having an imagination is no excuse for not knowing the facts of life. All the energy in the world is worthless when spent learning the same lessons over and over again. And frankly, your cute ass is really just an introduction – it won’t sustain any sort of relationship by itself.
Yeah, you might go to every SM meeting you can reach and travel to conferences 50 weekends a year and of course your Live Journal gets 1000 hits an hour where you feed complete strangers such useful details as when you saw the Talladega Nights and how it sucked rocks. You might have more body mods than years, had an orgy for your 21st birthday and believe that you really did invent some forms of sex, but we are not that impressed. You might have phones that make movies and screen music videos and send messages to your weblog, but those things will never substitute for being able to communicate or actually having anything of value to say.
Your power and status come from the ability to assimilate and learn from the past without repeating its myriad mistakes; to be able to harness your energy and strength instead of flinging it into passions and activities that will burn you out faster than your iPod batteries. Your brand new ideas and deep thoughts are necessary for their glimpses of innovation, their sheer audaciousness and their blatant absurdity, we done been there already. We will refrain from giggling at your pretence of originality if you promise to remember there was a universe of truth before you showed up to tell it. And no – tossing a $25 plaque at some old fart once a year does not mean you are honoring your community past; role playing that you are a couple of leather queers doesn’t mean you are “old guard.” We, the elite, the Uber-Pervs, understand both patronizing and imitative behavior – we are nothing without our ability to fake being sincere. But we save that for getting along with our in laws.
Being a follower of the One True Way is not easy, and we hate to see the many divisions among those who would love to find us but are not yet worthy to join the cabal. How will they find their way to us and learn the right way of doing things if they persist in behaviors and attitudes that hold them back?
Activists and leaders – without you, there are no meetings, no committees, no groups, no clubs, no contests, no mailing lists, no yahoogroups, web rings, no newsletters, no web sites, no trips, no dungeons, no way of knowing where the Bear Barbeque is and who is bringing the coleslaw. When someone is needed to speak on the morning radio show, raise funds for the contest winner or start the proposal to allow adult businesses to remain in your neighborhood, city or even state, you stand up to be counted, sometimes even using your legal name. We salute you.
But don’t get cocky. Winning the Mr. Ho-Ho-Kus Leather title does not actually make you wise. Volunteering 5 nights a week and 25 weekends a year will not make you popular with the romantic interest of your choice. (In fact, it might make you unable to perform when actually with such lust interest, from sheer exhaustion.) Raising $500 does not make you a money wizard and running a leather event will not necessarily give you a seat on your town council. (Even if you wanted that.) People will not necessarily like or honor you because you are a hard worker. Being out of the closet, while always appreciated and a good thing, does not make you a superior person, only a more honest one. Paying dues does not equal making an investment; your return is not guaranteed in any way. We of the elite Uber Pervs know it’s your inner priorities that matter more. When you are content with who you are and what you do, then you will never seek praise and recognition; it will come or not and your work will not suffer in either case. You should not show disdain for those who give less than what you do, because who knows – they might be the leader you are one day. And if not, who cares? Show some class and at least act modest. It always works for us, even when we don’t feel that way.
For those who are closeted or who stay far from the work, your presence is sometimes all the reward the workers and activists get. When you show your appreciation with financial support, with verbal or written praise, with polite consideration and eager response, you make the work all worth while. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is something you are owed. Your pleasure is supported by the work and presence of those paying a heavier price than the door fee or the travel time. To even get through the doors leading to the One True Way, you must make your support understood and felt and not demand more than what is given. So no – people are not going to go back into their closets to support yours. If it embarrasses you to go to the gay community center for meetings, if you would prefer the other attendees at the convention not show off their collars whips and cuffs, if you insist on a so-called vanilla munch, you will never get one of our cherished top secret taps to join. While we, the elite, do not insist everyone be out and proud, we insist that everyone support those who are. For your convenience, the rest of the world will never look like we do. Please enjoy their company.
Heterosexuals – you may run the world, but we think it’s clear you are not doing it correctly. Therefore, we do not accept your sheer numbers as proof of your ability to handle learning the Right Way. And while there is always hope, there are some things that will not get you invited to our opulent dungeons and ritualistic initiations. (You know we have them, right?)
Dressing like a leatherman does not make you one any more than dressing like a chef makes you able to make a perfect consomme. Coming out as a teenage lesbian is probably much more traumatic than coming out as a 30 year old guy who likes to spank women in lingerie. Having a munch or other gathering at a restaurant that fires gay staff members when they are found is thoughtless or stupid or both. Being surprised that there are laws that limit sexual behavior is grounds for being rendered unable to breed future generations. Being unaware of the legal status of sexual and sadomasochistic activity in general will only get you disappointment and scorn.
Setting a high price for men and no fee for women is sexist and will not encourage hot bi babes to come to your event and bring their girlfriends. But it will guarantee that no hot bi men will be bringing their boyfriends, and if that was your purpose, no, you can’t join the Uber Pervs. We like hot men playing with their boyfriends. And hot babes playing with their girlfriends. And hot studs with their hot ponies and hot puppies with their hot trainers and… hot vixens with their hot catamites, hot she-males with their hot tranny-boys…and…well. We like variety. And we have room for it.
And will you stop claiming you’re a member already? We barely know you.
Queers – cut the hets some slack will you? It’s just possible that some of them might not have known, as you did at the age of 4, that there was something different about them. Of course, those of you who are like we in the One True Way are sadomasochists first, and you will recognize those among the heterosexuals who are the same. Yes, using the secret handshake and wink is helpful, too. But even among those who are not already simpatico are those who are potentials. Lead them gently when possible. Be patient when they are amazed you are not allowed to marry your lover. Be helpful when they ask why the hot lesbians who fuck men – who are all over the internet! – never come to their play parties.
And don’t be so smug. Just because you sucked the cock of a man who sucked the cock of a man who was the lover of a man who some say was old guard does not make you a member of the Perverotti. You might have been a member of the Gay people’s Alliance and the Alliance of Gay people and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning and anything we forgot group for social, economic and spiritual growth and justice, but that doesn’t mean you are better at meetings and organizing than someone who ran the local Future Farmers of America, the Junior League and the annual Marathon and Bake sale to Benefit Parents of Children with Unpopular Diseases. And just because you have faced difficulty and oppression doesn’t mean you are special. Look up “support groups” one day on the internet and realize everybody hurts. Do you really want to know their details? Then don’t share too many of yours. It’s just too depressing.
In short, you really can learn from each other and from there find your way to the One True Way, where at last we have found a way of life with no meetings committees, or agendas. How we do this is a carefully guarded secret, See chapter 23.
(to the best of my ability, I was unable to track down chapter 23. But I did find this part…)
One of the things about the greater community of leather, sm, and assorted other strange behavior out there is the use and importance of the word “lifestyle.” We, the Uber-Pervs, the elite of the Perverotti are amused by this. One person claims they are 24/7. Another might be True Dominance, or Authentic Authority or Extremely Kinky or but what it all comes down to is they live… the lifestyle.
We of the one true way do not live the lifestyle.
We have what we call…lives.
We laugh at those who question our kinkiness, doubt our dominance, scoff at our submission. We are amused when the less enlightened seem truly invested in comparing, nay, competing in how complete, how fulfilling, how extremely extreme they are in how they play, how they relate, how they live…the lifestyle.
Here is wisdom.
We of the one true way are much too busy being who and what we are to bother with defending it. Heck, we took all this time to update this manual! (Brother Joseph, thank you for your help in compiling it.)
The one true way is so right, so correct and so perfect in every way there is no need for us to limit it to some meaningless phrase as a lifestyle. Indeed, that is the token of our membership, the way we truly know one another when we meet. (Besides the secret handshake and wink and genital piercing.) So as you go about the world at large, smile at those who tell you they live the lifestyle, and understand they are on the journey. But when you see those who seem to be happy, contented, who act in concert and harmony, who laugh at the foibles of life, strive for their personal integrity and never seek to defend or define their relationships as anything but good for them alone…
Those are the followers of the One True Way. They can tell you where the local chapter meets, if you don’t already know.
Copyright © 2006, Laura Antoniou. May not be reproduced without her express permission, although sections may be quoted for review purposes.