Evolution in Our Community
By Mr. Michael
I have taken the time recently to reflect upon the changes I have perceived in the BDSM community since I have been actively involved in it over the past nine years. My observations are not meant to imply that any of these changes are good or bad, or even present in every community. My experience and participation has primarily been in the Midwest and the Ohio Valley, with occasional jaunts to communities farther away.
It was a statement of their intended mission, but not necessarily a statement about their actual diversity.
I think the most obvious change that I have seen is that the word "pansexual" is more descriptive of our community today than it was before. Many groups over the years have described themselves as being pansexual, meaning that their group does not discriminate or limit participation based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It was a statement of their intended mission, but not necessarily a statement about their actual diversity. In the munch groups and organizations today, I see more evidence of pansexualism in the makeup of our groups. It is not just tolerance, but acceptance, of bisexual, gay, transsexual, gender-queer, and other encompassing identities. To me, it is also evident in our Leather community, with much greater acceptance and participation from people other than gay males.
Over the years, I have also noticed a change in general regarding people's approach to BDSM. It is my feeling that more people several years ago not only kept their BDSM activities and community participation more discreet, but also kept greater separation between their BDSM identity and their vanilla identity. I perceive it to be more common today for someone to come into our community using their legal name, as opposed to a nickname or an invented persona, than it was in the past, and I believe it is also more common for people in our community to have greater integration of D/s dynamics and SM play into their daily lives. It may be that BDSM seems to be more commonplace in vanilla society and media, and accepted as a healthy deviation from the norm. Maybe it just now perceived as less deviant overall than once thought.
...greater integration of D/s dynamics and SM play into their daily lives.
Another observation I have made is the decline of discussion forums as a debating platform. Yahoo Groups has always seemed to be the de facto standard for online communication between members of BDSM groups. One of the first things you probably did when you started a group, in fact, was to create your Yahoo Group presence and invite everyone to join up. The explosion of the internet happened before my first foray into public BDSM community, but in 2000 there were still large numbers of people coming online for the very first time, and discovering online communities in Yahoo Groups. They read daily, posted often, debated viewpoints and issues, argued and flamed. Go back to any of your group's archives that were active at the time, and you will see a slow and steady decline in activity from 2000 to 2009. People still do use online discussion forums now, but in a much different way. They are more a means for one-way communication between group organizers and attendees to keep them informed of upcoming events, munches, and activities. On rare occasion, someone will start an old-school discussion thread that gets some attention and then quickly burns out. I don't think it has anything to do with less desire for our community to educate themselves through good debate and exposing themselves to other viewpoints. I think it is more of a symptom of the new nature and titillation of the internet wearing off, and might also be attributed to the greater abundance of face-to-face meeting groups and events available to people in any given month. Recently, it was also suggested to me that the advent of very cheap or often unlimited voice and text cell phone plans is furthering this effect. It is interesting, after all, that we seem to have come full circle as a counterculture and now again seem to favor more personal interaction over computer interaction.
...we seem to have come full circle as a counterculture and now again seem to favor more personal interaction over computer interaction.
Lastly, I have observed an increase in quality, increase in quantity, and decrease in price for items and services within the BDSM community. If you think of BDSM community members as consumers, think for a moment about the things that we buy and the services we use in our kink lives. Some of the things I can think of off the top of my head are BDSM implements and toys, play parties, national and regional events, and online networking and matchmaking sites. Floggers, whips, paddles, clothing, bondage gear and leather items are in greater abundance, maintain higher standards of workmanship, and are sold at lower prices than they were before. While the standard local play party admission used to be around $20 per person (that we happily paid), that figure has decreased to about $10, a pot-luck dish, or even free in some cases. Regional and national BDSM events are now in much greater abundance and frequency, and have adjusted slightly downward in prices for registration. The greater number of events in closer proximity to your average community member has even kept travel and lodging expenses lower.
Our greater community is in a constant state of change. There will be some who bemoan the changes occurring over time, others who embrace them, and still others who will not spend enough time in our community to notice them. I think this is a good time to think about some of the changes you would like to see you in your communities over the next ten years, and how you might be able to contribute to those goals.