Saturday, November 28, 2009

13 years under our belts, together

Today marks our anniversary.

Tomorrow we start in on year fourteen, a simple fact I find stunning.

We came together at a point of time and space that feels almost unimaginable by any measure of 'the broader community' today.

It was a magical night, a space with an undertone of deep humour and whimsy to it, and our coming together was borne of trust and an odd form of being "vouched for" by a friend dear to both of us.

Both of us had traveled to be there, open to possibilities, yet unaware of what we ultimately found until we were both tumbling headlong into it. From that night forward, my life changed in ways I never could have imagined at the time.

There are elements of that time and space I truly wish were possible to recapture. At the same time, having now been Sir's so long, through so much, in so many places, I can only say despite the changes surrounding us, I am still, so very honoured to be here now.

In some ways I feel we're hitting our stride, stronger than ever. There is a certain sense of clarity.

As always, I can but thank Sir for this, my life.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Preparation for Floating World III

(Nope, I still haven't managed to make time to write about Sex 2.0, nor a recap of our first Shibaricon. Slitherings has been having a quiet little Summer, even if we haven't.)

By way of more current events, in just under two weeks we will be traveling to our third Floating World event in New Jersey.

In the end, Sir made the decision to finally register, though we had reserved our hotel room some time back. It felt good to see this was something he wanted as well. In the end, I had left the final decision up to him.

It has all become just a bit intimidating in light of how large Floating World has rapidly become, but this year's event, (taking over the entire center,) should have a flavour all its own. I see many first timers planning to attend. We tend to feel more comfortable in somewhat more intimate events, but as we've been attending the Floating World from its beginnings, it feels an event that has been an important part of our history as well. We'll have to see how it feels.

In any case, I'm edging towards packing over the next few days, probably traveling fairly lightly this year. I'm starting in on the Leathers, making sure they're polished and shined, making the difficult choices about which tools we want to take, and trying to get into the headspace it takes to be ready to enjoy an event with well over a thousand people registered.

___

In light of what a brief post this is, I thought I might leave you with a visual treat; a website with plenty of links to a number of artists and and woodblock print images of Japan's Floating World, A Guide to the Ukiyo-e Sites of the Internet.

Such as this lovely offering from Ogata Gekko:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Back from Sex 2.0

Sir and I have a great deal to chew on and ponder. (Yes, we went together.)

I'm not ready to write a post on my experiences at Sex 2.0 just yet.

That said, by way of backgrounder to what I may eventually write, readers should first read through these two posts (and the comment threads) on Amber Rhea's blog:


Thoughts on Sex 2.0 past, present, and future


Thoughts on Sex 2.0 thoughts

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Transgression and Transgressive Identity


Trinity
has written an interesting post about transgression over on Let Them Eat Pro-Sm Feminist Safe Spaces. The resultant comment thread has some real gems in it.

As I've been thinking and writing on the concept of transgressive identity as of late, I added my own small contribution that I wanted to copy across to here for organizational sake.


Habu said...

From a somewhat different angle, I've been thinking about and beginning to write about transgressive identity. Those of us who for one reason or another clearly live on what many would feel is "that side of the line."

It has to do with the difference between (to create but one of many examples) those for whom "kink" is something they do only in the bedroom and only on Thursday nights, and those who live as Leathermen or Leatherwomyn.

There are those who live day to day on the socially reinforced side of the line, yet "transgress," making short duration traverses across into what many would deem "dangerous territory."

Then there are others who live over the line. We live in a state of "transgression" not out of some sense of it being "hip" or "rebellious," but as simply our day to day reality.

For some (particularly around aspects of gender presentation) it's not a matter of "choosing" to live across the line, (as attempting to put a Stone Butch in a dress often has the effect of only making their Stone Butch-ness all the more obvious.)

For others it is a conscious decision, yes, they COULD pass, but instead they remain true to themselves.

I think a lot of how bystanders tend to understand the term "trangression" or "trangressive" has to do with their preconceived notions of transgression as a mark of immaturity, or as a hit and run form of cultural rebellion.

Whereas for those of us who live on this side of the line, it's anything BUT a skittish little dance across the line for titillation purposes, it's simply our real day to day lives.

What remains by and large invisible to those same bystanders is the amount of shit those who transgress as a matter of breathing often endure, and the often random nature of the violence many trangressively identified individuals endure.

To take a real world example, getting beaten leaving a Pride march, simply for the fact of being identified as a member of class Queer. The nuances and details of the individual being beaten are subsumed to the fact that he or she has been identified as a member of a "trangressive" class of people.

There are those who cringe at being labeled "deviant," but for those of us who live over here, it's actually a fairly useful piece of terminology, as yes, our lives do deviate in many meaningful ways from the lives of those living on the other side of that line.

We also recognize that those of us over here are not a majority. To transgress or deviate means we have taken a different path from most (what many incorrectly term "the norm.")

There is no need for shame in being transgressive, or behaving trangressively. For many in Leather historically speaking, it's been a point of pride.

There are reasons Leather history is littered with names such as the Outcasts, the Renegades, the Rebels... .

Likewise there's a reason we focus on Leather Families, "Chosen Families," Backpatch Clubs, and Tribes. These "other side of the line" social structures have been and are important survival mechanisms for not only finding one's new place on this side of the line, but sometimes as a means of dealing with the rejection of biological family or previous friends.

Transgressive identities, living daily in realms of Gender, Queerness, or Leather, (to name but a few such possibilities) far from being explorations or hot brief duration excursions, are often marked by tending to have a certain maturity and sense of having come home to oneself.

It's somewhat of a different way of looking at transgression, but I think very central to much of what is happening to Leatherculture right now. There are those of us who understand that being Leather means living on this side of the line, and there are others for whom they still fully identify as members of the majority side of the line with this one "small" area of personal exception, their forays into kink.

29 April 2009 12:24

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tail end of Winter, dawn of Spring and the Sakura Matsuri

My "little leather life" as of late has been fairly busy, though I've not been blogging it. Instead of attempting to catch up, I'll just make a brief note of our travels yesterday and other upcoming events, some Leather, others being more seasonally inspired.

Sir and I headed down into Washington D.C. yesterday for the Crucible's 18th biannual LF&P (Leather Flea and Play,) which as I've noted here before when writing about it, is more commonly referred to as the "elephant pee," hence the elephant logo.

We had originally thought we might be bringing a friend along with us this Spring but travel plans fell through and it turned into a nice event for just the two of us.

It was well into the afternoon by the time we arrived, a slight drizzle was coming down, but it seemed plenty crowded none-the-less.

I was on a mission of sorts, after some rope. We're going to make it to Shibaricon this year come hell or high water (after our thwarted attempt last year), so this was going to be one of my last chances to catch Rainbow Rope in person before we head towards Chicago.

We found some nice blue MFP for Sir, and a nice 50' piece of Blue and Black all of which came home with us. Afterwards we wandered a bit, looked at knives, but didn't quite see anything that felt quite right.

At one point, I did see someone across the room that we had met at Black Rose last Autumn, but by the time we had come back around she was nowhere to be seen. So this was yet another flea where we weren't really finding familiar faces.

We stumbled headlong into a happy surprise as we made our way towards the door. When we had come in through the library area it had been a mob scene and so we figured we'd come back through on our way out. Well sure enough, just as we were getting ready to leave we finally stumbled headlong into the "unique" and custom that I try to keep my eyes out for when we go to the Fleas.

Wooden canes (among other tools) with bone handles. Lovely, natural materials with soft leather work carefully bringing the pieces together. Sir said they felt really good in his hand and the balance felt wonderful.

My ex-wife and I used to discuss the importance of tools and how it was not merely about feeling amazing on the "receiving" end of a whip, but also about how a tool feels in the hand of one who wields it. Those conversations led her to create an incredibly special whip, one that will never be used on anyone else. It remains as a physical legacy of our time together.

These canes embodied that same spirit. One is long, the shaft a carefully polished hickory, the other a much shorter purple heartwood, perfect for intimate work. Stumbling into special pieces like these is precisely part of the reason we go to the fleas and vendors rooms at events.

I protected our newfound treasures from the rain as we wandered back to our vehicle. All notions of a trip to the National Arboretum or even a quick drive around the tidal basin to see how far along the sakura blossoms were fell by the wayside in the bleakness of the rainy afternoon.

Instead, we stopped back by one of my old neighborhoods for good pizza and beer and just plain spending some time together, talking on into the evening. The drive back home in the rain made a perfect end to the day.

In other news, we are looking forward to DC and Philly's Sakura Matsuri both this month and in April. (Click here to see more information about this year's DC featured poster artist, Carol Tomasik. I love this year's design!)

We celebrate every year, welcoming the cherry blossoms and marking the occasion is part of our Household. Along our way back home yesterday, we saw a few trees already in bloom, so I suppose I can at long last break out the Sakura incense.

For just a few short weeks each year the whole house smells of the blossoms and incense, and I take long hot baths in Sakura bath salts. The tub gets filled with pink water and I listen to lots of koto and shakuhachi music. It is all part of how we shake off the last of Winter. For now, I'm trying to decide what events over the course of the festivals we'll actually make it to.

We have also made the decision to go to the (first ever!) Charm City Fetish Fair near Baltimore. I'm actually very excited about the event, in part because I'll be having a number of friends from out of state coming in for the event. We're working to schedule meals and possibly sleepovers, and other such around the edges of the event. It should be a good time.

So we've been keeping busy.

January and February have also been important months in terms of my "little Leather life", but I will leave those stories to another post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Of Kink and Blog-o-sphere Kerfuffles

Generally, I tend to avoid the anti-S/m dust ups around the blog-o-sphere that spring forth with stunning regularity from the keyboards of those who co-opt the term "radical feminist."

But every so often enough pissed friends point me at enough bullshit that I can occasionally be coaxed into writing a little something.

This was originally intended as a brief comment to the Most. Awesome. Comment. Ever. post over on Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces.

But it grew.

It grew beyond reason, and certainly beyond comment legnth.

So I've moved it here as a full post instead.

For readers who have no idea what this is all about, be glad. (Or read Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces' tag documenting the BDSM-and-feminism kerfuffle in inverse order, starting at the bottom of the page. Most of the relevant links are either in that or in the comments thereon.)

But back to that little comment that grew, here it is in it's entirety:

***

What so many of these oh-so-outraged women miss is that until fairly recently, it would have been exceptionally rare for them to have this level of visibility into the things we do.

Placing ads, exploring kink.com... by and large they wouldn't have had any immediate jumping off point to know WHERE to place such ads, (and it's still a LOUSY methodology,) or the ins and outs of the language were it not for the increased visibility in that they've been afforded.

Note that Leatherfolk were not out playing evangelists. The visibility they (the outraged) now enjoy comes as a direct result of commercialization, and into spaces where we self select and gather just as any other demographic has online.

Time was, not so long ago, that finding out about certain communications vehicles, much less entering into Leather spaces, would simply not have been an option for them.

To gain access to such meant going in person, and having someone willing to vouch for you. It meant entering what had often been a Gay male domain.

These days, they need only punch up whatever website they care to fear this week, get themselves all worked up, and then start typing.

A few rare Leathermen took me under their wings and taught me the core values of what being a Leatherperson entails; among them the critical importance of discretion, appropriate time and place, and "not frightening the horses" so to speak.

Of course for many of our critics they can only see the flat images on their screens, they know nothing of the ideology or highly ritualized behaviors that go with so much of Leather.

One of the first "Leather" books I was ever told to go read wasn't some (at the time unwritten!) manual of how to flog, nope I was told to go brush up on my Emily Post.

Those amazing Leathermen taught me the importance of being above reproach in one's dealings and finances, being a person of their word and personal honour, expressing deep loyalty towards those deserving of such, knowing when to defend oneself and one's tribe and when to hold your tongue, and not drawing attention.

To do otherwise could bring undue scrutiny down upon the community, these concepts being passed down from a time when raids on Gay spaces without so much as a pretense were common.

Yes, the net has changed everything, some for the good- breaking isolation and making "deviants" such as ourselves feel far less alone in this world.

But it has also come with a price- that things which were once deeply private and shown only to lovers or others deemed to have "the right stuff" and a deep willingness are now mere clicks away for any and all.

That and perhaps our critics have missed a key point, Lao-tzu's "Those who know don't talk. Those who talk don't know."

Certainly something they may wish to keep in mind the next time they should happen to be perusing the kink-o-sphere.

Splattered all over screens everywhere decontextualized images, a comic book notion of what Leather is, now readily available to every Joe and Jane Schmoe.

The vast majority of whom have no framework to fit some of what they're seeing into (even those within the community often have no mentors to answer questions, no training.)

Internal to the community AIDS had more to do with that than any online change in information flow could ever have done.

Yet for those external, yes we are in effect put 'on trial' because suddenly people who simply never would have seen what we do behind closed doors can now spend countless hours fixating and obsessing over how what we do must somehow affect them, or if not them, then at least the broader class of womyn more generally, or so their false notion goes.

The reality of course, is that we were doing this long before they noted our presence, and no, how I did or did not happen to fuck my wife did not affect broader class womyn other than to have if anything served as a binding closeness between the two of us in our (genuine) Radical Feminist activism.

All of it has been decontextualized down to the flat screen though. They know little to nothing of (and in certain cases absolutely refuse to discuss) the fact that much of what we call modern Leather comes not from the heterosexual end of things 9D is so obsessed over, instead many of the traditions have roots in the disempowered Gay Male sub-community of those who came back from WWII and didn't fit.

They looked at the suburban postwar world of "settling down" and having kids, and opted to hit the open roads on motorcycles with some of the few people who understood what they had seen and what they had been through, and their feelings for one another. They created small nomadic tribes with other men.

They were outsiders.

Womyn to womyn S/m has reflected those sentiments at times even more so, in that not only have we been Queer outsiders to the broader society, we are also often outsiders even to Gay Leather.

(Hence names such as "The Outcasts," "The Exiles", or more generally groups such as "The Renegades.")

To refuse to examine the origins and context much of leather culture grew in is not merely to erase Queer history and Queer methodologies of survival, but to actively reinforce the very heterosexism and heterocentrism they decry.

Ironically, they now claim to essentially speak on behalf of and in protection of womyn and womynkind- a feat only made possible when subsets of womyn who love and yes, ultimately sleep with other womyn, who know a great deal about womyn's authentic desires, and who have been (real) Radical Feminists since back in the day are relegated to "traitors" or "collaborators with the patriarchy." They thereby attempt the coup d’├ętat of not merely erasing us, but usurping our positions as womyn who yes, know a thing or two about womyn.

To their minds, what we have to say are often unpleasant and unthinkable realities about womyn. Things that must then be projected into a form of "othering" as no "real woman" could ever possibly genuinely want the things we do, we must therefore to their thinking either be deluded or under a form of coercion, both of which conveniently disqualify us from what they now co-opt as "their" revolution.

Except of course, for them, it's more often than not revolutionary, as 9D herself would be/has been the first to fess up to. (See point 2 here.). To then utilize the term "Radical" (meaning "to the root") while explicitly rejecting "to the root" forms of social change, instead insisting that working within the existing systems (oh, LIBERAL feminism- bingo!) is the way to go is for her to 'wear the colors of the enemy' or co-opt our terminology for her own (assimilationist) purposes.

While for some Kinkyfolks, they may feel a need to justify themselves, now that we are being lied about, savaged and put up 'on trial,' others of us on the other hand, have always understood we were living at the edges and as exiles to begin with. I don't need to justify myself or my life to anyone.

I don't answer to those who co-opt and subvert the title "Radical Feminist" without ever so much as noting that some of us who used it long before they also wear (earned) Leathers, and were doing so long before the outraged-come-lately happened along.

As "exiles" we've always known that there is a time and place to stand our ground, and other times and places where going on the defensive or trying to justify our existence merely becomes counterproductive.

I've always been where the front lines are when it really matters, and if that's not "feminist" enough for those with smoke blowing out their ears from behind they keyboards, my answer really comes down to "Tough shit."

They've got a problem with it, it's their problem, not mine.

Now do some of us have a fair amount to say about the commercialization of the "work" we do, and the increased visibility into our world others are now afforded? Of course. But when it's time to say those things we do them in our spaces under our rules, not the false constraints of blogsites like 9D's, the preclude even my own existence as a Leatherwomyn.

Yeah I know, this is post-length. It's long overdue such be said- and as should be clear by now it's only going to be said in "our" spaces, not theirs.

***



I also made an earlier comment on another post on that same tag, Nope. I'll republish it here as well just to keep all my writings on this particular dust up available in a single place:

***

"If you have that kind of dark side, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself"

Yeah, I caught on that bit too.

For her, the notion of people like us existing in (her) world is just too frightening.

She would feel more comfortable if people like ourselves were either not here or at minimum not visible.

Since she's apparently not the type who feels the need to rid the world of us, herself personally, she'd rather we just "opt out."

A lot cleaner and neater that way.

Certainly no blood on her hands. No, certainly not.

The the instinct to purge those she finds so frightening, so terrifying, etc. lies just beneath the surface.

The difference being of course, radical feminist Leather womyn such as myself feel no need to purge the universe of the likes of her.

She who is so quick to condemn has never heard of me, knows nothing about me, and certainly isn't reading my (at times) "submissive" womyn's blogging in relation to a male partner.

I am after all both S/switch and Bi. Being such, I therefore fall straight on into the exception bin for her, that she so conveniently dismisses and refuses to discuss.

Womyn living within the context of consensual power exchange with other womyn is most certainly NOT on the agenda over there.

Of course our "individual experiences" are dismissed as she'd rather only discuss what she perceives as some twisted version of experiences on on the whole (what a handy way to dismiss any womyn who would dare disagree, and her own experiences.)

Nope, she'd rather bemoan the (commercial fetish) fate of the armory building, a building she herself by her own admission once coveted and now chalks up to having in essence, fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Seriously, gal, it's just real estate and sex, get over yourself already.

Sex the likes of which she both clearly has a fascination with and yet insists she sickened by.

This clearly qualifies her as having an opinion we should all listen to about on such matters- not so much.

Funny, I don't find myself writing post after post about whatever kind of sex she may (or may not) be having. 07 February 2009 10:05

***

Who knows, perhaps six months from now when the next regularly scheduled "feminist" anti-S/m dust up occurs I may just link to this post instead of wasting my time giving them essentially the same earful all over again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

UK's draconian and ill defined "Extreme Pornography" ban set to go into effect 1/26

To say "I'm offended" would be a gross understatement.

The section of the act of the of the UK Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (CJIA) banning possession of so called "extreme pornography" is scheduled to go into effect January 26th.

Rather than attempting to characterize it myself, I'll point readers over to the Spanner Trust January Newsletter for a brief overview.

Before the new law goes into effect there will be a protest at Parliament-

****************************************************************

Protest-

Consenting Adult Action Network at Parliament Sunday January 25th

Join us to mark the death of another freedom.

At 2-5pm

On Sunday 25th January 2009

Parliament Square Westminster, London (UK)

Download the flyer!


****************************************************************

Being in the United States, much of what I have come to understand about the situation comes by way of web research and media reports, but I'll pass along some useful links for those interested.

Resources-

The commencement notice

The CJIA clauses criminalizing "extreme pornography"

Ministry of Justice further guidance


Opponents-

Backlash (see their about us page) monitors the implementation of the law. Their site chronicles the development of the law and the oppositional efforts working against it. It also includes a very useful media coverage roundup.

Also be sure to see Backlash's piece, Your Rights Upon Police Search, Arrest and Detention and their legal advisory.

Other useful links include-

The Spanner Trust

The Sexual Freedom Coalition

And The Consenting Adult Action Network