Living in a post 50 Shades world

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtIn 2011, three unassuming fan fiction books were published, and before long the world had collectively lost its mind.

 

By 2012, over 20 million copies of the books had been sold and the mainstream world was suddenly aware of kink in a brand new way.  BDSM was being discussed and debated on every morning show and in every late night monologue.  Kink had become part of the mainstream cultural vernacular in a way that couldn’t be ignored.

At that point I had been a professional dominatrix for more than 10 years, based in Boston, a city that was culturally buttoned up, yet harbored a large underground population of kinksters. Though I was mostly retired (to focus on my educational project KinkAcademy.com), I still had a strong affiliation with professional domination; it has loomed large as part of my personal identity.

In my pre-50-shades life,  when I would attend a party or BBQ, and the conversation would inevitably turn to “what do you do for a living,” I would respond with “I’m a kink educator and professional dominatrix!”  No matter how much the conversation had been humming along up until that point, no matter how tittilated the more vanilla folks at the party would be (and truth be told: the more vanilla they were, the more tittilated they would be), they would quickly find an excuse to turn away from the conversation. At least that was before the kinky books that rocked the world showed up on the scene.

But oh, how living in a post-50 Shades world has altered this exchange. As someone who’s life included “full immersion perversion” (aka my career was centered around BDSM and so were my personal relationships), I’m in a position to have to talk about kink much more than the average private player. But now when I share my career history (I’ve been retired for nearly 5 years), instead of dismay and confusion, I’m met with enthusiasm.  Inevitably someone invokes Christian and Anastasia…

“Oh! You mean like in 50 Shades of Grey?”

“Are those books.. you know.. Real?”

“You must like…. What did you think of…. Was your experience just like…”

This now universal response brings up mixed feelings for me. These books caused quite an uproar in the kinky community, with bloggers denouncing it as dangerous and the worst thing to happen to BDSM since Paddleboro. Kinksters I know would huff and puff when the books would come up at events, and the eye-rolls couldn’t get any harder. The BDSM Community as a whole were at best unimpressed with all the “lookie-loos” the books were bringing to local dungeons and kinky events.

But from the get-go, I couldn’t help but see the benefit to these books.

There are plenty of kinksters who have a distinct interest in keeping the BDSM world on the edge of society; they prefer it to retain its underground, ‘dangerous’ vibe. These kinksters are most attracted to the taboo aspect of kink, the deviance of being a “pervert” in the more traditional sense of the word. Frankly they’re pissed that mainstream culture is intruding on their private playspace.

But there are also many who, like me, see how kink being more understood in the mainstream world could create a lot of positives. For example, there are too many people deep in custody battles, where kinky activity is used to discredit one of the parents.  There are those who suffer from intense fear that accompanies the risk of being outed as a leather-lover.  The fact that a good number of people no longer have to hide their head in shame and fear, or suffer the consequences of ignorance, is a good thing for which – I have to say it – we can thank the 50-shades phenomenon.

In 2016, we live in a Post-50-Shades world. I for one am grateful we do.

Now that I’m moving more into the mainstream world, and expanding my speaking career, it’s become an especially big help for your average citizen to have some kind of a reference point for my past, even if that reference requires a bit of.. unpacking. When the book is brought up, it gives me an opportunity to share a more well-informed perspective. I point out that the books are intended as erotica, similarly to long-published Harlequin novels. That a Harlequin romance with a storyline about pirates and sailing the open seas is just as useful as a how-to guide for taking the helm of a galleon as 50 Shades is an instruction manual for kink.

In fact, my first large mainstream event presentation was at SXSW 2013 titled “The 50 Shades Phenomenon;”  it was well attended and well received. This was the largest opportunity I had to talk to an audience that wasn’t intrinsically kink-focused, and start to share what the BDSM world has taught me outside of the bedroom.

I’ve learned about setting and enforcing personal boundaries, both emotional and physical, and my communication skills in general have skyrocketed. I’ve learned to tap into confidence and inner power in order to achieve what I want in life. It’s helped me be more self-aware and more disciplined. And it’s allowed me to have incredibly creative relationships and experiences.

Since I’ve been retired from the professional world for the last five years, my ability to branch out has expanded tremendously and I can’t help but credit the Fifty Shades series with helping to make that possible.

So while the obsession with the series itself has died down temporarily, the conversation about BDSM have changed forever. And I have no doubt that as the second and third movies are released there will be even more opportunities to educate the public about how awesome kink is, which can only lead to more public understanding, which likely leads to a safer world for the kink-identified, and ultimately for all manner of sexual identity & expression.

 

*Vanilla is a term some kinksters use to describe non-kinky people. It’s used in the same context as ‘muggle’ for Harry Potter fans, or civilians for military enthusiasts.

On paying presenters

But in a pencil word bubbleIt has recently become a hot discussion to debate why (or why not) presenters should be paid at BDSM events. It’s interesting to see so many different perspectives on paying presenters and why it should or should not be a priority. I’ve been on this soapbox for years, but never had a proper place to write my thoughts, but now I do! So here you go…

1) Teaching really is a skill that is SEPARATE from whatever kinky activity or concept being taught. Someone who might be really really good at flogging (for a basic example) might not know how to break down the why’s and how’s of being really really good at flogging. That makes a huge difference between a class & a performance. When people come to a class they want to *learn* something that they can then use. When people go to a performance they’re content to just watch someone show off a skill. I find that frequently the two are confused.

2) There ARE events and business that pay for services. When I launched Kink Academy it was exceptionally important for me to offer payment plus a 50% affiliate program for educators so they could *continue* to profit from their involvement on the site. When I first started I actually had to talk some presenters into taking the money (because they said it was their community service). This decision was based on integrity and I’ve always said that integrity is the most expensive personality trait, but it’s worth EVERY PENNY.

3) I fully agree with the statements about how someone is willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a toy (which is not a dig at toy makers, they have a right to profit from their hard work too) but won’t pay $25 for a class to learn how to use it properly. Just take a look around at any public dungeon and you’ll see people with a huge bag of toys and little visible skills and you’ll see how prevalent that is. I’ve struggled with this on Kink Academy too. If I had $5 for every time I was told that I should be offering the site for free, well, I’d actually have money in my pocket by now.

4) Value should beget value. What I bring (and what Mo brings and so many others) to the table is valuable. For a community that is so big on ENERGY EXCHANGE it’s always been fascinating to me that the same concept doesn’t hold true for education.

5) I believe that “profit” is one of the dirtiest words in the BDSM community. I’ve seen people work themselves into outrage by the IDEA that someone is trying to make a living in the kink world. As a ProDomme I was frequently insulted for charging for sessions. As the founder of educational websites that charge an incredibly reasonable fee for the amount of information inside, I have been told that I’m trying to “make money off the community”. As a community we are still stuck back in the days where almost everything was run by volunteers, but we are no longer at the stage of development AS a community. The sheer numbers of people who have discovered the BDSM world through the internet makes it nearly impossible to service without charging *something* for the events, toys, presenters etc.

6) I also agree with the idea that it’s perfectly appropriate to set your own fee’s and then simply decline events that can not meet them. I know full well that decision will limit the number of events that a presenter would go to, but it’s worth it if, together, we presenters stuck to it. Events would be forced to change their structure simply because they wouldn’t be able to have enough skilled & well known presenters to teach.

Ok, so this is quite long enough (perhaps more than enough :) but it is a topic I am passionate about.

Support the Kink Economy people and you’ll see the quality of your own experiences raise above and beyond the amount of money you’ve spent!

Reference posts

Mollena on Fetlife – https://fetlife.com/users/10180

Mollena’s Blog post – http://www.mollena.com/2012/05/why-you-should-pay-me/

http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/of-fame-and-money-on-paying-bdsm-presenters/