I should make it very clear before I start that this is not about anybody in particular, although if you think that I might be talking about you then it might be wise to look at why you think that, and whether it’s something you want to change. Although some of this is stuff that I figure people don’t realise they are doing and maybe don’t have a way to realise it, which means that only someone with much better social skills and coaching skills than mine would be able to say how to change it.
Short version of the preamble: this post is about me and my reactions, it’s not about you or your issues.
One more point: all these types of people exist in other types of social setting. But I notice them more in munches than in other settings, and whether that’s something about munches, or something about me, is something I can’t tell you.
With that out the way – the people I don’t like.
Far and away the biggest thing I don’t like is when I encounter someone who somehow makes me feel as though I’m losing in a competition that I didn’t know I had entered, don’t know the rules of, and don’t want to be in in the first place. The hardest part about this is that I couldn’t even tell you what they are doing that gives me this impression. Nevertheless, if one of these people talks to me I don’t feel like I’ve had a friendly social interaction, even though that’s what it was on the surface. Somehow, somewhere, points were tallied and a winner declared, and at the end of the conversation, that winner is announced (although not to me, I just have to sort of infer it from whatever). This is one of the most uncomfortable things for me in social settings: the feeling that I have come with the wrong set of rules for the occasion, or that something is expected of me (in this case, a contest of some kind, that I don’t know or understand) that hasn’t been stated openly. The whole nebulous, unstated, and possibly all-in-my-own-head nature of this issue is deeply unnerving and frustrating, leaving me feeling very bad indeed about both the interaction and myself.
Although I do have a competitive nature in some ways, my predominant focus is on cooperation (which is why my competitive streak appears best when you put me on a team with some other people). The feeling that someone wanted me to compete, or felt they were competing with me, is therefore alien to my understanding of being social and socialising with others. I don’t know how to deal with it and I don’t know how to make sense of the feeling (or figure out if it’s real or just something I am projecting). That it seems to be some people and not others implies that it’s something about the people, but is it something I am conjuring out of verbal, vocal and visual details, or is it something that actually exists in those cues?
I can’t answer these questions. But I don’t like it when people make me feel this way, and that means I end up feeling I don’t like that person.
[NB It’s entirely possible that I am one of these people, although I try to curb my tendencies in that direction.]
These are the people who speak less in conversations than in declarations. Their opinions are stated with the full weight of established law. While “declaim” may not be exactly the right word, it’s certainly what I feel like they are doing. These people give the strong impression that, if your position is different from theirs, then there must be some way in which you are wrong – a bad person, or an ignorant person, or somehow a bit “off”. When Staci Newmahr wrote in “Playing on the Edge” about D/s role policing in the community she profiled, I was sceptical. However, encountering various Declaimers gives me some impression of how this could come about, especially as they seem to be the most common of these “people I dislike” types in the Scene.
The thing is, many Declaimers will declaim that There is No Such Thing as One True Way. While giving the distinct impression that, while there may not be “one true way”, there is certainly a way that is better than the others. Or perhaps that there are several True Ways that are clearly demarcated, and you’re welcome to choose one of those, just don’t try to figure out a different way if those don’t quite fit.
Part of this, I suspect, could come from a sort of existential crisis, and one with which I can identify (see above – I may actually be a Declaimer). When someone says something about what BDSM is to them, or what ‘x’ element of their life is to them, if a Declaimer has constructed a model of the world to explain their kink/emotions/life in a certain way, and his person’s relationship to ‘x’ is contrary to that model, then it can feel as though the validity of one’s own life and experiences has been called into question. To state it firmly and with certainty (that is, “with the full weight of established law”, to use my phrase above) is a way to re-establish the worldview and with it, the integrity and validity of oneself. I doubt that this is true for all of them, but I know that in discovering my kinky identity I certainly went through a phase where this was very important to me, and suggestions that kink can’t be innate would feel very threatening and need some kind of declarative response. Part of me suspects that it could be a habit that forms in that phase so that even people who are more secure in their identity can end up declaiming, and that needs conscious work to overcome. Then again, maybe there are people who are just like that all the time, an aspect of the so-called “alpha” status/personality that some people talk about (I happen to loathe such talk, but anyway).
So, I dislike these people because if you disagree with them, they make you feel small or just intimidated. They may not even realise that they are doing it (and that, if the reason is what I suggested above, then they are creating in others the sense of threatened identity that they are responding to). But at least this type of competitiveness is open – you know that it’s happening!
The Overly Open
We’re all into kink, we’re all here to talk about kink, right? So let me show you just how kinky I am: let me fondle this person (or offer myself up to be fondled by this person) who may or may not be my partner; let me tell you in exacting detail all about what I got up to with that person; let me “surreptitiously” show you the marks on my bottom/boobs/back from playing last night; let me have a mock make-out session with this friend of mine (or with you) right here in front of you…
These are the people who assume you’re as comfortable with overt displays of dynamic/play as they are, and have no problem with it – if you’re in a ‘nilla setting, they will push the boundaries because some ‘nilla people/couples will act very sexual in public, so it must be okay to do it at munches in ‘nilla venues, right? And if your munch venue is a private room at the bar, then they will push the boundaries there, going as far as the munch rules allow them to.
No doubt, they are in their element at exhibitionist fetish clubs and the like, where they can play openly and in public. But I don’t like public play: it feels unsettling and anti-intimate. I don’t mind glimpsing intimacy shared between two (or more) people in a public space, where that intimacy is not performed but just shared between those involved. I can choose to look away, and usually do so and smile at seeing people happy together. But with the Overly Open I feel as though I am being involved in their scene without my consent or negotiation.
I go to munches to meet fellow kinky people and talk to them (or try to). Maybe possibly to find someone with a compatible kink and we might end up becoming a couple at some future point. I don’t go there to watch other people being kinky, and in particular, I don’;t go to see a ,i>display of kinkiness. At a “private room” type venue, I am absolutely fine with the people who find a quiet corner to do some play in. I am also totally okay with the occasional impromptu demonstrations of technique that occur, where the aim is teaching and learning. But when the intent seems to be “I want to involve you in my kinkiness” or “I want to show you how kinky I am in this space”, that’s something I’m not there to see and it makes me uncomfortable. For me, that’s impinging and claiming an intimacy level that I don’t feel and don’t want in that sort of space.
[NB It’s worth noting that twice I have been kissed on the mouth non-consensually by an “Overly Open” person in a kink or munch-type space (and a couple of other times in ‘nilla spaces, too), and no, I was not okay with it.]
Yes, “YKIOK” (Your Kink Is OK), but it’s still “JNMK” (Just Not My Kink), and I would really appreciate not being involved with it, save it for the play parties and fetish clubs, please? Now, maybe I’m misunderstanding the purpose of the events that take place in private rooms, but when this stuff happens in the ‘nilla venues as well (in that “pushing the boundaries” way), I feel confident that it’s not actually just my misreading the purpose, this is really happening.
There’s also a difference between some of the subtle 24/7 signifiers that I’ve seen that I feel are perfectly fine (it’s the sub’s duty to go to the bar, for example) and some of the more obvious displays (like making use of a Sub’s collar in a tactile way, not just having hir wear it) – again, it’s this feeling that I am supposed to look and be impressed by how kinky you are (this carries over from the Crypto-competitors group, in that it feels like there’s some unstated competition going on when this happens). It feels like an unnecessary intrusion of your private life into the public socialising space.
So, I dislike these people because I am not interested in playing the role of “audience” in your kinky fantasies. I want to talk to you, not watch you! (Well, introversion, so let’s say I’d like you to come and talk to me.)
The Openly un-PC
This is really a subset of the Declaimers, except that what they declaim with “the full weight of established law” is misogynistic, racist, ableist or classist views or assumptions. Here, it’s often that they don’t seem able to understand why anyone could possibly disagree with their view, and that’s why it has that quality of certainty. At munches, I’ve found it rare to hear homophobic remarks in the same way (although in ‘nilla spaces, homophobia is just as much a problem) – maybe being a sexual minority, like kinksters, means the kinky un-PC feel more of a connection (so being gay is sort of like another kink, or something, in the opinion of the un-PC kinkster).
Just like the Declaimer, the Openly un-PC person makes me feel intimidated and threatened (I may not be a woman, but I’m not exactly “man” either as far as I can figure out; and transmisogyny is usually part and parcel of their deal – quite apart from my being not okay with racism etc). They make a space feel much less safe in general. I wish I didn’t feel so intimidated; it makes me a poor ally if I can’t stick up for the oppressed groups when I should. My usual tactic is to look around with a “is this okay with you guys?” expression – but generally I see acceptance or even laughter for the misogyny/racism/ableism/classism that has been expressed. With no backup, and low energy (because, introvert trying to socialise) I am forced to retreat. If I can, I mention something about it later to people I know better.
Fortunately, the Openly un-PC are relatively rare (I’m sure more people there hold un-PC views, but they keep quieter about them, and it’s easier to challenge them if they do emerge). Nevertheless, they are the most unpleasant of the bunch and quickly poison the atmosphere for me.
I don’t need to explain why I dislike these people, do I?
Not all of these people are present at every munch, although it’s rare to find a munch without at least one or two Declaimers. Some are intermittent (or, in the case of the Overly Open, the same person might be at every munch but they aren’t always being an Overly Open person) and some are only occasional. Nevertheless, they are all types of people who make socialising that much harder for me and who interfere with my enjoyment of the BDSM social scene.