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Teaching an old dog new tricks

by Race Bannon

Up Your Alley street fair seems to have a high percentage of sexy attendees in full leather or other fetish gear. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
Up Your Alley street fair seems to have a high percentage of sexy attendees in full leather or other fetish gear. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Right after the bucket-load of events leading up to the iconic Up Your Alley street fair, I knew what I wanted to write about this week. The second a certain pivotal inspiring moment occurred at the fair, I knew I needed to mention it to my readers. Then something else happened, so this column is now about two things.

Luckily, the two things I'm writing about relate to each other rather well.

At the fair this year I had an amazing time, as usual. Lots of sexy men, friends aplenty, many of whom I only see once or twice a year at such events. An electric sexual charge was in the air that wafted through the crowd like erotic fairy dust. It was just an awesome time and I loved it.

But, over the course of a few brief minutes during the fair I had one of those "ah ha" moments.

The sexy pup that inspired Up Your Alley epiphany moment that Race had, and the pups equally sexy Sir on the left and handler on the right. photo: M. Simpson  

An extremely buffed, sexy-bodied man in pup hood, pup mitts, harness and buttplug pup tail bounded up on all fours to a friend accompanying me. The interaction was quick, intense and fun. They played in the street as handler and pup for a few hot moments. I found it uncharacteristically sexy to witness.

Then the pup came up to me. Pup handling is not my forté. It's not historically been something I've resonated with mentally. That changed, in an instant. Unexpectedly. In a flash, I "got" the turn on of pup play.

It turns out that the sexy pup under the hood was a friend of mine. I hadn't known about the pup side of his erotic personality, and I sensed that this was one of his first forays into publicly expressing that proclivity. It was so darn hot to have him at my feet, nuzzling me, pawing at me, rubbing against my crotch. For whatever reason, the planets aligned, and I plugged into the joy that evidently a lot of my pup and handler friends have known about for a while.

Why do I mention this? Because at 64 years of age, and having been deeply active in the leather and kink scene since I was 18, I still learned something new. I learned something about a new kink. I learned something about myself. I was yet again reminded that our sexualities are not static things. They grow and morph over time in ways we can't always predict.

I think it's vitally important to approach life with an open mind, ready to absorb new experiences and adopt them into our definition of self if we so choose. So it is with sex, kink and relationships. Never stop exposing yourself to new ideas. Don't unknowingly block yourself from trying something that might ultimately prove to be a lot of fun. Realize that learning is ongoing. If you stop learning, in life and in sex, you shortchange yourself.

If it's not fun, why bother?

A few days after that epiphany on Folsom Street, someone I know asked me for my advice since he was a newcomer to BDSM.

In the interest of sticking with the theme here of teaching an old dog new tricks and learning about kink, I thought I'd include my advice here.

I think BDSM beginners sometimes get confused by the onslaught of information and advice. So, here's what I typically say to newcomers with the addition of telling them that if they have specific questions they're welcome to ask. Perhaps you'll find this useful too.

One of the most popular attractions in recent years at the Up Your Alley street fair is the Steamworks Twister stage, where barely -clad men twist and contort themselves for the titillation and amusement of the crowd. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

1. Dive into a social network of fellow BDSM people. Not just one person. Many people. Entertain different perspectives. Get different opinions. The more diverse your BDSM friends and acquaintances are the more realistic and grounded will be your own approach. Nothing replaces involvement in a community for entrance into any subculture, BDSM included.

2. Learn enough to have fun and keep you and your play partners safe. Don't assume you have to know everything. The truth is most BDSM players play within a narrow range of erotic activities and most techniques aren't all that difficult to learn. (Be prepared for that opinion to sound like heresy to some.) There are those who will tout their BDSM technique credentials or years of experience as some sort of pass to consider themselves at a higher level than you. They're not.

3. Never forget that human connection is what it's all about. The highly technically skilled BDSM player who walks through their play in a paint by numbers fashion is boring as hell. Take the person with whom you can be closely connected and bonded with over another who just happens to have more technical expertise. Yes, enough knowledge and experience to play safely and enjoyably is needed, but technique takes a back seat to connection. I always try to remember Joseph Bean's advice: If you're not in love, don't do the scene. Think of love and connection as the same thing in this case.

4. Never assume you know it all. That includes never assuming your way is the right way, or that anyone else's way is the right way. How people approach and do BDSM varies person to person, situation to situation. Sexualities are as different as trees and snowflakes. No two are like, nor should they be. Create your own erotic life. Lift tidbits from others, but don't parrot anyone.

5. Trust the red flags. As a friend once said to me, the red flags are not waving you in. If someone seems dangerous, boastful, arrogant, deceptive, or otherwise potentially bad to befriend, don't. Trust your guts. Yes, ask others you trust about the person, but always trust your guts. And remember, your genitals and erotic brain will sometimes try to override good sense and reason. Be aware of that at all times.

6. Have fun. Let me repeat that. Have fun. If it's not fun, why bother? BDSM is not supposed to be "work" or rigid or mired in countless sets of rules or checklists. Go with the flow and enjoy yourself and at the same time focus on your play partners also having the most fun possible.

7. Share what you know, mostly through your play. Nothing impacts someone as deeply as having a good, fun BDSM experience during actual play. Yes, sharing your knowledge and experience in other ways is important, but the play is the thing.

8. Have fun. I know, I said that before. But it's really, really important.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.

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