Living in the grey: Democratizing sex amid a crisis

  • by Race Bannon
  • Monday May 4, 2020
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A Folsom Street Fair smooch, altered to current times. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
A Folsom Street Fair smooch, altered to current times. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

What constitutes being a kinkster? In what way is being a leather person different from being kinky? With the ever-growing categories of emerging sex subcultures, how do we clearly demarcate someone's sexual identity? Is that even important?

Younger folks increasingly adopt the catchall self-definition of queer, but queer means different things to different people. Does that make navigating communities that revolve around some sort of sexual commonality easier or more difficult? Perhaps both?

One of the men I have recently become closer to is trans. We have talked about going to sex parties together when the pandemic subsides. It seems entirely unremarkable to me now compared to not that many years ago.

Trax Bar, like all others, is closed. photo: BARtab  

My last column was about how some folks play with gender erotically and it was an eye opener for me to realize how prevalent such play is across the entire LGBTQ spectrum. The liberation and freedom those I interviewed displayed was breathtaking.

Sexual techniques and insights abound on the web in easily consumable form. The same goes for information about rethinking relationship norms. This has democratized sex and relationships in a way that would not have passed muster in most of the circles I ran in once upon a time.

This all relates to something I have been thinking about lately, how all this has brought about a less rigidly defined type of sexual being. That lack of rigidity also trickles into relationship options too with more choices in how we view partnering and love bonds.

It seems to me that as each day passes we live in a greyer sex and eros world, less confined by entrenched black and white thinking. We live in an era where individuality reigns supreme even as we pledge allegiance to certain communities.

We might profess membership in a certain group or demographic but the options to easily cross camps at will gives us a type of freedom that cultural gatekeepers of the past would have quickly squelched.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because if we want to maintain a sense of community with our fellow erotic and relationship rebels, we need to accept that we will be socializing and playing amid many who walk varying paths. Uniformity is on the decline. Diversity is on the rise.

The current pandemic threatens our social and sexual venues. The future of large events and gatherings at which many in the sexual communities connect is in question. This places further pressure on an already limited set of resources in terms of bars, meeting locations, play spaces, and event venues. We are going to need to rally together in order to maintain community.

Remembering gender-blurred fun at the SF Eagle. photo: BARtab  

Getting creative
Yet another wrinkle of the pandemic is the financial devastation so many are experiencing. Whether it is one of our treasured bars or event venues, or the economic fragility with which many individuals now struggle, it spells the further tenuous nature of the cohesion and viability of our sexuality communities, at least for a while.

Those external factors make it even more important that we embrace each other's differentness.

The subsets of sexual identities and relationship variations need to figure out how to get along and thrive in tandem. We are going to need to share our spaces. We are going to have to get comfortable that many of our events will now be populated with kinks, genders, fetishes and relationship configurations that do not match our own. They may not even exist in the same realm as our usual cast of characters. Coexisting is the solution, not the problem.

Do not misinterpret my position as one of total capitulation to homogeneity. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think now more than ever is when we need to hold on to our uniqueness, individually and collectively, since that is the well from which those who march to the beat of a different drummer find strength.

Still, I think we all need to get more comfortable in the grey. We need to see someone else expressing their sexuality or connection needs in a way entirely counter to our usual comfort zone and celebrate it. By doing so that same acceptance will hopefully reflect in return and they will accept you for who you are and how you want to act.

The crux of my point here is that we are experiencing an unprecedented splintering into factions while at the same time having to deal with an international crisis that will make us rethink how we socialize and play together.

An overreaction perhaps, but my sense right now is that our world is forever changed. So are those elements of the world in which us erotic and relationship rebels commune. We need to get creative. We need to become more accepting. We need to figure out how to get our needs met optimally while stepping on others the least. We need to foster kindness.

I know kindness seems like an odd directive in a column that mostly talks about sex, but it's only through kindness that we will get through this and have a solid community to step back into when the fog of the pandemic rolls back.

Okay, I am done rambling. I am going to back to isolation in my small Castro apartment. I will scan the sex and kink sites and dream of future connections. I will chat and cam with those I would rather be with physically.

I will jump onto one of the many online Zoom or Twitch events to maintain a sense of camaraderie with my friends and other kinksters. I will read articles and blogs about sex and relationships and discuss them online because that is what is available. But I will dream of a better future, even though that future will probably look drastically different than my past.

Resources Guide
The LGBTQ Leather, Kink and Sexuality Communities Resources Guide is a "living" document and will be updated ongoing as more information is made available.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.

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