Urban Dungeon & Montreal Fetish Scene Issues

new mfwurban logoSo yeah, if you want to deal with missing stairs, unfortunately one of Montreal’s more popular fetish venues is in the middle of one of those scenarios. Urban Dungeon, a play space that hosts numerous events and is closely affiliated with Montreal Weekend, is run by someone with a known reputation for abuse. It is not challenging to find people who will tell you Herr_Kommandandt is a dangerous person. Nonetheless tons of people who are aware of this continue to hang out there including people whose friends (whom they believe!) have had alleged consent violations or other abuse happen to them.

I avoided it personally, because I got a bad gut feeling about the whole thing, one of those intuitive guesses that something seems off- maybe it was the pile of people with resumes for profiles about all the things they are involved in, which I always see as a bad sign because it means they want you to respect them off the bat and award them authority.

And because I run the 18 to 35 munch, people tell me shit. It wasn’t unsurprising to get given a FYI about eight separate incidents and people. But still, it’s really fucking thorny to deal with. There’s literally no way I can stop this, no matter how much social capital I have and the best I can hope is to close ranks with the TNG style stuff I do run and tell my friends and guests to be careful.

But other than that, it’s not like I can go to the police and say “oh by the way there’s alleged alleged abuse going down between kinky people who use psuedonyms, and probably none of the people this happened to will testify because they are utterly fuck terrified of the social or legal consequences and because he preys on people from marginalized populations (sex workers, the mentally ill whom he can say are just “crazy”). Nobody believes or trusts that they’ll be heard in any meaningful way. I sure as fuck don’t- it’s not like anyone listened about Dunter.

I’ve told my fellow organizers at MEOW and the secret TNG play party. I even told someone connected to the Urban Dungeon who has clean hands, in case he’s simply been oblivious. I mean I doubt it, but I’m clinging to the idea that he’s not an accessory because I need some innocence to stay motivated.

But it’s a rock and a hard place, because it’s nearly impossible to get anyone to publicly admit this shit happened to them. They’ll talk, candidly, and off the record, but… eugh.

All I’ve got to go on with this is fleeting social capital, so I guess if I end up publicly known as that crazy vindictive bitch in Montreal I guess you guys know what happened. It’s not like I ever go to Montreal Fetish Weekend anyway.

Siiiiigh. Sorry guys, it’s not a sexy anecdote, it’s one of the harsh realities of the BDSM scene that the terror of being outed and the limited pool of events make things a lot darker than they should be. They’re bigger than me, they have a larger pool of social capital and they have more money than me, but fuck, if I can’t use my popularity to tell people about this what good is it?

If you believe me as a reliable source, stay away from Urban Dungeon.

Follow along here:

If You’re Not Into It’s Really Fucking Annoying

But honestly even if I were a femsub, some people’s approach would still make me a very angry woman.

I take dominants hitting on me really, really personally. I don’t know why, but it’s one of the fastest ways to get under my skin in the scene.

For example, at the last play party I was more than a little pissed to be asked repeatedly if I wanted to be spanked by a guy in a clown suit. The comedy of the situation does not escape me, but nonetheless, I wanted to scream at the guy. But, it’s also something I can’t really figure out if I’m too sensitive about or not. After all, dominants are dominant. I’m a dom. It’s not like there’s anything inherently wrong with it, right?

Argh, argh, argh!

I am sick of dom guys surreptitiously approaching me and asking me that… you know if I ever wanted to try the other side, they will be my manly and trusty escort. Or guys old enough to be my dad (or not) telling me they can see the submissiveness waiting to come out. For crying out loud, motherfuckers, I don’t tell you that I can see your inner submissive, like it was some sort of imaginary bra strap.

Even the “Where’s your collar, girl?!” trolls really don’t seem to understand how they come across, although that crew is so delusionally trying to live in Gor-land that they’re hardly my problem. It’s like- nooo, it didn’t possibly occur to me to try a widely available fantasy that is in half the romance novels I can buy, even before you factor in intentional kink stories like 50shades. Golly, Mr. Dom! A girl like me is ready to shuck it all off because you can’t relate to me in any way that doesn’t indulge your fetishes!

Not to mention that I don’t think these guys understand that without my consent, what they are proposing is a lot more threatening than say, just asking a girl out to the movies. Dude, you want to quasi forcibly sexually subjugate someone. I want to forcibly sexually subjugate someone. I at least have the self awareness that I don’t presume the entire damn universe shares my kink exactly the way I like it.

Like, sub guys can be creepy in their own special way, but at least the ones that don’t understand consent are largely only a hazard to my feet being undrooled on. They are not like Mr. Grabby hands “May I play with your hair?” who then was happily pawing my surgical stitches after I said an explicit no, because he couldn’t fathom that I said anything else but okay.

I feel like most male doms are perfect angels in this regard and don’t deserve the rant cannon, but those few bastards who can’t behave are a huge part of the more domly than-thou internal competition. You want to know why Ms. New Domme is acting like you shat on her dog because you deigned to speak with her? Some of it is because she might be a jerk and has been informed by porn that she needs to act like Mistress Bitchface, but I lay even odds that at least a factor of the apparent stick rammed up her ass is the very real awareness that without loud advertising people are going to assume she’s a sub. Not vanilla. Not a “kinkster” of no affiliation or a switch.

There is zero wrong with being a femsub, of course, but trust me, anything that decreases this sort of interaction is going to seem extremely inviting.

Why Feminism and BDSM Go Together Well

Oh Noes, Feminisms! Red Alert!

Bra go poof!Say feminism, and 95% of your audience battens down their hatches like you said “hurricane”, or finds something else suddenly very, very interesting. Like the carpet, or their own shoes, or that urgent appointment they just remembered to alphabetically file all the food in their pantry. At least, as a femdom, I can be openly feminist and nobody bats an eye. Of course a significant number of people will confuse this with female supremacy, which is an entirely different thing. The relationship BDSM, as a whole, has with this philosophical approach is a bit more dubious.

Much of this is because BDSM is made up of people, and people have problems with feminism. In my mind part of the problem with feminism, is that it’s a really big tent with a couple of centuries of activism and writing under its belt. There is no central board of feminism, so pretty much anyone can do it, and say whatever they like. And like any big movement, it’s  going to be in a state of constant internal argument. It’s also part of the left, which means that like all forms of left-y ism, it occasionally shades into woo (the Goddess!) or becomes way too self flogging for popular consumption (freegan-vegan!), or the lingo of the current generation of activism  makes it impenetrable to the novice (check your cis-privilege!).

Before I launch into talking about the subject, it’s necessary to address a number of things- first of all Straw Feminists. If you’re not familiar with the philosophical ideas, it’s quite possible that you imagine a feminist to be an angry, ugly woman who seeks to do horrible things to men. This is one of the reasons why as a femdom nobody assumes I shouldn’t be feminist (at least the angry and sadistic part) which is depressing for other reasons. If your idea of feminism is about doing mean things to men, you are doing it wrong. 

Of course, some, if not most of the shit that feminism gets flung its way is the same old tired misogyny that makes women expressing themselves be subject to attacks so vile that they functionally justify feminism.  If you think feminists are all angry scolds, you are part of a proud tradition that dates to before women were permitted to own property or vote. And you don’t know what a feminist is.

Another thing you need to take into consideration is that feminism only exists within the bounds of the same culture that everything else does. Thus there are feminists that are porn hating prudes and feminist porn stars. There are feminists who are sexist, or transphobic, and feminists who love everyone equally. Any idea within feminism can be taken to extremes just like any other idea could.

On the other hand, I’m taking it for granted that if you are this many paragraphs into this blog post you are probably sex positive, probably pretty diversity friendly and you like lots of different kinds of people. If you don’t identify as a feminist you at least think equality is a good thing (unless you are secretly or not so secretly under the impression women should rule). If you’re not, please feel free to get nice and foamy in the comments. Additionally, I’m not going to address the “Not a feminist but…” thing in this post, but save that for another time.

But, onto how feminism gets treated in kink discourse!

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Why Are There So Many Nerds In Kink?

The reality is that I think kinks are as evenly distributed through the population as anything else, but when you enter the BDSM scene, you can be reasonably confident that all the markers of nerdery will be present in a good percent of the people at you average play party or munch.

I can go to a munch and be more than confident that I won’t be the only one who enjoys RPGs. While genre classics are transitory and I can easily find people who enjoyed Starship Troopers or girls who grew up with Anne Mccaffrey and Mercedes Lackey, the overlap between the poly, the pagan, the terminally nerdy gamers, the historical re-creationists and so forth has been long remarked upon to the point that it’s practically a cliche. If you tel me “she volunteers at the Rennefaire” I’m not going to think it’s at all unusual if you tell me “she is also extremely interested in table top, is a practising Norse priestess and is one third of a poly triad in which she is the alpha submissive”. And don’t tell me you didn’t notice either!

I’ve seen it remarked on negatively, as nerdery is not for everyone- nerd culture also has its problems, which can make a barrier to entry for people who are incidentally kinky but not really nerdy. But I don’t accept the premise that kinky people are inherently *Smarter*. I actually know plenty of dumb nerds. Ability to enjoy specific intellectual property is no marker of a high IQ.

So why so many damn nerds?

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Femdom Role Model

For me, the paucity of female dominants creates another problem. Specifically  as much as I argue against the idea that a mentor is a requirement, scarcity allows for definition of the role by the few, and this is a role with very few people in it indeed, the most vocal of which are paid to dominate.

So from the outside, way back before I got heavily involved in doing it, the whole thing looked, not like a barrel of fun and horniness, but somewhere between goth playboy bunny and indulgent girlfriend.

The pageantry  protocol and fetishware do no help to an outsider- while femsub gets constant reinvention (even if standards referenced by The Story of O still hold pretty fast for something first published in 1954 and translated to English in the mid-sixties). There is also, paradoxically  a lot more agency of actual women in building the fantasy. Gor might have been the wank of a male philosophy prof, but everything from Story of O through to 50 Shades has a female author getting her wank on, and one mustn’t neglect all the stops along the way in the highly fertile genre of romance, heavily seeded with women writing for female consumption.

But what about me, a dom?

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Hosting a Munch: The Kink Scene Guide to Building Community

I’m not an expert (hey, it’s my tag line!) but I’ve learned a few things in hosting Montreal’s 18-35 Munch and attending some.

Venue:

It’s better to hold it in a public place than a private home, and bars or open spaces are better than restaurants. The ideal space encourages mingling so you’re not stuck talking to the same people. Ideally even couches are better than tables. You want people to be able to move in and out of groups comfortably, to escape people they don’t want to talk to but also so they don’t shut everyone else.

Bars often have a group space you can reserve. Sometimes this is a back room or a balcony.  There is often no charge because your event brings a lot of a patrons who will turn around and buy a drink or two.

If you’re not into bars, or you have people under the local drinking age, the next place to look is your local sexual health centre and similar open minded community centre places.

Naming & Advertising

Naming your munch something innocuous may sound cheesy, but it makes it easier than making newbies have to ask “Is this the PERVERTS CLUB!?”

Post ads for your munch on places like fetlife. In the ad, clearly set out the address of the place, what people should wear or bring, and some guidelines for what’s involved. A friendly reminder to buy a drink, even a Shirley Temple, cannot go amiss.

A sample ad:

It’s that time of  again! Come down to [Venue] for our 14th [City Name] Monthly Meet and Greet. Please bring your smiles and a willingness to have a good time to the reserved room at the back. Can’t find us? Ask the bar tender for the [Quirky Abbreviation].

[Start & Finish Time]

[Venue website & address]

Dress Code: Plain clothes (collars okay!)

Cost: Please tip the waiter!

The sooner you can post your munch the sooner people can fit it into their schedules. I run the event on Thursday and encourage it to be more of a drop-in-after-work thing, but you should pick a day that feels right for you.

Keep in mind most people who RVSP will flake, so don’t feel if it is a failure if only half the group shows up.

Hosting:

Have a contact email or PM system where you can be reached. Fetlife’s ‘events’ let people list themselves as coming or thinking of coming. There’s also things like meetup.com or your country’s fetish websites. At the actual event try to arrive early. Silly hats or bright shirts help people pick you out -so you can use that to help people find you. Ideally multiple hosts with different genders are good. It spreads the work out and helps people feel they can communicate.

It’s a good idea to play an active hosting role, which means to watch for new people and greet them as they come in. Offer to introduce them. If people seem to being wallflowers, wander over and say hi. Some people need a while to warm up: different people have different levels of social comfort so the shy person may just need five minutes to warm up.

Be promotional to other people’s efforts unless their idea is truly stupid or harmful. For example if someone else does a play party when you talk to people at your munch you can bring it up… but obviously truly stupid ideas like say, and open invite, non-consent themed play party in some strange guy’s basement.

Keep an ear out for problems. You will hopefully not have a predator show up, but you may have to ask someone to leave if they make it unpleasant for the other people. That’s the other advantage to reserving a venues party area.

Problems:

Drama, cliques and that person with the odious personality who makes everyone uncomfortable and never show up, venues that prove unreliable and a bunch of other things will happen.

A lot of fighting is over territory. Once things get started, people may get cranky either because you feel like that since you put the effort in you own something, or because once a good thing gets going everyone wants to help. As the organizer you’ll get a lot of people dictating how things could be bigger, better, and so forth. Thank them for their input and enthusiasm- many of them don’t mean it to be critical, and it’s not worth challenging people who are cranky. Let the bitter people be bitter.

There’s no solution for cliques but open circulation venues cut down on the closed circle look. Taking the time to talk to everyone and make introductions based on (if you know them) non-kinky interests helps. Get people to talk about their hobbies, fan memberships… all the non-controversial stuff that makes people build friendships.

On the other hand, as the host, try to stay out of the petty stuff. For example if two events start a competition for members, avoid picking sides because there’s generally little substance other than big egos and hot air.

And of course there’s the creepers and the trailing chaos. You probably won’t ever need to involve the cops, but as the host, be ready to pony up and ask people to leave. If say, someone is being stalked or bothered, be ready to involve police if the situation requires it. DO NOT treat the kink scene like a private world outside the law. It’s less embarrassing to have say, someone’s crazed ex-wife escorted away then the venue calling the cops after she clings to her ex’s leg and attempts suicide.

And be ready to tell a lot of people stuff that feels very basic, like BDSM safety or things that should be common sense like that subs don’t have to obey everyone who calls themselves a dom or that not everyone is a secret leather master from an ancient European house.

All this talk of trouble has probably scared you away, but take heart! most evenings will just be a great night out with new people and old friends.