The Metamorphosis of BDSM Groups. The Good The Bad and The Ugly!
Over 28 years ago as I was in my last teenage year in San Francisco, I had the
luck to meet some kinky people. I was able to meet a small, very private group
of BDSM folks. There was really no leader; there were a few folks in the group
that had many years in the LifeStyle under their belt and they sort of were the
folks that everyone looked up to for their experience and guidance. I was
welcomed into their group only after many months of interacting one on one with
three people in their group. Until the day I was asked if I would like to meet
others with the same feelings, I was not even aware that they were part of a
larger group. 28 years ago, in most of the country, I would guess my experience
was the norm, and seeing I was in one of the most liberal cities it was most
likely even harder for folks to find like-minded people in other areas of the
USA. When I moved away from San Francisco, I carried a letter of introduction to
a new group in the area I was moving to. Due to the large difference in the
style of BDSM the new group was involved in, I decided to practice my kink in a
private setting and kept it personal for many years. After many years in a
marriage, I moved back to my home state and ended up a single man again. At this
time I started looking for like-minded people once again.
Now we move ahead to 2000. Iím back in my home state and type in a few key words
in the computer and lo and behold, I have access to more LifeStyle information
in my area then I have ever seen. After a very short time I meet someone from a
local group online and am invited to a party, sight unseen and am welcomed into
a local group as soon as I had learned a few people's names; I am in. Wow this
is great, people are nice, I am accepted quickly into a group and make many
friends. This is a very brief history of my experiences in finding and belonging
to the Internet Age of BDSM groups.
So as you can see, I only have about three years in the new open BDSM community.
And I have seen in these three short years a long-standing club forced into
obscurity, a new group take its place -- this new group enlists help from good
people then decides to make the move to become a business and now we have a
group of folks that are very out and use this as a tool of intimidation. Is this
happening in our area only? The answer is no, it is happening all over the
What seems to be happening nationwide is what starts out to be caring people
starting a club not keeping their egos in check, moving into a stage of
paranoia, and becoming a nightmare for everyone around them that they feel are a
It seems to me some of these groups go through a metamorphosis as follows.
A single person or a couple fairly new to the LifeStyle forms a group to bring
together people to enjoy and learn from each other. They draw on a group of
strong-willed friends to help in their endeavors. The group grows and becomes a
popular force in their area. It is a combined effort involving many peoples all
offering great ideas and their time to grow the group. A true collaborative
effort enjoyed by all. Everyone feels they are growing the group together.
Then the problems start. As the membership numbers grow, so do the egos of the
founders of the group. For many of these new leaders this is their first effort
to lead a group. In time paranoia starts. Any other groups no matter how small
in their area become a perceived threat to their success. Anyone having even a
small get together becomes a problem for them if they are not on the guest list.
They start using their newfound power to enlist people that are more followers
into their fold by offering an insider seat and the promise that they will be on
the A-list at all events. And now this shared paranoia starts pushing away all
the strong-willed leadership types that first helped grow the group.
In most of these cases the group splits; the core people the founders have
pushed away start a new group looking for the good fun feelings they had when
they all worked together. In the past this was normal and you would have some
friendly competition or you would end up with two groups very different in their
mission and in the best cases you ended up with two groups that complement each
other. But now comes the twist, and this is a very recent trend. One group opts
to become a business / corporation. There are a few things that seem to fall
into place to accomplish this. The incorporated group may see the large numbers
of members as a way to generate funds via membership dues and see that they
might be able to turn this into a business, and also having circumstances in
life that can afford them to be out.
Now for most groups incorporation affords them protection from liability and can
lay out the groundwork for a formal set of bylaws and free elections, and offers
hope their group will live on. And for others it opens up a venue to seek grant
money. But for the groups operating in a haze of paranoia, it gives them a big
stick to threaten anyone around them that they feel are competing for members or
are perceived as a threat. And this stick is outing; it comes in many forms, one
being if you keep voicing your opinion they will make threats to take legal
action. Or they start leaking information about past members knowing that now
they are out you cannot do anything about it. It seems that some feel
incorporation is not only a veil to fight liability but also lets them become
very improper in their handling of people's very private information. I find
this incredible; because in our LifeStyle the one rule always held above all
others is to never use personal information about a person to cause harm and
that no matter what you would never use any threat of outing someone.
It is a shame with the large influx of new, inexperienced and paranoid group
leaders that these new leaders have found a new use for the benefits inherent in
the incorporation of BDSM; the use of incorporation is fast becoming a tool for
As I look back at my journey of over 28 years in this LifeStyle, I long for the
days back in the 1970ís when you had to look hard and had to invest a lot of
time getting to know people before you were trusted enough to hold information
about a very private part of a person's life. And the people we looked to for
guidance were folks that had many years invested in the LifeStyle.