I was at a friends' a few weeks ago when I got chatting to a guy, who my friend had pre-warned me, worked in journalism. We made the usual small talk and when he found out I worked in the gay fetish world I was bombarded with question after question about (fetish) guys - particularly ones using 'fans only' pages to promote products. As someone who is far too tight with money to pay for anyone's 'fans only' page, I genuinely didn't know the answer to his question. I was also was very conscious that he was looking for information to write an article exposing gay fetishists and guys using these pages primarily for the purpose of promotion. What led on from his questioning, was a conversation about his integrity and how damaging his 'story' was - not only to the kink community, but to sex positive queer people and the wider gay community. I did wonder that demographic would love to read a defamatory article on gay fetishists and assumed that it would not be a sex-positive queer audience. I found it strange that a gay man, the same age as myself, in the same circle of liberal minded friends, wanted to throw a group of gay guys 'under the bus', in a titillating exposé. I'm not naïve. I've got a good understanding of how journalism works, and I also live in the reality where I know shitty people exist. What saddened me more though, is that for the first time in a long time I found myself having to be careful of how much information I share about kink with a gay guy asking me about it. Conversations about sex and kink are so important to have. Educating ourselves and others is one of the primary reasons I love the kink community. Most fetishists I know can do this well. The benefits of being confident in who you are (sexually) and having the opportunity to explore kink to me, is something that has a huge impact on how I function as a gay man. The fetish community has provided me with a stronger sense of self then most mainstream gay culture ever could, and many people I've met over the years have supported me, guided me and help me to explore my sexuality. It's these experiences that make me want to be open about sex and kink to anyone who asks. I will most willingly pass on any knowledge and wisdom I can, to enrich someone's sexual identity. Where is the line of oversharing or under-sharing our fetish and sexuality with non-kinksters? And at what point do you stop being authentic and genuine and start hiding part of yourself and lifestyle? When we share too much information, too quickly, with someone we don't know very well, that person has the potential to betray our trust. Conversations around fetish and kink can be provocative (as Mr journalist must have learnt on the first day of school). The recipient of the information may not be as sensitive as you would want them to be. It takes time to establish this level of mutual respect. When we overshare, we can inadvertently flood the person who's listening with what can be perceived as 'TMI', and this doesn't give us the opportunity to go into the intricacies of fetish lifestyles and relationships. Keeping an open dialogue is fundamental, but what I've learnt from trying to educate people around fetish lifestyles is that you must think about what information you want share, and how you convey it. What is that person going to take away from the conversation? And is it positive? Informative? I have the luxury of being surrounded by kink-positive people, pretty much all the time, and over the years I've become very comfortable, honest, and at times maybe even too open about my fetish lifestyle. What I've learnt is, if you want to support the fetish and kink community keep having those conversations, but be aware of what, and just how much you choose to share.
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