Home / SEXPress / Searching for Kinky Resources
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Searching for Kinky Resources

Google+ Pinterest Print
In your column with Sarah Sloane [about suggestions for people whose partners would like them to be sexually dominant], you mentioned, "There are also plenty of kink-oriented classes and organizations in Wisconsin that you can visit to learn more about what fun can be had." Could you give me some direction in how to find such classes and resources?

I wondered whether I might get a question like this after my Q&A with Sloane. Why allude to local resources that could be helpful to readers, but then not give any information about how to find them? Unfortunately, BDSM is still widely misunderstood in our society, and because of this, many kink-oriented organizations place a very high priority on maintaining the privacy of their members.

There is some kind of power exchange involved in many, if not all, sexual encounters. We trust people, make ourselves vulnerable to others, let people into our bodies and give up or take control in sexual situations, and this power play is an essential component of pleasure for lots of folks. BDSM (which is a compound acronym that stands for bondage and discipline/domination and submission/sadism and masochism) makes this power exchange explicit and takes it to the next level. Because BDSM can involve intense or painful sensations, sexual subservience, humiliation or other "taboo" activities, it is often seen by those outside the kink community as "sick," wrong or even abusive.

In my mind, nothing could be further from the truth. Last week, I facilitated a workshop at a local college about how the basic frameworks commonly used in BDSM can benefit everyone, even those who recoil at the sight of a pair of fuzzy handcuffs. In our society, we're raised to believe that talking about sex is either shameful or will "ruin the moment." If we're good lovers, we should "magically" know how to please our partners and do exactly what they want. In reality, this leads to a lot of major sex fails, disappointment and even sexual assault, if someone assumes they have consent when they do not. Folks in the BDSM community negotiate exactly what they do and do not want to do before any kind of play takes place, and know that everyone's boundaries can change from day to day or even minute to minute. They establish "safewords" as a means to communicate quickly when boundaries are close to being crossed. They uphold a community standard that all activities should be "safe, sane and consensual," and if a person violates that standard, the community publicly condemns such actions. All of our sex lives would be immensely better if everyone adopted these standards.

Unfortunately, since not everyone sees things this way, many kinky groups remain somewhat underground. I asked some local members of the BDSM community what they would feel comfortable recommending publicly to a person who was searching for resources.

One person said, "My recommendation to people who inquire about BDSM groups in Milwaukee (or anywhere) is that they join FetLife.com [described by someone else as "the Facebook of kinksters"]. On that site they will be able to find out the events, munches and general happenings that are going on around the city, state, and world." Another suggested, "[S]earch Yahoo! Groups as well.  Most local groups also keep a Yahoo! Group, and it might be more comfortable for someone new to use Yahoo! Groups, as opposed to FetLife." A third advised, "If people are looking for partners, they can go to alt.com, collarme.com and okcupid.com." Several people noted that back in the day, one could do an Internet search for "Milwaukee BDSM" or "Milwaukee munch" ("munch" is a common term for a BDSM social gathering), but as sex-related information on the web (both good and bad) has proliferated, it's become less and less easy to do any kind of Googling that will turn up anything reputable.

One person noted, "In my opinion, the safety of the members [of local BDSM groups] is the main concern. I believe that openness is important, but so is a regard for members' personal and private lives, as well as consideration for their safety." So if you do search for and connect with local groups, do so with respect for others.

Larger gatherings or conferences such as MadtownKinkfest or Kinky Kollege are more widely advertised than local groups, and these events also can be great places to learn and make connections.

A final wise comment from a local kinkster: "[T]he most important thing about BDSM is getting educated, because what we do can have deadly consequences. Go to classes at the Tool Shed. Research online (even YouTube has flogging lessons) [and] get at least three opinions or a consensus of opinions. And the most important part is to get out from behind the mouse, [because] the Internet world and the real-time world are dramatically different."

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.