July/August 2002


Inclusion, Expansion, Diversity and Motivation
Picking our way through the cultural minefields
by ZooDirt


An overview

We hear all kinds of terms used in our lives today that seem to catch fire with the public at large. Some of the terms are oriented toward business or the corporate world, others are more general in nature. Most all of the general terms and phrases seem to have been force-fed to the public by the prevailing media organizations, including radio, TV, cable TV and the internet. People spend a lot of time trying to come up with terms and phrases that have mass appeal, even outside of the original target group. The public hears the term or phrase, likes it and it’s off to the races!

Some of the phrases and terms include: “Inclusion”, “mean spirited”, “…outside the box…”, “tolerance”, “judgementalism”, “added value”, “diversity”, and the list goes on and on. A term or phrase is born, and it flourishes for a time until the next catchy ditty comes along, at which time the latest term or phrase summarily replaces it. Some terms die a rapid death, and others linger on for years and years.

People hear these things and begin to attach all sorts of meanings to them that could apply to their own particular situation. Sometimes it seems that people go out of their way to reconstruct what they would say anyway in order to utilize the new phrase or word. Often it is done without a lot of thought. This is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of thought that went into the original use of the phrase or word… I’m talking about the repeatability quotient. How often people ‘shoehorn’ the new ditty into their everyday speech. Overuse follows in some cases. In other cases, it can become an integral part of the community, or even national philosophy.

So how do we explain this phenomenon? Is it a conspiracy by a politically correct board of collaborators? Is it a fad? Is it a blatant attempt to proselytize? Is it simply a fact of life in a world where instant communication is an everyday event? Is it simply easier to let someone else do the thinking and repeat what ‘they’ have come up with?

The truth is, some of all of the possible explanations discussed above is likely to be the case... as well as other reasons that are not mentioned. We live in a fad-driven, copycat society today in many ways. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the human animal.

For the purpose of this discussion, the following words and definitions are offered. (The sources of the definitions are listed at the end of this document)


\In*clu"sion\, n. [L. inclusio: cf. F. inclusion. See Include.] 1. The act of including, or the state of being included; limitation; restriction; as, the lines of inclusion of his policy. --Sir W. Temple.


\Di*ver"si*ty\, n.; pl. Diversities. [F. diversit['e], L. diversitas, fr. diversus. See Diverse.] 1. A state of difference; dissimilitude; unlikeness.

\Ex*pan"sion\, n. [L. expansio: cf. F. expansion.] 1. The act of expanding or spreading out; the condition of being expanded; dilation; enlargement.

n : the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action; "we did not understand his motivation"; "he acted with the best of motives" [syn: motive, need]
Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University

So much for the boring definitions! Now let’s pick some of this apart, examine the pieces before we try to tie the whole thing up into a sensible conclusion.

Inclusion and community motivation

It’s interesting to see the words “limitation” and “restriction” used in conjunction with the term inclusion, is it not? Perhaps this inclusion concept is more of a double-edge sword that we first thought. Everyone is fond of throwing the term inclusion around these days, but I’ve never seen anyone really discuss what exactly we mean by inclusion, nor have I seen anyone talking about whom we are excluding in the process.

When we decide to adopt a philosophy of inclusion, we are (by omission) excluding those who aren’t on the list of who to include. Certainly when we argue that “… the lifestyle should be more inclusive… “, we aren’t saying that we want to bring in people who would work against us at worst, or simply have no interest in our particular activities at best. Or are we? What kind of motivation would drive us to extend ourselves to everyone in our society?

My question as it pertains to alternative lifestyles has always been: “Do we really want to include everyone in what we do?” If this answer is yes, then the obvious next question is “Why? What motivates you to hold that belief?”

Some of those motivations could be:

  • An honest desire to ‘share’ our newfound experience.
  • A desire to see more people doing what we do so we will have ‘validation’ for our activities. (read “Safety in numbers”)
  • A belief that what we do is important enough to bring exposure to everyone for the purpose of universal acceptance.
  • A need to ‘normalize’ what we do for any various number of reasons, including (but not limited to) religious and moral reasons.
  • A personal desire to increase the partner-pool.
  • A commercial reason, such as seeking to increase sales of ‘BDSM’ related goods.

In rare cases, I’ve seen activists, educators and students who subscribe to the ‘education for its own sake’ theory. But by and large, those types are relatively few and far between.

Let’s take an example of inclusion as it relates to discrimination and the working world. Everyone I talk to (and respect) agrees that discrimination on the basis of color, religious convictions, ethnic or sexual orientation and gender is a counter-productive effort. Not only do we limit our field of workers, but also it’s simply wrong to practice discrimination on groundless reasons. It violates human dignity on every level.

However, in an effort to reach balance, we often fall into the ‘quota’ trap… We have sacrificed our ‘product quality’ by allowing (or forcing) unqualified workers into the mix in many cases. This isn’t a theory. This is a fact. I see it every day in my own work-world.

I suppose it can be argued that it’s a small price to pay to give everyone a fair chance, but I’d rather take the path of giving everyone a chance to EARN their way to competence and excellence rather than by grant. We will end up with a more qualified work force, better citizens, and our ‘product’ and society at large will reflect that fact. I don’t want to go too far afield with this notion… it’s simply an analogy that many of us have seen happen over time. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes we go too far and lose touch with the big picture.

Every time we seek to expand our circle, no matter what it is, we complicate the situation exponentially by sheer numbers, ideas, definitions and levels of expertise in any given area. A big crowd is less manageable than a small crowd. Increased numbers mean the need to increase structural overhead. (E.g. More divisions, more managers, bigger and better facilities, etc.) Put simply, if the cost of expanding structural overhead exceeds the potential for revenue, the expansion will result in financial losses. Any business knows this, and those who might not won’t be in business for very long.

In our realm, the ‘structural overhead’ equates to the leadership of the various groups themselves, as well as the facilities where the members of the groups can practice whatever it is they do. The ‘revenue’ equates to the people that we seek to target as an audience. It is my belief that the collective leadership of the various interest groups has a responsibility to keep their unique circles on target. Failing to do so will likely result in the loss of at least part of the core membership favor of those who are there as curious onlookers. It is pure folly to dilute one’s own resource pool for the sake of expanding our ‘business’ when the ‘customer base’ for that business is limited.

If one subscribes to the idea that everyone is interested, or can be enticed to be interested in your ‘product’, then this whole concept doesn’t work. I personally think that any aspect of ‘kink’ has a limited audience.

The very same principles apply in many ways to the kinky lifestyle. Any focus group, whether it be gay leather, D/s or SM, may find that by cultivating interests where interests don’t naturally exist, they risk driving from their ranks the core supporters which saw the need for the group in the first place. Why would we want to alienate those who share common interests in favor of a larger group who may not? Clearly, we will end up with a bigger group, but the traditions, expertise, intensity and leadership may well be lost. In short, what is at risk is the very essence, or culture of the group itself. How much ‘dilution’ is ok, and when is it too much? How big is ‘too big’?

These are some questions and issues for the leaders of the various groups to wrestle with. I am merely pointing out the existence of the phenomenon, and would not presume to speak for any of these groups. But I have seen much lost in my 34+ years in the SM and leather scene. Much of it has been given up for the sake of making things more ‘open’ for mass appeal. Many folks have written about the changes, and have made valid points on both sides of the isle. This is not another discussion of the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of it… This discussion focuses on the motivation for what has happened.

Inclusion and commercial motivation

If your business is the promotion and/or sales of whips, fetish gear, adult books, tapes, lotions, creams and the like, then you will have a completely different basis for ‘cultivating’ a crowd. It only serves your interest to find as many people as you can in order to buy your goods. More is better… Diversity is good, as is inclusion, because it expands your customer base.

Is it reasonable to think that sellers and resellers of ‘BDSM’ equipment have the best interests of the individuals who make up the various groups in mind? It would be nice to see that sort of responsibility, but it simply isn’t practical. We are a capitalist society, and god willing, will remain that way. There are very few business owners out there who will prioritize principles over product sales. There are some, but damned few.

So what other motivations could there be? I recently read an article by a prominent leather author, and noted a philosophy that I first heard back in the 1970’s when the disco thing happened. The gay community started to leap out of the closet, and the pop culture of the time was directly in tune with this event. Who knows whether the tail wagged the dog, or the dog wagged the tail. The fact is that a new era was dawning. Being gay became sort of trendy, and many folks jumped on the bandwagon by deciding that perhaps they were bisexual.

I’ve heard many numbers of people joke about ‘doubling the number of perspective partners through bisexuality. I’m not condemning those who have used this phrase. I merely want to point out yet another potentially strong motivation for inclusion and expansion. To hear elements of the ‘community’ leadership make the same sorts of comments causes me some concern. If we mix the potential for commercial growth with sexuality, we have a damned potent motivation for expanding the ‘BDSM’ scene.

The discussion here is again, an issue of numbers and not morality. I’m not making a judgement call on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of what happened… Only that it did happen, and that it did in fact have an impact on where we are today in the kink world. Please do not take offense at what I say here, because I assure you there is absolutely none intended.

Media motivation

Let us have a look at motivation by the media. Journalists are often activists of sorts. It takes a certain sort of person to want to become a journalist. Sometimes they are well meaning folks who truly believe in their ‘cause’, or want to help the ‘little guy’. Other times however, there are radical activists behind the pens and computer keys. Of course, there are purely professional motivations as with any field of work. Wanting to ‘grab the brass ring’, excel in their field, and/or find notoriety are all very real and valid motivations for a writer. Whoever it might be, they clearly understand the power they wield, and are happy to use it as necessary to further their goals. Fair enough in a free society, just as long as it’s not deceitful. Sadly, it all too often is.

I know a little about this, having studied journalism in school many years ago. My parents and teachers realized I had a certain flair for writing at an early age, and I was encouraged to write frequently. I thus was focused for some time on journalism, and learned how the business of writing worked. The illusion of nobility that I thought existed was often shaken when I began to understand some of the various motivations that were apparent behind the scenes. There were personal agendas, political agendas, (often driven by personal political leanings), and of course, the almighty dollar. The business of selling ‘news’ fascinated and frightened me simultaneously. Like any kitchen knife, a tool can be used to prepare a meal or to cut someone’s throat. The tool doesn’t care. It’s the motivation and intent on the part of the user.

I learned the ‘power of the press’. Thankfully I saw both the use of the written word as a constructive tool, and the abuse of the written word as a ploy for any number of reasons very early on in my studies. I found that often the business of writing for the masses was long on agendas and egos and short on principles and integrity.

Diversity and putting the thread together

I understand the need for diversity, and the significance of understanding people and societies unlike our own. Diversity is a step toward understanding differences that are often the foundation of fear. The real ‘payoff’ of diversity is being nudged into interacting with those who are different from us, and finding out that they too are just people with their own phobias, fears and biases. I think we all have found at one time or another that someone we didn’t like turned out to be ‘… not such a bad guy once I got to know him…”

Embracing diversity does not have to mean making these different folks a part of everything we do. I like to think of it as limited diversity. I would like to give an analogy of what I mean by ‘limited diversity’:

An automobile engine contains several fluids, two of which are engine oil and coolant. Both the oil and the coolant are important to the engine, but only in their own place and separately. If we mix the coolant and oil together, it no longer serves any useful purpose to the engine. The two substances have been emulsified, either by accident or by design, to form a new, milkshake colored solution.

Is it bad? Well, not in and of it self. Is it useful for anything? No, not really. The point is that neither substance when mixed together is worth anything to the original purpose. And yes, it IS bad for the engine. Will an engine still run with it? Yes, for a while.

Now I’ll further complicate the issue. It’s easy to argue that a limited amount of oil and coolant mixed together is not going to impact anyone particularly. But what if some entity or governing body deemed it ‘right’ to entice, cajole or outright force ALL oil refiners to always mix coolant to ALL their oil, and coolant developers to always mix oil with ALL their coolant products?

We will have lost the goodness that oil and coolant once had for their intended, although separate purposes. The new emulsion may have its own purpose in some way, equally as valid perhaps. But by initiating the change to a more diverse third product via whatever motive you might want to offer, we will have had a huge impact on the original purpose for the two separate products. The original users of the two products are left out in the proverbial cold. In order for them to have what they need, they must task themselves to reinvent the two separate products.

This analogy can get as crazy and complex as anyone would want to make it… However, the intention is to illustrate the simple concept of change and integration where it simply isn’t needed or even necessarily wanted.

To put it into more blunt and human terms, let’s look at another pretend scenario. Let’s say that over much time, everyone on the planet comes together as friends and equals. Over the years as discrimination goes by the wayside, everyone intermingles to a point where the eventual outcome is everyone looking exactly the same. How diverse is that? What will have become to all the ethnic and cultural differences that made each community of people unique? Many times what is construed as bigotry in regards to intermingling of cultures is really nothing more than fear of the loss of the culture and its people through mixing bloodlines. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a cultural issue.

I think that often times we forget that the mixing of different cultures on a limited basis allows us to understand the differences in other cultures, without having to sacrifice our own. It seems that we can’t do anything but all or nothing. We lament the loss of species of animals, bugs, birds, reptiles etc. through extinction. We maintain bloodlines for racehorses, pets and other animals in agriculture in order to preserve the highest definition in the species. We put a much value on these highly defined species. The fact that we don’t seem to be nearly as concerned about our own individual human biological definitions and social cultures becoming extinct through diversity absolutely puzzles me to no end.

Finally, the reader might ask, and rightly so: “What is the motivation of the writer?” I’ll be happy to explain what motivates me to write this. I get no money from this, and I have no political agenda to sell. I don’t want notoriety, pats on the back or critique. I have no financial investment in the ‘bdsm community’.

I am simply one who sees a tremendous value in the differences that we all have that make us unique in this world. As one who came from a truly diverse and exclusive beginning in SM and leather, I’ve seen a lot change. I am seeing a few prominent folks from the leather circle begin to realize the loss that will inevitably happen as it all becomes more emulsified. I share the sadness of the loss of something irreplaceable in the human experience in favor of political ideology, commercialism and/or political correctness.

I fear we have discovered the tip of an iceberg that we are celebrating as a newly found island. As curiosity grows, we are steering the ship closer to have a better look.


\In*clu"sion\, n. [L. inclusio: cf. F. inclusion. See Include.] 1. The act of including, or the state of being included; limitation; restriction; as, the lines of inclusion of his policy. --Sir W. Temple.

2. (Min.) A foreign substance, either liquid or solid, usually of minute size, inclosed in the mass of a mineral.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


\Di*ver"si*ty\, n.; pl. Diversities. [F. diversit['e], L. diversitas, fr. diversus. See Diverse.] 1. A state of difference; dissimilitude; unlikeness.

They will prove opposite; and not resting in a bare diversity, rise into a contrariety. --South.

2. Multiplicity of difference; multiformity; variety. ``Diversity of sounds.'' --Shak. ``Diversities of opinion.'' --Secker.

3. Variegation. ``Bright diversities of day.'' --Pope.

Syn: See Variety.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


\Ex*pan"sion\, n. [L. expansio: cf. F. expansion.] 1. The act of expanding or spreading out; the condition of being expanded; dilation; enlargement.

2. That which is expanded; expanse; extend surface; as, the expansion of a sheet or of a lake; the expansion was formed of metal.

The starred expansion of the skies. --Beattie.

3. Space through which anything is expanded; also, pure space.

Lost in expansion, void and infinite. --Blackmore.

4. (Com.) Enlargement or extension of business transactions; esp., increase of the circulation of bank notes.

5. (Math.) The developed result of an indicated operation; as, the expansion of (a + b)^2 is a^2 + 2ab + b^2.

6. (Steam Engine) The operation of steam in a cylinder after its communication with the boiler has been cut off, by which it continues to exert pressure upon the moving piston.

7. (Nav. Arch.) The enlargement of the ship mathematically from a model or drawing to the full or building size, in the process of construction. --Ham. Nav. Encyc.


n : the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action; "we did not understand his motivation"; "he acted with the best of motives" [syn: motive, need]
Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University

© 2002 ZD/K