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