Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nerds in BDSM

Since it is practically the definition of Geeky Sex, here's a link to Mistress Matisse's article in The Stranger about why the BDSM community is ruled by nerds.

Why are nerds so omnipresent in the BDSM scene? Because being a nerd—especially if one participates in nerd culture around things like comic books, science fiction/fantasy, RPGing, etc.—is excellent training for becoming an active member of the BDSM community. The young nerd, shunned by the elite, perforce becomes accustomed to hanging around other nerds and social outcasts of all types. Nerds thus develop a high tolerance for socially nonconforming people and come to feel that such individuals are, by definition, nicer and more interesting than the Cool Kids. They embrace being weird, in other words.

Plenty of non-nerds like BDSM—in private. But they're unwilling to make the cultural leap into a stigmatized social group. I've seen non-nerds who I knew were as kinky as Caligula walk into a BDSM party, look around, think "Oh no, these people are way too weird," and leave. But when the grown-up nerd goes to his first BDSM social gathering, what does he see? People wearing unusual costumes, calling themselves made-up names and titles, having conversations rife with obscure jargon. Why, it's just like a Star Trek convention! So the nerd takes it in stride.


Anyone who has ever spent any time around the BDSM community will recognize that what Matisse is saying is true -- I've been to munches where there's more talk about video games than kink. But interestingly I find myself agreeing with the first paragraph quoted here, but disagreeing with the second one.

It takes a strong degree of exhibitionism to do a scene in a BDSM party and I think that exhibitionism can exist -- or not -- within the nerd group or within the Cool Kid group. Let me piggy back on Matisse's Star Trek convention comparison. I'm a Trekkie and I'm interested in kink, but I feel out of place at both Star Trek conventions and BDSM parties. This isn't because I don't like nerds (ask my friends, if you can tear them away from Buffy) but because I don't feel a lot of inclination to do either activity in a large group of people. I'd rather confine my Star Trek watching to a small group of friends, and I'd rather explore kink with a small group of lovers. If I do go to some kind of nerdy event (the last one was New York Comic Con in early 2009) I don't dress up. When I go to a BDSM party (the last one was TES's Back to School Party, also in 2009) I find the most private spot I can to play -- and end up a bit uncomfortable anyway.

Not that I think Matisse is wrong about her theory. It's just incomplete. (And, giving her the benefit of the doubt, she has word limit in her column.) I think the social structure of the BDSM community is more welcoming to nerds. But I think there are also other dynamics in effect explain the large number of kinky nerds -- nerds are more likely to explore interests that aren't mainstream, the technicality of BDSM might appeal to them, and they might need to look further than cool kids for a sense of sexual agency and power. But, nerd or cool kid, it takes a certain kind of personality to want to explore your sexuality publicly. Some of us are more comfortable doing the big stuff in private.

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