To better promote the sex-positive activism I’m seeking to do in person, it seems clear that I need a strong online presence. Also, it’ll be nice to have a place to write out my thoughts on the issues I think about all the time … but can’t talk about all the time. So: Welcome to Clarisse’s blog! I’m still working on my blogroll — if you have a BDSM-relevant or otherwise alternative sexuality / sex-positive blog, please leave a comment and I’ll add you!

For my first entry, I’d like to see if I can get input on my BDSM Outreach Overview Presentation.

The intended audience of my BDSM Overview is not BDSM-identified folks (though I daresay that kinksters who don’t know much about past scandals, history, etc. could learn something from it). Furthermore, I’m certainly not seeking to “recruit” people into the scene with this presentation (though people in the audience who already have BDSM desires will find out where to learn more).

Rather, I want to reach outside the BDSM community and work against some of the stigma and stereotypes — the distrust and fear — with which BDSM is viewed by society at large. I want to work towards reducing problems like kinksters sent to jail for assault when our activities were totally consensual, having our children taken away without cause, and all the other harassment our community has dealt with. Just as importantly, it seems clear to me that — while anti-BDSM activists are quick to point out that BDSM can be used as a mask for real coercion and abuse — it would be much harder for that to happen if more people had an understanding of the differences between BDSM and abuse, or if kinksters felt comfortable identifying themselves and joining the BDSM community that helps keep us safe.

On a broader level, I truly believe that the BDSM community has developed many techniques for negotiating sexual consent that the rest of the world could learn a lot from. And I further believe that as I promote BDSM acceptance, I promote sex-positivity in general. As we teach people to accept that consent is all-important and sexual choice is paramount, we simultaneously promote the acceptance of all forms of healthy sexuality; we encourage society to respect sex workers; we even combat rape!

Here’s the basic description of my presentation that I’ve been sending out:
“Imagery deriving from bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM) is becoming commonplace — and we all know (or think we know) what a dominatrix is — but most people don’t have much idea of what BDSM actually involves. Although it is increasingly accepted as an alternative sexual orientation, BDSM remains surrounded by stigma, scandal and occasional legal action. This lecture will describe the basics of BDSM (however, it’s not a how-to lecture — you aren’t going to learn how to use a whip, though you’ll learn where to go if you want to find out!). It will also cover BDSM history, cultural landmarks, and current issues.”

Now, here’s the hard part. I don’t want to be arrogant and say that no one’s ever done this before, but uh … I’m not sure anyone’s ever done this before. At least not this exact thing — this in-person, quasi-academic, blatant outreach approach. I know about the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, of course, and I know they have a media team, but I get the impression that they are more focused on reacting to incidents and less on actively creating pro-BDSM education for vanilla folks. (Maybe I’ll find out more once I successfully get in touch with the NCSF Media volunteer coordinator — I’m working on it.) I’ve heard about a neat-sounding documentary called “BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!”, which appears to come close to what I’m doing.

So … at the least, this is unusual. And being an unusual project makes it harder, not only to “market” this presentation to audiences outside the BDSM scene, but to explain what I’m trying to do. I have found, for instance, that potential queer audiences often react to my pitch by directing me to the nearest BDSM support group. It sometimes takes me a while to successfully communicate that I am actually looking to deliver the lecture to their group — that I specifically want to talk to the LGBTQ community. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make this clear — perhaps including ways to clarify my basic description?

Other advice I could particularly use: ideas for organizations and venues that might help me present this lecture. I’ve found some places that might help me out in New York; I’ve got occasional cause to visit New York (for instance, I’m in the city right now for the holidays), so maybe I’ll be putting it on here within the next few months.

I live in Chicago, though, so that city is a bigger concern. I’ve got some leads on queer groups and student groups. I plan to call around to some feminist, BDSM-friendly sex toy stores (for instance, Early to Bed). I also intend to reach out to Chicago academia (tomorrow I’ll call the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Chicago, among other places). Feminist health groups and harm reduction advocates will hopefully prove to be a rich mine of inquiry (Planned Parenthood may not want to sully its image with the likes of me, but it’s worth a shot; I’ll also call the Chicago Women’s Health Center). Further ideas are requested!

If you’re interested in getting more details on the presentation itself, don’t hesitate to email me — clarisse dot thorn at gmail dot com. I’ve also created a Delicious.com account, really for whatever awesome BDSM links I remember to put in there, but which I am specifically using to list things I cite in the Overview lecture. Going through my overview-tagged links should give a decent idea of how I structure the presentation.