Put. It. Away.

This past Saturday, the Better Half and I traveled into Boston for an errand that required a trip to the city.  As we wended our way toward our destination, I looked at the passing crowds and noted their colorful attire and festive raiment.

“What’s with the people in rainbow wigs?” I mused to the Better Half.  And then it dawned on us.

It was Boston Pride and we’d had no idea.

This led to no small amount of wry amusement on our parts about how we have completed our metamorphosis into a thoroughly domesticated couple.  We’ve marched in the Pride parades in New York twice and Boston once, and while it’s never been something we’ve circled on our calendars it’s been an event we’ve tried to attend when we could.  This year?  Totally oblivious.  (I spent the morning of the parade last year folding laundry in our kitchen, but I was at least aware that it was happening.)

Anyhow, we went about our business.  After it was done, we had a little bit of time to take the kids around Boston and see what bits of the celebration were still going on.  Let me tell you, there is nothing that will win you beatific smiles from total strangers more than being Gay Couple with Kids during Pride.  (Even more than when we’re shopping in Whole Foods!)  It was actually very nice, and reminded us of why we like showing up for the parade in the first place.

And then…

*insert sound of needle being dragged across an old vinyl record*

How to put this delicately?  Um… so the last time I went to the Boston parade, I noted a contingent of participants there from a certain fetish community.  It is a community about which I know very little, other than their activities involve a very specific kind of role-play, the appeal of which eludes me utterly.  Cunning, savvy readers will know to whom I refer from a subtle clue I have left elsewhere in this post.

Now, even though I do not grok why on earth anyone would get their jollies by behaving like members of this particular group, I have no problem with their doing what they do.  I am generally OK with consenting adults doing what they want together without everyone else feeling the need to cluck disapprovingly about it.  The same applies to these people.


It’s time the LGBT community got a grip and figured out what it wants its message to be.  Because the atrophied, vestigial social conservative part of my soul squealed in horror as my son caught sight of the… conspicuously oddly-garbed people and immediately inquired as to why they were thus displayed.  Thankfully, there were many, many balloons around, and he was easily distracted by some as we beat a hasty retreat.  I’m sorry, but one cannot simultaneously proclaim “We’re totally normal, relatable people!” and “Let your freak flag fly!”  One cannot.  Something can’t be simultaneously family-friendly and outrageously exhibitionist.

I’m sorry, it just can’t.

Now, since gender and sexuality are defining aspects to the LGBT’s community’s very identity, it would be naive and unreasonable to expect these elements not to be on flamboyant display.  But while who one loves is foundational to our movement, how we go about doing so seems an unnecessarily explicit spin on “pride.”  Particularly when people who inhabit the fringier fringes of the fetish community show up dressed like they’re gonna get busy any minute.

I glory that the LGBT community contains multitudes, and I am loath to start excluding people.  Hell, Pride is technically a whole week (with different cities hosting their celebrations throughout the month).  There is time enough for the fetish community to host and publicize events for people who want to attend such things!  I have zero problem with that.

But the parade?  No.  Strollers and extreme fetish-wear don’t belong at the same event, and if the community wants to point people toward the former they’re going to have to realize that the latter belongs somewhere else.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Given the response you’re about to get, I assume the answer is Rush fans who oppose vaccination?

  2. If I’m grokking the clue properly, I’m fairly confident that this fetish is not limited to the LGBTQ community. In fact, I first came to understand it via us heteros.

    In a way, it seems as if LGBTQ folks might have MORE sexual freedom, if only because there is already a tendency to see their sexuality as “different” and thus indulgence in more extreme fetishes simply see a different of degree, not type.

    So, really, what we need is a “Straight but Weird” pride parade. Or just a “Weird Sex” parade, where everyone, gay or straight, who likes to do that sorta stuff can come together and everyone else, gay or straight, who thinks it is weird can cluck accordingly.

    AND then we will have reached the mountain top.

    • Just so. In fact, the Better Half’s question was “What does that have to do with being gay?”

      And I have zero problem with people who are into weird stuff having their own events. I may be mistaken (you’d have to check in with America’s Official Spokesgay Dan Savage on this), but I believe various cities do have fetish or “weird sex” festivals. Fine. Just so long as we’re clear what the events are for (hint: not family togetherness), and what’s going to be on display.

      • That seems to be a fair ideal.

        Is this event about feeling proud of one’s sexual orientation? Or challenging social norms and taboos? At one point, those were very much one in the same. But now? Not so much.

        NY’s pride weekend often coincides with my mom’s birthday celebration, so we often get a good dose of the parade. When I see the octagenerian couple marching in matching suits and the dudes in leather, I’m often left wandering, “What do they have in common again?”

      • This reminds me of someone I know in Boston who worked at one of the major GPS companies who has listed the Folsom Street Fair in SF as an innocuous street festival in their app, just like all the other daytime street fairs. Um, no.

          • I admit I thought it was pretty funny too, but I did tell them that Folsom Street wasn’t exactly the Chinese New Year parade…

            (On the flipside, as a former resident of the Castro/Mission SF, I used to get really annoyed at the tour buses blocking Market St so people could gawk at the “freaks” going about their daily lives.)

  3. Particularly when people who inhabit the fringier fringes of the fetish community show up dressed like they’re gonna get busy any minute.

    I just want to note that for many, perhaps most of the people who would show up to a public event dressed like this, this is a lifestyle that is no more nor less sexual than what we might call “mere homosexuality” or “mere heterosexuality.” I imagine they feel like they’re just displaying their lifestyle in the same way that the other pride paraders are. I don’t mean to defend their display. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it, in places where children are likely to be, but I’m also not sure I feel about people feeling like they have to hide their lifestyles because other people see it only in its sexual aspects (which is not to say some of the more exhibitionist folks are doing anything to counter that).

    • Also, perhaps unnecessarily, I feel compelled (the de Sade in my avatar doesn’t help) to note that I am not a part of that lifestyle, but I do know several people who are (some straight, some gay), and I have a fair amount of… access to certain fetish communities, so I have these discussions fairly often. Your view is well represented there, so perhaps it’s not really your conservative side coming out.

      • So that is who it is!

        From what I’ve read, there were and still are a lot of battles in the LGBTQ community about whether homosexuality is a radical act or not.

        Very early pioneers of the gay rights movement like Harry Hay were very anti-assimilationist.


        This fight could still very much be going on.

          • But did Harry Hay’s radicalism allow you to be where you are today?

          • Teasing out which exact contributions of any one individual have led to any given outcome is, I’d wager, impossible. And I’m not saying that his radicalism wasn’t without merit.

            But his stances in support of a certain pro-pederasty organization (which I decline to name because I’d just as soon not have Google searches for it lead people to my blog) are utterly, utterly anathema.

        • I think the fight is much bigger than assimilation and anti-assimialation in the LBGT community. I see it as a fight between the Bourgeoisie and Anti-Borgeoisie impulse in society. The Bourgeoisie impulse is for a calm and prosperous society best expressed as the archetypical New England town. Everything is well-maintained and well-ordered. The Bourgeoisie impulse requires a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of the individual. They could be freaky all they want in private but in public people need to maintain a certain demeanor in order for society to function in an orderly manner. People need to contribute in order to maintain the public good with taxes and service. Its whats described as ordered liberty.

          The Anti-Bourgeoisie will have none of it. They look at the Bourgeoisie society and see a prison rather than a paradise. Maybe they don’t like the taxes necessary to maintain society. Perhaps they find the behavioral requirements and societal responsibilities chafing and restricting. What the Anti-Borgeoisie desire is the right to act as they please no matter what the social cost.

          • I think I’d agree with you. It also explains why the anti-bourgeois element was dominant–or at least most publicly prominent–early on, when mere acknowledgement of homosexuality was anti-bourgeois, a transgression of polite society in and of itself,, and why the bourgeois element has become so much more prominent as homosexuality has become so much more socially accepted.

      • Yes, it’s definitely true that the idea of pushing your kinks on non-consenting observers is widespread and indeed (in my experience) the majority opinion in the fetish community. Although there are also widely differing interpretations on where exactly the line is between pushing your kink on observers and just living your lifestyle and trying to be accepted for that.

    • Your first comment raises the questions “whose pride are we talking about here anyway?” and “what does ‘pride’ even mean when the events are in the first state to legalize marriage equality?”. It seems like the LGBT community is trying to have its elaborately-harnessed cake and flog it, too.

      • I am not gay but from what I remember from reading and attending a fairly activist undergrad school is that there are a lot of people who still see homosexuality as a radical/political act and they don’t want acceptance/tolerance to hinge on having to be suburbanites with children.

        Obviously this is not all of the LGBTQ community.

        On Okcupid profiles in the Bay Area, I see a lot of people label themselves as “gender Queer”. I am perplexed by this because it seems to be both very serious and very silly at the same time.

        Can I hazard a guess and that you and your significant other do not consider homosexuality to be a “radical/political act” but a mere fact of biology and nature?

      • I think that’s an excellent question, and as much as I’d like to expound on it (I’m one of those people who, if we discovered a political system in another galaxy, would find he had an opinion on it), I don’t know the answer. I definitely understand where you’re coming from, though. My sense is that these things will work themselves out, though, as homosexuality becomes more and more mainstream, and gay rights become less of a struggle and more of the sort of thing that we can happily take for granted, over time.

    • Speaking of Savage, he had a letter recently where someone was asking about what appeared to be a D/s couple they observed at the gym (the s would set up the weights & wipe down the equipment; and when the D’s shoe came untied, a silently-pointed finger by the D was enough to get the s to kneel down, and tie the D’s shoe).

      Savage’s position IIRC was that a D/s couple that behaves thus in public is crossing the line a bit – that the “public humiliation” aspect of their relationship necessarily brings in “exhibitionism”, thereby bringing potentially-unwilling parties (=witnesses as props) into the couple’s sex life.

      I dunno whether I agree – nothing they were doing was OVERTLY sexual, and you’d think you could just gloss over it with any children who asked (“they are really good friends, honey, that’s why he tied his shoes for him”) but in general I do think there’s a point to be made that excess exhibitionism (the definition of “excess” will vary) does necessarily bring unwilling participants into others’ sex play (since the unwitting viewer provides the “charge” for the scene; witnesses increase the humiliation factor).

      Full disclosure: While straight, I consider myself a proud member of the Pervert American Community Who Supports the Right of All Consenting Adults to Get Freaky As They Will (it’s a terrible acronym, we’re working on that).

      But not being particularly exhibitionist, I do support the segregation from general view of activities that might startle the horses/children (but then, for me, the “charge” of the taboo comes from the SECRECY of a thing, not from the EXHIBITING of it).

      • (=witnesses as props)

        I think that is a huge part of my objection. While I think a certain obligation rests on people who attend the parade to realize that it is a community where sexuality and gender are defining and transgressive stances re: same are likely to be encountered (bring on the drag queens and go-go boys!), a certain line needs to be drawn before people on the sidewalk become unwitting props in the sexual gratification of the fetish-garbed marchers.

        Hell, I don’t even care if they want to get out and march with banners that read “Up with Our Freaky Fetish!” Sure, fine. Whatever. But when they show up be-bridled, I gotta voice my serious qualms.

      • One of the things I worry about is that marginalized lifestyles have a nasty habit of becoming dysfunctional. This dysfunctionality reinforces negative perceptions of those lifestyles, resulting in further marginalization.

        Now, I’m not much of a fan of public displays of sex, but in some cases, I think it’s us, not the participants, who are sexualizing the behaviors. For some people, this really is just the way they live, no different, and no more sexual, than my quasi-asceticism or Jaybird’s beard worship (kidding about the beard worship).

        • P.S. I’m not trying to say people should show up in suits with riding crops and ball gags to public parades, particularly those that are meant to support an increasingly mainstream way of life. I’m just sort of riffing here. Feel free to ignore.

        • “marginalized lifestyles have a nasty habit of becoming dysfunctional.”

          I had a comment that I couldn’t quite make work without it coming across in a potentially-offensive way that I did not mean to both sides of my analogy…something about how treating all drug users the same, means that we as a society end up lumping weekend tokers in with the hardcore heroin addicts, to the detriment of all.

          I have nothing against pot users, heroin users, gay bougies w/ strollers or or leather daddies (nor is sexuality strictly analogous to drug use).

          But what I was trying to get at, was when we as a society push things down and taboo-ize them indiscriminately, all sorts of links & associations that aren’t strictly necessary start to get made, both in society’s mind, and in the otherwise-discrete taboo communities.

          • I agree.

            For better or worse, the closest I get to actual taboo is a few tattoos and some holes where I used to having piercings. In other words, I don’t really know what it’s like to be a part of a marginalized group (well, atheists, but in practice we’re about as marginalized as people who eat tuna in public, maybe less so). So I feel weird telling people who are actually members of marginalized groups that they should keep their lifestyle behind closed doors. Though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times and places for different things, which I think is the main issue Russel is raising.

          • Sorry tatoos aren’t taboo anymore, they are downright mainstream. So are piercings pretty much. Part of the trap of pushing the boundaries of taboos in a place like America is you always have to keep finding newer or more outrageous boundaries to push if you want to stay on the edge. There are a fair number of people whose basic fetish is to be on the edge. If wearing tuxedos was taboo they would be wearing a tux.

          • Greg, yeah, that was sort of my point. Here in Austin at least, tattoos are about as common as tinted windows (though I have to say, back home they’re still pretty rare, and at least somewhat taboo). The piercings a bit more so, depending on where and to what extent (even here, my girlfriend still gets some stares and murmurs for her dermals in certain crowds), but still, not particularly taboo. So I am not the least bit marginalized, and therefore have no idea what it’s like to be so.

            Also, last weekend I went to a comics and cards shop where they were playing some sort of card game, and one of the guys was wearing a tux and a white wig. I’m pretty sure that was pushing a boundary, I’m just not sure what boundary it was.

        • I think this is an important issue. One of the issues that society in general and democracies in particular have struggled with is how can you deal with people who can’t live a conventional life, that is a life that fits within the parameters set about by consensus in a society. For authoritarian or heavily communal societies the answer is simple, stamp out those that refuse to conform.

          Democratic or individualistic societies have a problem though. In these societies, your generally supposed to be free to do what you want as long as you don’t break the law. The issue becomes what social conventions should be enshrined in law as illegal because they are deemed harmful. The other issue is how open do you allow those that can’t conform to convention to be. As you note above, forcing the unconventional into the margins of society creates a lot of dysfunction. At the same time, “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” When the unconventional are in public, it can sometimes or often disturb the social peace and people going about their daily activities. That many of the unconventional often act superior to the more conventional doesn’t really help that much either.

          • And that last is also the issue that sometimes also sets the hard-core libertarians at odds with the liberals…Do I support the right of the leather-daddy to exclude the straight squares from entry to his BDSM club? Yeah, I do…letting people set their own parameters for their own space is integral to how I see people having the best path to ultimately getting along. His house, his rules. Let the market decide if it’s a successful strategy.

            Do I support the white supremacist who wants to exclude black people from his restaurant? Uhhh…this is why I can’t go hard-core in my libertarianism. Sue that guy’s ass. But hard-core libertarians might say “no matter how odious I find his views, it’s his house and his rules; let the market decide”.

          • IMO some institutions are going to have an easier time self-selecting than others. More people want to eat at restaurants than to go to BDSM clubs so than BDSM club is going to have a pretty self-selecting audience.

            I have to disagree with you though, I think that BDSM club owner has no more legal right to keep out “squares” than a racist has to keep out minorities from a restaurant. If the BDSM club is operating as a business rather than a fun event in somebody’s home than everybody who can pay should be allowed in and the prices should be the same for everybody.

          • I’m going to disagree. I think that the owners of BDSM clubs or any other type of clubs have no more business kicking “squares” out than restaurants owners have of keeping minorities out. If people can pay than they have to be allowed in.

          • Where were you when they wouldn’t let me into that lesbian bar?! I had the cover! 😉

            Eh, sure, I was annoyed – in some abstract sense it’s not “fair”, but in the larger scheme of things it’s a pretty small injustice, more than counterbalanced by the right of the establishment owners and patrons to maintain the vibe they wanted. Closer to “exclusion for dress code” (which I also find silly) than “apartheid”.

          • Yes, its not the world’s greatest injustice. Its probably not even in the top thousand injustices. At the same time, it isn’t right either because philosophically I can’t find any non-commercial reason, basically they can’t pay, as justified grounds for exclusion. Its more wrong to exclude for reasons like race or gender or sexuality than “squareness” but its still wrong. Things like BDSM and clubs are going to have a self-selecting crowd for the most part anyway.

        • What if only one of the participants is sexualizing the activity?
          Ought we to ban tickling (which, as a friend of my put it, is an oft used gateway to sadism)?

      • I agree with Dan Savage here and the rest. Sometimes an ordered society just requires people not act out as they want to 24/7 and adhere to a little social sobriety.

        A gym is a place of exercise and working out and probably some socialization. People go to maintain physical health, not see someone act out a D/s thing. What if the couple got more pleasure out of the fact that they were making everyone else uncomfortable? Would that change your viewpoint? I can certainly see the D being an asshole enough to view it that way.

        What if it was a family meal? Dan Savage had a call from an s in a D/s relationship about how her family was squished out by their acting in front of them at family dinners and events. Dan sided with the family. Do you disagree? Should parents be cool at seeing their son or daughter act out in a D/s way at Thanksgiving, Passover, Easter, etc? At the birthday or a niece or nephew?

        Things have a time and a place for a reason.

        • The D/s situation is an interesting one, at least as far as I understand it, because it appears to move beyond a “simple” sexual fetish into a broader lifestyle choice.

          Imagine, if you will, a heterosexual husband-and-wife couple which believes in the supremacy of the man, such that the woman is expected to walk several paces behind him, cover herself from head to toe, and follow his orders to a T. Suppose they had this relationship structure not because of anything specifically related to sex, but because of their faith, or their particular family cultures, or whathaveyou. Would we tell these folks to act differently in public because of the impact on bystanders? We might well criticize them for a whole host of reasons, but I doubt it would include, “There is a time and a place for that and it is not here.”

          So if the D/s are living out their relationship, which includes not just the sexual but also the social and emotional, in totality, is it far to demand that they refrain from it because others might be bothered? Presume that they do so not because of the reaction it elicits, but because both are happier with the D getting his shoe tied by the s.

          • In short yes. Sometimes you have to refrain for the sake of civil society and consideration towards others. This should not be a doctrine that is hard to understand.

            Are you telling me that you would be honestly cool with having someone act out a D/s relationship at say the third birthday party for your son? The focus for a kid’s birthday party should be the kid, not the whims and fancies of a D/s couple. The kids are too young to understand but they like the adults will have their attention drawn to the D/s and couple.

            And what if part of the pleasure on the D’s end is the discomfort he or she causes to others because he or she is an asshole/jerk? To me this like the adult who has found that the best way to get what he or she wants is to be boorish and rude until people relent. There used to be a guy like this on the bus. He would just complain about everyone and everything very loudly and since the rest of us were decent and did not want to cause controversy or a fight, he got his way.

            Basically, I consider a D/s couple that “needs” to act out their fantasy in public to be greedy, selfish, rude, and possibly bullying to the rest of society. They are placing their own emotional and physical needs above the greater whole at all times and this is wrong.

          • I support the right of consenting adults to do almost anything they please in privacy of their home, some private/club or establishment, hotel rooms, whatever.

            However, public places have a different set of rules and conditions.

          • ND,

            Think how ripe for abuse that line of thinking becomes if you replace D/s with something that isn’t so niche and/or extreme.

            Here, I’ll do it for you…

            “Basically, I consider a D/sgay couple that “needs” to act out their fantasy in public to be greedy, selfish, rude, and possibly bullying to the rest of society. They are placing their own emotional and physical needs above the greater whole at all times and this is wrong.”

            Why do you presume D/s is a “fantasy”? What if that sort of interaction is what feels really right and natural to the couple?

          • At that, is a family dinner really the same as a public place? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a degree of tolerance and acceptance from one’s family.

            It’s not a place for sexuality, to be sure. But I don’t think you can say that and then turn around and declare everything to do with a D/s relationship inherently sexual just because it’s part of the relationship, any more than everything to do with a conventional relationship is sexual.

          • Here’s the thing: D/s is either wrong all the time, or wrong some of the time depending on how you look at it.

            Because either D/s is a form of role-play, or it isn’t. If it’s a role-play, then it’s not acceptable at the dinner table. Whether or not it’s sexual role-play. After all, I play Dungeons and Dragons and I don’t pretend to be a 12th level elf rogue at the dinner table. If it’s role-play, then there is a time and a place for that sort of thing.

            If it’s not role-play, then it’s just not okay at all. It’s a horribly messed up interpersonal relationship that isn’t acceptable regardless of time or place.

        • @ND – I guess it depends on the situation and the degree to which it’s overtly sexual in nature (as the late Johnnie Cochran did not say, “If you don’t see a d**k, you must not get the squick!”)

          We all already know couples who are in D/s relationships (at some points in human history, I’d even say they were the norm), even if they don’t call it that or think of it that way. Do we ask them to act differently in public? Is sexuality (or just plain old relationships) something we are, or something we do?

          • “We all already know couples who are in D/s relationships (at some points in human history, I’d even say they were the norm), even if they don’t call it that or think of it that way. Do we ask them to act differently in public? Is sexuality (or just plain old relationships) something we are, or something we do?”

            I think you are stretching a bit from these to the couple that called into Dan Savage about the stuff at the gym. Or the woman who wears a collar in front of her family while calling her boyfriend master.

          • So calling her husband “Hun” is kosher, but “Master” is not? I just want to make sure I know where the lines are.

            Sometimes I call my wife “Butthead”, but always lovingly. Do I need to go sit in the shame corner?

          • Kazzy and Glyph,

            I think you are both being purposefully dense to the objections I and others are bringing up.

            Hun is a term of endearment that implies nothing but affection. “Master” implies all sorts of things about their relationship.

            How would you react if a husband called his wife various nasty terms for female genetallia in public or “slave” or “servant” and she seemed to comply to his commands? Would you presume that it was an abusive relationship? Would you want your children to see it?

            Or are you going to continue ignoring my questions in order to keep the freak flag flying high?

          • I may be dense, but rarely on purpose.

            I think you are ignoring my response to your questions – as always, it’s a matter of degree. I don’t know that someone wiping down equipment, and setting up equipment, and tying shoes (things I might do for a handicapped friend…or my children) crosses the line. These are not overtly sexual actions.

            Just recently someone around here told a story of a woman on the subway in a burqa. I don’t doubt that in many ways, she’s probably the “s” in that relationship (could be wrong though). Is it my place to tell her and her husband how to live?

            If nipples are on display at Thanksgiving dinner, that seems over the line. At my house, anyway.

            But a collar is worn by lots of people. Punks. Priests.

          • I mean, shoot. Maybe they weren’t D/s at all. Maybe the presumed “s” just lost a bet and has to be “D”‘s butler for a week.

          • ND,

            There are lots of things I would rather my child not see. I don’t think that it is fair for me to impose those preferences on others. In part because I would not want them imposed on me.

            What if “master” is a term of endearment between those two people? You presume it is not, but unless you are in their relationship, who are you to say what the words mean to each other?

          • The burqa and the D/s are not analagous. D/s is primarily sexual. Burqa-wearing is much broader. Indeed, to the degree that D/s becomes no longer just sexual, and is a broader lifestyle choice, then I am opposed. If a friend told me she and her new boyfriend did D/s stuff in bed, but otherwise had a relationship of loving, respectful equals, I wouldn’t care all that much. If she told me that they behaved that way all the time, including at the gym, I would be horrified. No one should consent to be anyone’s slave, nor should anyone treat anyone like a slave, even if they consent. Pretending to get your rocks off is fine. When there really is a D/s situation, I think it’s immoral (said Edna).

            I really dislike when people act as provocateurs, or else deliberately or negligently intrude on people’s notice in public. I don’t like when people blast music, I don’t like overt sexuality in public. I feel used.

            I don’t see how one must accept sex in the public sphere in order to accept that, in general, sex between consenting adults is fine.

          • Rose, I am not trying to make them exactly analogous; just to point out that the burqa is (many say) often bound up (heh) in certain cultural attitudes towards female submission to males, and control/fear of female sexuality and desire.

            I don’t think this is always and ever the case; nor do I think it’s never the case.

            But most importantly: it’s mostly not my business, unless I fear she’s been coerced into wearing it. Even if what she’s wearing makes me uncomfortable, or the way that she always demurs to her man’s opinion (or ties his shoes) saddens me.

            That’s their lifestyle choice to make.

          • Rose,

            I’ll cop to not fully understanding D/s. I’ve never experienced it myself nor do I know anyone who is admittedly in that sort of relationship. If that phraseology applies to something uniquely sexual, rather than a broad lifestyle choice, than that might not be the best way at getting what I seek to get at.

            But I struggle with the notion that people who opt for a subservient lifestyle are somehow engaging in an immoral lifestyle. I’m not saying it is wrong, but I’m not sure if it is that simple. What exactly is immoral about it? Is there a self-harm principle you view it to be in violation of?

          • And to riff one more time on the tired “we’ll accept violence but not sex” trope: I am may be against killing people, but I don’t expect that a soldier not wear his fatigues when he’s on leave.

            I think boxing is pretty barbaric – two humans intentionally attempting to temporarily incapacitate the most beautiful reasoning machine there ever was, for entertainment – but I don’t expect that people at the park won’t be shirtless and wearing Everlast shorts.

            And these are activities that are, if anything, more morally questionable than sex between consenting adults.

            The apparel traditionally worn during an activity is not the activity itself.

          • Kazzy, in the fetish communities that I am privy to (not all D/s, and including several variants of D/s, some of which I find disturbing on different levels), there are lifestylers and non-lifestylers, and the lifestylers generally look down on the non-lifestylers. In fact, within these cultures, there are some people who participate strictly to make money (in various ways), and want nothing to do with the lifestylers.

            My thoughts on some of these lifestyles/fetishes, as well as burqas, is that I don’t like them, I hope that we can push the culture at large in such a direction that they go away organically, but for consenting adults, I don’t feel like it’s any of my business.

          • Kazzy, yes, pretty much. I think we have an obligation in our lives to develop (among other things) our capacities and agency. Willfully turning over one’s agency to someone else is an abnegation of one’s responsibilities to oneself. It also seems psychologically unhealthy.

            I think the woman in the burqa is making the same mistake. NOTE: that does NOT mean that I think she should be prohibited from practicing her religion, and I don’t think people should be prohibited from D/s relationships. But I do think they are immoral, both on the dominant side and the submissive side.

            I would be totally fine with it if my kid turned out to be gay. I would totally be fine with it (but not want to hear details) if there were role play in his future intimate life. But if he actually turned his entire life over to someone else, all his decision-making etc., I would feel as if he is making a huge life mistake. Likewise, I would be disturbed if he were the dominant one. I would be disturbed if he joined a fundamentalist sect that held to sexist views. Etc.

            Note there is a strong difference between that and a relationship between two people which involves care-taking.

          • Thanks for your input, Rose. I recognize you have a unique perspective and expertise to offer on this. There is still a part of me that feels there is a certain paternalism afoot when we presume to tell people what sorts of relationships are care-taking and what are not. What if I feel cared for when someone else is making decisions on my behalf? Provided I can alter this arrangement at any time, sacrificing one’s agency also seems like the realization of such. If we deny someone the opportunity to do so, are we not limiting their autonomy, this time from the outside?

          • Well, if consenting to a 24/7 D/s lifestyle is the same sort of mistake as joining a fundamentalist sect with sexist dogma, why should your response to the woman (or man) in the collar be any different from the woman in the burqa?

            I can understand being upset if your daughter joined a fundamentalist sect with sexist dogma that prescribed a certain style of dress for women, obedience to her husband, etc. And I would totally understand attempting to talk her out of it, etc. But if she does do so, despite your efforts to the contrary, and still wants to be part of your family, is it appropriate to make attending family events conditional on not wearing the clothing required by her new religion?

          • I am in no position to speak for Rose, but for my part I think there is a pertinent difference between allowing people to do something and approving of it. Would I approve of one of my children living a life of perpetual submission? Or joining a repressively dogmatic religion? Not at all. Would I move to prevent them actively from doing so once they had achieved adult decision-making capacity? No.

            Re: the question of how they would dress and behave in my home, I think there is a difference between clothing and behavior. I’d draw a line at a burqa, probably, but I’d probably otherwise accept most other dress. I would request that any couple refrain from overt D/s behavior in my home.

          • FWIW, I’ve read female Muslim writers who argue that a burqa can just as easily be a symbol of female empowerment as female subservience. If the decision to wear the burqa is made freely and wholly by the woman in fulfillment of her faith… well, do we really empower her by telling her not to do so?

            I don’t offer this as a defense of the burqa as much as evidence that the issue is more complicated than it might necessarily seem. These women strongly object to be assumed to be victims.

          • Yes, as usual, Russell has me right.

            Kazzy, I by no means object to a burqa as such. I was assuming all the other stuff you said (obeying husband, walking behind him, etc.)

            I think caretaking can best be seen as a good thing when you are helping someone live their best life. Spouses sometimes do things for each other and depend on each other. That’s a good thing. And obviously, sometimes we are obligated to care for family who cannot engage in self-care.

            A best life does not mean ceding your decision-making to someone else. I would be very upset if I saw my son treating someone as described in that gym, or if I saw someone treating him that way, during Thanksgiving dinner. (“Put some gravy on my stuffing, slave!”) Why? Because that’s not a caretaking that leads to a better life. I mean, I would never ever cut my sons out of my life. But I would ask them not to do that in my house. As I would request them not to do anything sexual during Thanksgiving dinner. (“Baby, lick the cranberry sauce off my….”) Or spit food across the table.

            I see part of my obligation to my son as increasing his agency to the greatest degree possible. Not willfully limiting it.

            As I’ve said elsewhere, I think non-moral social norms (e.g., shaking hands, eye contact, not having sex in public) serve a function in themselves.

          • Rose,

            How do we define “better life”?

            Note: We are wading well past any formal understanding I might possess of the topic at hand. The deepest I got into philosophy study was a critical analysis of “Groundhog’s Day”. So, feel free to school me here… 🙂

          • Obviously, that’s up for debate. I taught this for some time this semester. In my opinion, it includes exercising capabilities and agency. Someone who gets a chance to exercise capabilities and use agency is better off than someone who is prevented from such. Women, as a general proposition, live better lives when they love and honor but do not obey their husbands.

          • Now you’ve piqued my interest (in a good way!), but if we’re going too far afield, I’m happy to table this conversation for other places and times.

            But I must ask… as a teacher of young children, I constantly watch as adults deny children their agency. While I fully recognize that young children do not possess the same agency as adults, I also fully believe that they tend to have much more than we tend to give them credit for. How do you view agency vis a vis children vis a vis a better life?

          • Kazzy, that’s a question I spend a lot of time thinking about, and will probably write about one day. One must deny children agency to some degree. They can’t have an all-cookie diet, they can’t decide whether they get a vaccination. Etc. What you have to think about is eventual agency. I’m not going to let them do certain things now because it restricts the future exercise of agency. With my kid with disabilities, I put him in leg braces now (which he hates) because it will likely help him walk one day.

            I think there’s more to it than that. I mean, you have other goals in raising children than making sure they have agency. But that’s the general idea.

          • I look forward to that post, Rose, should you get to it.

            I always find it interesting where folks offer children agency. I see some parents and teachers do it really well, while others do it literally the opposite of how I might advice. Often times, I think there is a lack of long-term thinking and more of a “What works right now” approach, which often runs counter to the child’s long term interests.

          • I’m having a hard time putting this to words so bear with me.

            I’ve studied the D/s lifestyle, and games, a fair amount over the last 10 years. It hasn’t been formal, but in my own curiousity and self exploration. What works for people, what doesn’t? What do I understand, what don’t I understand? What could I do, what could I not do, and what, ultimately, do I want to do? And yes this road has been trod with my wife as a partner to discuss, share and brainstorm. It has been… well, it hasn’t been easy.

            The life style is not about sex anymore than any other coupling. Sexual attraction and compatibility is very much a part of it, of course. I doubt that any of us would be with our partners now if there wasn’t some kind of sexual chemistry. And part of that chemistry stems from what we expect from the other.

            I’ve nothing against the belief that one person in a couple should expect equality from the other. What rubs me wrong is the assertion that any other expectation is not just “undesired” but deemed morally flawed and to be discouraged.

            I respect Rose’s desire to have her children reach a maximum of agency in life. Where I disagree is that I would prefer my children to reach maximum fullfilment and happiness in theirs. If full agency, if a perfect egalitarian marriage makes my son miserable, why would I want that for him? Why tell him that he had better stand up to his wife when they’re in my house, rather than defer to her and be happier? Or why insist that he get some kind of “help” to get over it? After all, wouldn’t getting help to avoid Immoral Behavior make sense?

            Because at the end of the day, I don’t really care who makes the final descision in his marriage when he gets to that age. I don’t really care if when the rubber meets the road his wife is the final say, ~~As Long As That’s What Makes Him Feel Fulfilled~~.

            A friend at a munch* made a comment that I clearly remember: “Would I want my kid to grow up into the life style? Hell no. Life’s so much easier when you’re normal. But would I support him if he did? Of course.” I’m rather the same way. Life is so much easier when you can say “My wife and I discussed this at length and we reached a consensus that we would compromise and take a vacation somewhere we both sorta like rather than one of the two places only one of us really loves.”

            Now I understand the fear of abuse and the potential for abusive relationships. It’s there. It does happen. Those ~are~ immoral, and the line between abuser and Dominant can seem very thin. The difference, in my limited experience, is that someone engaged in a true consensual D/s relationship is much much more upfront about the potential for abuse and thus more open about how to avoid it, than those who are not.

            Thinking about the couple at the gym, we don’t know the extent of their relationship but let’s assume that it ~was~ a 24/7 D/s couple. My experience (again, limited to people I’ve met, books I’ve read and online discussions) bears out that they found no sexual pleasure in what they were doing, nor in anyone watching them do it. That was their relationship and how it worked, just as I cook dinner, my wife sets up the coffee pot for the morning, and I’m expected to be the sexual initiator between us. We have our expectations for how we ~live~ and that’s what we do.

            And more than likely the couple at the gym did what they did because it’s what they each want out of the relationship. It’s what makes them feel like they’re complete.

            As a final note, I will again say that there are abuses, and that there are lines that even I look at and say “no, you need a therapist, not a Dominant”. I understand, I think, some of where Rose and Russel are coming from in their resistance to this because I’ve meet those who were SOOO obsessed with giving up all their personality, or with having a serious negative self-identity enforced (“I am nothing, I am worthless”) that I do agree that it’s immoral for someone to take advantage of that. Get a doctor, get counseling, get some self respect.

            And I do believe, continuing to meander, slowly, back to the topic at hand, that there should be an understanding of society at large. I’m mostly a Kantian and thus the “using” of unsuspecting “normals” as part of a thrill or a charge is outside my moral box. You don’t get to use people as a means to an end. So if the Gym couple were using words like “Master” and “slave” and “name for genetalia” I would agree in an objection. Most couples in the lifestyle have words that they know. “Hon” might be one. We won’t know because they’re cool about not abusing the fact that they’re in public.

            My real big takeaway to all of this, for myself, was that no two relationships work on the same level as another. Demanding democracy in a committee of two I know is problematic and prone to deadlock. I’m okay with how others seek to find ways to get around that and ensure that both parties are happy.

            *Munch = a gathering of people from the “alternate lifestyles” in public to discuss and share ideas in a low pressure atmosphere. The use of a public venue such as a restaurant is to encourage people to come and feel comfortable because no “play” will take place and all those engaged in conversation are likely to keep it low key and polite by simple fact of where they are. The term comes from the idea of getting together to “munch on some food and talk”. For the most part overt sexual displays, even overt signs of the lifestyle are discouraged if not banned from these events. ie no leashes or collars except as would be logical for local fashion.

  4. Doc, what do you have against bronies?

    Kidding, kidding…

    I think the debate of this piece is as old as the gay rights movement itself or many other political movements.

    Some of the particular details escape me but there was an incidence like this at my college during my senior year. The LGBTQ group had a carnival on the main quad. A fairly typical carnival with games and such. However the ring toss game used dildos instead of other targets

    What I can’t remember is if other games were sexualized and whether the fair was advertised as family friendly or not.

    The student newspaper wrote a very delicately worded editorial (in 2002) making the same argument that you do above. The result “absolute explosion”

    I think that the fetish, “Let your freak flag fly” people will argue that they are going against the very idea that such a thing as normative behavior exists. Why should they care about the “delicate sensibilities” of more prudish people. They would possibly argue that the onus on people taking offensive is self-examination as to their hang-ups and prejudices. They would also possibly further argue that many normal seeming and upright members of the community can be equally kinky and they are trying to attack the hypocrisy.

    I’m not sure I agree with all their arguments but on hypocrisy, they might have a point. Slate.com published an article last week by an anonymous pastor. Presuming the article was not a lie and trolling, the pastor argued that he and his wife (also a pastor) kept their sex-life from sinking to boredom via lots of threesomes and group sex. IIRC all the participants in said group sex were pastors.

    Now this article sparked the anti-Clerical side in me. I wondered if said pastor preached at a conservative church. I wondered what he preached in his sermons on sex before marriage, homosexuality, non-Christians, the importance of purity and chasity, etc. I’m not even Christian and I sensed the hypocrisy here. The only reason I am saying “presumably non-trolling” is that I suspect most of the letters to Dear Prudence are trolling and false.

    That being said, I think that San Francisco solves the issue by having the Folsom Street Fair (Let Your Freak Flag Fly) and Pride (much more family friendly) as separate events and during different times of the year.

    • First, what are the ends of one’s movement? To join in the normative behaviors (with all the attendant responsibilities, rights and privileges) of the increasingly-supportive majority, or to thumb one nose at their norms? It is self-defeating on either front to attempt to do both simultaneously.

      And I have nothing whatsoever about fetishists being fetishists. And one should keep one’s rhetoric in tune with one’s behavior, I agree. But not everything belongs on public display, and if there are people who think all norms should be destroyed they’ll find me on the other side arguing against them.

      • “However the ring toss game used dildos instead of other targets”

        isn’t that the point of college, at least socially?

      • The idea of all norms being destroyed really makes no sense. For example, the sentence “All norms should be destroyed” is, um, a normative one.

        • The people who think that all norms should be “destroyed” never seem to put much thought in what society would be like if we didn’t have norms. Not all norms and conventions are good but societies have them in order to allow a lot of people to live together without killing each other. The key is to give people as much freedom as possible and eliminate the bad norms while keeping the good and neutral ones.

          • i doubt anyone actually thinks all norms should be destroyed.

          • But who gets to decide which Norms are okay and which are not?

            For example, in the movie Boomerang, one of the characters is seen being pulled into a party (or was it a performance?) by six men (who were of different ethnicity) pulling a chariot. Now they weren’t in full tack and regala, but the ~overtone~ of “beasts of burden” was definitely there.

            Is that acceptable as long as we don’t have the full plumage? At what point are “The Safe Norms” violated?

          • Thats the crux of the issue. Norms aren’t things that are decided in deliberation, they are made up as you go by society at large. I’d argue that the Safe Norms are those that allow strangers to live together without flying into emotional and physical range. So don’t rant out loud about how your life sucks on the subway is a safe norm. An unsafe norm is one that forces people to be miserable. A norm that says that the only appropriate sex is between a man and woman in missionary position in the bedroom with the lights off is unsafe. Naturally, a lot of people find the safe norms to be evil because of their personality but sometimes the good of the many get to outweigh the needs of the few.

          • But Lee, you haven’t demonstrated what makes those norms different other than majority opinion. Which is cool if that is the ground you want to stake out, but do so explicitly and accept the costs of that line of thinking.

  5. I don’t wish to engage in… what would it be? “Gaysplaining”?

    But the second you say something like that, it’s always immediately followed by “gaysplaining”.


    It seems to me that a number of, at least the older members of the weirder groups out there, might have some claim to being “trailblazers” when it comes to, at least, raising awareness (if not pushing for acceptance/equality). Sort of a “we had our parades back when our lack of corporate sponsors was not even on the list of reasons we shouldn’t do it and we had the parades anyway” thing.

    Am I misunderstanding the importance of this subculture to the progress that has been made since the bad old days?

    • (And please understand: My personal inclination is RIGHT THERE with you. I’m just remembering all of the speeches I got in the 90’s.)

    • This is one of those conversations where, generally speaking, I tend to take a, “That’s your house, I’ll let you keep it in order.” Far be it from me, a straight dude, to tell the LGBTQ community how they should celebrate Pride.

      I obviously (OBVIOUSLY!) have broader opinions on social norms and in-group/out-group type stuff, none of which should be much mystery to folks here. But I’m entirely cool keeping them to myself and letting the LGBTQ community decide how they’re going to celebrate LGBTQ Pride.

      • Do people still use the Q in LBGT(Q)? I’ve gotten mixed reactions when I use it. And since I’m not in the community I’m willing to do what makes sense for others.

        • Hmmm… I didn’t know there had been a shift, but see now that Russ did omit it. I will totally cop to often being behind-the-times when it comes to language and labels so I should serve as no one’s guide. If LGBT is the preferred nomenclature, I’ll make a point to use it going forward.

        • Some people are very into the Q aspect. It is, they say, a political thing to be Queer along with whatever their sexual orientation is.

          • Yeah, I left it out just because LGBT is already plenty long. But yes, there is definitely a strong, loud “pro-Q” contingent in the community, so a more complete abbreviation would be been “LGBTQ.”

      • I’m fully down with this being none of my beeswax.

        (Like Chris said above, though, I’m one of those types that if I found out that there was an alien species discovered and we found that this alien species had a government, I’d have an opinion on that government.)

        • I didn’t mean to undercut you, but rather perhaps offer a way to offer an opinion without “Gaysplaining.”

          Such conversations often lead me to start my responses with, “BUT SINCE YOU ASKED….”

          • I was just imagimembering the conversations I had when I asked the “what exactly are we being proud of?” question (“This.” “Oh. Well… I imagine I’d be proud of that too. Could you put it away, though?”) and my attitude was that homosexuality was very probably very boring. Why be all “in your face”? It’s two guys eating dinner having very little to say to each other *NOT* because they don’t like each other but because conversational equilibrium has been achieved. Conversations like “Oh, I saw Marnee at the grocery store yesterday.” “Oh? How is she?” “You know Marnee. It’s still 1995. No change at all.” “Yeah.”

            I argued that the over the top stuff probably alienated people. That sort of thing.

            And… well. If you remember the 90’s, you probably can imagine what a straight white guy would have been told for saying such a thing.

          • … I don’t remember the 90’s…

            Did we hate gay people more or less than?

          • We had begun discussing Gay Marriage as something that might reasonably happen as opposed to the very idea of a man marrying another man making for the foundation of a sitcom script (“Mister Smythe, it seems that Missus Smythe signed where Pastor Johnson should have, and the pastor signed where Missus Smythe should have… you actually married Pastor Johnson!” leading up to new paperwork being drawn up where Mister Smythe ends up technically marrying the County Clerk) and that resulted in, tah-dah, DOMA. Soon after that, Massachusetts courts found that SSM is one of those relationships that is covered by the 14th Amendment… leading to a host of ugly State Constitutional Amendments in 2004 and 2006.

            So… I’d guess that the 90’s were the beginning of the end of there being enough states to pass a “Defense Of Marriage Amendment”.

  6. This gets into more issues than what does the LBGT community want, it gets into issues regarding freedom and what society wants. Most people in the USA are pro-freedom but we keep getting into debates about what freedom means. To many people freedom has to mean the liberty to break free from societal conventions as much as possible as the people you define above act. At the same time we have the old saying “your freedom to swing your fist ends where my noise begins.” We have these societal conventions for a reason, they make society function relatively smoothly and to conventional people, the “freaks” end up seeming more like jerks who want to impose their way of life on other people.

    I suppose the entire issue can be summed up as Bourgeoisie versus Anti-bourgeoisie. The Bourgeoisie impulse is for a functioning society thats relatively calm, prosperous and stable. Its whats described as ordered liberty best expressed basically by the archetypical New England town. The Bourgeoisie impulse requires a certain amount of sacrifice and enforcement of social conventions in public for it to work. You can not have social stability and a calm society if people have no impulse control. The Anti-borgeosie see the Bourgeoisie social model as a prison and evil. They want a society where they and everybody so inclined can be their freaky selves at all times and in public and private despite the fact that it might lead to more conflict.

    • I think you’ll be able to locate me within the debate by referring to the point in the OP where I mention that I spent the morning of the Pride parade last week folding laundry in my kitchen, followed by mowing the lawn.

    • I’m definitely on the bourgeois side of the equation. Between consenting adults, do whatever you want. In private. But, in public, social norms exist for a reason. At something like a Pride Parade, where you have a varied crowd (including folks with kids) show some decorum.

      • “… social norms exist for a reason …”

        And what are the reasons for social taboos around bronies?

        And how different are those from the reasons for one-time (and perhaps still ongoing) social taboos around men kissing in public?

        • I think the “who one loves” and “how one loves them” distinction is important. The one is an identity issue, and the other is a behavioral preference.

          • A very fair point. I hadn’t thought of it that way and will need to parse through that distinction.

            Having failed to yet do that, though, I will ask… to what extent are behavioral preference manifestations of identity?

            Which leads me to a question I always struggle with… is one straight/gay because of who one loves or how one loves? Imagine a man who has strong emotional feelings for another man, but is turned off by gay sex?

            And, yes, I realize we’re getting deep into some tangential (at best!) weeds.

          • And, yes, I realize we’re getting deep into some tangential (at best!) weeds.

            Heh. Perhaps just a bit.

            Look, it’s really not my business to tell another person what their identity is. If a guy really wants to hold hands and live his life with another guy, but is squicked out by the idea of some of the more technical aspects of two-dude sex, who am I to tell him he is or isn’t gay? He should be free to define or not define himself on his own terms.

            I just happen to think that there is such a thing as decorum, and that respecting it is in our collective best interest. I don’t care if you’re a diaper fetishist or someone who gets off on baking cakes wearing nothing but an apron or [insert weird thing here]. I don’t care if you and your fellow nudist Betty Crocker fans get together to bake in the buff. Yay, liberated nude bakers! But you should do it in the kitchen of one of your group, not in the bakery department at the local grocery store.

            It is not all that hard to both respect yourself and respect other people. It is not all that hard to make decisions about what should be private or public. I reject the notion that the pony play people (there, I said it) really need to be told that they’re violating the rules of decorum by showing up drawing a carriage with a bit in their mouths. They know they’re doing so, and doing so is the point. And I frankly think that’s selfish and irresponsible and puts their gratification too far ahead of the broader goals of the LGBTQ (got the Q in that time!) community as a whole.

          • This is the sort of distinction that sometimes makes me a bit uncomfortable. I think the line between “who one loves” and ‘how one loves them” often gets pretty blurry in practice. I’m trying really hard not to say too much about my own life, but when I read Jason K.’s recent main-page post on the bathroom stall graffiti he saw years ago, I thought about some of the people I’ve observed similarly desperate to meet people who share their lifestyle, and the consequences of the difficulty of meeting such people, because they hiding, can be pretty damaging. Even in the age of the internet, when every counterculture within a counterculture has its own little corner of the interwebs, the strength of certain taboos can make meaningful relationships difficult to come by. And when that’s the case, it looks a lot like a “who you love” problem to me. I recognize that this is pretty far afield from your initial question, and I don’t know what the implications of what I’m saying are for your initial question, but it’s the sort of thing that worries me now and then.

          • Look, I’m not trying to draw hard “this or that” identity decisions for other people. The “who/how” distinction seems helpful when trying to answer questions about decorum, in my very humble opinion, but no tool is always useful all the time.

            I simply think the paraphernalia of an individual or group’s sexual gratification is something that belongs private. Not shamed. Not hunted out and persecuted. Not forced to hide. But private.

          • Wait a minute…”pony play”…weirdly-costumed subcultures, with excessive public displays of enthusiasm…I finally figured out what you guys are talking about…

          • My recent Chicago experience with the LBGT community was not so much a fetish, I think. It was more “rough love” stuff, which I think can take place no matter who your partner is.

          • Russell, let me first reiterate that I’m really no longer speaking to your initial question, because I think the question of what is appropriate where, particularly when we’re talking about groups that are, however much progress they’ve made, still fighting for acceptance, is one that the groups involved should be able to answer themselves.

            But on the tangent that I have taken (and I apologize for taking such a tangent), even the paraphernalia distinction worries me a bit. Is the dress paraphernalia? I mean, the whips and crops and the like clearly are, but what about the outfits? As long as they are not… uncomfortably revealing (and even that is a difficult thing to point point), should they be discouraged?

            I don’t mean to put you on the spot. I’m asking these questions more to make myself think about these things than to call into question the validity of your views, or anyone else’s. It’s just stuff I think about pretty regularly, for better or worse.

          • If the person is being transgressive for the sake of transgressiveness, I do think there are appropriate and inappropriate places and times for such. Where Pride falls on the spectrum… well, I’ll let the proud folk self-police that one.

            But if the brony in question feels like he is not inside his own skin unless he has a bit in his mouth, I’m really hard pressed to tell him to suck it up and deal.

          • I think if the object in question is clearly, unambiguously related to sexual gratification, then it should be kept in private. I would prefer that people err on the side of discretion, but there will obviously be gray areas. But if the item is only ever worn for the purposes of getting one’s jollies, then one should don it only in private, in the company of people whose jollies are similarly achieved.

          • So dildo-nunchuks, if used for self-defense… I can keep carrying those around?


            When I used to teach on the border of Chelsea and the West Village, I remember being worried about walking my students around the neighborhood because of the suggestiveness of some of the signage… lots of bare chested men, to say nothing of what one could see in a few choice storefronts.

            Then I walked the kids around and they were entirely non-plussed, which I assume was a function of their all having grown up in the neighborhood and thus being exposed to that stuff from day one.

            I realized it was my own prudishness that was coming out and that the kids didn’t see anything odd about billboards featuring topless, smiling men.

            It was a real learning experience.

          • That’s a formulation I have no problem with, and I think the majority of the fetish community wouldn’t have a problem with it either.

            And I think you’re right that the pony play paraphernalia really is people getting their jollies off and doing a public scene. They’re not just people trying to live a non-typical lifestyle that, like all lifestyles, takes place partially in public. They’re in the wrong.

            I don’t think the same can be said for someone wearing a discrete collar or tying their SO’s shoes in public.

        • I think the good doctor summed up my thoughts on the issue quite well. Then again, I’m not all that comfortable with excessive displays of affection in public, so my “squick” bar as to what should be kept private is set pretty low.

          • Perhaps ironically, I’m averse to displaying affection in public almost to a fault. There’s some old southerner in me yet.

          • PDA are something that makes very uncomfortable to. Holding hands or walking arm to arm and kissing on occasion are fine. However, when I’m on the subway going home at night or I’m in public somewhere and a couple is making out than I start feeling queasy and I’ve only seen straight couples engage in this sort of activity. I’m just trying to go about my business and do not need to see people make out. Its also an exclusionary activity that alienates everybody else around by saying “look at us, look what we have and you don’t.”

        • Kazzy, at a certain point it amounts to this; people need to realize that they are the not the center of the universe. When I’m out of my apartment, I’m with other people and sharing the same public space whether it be the park, the train, or the street and they are going about their lives. The other people do not need or want to see my private life or freaky side or whatever. They just want to go about their life. Thats why its best the some things remain in private. So some minor affection like holding hands or kissing in public is acceptable because it fits within the social convention. It allows couples to be loving without being obtrusive to other people. Going around in full fetish gear or acting out your fantasies in public is not acceptable because its brining the public into something that should be private. Its very self-centered and too much self-centeredness is not good for civic society.

          • “…people need to realize that they are the not the center of the universe….”

            But that cuts both ways! Don’t you see??? You don’t want to see my freaky side? TOUGH! You are not the center of the universe.

          • To put it less snarkily, we have a conflict. I want to do X in public. You do not want to see me doing X. One of us is not going to get our way. Why should we assume that the person who wants to do X is in err? Is the self-centered one?

          • Well, a good benchmark is “how commonly is X done by others?”

            If most people are allowed to hold hands and kiss in public without condemnation, then you should be able to. If any couple would be viewed with alarm, gay or straight, white or black or Asian, for behaving in a particular manner, then you don’t get a pass to do it.

            I would note that at no other parade would I expect to encounter people in equine attire. It would draw gasps of consternation if these folks decided to plop an Italian flag on their carriage and draw it, pony-like, down the avenue on Columbus Day. Since the fetish in question has been stipulated to be within both the gay and straight communities, if it doesn’t belong at the parades of the latter then I really wonder why it wouldn’t be considered too extreme for the former.

          • Kazzy, I’d argue at this point it comes to whose acting as greater disturber of the public peace. Its the “freaky” people who are acting in a self-centered way, saying “look at me, look at me. I’m a special snow flake because I have no inhibition and wear my fetish gear in public unlike you vanilla mundanes.” A lot of people seem to confuse being special with being an asshole.

            Do you think that there is any downside to letting the commons be a free for all when it comes to behavior? Do you think that there are quality of life issues at stake?

          • Assume that a couple is having a big fight in the public park over something or another. There yelling and screaming at each other and hurling insults over something that is very important to them. At the same time, the park is filled with other people who just want to enjoy and it pay attention to the spectacle of the couple fighting. They would wish the couple would just go away and resolve the issue privately and alone but the couple things its really important and needs to be dealt with right now.

            The couple is in error because they are imposing their own private drama on the public and decreasing the publics enjoyment of the park. Its the same with the freaks. The freaks might think what they are doing is very important to them and can not wait but are decreasing other people’s enjoyment of the commons. The commons are shared by everybody and you should avoid behavior that will make it harder for others to enjoy it.

          • Russell,

            Let me make clear that I think the organizers of the Pride parade (presuming it is centrally organized… I really don’t know) should have every right to set the criteria for inclusion in the parade. If they don’t see fit to have the bronies or whomever, so be it.

            However, I am speaking more generally than the Pride event. I do not think we should have either special restrictions nor special exceptions carved out for the behavior of gay folks… nor anyone else. So, I’m not framing it as, “Well, yea, let the gays wear their saddles and bits.” I’m framing it as, “Let everyone where what feels right to them.” So if that means a straight guy in chaps or a gay dude in leather or a Muslim woman in a burqa, I say go for it.


            I think you presume to know these people’s intentions in a way I don’t think you ought to. Maybe they’re not letting their “freak flag fly”. Maybe they just feel as natural in horse costumes as you do in a suit and as unnatural in a suit as you do in a horse costumes.

            As for letting the commons be a free for all, I think the people who do it for attention seeking behavior will eventually stop when we stop indulging their efforts with hand wringing. Letting people be who they are, unjudged, I think will lead to a happier society. I can’t say so with certainty, but it is what I believe…

          • Kazzy, I’d argue is that the burden is not to disturb other people’s enjoyment of the commons. Lets say that its a nice summer day and lots of people are going to the park and enjoy themselves. Families, couples, groups of friends, and people who are alone. Their having picnics, playing games and sports, reading, chatting, or sleeping under a tree. At the same time, while having fun, they are trying not to disturb other people’s enjoyment. Than you another group that comes into the park, lets say its a heterosexual couple into BDSM. They are in full fetish gear and the dominate one is bossing around the submissive one, acting out their fantasy in public. This couple is making a spectacle of themselves and making it harder for other people to enjoy the commons of the park by drawing other people into their private, fantasy life.

          • But how do you define “making a spectacle”? Obviously, if the top is tying to bottom to a St. Andrew’s Cross and bringing out a 6 foot long whip, safe to say they shouldn’t be doing that. Likewise if they’re screaming “slave, do this” and “I obey, master” at the tops of their lungs.

            But nobody is actually arguing for people to have the right to do that. Even for the pony players at the Pride parade, I suspect, it’s a matter of disagreement about whether Pride is an appropriate or inappropriate venue than a claim that no venues are inappropriate.

            But if the “domina[nt] one is bossing around the submissive one” by silently pointing to his shoe, and the other is matter-of-factly bending down and tying it? It seems like they’re not the ones making a big deal out of their actions.

          • Are the Frisbee players tossing their disc around making a spectacle of themselves?

            I fully accept that we define certain places with certain purposes, even public ones. A road is a venue for transportation; it would be inappropriate to host a picnic in the middle of one. But what is the purpose of a park? Perhaps not to flog one another loudly, but if two folks want to have their picnic wearing leather chaps with bits in their mouth, what business is it of anyone else?

          • wearing leather chaps with bits in their mouth

            Wouldn’t the bits obstruct the feedbags?

            No, wait, don’t answer that. I don’t really want to know.

          • Actually, you know what, DO answer that. Because a lot of the disagreement here as I see it, revolves around “where’s the line?” Almost nobody thinks there’s no line at all.

            I bring my radio to the park and quietly play music I enjoy (though you, personally, hate classical music, with all of its references to guns and ho’s). A-OK.

            I bring my radio and loudly play “Thug Concerto for Bichez #5” – not so A-OK, either due to sheer decibel volume, and/or incessant repetition of the word “Bichez”. It’s obnoxious. As per ND, I am now detracting from others’ enjoyment of a shared space.

            So what’s the “decibels/volume” on these pony costumes? If they are just wearing a lot of leather, A-OK; if they have gimp masks and nipple cut-outs, I am not so sure; if they are wearing assless chaps with their junk swinging in the breeze, DUDE, NOT COOL, I have to sit on the same park benches as you.

          • But Glyph, I would want to know whether we are responding to decibels or whether we are responding to content.

            Saying, “No loud music,” is different than saying, “No rap music,” or “Only quiet rap music.”

          • Content can be an issue, per obscenity laws and general courtesy/decorum. That’s why I included that. It’s not just volume, it’s “what is being said”.

            “No Rap” would be problematic to me. “No repeatedly dropping Fish-bombs next to the playground” would not necessarily be.

            Or, we are playing touch football and I keep yelling yell “I’m open, I’m open, throw it to me!”; this is not so obnoxious (impinging on others’ enjoyment of a shared space) as if I let fly a string of constant colorful obscenities, though the noise level remains constant.

            People take both volume AND message into account, no?

          • I think we again come back to defining the purpose of the space.

          • But Kazzy, I am taking as given what I see to be ND & LeeEsq’s point – that the purpose of the space is for the maximum number people to enjoy themselves, and if I am enjoying myself in such a way that others’ enjoyment of the space is significantly diminished, I am in the wrong (morally, if not legally).

            (LeeEsq and ND, pls correct me if I am misstating your position).

            I don’t have an inherent problem with this, as long as we are just talking morality (let’s leave legal sanction out of it). It just falls under the general heading “be courteous/don’t be an obnoxious jerk.”

            So at what point is “obnoxious jerkhood” reached, when we are talking about visual disturbances like weird outfits? Personally, I think we have to go pretty far. The mere fact that someone is dressed strangely, or in a way that obliquely alludes to their interests, doesn’t seem enough, to me; as someone has said elsewhere, much can be explained to children as “costumes”.

            Larry Blackmon’s pants? Questionable. Partial/full nudity? Clearly over the line (but we have laws to cover that anyway).

            So I’d like to know more about what these pony outfits entail (nailed it!)

          • the difficult/weird thing about this conversation is that’s an echo of “i don’t care what two men do in private, but i just don’t wanna see it”.

            i see both the pro/con of the millicent view, though i tend more to the “don’t care” side myself.

          • Glypth, thats basically my argument but I’d go a bit further and argue that the purpose of public space is to allow the maximum people to get on with their lives. I’d argue that a couple having a big fight on the subway is just as bad as people acting out their fetish in a public park. It has the same effect, brining the public into your private life when they didn’t want to be there. My objection is beyond “freaky” behavior, its to any anti-social behavior.

            I suppose the ultimate issue is how much can the public ignore you. On the New York subway, there are groups of teenagers that will put on brief dance routines and ask for money. You also have the ranters. There are other types of subway performers to. I usually find these performers annoying. I simply want to get where I’m going and read my kindle or talk to friends if I’m traveling with somebody. Based on the reaction of other passengers, most people feel the way I do. My opinion is that you shouldn’t make your private life public if you can and don’t involve strangers in any fetish or issue you are having if you can avoid it.

          • Kazzy, I strongly disagree with a statement that letting people be who they are will make society a happier place. Some people are actually rather nasty sorts who love engaging in all sort of anti-social activity at the expense of others. On the internet we call these people trolls and they can do a lot of real damage. Its the way they are, they think that they are being the life of the party and everybody else a square for not getting the joke. Sometimes they even try to use badly interpreted Nietzche to justify their actions. We should not allow this type of behavior.

            Other people aren’t like this but still engage in behavior that makes it harder for others to enjoy life. The commons are not a stage for your fantasies and nobody is asking to be brought into your private life as an extra. I don’t act out my fantasy life in public because people do not want to see or participate in it. The same goes for other people.

          • Glyph,

            I understand that argument, but think we quickly tumble down rabbit holes when we start to use the word “enjoy”. Because we are quickly put into a place where we are favoring one form of enjoyment over another. It must be remembered that there are two sides to this coin: someone is going to have their enjoyment curtailed. We can say, “Well, of course we should curtail the freaks. They’re freaks!” But I’m really, really uncomfortable with that line of argument.

            So we can’t simply say “enjoyment”. Because all it takes is an orgy’s worth of people to show up and start screwing, because odds are their enjoyment will be greater than the sum of the rest of the folks. Saying that parks are intended for outdoor recreation activities, quiet contemplation, or whathaveyou gives you a much stronger argument for curtailing undesirable behavior. Of course, you still have some work to do to justify why you want to limit your public park to such activities, but I think the argument can be fully formed.

            But as soon as we start question begging with the presumption that this sort of enjoyment is okay but that sort of enjoyment is not because the former is done by normal people and the latter is done by freaks… I’m sorry, I’m going to strongly object. Freaks have rights to. And once we realize they aren’t actually freaks, that they might be motivated by something other than pissing people off, that maybe they’re just regular folks who feel good wearing or doing something else and they’re not trying to piss people off… that is when we have a better society.

          • @ dhex – I tend mostly toward “don’t care” myself, though as I said I have no strong objections to asking people to keep anything that will startle the horses (!) behind closed doors.

            I wonder if the Doc has stronger feelings for the same reason that someone like Bill Cosby probably heaved a sigh whenever Flavor of Love came on his TV…”Come ON, we struggled so HARD to make people realize we are just regular folks like anyone, and here you are making us look RIDICULOUS.”

            That is, the perception that some may be publicly playing into old stereotypes of gays as sex-obsessed exhibitionist weirdos is maybe more noticeable/embarrassing to other gay people than it is to others outside that group?

            When we as a nation accept that “ridiculousness” is a concept owned by no race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or preference, and that “sex-obsessed exhibitionist weirdo” is the birthright and natural state of all human beings and many animals, then and only then will we have truly realized the American Dream.

          • Kazzy, I’m only using a park as one example of this. Its not necessarily about enjoyment. Michele said it best, its about maintaining a decorum that allows society to function. Lets say you are on a train going home from work and the train is filled to capacity with other people going home work. Everybody is tired and weary and just wants to enjoy the ride home quietly. Than a couple gets on at a station and they are arguing and loud about some personal issues they are having and do not stop. That couple is being a jerk, they aren’t enjoying themselves but they are ruining it for everybody else by bringing their private life into the public.

            So yes, I recognize that “freaks” have rights but as the they say, “your right to swing your first ends with my nose.” I do not believe that out in the commons people have the right to make their private life public. This goes for everybody. And I disagree, I think that a lot of people make their private life public because they know it pisses off and that they like to present themselves as being more enlightened and free than vanillas, muggles, and mundanes as they sometimes call “conventional” people.

          • I’d argue that a couple having a big fight on the subway is just as bad as people acting out their fetish in a public park….My objection is beyond “freaky” behavior, its to any anti-social behavior.

            So why is a fight involving top-of-the-lungs screaming, flying objects, etc, merely “just as bad” as a brief, silent exchange where one partner points to an untied shoe and the other ties it? It’s not that you object only to freaky behavior, it’s that you define all freaky behavior as anti-social for no better reason than because it’s freaky (from your perspective).

            We’ve, fortunately, come to a cultural place where two men holding hands on the subway isn’t significantly more freaky than a man and a woman holding hands. But it wasn’t always so. Is a gay couple holding hands “anti-social” if they happen to live in a homophobic environment?

          • “your right to swing your first ends with my nose.”

            You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          • Kazzy, I am not trying to curtail the freaks. I consider them my brethren in good standing. I don’t think our positions are all that far apart.

            What I am trying to say is that wherever possible, let’s look for objective measures before we claim someone is offending against the common peace. I intentionally mashed up rap and classical to try to make the point that it doesn’t matter what the music is: if it is too loud, it’s too loud (AND you’re too old). You can measure decibels. If we want to consider content, you can count occurrences of the fish-bomb (or n-word). If genitalia are visible, or people are publicly engaged in clearly sexual behavior (note: this does not mean just tying shoes, or wearing leather; it probably does include most activities which end in bodily fluids or happy shivers, sneezing mostly excepted), it’s probably over the line.

            Otherwise, it’s probably best just to look the other way, so that you get that same consideration reciprocally. We are all obnoxious jerks from someone’s POV sometimes; as important as it is to civil society for each of us to try not to BE an obnoxious jerk, equally important is the ability to occasionally let someone else’s obnoxious jerkhood slide.

          • “I wonder if the Doc has stronger feelings for the same reason that someone like Bill Cosby probably heaved a sigh whenever Flavor of Love came on his TV…”Come ON, we struggled so HARD to make people realize we are just regular folks like anyone, and here you are making us look RIDICULOUS.” ”

            definitely. i can see from a certain pov that they’re the blue druids of american homosexuality.

            on the other hand some of our best friends are blue druids of american homosexuality so like rip i’m torn.

            “The couple is in error because they are imposing their own private drama on the public and decreasing the publics enjoyment of the park. Its the same with the freaks. The freaks might think what they are doing is very important to them and can not wait but are decreasing other people’s enjoyment of the commons. The commons are shared by everybody and you should avoid behavior that will make it harder for others to enjoy it.”

            sooooo at what point do people get to be people? i mean, i hate bass cars quite a lot but an authentic life has edges and lousiness and bouts of violence, inward and outward. some of that lousiness is what i’m going to miss from living in a city where some of the beauty is seeing millions of lives go past and realizing your own incredible insignificance.

            you’ve made me weirdly sad tonight. gonna go listen to some folk music or something.

          • gonna go listen to some folk music or something.

            I hear The Decemberists are good.

          • That’s really all anyone can ask for, Glyph, to be treated the same based on OBJECTIVE criteria.

          • For dhex.

            There are a couple issues here (well, a third, if dhex listens to that song and kills someone): the prominent presence of certain groups at a large gay pride parade, and the marginalization of those groups more generally. These are related issues, of course, and perhaps the former is a special case of the latter, but they are separable for analytical purposes. Gay pride has largely been about making being openly gay something that people don’t bat an eye at, whether we’re on the streets of Boston or in line for a marriage license. To the extent that certain subcultures within the “gay community” reinforce a sense that gay people are the Other among people outside of that community, it stands to reason that Russell, or other gay people, might take issue with them presenting themselves so prominently in the context of an event to celebrate being gay and the strides that LGBTs have made in our society. It also stands to reason that people like Russell, with his family, would be less than pleased with groups who make them feel like including their family in such events is a problem. Like I’ve said elsewhere in the thread, though, I suspect that these things will work themselves out within the community of people who like to march and attend gay pride parades, because their own interests are at stake, and their progress, however great it has been, still too tenuous to take for granted.

            On the other hand, there is the marginalization of such groups generally, which as I said earlier can create all sorts of problems for members of those groups and for those of us who aren’t members as well. And as a society, we’ll have to work out, through the discursive processes by which these things are worked out, where we draw the lines. I’m happy with the line Russell drew above, which is to say with explicitly and primarily sexual content remaining private for the most part. But this is still a fuzzy line, which means we’ll still have to do a lot of work with particular styles of dress and particular behaviors.

          • first off, chris, that was a terrible thing to do to someone. what if i’d been driving and clicked on that youtube link? ethically speaking, you’d be responsible for the accident that followed.

            is today the day your youtube joke harms a child?

            i would generally reach for something like this instead:


            “On the other hand, there is the marginalization of such groups generally, which as I said earlier can create all sorts of problems for members of those groups and for those of us who aren’t members as well. And as a society, we’ll have to work out, through the discursive processes by which these things are worked out, where we draw the lines.”

            definitely – i also recognize that it’s easier for me to be all whatevs on the subject than russell because i don’t have to deal with the worry that someone is going to equivocate me with a straight dude in a harness or whatever and then possibly go around trying to keep me from getting married or adopting or visiting my partner in the hospital etc etc and so forth.

            that said, part of the flavor of an urban environment is its distinct lack of communitas in the traditional sense – social controls are spread out more simply because there’s so much more room for experiments in living. i’m pretty far on the opposite end of the anarcho-millicent scale. i had no problems with my son at pride last year when we went to meet our friend and his bf, but he was also 2 and change and thought everyone dressed like pirates was really cool and that everyone “has a lot of boy friends!”

            i generally presume/hope that my son’s generation will be more preoccupied with issues of gender expression than sexual orientation. this also presumes that things will continue to get looser/weirder/more atomized/hyperindividualistic in the barzunian sense/etc – that this incarnation of the superstate will continue to slide lax on social issues as it grows to dominate everything else. while not ideal, it’s also not the worst case future.

          • i should also note i’m somewhat terrified about moving to a part of america which doesn’t have pride parades and the like, which may also be coloring my whatevs.

          • i also recognize that it’s easier for me to be all whatevs on the subject than russell because i don’t have to deal with the worry that someone is going to equivocate me with a straight dude in a harness or whatever and then possibly go around trying to keep me from getting married or adopting or visiting my partner in the hospital etc etc and so forth.

            Ditto, and thanks for pointing this out.

            i generally presume/hope that my son’s generation will be more preoccupied with issues of gender expression than sexual orientation. this also presumes that things will continue to get looser/weirder/more atomized/hyperindividualistic in the barzunian sense/etc – that this incarnation of the superstate will continue to slide lax on social issues as it grows to dominate everything else. while not ideal, it’s also not the worst case future.

            There’s a lot of ideas in here that I have thought, inchoately; thanks for putting them so succintly. Looks like I need to add Barzun to my already epic reading list.

          • So I’m just getting back to this comment thread this morning, and will just add a few thoughts:

            1) I wonder if the Doc has stronger feelings for the same reason that someone like Bill Cosby probably heaved a sigh whenever Flavor of Love came on his TV…”Come ON, we struggled so HARD to make people realize we are just regular folks like anyone, and here you are making us look RIDICULOUS.”

            Just so.

            2) I would probably be very, very unhappy in a part of the country where there were no Pride parades. First off, that would be a bad sign about how many of my fellow gays were around and how comfortable they felt about being openly so. I simply won’t live anywhere where my family will be marginalized, period. But also, if they don’t have enough gay people, I’d suspect they also don’t have enough black people, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, etc. to make me happy, either.

          • Glyph,

            I agree with just about everything in your last comment to me.


            This is probably going to be the last comment I make, because I don’t think either of us is going to change the other’s minds (which is cool! We disagree, but I got no beef with ya!).

            Per the couple on the train, I still wouldn’t call that couple a jerk. There are too many variables that go into that equation for me to say as much. And it still presumes a particular purpose for a train right that I think is neither articulated or agreed upon. If they were to have that argument in a movie theater, I think we could rightfully say they have violated the space, as a movie theater is intended for viewing films, and that which interferes with that is out of place. But a train is a means of transportation; nothing about it inherently makes it a quiet or reflective space. In fact, I know Amtrak instituted “Quiet Cars” to delineate certain spaces which are quiet but the rest which can be freely enjoyed. So, clearly, there is not universal agreement that otherwise undefined spaces ought to be free of argument or other things that some (or even most!) people might not like.

          • If you end up in Texas, there are plenty of pride parades here. There was a time, maybe 10-15 years ago, when Austin had one of the largest gay populations, per capita, in the country. It still has a pretty thriving, open, and active gay community, and a fairly prominent gay social scene downtown (my girlfriend and I used to go to karaoke night at one of the gay clubs at least once a month, but have fallen out of the habit of going downtown at all lately — not to get all stereotypical, but gay people do karaoke much better than straight people, if only because there’s not going to be a woman who sings “Edge of Seventeen” at least three times over the course of an evening… who, baby, who… said who said you should sing that song repeatedly?).

          • Even though I’ve never been, I’ve heard enough from people I trust to say that Austin is the one place in Texas I know I’d be happy living.

          • “2) I would probably be very, very unhappy in a part of the country where there were no Pride parades. First off, that would be a bad sign about how many of my fellow gays were around and how comfortable they felt about being openly so. I simply won’t live anywhere where my family will be marginalized, period. But also, if they don’t have enough gay people, I’d suspect they also don’t have enough black people, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, etc. to make me happy, either.”

            i’m with you on the first part. my consolation is that my aunt and her partner live in rehobeth and we won’t be that far away from there. and apparently annapolis has some pride events as well.

            my concern is more for my son, especially as my wife’s family and extended relatives tend to be really lousy on that front, to the point where i lost my shizz recently over a room color issue (too stupid to go into).

            we’re moving far enough away from them that their daily influence won’t be an issue as he gets more sentient but i want a counterpoint beyond my wife and i saying so. plus there’s the whole abattoir of depraved stupidity that is middle school, etc.

            on the second part, i’m not as sold on the connection – there’s plenty of places in nyc which are tremendously culturally diverse but not particularly open to gay and lesbian people living openly. that said, a bus ride or a subway ride fixes the issue (at least temporarily) whereas it won’t work as well in our future homeland.

          • Let me clarify — I don’t need to live in the exact location of a Pride event and all the other stuff I associate with it. Neither the place I live now nor the last location I lived would have Pride events exactly where they were. But a city that does have Pride events is a short-enough drive away, and the attitudes of the area are broadly Pride-consistent.

            Extreme fetish-wear would play poorly, though, I suspect.

          • “Let me clarify — I don’t need to live in the exact location of a Pride event and all the other stuff I associate with it. Neither the place I live now nor the last location I lived would have Pride events exactly where they were. But a city that does have Pride events is a short-enough drive away, and the attitudes of the area are broadly Pride-consistent.

            Extreme fetish-wear would play poorly, though, I suspect.”

            yeah, this is probably more of my nyc distortion field coming through. for me, a 45 minute drive is a REALLY FAR AWAY PLACE. like long island. in the rest of america it’s something you do maybe twice a day for work or if you want to get milk and the local merry mart closes at 7pm.

            but i’m also concerned about the immediate area because of schooling issues, and especially peer groups. i feel like i’m going in blind here and by the time i get an idea of what the cultural deal is he’ll be 13. i may also just be assuming that most of america is filled with racist dickbags.

            possible thought: maybe this is a form of vanity on my part, in that i don’t want my kid to be a rube?

      • I’m on the Bourgeoisie side to. Its just that I don’t if anything could be done about the Anti-Bourgeoisie besides expressing disapproval without engaging in some coercive and potential dangerous behavior.

    • I think Justice Goldberg called this “ordered liberty” in Griswold v. Connecticut.

      Note the irony of the decision.

      • Subject matter of the case rather. I am pro-Griswold.

  7. I hear you, I feel you, but I’m having flashbacks to (internet) conversations I had with a very angry gay man about the where’s and whens of “sensible behavior”.

    It’s a real pickle to be in because one could argue that a certain kind of relationship, be it equine in nature, could be a simple matter of “freak” or it could be a case of “in 10 years this will be seen in the same way that two people holding hands, or a woman showing her ankles is seen today”.

    I understand not wanting your kids to see that, but isn’t that the same thing said 20 years ago about Pride in general?

    I dunno… I get where you are, and I share your displeasure to have to say “LOOK! Balloons! rather than have to explain the oddness about. I doubt “they’re just playing make believe” would suffice. Or would it?

    Heh. Dude, I so got nothing….

    • Social norms do change over time–they aren’t static. A century or so ago, women could barely show any skin in public. Now, what’s considered appropriate’s women wear is much, much different.

  8. I can’t read all of the comments above at this moment because I’m about to board a plane, but I think the LBGT community that I spent time in/with while visiting Chicago leaned to the fetish side of things. Whatevs, it was fun. I have boring gay friends at home, I’m on vacation!

    Side note, the LBGT pride parade in my area is always on Father’s Day. Apparently that is on purpose, but I think it’s poor planning. You run the risk of people having to choose how to celebrate. Am I wrong??? I would really love to know.

    • Your right. A person really shouldn’t have to choose between being a good child to devoted father or being a proud member of the LBGT community. Its a false choice, both are compatible.

      • I guess I just meant that Father’s Day plans can sometimes take you away from home and other activities that might otherwise like to participate in. The idea if Father’s Day is to do something that is important to your father. If the parade is important to you and/or your father that works out, but not so much if he wants you to go fishing with him for his special day.

  9. I just wanted to say that I’ve found this discussion really interesting. Thanks for launching it, Russell.

      • Not to get all gushy, but the atmosphere you and Rose, and your readers, have created here genuinely impresses me. It’s something that one could search the internet far and wide for a long time and not find repeated. Part of me wishes there were more places where discussions on potentially touchy issues went like this one, and part of me is glad that there aren’t many other places like this, so that I can enjoy this one.

        • What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. And thank you for reading and commenting. This community brings me tremendous pleasure, and I am so grateful for the participation of everyone who makes it such a treat to be a part of.

        • That means a lot. I’m so happy to be back! This place (usually) restores my sanity. Except when I write about circumcision. But in general, I love that there is always some seriously intelligent, respectful discussion here. Disagreements are seen as good faith disagreements.

  10. I think the “Pride” part has sort of evolved. Or perhaps been co-opted.

    Homosexuality wasn’t the only thing kept in the closet, something people were supposed to be ashamed of. All the various kinks and fetishes were that way too.

    Honestly, I feel it’s up to the actual people putting on the parade to decide what sexual cultures, subcultures, orientations, or marginalized folk get to participate. However, I can’t really get into the “But the children” mentality as long as, well, the legally-required clothing minimums were observed.

    I mean, the whole equine role players have nothing on Comicon. 🙂 Which, last time I stumbled across THAT with a small child, I got to explain that just because you grow up doesn’t mean you have to stop playing dress-up. So seeing Sailor Moon, and various ninjas in crazy wigs, a few Jedi, and a few bikini-clad Leia’s wandering by — well, the kid who wore his batman cape twice a week until he was almost ten totally grokked it.

    Human ponies are a bit harder to explain, but “It’s a costume” goes a surprisingly long way.

    Probably the Pride parades here in Houston are a bit less…out there, but while I’ve stumbled across some very kinkily dressed people, they generally cover up far more than college kids at Halloween.

    Kids won’t get the “kink” aspect until they’re old enough to grasp what’s going on anyways.

    Especially in the context of a parade or other event. Random regular life? Different story. Parade, party, convention? Rules are different than at the local Subway.

    • That was golden. My favorite two parts:

      “Mostly, I think, because it’s really fun,” Thorne added.

      and, per the runaway acronyms above,

      spokesperson for LAGALABATATA

      That one is actually really enjoyable to say, like “Hakuna Matata”.

  11. If you need a parade to ‘let your freak flag fly’ – then you should be at Southern Decadence. For parades with a family element, the freak flag should be not be flying.

    • For lots of Americans — a majority, until quite recently, being gay was a “freak flag” that should not be seen by families. That changed. I can’t quite bring myself to blame other marginalized groups for doing the same, especially if they’re modestly — if kinkily — dressed. (The group in question, in general, wears more than most people do at the beach).

      I think the kicker is WE (the adults) know it’s sexual or has a heavy sexual component. Hence the discomfort.

      But kids? In general, they won’t notice. It’s just people wearing costumes, like ninjas or clowns. (By the time they’re old enough to notice, they’re old enough to understand it — or figure it out on their own).

      So should they be allowed to do it or not?

      This being a libertarian blog, I’d imagine the general feeling would be “Yes”. Perhaps it’s not polite. Perhaps it’s a bad idea. Perhaps it’s being sort of a dick. But still “yes”. Unless the parade organizers don’t like it.

      • Just to clarify, this is not a libertarian blog. The main page has lots of libertarian contributors (and I believe that it used to have more), but now has a great many liberal voices, too, and a few conservatives. But this wee little blog of mine and Rose’s? Not libertarian. I’m probably best described as a liberal with libertarian sympathies and occasional conservative tendencies (the last largely revolving around courtesy and decorum in public).

        And it was not the degree of undress that drew my son’s curiosity and made me want to head somewhere else. It was that the people flaunting their kink had bits in their mouths (something I’ve never seen a ninja or clown do) and were hitched to a carriage. I’m sure I could have explained it away, if pressed, as their simply “being silly” or “playing pretend” or some such, but frankly I resent having to come up with an explanation at all for people choosing to display their overtly sexual behaviors in a space that does not call for such displays.

        [Edited to add: A further objection, to which I have alluded in upthread comments, is this — the people displaying their fetish are not asking for equality, they are in fact asking for special treatment. Equality is demanding the right to hold hands and kiss in public, just like anyone else does. Equality is demanding freedom from restrictions placed on nobody else. But nowhere else would I expect to see extreme fetish-wear in a parade than at Pride. The pony play people aren’t asking for equality, they’re demanding that we tolerate performative behavior that we would not tolerate from anyone else in a similar public venue. They aren’t wanting equality, they’re wanting special privileges. And I resent their using an event that, in my opinion, has been and should be about dignity and equality as means to their own separate and not entirely helpful ends.]

        • Ah, my apologies. 🙂

          I admit, i’d have undoubtedly been just as — if not more — discomforted in your shoes at the time.

          OTOH, I’m just as discomforted by the thought of telling the Pride parade folks — who undoubtedly have their own their own rules, few or many as they may be, as to participants that “You shouldn’t let those guys participate”.

          Because that’s the judgement of a spectator — I’m not gay. I am not marginalized. I am not, to be honest, the sort of person that parade is for. If anything, I am representative of those the parade was against. The close-mindedness, the judgement, the weight of the majority pushing, crushing, flat out making illegal things that were core to the people in the parade.

          I am straight. I am white. I am male. I am, basically, the face of those that oppressed them and while (being younger) I am not really the face of those who still do, I’m quite aware of where I stand on the majority/minority scale, on the power/no power scale.

          And so, as equally uncomfortable as would have been in your shoes, I can’t bring myself to say “No, that’s different. You gay people are okay, you pony folks. No, I’m drawing the line”.

          Because fact of the matter is? It ain’t my parade, and these guys in their bits and whatnot aren’t breaking any laws, and the whole POINT of the parade was “Screw you, we’re not bowing to your judgmental attitudes”.

          And maybe ponies are different than gay folks. A case can certainly be made. I’d probably even agree with it. But still I circle back to “Who am I to judge?”.

          They’re not breaking laws on indecency, they’re not breaking laws at all, and it’s not my parade. So why should they do it my way, even if their way makes me uncomfortable and causes difficult conversations with my kids?

          *sigh*. After all, the inconvenience they’re causing me wouldn’t even begin to balance the scales.

          That all said: With a small child in tow, I’d feel the same way you did. It’d only be later — much later — that all that other stuff would surface. I never ran into such a problem when my child was young — just Comicon, although luckily not the more questionable costumes there.

      • As an American and one of the ‘majority’, I have never considered gay being a ‘freak flag’.

        Not once.

        People are the sexual orientation they are, period. This does not constitute ‘freak’. I have never cared about another person’s orientation, unless:

        1. I was interested in dating them.
        2. A friend of mine was interested in dating them.

        In the case of #2, I cared only as far as being the ‘wing-woman’.

        When it comes down to pony play, there’s a time and a place for that. In the middle of the street in a parade to demonstrate the ‘normality’ of homosexual life is not such a time. As someone who was a member of the Boston Dungeon Society for a number of years, and was active in the ‘lifestyle’ – I have no problem in saying that kink which is unable to be even remotely disguised as ‘mainstream’ (or not OMGWTF IS THAT!!!) does not belong in a public parade where the intent is show how ‘normal’ (pardon the word) the homosexual community is.

        That’s why I said Southern Decadence. It is the epitome of flying your ‘freak flag’. ‘Pony play’ there would be rather tame.

        • But isn’t that the core problem here? I mean what it means to be “normal” or to be “mainstream”?

          Upthread several others posited that a D/s lifestyle wasn’t just alternative, but downright immoral. Weren’t similar things said about other lifestyles some time ago? And repressed with the admonition to “keep it behind closed doors”?

          I’m not advocating that people should be pushing their bits into people’s faces but something about the whole “well not where ~WE~ can see it!” vibe here rubs me wrong. It rubs me as “you ‘people’ doing that ‘thing’ you insist on doing? Just go do it where we don’t have to have our values challenged.”

          I dunno… it just all feels…. weird to me.

          • But my value is not “Don’t be into pony play.” It doesn’t challenge my values in the least if people are into pony play. I couldn’t possibly care less if people choose to engage in pony play with like-minded people in the comfort of their own homes or stables or corrals or whatever.

            My value is “Don’t engage in overtly sexual behavior in public.” That value pertains to all people, gay and straight, vanilla or kinky, dominant or submissive or whatever else you’d care to throw into the mix. Overtly sexual behavior is private activity, and those who wish to enter public spaces should be free to do so without being assaulted by the overtly, unambiguously sexual behavior of people who are being deliberately transgressive of norms that nobody else gets to transgress either.

          • And there we agree.

            Totally. No Conditions. If it’s overtly sexual it’s a private thing.

            What’s sticking in my craw is a mix of comments from up thread, and other implications such as “It’s not just the pony play thing but I don’t want to see a woman call her boyfriend ‘Sir’,” and “Those relationships are wrong”.

            It’s not so much the initial outcry, Doc, but some of what’s come up since in the flow of conversation. And then looking at other comments of “Yes well, just so I don’t have to know”. I mean you’re right, you shouldn’t be expected to explain to your kids that some guys have a special kind of fun being a pony. In fact I think that the Pony Play community could probably find a way to have fun pulling carts without it being overtly sexual if they wanted to put a little work at it.

            I’m just imagining a happy couple sitting down in the park, and one of them takes out the blanket, lays out the food, unties the shoes of the other, takes the trash to the can while their partner casually reclines and is catered to. Then I’m imaging everyone sitting there with tongues a-clucking saying “How DARE they expose us to that unnatural way of life?!?”

            I’m not saying a woman should walk through Kroger with her boi on a leash. But I’m not sure I want to sit in judgement of a couple that found what works for them which, a bit afield from your initial post, seems to be a common theme in the comments….

          • “Overtly sexual behavior is private activity, and those who wish to enter public spaces should be free to do so without being assaulted by the overtly, unambiguously sexual behavior of people who are being deliberately transgressive of norms that nobody else gets to transgress either.”

            But why is overtly sexual behavior private? And what if we said that anyone, gay or straight, could do their pony play or whathaveyou in public, thereby eliminating the deliberate transgressiveness?

            I agree that carving out a special exemption for sexual pony play in public is wrong. I’m challenging the broader presumption that sexual activity is necessarily private.

          • And what if we said that anyone, gay or straight, could do their pony play or whathaveyou in public, thereby eliminating the deliberate transgressiveness?

            Well, here is where I guess I’m going to get all socially conservative. Sexual activity is for the gratification of the people involved, is deeply intimate and may be quite discomfiting for other people to view. There is nothing advantageous to doing it publicly that, in my view, trumps the legitimate objection of those who do not wish to witness the intimate gratification of others. Yes, some people may find it more gratifying to do it in public, but I do not find that a compelling enough reason to change our norms against it.

          • Kazzy, as a sex-positive kinky person, I’m sympathetic to that perspective, at least to a degree.

            But using kinky behavior as a spearhead for decreasing the taboos around sexual behavior is exactly the wrong way to go about it. It’s bad for public acceptance of kinkiness and it’s bad for public acceptance of sexuality, it seems to me.

            As has been said, the little D/s gestures of a lifestyle D/s couple aren’t overtly sexual, anymore than the little gestures of affections between a conventional couple are; wearing a collar is no more an overtly sexual gesture than wearing a wedding ring. But, as has been amply demonstrated, lots of people think it is, and tying acceptance of D/s lifestyles to acceptance of public sexuality is only going to reinforce that perception. That’s actively harmful for the D/s couple, whose relationship, like most relationships, encompasses far more than just the sexual, who just wants to live their life without hiding all aspects of their relationship.

          • Russ,

            And that is a great argument. As you know, I’m not opposed to rules and norms, but think they should be principled.

            “Well, obviously sex should be private” is question begging to me. But you’ve articulated a perfectly principled reason for why that should be the case. Thank you!

          • Where I start to get real squishy is when people ignore that restrictions are almost inherently harmful. If we only look at it through a lens of, “Those exposed to that which they don’t want to be exposed to are harmed,” we ignore that those whose behavior is being restricted are also being harmed. And when rights and preferences come into conflict, almost invariably someone is going to be harmed. Such is life. But we should be mindful of how we dole out that harm and the various strengths of the various claims.

          • “Overtly sexual behavior” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, and I think doing so based on…personal or cultural norms that are not universal.

            Having sex right out in public? That’s generally illegal. So we can chalk that up as an example. Making out? Not so much — quite legal, and (I note) while it’s often looked down on I note that gay couples get much more in the way of nasty glares than straight couples.

            Legally, overtly sexual behavior starts somewhere around when the genitals get whipped out and culturally sometime before that it’s frowned upon, but not to the point of illegality.

            So where does a corset, boots, and a bit gag fall?

            Culturally, it’d be dependent on context. Your church? probably not. A local club catering to kinky crowds? Fine.

            In a gay pride parade? Maybe? Eye of the beholder? But what’s “overtly sexual” about it? Sure, it’s used in sex play — but so are high heels or biker’s leathers (both of which were undoubtedly on full display at the parade).

            So why single out the ponies and not the leather daddies?

          • High heels and biker leathers are not exclusively used in sexual situations.

          • But what makes something sexual? Physical pleasure?

            Watching “Real Sex” on HBO has taught me that a number of fetishes do not involve any of the sort of sexual behavior that I regularly engage in. Perhaps arousal is achieved, but there is no penetration, no direct contact with the genitals, no nudity with a number of these fetishes.

            At that point, how different are two fully clothed people parading each other around in pony outfits who do no more than that from the guy getting the fully clothed sensual massage during which he pops a half-chub?

          • As Russel has mentioned – Pony Play is not acceptable behavior in public where there are kids present.

            How do you think the pony gets his/her ‘tail’?

            It’s not a part of the leather harness they wear – it’s an insertable item, usually affixed to the ‘handling end’ of a certain type of sex toy.

            I have seen some mighty fine ponies, but in a proper setting – and not where children can see them. Again, for the folks who want to fly that ‘flag’ in a parade, there’s Southern Decadence.

          • There is, to my eye, no non-sexual way to interpret the attire of the pony play people. There is no non-sexual context in which people would have bits in their mouths drawing a carriage, so far as I am aware. Their dress was entirely predicated on the sexual gratification they derive from dressing and behaving thusly. And because their attire and behavior was entirely related to their sexual gratification and cannot be plausibly interpreted in any other way, it does not belong at a parade.

            If I saw someone wearing a corset, I wouldn’t mind. A ball gag? It’s somewhat more subtle than the full-on horse paraphernalia, so it wouldn’t bother me as much, but I would still prefer people wear them when doing so isn’t trumpeting the particulars of their sexual tastes to others.

          • Kazzy,
            what makes something sexual… ? oh, boy. that’s a toughie.
            A lot of shoe salesmen get off on women’s feet.

            should that even be allowed?

          • Dawry: Offhand, I’d say their tails were most likely affixed to their corsets or pants. While those items you mentioned do indeed exist, they’re a bit..problematic…for long marches, don’t work well with legal attire, and are more likely to be seen at Folsom than a Pride march.

            (I have seen an odd Pony or two, and I’ve yet to see one in public that had a tail so…inserted. I have no doubt the people in question owned them, but I’d imagine they had far more risque pony outfits too.).

            Russell: Some people consider kissing overly sexual behavior. Should we ban it in public? “Overtly sexual” is in the eye of the beholder. That’s the point here — using it as a yardstick is not gonna work, because it boils down to a value judgement by individuals.

            And the only consensus we have there is “keep the genitals in the pants, folks” — which is enshrined in law, by and large.

          • To add a bit of levity to what has otherwise been a fascinating conversation (and I want to echo the comment made above about the uniqueness of this space)…

            Y’all are making me look at my kids’ pretend play games in an entirely new light. Let’s just say that “pony play” is a very common game out on the playground. I’ll be sure to shame them tomorrow for their transgressiveness… :-p

            In all seriousness, it is possible that my understanding of “pony play” is inaccurate. I came to understand it via an old episode of “Real Sex”. What they depicted there, as best I remember, was either heterosexual or lesbian… all the “ponies” were female. And besides the saggy boobs, it honestly didn’t look all that different than what I see my kids do: a bunch of silly make believe. Now, if I’m off in that regard, if the “tails” are really attached as Darwy indicates they are, I’ll acknowledge that changes things a bit.

            But if there is no nudity and no penetration, I’m curious where we draw the lines. A woman sitting on her boyfriend’s lap… is that permissible? What about his chest? His face? A group of thespians acting out “Cats” complete with costumes? A group of lesbians acting out “pony play” complete with costumes? Is there an objective line or is this an “eye of beholder” thing?

          • Kissing has become sufficiently normative that engaging in it in public is, for the most part, considered acceptable. Those who object are themselves outside the mainstream.

            There is a loooooooooot of daylight between kissing and wearing full-on fetish gear.

          • Zazzy objects to kissing in public.

            Well, me kissing her.

            In private, too.

            I’ll let her know what a freak she is… [removes ball gag… shouts upstairs…] “Hey… the internet says you’re a sexual freak!”

            Also, this is obligatory, and I’m not sure how it didn’t get shared yet: http://video.adultswim.com/family-guy/safety-word.html

          • Russel: Indeed there is, but right now you can easily find people who — quite vocally — are okay with hetero couples kissing in public, but get offended by gay ones.

            And whose reasoning is very similar — variations on “They can kiss who they want, but why do they have to do it in public?”.

            Again we’re back to assumptions: What’s normal, what’s not. What’s polite, what’s not. That’s all subjective. And Pride parades started as an attempt to alter those default assumptions., those majority accepted subjective views.

            So all I’m left with is: It’s apparently legal, they have every right to dress as they please within the law, it was at an event whose history and function was designed to change prevailing social attitudes, and as such it’s up to them to do as they see fit within the boundaries of the law and their parade permit.

            And it’s up to you to, well, notice the giant parade of gay people and various others and distract your kid. And I totally sympathize with the position you were placed in. I would have felt the same way.

            But well — public square is public. They’ve got as much right to do as they wish as you do. Whether it’s wise, polite, or a good idea is another matter.

            Kazzy: The various animal roleplay stuff is a fun little niche, from what limited info I have. It seems to be a lot about ditching burdens (pretending to be a dog or a pony really simplifies the problems you have to worry about, I’d imagine) — especially mental ones. People problems are for people, so to speak.

            There’s also a really big costumey element to it — people of all ages are rather fond of role play, pageantry and costumes (the aforementioned Comicon) and certain animals have always held a certain attractiveness to them, not sexually but as…paragons or exemplars.

            Dogs as loyal protectors, cats as agile, lithe, and beautiful, ponies and horses as strong, faithful — I suspect you find more female ‘ponies’ and more male ‘puppies’ simply because when it comes to animals people identify with emotionally, well — steroetypes are what they are. The girl who loves horses and unicorns, the boy who wants a dog…..

            Frankly, it just seems a more expensive version of playing naughty schoolgirl, and perhaps a bit more therapeutic. Although like anything involve sex, intimacy, and the mind — also a bit more exposed and vulnerable.

          • @Morat20

            I’m sure some were ‘external’ accessories, and I’m also sure that some were ‘internal’ accessories – because forcing your pony to march with say, cinnamon oil drizzled on the ‘insertion point’ of their tail is one way to get a ‘lively pony’ for their Dom/me owner. For ponies who are also pain sluts, well that’s just a bonus for them.

        • I don’t have a problem with “don’t engage in overtly sexual behavior in public”, although I might argue with how some people define “overtly sexual”. When it’s really a matter of objectively judging behavior and appropriate venues for that behavior, that’s not a problem.

          But, Darwy, it seems like trying to prove “normalcy”, at the expense of inclusion, could have some very troubling consequences. If a pride parade wanted to exclude an organization of gay Muslims (or objects to Muslim lesbians wearing headscarves in the parade) in order to enhance its “just like us” image in a certain segment of the population, I think we would all agree that would be troubling. It’s one thing to exclude behavior that, for objective reasons, is not appropriate; it’s another to make decisions about exclusion based solely on mainstream acceptance.

          • I don’t think it’s so much trying to ‘prove normalcy’, but more to ‘show normalcy’ as in ‘hey, we’re happy family folks too, just like straight families’ – I mean, the Boston Pride parade has a family zone for folks with kids.

            I don’t see how anyone in the scene would think that full pony gear was appropriate for a parade that children would see.

  12. Please note that I did not say D/s as sexual role play is immoral. I said an entire relationship founded on one person pleasing the other is not a relationship that is healthy for a good life. Do we not all know people who say they are happy in a relationship with jerks who degrade and humiliate them? Am I the only one who suspects that those people might possibly be making a mistake? How does calling it D/s change anything?

    I have no problem calling certain lifestyles immoral. Someone who joins the mafia, for example. The difference between the mafia and the gay lifestyle is that there are trains we can point to that demonstrate its immorality for the mafia. Not so for gays
    I am making gross generalizations. I think every moral case has to be looked at individually. No need for shining bright lines. Take this on a case by case basis. But in general, I admit being more likely to think D/s is immoral when it is not role play in a relationship of respect, but rather the structure of a relationship.
    Everyone needs to get away from this “who am I to tell someone what to do?” No one its ever a moral authority. But you can make a judgment that an act is immoral because of independent reasons. Not just because you’re you.

    Typed this on a new phone that is quirky. Forgive typos.

    • Forgiveness granted. And I understand the difference between bedroom games and the D/s lifestyle. I think that your perception of it is, perhaps, skewed by misinformation. The D/s lifestyle does not require humiliation or degradation. Some people seek that out, yes, but hardly all. I’ve met a few women who identify as submissive and will kick your backside nine ways from Sunday if you suggest that they are anything less than a full force woman.

      I apologize if I seem a little sensitive. I’m not totally comfortable having outted myself and my experiences here, but I’m also a little … I dunno.. sensitive to the broad brush that seemed to be used.

      I think you’re right to suggest that people need to be sensitive about how their actions are percieved and to show some decorum, but I’m not just shy about admonishing them because of a case of “who am I?”. It’s partly a case of “I understand and respect that relationship dynamic.”

      • I’m not totally comfortable having outted myself and my experiences here, but I’m also a little

        I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but for my part you have absolutely no reason to not feel totally comfortable.

        • Thanks for that, though I am still not going to burden everyone with the inner most secrets of my relationship and the like without some invitation to spill. But I confess, I’m having flashbacks to a friend online who was not only critical of D/s lifestyles but down right … well she insisted that any one who would consider living full time that way should be locked up in a sanitarium until they came to their senses.

          She and I had many a good conversation over the following 3 months, but it took a long time to unlearn a lot of untruths she had picked up….

          • I know I can be Edna-ish, but I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable.

          • A little but I’m in a weird space.

            And being honest, shoot me an email some time if you ever wanna chat D/s. I’m not really active but I consider myself above-average-ly informed. I assure you any correspondence will be free of McGinn-isms.

      • Likewise, I think there may be an issue regarding a lack of familiarity, here. I think there are objective measures that you could point to distinguishing an abusive relationship and a non-abusive D/s relationship. Consent is not just a matter of the sub saying they’re happy in the relationship, it’s a reflection of an affirmative desire to specifically have that kind of relationship.

      • *hugs* could be worse. ya could be a pedophile. *shrugs*
        We all weird, so it’s all good.

        I’ve been doing some thinking about D/s stuff… I think it’s okay for parties (don’t people sometimes roleplay at parties? or is that just comedians?), but I also want to affirm a parent’s right to say “don’t do that shit around my kid.” (well, when the kid’s five. when the kid’s 15, that’s a different story).

        • But contrary-wise, just because you HAVE a kid doesn’t mean you get to dictate to others what they do in the public square.

          You can frown at them, argue with them, scold them, try to convince them, talk morals or religion or brain development or whatnot….but, again, we’re talking legal behavior here.

          The kink crowd, I’ve found, has an awful lot to say (most of it parents would agree with) about what’s appropriate in public, and involving unwilling participants through public play is considered a fairly major sin (or at least serious breach of polite manners) by many.

          Always fun when rights come into conflict, and I think parents — by and large — have a much bigger pull than anyone else (“But the children/there are children present/I don’t want my child to” is a REALLY potent argument) in general.

          • Awww… fuck it. parents abuse their kids all the fucking time.
            Legal and allowable behavior too.

            Why should we give ’em more priviledges??

          • It’s polite? 🙂

            I’m only pushing back here mostly to uncover what I feel are hidden assumptions and attitudes. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the entire thing or where I’d come down if I was called upon to Choose for Humanity. 🙂

            Heck, I’m only being pro-pony (such as it is) to even the field. The kittens are far cuter. 🙂

  13. Am I the only one who keeps getting “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers stuck in their head, except with the OP title in place of the original lyric?

    • no, and that is why we are e-kindred spirits.

      also now i’m going to sing that to the kid whenever he doesn’t want to clean up his toys. it’ll be great because we’re doing 1-2-3 magic and i can work that into the song. it’ll be bad because i hate that song but every parade has its pony.

          • Seriously. As a parent and a pediatrician, I endorse that book without reservation. (I actually plan to do a post about parenting-advice books one of these days.)

          • Boy howdy I need it.

            When he was younger, my boy and I didn’t look a ton alike – this is changing as he grows, and you can see me in him now, but he initially had features that took very strongly after my wife and my uncles.

            We looked *so* different that occasionally, a friend would make a joke (to me privately, not to him) about “the mailman” or whatever, and I would reply that he is just too. goddam. stubborn. to be anybody else’s kid, so I knew he had to be mine.

            I hurt for him, because I know EXACTLY what kind of problems he is going to have in this life. Been there, done that.

          • as someone with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever outside of having totally baller genes, it’s amazingly good. he’s still, like, crazy, but as soon as he hears that “take one” i can actually see the wheels of thought turning. it’s amazing!

            looking forward to your advice book post.

          • Did a quick Google on 123Magic… Not unlike the approach I use in the classroom, though with some key differences, it seems. To be expected, given the differences between the home and school environments.

            Please write that post. Now.

  14. I’m a little late to this party, but I thought I’d add my take.

    First, I was at the parade and saw the fetish group. They did not bother me. Nor did they bother my friends, who were attending with their six year old son. Nor did they visibly bother the child.

    This debate has been playing out for years within the queer community, and I will say this: as a transsexual woman, me and mine have spent too much time on the wrong side of this debate. The history is ugly and unambiguous, the ongoing marginalization of those *more visibly queer* by those *less visibly queer*, the repeated mantras: “We don’t mean THEM,” “It’s about Strategy,” or (the ever popular) “How do I explain this to my kids?”

    (All of which simply mask the underlying “Ewww! Yuck!” reaction.)

    It gets very old. And while we trans* have made huge inroads at being accepted — particularly here in MA, where we have our own separate trans-focused political movement — I will not join any chorus condemning public kink.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree that there has been and remains a great deal of trans-phobia within the gay and lesbian community, which is wrong.

      I would reply that it’s all well if your friends with kids weren’t uncomfortable with the public kink, but just because they weren’t doesn’t mean I oughtn’t have been. They’re welcome to their own standards, and I’m entitled to mine.

      I can understand how your experience informs your feelings about public displays of kink. But that means we find ourselves on opposite sides of the issue.

  15. Caveat: I have no idea what Russell is talking about in his post but I assume it’s something Really, Really Naughty.

    I’m amused because this year there was a public debate within the Toronto Gay Pride organization about the direction the event was going: there was a minority of people who were afraid the event was getting too family friendly with rides for small children and the event wasn’t what it used to be in terms of being, you know, loud and proud. And many gay people simply said – but that’s who we are NOW whereas that was who we were THEN. Not an either/or but the celebration of an organic process.

    I’m not LGBT but I always thought of Gay Pride parades as Mardi Gras. It’s a one-day celebration and everyone knows to laugh a little. I would hate to think they might not be around some day.

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