Barak Article

The Unfortunate Nature of Labels
circa 2006

The moment we label ourselves or others, negatively or positively, we create a disparity; an amount of separation between ourselves and the other. In the Scene, we purport ourselves to be open-minded and accepting, is this not true? Sometimes, I have my doubts.

One of the first “slogans” I heard when I entered the public leather community was “It’s not my kink, but your kink is ok.” I have found this is not always universally practiced. We are given this slogan, and yet, is it always used? Sometimes it is and other times the concept is sorely lacking.

There have been times within the scene that I have experienced leather folk looking at or recounting scenes and saying, “That’s weird” or “I can’t see why they would do that.” It is quite hypocritical of us to go in to a play party, and point and label another person, couple or group.

Let me give an example. I was sitting at work, talking with a co-worker about general things. She brought up the impending work related Halloween party, and said she was going to attend. I asked her about her costume. She then informed me that she was going to this party in black PVC with her boyfriend holding the chain to her collar!! My curiosity was, of course, piqued. I continued the inquiry, and she confessed that she was “a little kinky.” That brought about more questions from me, as I wanted to see if she was hinting because she knew me. Turns out what she meant by a little kinky was that she and her partner brought out the handcuffs once or twice a month, got a little rough and talked dirty to one another. So she didn't know me after all. In the moment, I thought, “boy if she only knew.”

I think this brought up an interesting point for me. I do believe we have a little in common. That individually BDSM or rough sex, or leather scene or any other label, means different things to each person. When hearing about or watching a heavy scene, some may say, "nope, totally not my kink." That is great! And others may say, "well I have a pair of cuffs, and a dime store whip... and it is a turn on to bring 'em out once a month.” While that may be an interest, that may be all the interest there is. It is all a question of perception.

A label may mean something to one person, and something completely different to another. I was talking to someone who said they were "lifestyle players.” My interest was immediately stirred up. We began comparing ideas and I quickly found our label was quite different. While he was quite correct from his standpoint, he meant that his lifestyle was playing the field for lovers, and my thoughts put him into the leather scene.

We all frequently fear being labeled negatively by the ones we love, and sometimes people we don’t care about. When we have a stake in it, it becomes more difficult. For instance, as we all know, many people don’t understand the leather lifestyle. When confronted with that, they immediately separate themselves from us. The labels start: “you are a pervert! You are a freak! There must be something wrong with you.” etc. Even though I am the same formerly acceptable person they were talking to a moment before.

Not only is this an individual problem, but it is a community problem too. It is one of the reasons the scene is scattered in Central Ohio and throughout the different areas of this country’s kink. Some groups cater to mainly D/s, others the younger crowd, still others include open relationships. The underlying tenet - the preservation and promotion of BDSM should be the unifying factor; but it's not. It's the "them verses us" scenario, labels for separation once again.

Let’s look at a positive aspect of labeling. For the longest time I thought the label "slut" was a negative term. That is until I read "the Ethical Slut," and I took the label back. I made it mine. I made "Slut" hot and juicy. This is the same with "twisted,” “warped” and "perverted." Now all of these labels and more are wonderful additions to my vocabulary.

With labels we can also "go for the more." We can create a label for ourselves that we can grow into. Some people start calling themselves Doms or submissives only when it is an inclination or a proclivity. As they grow within themselves and the scene, they become that which they have labeled themselves. We can speak about being "Master" but have we reached a level of mastery? Maybe not yet, but we are making space to become the label.

So it’s all about labels, whether we label someone or something in our head, to others, or on a billboard. In truth, it is not the actual thing. It is not the actual people. It is not the reality of the situation. The fear is all about a word. A label is something that people ascribe a negative or positive meaning to, not necessarily because they believe that meaning, but because that is what they have been taught. So I hope that for a moment, we can let that go, and just be people together. Either way I applaud those seeking their bliss, regardless of how it manifests. Does it turn you on? Then who cares what it’s labeled, go for it!


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