Oh, I have a lot to catch up on here. Lessee...to go back to Saturday. Well, Saturday was a trip and a half. I'm not sure how familiar the general net.public is with BDSM, so I don't know quite how much to explain. Perhaps it's best if I assume a general knowledge -- for more specifics click here, which will take you to Yahoo's BDSM resource links. You can explore further from there. I strongly recommend starting with the alt.sex.bondage FAQ. Briefly, BDSM refers to bondage, domination, sadism and masochism -- plus a bunch of related stuff. It can run the gamut from tying someone up and tickling them to playing serious mind games to heavy whipping. Sex is sometimes but certainly not always involved.
So Saturday I was invited to a play party, by someone I had met at the Midnight Sex and Death Panel at Arisia (Boston SF con referred to in earlier journals). I hadn't been to one before, and was a little freaked out by the idea, but I thought that if nothing else, it would be a good resource for story material, and it would be cowardly not to at least attempt to go. So I went, giving myself full permission to run away screaming if I got too weirded out or squicked.
I actually got the time wrong and arrived a couple of hours early at the hotel where it was being held (the hotel thought we were a bunch of performance artists :-). I was greeted by some lovely (and busy) people, and told that I was welcome to hang out, but they'd be pretty busy getting furniture removed and setting up the racks and benches (for flogging, caning, etc.). I figured that was a hint, and took myself off to the pool -- luckily I had brought both a swimsuit and a few good books (I had bought Anne of the Island it turns out -- great nostalgia trip, though it certainly wasn't as engrossing as it had been the first time through). I eventually headed back to the party -- ran into a bunch of people heading out to get dinner -- joined them and had a great time (jalapeno poppers and tortellini in a creamy sun-dried tomato and pesto sauce!) and then went back to the party.
(One of the people reading this diary asked if I went alone -- and whether I was harrassed, as a single woman attending such an event. So I'm inserting this paragraph to explain.) I did go alone, though I knew one of the hosts (the woman who invited me, and whom I barely saw, actually). Three people asked me to 'play', but they did it politely, and took my refusal with good grace. Consensual is such a big part of the bdsm scene (the standard watchwords are 'safe, sane and consensual') that everyone is very polite, especially to a stranger. They're also quite aware of how scary the whole thing can be, and try very hard not to frighten you away.
There was a social room and several public play rooms, plus many people had their own private rooms. There were many restrictions on what could be done in the public rooms -- eg., no cutting, no alcohol, no drugs... I'm not going to go into detail about what I saw, but there was a fair bit of casual nudity (nonsexual -- more of a locker room functional nudity, if that makes sense), and a great deal of relaxed cameraderie. I hadn't quite expected the whole thing to be so matter-of-fact -- some individual scenes got steamy, but the event as a whole had a very friendly and sane feel to it. I left still slightly bewildered, but reassured, and I admit intrigued. There's something very fascinating about helplessness. I'm going to have dinner with some of the people from the party next week, I think.
I got back from the party around 9 am on Sunday (having had about 2 hours sleep), and almost immediately left to go visit my sister at Johns Hopkins. Quite a contrast, but I had a great time (my father had come out too, and we had a lot of fun gossiping, punctuated only occasionally by parental worry) and a yummy lunch at the Paper Moon restaurant in Baltimore (I can highly recommend the sweet potato fries, their chicken quesadillas (though I actually prefer Chili's), and their appetizer of chicken livers sauteed with onions and portabello mushrooms in a raspberry vinaigrette (served over salad, it's a full meal). Their spinach and ricotta omelette was less than impressive). My dad drove me home, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to Kevin and later David about the party (Karina is very squicked by such things), and eating some of the delicious shrimp and potato curry that my father brought from home for me -- nice to have generous aunts who are good cooks!
Yesterday I went to work and then mostly rested at David's -- read a good chunk of Lord Valentine's Castle, a fantasy book I enjoyed many years ago. I still enjoy it, particularly because it has lots of cool juggling stuff in it (I can juggle three balls, and the mathematicians I hung out with at the U of Chicago were excellent jugglers - knives and torches and the whole bit), but it's rather slower and less interesting than I remembered. Oh well -- some books just don't wear as well as others.
Later -- Hmm...just got some e-mail (hi Eric!) from someone who writes erotica but is afraid to try to publish it, asking my advice. Since his was far from the first such question, I thought I'd try to answer it a bit here. The first thing to keep in mind is that a pseudonym is (though often unwieldy) always an option. Every editor I've talked to has been more than willing to use a pseudonym (several have suggested it themselves) and to be discreet when mailing you sample issues or other material. Puritan Magazine, for example, is under the aegis of Index Publishing, and all of my checks are from Index. I personally only use a pseudonym for stories I consider to be pure trash, and even those I occasionally reconsider -- I published "Making the Sale" under a pseudonym, but eventually put it up here as well, mainly because I figured anyone reading it here would be reading it in context, and not just assuming that that was my best work.
Another option is to brazen it out. I do not recommend this if you a) teach children, b) have an overly-anal work environment, c) think your own children/partner/parents would be more upset/affected than you are willing to deal with, d) or plan to publish children's literature.
If those aren't factors...I've found it surprising how accepting people have been. My boss (a doctor) knows, and while she's weirded out, she doesn't actually object. My younger sisters know, and think it's cool that anyone's willing to pay me that much for a story. All my friends know, of course, and while my generation (I'm 24) is perhaps more accepting of such things, my folk singing group also knows (general age range 40-65) and thinks it's cool. Several members even asked for my web page. People will make a distinction between erotica and porn, and it's up to you how you want to paint your work. Keep in mind that many famous writers wrote erotica (Nicholson Baker's Vox, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, Anais Nin's work, Henry Miller, Erica Jong), and much mainstream literature has serious erotic elements (try the last few pages of Joyce's Ulysses). So be brave. While some people will think you're perverted or nymphomaniacal (one psychiatrist/writer treated me to a half-hour lecture about my sex obsession), the vast majority will be intrigued, aroused, amused, and/or impressed (the other writers there vigorously defended me to the psychiatrist, although none of them wrote erotica themselves).
Outrageously long entry. Hope this makes up for the hiatus.