Community Evolution and Waffles

I’ve been involved in the Pittsburgh BDSM community for over nine years now.  A lot has changed in that time.  Some better, some worse, some neutral.  It’s a completely different place than when I first got involved.

  • There are more groups.  Roughly 20 active groups in the area.  We have general BDSM groups as well as special-interest groups of all sorts.  Which leads to:
  • More events.  Parties, munches, demos, sloshes, happy hours, etc.  We average around 25 events a month.  It’s impossible to go to everything, both from a scheduling standpoint as well as a financial one.
  • When I first got involved, there was a clear distinction between community leaders and everyone else.  The leaders ran things, and everyone else showed up.  Now, anyone who is willing to take on some responsibility can start a group.  More people are willing to pitch in or volunteer at events.  People realize they have the power to change things or start something from scratch.  This is a huge positive step in my opinion.
  • The local dungeon went under.  It used to be a social hub as well as the one place we could play publicly.  Once that happened, people seemed like lost sheep for a while.  But within a matter of months, lots of folks stepped up and started filling the void with things like this:
  • There are a lot more informal events.  People may set up a bowling trip, movie, trip to an amusement park, private house party, and all sorts of other things in addition to the group-sponsored events.
  • Public parties took a few years to crop up, but they’re firmly in place now.  The tricky part has always been finding reliable venues that were okay with what we do, affordable, clean, and not halfway across the state.  We’ve found some venues that work well for us, and we seem to be on pretty stable footing.
  • There is more conversation relating to consent.  From my experiences as well as all I’ve heard about from long-time friends and acquaintances, consent was always a strong thread in the community; it just didn’t need to be spelled out.  It was a given.  Now, consent is being spelled out, which is good.  But that fact that apparently it needs to be spelled out in the first place now doesn’t sit well with me.  It says that these days there are a lot more morons who lack common sense.
  • Initially there was a huge imbalance in demographics.  The community here used to be about 95% male-dom/female-sub.  Now, those numbers are much more balanced.  We have a ton of switches too.
  • Along with that demographic lopsidedness, there was a general negative opinion toward submissive men held by many community members, including some in leadership positions.  This often manifested in hostility, harsh language, snubbing, and other social assbaggery.  Rather than giving up, I stuck it out and started to work on changing some minds.  And I continue to do so whenever the opportunity presents.  Years later, it seems that attitude has largely disappeared from all but the most insecure.
  • With how small the community was, we all got to know each other pretty well.  There was almost a sense of family with some groups.  Now, things are so large that it’s nearly impossible to get to know everyone on more than a shallow, passing level.  Maintaining super-close friendships with everyone I’d like to is impossible, though I do try.
  • Since the community is larger, divisions become more evident.  It’s natural to want to hang out with those who share our thought processes, interests, and opinions.  Before, we would spend time with other BDSMers, with that one common bond being all we had.  But with larger groups, it’s easier to find people who match a little more closely, and many spend their time exclusively with that particular subset of people.  There are some faces I recognize as regulars, yet I don’t know their names and may not have ever talked with them.  At the larger munches, by the time you make the rounds to everyone you want to talk to, it’s time to go.
  • Years ago, personal information was closely guarded.  Some people didn’t give their actual first name when they introduced themselves.  It was rare to know what someone did for a living and even more rare to know where they worked or their last name.  Now, people friend each other on facebook, granting access to lots of personal information.  While it’s riskier, it also drives home the point that we all need to watch what we put out there for the whole internet to see.

There have been a lot of changes, but overall I feel the community here is most definitely a better place than it was nearly a decade back.  These changes aren’t anything I would’ve thought possible when I first wandered into the scene here years ago; it makes me wonder what things will be like years from now.  Even today, things are changing in front of our eyes.  And I feel glad to be one of the people steering those changes.

Also, while you were reading that, I ate the waffles.  So I should probably get around to changing the title of this post.

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