Culture Clash

I spent this past weekend at an event called "Wet Spot in Paradise," Wet Spot's annual campout for the sex-positive community. I didn't have any big scenes planned. I just wanted to hang out in the sunshine, gab with friends, and maybe meet some different people. Which I did.

You see, WSIP isn't a strictly BDSM event, so some of the attendees were from what I sometimes think of as that other group of alt-sex folks: the swingers' community. It's funny: Since swingers and kinky people both catch shit from outsiders, you'd think that would make for camaraderie between us. But when we're thrown together socially, sometimes it's like the Gryffindors and the Slytherins. Over here, the swingers who think BDSM is sick and wrong. Over there, the BDSM people who find casual partner-swapping sleazy and shallow. We aren't terribly friendly.

I admit I've been a bit dismissive about swinging. I went to some swing parties, and while nothing awful happened, I was left with an "is that it?" feeling. The sex seemed flat and mechanical, and I was put off by some swinger cultural norms. For example, in BDSM circles, it's a faux pas--or worse--to touch casual acquaintances unless they've invited you to do so. I've verbally flayed strangers who put their hands on me without asking permission. Such reserve doesn't fit well with swingers, who are given to lots of social touching, even with people they've just met.

So when the gentleman sitting beside me at the picnic table touched my leg several times in our first five minutes of conversation, I knew, without being told, that he was a swinger. But, hey, I was nice; I didn't bite his head off. And I'm glad, because as we continued chatting, he told me about how he used to be extremely anti-BDSM. Then a sexy young thing said to him, "I'll fuck you if you let me flog you." After a short brain vs. cock struggle, he accepted and--surprise--he enjoyed it. It changed his whole point of view about kink.

It was an encouraging story, and his candor about his revised perceptions made me think I should be more open-minded about swingers. I'm still not sure swingers' parties hold anything for me, but it might be worth another pass, just to see. Besides, I'm thinking I could make an offer to some of those Slytherin people that would bring them over to Gryffindor House. Hey, I've gotta be true to my school.

matisse@thestranger.com