A social tip for those considering a first foray into the Seattle BDSM community: It is ruled by nerds. Oh, one might say some of us are former nerds. But let's face it, the identities with which we are tagged in adolescence never completely leave our psyches, do they? So if you go out looking for someone to do flogging or pegging or piercing in this town, chances are strong the partner you find will be someone who either was or still is a nerd.

What do I mean by nerd? I don't consider it an insult, given that I was a nerd in high school and I still retain many nerdy traits. One might define a nerd as someone who has low social status in a random peer group (classmates or coworkers) because he/she intensely pursues unfashionable hobbies or interests, is uninterested in activities more valued by that group, and—either by accident or design—is noncompliant with group mores about appearance and manner. (Note: A nerd may also be a geek, but those categories aren't precisely synonymous.)

Why are nerds so omnipresent in the BDSM scene? Because being a nerd—especially if one participates in nerd culture around things like comic books, science fiction/fantasy, RPGing, etc.—is excellent training for becoming an active member of the BDSM community. The young nerd, shunned by the elite, perforce becomes accustomed to hanging around other nerds and social outcasts of all types. Nerds thus develop a high tolerance for socially nonconforming people and come to feel that such individuals are, by definition, nicer and more interesting than the Cool Kids. They embrace being weird, in other words.

Plenty of non-nerds like BDSM—in private. But they're unwilling to make the cultural leap into a stigmatized social group. I've seen non-nerds who I knew were as kinky as Caligula walk into a BDSM party, look around, think "Oh no, these people are way too weird," and leave. But when the grown-up nerd goes to his first BDSM social gathering, what does he see? People wearing unusual costumes, calling themselves made-up names and titles, having conversations rife with obscure jargon. Why, it's just like a Star Trek convention! So the nerd takes it in stride. He and his friends have been called weird for years, so that doesn't bother him. He understands that just because someone has a fetish you don't share—be it feet or X-Men action figures—that doesn't mean he couldn't potentially be a friend or lover.

So the non-nerds cut and run, the nerds stay, and a critical nerdy mass builds. Soon, nerds completely dominate the scene and become, in an odd twist of fate, the Cool Kids. The BDSM community is the sexual Revenge of the Nerds. So those awkward folks with pocket protectors and taped-up glasses? Be nice to them. One of them might be standing behind you with a paddle someday. recommended