Perhaps the least-expected benefit I’ve gotten out of being a lifelong pervert with twisted and taboo desires is that I have never lacked for friends.
So many people don’t have that. You hear them talk about how, since they left school, it’s so hard to meet anyone or make friends or meaningful connections: it’s work, then home, then work again. There have been a lot of articles written lamenting the increasing alienation of modern life. Surveys keep finding that more and more people have no friends at all.
I am far from the most outgoing person. I often have a hard time being chatty, and my brain can find every excuse not to strike up a conversation with a stranger. And yet, in my entire adult life I’ve always had at least a few really close friends, a thriving tribe of buddies and acquaintances, and ample prospects for love, sex, companionship and connection.
And the reason is kink. Kinky people have created a remarkable network of opportunities for social connection. We’re not the only group to do this: some other subcultures have it too, but that’s not the point right now.
The idea of a munch is so simple and many people think of them as boring or basic, but remember that most people don’t have anything like that. I’ve travelled to a small town in New Zealand, half a world away from where I live, and with a bit of Internet poking around and a few exchanged messages I’ve ended up sharing a convivial meal with cool people with whom I had something in common and lots to talk about. At home, I have a regular social space I can go to, to see familiar faces and make new friends. Helping to organize kink clubs and classes and parties gives me projects to collaborate on with other members of my community, and I don’t know many better ways of building connections than that.
Even Fetlife, for all that it can feel like a meat market for anonymous online fantasists sometimes, is still more human in scale and easier to make new friends through than massive networks like Facebook or Twitter. There are people who I know through their participation here and who I can banter back and forth with and feel a real connection with even if we never meet in person. Beyond Fetlife, there are other smaller online social hubs dedicated to kink where people make long-term friends, share emotional support and witness one another’s triumphs and challenges.
I’ve seen kink community play out through the Covid-19 crisis, both in good ways and hard ways. See how keenly many people are feeling the loss of being able to go to their munches and conferences, not just because they want to play but because those are their people: those are the spaces where they feel at home and among friends. Also see how kinky people have reached out to build new online networks and support one another from afar. Online classes and parties and conferences just exploded over the past couple years, I’m on a couple of kinky Discord servers that are consistently bubbling with conversation, camaraderie and mutual support—where people are making real friendships and even partnerships.
If I weren’t kinky, I have no idea where I would have found resources like that through the pandemic, and the non-kinky folks I know largely haven’t found anything similar. Most of them depended on work for social contact outside of their families, and most of them have been painfully lonely.
So take a moment to appreciate that kink community isn’t just a mechanism for finding play dates. That may well be the primary motivation that led kinky people to develop such a bustling network of communities, but they end up giving us much more.
If you feel like you’re on the outside of this looking in—if you’re cruising Fetlife looking for playdates, getting no responses or nothing but fuckboys—you’ve gotta understand that you don’t automatically get kink community just for being kinky, or just for logging in to Fetlife. You get it by treating kink like a community.
Broaden your focus from finding a partner or a playdate, and talk to people just to get to know them—even people who you don’t want to play with! Care about their lives, and share about your own.
Look for the more social spaces (Fet groups or other sites or local groups) where people are chatting like they know one another, not just hunting for play or trading barbs between Internet strangers. Look for places to participate, whether online or in person. Take every opportunity you can to help out, volunteer, and be a part of making things happen.
And understand that there isn’t one monolithic worldwide kink community. There’s a mishmash of lots of different little communities with different customs and different feels. Fetlife isn’t a community, but you can find many communities through Fetlife. So if you start investigating a community and find that it isn’t for you, don’t say “Kink community sucks,” and give up. Just look for a different one that fits you better.
If Master/slave dynamics are your thing, you’ve got a community-building opportunity coming up this Labor Day weekend in the form of the MsC Worldwide online Master/slave conference. I’ll be presenting Playing With Jealousy Without Getting Burned on Saturday! Sign up for classes by a wide range of impressive educators, and also to drop in to the social rooms and make a new friend.