Although Notes From A Barking Shaman doesn’t update on a set schedule, it is right about time for a new essay to be be posted. It’s been a good run the last few weeks, and I hate to interrupt that. However, I feel a statement on some recent events regarding my involvement as an educator in the kink community is warranted, and for the moment supersedes the regular essay. An actual new NFABS post will be up in the next two or three days.
May 31 2011
Interruption: A Brief Note on Politics and Presenting
As a general practice, I prefer not to air my dirty laundry in a public forum, particularly that of the interwebs. Unfortunately, circumstances have developed such that said dirty laundry has already been aired in public once. Because it was done so in a manner that did not allow for my perspective to be heard, I have chosen to issue, not a denial, but rather an explanation and perhaps a bit of mea culpa:
In my inexperience and, in a sense, arrogance, I recently became involved in a battle over marketshare within the Kink/BDSM community and made a real mess of things.
Camp Crucible, an event that I have heard very good things about, approached me to teach for them at their 2011 event at Ramblewood in Darlington MD. My initial response was to say “thanks but no thanks” because this event historically has not comped their presenters attendance/travel or offered them teaching fees. However, I reconsidered when Crucible offered to deviate from this tradition and comp my attendance and travel. As is my general practice, I sent them my complete class list (as of that time, I’m constantly adding and deleting offerings). When they chose a listing made up entirely of magical/spiritual classes with some sexuality/kink crossover, I foolishly did not think anything of it. After all, I arrogantly thought, they are comping me because of how awesome I am, and that’s my speciality.
Over the following weeks and months however, as I learned more about Camp Crucible I became both concerned and confused. Not only is Crucible known as an event where classes are not widely attended, it has not historically had any emphasis on spirituality. I am, of course, all for enhancing the spiritual content of events in the kink community. However as more and more current and former attendees (all of whom spoke highly about the enjoyability of the event) expressed deep puzzlement over the choice to add a spirituality tract, I became concerned.
I spoke at some length with their director of programing, who could offer no concrete reassurances as to attendance or explain the decision the event had made with my class list. Even established BDSM/spirituality cross-over events take a more diverse selection of my classes than they had. I was told that this was all an experiment and that hopefully in time, as the event gained a reputation for offering this kind of programing, it would attract people who wanted it.
It was only a few weeks ago it was made clear to me that the picture was bigger than what I was looking at. The BDSM/spirituality cross-over event market is highly saturated in this region of the United States, a point that I had made to the Camp Crucible folks. I have a strong and long established relationship with several other events in this market. So caught up was I in being concerned about whether my classes could succeed at Crucible, I never thought about the consequences of success.
A tense conversation with a colleague made me realize that in teaching spirituality programing at Camp Crucible, I was materially harming other events and organizations that had nurtured my work for years.
Now, I will be the first to say that I should have figured that out on my own. I had been warned by presenters and titleholders in the BDSM community that a huge part of being successful in the Scene is the ability to navigate the rocky shoals of kinky politics. Instead, Crucible stroked my ego and made me an offer that I knew to be against their typical policies, and like a virgin being led by his cock, I committed to teach for them, even though something didn’t feel right about it.
Before the conversation with my colleague, I was already concerned about teaching spirituality classes at Camp Crucible. I worried that eight days of largely empty classes, trying to run spirituality and magic classes at an event to which they’re alien, would be emotionally draining. Add to that the ethical and professional consequences of screwing over events that have treated me well over the years and actually pay me a teaching fee, and I saw no choice but to withdraw from presenting at Camp Crucible.
My teaching career was likely fucked the moment I accepted Camp Crucible’s offer. Had I stuck to my agreement with them, I would now have a reputation for screwing friends and allies, and would likely not have been renewed at several loyal events. Instead, I now have a reputation for being unreliable and not sticking to my agreements. Not good in a world where your name is all you have. In the forty-eight hours since the Camp Crucible director announced at dinner that I didn’t feel his event was worth my time (which was clearly not my motivation), I have been informed by a number of northeast events and organizations, including one the largest, that I should not bother submitting classes to them in the future.
Perhaps in six months time, after I could have made serious inroads into the markets outside of the Northeast Corridor, this could be survivable. I suspect that where I am now, it is not.
I will own up to the fact that I fucked this one up Royally. If I had gone with my instincts and backed out of the event much earlier, but without a complete understanding of why I was uneasy, I could have saved everyone a lot of trouble. That was wrong of me. Not as wrong as accepting in the first place of course. One thing I learned when I ran my own design firm, and which applies to any contracting/self employment scenario is this: Learn fast or fall hard.
I didn’t learn fast enough, and I am deeply sorry if my inexperience led to disappointment for any of Crucible’s attendees.