Living Antimilitarism in the Kink Community

I wrote this for FetLife a few months ago, but I thought it would fit just as well here.


I’ve been wondering lately how to best respond to the assumption that I support and respect the police and military. Messages of support for the troops are seen by so many as apolitical, when I experience them as anything but. As an anarchist and pacifist, the insinuation that others act on the myth of redemptive violence on my behalf is not simply insulting, it turns my stomach. Being in the kink scene offers its own unique difficulties in dealing with this.

So much of the current BDSM culture has its roots in leather culture, which in turn has roots in the military and military culture. Despite not being leather myself, I recognize that it does make up a large part of and inform the BDSM culture as a whole. Beyond that, the BDSM scene is a microcosm of the larger culture it’s in, and so the prevalence of veneration of soldiers and police in the subculture is going to be seen in proportion to that in the rest of the culture. However, given the smallness of the kink scene, one runs a much greater risk by vocally opposing that veneration. Given the intimacy of what we do and what we talk about, a difference this stark could easily stand in the way of that intimacy.

So when I’m confronted with things like a celebration of a warship on my local group’s listserv (as one example), I see it has highly political, while most others see it as transcending political boundaries. It would be like if I were to send something celebrating members of the Animal Liberation Front‘s evasion of capture. How then do I remain authentically engaged while pointing out that my own foundational stories put such a celebration on par with celebrations of gang warfare and mafia extortion? Is this a situation where it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie? I don’t think so, as it only encourages the assumption that everyone buys into the myth of redemptive violence. But with such a charged topic, to simply say that I oppose state violence and am offended by it means that I’ll likely end up either enduring a string of invective meant to show me how very wrong I am or have to explain a hundred different points that lead up to my own pacifism before we’re even able to find common ground from which to dialogue.

It’s tough. And since I do value individuals who have been in the military, explaining the line between respecting them as individuals and not respecting the institution they gave themselves over to is very tricky and fraught with pitfalls. To refrain from doing so, however, feels as though I’m being inauthentic, and not giving my real, full self to the relationship and the dialogue, and to do that feels like a worse fate than risking offense.

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