Friday, October 9, 2009

Kink in the Mainstream Media

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #375, October 9, 2009)

Some places, it’s just another part of the conversation

Not too long ago, on those rare occasions when mainstream media outlets mentioned kink, it was talked about with a mixture of shock and disgust. Now, at least for some media outlets, it has become just another part of the conversation. Two examples of this phenomenon are radio’s The Stephanie Miller Show and a blog named The Rude Pundit.

How does one describe the “crunchy audio goodness” (her term) that is The Stephanie Miller Show? It’s a morning drive-time talk-radio show originating in Los Angeles and heard in the Twin Cities 8-11 A.M. weekdays on KTNF (AM 950). The show is an irreverently manic mix of progressive politics and low but sophisticated humor.

Worked into that humor are occasional references to items and situations with which readers of this column might be familiar: ball gags, Astroglide, golden showers (albeit inadvertent), and insinuations about someone tied to a bed, to name just a few. For awhile there was even a running gag about conservative media personalities Bill O’Reilly’s and Geraldo Rivera’s (fictional) sex dungeon (complete with whip-crack sound effect), where the safeword is “Mizrahi.”

This is remarkable for two reasons:

1) This is not niche-media satellite, cable or Internet-radio programming. This is mainstream media—a syndicated broadcast radio show appearing on over 60 stations across the U.S.

2) These kink references are simply part of the on-air banter. No special attention is called to them and no explanations or definitions are given. Miller, her producer Chris Lavoie, and “voice deity” (impressionist) Jim Ward simply assume that the show’s audience already knows about such things and will therefore get the joke.

One of The Stephanie Miller Show’s occasional guests is Lee Papa, who has been blogging for six years as The Rude Pundit <>. Because the blogosphere is not yet subject to anything like traditional broadcasting’s “standards and practices” rules, leather and kink imagery has become common in many bloggers’ postings.

The Rude Pundit attracted quite a bit of notice and comment for posting a series of blog entries telling the (fictional) story of a gay leather dungeon in the basement of the Bush White House populated by figures from that former administration. It was gay leather/SM porn imagery used as metaphor and commentary on then-current politics. And, again, the assumption was made that the reader knew enough about gay leathersex to get the point of the article. More recently, The Rude Pundit compared the Bush and Obama administrations using the concept of scrotal infusions.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if the image of Karl Rove topping his leather slave represents progress for our community. Or not.

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