Thursday, March 13, 2014

Leather, BDSM and Creativity

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #490, March 13, 2014)

We all know the stereotype: Gay men are creative. Hairdressers, designers and florists—what more do you need to know?

Well, if it could be argued that this particular stereotype reflects reality, I would argue the stereotype is too limiting. I see all kinds of creative people around me. Gay men, yes, but also lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people—we are a creative community that is constantly inventing new ways of living, loving and relating to the world and the society around us. And we take delight in creatively documenting our inventions, using many and varied literary and artistic media.

Then there are the members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community, who also find extremely creative ways to express themselves and their sexuality, and who delight in creating novel ways to structure relationships.

Are we, the members of the GLBT and leather/BDSM/fetish communities, really that much more creative than people who are not members of these communities? I can think of several reasons why we might be. Because we have, in some respects, turned our back on many of the conventions of society's rulebook, we might have the freedom to think differently. Maybe our perceptions are less filtered by orthodoxy and are therefore more open to alternative ways of looking at things. Maybe we're more innately creative because we need that creativity to survive in a world that can be hostile.

But creativity, like musculature, needs to be exercised if it's going to develop. It was in this spirit that on Sunday, January 19, I attended an afternoon-long workshop on “BDSM and Creativity.” The workshop was a joint presentation of the BDSM Creative Collective and Minnesota Leather Pride. More than a dozen people attended, among them writers, illustrators, a painter and a photographer. All modes of creative expression were welcome.

The workshop was facilitated by Lady Carol, who also produces the annual BDSM Creative Collective Anthology that has been a part of the annual Minnesota Leather Pride celebration for the last several years. (Lady Carol presented a similar workshop the following weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.)

Lady Carol started the workshop by asking some questions: Why do we create? Why do we write, paint, sculpt, do photography, or whatever—and why especially about the BDSM part of our lives? Here are some benefits of exercising our creativity given by workshop participants:

• Documenting our experiences by writing, drawing or painting lets us relive and re-experience them. It makes them real.

• Telling our stories by writing things down, or otherwise documenting them, puts us in touch with ourselves and helps us discover and accept who we really are.

• Being creative is a way to explore new territories, feelings, situations and voices. It can also be a kind of alchemy, a way to transmute darkness into enlightenment.

Having discussed why we valued creativity, Lady Carol then had us do an exercise: We had 20 minutes to write or draw or envision “someone in the BDSM lifestyle who is in a different role than you are.”

The group dispersed to various corners of the building and started creating. I fired up the writing app on my iPad, raised my fingers above the virtual keyboard—and ran headlong into writer's block. I couldn't get started because I couldn't think of anything to write. I grabbed the first “different role” that sprang to mind—write about someone who is female—and started writing about a female domme who lived on an estate and liked to throw parties. Once I got started, the ideas and images flew from my brain through my fingertips onto the iPad screen.

The group reassembled and everyone shared their creations. Then Lady Carol gave us two more assignments: Write a short poem (in ten minutes) and write about making preparations for an impromptu BDSM scene (again, ten minutes).

The point of these exercises was not necessarily to create finished products in ten or twenty minutes. Maybe we started creating something during an exercise that could be fleshed out later, or maybe we didn't. But at least we stretched and flexed and strengthened and toned our creativity.

So now it’s your turn. Go do something creative. Envision, dream, explore—and then capture it by writing it down or drawing it or painting it. (Lady Carol said that much of what she writes in her head never makes it to paper.)

It might not turn out to be a masterpiece. But, then again, it might. You never know until you try.