1,2,3, kinky

SEX ISSUE: New guide to BDSM community is a great primer for SF sex's high season

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Authors Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams

caitlin@sfbg.com

SEX 2012 For youse who are considering dipping toes into a pool of liquid latex this weekend, Mollena Williams, co-author of Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities (Greenery Press, 312pp, $19.95) and long time player on the Bay Area BSDM scene, has a clarifying statement about making Folsom Street Fair your first kinky sex event.

"It's probably akin to getting to know the animals on the African plain by visiting the Bronx Zoo," Ms. San Francisco Leather 2009 told me when I caught her on the phone. "You will have an idea of what the giraffes do when you see them in the Bronx Zoo, but if you travel and see them wandering the plains you're going to be like, oh my gosh!"

But if the fair that's launched a thousand sluts isn't a good place to learn how to be a responsible kinkster, one might ask, how does a nipple clamp-craving individual who just read that book and has a new profile on FetLife (user name: ChristianGreysTie) — or has a yen for rough play that is entirely unrelated to popular fiction — get one's start on the scene?

Never fear, my corseted dear. Playing Well With Others holds the answer to that question, and then some. Genderqueer leather lad Lee Harrington came up with the idea for the book some years ago, drafting Williams as co-scribe to diversify and deepen the perspective offered in the book. Their voices are perfection — Williams' experience as a person of color on the scene and Harrington's as a transperson make for a 101 to the BDSM community that takes very little for granted about the reader.

In straight-forward, friendly language, the book covers basic identity issues such as what and why kinksters exist. There's a vast chapter that runs down the various kinds of kink events, from woo-woo spiritual retreats to clothing swaps to fetish balls. It's really all in there: advice on making kinky business cards for passing out to possible paramours, ways to trick out your sexy social networking profile, and how to negotiate safely and sanely with a partner regarding just what your relationship can handle at that pony play conference.

Williams told me there has been a gentle surge in participants in the BDSM scene, offering the real-life, previously-mentioned 50 Shades of Grey-based FetLife handle as proof that popular culture is causing an uptick in online participants, at least. Playing Well With Others offers important tips on the perils and pitfalls of kink community. Williams cited her own sexual assault that occurred during a play scene as an example of something that she had trouble wrapping up into a neat, advice column package for the book. The BDSM scene has its "criminally pathological," just like every other segment of society, she said.

Boundaries weren't a real big part of 50 Shades, in which dominant, older Christian Grey does not take no for an answer from his virginal quarry. His doltishness is presented in the book's pages as the height of romance. "It's not romantic to stalk someone," cautions Williams. "I don't care how wretched hot you are, if someone says they don't want to see you and you show up on their doorstop — that's not a thing."

"We wanted to have a road map, because it is a jungle out there," she told me.

Sorry to leave you hanging back there if you were waiting to hear what Williams had to say about the perfect starting point for your public pervert-dom. That would be at your local munch, or casual (think streetwear and sneakers, not harnesses) gatherings of kinksters.

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