Yesterday, Sept 26, I was honored to be a part of a panel discussion at the Leather Archives & Museum on “Being Out In Leather, Kink and Fetish.” It was an interesting topic, because we (slave angie and I) have had an ongoing discussion on the risks and rewards of being out as titleholders in the Master/slave community. So the discussion panel was welcome.
The following is my five-ish minute presentation on the subject:
Good evening and thank you for inviting me to be a part of this panel.
My name is Michael Shorten. I have the honor of being the Master to slave angie. I am honored to be the International Master 2014 titleholder. And I have taken the step and the risk to be out as someone engaged in a kinky, erotic relationship dynamic.
It was just about a year ago that I listened to a keynote speech by Guy Baldwin at Master slave Conference in Washington DC last year. In that speech he challenged Master and slave titleholders to be out, to combat the misperceptions borne out of ignorance and reinforced by media as to what a healthy Power Dynamic relationship like Master/slave is all about. As a new titleholders, I felt like he had been talking directly to me. Well, to be honest, with Guy Baldwin’s speaking style, I felt like he had smacked me upside the head. However, like a good keynote speech should do, it got me to thinking.
It got me to understand why it was important that my slave and I put our names on the dotted line and be an example of a successful, healthy, consensual and – dare I use the word – intimate and loving relationship. So, we both rose to that challenge, especially after we were honored to be awarded the International title. We’re probably as out as we could be, without waving the flag in front of our house and walking down the street in full leathers and title patches. And, we’ve even done that, at Pride Parades and events. We are out on social media, as public bloggers and as authors and presenters. You see, it is important to us to be who we are, and to be able to say “Yes, we love who we are and what we do.” We do that despite the risks.
There are still real risks to those of us in Master/slave relationships. Risks in how our relationships are seen by the mainstream world, the media and even many within the kink community as being “wrong.” There are still misconceptions and myths, driven by erotica and mis-characterization by the media and world. These drive many people’s expectations to what M/s is. Dare I mention that lovely trilogy of books “50 Shades of Grey” OR that series “Gor”?
And the news media is full of lurid accounts of people who have been imprisoned, exploited and abused in so-called Master/slave relationships. Even recently within our Great Lakes region, a man – Kenneth Hardin of Indiana – forced his wife to sign a “slave contract” and abused her through control of medication, finances and assault. These types of stories, and stories with far more tragic endings, are exploited by media and religious types alike for their agendas. We run the risk of being equated to those types.
There are very real consequences to being out as a Master/slave. While we have adult children, if an overzealous and eager DCFS agent decides that our relationship dynamic is harmful, we could lose the ability to have a relationship with our grand-children. I personally know several people who have had their children taken away due to BDSM activities and the perceptions of the M/s relationship. If a doctor decides that he doesn’t like the bruises on my slave’s ass, and knows that we are in an M/s relationship, we could find ourselves investigated. While Illinois laws might be murky on the subject of BDSM, combining what we call Master/slave on top of it, I could end up arrested and on trial for abuse. There are other consequences, no less devastating. Should our family, my job, our local neighborhood stumble onto us being out and open, there will be uncomfortable questions, there will be some stigmatization and there will be hard times, possibly loss of job, loss of family support, loss of neighborly friendships. These are very familiar situations to those who come out with same-sex sexual orientation, or coming out trans, or coming out in any way that isn’t normative.
I speak on this with a great deal of experience. You see, I have been outed before. I’ve had my status as HSV-2 positive paraded around for the benefit of someone with an agenda, within the Chicago kink community. I’ve lived through that personal shame, of feeling ostracized, of deciding to walk away and then coming back, stronger, but understanding how people as a collective work. And that experience taught taught me, taught my slave and I, that no matter what, we would survive and we would be stronger because we are true to who we are, how we are and what we are.
We don’t parade our kink in front of everyone – we believe in a “Ask, and We’ll Tell” policy. We believe in age-appropriate responses and boundaries that we are comfortable with. For those that want to know, they know.
So that’s why we’re out. The only way we’re going to remove ignorance, combat misperceptions and fight for the right to do what we do, as a healthy erotic relationship, is to stand up and say “I love this, I do this, and I am not ashamed.” I don’t judge others on their decision whether to be out or not. I may challenge them to stand with me, just as Guy challenged me indirectly. I hope they and you will stand with me.
In closing, I’d like to echo the words of the late and beloved Master Jack McGeorge: “I am who I am, I am not ashamed of who I am, not one bit.”