Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community vs The Personal

Here in Melbourne, we are trying to pull together a cohesive Leather community. Something that has come up and we are presently discussing is protocols - should we have community wide protocols and if so, what should they be. (Because honestly the Old Guard sort of things don't suit any of us around here.)

Opinions are flying all over the place and I find myself wondering: is the time of community-wide protocols a thing of the past?

We are trying to build a system, and that's a hard thing to do. It's even harder when you're trying to build a system that may override other people's systems that they currently have in place and do not want to part with. We are all coming to the table with our own protocols, our own ways of doing things. ANY system that we install in regards to protocol is going to step on someone's personal protocols. ANY system.

In other countries where the current system has grown out of the old system, it's a little easier. It's already there, just adjusting every so often. But there has been a hole in Melbourne in regards to Leather for some years, so any old system that existed here has fallen through the cracks, and we are left to start again.

Starting again can be a good thing. But... again, I find myself back to this question: has the moment passed? Because we have no foundation to build on, will we ever find ourselves in a position where we can build a system without ruining the personal systems of others?

As our society becomes more and more individualistic, and Leather does as well, is there even a place for community-wide protocols in our world now?

This is a vibrant and tumultuous time for the Melbourne Leather community. It will be interesting not only to watch events unfold, but to be a part of them.


  1. Hey, I found this older post and it got me thinking. My perspective is that of a non-leather female switch who is part of a decidedly non-Old Guard kink community, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt, but my opinion is based on protocol battles in my local scene. Basically, I've come to believe that community-wide protocol doesn't work well basically ever, and it comes down to being an issue of consent. I do not consent to participating in anyone else's D/s dynamic simply by being in the same scene/room as them, and that includes more minor things like addressing people in the proper way. It also tends to assume the same type of D/s interaction in various relationships, which is a problem when different couples have different rules (e.g., trying to remember if I can address sub A without asking their dominant but cannot do the same for sub B tends to lead to confusion, at best, and violated boundaries, at worst). Lastly, there's the problem of making it even harder for new people to come into the scene; I'm a big proponent of communities being welcoming, so this is a factor too.

    That being said, I really dig the idea of many people participating in protocol - I just think it has to be limited to consenting individuals. Which is why things like high-protocol events (which you've also written about) ROCK. Here consent is not a problem, since everyone in attendance has consented to the often-complex rules. So I think this is a pretty ideal solution.

    (I like your blog!)

  2. Well, this is one of the differences between Leather and the broader kink scene - coming into the Leather community means consenting to a certain level of protocol. I agree with you that community-wide protocols wouldn't work in the larger kink scene, nor do I think they should.

    It is about consent - the point is that if you don't consent to being a part of the community, then you don't have to be. Does that make sense?

    In old Leather, there were community wide protocols and they worked fine, because if you were a part of Leather, you were consenting to take part in those protocols. It was as simple as that.

    As I mused in this post though, I'm not sure there are many community wide protocols that work in a growing-more-and-more-individualistic community. Culture changes and evolves, just like anything.

    Certainly new Leather isn't as protocol driven (at least not here in Australia, I hear it's much more so in the US) and I don't think that's a good or bad thing. It's just a different thing.