Maymay: Hello, everybody. This is Kink On Tap episode, I think, 67. As usual, I'm maymay, and today I'm actually joined by Kelli Dunham and Jessica Halem who are going to talk to me a little about Fuck Your Health, which is a project that they're working on.
But before I give the floor open to them, I wanted to start because I have some things that I want to say.
Sadly, this may be one of the last, if not the last Kink On Tap shows—at least for now.
There’s so much I want to say and so much I wrote down to say and I don’t know if anything I could say could accurately sum up how I feel. But I wrote some notes and so I’m going to riff from them and I’ll do the best I can do and that’s all I can do.
Emma’s not here tonight. Neither of us wanted Kink On Tap to end, but at least for now, it looks like that’s what’s going to happen. Maybe there will be another show in the future, and maybe we’ll have a few more shows with the guests we’ve already scheduled, but I’m not sure anymore.
First off, although Emma isn’t here tonight, she told me she wants to make sure you all know how much she’s going to miss the shows and you listeners. She really enjoyed being a co-host on these shows and interacting with you all in the chat room.
For me, however it may have looked, it was extremely difficult. I was always struggling to put on a smile, and I think there were several reasons for that. But, the ones relevant to this monologue are that there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that I did to make sure Kink On Tap was able to be what it looked like to you; things behind the curtain you may not realize that I did.
In the early days of this show, I listened to every almost 2-hour episode we produced 4 times. Once in recording, of course, then after we recorded it, I listened to it while making very minor edits for clarity—removing pops and hisses and stuff. Then I imported it into GarageBand and added chapter markers and the musical track, listening to it another time. Then I exported it and published it and listened to the final product on my iPod, as you might, to evaluate my own work.
But that was just the show itself: there were also guests to wrangle and schedule, news stories and other people’s blog posts to read and summarize, decisions to be made about which topics would mesh with which guests, a show outline to create, the website to maintain, the wiki, not to mention how to learn how to do all of this audio work I’d never done before. And because I believe so strongly in transparency, there was also accounting to be done and financial information to make public.
And on top each week’s efforts to do that, there were personal challenges, like my own finances and trying to keep a full-time job at first (then quitting and finding part-time work, and so on), and getting mugged a few months ago, and a lot more, and heart-wrenching family problems, which I will not say anything further about here because it’s not my place to make that public.
It was a herculean effort to keep this show going, but I am no Hercules, and I simply could not continue to ensure that the show maintained the sort of quality that I cared for without equal efforting by my co-host and would-be collaborators, or others.
And I wanted to say all that about how much work I’ve been putting into this work because I want people to understand that I do understand the value of work. Because good work is hard to do and its outcome makes the product look like it was easy to do. And I get that, and I believe I do good work, and I’m capable of doing even more good work, but I’m not capable of doing it alone.
I did the work because I believe, if you’re going to set out to do something, then you might as well do the best you can. And so I was going to damn well do everything I could humanly do to make Kink On Tap the most professional production I could. And you know what, after more than a year’s worth of weekly episodes, I’m pretty damn proud of what we’ve accomplished.
We said a long time ago that we’d do this show until it was no longer fun. While Emma has been enjoying the broadcasts themselves, there was little else about the work of the show that she seems to have enjoyed. For my part, while I enjoyed the conversations I’ve had on this show with people, the amount of unmatched preparatory and post-production work I put into the shows overwhelmed whatever fun I might have had with resentment and bitterness.
And yet I kept doing the work, because I believed in what I was doing. Because I believed that this show made a difference in the lives of people who listened, and ultimately made this world a better place.
I’m reminded of one of our earlier correspondences with Gryphon, a man in London who, when angrily confronted by his parents about his sexuality, he told them to listen to Kink On Tap, and they did, and it helped them begin a dialogue because listening to Emma and myself and our guests on this show helped clear away the fear his parents had of what he was doing with his life. It’s a story I’ve held in my mind often because it reminds me that despite all appearances, people want to love one another and it is only the fear of what they do not understand that often keeps them from doing so.
I’m reminded of Ashbear, who wrote an email to me telling me that despite being told for years that being anything other than a normal, average, baptist girl was wrong, that listening to Kink On Tap disproved all of that, and that what we had to say on this show finally enabled some of her own self-hatred to begin to wane.
I’m reminded of everyone represented by “J”‘s email the other day, a self-described white, privileged and straight man who, despite voicing his hesitation to end his correspondence with me this way, signed his email to me “love.”
I wish I could befriend each and every one of you without the barrier of geographical distance, but I can’t.
This show, to me, was an attempt at proving to people that talking about sex didn’t have to be relegated to either the realm of secrecy and shame nor to the realm of eroticization and blatant sexualization. Unlike most shows about sexuality, especially ones that claim the moniker “kink,” this show expressly and purposefully tried to create conversations whose tone and ambience were just like the conversations you might have had over dinner with your grandmother on Thanksgiving—except filled with sex, politics, and religion, of course.
Because I believe the world needs a place for sex to exist that is neither on one extreme or the other. That people’s sexual rights and sexual freedom—which I define as an equal-opportunity circumstance for everyone on Earth to live a sexually satisfied, self-actualized, and autonomous life—can not be realized when there is no middle ground between sex-as-stigma or sex-as-erotica.
There are so many places, many of which we’ve talked about on this show, where sex is derided or hated or sexualities are marginalized or made to feel less than worthy. And although they are constantly attacked, demonized and threatened with censorship, there are also so many places where sex and sexuality is celebrated. But I never felt welcome in those spaces either, those places of sexual celebration, because I am not comfortable with outright sexualization, and the means of celebration that these places—places I call the sex communities—commonly used (be they parties, or dressing up in fetish wear, or whatever) often felt just as alienating and often just as downright fucking sexist and classist and exclusionary as what they said they were breaking free from in the hegemonic overculture.
And the fact that this show had a listenership in the several thousands, a fraction of whom were courageous enough to publicly express life-changing sentiment from listening, proves to me that there is a need for more such middle-of-the-road, interconnected sexuality spaces of the kind I attempted to create with this show, and KinkForAll, and my other works.
I remember myself in New York City, attending countless sexuality group meetings—groups like The Eulenspiegel Society, GMSMA, Poly-NYC, Conversio Virium, and others—and I remember a deep, dark pang of hurt every time someone who looked quote-unquote “normal”, who looked like they had wandered into the meeting by accident, or who looked like they could be your neighbor, your brother, your sister, your mother, your postal worker, whatever, when they walked into the meetings and expressed interest in whatever the topic at hand was—polyamory, BDSM, whatever it was—and then left at the end of the meeting and never, ever came back to another group meeting again. These people left those public sex community spaces and were never seen from again.
And there is a fallacy, a lie, a self-protective disgusting self-consolement that the sex communities tell themselves to comfort themselves and hide their own massively, outrageously discriminatory practices when this happens. And that lie is that those people simply “didn’t find the right space for them,” “wouldn’t fit in here anyway,” or some such bullshit. And I say that is a lie because, think about it, those courageous people who have spent god knows how much effort just to come to one of those places in the first place, overcoming the mountains of fears that mainstream culture piles on people about others—like us—who just think talking about sex others deem taboo are dangerous—those people don’t just walk out of those meetings and never have whatever their version of kinky sex is. No, they go home and they are still the same people, with the same kinky desires, the same cravings for sexual satisfaction that drove them to come out to that meeting in the first place. And to me, that showcases just how many thousands upon thousands of more people there are who want some kind of kink, some kind of so-called-but-not-really-at-all “alternative” sexuality in their lives—things they don’t get in sex community spaces. And not to discount whatever value they do provide to some, it tells me that sex communities do a fucking piss poor job of making it okay to want those things, and that in fact, sex communities are mostly filled with self-contented, complacent, lazy people whose actions make it clear they care more about getting their own lay than making it possible for other people to connect to them, or with others.
So that’s who I held in my mind every time I felt I couldn’t keep doing the work that I do anymore. Those people who came to a meeting, and then left because they weren’t “geeky” enough or were too “normal” or for some reason didn’t feel welcome by the over-sexualized, hegemonically-reinforcing so-called alternative communities they found. And that’s who I think of every time I looked at the download stats for Kink On Tap, thinking, hoping, that if one of those numbers was one such person, maybe the episode they listened to would offer some kind of avenue toward better, more accessible resources for them—because Kink On Tap, itself, is a resource, I think, unlike others. This show is not what typical self-described “kinky people” would have come up with if they were going to make a show called Kink On Tap. And that was the fucking point.
And, so, those stat numbers and the vision of someone who once left a sex community meeting because it wasn’t the place for them, just like it isn’t the place for me, of that person finding Kink On Tap and feeling just a little bit more at ease with who they really are, that kept me going for a while….
Words can’t express just how sorry I am to be ending this project, or at least putting it on hold, by which I mean there are no words to describe how full of sorrow I feel at this outcome.
This might sound like I’m being a quote-”Whiny bitch” about my circumstances—at least, that’s what some people, some friends, have said to me. And I’ve been called far worse, of course, for saying the things I believe about sexuality and the importance of acknowledging it as a fundamental human right.
I can take the negative attention. In fact, I feed off it. It makes me fight harder and think clearer and speak louder. But I can’t do any of that alone. Everybody needs somebody else. I feel like I have no one.
I can’t do this on my own anymore and the last two and a half years has been, for me, an experience of slowly, successively losing all the social support structures I once had in my personal life even as those very people accomplish and gain skills and create circumstances they wanted for themselves through their interactions with me. It fills me with some joy to know that I have such a positive impact on others, but that joy is swallowed whole by the depression of years upon years of not seeing that goodness return, in kind, to me—and as I hope my remarks about the efforts I put into this show and elsewhere make clear, it is not as though I somehow fail to understand the value of work. I do, and what I am saying is that there are obstacles systemic to the society in which we live that prevents many people—myself included—from having equal opportunity to enjoy the wealth happiness offers.
I cry almost every damn day for the simple reason that every damn day I crave a hug or the gentle weight of a hand on my back, all I have to turn to is the pillow in my bed. And god bless that pillow on my bed, because if it weren’t for that thing, curling up into a fetal position as I do every damn day would feel colder and more terrifying than it already does.
And I’ve been told for years now that I just need to mask this unending unhappiness, to smile and “fake it ’til I make it,” and reflect only on the good things, of which there are certainly quite a number, and that if I do this and simply don’t publicly show the hurt and the pain that I’ll find happiness after all. That I need to be “nicer” and less “confrontational” and make people “feel safer” around me. Safe from what? From my anger and my hurt and my pain. And now, finally, I realize that this advice I’ve been getting is bad advice because I can’t choose to numb one feeling—like anger—without numbing any other. I don’t get to say “I’ll have one scoop happiness, hold the sadness, thanks.” No! If I mask the anger, then all the happiness is masked, too.
A few weeks ago I went to the Poly Leadership Summit, and there I crystalized the idea that leaders who want to challenge the status quo need to find the people who are hurting the most, as compassion for them will train us to see the problems others say do not exist.
My point isn’t that I’m one of the people hurting the most, although I certainly am hurting a lot and—while I’m not in any imminent danger—I’ve been closer to suicidal in the past month than I ever have in the past decade. My point is that for all that I am hurting, I can see others who are hurting more than me, and although I can’t possibly fathom what their experience is like, I know making things better for them, through this show, through work on KinkForAll or my other projects, will make things better for me. Or so I believed for a very long time. And I still sort of want to believe that. And I believed that if I could get 1 person to see the importance of making the lives of people not-like-them better, I’ll have changed the world for the better.
But I’m no happier now. And that makes me very disappointed in myself, and in humanity.
So, with that said, I want to apologize to future guests we won’t have on, because you guys are probably pretty awesome and I would have loved to hear from you. And I want to apologize to my parents who I know watch every week and will be sad to lose another opportunity to feel like they can connect with me however indirectly, but especially to the few awesome volunteers like Gnosiseeker, who’s done so much to maintain the Kink On Tap Wiki.
And thank you to everyone who listened, whether you liked what you heard or not, but especially to those who said something about the fact that you listened—whether you said nice things or not—thank you. And even more so to people who donated some of their money or some of their time to participate somehow, either in the chat room or by sharing links with one another, or whatever; that was always the biggest deal to me.
There are a few of you who are donating once-a-month to Kink On Tap, and if you want to stop doing that I want to remind you that there are—and always have been—instructions for how to end your recurring contributions on the Kink On Tap donation page at KinkOnTap.com/donate.