This might be one of my favorite “above-ground” bits of kink history from the ’90s.
In 1994, freelance writer and novelist Richard Kadrey wrote an article for Wired Magazine about a fairly new and controversial meeting place for kinksters—the alt.sex.bondage newsgroup on Usenet. The tone of his article is humerus, investigative and—importantly—respectful. (Holy Mainstream Culture, Batman! A non-salacious article about kink!)
Kadrey’s article is almost as wide-ranging as asb was. He moves from erotica to gendered pronouns to anonymizing servers and censorship controversies. He even specifically addresses the issue of non-consensual fantasy erotica. Acknowledging that many “casual” readers of a.s.b were horrified by stories such as the “Diane” about non-consensual sex slavery. Kadrey also went out of his way to make clear that the BDSM community does not support coercion, and that S/M is based on consent.
Most importantly, at least to me, is Kadrey’s eloquent defense of a.s.b:
It’s the willingness to ask dangerous questions that makes asb so interesting and vital. It’s one of the few places on the Net where you can find yourself genuinely surprised and illuminated about human desire each time you log on. Whether it’s a college student asking the proper way to shave a friend’s genitals or a drag queen sharing where to get a good deal on man-sized sling-backs, the openness, delight, and occasional anger of the postings show readers the extraordinary words and lives of ordinary people. Like the Internet itself, asb is open-ended and constantly evolving, and while it might comfort some to dismiss asb participants as marginal fringe-dwellers, don’t forget that cyberspace users were those same fringe mutants a few years back. The edges of culture show you where the center is moving. In the end, both the Net and asb offer similar rewards – the expansion of options and possibilities. What more could you ask for?
I love this final paragraph because it is a testimony to the best of what asb used to offer. And it speaks to me in 2013 as well. Asking dangerous questions is just as vital to the kink community today as it was in 1994. It’s definitely why I’m here, and is how a movement of anti-rape activism has sprung up so quickly in recent years. I think this is why I love Kadrey’s article so much. It wasn’t specifically about activism, or feminism, or any of my buzz words. But by giving an honest account of a marginalized space, Kadrey did what he could to de-stigmatize kink online, and in turn, made it easier for folks to ask more dangerous questions.