Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fear and Paranoia

I will readily admit that I feared going into the first leather bar I ever patronized and that I felt the same about the first bath house, the first time I entered an adult bookstore, and the first time I followed a guy home to have sex with him. Not only will I admit to my fear, I will also disclose that I often felt the same way about both my nascent gay identity and my desires for kinky sex. Neither fear nor paranoia are easy to deal with.

There is, though, a difference between them. Let’s begin with fear which is defined as “A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by present or imminent danger.” Paranoia, on the other hand, is “Extreme irrational distrust of others.”

See the difference and are you afraid or paranoid? Even then I would like to note that the feeling of fear may not be rational, i.e., the danger you perceive may be neither present nor imminent.

I’ll let you work through the above ideas. In the meantime here are some tips on how to deal with the nagging problems that might just plague you about our lifestyle, our fetishes, and the people you meet on your journey in kink.

Get references

One of the first “Old Guard” rules I learned when I became a Leatherman was to ask a person for references. Frankly, it saddens me that the practice has fallen into disuse, if not disrepute. I say that because a young man told me recently that he wasn’t sure he could trust me. I went Italian on him and reminded him that I could give him a list of references longer than my arm. He was surprised to think that I would do such a thing.

Of course I would. Referencing is important. 30 years ago, before going home with a likely trick in a gay bar, I would ask the bartender if the guy was “safe.” Bartenders know their patrons better than we think. If the bartender didn’t know, he could help me find out by discreetly asking other patrons in the bar. If there was no one to give the thumbs up sign, then I could just say no thanks.

That kind of caution should be routine whenever you don’t know a person, even when you have found him or her in a group that you trust. Not sure? Ask one of the leaders. If they don’t know, then ask the person him or herself for references. If they have none, say “No thanks, but when you get some, let me know.”

If they give you references, get phone numbers or email addresses and contact them. Getting references means getting them and using them.

Remain rational

Think about what you are doing, whenever you feel afraid. What makes you feel that way? What does the fear tell you. Is it fear or paranoia?

Too often we project the source of our fear onto another person, when in fact what we are doing, not what they are doing, is causing us to feel the way we do. A good example is that of a married man who is afraid of tricking with a gay man (been there, done that). He fears the gay man will out him (an exceptionally rare occurrence). The gay man isn’t interested in outing anyone. The married man fears the gay man because he is cheating on his wife. If there were no cheating, there would be a hell of a lot less fear.

In cases such as this, one needs to analyze the problem and its cause and work on fixing what is really wrong (the cheating) and not what we want to think is wrong (a gay man’s trustworthiness).

Ask questions

As I pointed out in the suggestion to get references, ask questions. This recommendation applies to everyone and everyone includes “submissives.” As I will rant later in this essay, negotiation is the duty of both the top and the bottom and bottoms need to make informed decisions just as much as tops do.

If you are so dead above the neck as to not know what to ask, then ask someone for their list of standard questions and use theirs until you get your own. In any case, as I tell the bottoms who want to play with me, “If you can’t think of anything to ask me, then ask me what I ask you.”

Likewise if your prospect isn’t asking questions then there is something wrong in what’s going on and the something wrong is poor communication. Right there is a good reason to say “No thanks.” If you don’t know how to negotiate, then take a class or ask a friend to teach you. The rule here is pretty easily understood: “No negotiation means no play.” Poor or unsatisfactory negotiation means the same thing.

When in doubt

Now this is a problem with a simple solution. When in doubt, don’t.

Yes, I’m being hard-assed here. I’ll soften up and say that you should ask questions, get references, etc., and eliminate your doubt. If you can’t eliminate the doubt, then don’t do what you doubt.

Be responsible

It’s your job to act like an adult and to insist on adult communication, respect, and full accountability on the part of everyone involved. You can not, under any circumstances, shirk (avoid or neglect) your adult duty in this regard.

OK, I admit that you can try to shirk it, but then you will suffer the consequences, which, of course, you won’t be able to shirk.

Weigh risks

Nothing is without risk. Nothing. The best we can do is weigh risks, rationally consider them, and work to reduce them. Be an adult and do all three of those things. When you do, then your actions will be less risky, which means they’ll be safer and you’ll have less to worry about.

Agree on safe words

Yes, use safe words. Now I know that most seasoned, experience players don’t use safe words but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times, places, activities, and persons with whom you should. I always let my fearing and nearly paranoia bottoms use them. I help them to do so.

It’s easy. I just tell them they have three safe phrases they can always use: “Stop,” “Slow down,” and “Can we talk about this before we continue?”

If you prefer some color or your mother-in-law’s maiden name, that’s fine with me. Use what you want. Of course that means you have to communicate what you will do before you need to do it. Oh, no, now we’re back to good negotiating.


Fetish and sex, if you insist on separating them, are both important, meaningful, and gratifying events. At least they should be. Good communication is one of the ways to improve them. Failure to communicate will only lead to a less than ideal scene and perhaps regret.

Open and free communication between partners is essential to a successful scene or relationship. If you’re not adult enough to talk about your desires, your sexuality, and your limits, you ought to not be negotiating. If you can’t negotiate, then please go back and re-read the part where I say “Ask questions.”

I hope that all the above helps. If I sound like a know-it-all, I’m not. Just remember that I have made enough mistakes in my past to make the above list sound like a really good idea to me. After all, I don’t want to make the same mistakes over again. New mistakes are always more exciting.

Have a great week.


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