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Sex and Politics

What happens when you invite a TV reporter to a Dungeon Party?

What happens when you invite a TV reporter to a dungeon play party?  You end up on TV and in the middle of a real media circus.

In Detroit, a reporter for the NBC affiliate, WDIV got invited to a local play party as he was investigating a murder.  The suspect in the case was a participant in the BDSM community, but the murder was not BDSM related and in fact may be a murder for hire committed by a third party.  The story is still developing, but the damage to the local BDSM scene has already happened.

The report which played last night on Detroit TV had little to do with the murder or the suspect other than to lean heavily on his involvement with BDSM.  The majority of the piece was blurry video with lurid descriptions of the activities that take place at the party.  Now to those in the community, these are almost commonplace, but when sensationalized, and in this case really sensationalized it seems dangerous and scary, especially to vanilla folk.

To make things worse the report gave the address of the party, a local VFW hall.  All the footage of the event was shot with a hidden camera, so the participants did not know they were being filmed.  Luckily the TV station blurred out all the faces but to the participants it must have felt like a violation of their privacy, and it was just that.

The report added no new information to the story of the suspect murder and was designed specifically to scare people with the “debauchery” going on in the peaceful suburban neighborhood.  Never mind the fact that this party has been happening on a regular basis for a long time with no complaints, it is great stuff for ratings and TV news is all about ratings.

Now lots of people who attended that party are frightened, perhaps more than the viewers who saw the shadowy figures and blurred video on TV.  They are afraid of being “outed” as kinky.  Sadly in this country “kinky” is not a protected class and often people lose their families and jobs by being exposed.

The fears of the BDSM community in Detroit may be unfounded, but the hubbub this incident has caused should give people a few valuable lessons.  If you are not “out” as kinky, then you need to make sure any event you attend is really a private party. That means invited folk only and/or all participants have signed some sort of release that assures they are not offended by the activities taking place and agree not to photograph or reveal names and identities of any other attendees.  These are pretty standard at most play parties, but apparently in Detroit they were not used.

Secondly, do not invite the press to a play party!  News folk look for sensational images, specifically TV journalists and whips and crosses make for sensational images, even if the reality of a play party is far from the imagined images vanilla people might have in their minds.  Additionally, once the press splashes something like this all over peoples TV screens, some folks will complain to local authorities and next thing you know, the police are visiting any event that looks remotely out of the norm.  In most cases what we do in a dungeon might not be illegal, but police will arrest first and ask questions later.  I would not be surprised if a wave of “vice” operations followed closely on the heels of this report in Detroit.

The unintended consequences of this might be very severe for some people and that is what makes this even worse.

Now, to be honest, most cities have some kind of BDSM activity going on, and the police and authorities are not blind to it.  I have spoken with law enforcement people about this and to a great extent their attitude is, if no one is getting hurt and there is not any prostitution going on they have bigger fish to fry.  The difference in Detroit may be the murder investigation and just how much involvement BDSM may play in the crime.  My suspicion is it is completely tangential, but that is for the police and courts to find out.

Meanwhile, kinky folk in Detroit should take a deep breath and then use some common sense next time they get an inquiry from a reporter about attending a party.

We don’t want to scare the Muggles!

This article is reposted from the author’s blog.
Hardy Haberman is a member of the Woodhull Board of Directors and serves as the Chairperson of our Board.
  • I have been in the scene person, personally and professionally for over 20 years. As a matter of  course I’ve studied the gay rights movement so I completely disagree with the writers prescription. If  we, the BDSM community ever hope to have any civil rights / liberties  we all need to COME OUT. SILENCE = DEATH. If we all hide in the closet shamefully as if somehow our sexuality is a perversion (a word we should reclaim) and makes us bad people, we will continue to lose our jobs, children, homes, freedom, be jailed and worse.

    • Ricci J. Levy

      Tara, coming out is a luxury that not everyone can afford. It absolutely is important for those who can “come out” to do so, but it’s not a blanket solution.

  • Stephen (also Indiana)

    @Tara~  I believe Mr. Haberman (who I’m fairly sure is very aware of the
    gay-rights movement) was *not* in favor of ‘hiding’ from the Muggles…
    His point was that one shouldn’t allow our exposure to the
    outside-world to be dictated by ~media sensationalism~.  Being ‘outed’
    is different than ‘stepping out’.  Other than that possible
    miscommunication, however, I am 100% in agreement with you.  We
    kinky-folk do need to make ourselves known in a very positive light –
    else we’ll be stuck in the same dark corner with other non-sensical
    fears the general populace has. But I’ll stand with Hardy in saying that
    we, again, need to do it on OUR TERMS.  Not via a reporter with no ties
    nor loyalty to a local/national community.