Did I get your attention yet?
To be abundantly clear, as I tend to write about many different communities on this blog, this post was inspired from some events in the BDSM/kink community, not the Pagan/Polytheist community. Just so we get our rumor mongering straight, as it were.
Laura Antinou, If you don’t know her, is a wonderful author of a series of books called “The Marketplace Series”. They take place in a world where people who consensually choose a life of slavery and service are auctioned for real money to Owners. They are fun, sexy, interesting books, and some of the best M/s erotica I’ve ever read.
About a week ago, Laura caught wind of a rumor going around about her. People were claiming that she charges “thousands of dollars” for appearances/readings at events. I can’t begin to tell you the eight different ways how misguided and unrealistic that rumor is. First of all, there’s a perception that BDSM events make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, and therefore can afford to give their presenters lucrative compensation for their time. The reality is, most events I’ve been able to peek into the backstage of are barely breaking even, and many lose money. Most presenters, regardless of how many books they’ve written or how much porn they’ve starred in, are lucky if they get enough to cover their travel and hotel expenses, much less something on top of that. A very few might get an honorarium, but that is few and far between.
But my point here isn’t that a rumor was farfetched and inaccurate. And that’s not why Laura was upset by that. The reason that “meaningless little rumor” has real-world consequences is because people are fucking gullible and are easy to buy into shit they don’t understand. They will take this rumor as “proof” that events make tons of cash profits and some presenters are living high on the hog. But other people will hear this rumor too. For example, event organizers may decide not to invite her to their event because they don’t have “thousands of dollars” to give her. Also,other presenters may feel (rightfully, in some cases) slighted that Ms. Antinou seems to be able to rock up to an event and read a paragraph from a book she wrote ten years ago and make “thousands” doing it while other presenters are running around teaching classes and volunteering in exchange for nothing more than a reduced-price or maybe free entry. In turn, those presenters might not submit to teach at whatever event(s) this outrageous disparity took place at, and may actively encourage others not to attend in “protest”. People may choose not to buy her books because she’s supposedly making so much money by touring, that it’s totally okay if they get a pirated e-book version. And so on.
Here’s a different example of a rumor that could potentially cause damage. A brand new event I’ve thrown my support behind, called Sacrenaila (Thanksgiving Day weekend in Atlanta, GA…see <a href=”http://www.sacrenalia.com/“>website </a> for more details!) has been struggling, like most first-time events do. There hasn’t been any events that combine spirituality and kink in the Atlanta region, or really in Georgia, and there’s a lot of people keen on attending one. Anyway, the rumor that got to me was that Sacrenalia wasn’t comping their presenters anything. Let me be crystal clear here: That is 100% false. The organizer is going into his own personal finances in some cases to make sure his presenters are compensated as fairly as he can provide. But this rumor means that presenters who might be thinking about throwing their hat into the ring will likely give it a pass, if they “know” that their time won’t be valued. It may also mean that attendees who feel that kink/spirituality educators get the short shift too often when it comes to these sorts of events, and they’ll stay home in protest too. It also means that people may choose to go to a different sacred sexuality/kink event, and in this case it wouldn’t surprise me if this rumor was started by someone from a rival organization who hosts similar events.
In both of these cases, something that may seem like a juicy piece of gossip, something that confirms many misconceptions about how these sorts of events work, have actually damaging effects. Laura may have to make several public statements so event organizers know she does kinky book club events via Skype for free, and that she frequently volunteers at events for much much less than even one of those thousands of dollars. The organizer for Sacrenalia, especially as this rumor has hit while he’s making his final push to get some great presenters on board, is now going to have to spend at least some of his valuable time assuaging the public that presenters will be fairly compensated based on how much work they do at the event. (I can say that I am getting a better comp package from this event than I do for many of its rivals.)
Do your homework. People can, and do, actually suffer real consequences from such behavior. I’m making a public promise here to be more circumspect about what opinions I share and with whom, and all I ask is you do the same.