[Town Council]

Race Play?

by David

It's a hot topic right now and why the hell shouldn't I address it? Fuck it, let's exploit the motherfucker! It's one of those forms of play that really doesn't get mentioned often. When someone says I get off when I am called a nigger, kike, whop, honkey, mau mau, nip, garlic eater, beaner ad-infinitum, we tend to get quiet and look the other way, avert our eyes or become silent or that ever popular "ummmmmm". I've been to three classes in three years that dealt with or was about race play. The current realizations that I have about race play with respect to being an African American in a community that has few taboos came about through the recent experiences that I have had during these past three years.

Before I begin, gentle reader, I will explain that what I am about to write is going to be brutally honest and non-politically correct.

To preface what I am about to say, this essay is the result of a series of personal experiences, conversations and various email posts that I have received within the past three months. The catalyst was an email post protesting the title of a certain event's class called "Nigger Play: Free at Last". So I looked it up, and thought initially what an interesting paradox. By looking at it in the context of certain humiliation models that are taught, humiliation can give the person receiving it a sense of empowerment and a sense of freedom. But to the layman, this is just a simple racial slur; or even, what if a new African American man or woman came onto that site and saw that class, what would he or she assume?

Overall, my first encounter with race play was three years ago. It was a surrealistic and numbing experience. The presenter was a bit concerned about how I processed what happened. I was pissed. But in that same class, a woman was objectified, for the slut that she was, a man was degraded for the sissy he was (he happened to he very big and very intimidating in stature) and a dyke was reduced to a strap on cock sucking slut that she was. That didn?t bother me. But how did the other scenes affect the women, the dykes and the men? Were they feeling the same thing as I was?

Closer personal examination of the race play scene resulted in me feeling embarrassed for the individual, and how could he lower himself because it was like lowering the African American race. Bullshit! he was simply getting off on a social taboo and watching a mass mindfuck that the audience had. Never the less, I was conflicted.

How could I subject myself to watching something so debasing? It was hot, but it shouldn?t be because it's wrong. Sound familiar? Well how about, I shouldn't enjoy flogging someone, but it is also socially unacceptable. They both have historical significance, they both can be seen as debasing and the both carry the same connotations of immorality and inappropriateness to a degree.

Don't dance with the devil, you can't change him, but he sure will change you. My realization was that I had been altered by that experience. My personal beliefs about self had been challenged. I had to ask myself why I was so angry about it, why did it fuck with me so much and why did I like it? Or did I just convince myself to accept it.

Location: Texas
Place: SPLF2003 (South Plains LeatherFest)

I did an interview with the person who conducted the humiliation class and I had so many questions. The summation of the interview within the boundary of that specific topic was permission. Giving or allowing you the freedom to let go and enjoy things that are taboo is a powerful paradox. That is why, women can enjoy being a slut; and people of color can get off on being called a nigger, kike, whop, honkey, mau mau, nip, garlic eater, beaner ad infinitum. It?s a way of letting go of what society and history has designated right and wrong.

People who are given the authority by other people to make those judgments deem history and all of its atrocities as such. Therefore, can we unmake what has been made? Through BDSM I say yes as we are afforded small windows of time with individuals that can transcend taboos and what society and history has decided to be wrong.


I have resolved that I do enjoy humiliation play and many other forms of erotic role-play, it has enhanced my game as a Top. A model that I will give you is this: erotic forms of SM are physical means to bring you to a spiritually or chemically induced altered state or reality. Adding erotic role-play and humiliation makes this play three dimensional and mutually interactive as it can allow the individual to incorporate many forms of play during various settings. It allows you to explore base and primal feelings as well as those that are highly intellectualized. What woman doesn?t want to be taken by that big brutish barbarian or seduced by the highly sophisticated yet cruel aristocrat? (yes I?m using a heterosexual male-female/ Top bottom hierarchy, but feel free to insert the appropriate scenario)

Oh yeah: What about this class? "Nigger Play: Free at Last"? I disagree with the title completely based on the public insensitivity of it. The bottom line, the class deals with an aspect of erotic role-play. I have also noticed that the new classes that are coming out today have these rather exotic titles such as things that go thud in the night, Oh God! Who Knew It Could Be Like This? (Spirituality and SM), King Tut's Kink: Mummification and Into the Abyss: The Spirituality of Piercing?. With these examples I can see the rationale behind the title "Nigger Play: Free at Last". Based on that rationale only though. Would I change the name, yes because it is so sensitive, would I cancel the class? Hell motherfukin no. Sometimes, saying something doesn't kill the negativity and being that it is for a BDSM event, the outside world is going to see that and it can have a negative impact on how the community is perceived. By changing it, have you censored someone?s 1st amendment rights? Let's ask a few questions: will the name elicit a highly negative response from many African Americans? Does it cause a degree of uncomfortableness in or outside the medium of kink? To what degree is this class title offensive to the targeted group (even if it is not the intention of the group)? Can the class be called something else and communicate the nature of the class?


There is shit out there that fucks us up, physically and emotionally. History has shown us about acts that that were atrocities against humanity. We tend to react to this by responding violently against them in order to get the point across that we are violently opposed to such egregious acts. Ironically, behind close doors and in the bedroom, what's really going on?

David M.Column.

Your Comments

Written in Response to the “Race Play?” article:

A Letter From Lolita Wolf, TES Programming Chair for TES Fest 2004

TES has been getting a bunch of emails about one of the workshops on the TES Fest Edge Play Track: “Nigger Play: Free at Last!” with mike "the black guy" bond.

People are extremely upset and offended that we are using the word Nigger in the title. Even though most seem to have no problem with the class' expected content.

I understand why this would be upsetting to some people, and the first time I played with race, it was very disconcerting and difficult to me. I have attended various workshops on this topic by both mike bond and by Midori and they have been very edgy and I learned how empowering and hot this play could be to some people. And the use of that word is part of that.

I have talked to many people of color about using these degrading words and actions and it is something that they have found to be fulfilling. This seems logical in the context of a BDSM genre where all sorts of people get off on name-calling. Do you know Vi Johnson? She is a black woman, a respected leader and someone who I have talked extensively to about this topic as well. She finds it hot. Have you seen her essay at http://www.iron-rose.com/vijohnson/docs/blic2.htm ?

To some people using that word is a way of reclaiming ownership of the language and being able to control the outcome. Much in the same way the gay community has adopted the word queer. It has eventually taken a lot of the sting out of the word. For others, it is simply another version of the standard BDSM pain play.

I personally find the word offensive, however, in playing with mike many years ago, I saw how exciting and hot it was for him when I used it. I used it because he encouraged me to. It was a very scary thing to do and I would never do it outside of a consensual scene where everybody was getting what they wanted.

As Program Director for TES Fest, I am very hands-off. I trust the presenters (or I choose presenters whom I can trust) and let them have a forum to do what they want to do. When I decided to do an Edge Play Track for TES Fest, I knew I needed to have mike bond as a presenter on this topic. Mike presented Race Play at last year’s TES Fest and has presented on Race at TES meetings several times over the years. He is a pioneer on the topic and has a lot of wisdom and experience on this type of play.

Mike is doing this presentation willingly and calling it what he wants to call it. Should I have been playing censor? I hope not. TES has tackled controversial edgy topics in the past and I want to see TES continue to tackle them in the future. I like seeing TES on the cutting edge of edge play. And I do not want to see TES shying away from the tough topics.

mike reminds us that we have to remember the CONTEXT. Someone wrote to him, “By looking at it in the *context*of certain humiliation models ... humiliation can give... a sense of freedom.”

And mike responds “So true, but I was referring to how the *fetish* of nigger play has gained freedom in the last three years in BDSM circles around the country as reflected in all the classes myself and others have taught .“

Many have asked that we just change the title and not use the word Nigger. That this word is too offensive and too sensational.

And mike responds, “No. The term "nigger play" was chosen for the sake of ACCURACY, not sensationalism, to distinguish the subject matter from other forms of race play, especially those that have traditionally had fewer freedom issues.”

mike’s class is not about Race Play in a broad sense. It is not about Jews and Palestinians, or cowboys and Indians or any other kind of racial clashes. He says, “Sans judgment, none of those type of examples are central to my class. Nor is the black-over-white model, except to make this point: submissive white men have always had the freedom to engage in their form of "affirmative action" race play at the hands of ‘powerful black women.’ It's considered cute and PC.

“It's also considered cute for them to take it from a white mistress in the form of a ‘big black dildo’ or little white penis ridicule. Black slaves/submissives/bottoms on the other hand have traditionally been shackled by other people's political correctness in the exercise of our expression. Accordingly, "Nigger Play: Free At Last!" refers to the black submissives' (and white dominants') newfound freedom to engage in these scenes or not. Hopefully, this clarifies the issue for folks who suggested Race Play more accurately reflects the breadth of the subject.

“Also, I field tested "race play." Too many of the uninitiated had no clue what it meant. lt sounds like an auto racing term.”

Many have written that “Nigger” is a racial slur and what will the laymen/mainstream assume? And what will the African American who is new to our community think about this?

Mike responds, ”The simple answer to this question is: I am not presenting this class to laymen. I am presenting it to a BDSM audience at a BDSM event. Even newbies are expected to grasp *context* regardless of their race. And speaking from experience kinky blacks might think it's a class worth attending. Remember, I am not preaching to the blacks in the local choir; I am preaching to blacks (and whites and everyone) in the BDSM choir! It was those blacks who told me to stop calling it "the N-word" at this event last year because it sounds stupid and juvenile in the context of an adult only class about BDSM race play.

Someone asked, “Will the name elicit a highly negative response from many African Americans?” “Does it cause a degree of discomfort in or outside the medium of kink?” “To what degree is this class title offensive to the targeted group (even if it is not the intention of the group)?”

Mike says, “These questions fail the context test. Is there ANY fetish or kink in the Scene that doesn't make SOMEONE uncomfortable in or out of it? This is why we preach tolerance and not censorship.”

Mike also takes exception to the phrase "targeted group." He says, “No one is targeting blacks especially not me. The whole point of this class and my contributions to the race play movement has been to ADVANCE black rights in BDSM. Most blacks who have come to my classes have gotten the point and even finished my sentences..”

”Finally, there is such a thing as protesting too much. The nigger word is already on millions of DVDs and CDs across America. Amazon even has it on book titles. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle say it with every other breath they take in front of black AND white audiences. Which makes me wonder why *in the context* of blacks who are ALREADY playing master/slave games with whips and chains, they didn't see "nigger" coming." “As Lolita emphasized, the word ‘nigger’ itself is central to the play as I and Vi make plain. Perhaps to put a point on it, the reason it is in the title is to distinguish it from race play where the word nigger makes no sense - such as black woman on top.”

“As for what all blacks think versus what I think. I don't speak for all blacks, just as no white person speaks for all whites. Some letters have expressed a woeful misunderstanding of SSC - consent. Consent is a kink doctrine that applies between BDSM player one, two or three. It is not a call for a player to seek the permission for whatever community claims him or her. Accordingly, saying that the entire Black BDSM Community hasn't consented to this is meaningless in the context of BDSM presentations.

"With respect to blacks and whites, when this very question about groups' consent was asked by a white gentleman at mike's last presentation, the several blacks in the audience laughed and roundly ridiculed it throughout the post-presentation discussion circle. Nobody applies this standard to women, gays, lesbians, Christians or white men for that matter. Why use consent to create special censorship rules for blacks?

But if anyone thinks nigger play is something I crafted out of my own head, then they are as wrong as I was when I thought I discovered (as in invented)S&M 15 years ago. If Black Beat going to hand out a Vi Johnson award they should direct kinky blacks to her web essay where she says exactly what I've been saying. Viola Johnson ethnic play:

As you can see, the TES Fest Edge Play Track been very controversial. What we have done is put a Warning/Disclaimer on the entire track as follows:

Edge Track

(WARNING: This track contains material that may be offensive or objectionable to some people. We respect your rights to make choices about which workshops you would like to attend. If you are uncomfortable or disturbed by any of these topics, please move on to something that does interest you and do not click on the links below for more information. Remember there are more then 65 other workshops at TES Fest 04.)

The TES Fest Edge Play Track is also extremely educational. What TES wants to provide a forum for all positive types of play that involve consenting adults. We have made the program varied enough so that people can make choices. There will be seven other workshops during the same time slot so that no one will feel that they have to see anything that they don't want to.

For over 30 years TES has been doing politically incorrect activities. And we will continue to do them. I am sorry that this has caused some people to be hurt. That was not what the intent was.

I’ll give mike the final words, “Finally, you should tell people writing letters to you or TES isn't really the best forum for coming to an understanding of these issues. The class is.

“Playing With Racial Stereotypes The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name”, written by Viola Johnson for “Black Leather in Color” (Copyright 1994). The article is printed here in its entirety with permission from the author.

Alone in the darkness of my quarters my mind is reliving the scene of a few nights ago. I can feel my Mistress's body beneath me. I can feel her voice, raspy and sexual, in my ear. "Fuck, Niggah. That's what I bought you for."

With little if any mechanical aid I cum. My orgasm is sudden, and powerful. For a brief second I am exhausted and happy. But in only a moment there is a little voice creeping into the back of my consciousness (You shouldn't be turned on to the word NIGGER).

IS THAT LITTLE VOICE RIGHT? Let me get those incorrect thoughts out of my head.

A few days later I was listening to an audio tape of a scene my Lady and I had recently done together. The playback brought to my mind's eye all of the erotic images that were part of our encounter. I could see her as she was, standing over my shackled and naked body. The black uniform she wore accented her perfect figure. The double lightning bolts on her collar, the red band on her arm and the regalia of the "Toten kampf Verbena" in German on her sleeve brought fear to my mind and throbbing to my clit.

I can't help the fact that nice Black Jewish girls shouldn't have Nazi fantasies. I DO! Not only do I have politically incorrect fantasies, I've acted many of them out. Even worse, I've enjoyed them. They have tripped my trigger, gotten my rocks off, made me cum. Isn't that what sex is all about?

When I first tried to write this article I was having a lot of trouble with it. Sure, my Mistress and I play with ethnic stereotypes. At times we don't just play with them, we stomp all over them. Those experiences, however, didn't make focusing my thoughts on this topic any easier. I wasn't sure how to proceed, or even what direction to take with such a sensitive and controversial subject.

A few nights later I was discussing my dilemma with some friends. A lively round robin quickly turned into an open exchange of really hot racial fantasies. "Great," I thought, "this could be a lot of help." I started to talk about the incredible S.S. fantasy that Mir and I had played out, and the conversation came to a screeching halt. My friends suddenly turned into the Sex Police. The berating barrage of "How could you actually do that" and "You must be kidding" coupled with "Are you nuts. Don't you have more pride than that?" was more than I could take.

I LOST IT!!!!!!

I was screaming at the top of my lungs to be heard. No matter what I said someone always came up with a new reason that their FANTASY was OK but my turning fantasy into REALITY, even my own private reality, was not. It was everything I could do to calm this lynch mob. With tempers and emotions finally in check, I was feeling safe enough to try to redirect this now volatile conversation. I asked one member of the group how he, being half Sioux and half Apache could play cowboy and Indian games with his blond haired Custer look alike lover? "That's different," I was told, "besides, I'm the top." All I could bring myself to say was, "Yeah, right!"

For the first time in over an hour there was silence. Being an opportunist I continued. "Kahdir, your background is Bedouin, and wealthy at that. Can you honestly tell me that you've never imagined that the lover you also call slave came from the flesh markets of Cairo?" The look that passed between them told me everything I needed to know.

"I wear my chains with pride and love," his slave said in defense. "Yes, you do," I replied, "but you also wear black leather harem pants and arm bands. You look like a kinky Jinn (male genie)." Why isn't anyone here willing to be honest with me? Am I the only one willing to shout out loud that I like certain Ethnic play?"

Well folks, the flood gates opened and the conversation got honest. Over the next two hours a lot of sharing was done and a lot of good points were made pro and con. One statement that kept coming up made me stop and think. It was "YOUR FANTASY MAY BE MY REALITY." I asked for clarification. By way of explanation I was told, "I come from the South. I have an absolute loathing for the word Nigger. It just pushes all the wrong buttons in me. I don't want to hear it in a scene."

I understood his point, but I also know that in scenes this black man calls his black slave BOY. I brought that up. His only response was, "It's an emotional thing."

Indeed, emotions seem to be the point where fantasy and reality blur, or even change places. The dynamic of the games we play is highly charged with energy and emotion. It's the exchange of this mix that sends the people involved soaring to new psychosexual heights. That trigger point is different for each individual, and so is the method used to trip that trigger.

Some may find an ethnic slur or scene humiliating and walk away. Others may find the same word or words exhilarating or empowering. Both are right. We each set the parameters for our own sexuality. This writer only has a problem when someone else wants to set my parameters, and by standards other than my own.

I know the reality of the not to distant past when the cavalry tortured Native Americans, the Nazis exterminated Jews, and masters oppressed and slaughtered slaves. BUT ... that's the REALITY. Leather is an eroticized FANTASY, and in that fantasy I can have it any way I want. That includes ignoring history altogether if that is the wish of myself and my partner. Even my own REALITY doesn't have to intrude on my FANTASY if I don't want it to.

As a tribe we have come to accept the slave-master relationship, while ignoring (for the most part) its racial origin. To quote Graylin Thornton, International Mr. Drummer, and his editorial for Drummer Magazine, "No longer is slavery an issue of pigmentation, but a matter of self-fulfillment. The brutality of the chains of the past are broken and replaced by the deepest forms of eroticism and respect."

In this case we have left reality on the other side of the leather door. In no way have we downplayed the historic bitterness of the past; we have just chosen to keep it in perspective, and outside of the scene. Those who, for personal reasons, can't play slave scenes, just don't play slave scenes.

What about all the other ethnocentric leather games we play? Even cop and speeder takes on ethnic connotations if the fantasy place is the South. Why is it that the leather community will tolerate master-slave, but scowls at other racial or ethnic games? Why is it that the choices made between safe, sane, and consensual partners can't be applauded by other tribal members? Why is it that we, as Leathermen and women of color, can't accept the possibility that to some of us, Nigger may be empowering?

Many more people play with stereotypes than are willing to talk honestly about them. Is it fear of admitting interest? Is it fear of condemnation? Perhaps both. Maybe we should KEEP THEIR REALITY OUT OF OTHER'S FANTASY.

Any fantasy, particularly those involving stereotypes, is going to step on somebody's reality. Everyone is sensitive to, or about something. But the "I'm OK but you're not" attitude has got to be put to rest. Before you know it we may have, or need, a scale of offensiveness. Example, my fantasy is only a three on the scale, so that's OK. I consider your fantasy an eight, so YOU CAN'T PLAY.
Scary isn't it.
Rather than condemn a type of play that is not your thing, walk away or appreciate the dynamic between the players. If we start to criticize anything that doesn't fit our own particular standard soon no play will be safe.

David M.Column.

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