Sex Positive Now — The Book!

One of the books I’m currently writing is Sex Positive Now.  This is a collaborative effort with Jeremy Shub from Melbourne Australia.   We realized that there is no book out there about sex positive culture and we decided to rectify that by creating a book that encompasses as much of sex positivity as we can.   The areas we hope to cover will include the history of sex positive culture; sex negativity and shame; taboos such as sex work and porn; self-worth, health and emotions; pleasure, fun and joy; sex, intimacy and relationships of all kinds; kink and BDSM; sacred sexuality, tantra and religion; and our various sex positive communities.  We hope to answer the question: What happens if we live in a sex positive world (I’ll give you a hint—Freedom!)

The book will contain essays and interviews by some of the most amazing Sex Positive people in the world, such as Susie Bright and my awesome cousin Veronica Monet (to just name two of our contributors) as well as musings by Jeremy and myself.

We want to be able to pay those who contribute essays to the book and we can’t do that without your help.  We’ve launched an Indiegogo and would love if you can contribute!

Here is the link to the Indiegogo site:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sex-positive-now-book–2#/

Here is the link to our website so you can read more about what we’re up to!

http://sexpositivenow.com/

Thanks so much!

Horizontal Violence and Othering

This past Sunday I was honored to be the 2017 Keynote speaker for International Ms Leather and International Ms Bootblack Contest.   It was well received and I figure I should share it with all of you.  This is about the BDSM world I live in and it’s also more than that.  Since many of you are part of or have people close to you in marginalized communities, you may recognize some of what I’m talking about.

Good Morning!  Ready for my Sunday Sermon?  Well ready or not, here it comes.

First, a little bit about me.  I have been part of the BDSM/Leather world since 1989(well, I’ve been kinky all my life and I’m 64 and discovered that there were organizations that celebrate the stuff I love in 1989).  I’ve been speaking at colleges and around the country since 1992.  A long fucking time.  In those years I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot.  I helped create the Center for Sex Positive Culture, The Foundation for Sex Positive Culture and the Seattle Erotic Art Festival.  And now that I’m “retired” (quotes around retired) I’m traveling and speaking even more.  Oh, and something personal about me.  I had breast cancer in 2011 and because of some of the lasting effects of chemo brain, I have occasional aphasia and forgetfulness, which means I’ll be referring to my notes a bit more than normal.  And, regarding my cancer, it was the various sex positive communities I belong to that got me through all of it.  I love the various communities that are part of my world.

This has to be one of the hardest keynotes I’ve ever written.  I had planned to write about Consent, which is an ongoing theme and issue in our various communities and then a series of events prompted me to talk about something that is I think of equal importance and that is not getting addressed as I think it should be.

Back in 2010 I was the IMsL Keynote speaker and I talked about Counting Our Blessings.  I was optimistic about the world and felt that our various communities had a lot to be thankful for.  We had a better President than we’ve had in years.  Our various communities were growing and becoming less threatening to the general public.  And even since 2010 we’ve had a shift in how the world looks at BDSM (no, I’m not going to talk about the 50 shades of grey, although my personal take on it may surprise you).   A study in 2013 from the Netherlands showed that BDSM practitioners scored better on certain indicators of mental health than those who were not kinky, which means overall we were found to be less neurotic, more open, more aware of and sensitive to rejection, more secure in our  relationships and have better overall well-being.  I think that’s pretty  awesome.

And now, 2017 the world has gotten a bit scary (a lot scary really) and there are forces out there who would like to see your various communities go away.  And just what are we doing about that?  I think we’re making it easier for them, sadly.

First, I want to repeat something I’ve said more than once already today.  Various Communities.  Many of us have this mistaken idea that there is one Leather Community or M/s Community or Poly Community or . . . well you get the picture.  And that way of looking, in my opinion, is part of the problem I’m going to talk about today as well as other issues we have in our various communities.  We have multiple communities in the Tribe, I’d call Leather, for example. There is no “one true way” to be Leather, or M/s or Poly or whatever and yet, by calling it a community (singular) it implies unity.   Which brings me to the topic I want to talk about today,

That is the “horizontal violence” and “othering” that I am seeing in our various communities.

What do I mean by horizontal violence?   Horizontal violence is displaced violence directed against one’s peers rather than one’s true adversaries.  It occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being or feeling oppressed. The oppressed become the oppressors of themselves and each other. Common behaviors that prevent positive change from occurring include gossiping, bullying, finger-pointing, backstabbing and shunning.  Also, the inability to celebrate the victories of our peers and at times even do things that will pull them back, not lift them up.  A friend of mine calls this Crabs In A Bucket.  When one crab tries to climb out of the bucket the other crabs will pull it back into the bucket.   It also includes what I call“othering”.   The tendency in our communities to look down on someone who is not “doing it right” or is “different” in how they approach BDSM, or Leather.    Our tendency to shame those around us

These behaviors recently have been on the rise.  Not just in our various Leather and BDSM  Communities but also in other marginalized communities that I’m in some way affiliated with.

The Sex Worker communities has had breakdown after breakdown in the last few years.  I was at their Desiree conference last year and the shaming that came out of the keynote speech created so much discourse that people left SWOP,  an organization that was created to advocate for sex workers and there were people in the hallway crying and the whole rest of the weekend became dysfunctional full of anger and sadness.  The keynote speaker had some very valid points and she had a right to say what she did as we all do.  Sadly she seemed to not care about the negative impact of her speech, since her speech had little to no solutions or suggestions on how to move forward it was mostly just shaming.  We need to also take responsibility for our actions and words and how they affect others, especially when we’re leaders and activists.

This was not just indicative of Sex Workers, this kind of shaming and blaming and othering and horizontal violence is happening in all of our communities.  I see this in the polyamory world, the goth communities, the gamers that I know and also in the Leather and BDSM world.   And it seems to be on the rise and getting worse.

Recently there has been a huge breakdown in the Portland BDSM/Leather communities with factions being created and people taking sides.  I have friends on both sides of this mess and while I don’t know all the details and I can’t say who is at fault in all of  this I can say that publicly calling into question whether someone had breast cancer to the point that she felt it was necessary to post her diagnosis on Facebook breaks my heart.  No matter what happened and no matter who is in the “wrong”, that action was inconceivable & unconscionable.      That’s horizontal violence at its worse.

And then there is the “othering” that happens all the time.  Defining ourselves by who we aren’t.  I’m polyamorous, not a swinger.  I’m an escort, not a street walker.   I’m a stripper not a whore. I’m a Master not just a Top.  I’m a kinkster but I’m not into “that” kind of play.  Etc. etc. etc.  Why do we have to describe ourselves by who we are not?  We can’t we talk about who we are and celebrate who others are. What are we afraid of?

I’ve been in the world of BDSM/Leather for over 25 years and this isn’t new.  I’ve seen and talked before about how our communities eat their own.,  How we act at times that it’s a zero sum game and there isn’t enough of whatever it is we have to go around.  And yet, it seems more prevalent lately.  This started before the election and yet I think it has a lot to do with the election.

There has been a shift in our world that is pretty profound.  (I keep saying that we’ve gone through some kind of black hole or time warp and are in an alternative universe).

Some things that have shifted are amazing.  Marriage equality for example.  Pot is legal in over half of the united states.  And I would have never expected to hear our Attorney General or our former President talk positively about transgender rights.   And when we have positive forward movement we get backlash.   It’s inevitable — that when we make steps forward there are those who want to push us back.

And that is what we are seeing all over the world today.   The advent of the Trump presidency is just part of it.  There seems to be a nationalist movement in countries all over the world.  Trump is just one of many leaders who (intentionally or not) are fomenting racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of violence.  What does this have to do with our communities and this topic?  Well, like I said, horizontal violence is committed by those who feel marginalized.  And all of the communities I’ve mentioned are more marginalized than ever.   Even though we’ve made great strides in public awareness and are even working at changing the laws through organizations like the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom we all are feeling the brunt of the changes in our political system and our country and world at large.  Overt acts of racism, sexism, xenophobia,  etc are more prevalent than ever.  We are more likely to be targeted because of our sexual lifestyles now than ever before.  Especially those of us who are doubly or triply marginalized, due to our race or gender and our kink.  So we react by lashing out.  Not at those who are out to get us.  No, we lash out at each other.  We bully, we other, we shame, we shun.   We will not survive if we continue on this path.  We will do their work for them and destroy ourselves so they don’t have to. They win if we eviscerate ourselves

So what do we do?  We fight back.  We become part of local protest and political groups and we do our best to be politically and socially aware.  More importantly we take a good long look at ourselves.  What can we do as individuals, leaders and communities to improve our lot and stop the horizontal violence and othering?

Here’s a few places to start.

Othering.  We have to realize that all of our kinks are all okay as long as they are consensual.  That no one way is better than another way.  We need to talk to each other.  Get to know that person who does “it” really differently than us.  It’s hard to other someone when you understand who they are and why they do what they do.

We need to realize that we do not have to be better than someone else to be great.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be all inclusive.  We can still have our separate space.  We can still have M/s space or Queer space, or little space.  That is not being exclusionary that is celebrating our differences.

The horizontal violence is a bit tougher.  It’s pretty ingrained within our communities and takes consciousness.  Being conscious of those around you and how your actions and words affect them are the first steps.  Taking the time to talk to each other.  To listen.  REALLY LISTEN! To be present and allow others to thrive, even if you feel  you are not thriving at the time. We also need to talk to those who differ politically from us.  Believe it or not, not all kinsters are liberals.

We need to address issues in our communities sooner –when the issues first arise, not after they’ve festered and become a nasty boil that when pops sprays puss on the whole community.

We need to educate ourselves, our leaders and communities on Nonviolent communication, Intersectionality  and  Social Justice practices.

Individually we need to speak up immediately when we notice inappropriate behavior, even when it’s from a leader. Especially when it’s from leader.  We need to hold our leaders to an even higher standard.  Many times our leaders are personalities not leaders and we need to be willing ask them to step down if they are not willing to grow and learn.   And our community organizations can create policies for not only dealing with consent violations but also with acts of horizontal violence and even create mediation policies so we don’t end up like Portland.

We have to realize that our actions and words can have consequences both negative and positive.  A good friend sent me this letter recently that shows how even the best of our leaders can affect people negatively by othering and unintentional horizontal violence.

This is what he sent me:

I was an event a couple years ago and decided to attend a workshop on Leather History put on by several of my long-time friends. If I remember correctly, there were 3 men and 1 woman.- all were gay and all extremely well respected leatherfolk. I personally know and had great respect for all.

But, to my complete surprise, these folks all began some serious het-bashing. Their rants included:

Hets had no right to wear leather,

Hets had no right to pretend the Leather history was their history, and

Hets mess up the energy in play spaces and should create their own space.

That was the gist of it – that hets had no right to be in the Leather Community and should create something else for themselves. There were no exceptions stated – it was “all”, not “most” or “with some exceptions”.

I was dumbfounded. Here I was, sitting in the front row – a national titleholder and presenter, former NCSF staffer, contributor to LA&M, a het, and someone who always gave full and accurate credit to the gay community that came before me in every single interaction or workshop I conducted.

I haven’t attending a community event since, and probably won’t. 
I’m sure none of the people on the panel meant for anyone to react this way. Most of our othering and horizontal violence is not intentional.  Like I said, being conscious of how our words may affect others is a part of it.  Which is why I’m not naming names during this speech.  My intent is not to shame anyone for their actions, it’s to make everyone aware that there are things that need to be done to make our communities stronger.

We have to be willing to change.    We have to be willing to put our egos aside and admit that we are not all powerful and all knowing. We have to be willing to make mistakes.  It’s okay.  We have to look at some of our institutionalized ways of being and see where we can make positive change.

I’m going to do my part.  I will freely admit that I “other” people at times.  I make jokes about overly pompous Doms and One True Way poly people and that is not how change comes about.  It comes through education, talking and patience.  It comes with being willing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  It means acknowledging not only the wisdom of our elders but the wisdom of our younger members who bring totally new and exciting voices to our various communities.  There is room for all of us, no matter what we think.

I have a personal mission statement.  To bring joy to sexuality and to make a difference in the world.  I challenge all of you to look and see what it is that you can do to affect change your community.  What is your personal mission statement?  How can you a difference in the world?

Thank you.

Self-Care

Last night I was coming home from an amazing evening with a close friend (pedicure and dinner out) and realized that I wasn’t feeling that great.  I wasn’t sick.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going on.  And then it hit me.  I was overwhelmed and overbooked.  I finally figured out what it means by being out of “spoons”.  I was out of spoons and I had too many plans for the next day; brunch with a dear friend, Easter dinner with more dear friends and Easter egg hunt with even more friends.  I cancelled everything and decided to stay home today and take care of myself.  No obligations to anyone other than myself.

I’m technically “retired”–which isn’t really true, since I’m working part-time (volunteer coordinator for SWOP –Sex Worker’s Outreach Project), coaching, writing two books and speaking all over Washington and the US — I’m busier than ever and loving it, for the most part. You see, I have a tendency to over commit.  In fact, my friend I was supposed to be with today said when I canceled “Makes perfect sense, I think you keep the schedule of a madwoman. . .”  She was right.   Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy and I live for the relationships I have both platonic and romantic.  They feed and sustain me.   And public speaking, coaching and working for SWOP not only pays some of the bills, they are also sustaining and life affirming.

And yet, sometimes I need to stop and do self-care and that is what I’m doing today.  It may not look like self-care to some (I’m writing this blog post and will be working on my International Ms. Leather Keynote) and it is for me — because I have zero obligations today (well one and that’s my Joke of the Day on Facebook every morning).  And that for me is self-care, zero obligations.   I can do things like read the Sunday paper.  Sext with a cute boy from Toronto.  Write this post.  Answer emails and play video games.  In a little while I’m going to do VR games with my roommate.  And no shower, no getting dressed, no going anywhere, no obligations.

Self-care is finding what it is that heals you when you’re overwhelmed.  It can be as simple as chocolate (which I’ll be eating later) or as complicated as sexting with someone you’ve never met.  Self-care is when you can be selfish and do whatever it is you need to do to get back on track with your life.  We all need a little self-care and that’s what I’ve done today.  What is your self-care?

Count Your Blessings

In a few weeks I’m going to be the Keynote speaker at International Ms Leather 2017.  I’m still working on my speech and will post it here after I’ve given it.  I was looking at some old speeches I’ve made and I found the speech that I gave for International Ms Leather in 2010.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years.  I’m going to share it with you today for several reasons.  One, I’m nostalgic and this brings back really good memories.  Two, no matter how shitty things are right now in the world around us, there are blessings to count.  And finally, I want to challenge all of you to look at what blessings you currently have.

Here it is, from 2010.

Good Morning everyone,

First, let me introduce myself.  I’m Allena Gabosch, the executive director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle (also known by some as the Wet Spot).  I’ve been active in the BDSM/Leather community for 20 years.  I’m an educator and an activist and proud to be part of the Sex Positive Community

Sunday Keynotes always remind me of church and preaching at the pulpit.  In fact last Sunday I was at Leather leadership in Detroit and the amazing Goddess Lakshimi gave one hell of a sermon.    I’ve never liked speaking like this with podiums and mics. I’m more of a set on a table sort of speaker. Podiums make me nervous (I know, it’s hard to imagine much making me nervous.) But Sunday preaching? Well, I was raised a fundamentalist so I do know a bit about preaching. And since the Universal Life Church saw it in their wisdom to ordain me I guess this could be considered a Sunday sermon.  I promise to keep this short, no two hour sermons from me, however I may ask for an AMEN once and awhile.

I was honored when Glenda asked me to do the Keynote.  I asked her what I should speak about and she said “SEX”.  Which sounded like fun, but I’m poly which means I don’t have much sex I just “communicate” about it a lot. I had also considered talking about the Center for Sex Positive Culture and our insurance issues from March.    We lost our insurance and had to close for over a week as we scrambled to get new insurance. I thought I would title my keynote Insurance and Sex or “getting fucked and getting fucked”.   And then I thought about my Leather Leadership trip last week and the on-going conversation I seemed to have about “Policing our own” and I thought maybe I could talk seriously about whether we need community standards and what that would look like.  Then that led me to assumptions.  Assumptions that we have about you know, bisexuals, the pan community, whether we even have a community, yadda, yadda yadda.  All of this seemed a bit of a downer (except for the talking about sex part) and hey, today is Sunday and a celebration of our new International Ms Leather and I didn’t want to preach at you or pontificate.

And then I remembered my favorite Sunday sermons as a kid.  And they weren’t about hell-fire and brimstone (although sometimes those where oddly sexy) they were the “good news’ sermons; the ones that left me walking away alive and excited and ready to face the world and all that it could throw at me.  And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

Oh I know, sometimes it seems that life has a way of throwing curve balls more than strikes.  We have a world of concerns.  Our government won’t get off their ass and repeal don’t ask, don’t tell.  We struggle with how our world looks at us and our kink. We worry about loosing our jobs, or even worse our children because of what it is that we do.  We complain about the tourists and the pretenders and the predators that seem to pop up from time to time.  As individuals we worry about the economy, our jobs, our health, the meaning of life (42 btw) and even death.  Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a lot to be optimistic about.  Well, I say “count your blessings”.

Both my telephone answering systems end with this sentence. “Leave a message and while you’re at it, tell me what you like about your life.”  You would be amazed at the responses I get.   The majority of the people who call my home phone are strangers and the majority of them leave me messages about what they like about their life.  I’m always thrilled when  telephone solicitors leaves me a message saying that what they like about their life is that they are a parent and that they are blessed to have a wonderful daughter

Messages like that remind me that no matter what my life is blessed.

Our government is being railed against by the Tea Baggers (btw, what is it with that name?  I can’t believe that they haven’t figured out what teabagging really is).  Even the progressives and liberals gripe because the Obama administration isn’t doing enough.

Well, just Friday I read that the White House announced rule changes, which will make it easier for gay men and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.   In a memorandum released Thursday night the president said the new rules would affect any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, the government programs that cover the elderly and the poor.

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for one another. But he says, gay men and lesbians are “uniquely affected” because they are often barred from visiting partners with whom they have spent decades.

When it comes to our government, I say Count Your Blessings. It could be worse; Sara Palin could be our vice president, or even our president.

While I know that some of you miss the days when our community was underground and you had to have a secret handshake and special codes just to attend a play party; in reality we’re richer and safer because we are no longer mysterious outlaws.  There has been an incredible shift in how society looks at sexuality, especially what many call alternative sexuality.  Sexuality is becoming more accessible, which I think is great.

I truly believe that we are in the midst of a Sexual Renaissance (some of you have heard me mention this before).  And like the Renaissance of the 14th century a small number of people are ultimately going to shape the way the world looks at sexuality.  This is not a populist movement, but it is growing and we see evidence of this in movies, TV, commercials, media and literature.

This is not to be confused with the Sexual Revolution of the 60’s (of which I was a very active part of).  The sexual revolution began in the 60’s and ended in the 70’s or at least early 80’s

The Sexual Renaissance is not about revolt and protest, but rather about creation and a bringing together of like-minded individuals.  The Medieval Renaissance was in response in many ways to the repressive Byzantine era that preceded it.  I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that our current Sexual Renaissance is in response to the repressive backlash to the 60’s Sexual Revolution and the fear that the AIDS crises created in our world.   It is a natural response to what is really happening in the world of sexuality.  Sexuality is powerful and those in power want to keep the power to themselves.  It’s dangerous to allow the power to belong to the masses.  And we, the kinky, freaky BDMSers and others of the Sex Positive Movement are bringing sexual power to the masses.

And it’s apparent everywhere we look.  Sex is so much part of our culture that we don’t even notice it at times.  It’s pervasive and I dare say becoming mainstream–even our brand of sex

Let me give you two examples:

TV, the recent changes in how BDSM is depicted by television is amazing.  The studios are even turning to our community for advice in their quest to depict us as we really are.  The last CSI episode that had Madam Heather (for those of you who don’t watch CSI, shame on you, Madam Heather was a very sexy professional dominatrix who appeared in several episodes.).  Anyway, a good friend of mine who is a professional dominatrix in Seattle was hired to be a consultant on that last show.  How cool is that?

And I’m sure many  of you have seen my favorite on-line ad  from a few years ago the “dominate winter” advertising campaign for Austin Mini-Cooper on their Canadian Web site;  where a  PVC clad dominatrix dominates a poor little Austin mini.  I was curious about this campaign so I did some research and found a statement by the ad writers.  They said that when they were putting together this campaign that they felt that when most people thought of dominating they atomically thought of a dominatrix.  That sure wouldn’t have been the case 10-15 years ago.

So I say when it comes to media and society, “Count Your Blessings”.

As we become more “main stream” and I put quotes around mainstream btw we are less likely to be discriminated against and suffer for our kink.  However, we are still not 100% safe yet and that’s why we are blessed to have organizations like the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

NCSF has been around for 13 years, advocating for our rights, handling thousands of incident responses and educating and assisting our community on the legalities of what it is that we do.  Their hard work has resulted in changes in zoning laws, increased awareness and acceptance by law enforcement, medical professionals, hotels and others and recently it has even resulted in what looks to be a landmark change in the next DSMV.

Because of the hard work of NCSF and others, they are renaming the paraphilias (for example “Sexual Sadism” will be changed to “Sexual Sadism Disorder”, ) to make clearer that the paraphilias themselves ARE NOT disorders and bring their misleading names into alignment with the other behavioral disorders already in the DSM. (e.g. eating isn’t a disorder, but bulimia is eating disorder.)

And this has already brought positive results to our community in several court cases and the DSMV isn’t even published yet.

Count your Blessings for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

While at Leather Leadership last week I heard a few comments in a workshop about “tourists” those people who allegedly attend our events to sight-see and gawk at the freaks.  Well, I say that those tourists are more likely hungry closeted kinky people who have finally gotten the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and take the first steps to embracing who they really are.   Over the last several years there has been huge increase in organizations, munch groups and community education (primarily because of the internet).  Every single state of the union has not just one but numerous ways for people to find the BDSM community.  That’s amazing!

The Center for Sex Positive Culture has had over 12,000 people join our organization in the last 10 years. Now, our active membership is only a couple thousand a as members come and go for many reasons, however over 12000 people had the courage and interest to take the first steps into finding some kind of sex positive community.  I’ve read that 10-15% of the population is kinky.  I say it’s even more.   There are a whole lot of closeted kinky folks out there.

Did you know that Romance novels are a 1.37 Billion dollar a year industry?  Many of these are erotic bodice ripper romances with a strong emphasis on sexual domination and ravishment which is just a fancy word for rape.  And these books are read by mostly women and women of all ages and interests.  Our mothers and grandmothers read these books and in many cases our mothers and grandmothers are kinky.

Those People just need permission to be the sexual beings they already are.  And our groups and organizations give them that permission.
And, our community makes a difference in the lives of others on a day by day basis.  The existence of our organizations, munch groups, etc are an invaluable asset to those people who are searching for something that they just can’t quite put their finger on.   I’m reminded about that constantly in the emails I get from members and prospective members.  One email that made the most impact for me was from a guy that said: “I am 45 years old and for the last 20 years I’ve been trying to find out what is wrong with me.  I’ve gone to numerous therapists.  Some of them even suggested I might be gay but NONE of them ever said I might be kinky.  And now I’ve found you and I know I’m not alone “That was five years ago and now that man is an active member or our community and has truly discovered himself.

And I’m sure that many of you who run organizations and groups have similar stories.

Count your Blessings for all the fresh meat, I mean, amazing people entering our community and that we are privileged to make a difference in their lives

Every day I am reminded about just how amazing our community is.  I mentioned earlier the insurance issues that we had.  Our insurance renews every March 1st.  Around the first of the year I received a letter from our insurance agency that our underwriters were not going to renew our liability insurance: ironically, not because we were a sex organization but because we were in the state of Washington.  It turns out that Washington has really good consumer protection for insurance consumers.   I wasn’t that worried, this had happened before and our agency had always found another underwriter. Well that wasn’t the case this time.

Our agent worked her ass off and yet, when it came down to it, none of their underwriters would cover us.  So, a week before our insurance expired our agent called and told me that she’d exhausted all of her options.  Well, that was a bit scary.  We have a local agent who covers our D&O insurance and our property insurance and I promptly called her.  They started working and she told me it might take 2-3 weeks to get a quote.  So when I sent out our weekly newsletter I told our members what had happened and that if we didn’t have insurance by the first of March we would have to suspend operations until we did.  Now that may not sound like that big of a deal, however we have a party every single day of the week.  So, being closed even on a Monday would impact our membership and us financially.  The outpouring of love and concern was amazing. I got emails from all over the country with suggestions of agencies to try and agents to call.  I also called NCSF and they referred me to a kinky insurance agent in Chicago.

Even with all of this assistance, we still didn’t get a quote before our insurance ended.  So we closed our doors.  And then an even more amazing thing happened.  A local sex positive performance space called The Little Red Studio offered us their space for our Thursday BDSM party and dance and our Sunday Bondage Party.  A local couple offered their huge house and dungeon for our Friday BDMS medical play party and another local sex positive space (where we hold our yearly kinky campouts) happened to have Saturday open so our Saturday BDSM party could happen.  I was dumbfounded.

And yes, we did finally get a few quotes.  The first (which I didn’t accept) was for $17,500 (last year we paid a little over $2300 for insurance) and then I got a quote for just under $2000 which we took.  I learned a lot about insurance that week and I still don’t understand it.  How companies can charge from $2000, to almost $18,000 for the same insurance is beyond me.

Well we got insurance after a week of being closed and   I fell in love with my community all over again after the outpouring of love and support we received from all of you.

The insurance crisis helped transform The Center for Sex Positive Culture into the COMMUNITY for Sex Positive Culture.  While you can shut down a Center it’s nearly impossible to shut down a community.

Count Your Blessings for our community, I sure do.

And then there is just life, not kinky, not always sexy  life  We lose jobs, our retirement plan is no longer worth as much as it was a few years ago (if we even have a retirement plan).  Our relationships fall apart.  As we age (I know I’m getting older and I’ve known some of you here for 20 years and while you all look great none of us are getting any younger) our health worsens, people die and sometimes all of that really sucks. In November I had three people in my life die in the span of three days.  Not much to feel blessed about is there?  However on one of those days, Jennifer one of my partners gave birth to an amazing little boy.  That was a reminder to me that even during the worst of times there are blessings that occur for us.

I’m blessed to have such an incredible Polycule (as I like to call my chosen poly family) and my life is rich and full and amazing no matter what kind of curve balls are thrown at me.

The Dali Lama said in an interview, talking about impact of the global financial meltdown:  “Yes money is important to them, after all without work, without money you can’t survive.  But for people who are full of love and compassion, whose values are based on family, neighbors and community, I think they’re much happier, even though they’re having the same difficult experiences.”

And that’s what I want to leave you with.  We are blessed, we have family (chosen and bio), neighbors and community, and if you doubt that, just look around you here today and Count Your Blessings.

Thank You

Retirement? Yea sure.

So, I’ve been officially semi-retired since late January (I have a limited hour part-time job with SWOP-Seattle which is why I’m just semi-retired).  And I must say that retirement is a great way to stay super fucking busy.  I don’t remember the last time I had so much to do, even before I left the employment of the CSPC.

For example, these past two weeks I’ve spoken at Everett Community College Sex Week,  spoken to classes at Pierce College in Puyallup, Highline Community College and Pacific Lutheran University.  And tomorrow I speak at Evergreen College in Olympia.  Whew.  And then there was SASS (http://www.seattle-sass.org/) which kept me pretty buys last Thursday, Friday and Sunday.   Near the end of this month I’m speaking to a group of therapists at Seattle Counseling Service and then the real fun begins.  I start to travel (and hopefully make some money).

Here’s my itinerary over the next six months.

This coming Saturday I head off on a road trip to Phoenix with one of my best friends.  She and I will be visiting her family and I’ll be relaxing and getting ready for the wild and wonderful travel I’ve got ahead of me.  I’ll get home hopefully around the 20th just to turn around and leave again on the 24th for Portland.

The weekend of the 25th of March (my birthday btw) I’ll be in Portland for Polytopia, the second annual polyamory and open relationship symposium and celebration.  (if you can,  join me!  It’s going to be awesome).

Then the next weekend it’s off to Chicago for Kinky Kollege and the NCSF annual meeting (did I mention I’m a board member of NCSF?).  I come home for a few weeks and then I’m off again to be the Keynote speaker for the International Ms Leather Contest in San Jose April 20-23.  I’m going to be driving down with another friend (I love road trips) so that whole week will be full.

Then back in town for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival the end of April and the following week, I’m jumping in a plane and heading to Denver to visit dear friends and do some speaking gigs (May 4-7) . Then, I’m home for a few days and I fly to Austin to present for the Austin Girls of Leather May 11-15 and then back to Washington for a few weeks.  Between the May 16th and June 7th I’ll be presenting to the kinksters in Olympia, swingers Memorial day weekend at Club Sapphire and also possibly heading to Eastern Washington to present a few workshops for the kinky people over there.  And I’ll be presenting again at Pierce and Highline.

A weekend off for my Granddaughter’s graduation June 9 then back to teaching and travel.

I’ll be at Surrender, the ecosex convergence,  in Southern Washington from June 14-18 and then I get a break. July may have another local event or two in it, but right now I seem to be home most of that month.

And then there is August.  First week of August the Rendezvous in Redmond, then the next week I’ll be doing opening ceremonies for the Gathering north of Seattle then it’s off to a road trip to Orlando where  I’ll be helping the organizers of FIRE create their first Erotic Art event, FUSE, which by the way they are taking submissions for art right now!.  I’m hoping to get some teaching gigs on the way there and back home to help pay for the trip.

And that’s my summer!

Oh, and I’m writing two books.  One I’m co-writing on sex positive culture called Sex Positive Now (more to come on that in a few weeks) and the other is a relationship book called 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By And Other Tips For Healthy Relationships.

Did I say I was retired?  Yea sure.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love having a rich and full life.  It’s what keeps me young.
Why am I telling you all this?  Because I want you to all know that even though I’ll be traveling all over the US I won’t forget you and I’ll be updating you all about my adventures.  If you want an even more intimate accounting of my life, you may want to become one of my patrons on Patreon, especially if you want to know more about my book.  I’ll be posting more in depth there, as well as chapters of my relationship book, relationship tips and other fun stuff.

Have a great weekend.  I’m off to Phoenix in a couple days!

 

How to be a great leader not just an adequate one.

This last Friday I was asked to be the Keynote Speaker for West Coast LINK, a leadership conference for my kinky/BDSM/sex positive community.  Here’s my speech.

I never planned on being a leader in the kinky, poly, leather, etc etc communities and yet this is where I ended up.  If you would have told me that I’d have done things I’ve done in the last 20 years, 25 years ago, I would have laughed at you.

I’ve made numerous mistakes, made some enemies (yes, there are people out there that don’t like me.  Who would have thought it?).  Over the years I’ve come up with a few things that I think make for a good or at least adequate leader.  Well really a great leader.

What do we need to do to be a great leader?

We need to learn to listen.  I mean really listen.  Many times we think that our way is the only right way and when others come to us with ideas and suggestions, we don’t pay attention.  We miss opportunities by not listening.

Along with listening, we should always put ourselves in other shoes.  We should be able to see their issues and concerns from their point of view.  Empathy is very powerful.

Oh, and we are not all powerful, all seeing and all capable.  Not matter what image we try to project.  That means, it’s okay to ask for and seek out help.  And there is a lot of help out there.

We have our other community members and leaders.  I’ve learned so much from talking to those who have come before me and also those who are coming into leadership.  Everyone brings something new to the table.

You can also look outside the box of our community for education, advice and ideas.  If you are the leader of a local non-profit look to non-profits that specialize in education on fundraising, board development, program development, etc.  I’ve gone to numerous classes put on by United Way and other non-profit education organizations.

But what I really want to talk about when it comes to great leadership is Perseverance, Personality and Principles.

A few years ago I got to be the keynote speaker for NW Leather and I talked about communities and our various organizations and what made them successful and why they survived.   The three things that stood out were Perseverance, Personality and Principles.  And I feel these three things are equally important when looking at individual leaders in our communities.

Persevering in the times of adversity can be difficult.  You don’t know how many times I wanted to just walk away and do something other than be a community leader.  And I persevered.

How does one persevere?  Here are some tips.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your mission.  Enlist the support of your community.  Remind yourself often about what you wished for when you began your journey.  Focus on the positive not the negative.  If necessary re-evaluate your goals.

Walt Disney said: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

And then there is Personality.  What do I mean when I say personality has a large part in making us leaders?  You have to be willing to set your ego aside.  It takes more than a big ego to be a great leader, it takes a certain type of personality.   You don’t have to be a Master or a Top or a Dom, you have to be a leader.  You have to realize that a lot of leadership is about service and you have to be willing to set aside your Domliness and come from service to give back to the community as a leader.  And you have to be strong enough to be able to not let the naysayers and the drama queens get you down.

Oh, and you sometimes have to be a force of nature, as a good friend of mine puts it.  And that is the term he uses for me and well, I will take some credit for that, in that I can be a force of nature.   That said, I do my best to keep that “force” in check by remembering humility is also a key component.

Saint Augustine said:  Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
Which brings me to Principles.  What do I mean by Principles?  There are several definitions; I like this one the best. “The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments: a decision based on principle rather than expediency.”

I’d like to think that our leaders are principled and adhere to a certain moral or ethical standard.  And for the most part I think it’s true.  (oh, I know, there are some glaring exceptions.  That is for another speech on another day…why we don’t always hold our leaders accountable.)   But for the most part, our biggest successes are because of principled personalities who persevere (say that 10 times fast)

How do leaders stay principled?

We live in integrity.  When we say we’re going to do something we do it.  When we screw up we clean up the mess and get back in integrity.

We take responsibility for our actions.

We respect ourselves and others and their opinions and do so without compromising ourselves

We are open to change, but don’t let go of our values.

You can also even look to businesses  and others for guidance when it comes to Principles.  A friend of mine who works at Amazon turned me on to the Amazon Leadership Principles and while some of them are business centric, others are applicable to individuals in leadership positions.

Here’s some that resonated with me

Ownership Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”.

Learn and Be Curious Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop The Best (I would change that to recruit and develop the best volunteers). Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.

Think Big Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve.

Earn Trust Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing

We can also learn from relationship principles.  I’m going to be a bit self-promoting here and talk a little bit about some of the 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By that my husband and I created back in the 90’s.  (I’m currently writing a relationship book featuring the Principles)Some of these relationship Principles can be used by leaders as well as in forming relationships.

No surprises are allowed –That means that as a leader, you need to keep in constant communication with those who are part of your community or organization.

Make clear agreements on what each person is supposed to do. When in doubt write it down.  Making sure that all of those who are assisting you are clear on their duties makes your leadership a lot easier.

Each person should be clear about their intentions. AND Each person should be clear about their expectations of the other. Again, that’s just another way of saying COMMUNICATE!

Keep a sense of humor when working out differences of opinion. A great leader knows how to laugh and keeps their sense of humor even when those around you are not.

These are just a few of the Principles that I feel also are principles of leadership.

Principled actions are the hardest because they aren’t always the most expedient. And they definitely aren’t the easiest.  However no matter how we stick to our guns and persevere and no matter how amazing the personalities of our leaders are, without principles we will never be the great leaders that we can be.

Principled leaders also know when to step down and let someone new take over.  This can be the hardest of all.  Two years ago when I stepped down as Executive Director of both the Center and Foundation, it was painful and I knew that it was what was best, in the long run, for both organizations.  My end goal was that I want both organizations to succeed whether I’m there or not. Which was why when I got laid off last month, I still urged people to support the Center.

Leadership is not about total control no matter how much we’d like it to be.  Sometimes you have to step aside.

In closing I want to encourage all of you to take a close look at how you lead.   Do you listen?  Are you empathetic?  Are you open to learning from others and trying new things?  Are you willing to take the steps to persevere, even when times are tough?   Do you lead from service and not from ego?  Do you uphold your principles?   If you can say yes to these questions then you are ahead of the game and those you lead are lucky.  If you find yourself lacking in some area, don’t beat yourself up, rather look at what you can do to change the situation.  Being aware of the issues is a big part of moving forward.  By being conscious in how you lead, by being willing to listen, learn, preserver, be of service and uphold your principles,  you can be more than an adequate leader and truly make a difference in your community and even the world.

You can be a great leader.

Doors

There is a saying that when a door closes another will open.  Well a major door in my life recently closed and thankfully more than one door has opened.

What am I talking about?  In late January I was laid off by the organization that I help found, The Center for Sex Positive Culture.  This was due to financial reasons since they recently had to move and the new building build-out has turned out to be extremely expensive.  And, since I no longer was the Executive Director and just working part-time, they felt it was financially in the best interest of the Center to let me go.

While I was initially angry and I’m still sad at their decision, I do understand why they chose to do this and I don’t hate them and still wish the best for the Center. It is my legacy and I want it to be there for years to come.

And wow, have the doors opened.  I seem to be busier now than ever before.  Speaking opportunities around the country are opening up.  I have two books that are being written (and maybe a third on Seattle Sex Culture). I’m back on track with my senior sexuality education, teaming with a great therapist in creating the content.  And it just keeps coming.  I have to say that while I miss the Center I’m not super devastated that this happened.

That said, money isn’t flowing in.  I want to get my coaching business more active and I really want to make sure I finish both books which should help me make enough money to live on along with my Social Security.  Yup, your read right.  I am old enough for Social Security and I just applied for it.  Whew, I feel old.  Ha ha.

One thing I’m doing to create the possibility of more money in my life is that I’m now on Patreon  which will insure that my book, 20 Relationship Tips to Try to Live and Relate By gets written.  Go here to check it out!  https://www.patreon.com/AllenaGabosch

Thanks for reading and now that I have more time I will be blogging more often, although if you become a patron on Patreon  you will see even more of me.

Allena