Monday, April 16, 2012

On the Separation of "Fetish" and Industrial

I've been meaning to write something about this for some time, but was not quite sure how. I'm still not sure how, but I am going to do my best.

From what I understand, industrial was not always associated with fetish, latex, women making out for men, etc. It was associated with pushing boundaries and counter cultures which I am sure at times included BDSM.

I got into BDSM scenes in part through its combination with the industrial scene. Note, I had been playing on my own with whoever was down from the time I was a young teenager. What I am saying is that I met groups of people willing to do nasty things together through these all ages "Fetish Nights" (I'm going to start saying "BDSM" because I think that's what they mean) that began happening, which usually included Dommes, Dungeons (or portable dungeon like things), and industrial/goth/darkwave/etc bands on stage. When I first found it I thought I was in heaven. And over time, I watched each side of the coin deteriorate.

Image: An event flier for "Resurrection Anti Valentines Day" which includes lists of vendors, djs, location, and website. There are two thin young light skinned feminine women with long black hair in underwear performing a lesbian-fetish-porn-style makeout for the straight dude behind the camera. Both of them are wearing black and white nun veils.

What was once nights full of people tied to large restraint structures being consensually abused by experienced people to hard beats and talented musicians has become fruitless nights of mislabeled "fetish" occurrences and bad sound systems pumping out the same 5 songs the DJs wish to play. Newer younger people coming into these scenes see skinny straight women dancing half naked and making out in vinyl for male onlookers and no real bdsm players or skill or experience or show. And let me say, I have met some of these newer DJs doing these nights, they deserve respect, especially for starting events in a scene that has been deteriorating and dying for so long. But events like the above flier make people like me roll their eyes at best.

So what happened?

Something happened. My theory is that the combination of these two awesome things together made the standard for an awesome event go down drastically. You don't have to put much effort into goth night if you tell people there will be BDSM happening there. And if you don't know what BDSM is aside from what you see at goth night, then you likely will be misrepresenting it. That combined with the ever increasing misogyny in industrial scenes, the expectation of women to be eye candy for men, and the bro-fest that encourages men only to be dom top masters who will own all of the ladies, is a recipe for disaster. And frankly, boredom.

I encourage everyone into BDSM to delve deeper, find munches in your area, meet real BDSM players with experience, let them teach you, learn from them, or at the very least, do some research and test things on yourself and experiment wisely.

To industrial promoters who have fallen into this trend of "fetish nights," consider getting back to the music, not simply what will turn a few heads. There is one promoter in our fine city who's stuck to the music for decades now and he's succeeding and has done some amazing projects. Sure, "fetish" and vinyl might look nice on a flier. But if that's not what you're bringing, consider focusing more on the music. I took a friend out to an industrial BDSM night once hoping to give her an easy introduction to a few things she was interested in and I got to a club, with horrible music, no bdsm or leather or anything whatsoever happening, two girls in their underwear flirting with the club owner, and when I asked one of the organizers where the BDSM was, he said they were supposed to have topless jello wrestling but the girls cancelled.

And let me say, props to the young guys for trying to start something here and make it work. That takes bravery and persistence. But, to be very honest, as a queer female who brought a girl I was semi- interested in impressing to this night, I felt like I was at a frat bar. I was embarrassed and I didn't even design the thing. I was embarrassed of my scene. And to be honest, at the time I had little right to be because I was rarely around. So, take my complaints with a grain of salt. Perhaps I should get up and do something instead of complaining.

I will admit I did go to one night recently with a couple of DJs and an experienced queer woman rigger doing a rope suspension demo and while it was kind of a boring night, it was at least giving heed to some experience.

So come on now. Give me back my goth. Give me back my BDSM. Remember that there are a hell of a lot of vanilla folks who want to go to shows once in a while without being subjected to our weird bdsm shit. And if you insist on combining BDSM and industrial, please do it in a smart and creative way that shows respect for both scenes.


  1. Ah yes, the creepy dom. I've met a few of these over the years. I'm pretty sure most of the guys I know who are tops could probably be termed the same since the girls seem to rarely register objections in the name of "fitting in" but oddly enough the ones that I've spotted which have violated my personal bubble have been women with the exception of one gay guy.

    Even then I suspect the women were just playing a role, since they were very easy to mess with, leading me to suspect that the phenomenon comes from a lack of education in the subculture or something. I can't really say, because it's not my subculture so I only deal with the members who try to take it elsewhere.

    On a semi-related note, at Icon of Coil last Sunday a friend of mine commented that he was impressed with someone's enthusiasm in this area, specifically: "she was so excited for the gig that she forgot to get dressed".

  2. Thank you for the post. I quoted you in my own blog post on BDSM fashions in the Goth subculture.

    I, too have grown weary of "fetish nights" and "fetish shows" that are really just an excuse to have women parading around in electrical tape and pvc shorts. Perhaps this is just my prejudice, but it seems like both the Industrial and Goth scenes have been reverting to greater sexism over time. The people I knew who were Industrial fans way back when were pretty progressive, anti-sexist and less interested in buying into gendered BS. That seems to have been eroded now. I'm not sure if it's because there are plenty of Industrial acts now that unironically promulgate sexism, or because the scene is aging away from its roots. I do think that since the 80s, consumerism has been attempting to push people into more gender-essentialist roles.

  3. I agree. I feel like industrial used to be about embracing the ugly in each of us. Being weird and strange and off-putting and exploring things that were frightening and pleasurable and many other things. And now it's just mainstream culture with darker clothes half of the time.