I suppose we all have different faces or streams in our lives. For me there’s Annie (the person I am with my family and closest friends), Mija (my kink self) and an academic identity that’s separate from either of those (we’ll call her A.). My streams aren’t that separate — Mija and Annie especially mingle across lines. Most of my close friends know I’m into BDSM of some sort. People in the kink, including those of you who read here, know a good deal about my life outside the spanking scene. But A. has stayed pretty separate from Mija (except to the degree that some of Mija’s friends in the kink are also academics of various sorts and therefore are likely to related to me as A. as well as knowing me as Annie and Mija).
Part of the seperation is purely practical. I don’t want to worry overmuch that some poor student of mine is going to be looking for my academic writing on Latina feminism and stumble into The Treehouse. It’s not that I’m ashamed of Mija, but my sexual life isn’t a place I want my students and I suspect they prefer it that way as well. On the other hand, my research, so far anyway, hasn’t addressed issues of female masochism in literature, though I’ve read something of others work in that field. But my academic interests are more in the area of queerness, race and class. I’m not sure why that is. Part of is, I know, that talking about issues related to BDSM in an academic setting make me feel insecure in the sense of feeling exposed. It’s something that may change as I evolve as a scholar (I hope it does) but that’s where I’m at right now. Yet another dimension to it is that on some level I don’t want to theorize everything in my personal life. It’s nice to have a space in my life where academics don’t intrude.
At one time I imagined that doing a feminist analysis of what I do, especially what I do with Paul, would damage my kink on some level and I consciously tried to avoid doing it. Which of course resulted in my doing exactly that and finding that my kink wouldn’t be possible (for me) without feminism. So it’s not that the streams can’t cross. I just generally don’t cross them.
Except when I do. Today I was having coffee with someone from my department who works on gender studies, queerness and fandoms and found myself honestly talking with her about where my technical skills come from, where Paul and I met and then being honest about my interests in BDSM, including mentioning that my primary kink is spanking. She identifies as a lesbian, and has some experience with the BDSM scene, but it’s not her thing. Our conversation turned to issues of polyamory and how it does and doesn’t work with insecurity and introversion. It was a conversation I could have had with any number of kink friends, but the first time I’ve been able to talk with someone from my “vanilla” life and not feel like they’re tourists. It was nice, felt totally natural and I have no regrets about outing myself. In fact, outing feels like too violent a word for our conversation. As I said, it was natural. Not telling the truth would have closed off an emotional and intellectual area between us. It was only afterwards I found myself surprised by how much I’d disclosed.
My streams still don’t cross. Except when they do.
For a much more touching post on how the streams can meet and cross, see EJ’s post. She wrote it last week and I just read it tonight after I wrote this, but nonetheless felt it somehow inspired these thoughts. Or rather that they come from a similar source.