In The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brene Brown, a professor at the University of Houston College of Social Work, delivered one of the most powerful speech conclusions I have ever heard in a TEDtalk. Dr. Brown’s goal was to have people change their perspective on vulnerability from a source of pain to a source of power. She taught her audience to embrace vulnerability in order to live a fulfilled and fulfilling life. She then reinforced the message in her conclusion:
But there’s another way, and I leave you with this. This is what I have found; to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee – and that’s really hard, and I can you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult – to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I have this much? Can I be this fierce about this? Just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, I’m just so grateful because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.
For those of you into kink, have you noticed that some of the most wonderful, kind, caring empathetic and expressive people in the world are those that we know in our kink community, even behind the facades of stoicism and control?
It was a few years ago that I went to my first kink event of any kind, Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL). The event is held yearly in DC, and I have managed to go it numerous times. During that first trip to MAL I met so many people, a ton of people that I still stay in touch with today. There have been connections created at that one event that mean the world to me. I remember leaving with a sense of wonder.
When I arrived, I expected to see crazy things. Hot guys doing hot things. I expected to see toys I never knew existed. People doing things I didn’t know where possible. I was expecting to be scared at times. I thought for sure that there was something dark and sinister about what was happening at these wild sex romp parties known as Leather Events.
And that all happened! Sure. But at the end of the event I came to a far different conclusion as to what was my biggest take-away.
I was in a completely vulnerable space during that event in many ways. I was there with my then boyfriend, who had been before and was showing me around. I needed him to lead me through, to introduce me to people, and to allow me the space I needed to assimilate at my pace. On the first night I wore a tail plug through my jeans to show off my puppy side, the next my full latex suit, not having ever worn that before in public.
I was out in the open. I was vulnerable. And I was not alone.
All the wild things I expected, sure they were there. I saw and did things I didn’t know happened, but really that didn’t make as much of a lasting impression as the image of so many people just being their authentic selves, sharing who they are in a shame free, balls-to-the-wall approach to kink.
Much of kink is about vulnerability. Submitting to another is just another way of saying you are vulnerable to another’s wishes and desires. Doming another is also a form of vulnerability, by exposing your inner desires and kinks onto another human being, as a top you often expose a great deal of your inner desires to another person.
So at that first MAL I was taking in how much people where so into being exposed and vulnerable about who they were. They were saying: I am a dog! I am a piss pig! I am a Daddy. I am a slave! This is who I am.
I learned that kinky people are vulnerable in some way by stepping out and declaring what they are passionate about, what they become fiercely attached to. Instead of listening to the inner fears that catastrophize what might happen, they instead say, “I am who I am, I am open and vulnerable about who I am, and I feel alive because of it.”
It is a kind gift to ourselves to be open like that. To romp on the floor in the middle of a big room with 20 others puppies and just be in the moment rather than afraid of what someone says. And to create that moment for someone else, by taking command of them and leading them to that opportunity, takes empathy and it means you care enough about the other to take them there.
Sure I saw and did things that were kinky as hell and had a grand time, but all these years later I still remember what I walked away from that event with. I saw people that were at their best, giving their best, open and honest and vulnerable. And those people were ones that I was proud to call my friends.