Here's my newest column in The Stranger. It's a review of a book called "Whip Smart" by Melissa Febos.
Before you go read, hear me say this: it's a critique of the book. It is not a critique of the author as a person. There's been a fair amount of negative reaction in the BDSM community to the book, and to some of things Ms. Febos said in her recent NPR interview. I myself thought Terry Gross was condescending and ill-informed in that interview, although I've never been a fan of hers anyway.
Ms. Febos had been scheduled to appear at the Center For Sex Positive Culture, but that appearance was canceled by the author/her publicist. I have not been told first-hand the reason for that, but what I have heard is that Ms. Febos was upset by some comments made on Fetlife about that interview, by people who are presumed to be CSPC members, and thus declined to read there.
Now, I understand why all this is happening. BDSM people are a marginalized subculture, and thus we are naturally sensitive to being unflatteringly characterized. We also dislike it when people seem to be claiming to represent us when we did not elect them, so to speak.
However, Ms. Febos has not, that I know of, explicitly claimed to be a spokesperson for the BDSM community. Popular media likes to label people. For the moment, Ms. Febos has been assigned the label of The Dominatrix, and it's been implied that her experience is The Experience Of All Kinky People and also of All Sex Workers. But I have not heard her say that herself - not exactly, anyway.
My criticisms of her book aside, I have some sympathy for her in this matter, since, on a smaller scale, I get the same sort of thing myself. People read something I wrote about my life and think that I'm saying something about them, or they read carelessly and respond to something I never said at all. It's very frustrating.
But at least for me, those criticisms have happened over time, in small bites, and I can take any useful ideas and use them to tailor future pieces. A book is not a dynamic thing, it's just there. And my own little measure of fame has also grown slowly. I have had time to get used to moving gracefully in each stage of it, whereas Ms. Febos has been rather suddenly thrust into a larger arena.
As luck would have it, Ms. Febos is reading her book at Elliot Bay this weekend, and I have scheduled an interview with her for Saturday afternoon. I'm going to let that be her opportunity to clarify her feelings about the BDSM community, and on this aspect of publishing her story. I would bet this will be the only author-interview she'll do with someone who is also a dominatrix, who also writes about her life. Ms. Febos is now a writing teacher, but I hope she'll find it refreshing to not have to teach another interviewer Pro Domme 101.