The lifestyle community

There are stages any community goes through, these stages were best defined by Morgan Peck in his book "The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace". In his book he described the stages a community went through and what was needed to make a community grow and be strong. What does this have to do with BDSM? Well the lifestyle is a community, and like it or not, our community works like any normal "vanilla" community.

In his book, Peck says that community has three essential ingredients:

  • Inclusivity
  • Commitment
  • Consensus

Based on his experience with community building workshops, Peck says that community building typically goes through four stages:

  • Pseudocommunity: In this stage, members hide their differences and pretend to get along to create an illusion of a community. Without a leader to guide it, most communities stall here.
  • Chaos: When a pseudocommunity fails to work, the differences come out, and often there are attacks and arguments over who is right, who is wrong. This is the time when they realize their differences cannot be ignored or suppressed. While this sounds bad, a true community cannot be built by ignoring the differences in people.
  • Emptiness: In this stage, the people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing the formation of a community. Emptiness is tough because it involves the individual compromising.
  • True community: Once the people in the community are in complete empathy with one another, there is a great level of tacit understanding. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.

So, where do our lifestyle communities fit in this spectrum? Truly, I have not seen many get past the chaos stage, I am sure some have, but my experience is limited to only a few groups and communities. Very few communities, even vanilla ones, make it past the chaos. Most seem to bounce between pseudocommunities and chaos.

However, there is hope, each of us has the potential to be a leader in the community, to step up and attempt to push the group past the stage it is in. Perhaps one person cannot do it alone, but can help others do it. When we lie about getting along, when we hide what it is we think, we are just keeping ourselves stuck in a pseudocommunity, never moving past it. Yes, we will have to pass through chaos to get to a true community, but it is worth it in the end to do so.

For a group supposedly containing many dominant individuals, it is odd to find so few leaders. I was taught the two walk hand in hand.

27 Feb 2008 11:16:12

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