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Monday, November 28, 2011

Exclusionary marketing and sexual spaces

I'm not sure where to begin, but there is something to be said about exclusion in the marketing of sexual spaces and events in Toronto. It's the pole posters I always see for Northbound's fetish parties, and the website's events photos.
It's the photos on Club Wicked's website. It's the photo gallery on the Oasis Aqualounge website (EDIT: 05/13 Oasis' website imagery has gotten slightly more diverse, and reliable sources have told me it's a fairly accepting environment. I plan to go one day soon), where many events are held. It's Subspace's imagery. It's the Fetish Masquerade. It's the events page at X Club. It's Toronto Foot Night. They're all problematic to me, and here's why:

1. Lack of racial diversity. The images linked above are overwhelming of White people. To be fair and honest, I haven't researched images from years back, but for the past 2-3 years, the Caucasian trend seems fairly consistent. As far as I know, all races of folks are into kink. The majority of queers and kinksters I personally know are not white.

2. Zero body diversity. I mean zero. There may be some slightly larger breasts, or a hint of fat on a thigh, but for the most part, the images I constantly see, the ones everyone around me seem to find irritatingly edgy, are of slim or athletic bodies. Which is what I see everywhere, in almost every context, from fashion to porn to fetish parties. It's considered standard, I suppose. While I have heard from a few sources that fetish spaces in Toronto (and elsewhere) are more welcoming of different bodies, what does it say to those of us who are so totally divergent from the represented imagery that we are never, not even remotely, used as eye candy in ads? That we don't seem to be the targets of this marketing? Are we not hot enough to attract revelers?

3. Gender representation. Notice something? The links listed above (and their accompanying sites) are basically pushing binaried gender presentation: butch men and femme women. I see no Trans folks. No queer folks aside from perhaps a few (possibly faux) lesbians. I'm not saying this is necessarily intentional. I think heteronormativity is still deeply ingrained in out society. But I keep hearing that fetish spaces are different, more diverse and more welcoming.

4. Straight much? For the most part, I see male/female heterosexual imagery in the links above. Not that I have an issue with het imagery in general. It can be beautiful. And while the above-mentioned marketing is more diverse in terms of sexuality than in other areas, it is still less the norm to show queerness.

5. Accessibility. MANY of these events are inaccessible in a variety of ways, namely physically. But accessibility ties into the above points as well: some folks have issues with social anxiety, confidence, and have different layers of oppression to wade through. For some of us, going to an openly sexual place, when our bodies, genders, sexualities, races have all been rejected, countless times, because we are not white/thin/perfectly abled/het/cis, can be extremely difficult. Even a hint of accessibility would be helpful. Why can't we have a poster featuring a freaky bondage girl in a wheelchair submitting to a fat Goddess of Colour who is smearing lard on her sub's small, droopy and lovely breasts? Would that be too much of a turn-off for the white/thin/perfectly abled/het/cis crowd? I doubt it. Wouldn't it be a nice change from yet another professional model with melted ice cream on their chin? And could we actually make it possible for the hot bondage girl to attend the event by holding it in a physically accessible space? Wouldn't that be lovely?

I guess a lot of this comes down to my own fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of humiliation and of childhood public nudity nightmares come true. Of being naked in public and ridiculed. It also stems from the oppression I face as a fat woman, a sex worker, a female and the oppression I see inflicted on those I care about, almost daily. I have a deep desire to engage in such public displays of lewd indecency. I have for so long, yet my fear prevents me from doing so. And from the graphics, the posters, the marketing, the websites, the party pics... I do not feel welcome, or like I will belong, or like I will dress properly, or act like a "real" Domme, or pass the dress code. It may seem like a small thing, but seeing a poster on a pole for a popular fetish party, with a model who looked like me, would quite possibly change my life. I know you can't please everyone, and someone may get left out. But these places could try a bit harder to draw a more diverse crowd.

Unless, perhaps, the point is to minimize diversity, subconsciously or otherwise. I don't know. This, along with my own fears and insecurities, are things I am exploring. What are your thoughts on marketing of sexual spaces, in Toronto and beyond? Comment or message me.

And now for the folks who are doing it right...
Aslan Leather is quite diverse, and hot, in their marketing.

Sadly, that's all I have for now. I'll be touching on this subject again in the future.

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