Linked below is an example of how not to write about the fetish scene. Much as I often read and enjoy Vice.com, it appears to have curled out a contender for the Jan Moir Award For Shoddy Journalism this week. Our protagonist, Clive Martin, ventured boldly into the London Fetish Weekend. He brought a photographer, some misconceptions and absolutely no research whatsoever into the event, the people or the activities he was reporting on.
The article itself is consists mainly of laughter, ridicule and quasi-1990s freakshow leering. He cheerfully mocks the otherness of strangers’ outfits and behaviour, whilst simultaneously belittling their interests as part of some fleeting fad brought on by 50 Shades and Paloma Faith, deciding that fetish models “mistook a subculture you can buy in a catalogue for a Bohemian existence”. The scene is long-established, much like the presence of the majority of its members, but he wouldn’t know that. He appears not to have actually spoken to anyone about it.
Soon, he wonders why nobody is having sex – specifically why nobody is trying to have sex with him. “Maybe they have some kind of radar that stops them spanking people who have just bent over in the street to tie up their shoelaces,” he muses. Pining for attention from inside his cage, he is bewildered that no stranger is interested in his combination of dress-down desperation and sneering sense of superiority. Notions like consent and respect here seem alien to him.
Clive Martin ends the article with reiterations of how normal he is, how abnormal the kinks of others are and how it’s “the idea that there’s any kind of message behind it that seems like a myth”. There is no message. Nobody has ever claimed that there is a message, or that one form of sexuality is somehow better than another, no matter what “preachiness” he interprets from watching strangers get their kink on. The scene is a place for people with similar interests to meet with friends, dress up or undress in whatever way they want to and, if they happen to feel like it, play together. That’s all. Whether your kink is shoes, pain or “girls who wear skirts and smell like shower gel and cigarettes”, events like this are about being in a space where you won’t be judged for your sexual preferences.
However, the Vice.com article reads like that of a nineteenth century European explorer describing the strangeness of African “savages”, or the depiction of a 1950s lesbian bar by a character in a James Ellroy novel. For all the insight he offered, Martin may as well have stayed at home and described whatever the photographer brought back on his memory stick.
And photographs, it seems, were also a problem. The images were published without permission, identities were revealed, people were inadvertently outed and, before some faces were obscured for legal reasons, Martin was predictably douchey about people’s objections to this on Twitter. There is a strict code on fetish club photography for a reason. Despite many signs around the venue that specified this, it was ignored. Read the comments below the article for more.