The West Highlands of Scotland had been enjoying a few days of unusually fine March weather, and although it was cold at night, it was comfortably warm during the day… by Scottish standards, at least :) The sky was blue, the larks were singing, and the pied wagtails had returned after their winter away. Algy knew, of course, that the good weather would not last long, but it certainly made a welcome change, and he was determined to enjoy it while he could. So he lingered late on the beach as the shadows lengthened and the temperatures dropped, until it got too chilly to linger any longer…

When Boston Standup Comics Met Kink Culture

Content warning: Sexual assault.

This has nothing to do with current events, it’s just a memory that’s come back to me over and over for years and I want to get it down.

For a little while there was a great sexy storytelling series in Cambridge, at the Middle East, where amateurs and professional storytellers alike would get up one after another and tell stories about their sex lives without notes. Unfortunately the organizer and MC turned out to be a shitbag and so it ended, but that’s another story for someone else to tell.

I tried to make it every time because it was so entertaining. The audience and performers were a mixture of the generally open minded curious, kinksters, and “sex positive” folks (which groups obviously have a lot of overlap). One month there were two standup comedians on the bill, and what happened was very interesting to me.

The first was a woman, and you could tell she was a standup because unlike everyone else, she took the mic out of the stand, with a confident gesture. She was the kind of comic who starts her set with a flurry of self deprecating jokes about her appearance and how hard it is for her to find a boyfriend. With the freedom of a bit more time than a typical showcase, she settled into a story about going to a parking garage late at night. Through all the jokes and self deprecation, we gradually realized that this was a story about her being stalked to her car by a man who wanted to sexually assault her. In fact she only got away by luck and quick thinking. Later she was used by the police in a sting to catch this repeat offender!

She didn’t get nearly as many laughs as she expected. Maybe because the premise of the jokes was what a dumb idiot she was: she shouldn’t have been there alone, she should have been suspicious of him earlier, she should have reacted differently to what he did. We just wanted to know if she was ok, which wasn’t really compatible with laughing.

The next standup who came up was a young asian-american dude, with an ironic t-shirt and nerd-chic eyeglasses. Like the other standup, he easily gained rapport with the crowd from the start, and got us all laughing. He then got into his extended story, about meeting an beautiful woman at a club, and then to his shock and amazement, getting to take her home. They made out, but didn’t have sex. However she asked to sleep in his bed with him and he said yes.

In the morning, he learned that she was getting up early to catch a flight, and in fact his apartment was near the airport. She had probably had another motive in going home with him.

I’ve gone to dozens of standup showcases and theatre shows, and I can tell when a comic is winding up for the finishing, knockout punchline. And this guy had that posture and facial expression.

“I have to say that I got a little mad! My pride was offended! That she decided that I was such a nice and unthreatening guy that she could spend the night in my bed, and I wasn’t going to try to RAPE her!”

Dead silence.

Crickets.

There might even have been a couple of boos.

The MC relieved the flustered comic, and said, smiling, “I knew that wouldn’t necessarily go over with this crowd, but I just wanted to see what would happen!” (did I mention he turned out to be a garbage human?)

Standups develop jokes that get reliable reactions from a variety of audiences. What this told me is that most audiences were laughing their heads off, or at least chuckling steadily, at a young woman not taking enough safety precautions in a dark parking garage. At a nerdy guy offended by the assumption that he wasn’t masculine enough to rape.

So what I learned is that for all our disagreements, I and my kinkster friends live in a bubble of consent culture. We say that no one should be blamed for their assault, and that sex should stop at the exact point where any of the participants wants it to stop, regardless of sharing a bed, but most of the world doesn’t think like we do. Most of Boston doesn’t think like we do. And I’m very, very grateful to live in that bubble, and for all the hard work of the people who’ve built it.

Because the alternative is just not that fucking funny.

2

2/15/2017.

you could rattle the stars. you could do anything if only you dared.”
–Sarah J Maas

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