A Response to the ARA List “Flag” Discussion

While the comments on this blog are WONDERFULLY welcome, there has been a lot of conversation about this elsewhere – for example, on Fetlife, and also on Jimi Tatu’s “Adult Rope Arts” List. While this was a post to that latter group, I feel it might have some benefit to the larger discussion, so I’m re-posting it here. Feel free to tear it apart, copy it, etc. as you like.

My esteemed fellow sukebes,

When I got the email from Kyle suggesting a design for the rope pride flag, I thought “Hmm. That’s an interesting idea. Let’s see what other people think of it!” I figured either people would like the idea or ignore the idea. This is not the first time a rope flag has been done; Jo Qatana has a symbol she created years ago, and Denver Bound has a nifty variation on the Leather Pride Flag on their site. My goal, just to be clear, was not to declare a Rope Pride Flag – it was to foster discussion about it, and if people did want one, see what came of it.

Mission accomplished! Thank you for your comments, as someone who enjoys the conversational arts this has been immensely rewarding, and at times amusing. For example, just in the latest digest I got (and I think perhaps you get a different view of the conversations here if you read them in digest form) I saw the same kind of thread:

“We don’t need anything to rally around!”
“Amen!”
“I second the amen!”
“Second on the Amen!” (actually third, but he didn’t know that)
“I’m with you!”

Eddie Izzard, indeed. Or Monty Python, perhaps (“You’re all unique!” “I’m not!”). In a private email, TopKai (who has several times expressed concern about “opening a can of worms” to which I reply, “Hey, at least we’re not arguing about breath play…”) said at one point “…well, at the very least perhaps it will unite people in their hatred of the symbol.” Score!

What I find disturbing, though, is the continuing use of the word “we” and “us” in a non-consensual sense. “We don’t need a flag.” “all of us are aware of each other” “Rope is my flag and that is sufficient in my mind for the rope community.

Excuse me? Um…Jimi, I love you, but even you do not get to decide what is “sufficient for the rope community.”

Even more disturbing: “a flag would only serve to divide people into those that want one, and those that do not. It is much better to create ties that bind people together instead of binding people apart.

“Those that want one, and those that do not.” That is called “choice.” Or “freedom,” in some places. I don’t recall anyone saying in the Rope Flag discussions “This is the flag that every person who identifies with rope has to use.” What I am seeing is a consistent use of collective pronouns that indicate, first, personal choice: “I don’t want a Rope Pride Flag” and second, dictates: “and you shouldn’t, either.

It seems to me it is better to let people consent to what ties they want to be bound by – whether that’s leather, rope, or flags.Saying that the creation of a rope flag “divides” or “binds” people is only true if you choose to see it that way. A label is only divisive if it’s the END of a conversation, rather than simply the beginning of one. Kind of like Jimi creating this list “divided” the rope community into “People on ARA, and people who aren’t.” (Which actually, as many of us know, has been pretty divisive and caused some tempers to flare). But the fact is, people can choose to be here, or they can choose to ignore it, or they can choose to be part of this list and a lot of others.

Isn’t choice grand?

That “Eddie Izzard” sketch is about nationalism, not identity. They are different things – or, if you will, different places on a spectrum. Nationalism is Identity used as a weapon of conquest – but that doesn’t mean that identity in and of itself is not necessary.

If I created a logo that was exactly like David Lawrence’s except it had my name, not his, I suspect he would not appreciate it. Similarly if I created a “Kink Ropes.com” site, or started a Yahoo group called “Adult Roped Arts.” These are all things that people chose to create because it was a natural expression of who they are. Why did they do it? Because they wanted to. They wanted to share something about themselves with the larger world – a brilliant photographic skill, an innovative product, a gift for bringing people together to talk. None of them said, as far as I know, “You have to like this and be part of this or else you’re no longer bona fide!” I am certain, though, that there were some people who said “Oh, great. Another rope photographer.” “Do we need another rope vendor?” “Jesus, another mailing list about sex & kink? Aren’t there enough already?”

Thankfully, those people didn’t let the naysayers dictate how they chose to express their identities.

When I go to events – especially leather-based events – there are banners and flags all over the place. Littles play, BDSM rights, Uniform fetish, Bears, Boy/Boi, you name it, there’s colors fluttering everywhere. And when they create community rituals – awards, or contests, or more – they often fly those particular “colors.” Not as a rallying point, not as an imperialistic possession, but simply as a measure of “This is part of who we are, and we’re proud of it.” Some people in the rope community – some who actually are in the “we” and “us” category – would like to see a flag or banner representing the way rope has touched their lives and shaped their identity. To them, rope is more than just another tool in their kit – it is a vehicle for connection and a means of self-actualization.

Rope is certainly not that for everyone. I have a good friend here, a dom, who will often pull rope out of a sub’s bag and say “Here. Tie yourself up with that.” I don’t expect she’ll want a flag. Conversely, Jimi, David, Jack, they’ve all said they don’t want flags – and I would certainly never say that they’re less of a member of the community or less rope people because of it.

But I’m sure as hell not arrogant enough to tell TopKai or Vesper or Ten or Cannon or anyone that they shouldn’t want one. Or worse, that they can’t have one.

It’s stated very clearly, in big letters that I typed verrrrrry slowly, that the purpose behind uploading the flag is:

“If you want a Rope Pride Flag,
Here are some ideas you might use.

That’s it. No rallying, no division, no “us-or-them.” Just choice. For people to make on their own, and for no one – not even this esteemed gathering of perverted minds – to decide for them.

Knot Proud,

Graydancer

4 thoughts on “A Response to the ARA List “Flag” Discussion

  • Hello Graydancer,
    I came across this entry via Twitter and read it merely because I am interested in people and actions and passion and after reading what you have shared I must say I find it pleasing to see someone voicing an opinion without being rude.

    Personally I am not a fan of flags, including flags that represent countries. Please do not misunderstand, I am proud to be Canadian and I definitely appreciating see the country’s flag flying on a beautifully windy day. With that said, for me personally I find flags are a way of segregating, of pulling people apart rather than having them rally together. Perhaps if people were not so hell bent on their country’s flag there might not be as many wars regarding land and space – perhaps we could simply share it. That of course is a pretty big “if” but I do not think it is impossible.

    With respect to your idea of a rope flag, although I do not feel it is necessary, I agree with you when it comes to choice. I am not a fan of rope, nor am I against, I would say I am pretty neutral. I like the look of it, I appreciate the feel of it but I can enjoy activities without it as well. What I do like and have a true desire for are hoods; all hoods. Even though I really like, nay thrive on wearing hoods and everything to do with hoods I personally would not want a flag to represent hoods and those who enjoy it. Still if someone decided to create a flag representing those who “hood friendly” so to speak I would not oppose it, I simply would not use it myself.

    For me, your idea does not create harm, it does not infringe on someone’s rights, it is in fact all about choice and I believe in choice.

    All the best,
    ~His

  • Showing your pride in something is not an act of aggression. A “Proud parent of an Honors Student” bumper sticker is not an act of war.

    If the rubber fetishists and age players form an unholy alliance of latex diapers to attack the bears, well… then I’ll be worried. Until then…

  • The more I read the more I am convinced there are American cultural factors at work e.g. land of the free and right to my own way but my own way/view is the correct one. Sorry for generalization however I keep seeing it all over the place in this country and it astounds me. PS I do know lots of very lovely Americans of the “live and let live kind”, they tend to be the ones I hang with 🙂

    Glad you went with this design BTW.

  • Gray, I just now (Sept 2012) saw that you posted (July 2010) some this discussion here on your blog from ARA. Sorry I’ve never read your blog before; I just happened to be “Googling” around and bumped into this. Sadly, I see you did not post my response to your false accusation that you made on ARA:

    Quote: “Excuse me? Um…Jimi, I love you, but even you do not get to decide what is “sufficient for the rope community.”

    For clarification here was my response on ARA:
    Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:58 pm
    Um Gray, Excuse me? I love you too man, but I wasn’t deciding what is sufficient for the rope community, I was describing rope as sufficient “in my mind” as a symbol for the rope community…. I don’t need other symbols… don’t want them… it’s just rope for me, it is what it is… rope is and always will be the one symbol of who we “Weavers” are as a community as a whole…

    Now persons, or groups might develop their own symbols for local identity, so be it, good for them, more power to them…. but no flag is ever going to replace or supersede rope as the symbol of who we are… “in my mind”…. and I would guess just about everyone else’s mind…

    Again I’m not against anyone developing symbols, protocols, ritual, in fact I am for it, teach it (The Way of Rope Classes), encourage it…

    Jimi

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