This is our truth, tell us yours
I read this piece on Utopias by Valery North with interest. It has been a while since someone thought they were being clever with the “would sex work exist in Utopia” question, but I have been asked it often enough to have considered my answer. Indeed, the fact it is rarely asked now, when say 5 years ago it was ubiquitous, probably has less to do with my killer response (fuck off, who cares) than the fact the world we are living in now is so dystopian that thought experiments run along the lines of “will you have enough food to eat in your utopia”.
Utopias and dystopias have another attraction for me however. Carter and I have created one (although it is largely his creation) over a period of time which it feels unreal to even write. Let me just say it has grown from a simple story, has a backstory, laws, regulations and customs, and we even place buildings we both know and love within the world building. We call it our dystopia, but it is in fact a Utopia, and this choice of name matters if we are to understand the lure of creating ideal worlds.
By naming the ideal, imaginary world of intelligent BDSM dystopia we are saying that we recognise that what might be perfect for us would be hell for others. Although I struggle to see who would not wish to be tied into stocks in the Bigg Market, I am not so arroganct as to assume my fanataises are universal.
There seems to be an important truth here, and one which extends far beyond world building sexual fantasies. 99% of advice about sex boils down to, this is my Utopia, without any consideration that the important word there is “my”. There are of course some honourable exceptions, like Girl on the Net, but all too often they are simply the exception which proves the rule. Anything which reduces the personal to a general rule, runs the risk of describing someone elses dystopian nightmare. Part of the reason I moved away from the sex blogging sphere is so often there was an air of “of course you must like this” followed by “there must be something wrong with you if you don’t like this”.
I wonder if this informs the huge divisions we have in politics at the moment too? With Brexit we had a group who had been told that their Utopia was just around the corner, and who were, it seems, incapable of seeing it might be someone else’s dystopia. This inability to understand that their perfect world is not everyone’s perfect world has been seen in everything from the sore winners (complaining about everything) to the refusal to admit Brexit might be complex and hard work. On the other side though are the second referendhum supporters. Equally convinced that leaving the EU will be everyones worst nightmare they are incapable of appreiating the huge dose of meh which most of use view another referendum with. Thats not just me projecting my meh either, polls consistently show that however people voted, they do not want a second referendum. I think this is because for most of us being in, or out, of the EU is neither a utopian dream of dytopian nightmare.
One thing the country desperately needs is to move from these extremes, and to stop projecting our own personal fears and fantasies onto others. There are genuine things to fear, the treatment of disabled people is already dystopian in the UK, the proposed tory regulation of the internet straight from 1984. We are already criminalised for consensual thoughts and desires, and it is only going to get worse. Moves like the rape clause also show that far from having to create nightmare scenarios we are living within the nightmare.
I left this in drafts last night, and, since writing am trying to reconcile the idea of a world where 8 year olds attending a concert are blown apart by a suicide bomber. The ideas of dystopias and utopias are still circling my mind though. There must be such a hatred for a world, a belief it is a living nightmare, to blow yourself apart, taking young people and children with you. I am not talking about a belief system, but the internal belief, that the world is so bad that only violence can change it. The building up of a dystopia that must be destroyed is a position far too many seem to take. Perhaps I am getting old, perhaps I am tired, but perhaps if we all looked for more moderation, for what as a Buddhist I called the middle way, we would see less violence. We cannot build a perfect world because in doing so we cling to the extreme belief of destroying imperfections, but maybe we can build a better, imperfect one.