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"It is paranoia about who we are and what we do that restrains a great number of those who fantasize about SM from doing anything more than dreaming."

Overcoming Fear
by Jack Rinella

There are two reasons why I write about fear as often as I do. The first is because it is has had such a profound impact on my own life; the second because it is highly prevalent among novice Leather folk and those curious about our lifestyle.

It is paranoia about who we are and what we do that restrains a great number of those who fantasize about SM from doing anything more than dreaming.

I don't think I need to berate the subject since most of us have had a similar experience. It is fear that keeps us from exploring, experimenting, and ultimately enjoying a fulfilling kinky life.

There are all sorts of fears, of course: fear of rejection, failure, exposure, injury, discrimination, ostracism, and disease. In the earliest stages of any SM exploration it is fear of the unknown that is most crippling. Fortunately, that is a fear that can be overcome. Here then are my suggestions.

1. Inform yourself.
I started my journey into kink by reading books and magazines. It was the printed word that fed my imagination and guided my explorations. I strongly advise others to do the same.

You see, I'm of the opinion that we need to start slowly and rationally. Reading is easy, inexpensive, non-committal, private, and readily available.
I suggest a mixture of fiction (to spur on the passion) and non-fiction (to give you a realistic and healthy foundation upon which to build). Fiction alone is dangerous. Too often too many believe what was written only to entertain.

An authentic and viable Leather lifestyle cannot be built on the "lessons" found in one-handed reading. Hot stories are great for jerking off, disastrous for establishing relationships, learning correct techniques, and understanding the real dynamics of SM. Reading disperses ignorance. It sheds light on the unknown, thus dispelling fear.

2. Keep a journal.
I am a strong believer in writing. Journaling will help you to hear yourself think, to appraise your feelings, to better gauge what you really want. A journal will help you remember how you feel. As your emotions change, as you learn more, as you have good SM experiences and not-so-good ones, you'll be able to create a clearer overall picture of what your really feel.

A couple of years ago I was hot on the tail of a slave applicant from Los Angeles. Though we had an extended time of correspondence and a weekend of rather good sex, he wasn't able to get past what he called his "confusion." He couldn't decide, he said, because he was confused.

As it turns out the guy was no dummy. He was a skilled biologist and prided himself on his ability to use the scientific method. Where he failed was in not using a scientific method in his approach to SM.

Ask a question. Form a hypothesis. Design a way to test it. Review the results to see if the hypothesis is correct. Modify the question, the hypothesis, or the experiment until you get a satisfactory answer. Scientists keep journals about their experiments. I'm advising the same approach.

3. Find a mentor/guide/counselor.
This step is meant to bring you back to reality again. Someone with SM experience will help you avoid the mistakes they made. It's certainly not a failure-proof method, as mistakes will always happen, but it will make life easier.

Note that I didn't say "Find a partner." Even though many of us have learned a great deal from our sex partners, it helps to get advice and counsel from someone who doesn't have an emotional, physical, or sexual stake in the outcome.

I'm especially leery of self-proclaimed experts who use their experience to get who and what they want in bed. That's not to say that you should avoid sex with an expert. Instead keep a clear head about what's going on and a right prospective on what you're doing.

After all, I learned most of what I know from sex partners. Happily, though, they were partners who understood where I was and who placed no demands on me for commitment, for service, or for compensation.

4. Take small steps.
There seems to be a prevailing idea that SM is an all-or-nothing event, that walking into your first Leather bar, having your first SM scene, or buying your first vest is an irreversible commitment. Another erroneous point of view is that you can't be a part-time, half-way Leather person, that you can't really be into or understand the lifestyle unless you are totally immersed in it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I say that the vast majority of us live regular, non-Leather lives, I mean that it applies to most, if not all, of us. Even the gung-ho fanatics, and here I include myself, do lots of regular, normal, everyday things. In that regard being a Leather person is no different than being an avid golfer, stamp collector, or opera buff.

5. Decide nothing now. Make no promises.
A great part of the fear comes from the unknown future. Making no promises means that there is nothing irreversible about this learning process. It means it's OK to just watch, to try things out at your own speed, to experiment without capitulating.

In the long run, of course, you will want to get in or get out. What I am saying is that you make that commitment not at the beginning of the learning curve but only after you have learned enough to make an intelligent and informed decision.

6. Listen to your feelings and understand them.
The happiest of Leather folk know and accept themselves, but that applies to anyone who's happy, doesn't it?

One's entree into Leather usually begins with inner stirrings of desire and curiosity. I invite you to follow them cautiously and realistically.
As you progress in knowledge of this lifestyle, you will naturally learn about yourself as well. You'll learn what you like and what you don't, what turns you on and turns you off.

Emotions, fears, and doubts will come and go. Find some way to understand why that is so.

While I don't want to make a big deal about introspection, it can be helpful, especially when directed by a competent counselor. Retrospection, too, can help you see how you got where you are and what might need to be encouraged, what should be avoided. After all, even a "bad" event can hold a significant learning experience that guides us to really good events.

So take a deep breath, relax, and experiment one day at a time. Change is inevitable, the future cannot be stopped, and in truth, that which you fear the most will never come.

Copyright 1999 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact mrjackr@leathermail.com

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