Originally published by CruelTease at Fetlife in December 2016:
I didn’t understand the fuss over gendered pricing when I first joined the community. I was familiar with events at bars and clubs throughout mainstream society that offered admission (or drinks) for free or at reduced cost to women to encourage female attendance. I once rationalized that since women are generally earning less than men that gendered pricing structures may help mitigate this inequity. Much of the complaining I saw came from men’s rights activists, and while I agree that sexist practices create a terrible mindset for all genders, I have a hard time believing men are getting the rawest end of these types of deals, so I easily discounted their voices.
Since growing more familiar with the diverse needs of the community I’ve become much more sensitive to consent culture and how it ideally differs from the mainstream world we exist in. I’m trying hard not to use inflammatory language that only preaches to the choir here, but it’s difficult because once you observe the world from a consent angle, it’s impossible to remain blind to how normalized some problematic practices have become, such that they persist even within a supposedly consent conscious community. I believe it’s why so many folk shove their heads in the sand (“why can’t the social justice warriors lighten up?”)and why others get so angry (“why can’t event organizers be more enlightened?”) when everyone wants to be accepted and have fun.
Since coming out as bi and encountering prejudices from people I thought would be allies, I’ve also become sensitive to the issues of other marginalized groups. Any time you start using gender as a qualifier for admission to an event, you risk insensitivity to people whose gender/sexual orientation/relationship model doesn’t neatly fit into a heteronormative couple box, such as trans, nonbinary, bi, queer, gay, lesbian, and poly folk. I’ve seen this with many types events–some where I’d expect it: MHDL and sex (swinger) parties, and some that surprised me: women or ladies only events, FemDom events, and even sex positive events. I think it’s odd that people exploring a marginalized alternative lifestyle based on sex positivity and consent would adhere to mainstream marginalization tactics to qualify their event attendees. People in marginalized groups are already used to being misunderstood and excluded from the mainstream so gendered language and price discrimination sends a pretty unwelcoming and intolerant message within the kink and sex positive communities. This essay sums up this idea better than I’ve expressed here.
Much of my perspective comes from time spent as a bisexual cisgendered woman seeking adventurous fun while single. When I’ve attended gender priced events, what I’ve felt like was a piece of ass whose value was priced at the door. It surprised me that the vibe of these events felt like a shark tank with cisgendered women being served up like chum.
In my observation, a higher priced entry fee for men is merely a semi permeable penis barrier that increases the entitlement of those who pay to pass through. It does nothing to vet attendees based on character, behavior or reputation, which, to me, are far more important as far as ensuring the safety of all attendees. Instead, it reduces women to a commodity and men to a target market.
Some of the sex positive events I’ve attended avoided gendered pricing but attempted gender balance by only allowing couples and single women. As a single woman who was looking to make an adventurous connection, this limited my potential interactions to couples and other women. Nothing quite feels quite so objectifying as being in a room full of couples who are seeking a bisexual female and being one of a few single women.
If you really want to attract more women to your event, please consider treating people of all genders like human beings: fairly and decently. If you’re running public events to serve your community, consider looking to that community to see how best to do so, instead of looking to outside communities or the mainstream where consent practices and inclusivity seem sketchy at best. I believe there are ways to run an event that serves a diverse community without exploiting men and objectifying women or turning it into a sausage fest.
If you’re running events to serve your own interests, by all means do it however you like! I truly wish you tons of fun, but might I suggest you make them private events that won’t be subject to community scrutiny. Then you won’t get any passive aggressive complaining.