Vir Cotto's BDSM Blog

Antisemitism and the Scene

I'm a lucky to be a Jewish man living in New York, though truth be told, luck isn't a part of it. I chose to live here. At age 32, I moved to New York city, in part because I wanted to be around Jewish culture.

I'm not especially religious. In fact, I'm an atheist, or some might say humanist. I believe in nature and science. But I also believe in the Jewish people and Jewish culture. I'm the grandson of a Survivor. By that, I mean I'm a grandson of a Holocaust survivor. My grandfather was in five concentration camps over five years, from age fourteen until he was liberated at nineteen. My grandmother was fleeing occupied Paris at the time, living in hiding in Italy.

I was brought up to understand that the history of the Jewish people is one of periods of attack followed by brief periods of reprieve. We would be welcomed by a country or kingdom, only to then be chased out, killed or forcefully converted sometime later. That middle period, that reprieve, might be as little as fifty years or as much as a few hundred years, but the time will come. And when that time comes, you may choose to fight, but if you want to survive, you will need to run.

I chose to live in New York because I knew that while I am not a religious man, that the culture around me would celebrate my heritage. And when, at my first kink event, a demo bottom steadfastly refused to sign a waiver in front of the class because it was Shabat, I knew I was home.

But being at home in an isolated bubble of safety does not make me ignorant of the world around me. I knew that anti-Semitism was on the rise- part of the rising tide of hatred that came as a reaction to the Obama presidency. I also knew that the new anti-Semitism was also driven by the Left, associated (at least publically) by solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people and injustices of the Israeli government.

So when Trump became President, I wasn't surprised when in April, the Anti-Defamation League said that anti-Semitic attacks were up 86%, part of a larger US trend of hatred and bigotry.

But I was shocked when I began reading posts on FetLife about people wearing Nazi uniforms to kink gatherings, not as part of a scene, but just as a form of dress at events. "Surely", I thought, "the community realizes this is a means of intimidation, akin to cross burning". Many did realize that, but not all. In fact, people on my friends' list were supporting some of these posts through comments or Loves. Kinksters, they claimed, should be able to express themselves however they see fit.

I wrote a post about my experiences at the time, about how white gentiles were the only people who seemed to take the position. I'd not at the time (and still now) not received one criticism to that piece by a person of color or ethnic minority.

I was also shocked, but not surprized, when the Chicago Dyke March removed a protestor for carrying a Star of David. I was shocked when people on my friends list began to defend these actions and call for an end to Zionism- the belief in the right of Israel to exist. Reaching out to people individually, I began to learn that the story had been manipulated by the press and that while this Chicago Dyke March (and the Chicago SlutWalk) had explicitly banned the Star of David as a symbol of hate, that their media campaigns were sending out double messages to the press- focusing on the protester rather than the issue itself.

And I was not surprized to learn that for several friends, the very definition of Zionism had been "redefined" from the meaning that is in the dictionary to a new definition that involves being pro-torture and anti-human rights. By redefining and twisting the meaning of words, they pit well-meaning people against people who, like myself, support the state of Israel while being starkly against the current government and its actions against the Palestinian people.

With the massacre in Virginia and the subsequent attacks, both on people of color and on Jewish places of worship, people are beginning to see what I have seen- that these incidents in our community are not expression of a new appreciation for history, and they're not about the plight of the Palestianisn people. Both of these are covers for overt hatred towards Jews, one which demands a response by our community, of events large and small, to stand up to hatred and bigotry- to support.

I believe that we will also see these events as a catalyst of the anti-Semetic "left", of those who want to use the actions of the government of Israel to fuel hatred of Jews in the name of tolerance. I urge my gentile friends to read about this issue and see it for what it is- a thinly veiled attack on Jewish symbolism and Jews as a whole.

Event organizers and community leaders- I urge you to proudly announce and display your support for diversity and your codes of conduct. I urge you to loudly and proudly announce your support of people of color, of Muslims and of Jews in and out of the scene with the same fervor and enthusiasm that you celebrate and support gays, lesbians, queer and transgender individuals.

I urge you to welcome and support Jews in the community with the same open arms as you do with other groups because all people deserve rights and protections, and because we are currently under attack from both the Right and the Left. The BDSM community has been a bastion of safety for those of us who are Jewish and Kinky.

Let's keep it that way.