The following is a transcript of Arnora's interview on CKWR's Out and About Queer Radio, broadcast live on November 17, 1997.
David Callender: ...And then other people are like, "yeah, I really wish I could learn a little more about that. I wish I didn't have drive all the way to Toronto to, y'know, explore that side of my sexuality." Well guess what folks, you don't have to. We've got our own group right here in Kitchener-Waterloo. And if you've never heard of it before, it's called EhBC, but it's not spelled A-B--. We'll explain it in just a second. Joining us tonight for our featured interview is Arnora Dunestan. And I want to thank you very much for coming into the studio tonight.
Arnora Dunestan: Thank you for calling me in, David.
David: Aaaaand first off, please tell everyone what EhBC stands for? Wouldja?
Arnora: We have, uh, the social organization in the SM community usually gets together depending on the population area to do fairly informal gatherings called originally burger munches, which have just gotten shortened down to "munches". The original co-founder of the EhBC group used to do the munch communities in San Francisco. When he could get to the west coast, San Francisco area, but mostly in the Washington/Boston area on the east coast of the States. When he came back here to do his post-graduate work, he decided he was really lonely, wanted to get out and get in touch with some people. But he wanted to put kind of a Canadian bend because the groups that he was attending in the Washington area were the ABC groups. And this all stems out of the fact that in the kink community there are a lot of acronyms: BDSM, D/s, SM, so on and so forth. So it all gets distilled down to an alphabet soup. Which was all well and good until he got here and realized ABC wasn't really doing anything for him. So he decided the Canadian spin would be to call it the Eh BC group.
David: So it's actually, it's spelled E-H-B-C.
Arnora: We've never forgiven him for that but, y'know, once a joke is in place you just live with it for a while.
David: And what did ABC stand for in the States? Was it American...?
Arnora: It actually didn't stand for anything...
Arnora: ... it was just a blank acronym so the group had a name that wasn't going to frighten anybody.
David: Okay. 'Cause y'know, I've been sitting here thinking -- alright, alright. I understand the E-H, but what is the B and the C for...? Bondage and... what? what? Well at least now we know. When did the group actually form here in Kitchener-Waterloo then?
Arnora: Our first munch was a very small affair probably about five years or so ago. We originally decided it was going to be Internet based. So we published a few announcements on some of the alt dot sex groups, specifically alt.sex.bondage, and just said, hey there's a bunch of interested people out in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. We're getting together for a casual burgers and beer kind of deal. If you're interested, this is where we'll be. And just, it's taken a while, but it's kind of grown from there into a regular monthly deal.
Brenda Spencer: I think one of the things that tends to put those who are probably less informed, um, a little more ill at ease, is that they don't understand exactly what SM is about. They don't understand that it's consensual. Maybe you can expand a bit on --
Arnora: Absolutely. The catch phrase in the kink community, regardless of your gender and orientation is always going to be, or always should be Safe, Sane and mutually Consensual. These are the catch phrases that you can usually tell are the people who are into the kink scene, as opposed to just being bedroom practitioners. And we have a fairly decent self-policing network. We have unspoken codes and guidelines and rules. And y'know, people who've been around in scene for a while usually take newer people in hand to explain that, y'know, what we're doing is, it's a, y'know -- Some people may consider it a form of personal expression. Some will consider it a kind of an addendum to their personal sexuality. Some people never take this out of the bedroom. But the point is, all of us are doing this because it's a personal exploration that we enjoy. It's something that we are not usually afraid of, not afraid of confronting personal issues. But the people that we play with, it's all on a very open, very level, very "I would like to this to you. Is this okay?" kind of negotiation basis. And it's that process of negotiation that we take very very seriously.
David: It's not only like you say, Safe Sane and Consensual, but I think it's also important to say that it's not also -- I think a lot of people think -- it's not all about pain, either.
Arnora: No, not in the least. We have -- the pain contingent is something a lot of people naturally associate with the words sadomasochism, which is the SM part out of BDSM. But the other two words that most commonly get associated with that are bondage and discipline, domination and submission. And for a lot of people, the games that we play never even take on a physical aspect. They never take on a sexual aspect. They are to some extent head games. Again, completely consensual. Some people get into role-playing. Some people get into, for lack of a better word, rough sex play, things like that. And, y'know, the pain is something that some people may pursue, but others just tend to say that's not my kink, that's not what I'm into, I'd rather go over here and play with feather dusters.
David: Uh-huh. Cool. So, now, how often does the group here in Kitchener-Waterloo meet?
Arnora: We have an informal munch once a month. It's the first Wednesday of every month. And just recently actually, as of November... October, November, and December we're meeting at the Board Room in the Board... um, Barley Works of the Huether Hotel, if I can actually get it all out in one coherent phrase. We start at about 7 o'clock, run till about 10 or later, depending how big the crowd is. And the attendance rate these days is in the 35 to 40 people every month range.
David: That surprises me. It also sort of, delights me, really. That's really cool.
Arnora: We're probably the largest kink organization outside the Toronto area. We have people coming in from Stratford, London, or as far away as St. Catharines. It's a very different community than some of the groups in the Toronto area. And we're happy about that.
David: So, going out for one of these munches then is essentially like going out for something to eat, and just being with people that you feel comfortable talking to...?
Arnora: Exactly. What sets us apart from the Toronto groups is most of the players in Toronto don't get together on a generic social level. They have their fetish nights, and there are probably three or four that happen on a regular basis throughout the month. But to see any of these people on a casual level just never seems to happen. So a lot of people are coming from Toronto to the Kitchener-Waterloo munches, because, y'know, we're all there in normal clothing. It's not like we lay our toy bags on the table. Actually, that does happen, but that's kind of lying...[David laughs]
Brenda: Extended Tupperware parties.
Arnora: Something, something like that. We've been known to upset the waitresses on occasion at some of the places where we've had our munches, and we've also been known to attract some of the waiters and waitresses so, y'know, it's a fairly even coin toss from month to month. But it's all very casual, and discussion's the whole point.
Brenda: What kind of mix do you get, male/female-wise?
Arnora: Well, David had asked me this question off the air...
David: I was going to ask again.
Arnora: ...At this point in time, the brunt of the group is predominantly heterosexual. It's actually a very even split between male and female. We get a lot of couples coming out, y'know, people who've been doing this in the bedroom or the kitchen or the bathroom or the basement for years on end but have never realized there were other people they could go to. But they can find us on the Internet. And they find out about the munches and they come out. And it's only been, I guess, since this summer where we've actually started to make a concerted effort to reach out to the gay community and the lesbian community. I had mentioned earlier off the air that the AIDS Committee of Toronto is very closely interactive with the SM gay leather community in Toronto. And so, it dawned on us, I guess, earlier this summer there is a very large gay contingent, a gay and lesbian community here in Kitchener-Waterloo who may not necessarily have access to the education materials to, uh, the support networks that the Toronto groups do. So we can make ourselves available as a resource here, and so we started with an article in the OutLook publication. It was actually fairly well received, and we've had a few inquiries. But not too much of the gay community has been willing to come out to the munches because they call or they e-mail and they say, "so what's the gender split?" And y'know, you sort of hedge your bets and say, "well we have a lot of pansexuals, but I'm sorry, it's mostly heterosexual." And you feel you want to slap your forehead and just apologize all over the place. And so they've been, some of them are starting to at least strike up e-mail correspondences with those of us who are regulars in the group. But actually getting people to come out to a munch is kind of like asking them to, y'know, for women to bare their breasts in public. This is a very personal part of their lives, and getting them to come out in public in a completely different way and say, okay, not only am I gay, but man, do I love to do really rude things to myself with a spatula. It just doesn't always seem to be the most comfortable way of doing things, but we're working on it.
David: (sotto voce) I thought you told me you weren't going to tell people about the spatula. [laughs] But anyway --
Arnora: I'm sorry, David.
David: Okay. Uh, no, it's, it is also for a great deal of people, and for me it's a very odd turning of events to have a group of people who are predominantly heterosexual actively want them to come out. It makes us probably, y'know, scratch our heads a bit and wonder, okay what's going on here? It's a little odd to have people who are not only welcoming but who really would like us to come out to these sort of things.
Arnora: A lot of it has to do with the fact that I think there's a -- and at the risk of sounding cliché -- I think there's a very large kindred spirit between the gay community, that specifically the gay community and the not-specifically-any-orientation BDSM community. For the simple fact that we have sexual practices that are not part of the cultural norm. In the last decade, both have started to become a little more mainstream. Like, you'll see things like the Anne Rice books, the Sleeping Beauty series, the West of Eden... the West of Eden? East of Eden...?
Brenda: Exit to Eden
David: Exit to Eden. That's right.
Arnora: Y'know, it actually came out as a really butchered movie. It had nothing to do with the book whatsoever. And it was so pathetic as to be screamable, but... these things are starting to become in a sort of flippant, titillating kind of way, they're starting to become a little more, y'know, you're starting to see a little bit more of 'em out in public culture. But the kink community sort of embraces a lot of the gay community because there's a lot of persecution that has gone on.
Brenda: Well, I think that a lot of that though, is that, gays and lesbians for the longest time have been persecuted for sexuality. We've been judged. That's, y'know, it's always been the thing. We're just constantly swinging from the chandeliers and that's all we do. So --
Arnora: We don't. We do our swinging with chains and whips and strange rope ties, and things so --
David: Sounds exciting to me.
Brenda: She's got a nice smile on her face. I like that. [general laughter]
David: I was going to ask you actually about your personal experience, because here on the show, one by one, all of us have shared our coming out experiences being gay or lesbian. And the reason we do that is to help people who are sitting at home who might think that they're alone. I was hoping you could tell us a little about how you got involved with the group, so that somebody who's sitting at home, going, "y'know I've always wanted to investigate this but how do you go about it?"
Arnora: Absolutely. I am shameless when it comes to stories like that.
David: (eager) Okay.
Arnora: I have a, actually I started experimenting, I guess, in my teens but, you know, the mental attraction to things like bondage and stuff has been with me since I was -- oh, probably eight or nine? Possibly even younger than that. You know, games in the schoolyard where you're being pinned down by the bullies. And part of your brain is saying that this is a really bad idea, and part of your brain is going uh-huh... uh-huh... okay. And that sort of follows you and, you know, it becomes pervasive in the literature that you read and the certain scenes that you see in movies that just kind of stick with you and resonate. And it was probably not until I was in my late teens that I had a partner that was willing to, you know, experiment with tying me up and things like that. And my first long-term committed live-in relationship was with somebody that was also very interested in pursuing things like that. So we did a lot of experimenting with him in the dominant role. And as my own sexuality branched out, I started to, you know, getting involved with women, for one thing. Getting involved with other men. Getting into open style of relationships and I've probably been active as a BDSM player for about ten years now. Active in the EhBC community since its founding. I was the other co-founder when Crispin was putting this together. And I think I'm still the longest active participant -- continually active participant -- in the whole group. So I've been following that through its trials and tribulations for five years, mostly in either a submissive or a bottom role. And I suppose I should clarify those two terms. A submissive is somebody --
David: (chortling) No, you don't really have to.
David: [general laughter] No, it's remarkable though that there are such similarities in, you know. You talk to any gay man, he knows what a bottom is, he knows what a top is. But no, for people who might not, go, go ahead...
Arnora: Within the kink community, I not too sure how big a gap there would be in the definitions between the generic kink and the gay community. She's shaking her head. Okay, so not all that much. Okay. Well, the way we define it in the kink community is somebody who is a submissive is somebody who gives in on a psychological level, who gives themselves over to the will of the dominant. Whereas a bottom is not necessarily somebody who plays on that kind of a psychological "I will give you control" levels. A bottom for lack of a better word is often termed less appropriately as a pain slut.
Arnora: Somebody who just wants to receive the attention, receive the pain if that's the way they're playing or just be the recipient of whatever the nature of the scene is.
Arnora: So the majority of my time in the BDSM world, both privately and since I've come out, for lack of a better word, I have been as a bottom. And it's only been since this spring and actively since June that I've actually been playing as a dominatrix as well. Which has been a real head-twisting experience. Just one I love. The whole point of the total power exchange has just gone right to my head. And that spatula looks just really interesting every time I see it.
David: There goes the spatula again... [general laughter] Well, you know it is not a whole lot different than, but I think a lot of gay men see the top and bottom terms specifically meaning one thing. The top is the one who is insertive, and the bottom is the one who receives. But it's more psychological as well when you talk about --
Brenda: Very psychological, and I think in the gay and lesbian community is definitely the case that it's far more psychological. It's becoming a li'l more, it's starting to get a little more acceptance in the gay and lesbian community at first. There was quite a bit of backlash, and I noticed in the last few years that it's been kinda creeping in slowly. And slowly becoming far more accepted even in a larger --
Arnora: We saw that. I think we saw that come out quite recently actually. The, uh, a couple of weeks ago Northbound Leather is based out of Toronto which has been a long standing bastion in support of the kink lifestyle and kink community. They held their tenth anniversary extravaganza down at the Docks, and that was an amazing party. I think that at the height of the party there were somewhere between two and three thousand people there. And it was from my point of view coming from, you know, I hesitate to say cultural backwater, but I didn't always grow up in -- Kitchener-Waterloo to me is a metropolis. So going to Toronto periodically is quite the eye-opening experience. But the Docks party was just absolutely amazing to see the gay leather community and the lesbian leather community just out in full force and just embracing the whole fetish and BDSM lifestyle. It was just, you know, you look at these people and you think, these are people who are coming from, you know, two ends of the wrong stick, being both gay or lesbian and being into the fetish scene. And these people are so proud of what they're doing. It makes me wanna go home and do things like this. Go on the radio and say, "Hi. The kink community is here, and like the gay community, we're here, and we're available. We're out and there's nothing you can do to put us back in the closet."
David: Mm-mm. Well, that's great. I think that's wonderful. Now how can people get a hold of you and come to one of these munches? Is it all right for someone to, like, just come to one of these munches...
David: ...and say I'm here, I'd really like to get tied up.
Arnora: Absolutely. [general laughter]
Brenda: ... in a meeting 'cause I'm all tied up? [more laughter]
Arnora: Yeah, we've used that one before.
David: Oh. Thought so. [laughter]
Arnora: We've done that at a few munches actually. It can get pretty amusing when the waitresses walk in and they have to step over the ropes on the floor. "Who's is this?" "That belongs to the guy wrapped in duct tape in the corner. That's okay, we'll pay for it for him. He can't get to his wallet from here." As I said, the munches are the first Wednesday of every month at the Huether Hotel, at the very top of the Huether Hotel in the Board Room. In order to get in touch with us, most of our contacts are still e-mail based or Internet based. We have talked about getting a central phone number. But usually what I do if people ask specifically, I'll just give them my phone number. I'm fairly open, my partner's fairly open, I don't mind fielding phone calls. You can reach us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Internet URL is www.golden.net/~ehbc.
David: And that actually is linkable from the Rainbow Community Centre.
Arnora: Yeah, I believe so.
David: Yeah it is, I know, 'cause I did it. [laughs]
Arnora: Well thank you.
David: Ta-da!! Yeah, so yeah, you can go there and link there and, uh, I told you I was gonna ask this. Is there anything we missed? Is there anything you were really hoping to talk about tonight that we sort of maybe skimmed over?
Arnora: Well, unless you want to get into the interview details of how we do stuff within the kink community. And maybe I don't have quite enough time, 'cause that's a lifetime's worth of diatribe there. Um, no, I think that pretty well covers the basics.
David: I would love to spend the rest of the hour actually, personally -- uh, but I think actually given CKWR's, you know, mandate, um that we should probably let people call you and then go into the details of what's happening.
Arnora: Well, the easiest number to reach me at, and there's an answering service there in case I'm not, which is actually more often than you might think, area code 519, 894-3996. And I will gleefully field any honest-sounding phone calls. We occasionally get our share of crackpots and loonies who wanna call in and just want the cheap sleazy routine run by them.
Arnora: We can hang up on those.
David: Yeah. Folks, if that's what you want, just call one of those phone lines on the television, okay?
Brenda: That's right. Pay the four bucks a minute.
David: Thanks so much. Well, thank you so much for coming in and talking with us tonight. I'm sorry our time is limited. I'd love to keep on chatting but, it sounds great. So once again, it's the first Wednesday of every month at the top of the Huether Hotel. And you can link to them on the Internet. I want to thank you so much for coming in.
Arnora: Thank you for having me.