|The Education Pillar of GMSMA|
GMSMA has three main areas of endeavor: educational, social, political. Of these, by far more effort goes into education than into any other area. At least five of our standing committees devote part or all of their activity toward education. Therefore we face a number of questions regarding this important area.
Many young people are entering s/m today. Sometimes it is their first coming out! GMSMA's past and present educational work has been geared toward making men, young and old, much more comfortable with their emergence into s/m. Some may look on us as the "old fogies" of s/m. They have available many alternate groups, such as Pork, Hellfire, and Delta. Their approach to s/m may even be very different. We must see what changes might be needed to keep GMSMA preeminent in our field. How do we continue to attract these younger people?
We expend a lot of effort toward novices. What kind of balance in education should we aim for between the novices and the very experienced players?
GMSMA and the larger s/m community are drawing ever closer, as we join with other groups in creating events, extend invitations for them to participate in ours, or accept invitations to participate in theirs. These outreach events include Leather Pride Night and LeatherFest. We send speakers and demonstrators to LSM (Lesbian Sex Mafia), the National Leather Association - Metro NY, and The Eulenspiegel Society, among others. Should we open more programs to women?
We have already had Special Interest Groups on "The Philosophy & Psychology of S/M" and on "Word Play (Creative S/M Writing)" that included women. Looking at various aspects of our Education program may help us make decisions on these and other questions.
Whom do we educate?
The vast majority who attend our events are new or intermediate practitioners. Although highly experienced players comprise a much smaller number, we always have some programs and workshops aimed primarily at them, and include segments for them in most programs. Our education program has often been compared to a college which people complete; some remain for advanced work while many leave only to be replaced with the "next class." Last year over 120 different members were involved in seminars and workshops alone, with most men attending two or three events.
Why do we do education?
How do we educate?
Do we do anything new?
Although one would expect it to get harder and harder to find new topics, we always manage to do so. In fact, we average about ten never-before-presented subjects each year. Some are through our programs; some are through education events. Certain basic topics are, of course, frequently repeated, such as novices, long term relationships, clean & sober, genitorture, bondage, flogging. Even then, however, we have innovations in approach. Many fine presenters are used repeatedly, but new presenters are brought in every year. There is, in fact, a conscious effort toward doing this.
Education is a monumental task, but one whose need can never be overestimated. Happily, we have a strong sense of responsibility toward others, and we find great enjoyment in passing on our knowledge and understanding to future generations of s/m people.
-- Gil K.
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