Community Comment: Beyond Vanilla Keynote – Karen Ultra

Karen Ultra

Karen Ultra

(Editor’s note: This was originally published on Leatherati. Reprinted with permission.)

Man, I must have started this speech like four times, trying to figure out what I was going to say and how I wanted to say it….I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to talk about and how I wanted to say it and then my brain wandered off, and One of them had me quoting Inyego Montoya from Princess Bride, one of them had a whole avengers thing in there and a couple of them went all Pulp Fiction…… you know…..

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.” I been saying that shit for years. And if you heard it, that meant your ass. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this morning made me think twice. See, now I’m thinking, maybe it means you’re the evil man, and I’m the righteous man, and Mr. 9 millimeter here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, you’re the weak, and I am the tyranny of evil men. But I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”

Community Comment is an occasional column written by community members on various topics of living a leather, bear and kink lifestyle.


Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Now I left out the God part at the beginning because my momma told me a lady never discusses religion, and dammit, I’m a lady. And a shy and retiring delicate hothouse flower.

And, it’s 12 step. Undoubtedly. Because I’m clean and sober, and it’s as much a part of me as my leather. And I could do a whole thing about the challenges of being clean and or sober in this community, what with so much of what we do connected to bar culture, How people have come up to me and asked for a hug or some words to acknowledge their struggle to stay sober. But that’s a different speech, I think.

So let’s go back to the serenity prayer.


Peace. Calm. And I think we all could use more of that…. It’s elusive, isn’t it? Like trying to catch mercury when you bust a thermometer? Oh wait. Some of you have NO idea what that is. Ask an “elder” at your table, ok?
Acceptance. That’s tougher. That comes with time and practice. Not unlike the same way you get to Carnegie hall. Or the way you mastered the skills you display at dungeon. Remember the first time you attempted throwing a singletail? I damn near took my OWN ear off……. But I practiced.

Only in acceptance can you begin to find solutions.

What things can we not change? You can’t change time. You can’t change the weather. You can’t change mass. I’ve tried.

And, I’m pretty sure you can’t change other people.

Even if you own them, you cannot change them. You can suggest, direct, order, stomp your domly feet, but the other person has to do the actual changing.

You can try. Lord knows, I’ve done it. It leads to teeth gnashing and wailing and frustration.

Gandhi said be the change you want to see in the world.

So what can we change?

We CAN change the world.

We can change ourselves and the way in which we react to other people.

We can choose to be more open and receptive. We can choose to listen to other opinions; we can choose not to make time for people that don’t make time for us. We can choose not to get sucked into other people’s drama. Remember, not my circus, not my monkeys.

We can change what we’re willing to put up with.

There were (well they still are) these people in my community that had fallen on hard times, and they needed some help. They were behind on their house payment and because I believed they were different than they actually showed themselves to be, I helped them. We had a lovely conversation about how they were going to repay the loan and all that good stuff. They sent me a check. It bounced. I called. They were apologetic, and said they’d straighten it out. Time passes. No straightening.

Then I see on Facebook that they’re going to the Caribbean. I made some comment regarding that to them and they became defensive. Still no repayment. More time passes.

So I contact them again and things have gotten worse for them, so we work out another arrangement…….. And to date? Nothing, Just derision about the account name from which I contacted them. That caused me to alter MY behavior. I cannot change them.

I’d love to have that money back. I could go to a few more events, see more friends, but you’ll notice I’m crowd source funding my error in judgment either. I leave that to people with far nobler causes. At least those are the ones I will signal boost and or contribute too. If you’re doing a go fund me to get your asshole bleached? Don’t be surprised if I make fun of you. A lot.

It is no longer something I am willing to endure. It makes me crazy and steals my joy. That’s something I could change.

As a community we can make those sorts of choices as well, what we are no longer willing to put up with…..

Laura Antoniou did a speech called “Pros Hos and Schmos” and it was brilliant. I told her I was going to reference that. She said I needed to get a life.

But seriously……… that’s a change we can make.

If you want to have an amazing rope scene, *I* am not the person you want to scene with. But there are people, right here, that have mad skills in that regard. And we will network our asses off to find just the right top for that perfect scene, waste days on the interwebs looking up everything Wikipedia says about how to do an intricate napkin fold for the super high formal D/s dinner service.

Why then won’t we network that hard to find people in our community that are more gifted and talented than we are when it comes to nuts and bolts? I mean we know each other’s kinks, what we look like naked, all manner of intimate details, but nothing about our outside lives.

For instance, I want to raise money for toys for tarts. It’s a charity I just made up to make sure everyone in the state of Texas has at least 5 marital aids, Novelties actually, dildos and cock rings are illegal here. Seriously.
So I want to raise money so people can go around, count them, clean them and redistribute them.
Best practice is to find somebody who knows how to do an LLC, or the very least, an accountant. But we don’t do that. We mean well, but then……… shit happens.

Like the money doesn’t get where it was supposed to go, and then there’s obfuscation, and denial, and this isn’t the first, fifth, or thirty third time this has happened in our community. And then there’s the obligatory mea culpa, and the “I’ll pay it back” with no actual plan of how that works or what that’s going to look like….. And the part that makes me livid? The comments that say “oh, what integrity you had to come forward”. And “Where can I donate to help you pay the money back?” Wait. What? You want to give more money to someone who already mishandled money. That’s like reinvesting with Bernie Madoff.

And here comes the Inyego Montoya….

You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means,,,,,

I’m reasonable sure the integrity would have been not monkeying with the money in the first place.

We can change our attitudes.

I’m an asshole.

I am. With a colorful candy shell of funny and insecurity sprinkles, and I admit it.

I piss people off.

There was an event……… and I had come up with the idea of having a nerf war…….in the dungeon. Everybody seemed really into it, arsenals were assembled, then some folks got mad, because “they don’t come to dungeon to engage in foolishness and horseplay” which I thought was insulting to the ponies. There’s lots of stuff that people do in dungeon space that isn’t my cup of tea…. But, ok

So the nerfageddon was going to be before the space opened. I was armed, with nerf all weekend and I had told the organizers if they put my class next to the goreans I was going to nerf them. And I did.

At the time, I thought it was funny. After said incident, I copped to it. Owned it and went to my room to pack, fully expecting they would ask me to leave. In hindsight, not everyone saw the humor in it. I apologized. And as far as I was concerned, it was done.

Now keep in mind it was what? Four? Five years ago?

I mean a certain name presenter got all kinds of mad, and insisted on security for their classes lest I come and disrupt them, I was threatened with assault charges. 16 counts of assault with a nerf dart. The foam squishy kind. And I didn’t get to participate in Nerfageddon.

So a few weeks ago, someone took off after who they perceived to be the weakest member of my Family and told that person that they had to choose, their friendship or mine. Because *I* had no leather values, No moral fiber, and “the ENTIRE M/s community hated me”.

Over something that happened four years ago.

I was proud of my family member. She stood up for herself and explained that this other individuals casual hellos did not mean as much to her as the hard work me and mine had put into as she put it gluing and sticking all the little shattered me pieces after horrible abusive situation with *asshat to be named later*. He tried to make a case about non consent. And maybe there’s something to that, but tens of thousands of people are non consentually nerfed and lead happy productive lives.

But she made a choice to stand up and not be browbeaten. We can make those sorts of choices as well. If you see someone doing something heinous or shady, stand up. Make noise. Don’t wait for someone else to say something first, or fall back on “I don’t want to make a problem”. That’s how the problems become a foothold in our lives. If you see someone being abusive or dangerous, say something. We could learn something from the Amish, and shun them.

I have only myself to blame in my home community. I hardly ever go to anything. I have a job that causes me to get up at 3:10 in the morning. So I don’t go to munches, or discussion groups, they’re all past my bedtime. So I wasn’t there to say “ you know, I think it’s odd that this guy says he’s a photographer, and he only takes pictures of new girls, under the age of 25, and in exchange he “teaches them about D/s, M/s and BDSM, which, oddly looks like a great deal of dicksucking and not much else. “

We can make changes when we build our organizations. Stop picking people who aren’t suited to the task at hand just because they pester you to death, or because they keep showing up. Someone with no social skills shouldn’t be the front man for your club. If someone has anxiety disorder, and is terrified of public speaking, don’t make them the MC. And by the same token, someone who is always broke shouldn’t be the treasurer.

The hulk is not the face of the Avengers.

It’s Captain Freaking America. Because he’s Captain Freaking America.

And hey, I warned you there would be comic book nerd fu, didn’t I? The avengers even lets in REFORMED villains…… Hawkeye, Black Widow; hell, they even let in Tony Stark and he’s an unmitigated asshole. But, he has skills. Like who ELSe can build an insertable arc reactor out of cave parts?

I like that. We should strive to be more like the avengers. Superhero Kink Crusaders ( with apologies to Third rail Media for smushing the name of their wonderful film_ Playing to our strengths would be an amazing change we could bring about. How would THAT make our world better? How would that increase our joy? Bring us peace?

The last part is the trickiest.

The wisdom to know the difference.

That’s why it’s a prayer, I think. I pray for wisdom and patience. But in lieu of prayer, ask. Ask your friends, your family, the people who love and accept you, who have your back. Ask them about the changes you want to make. Maybe they’ll join you and we can all change, bit by bit.

Start with

  • Stop picking people that are unsuitable. And that goes for titles too, you know?
    A superhero I know ( in an alternate universe) said “ a title will not make you what you are not, but it will magnify what you are”.Captain America is the voice and the face and the front man of the Avengers because he’s upright, responsible, trustworthy. Honorable.All those things people blather about in the scene, right? But instead, we’re full of Tony Stark’s leaning on every pretty girl and slacking off on things, Hulks getting in a snit and stomping away, or worse, Hulk Smash-ing everything in their wake.
  • Stop letting the broke people be our treasurers. How many times have we as a community been ripped off, disheartened and scammed when we thought we were doing good? It’s GOT to stop.
  • Assume that you’re giving money that’s going into someone’s pocket. If you can afford to give it away, then do so, but stop expecting accountability, cause clearly we’re not getting that
  • If you have skills out in the real world, step the fuck up. If you KNOW how to form an LLC, don’t act like that’s a state secret, help somebody out. Offer to be the second signer at the charity. Offer to be the check and balance at the fundraiser……. Unless you’re the OTHER broke motherfucker, in which case, you can bake cupcakes.
  • When someone fucks you or fucks your family, you walk away. And you more than likely TELL other friends and acquaintances WHY you think so and so is a butthead. Try THIS: when an organization fucks you or fucks your family, WALK AWAY< and TELL everybody why you did that. Post it on Ello, google plus, faceplace, OWN your shit. Maybe, just maybe, our organizations will be better.
  • Start your own damn thing. Find all the like minded people you know, and do your own thing. Don’t like that X event has a pants check policy for the gender segregated play space? Start your own freakin event.

You can’t please everyone — you probably can’t even please most people. You can live your life perfectly well and still find people who will be nasty, who will disagree, who will make you feel badly for being who you are. You cannot make them any better. You cannot get rid of the people who will reject you, or insult you, or make you cry.

But you can choose not to be one of those people. You can choose not to be around those people. You can choose to be kind, even if the world isn’t always kind to you, and then we can be the change we want to see, and be a little closer to serenity.