Häkki interrogates is our new questionnaire series, in which we interview our members with foreign backgrounds. We bite into the scene of the Helsinki metropolitan area as seen by foreigners, and we investigate what got our interviewees interested in Häkki.
Hey, introduce yourself briefly to everyone
Hello, I’m (Zl)Omar, originally from Czechia, one of those beer countries of Central Europe. Still a noobie to the community which I dared to join at last more than year ago, even though my mind had been polluted with sort of kinky thoughts since my kindergarten days.
What lured you into Häkki and when did you join?
If I remember correctly it was a great pitch about the organisation given by Peltsi at one of the regular munches about a year ago. Even though I was as bewildered as Gigi was finding out there can be a sex related university affiliated organisation (coming from a country where academia is officially as puritan as some of the orthodox churches) it eventually started making lot of sense to me. Who better than kinky academics to provide space, that goes beyond the regular meeting and playing, offering all the courses, workshops, moderated discussions and way more.
Did you participate in the events of the BDSM scene in your home country? If you did participate any events or munches how would you compare them with the ones we have in Finland?
The first event I’ve ever gone to actually took place in my hometown. I was already living in Finland and visiting my precious motherland more or less as a tourist and that tourist mentality of “experience everything” pushed me to overcome my social anxiety and sign up for a sort of munch at a local pub. However, it was one month later when I found my favourite community at a hole in the wall downtown Helsinki.
And thanks to that relative short gap between those events, both visited as a new self-appointed member of the community, I could easily compare the still fresh first-time experience. It struck me how relatively different they were. Despite the language barrier the Finnish one came from the duel as the more welcoming, friendly and open-minded. There goes all the stereotypes about Finns as an asocial nation. Furthermore, as a part of my personal research and kind of introvert’s masochistic torment, I try to visit one local event every time I return back home. To my surprise another rather peculiar difference emerged over the course of my visits. The Czech scene appears to be more tribalistic. At least when it comes to sexual and gender identities, I noticed that at events people were gravitating toward groups of their own peers while keeping somehow safe distance from the others. I’ve never experienced this in Finland where everyone seems to mingle with everyone. It might make sense given the difference of socio-cultural progress. And even though Czechia is one of the more progressive post-communist countries with the lowest burden of religious puritanism, those 40 years of totalitarian regime (supposedly equalitarian but in fact way more hierarchical) are still keeping its dent in the society. Also disclaimer here, my “research” is very crappy and would not withstand a peer review, so please don’t cite me on this. Proper inquiry need to be done.
Is the Finnish BDSM scene welcoming to those who don’t speak the language?
Yes, definitely! When attending my first munch here I was half expecting to sit silently in a corner and with a dimwit smile on my face creepily stare at others, as is my good habit. Stare and nod to a conversation in a language I don’t understand just to appear like I’m part of it, meanwhile asking myself why am I still here when I have such a problem to utter a single word. But despite my expectation, this did not happen. That evening I was actually talking with people. And I was talking way more than during my previous munch in Czechia, where I had the benefit of my native language. Since then there was a group of people at most of the gatherings I had been to, which was able to hold a conversation in English. That said I guess the language can still be a barrier sometimes, but the only solution to it is just to learn Finnish. And in this the willingness of the community to speak English might even be an obstacle, as it leaves one in a sort of middle space of “good to learn but not necessary to survive”. However, such is the common struggle of us, the privileged English speakers living in Helsinki
Are there any challenges that you face as a foreigner?
Aside of the language I guess there aren’t many. Despite the picture I might have given about my home country, Czechia is more culturally similar to Finland than it isn’t. And even if it wasn’t, the reign of the internet and the effect of globalisation in general would dull the sharpest edges cultures hold between each other. Sexuallity is something people share across the borders of nations and cultures. Culture can only shape the way we perceive sexuality, but cannot suppress sexuality as it is. And people who found their way to the scene probably already overcome the biggest challenge of defying their own culture’s perception. So as Gigi pointed out in her own interview (which is excellent and you should read it, if you haven’t already), it boils down to the people’s personalities. And that is where the biggest challenges lay.
Do you have any unforgettable experiences in the BDSM events/munches you would like to share with others?
Well as a noobie, the whole introduction to the scene is definitely an unforgettable experience. However, if I should pinpoint one moment, it would be the first party I’ve been to here in Finland. Witnessing the overwhelming amount of different debaucheries taking place there, one caught my eyes. And it was one not particularly explicit. A scene of two chess players dressed in what appears to be nazi uniforms (which I hope they wear for their transgressive and aesthetic values and not the ideological one). There they were, sitting in a corner, way more silent than most of the other “players”, yet as much focused on the seemingly non-erotic play of their own. And then it struck me, the inherent eroticism of a chess game. The ongoing powerplay, the everchanging dominance and submission of minds. Every move leading to a possible scenario of a king, limited in his maneuvering, at the mercy of an omnipotent queen, dancing with a curious knights or even humiliated by an inferior pawn. At that moment I was truly introduced to the vast world of kink. Actually not really, I just thought it was an interesting example of how variable the kinky experience can be.
Any words of encouragement to those who are still questioning whether or not they should participate events?
I would say “do it”! But I understand it can be hard. Harder for some than others. After all your mere presence at such event already exposes your most intimate self. The part of self which in my case not even my parents and closest friends know (until they accidentally stumble upon this interview or my fetlife profile). It can be weird and awkward. But most of the people in the scene went through it as well and they know how it feels. Recalling my own first experience, I must admit even moments before I was about to get through the entrance, I hesitated, pondering whether I really should enter the place, what kind of people awaits me on the other side of that door. A circle of some sociopathic deSadian libertines who use their position and power to satisfy the lust regardless of others’ rights, feelings and consent? Or even worse some family relative or acquaintance, former teacher of mine, or a childhood friend? Fortunately it turns out they were just ordinary folks, “fellow pervs” as they called themselves, none of them linked to my past or present. And even if I met there someone I know, we would probably just have a laugh about it. After all, we would happen to be on the same boat.
I can only speak for myself if I say joining the scene was one of my better decision in life. I finally got the community I can discuss things with I had never discussed with anyone else. The community I can learn from. And of course the community I can experience stuff with I would only dream of. Moreover, I would say Häkki and the Finnish community in general are one of the best to join. They are big enough to be fairly diverse, but not too big to lose their sense of togetherness. It is spectrum of respectful and open-minded people (at least most of them from my experience) and if you approaches them with the same respect and open-mindness, they will welcome you with open arms.