Brotherhood

Memorial Day Weekend. When SCA members everywhere that the Knowne World intersects with the United States drag their camping gear out from under stairs, in garages, and out of closets and gear up for the first big camping event of the summer season. The birthday of one of our good friends fell on Saturday of the holiday weekend. Was there ever any possibility that there WOULDN’T be a great camp party? There was not.

The core group was full of some of my favorite people. Birthday Guy, his knight, both of their wives. One of the Grand Old Men Dukes, who played an important role in the early days of the SCA before the Outlands was even a kingdom principality; two of his many squires, one of whom is now a knight as well. Other people drifted in and out over the course of the evening. I spent most of it on one side of the circle, in a cluster of four or five women, conversing off-and-on amongst ourselves but mostly listening to the stories told by this group of fascinating, hilarious, and very smart guys.

I also got to spend a good chunk of the weekend with one of my best friends; his wife, who I don’t know quite as well but also consider a dear friend; and her boyfriend, who I had only met a couple of times before and only briefly, and was delighted to spend some time getting to know. These people are among the best-functioning examples of out poly in the kingdom, and I’m admiring, observing, and learning from them as I work on my own ideas of how sexual orientation and relationship structure intersect with the game.

I talk a lot about the SCA and feminism – how much of women’s history is embodied history, about experimental archaeology as a practice of telling women’s stories, how women’s culture in the kitchen, in the sewing circle, in the encampment, in the hafla is as literal and pure a re-enactment as anything the SCA does, enacting again, both an echo of something historical and a thing that is new and real in its own right. But, although I’d known it, more or less, that weekend snapped into focus something that I’d never thought much about or articulated before: how extremely well the SCA does at offering models for healthy, emotionally honest, deeply loyal and loving male friendship.

The first thing that hit me when I rejoined the world was the news of the UCSB shootings. I’ve been turning over in my head for days, how badly our society equips men for fear and vulnerability, especially interpersonal, emotional vulnerability. How to relate to women. How to relate to other men. How to relate to change, to uncertainty, to success, to failure. Many men figure it out on their own, but too many never do. These guys, so isolated, so full of rage and confusion and so burdened with a frustrated sense of entitlement, so lost; only a few of them will ever pull a trigger, but for every one that does, there are a hundred that are walking around in their own seething internal hell. I know them, we all do, but they are so unlike the men in my circle of friends. Men who have love, respect, and admiration for both men and women in their lives, and who know how to express it. Men who, in their oaths of fealty and their brotherhoods and their orders, have articulated contexts of expression for those feelings that are not only socially acceptable, but expected. Men who learn skills for navigating those feelings in a community where those skills are taught, modeled, and rewarded.

We’re by no means perfect, and we have a lot of problems. (The particular flavor of hookup culture that the SCA practices – “if you can’t get laid at Pennsic…” – and the rate of sexual harassment associated with it is A REALLY BIG PROBLEM.) But we’re doing something RIGHT, too. Is there a way that we can raise this up, bring it out into the world and to the other communities we move within?

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