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Goth ≠ Fetish: Goth and Allied Scenes

One of the things that makes the Gothic subculture (“Goth”) very difficult to define, even for insiders, is the overlap with what I will call “allied scenes.”

Usually there is no clear-cut delineation between allied scenes and Goth, and some allied scenes are so frequently associated with Goth that the relationship appears, especially for outsiders, to be a necessary one. The Punk, Post-Punk, Death-Rock, and Industrial music scenes have histories with Goth that are so intertwined that pure definitions exist only in the realm of purely academic musical hair-splitting. In terms of the social scenes there are no such definitions and the boundaries are entirely fluid. It's only the rare extreme purist that doesn't drift into the undefinable common ground between one scene and the next.

There are, however other allied scenes where the intersections are shallower and the flow between one scene and the other is far less fluid. For example, Ravers and Cybergoths share some common ground. Cybergoth is unambiguously a genre of the larger Goth scene, but it is not the entire scene by any means. For a large percentage of Goths there is no intersection with the Rave scene. Similarly there is intersecting ground between Goths of the Victorian and Romantigoth ilk with Steampunk, and Industrial also has an intersection with Steampunk, but there are a great number of Steampunks who are in no way interested in the Goth or Industrial scenes.

Another intersecting allied scene that Goth is often confused with, is the fetish scene. Goth and its progenitor scenes, Punk, Post-Punk and Death-Rock, often borrowed and continue to borrow from the aesthetics of fetish clothing. In the early days of Punk and Goth, particularly here in Vancouver, gay-bars and fetish clubs were among the only places a punk or a goth could hang-out, drink, and dance a little without danger of being shit-kicked by a pack of yobs from the suburbs.

Goths use the term “goth-friendly” to describe these allied subcultures. It's because of the goth-friendly nature of the fetish scene that events like Sin City appear here on Gothic BC. Most of the attendees at Sin City do not consider themselves to be Goth by any stretch of the imagination, and many would be offended to be called “goth.” Likewise many goths, even those (and I can include myself in this group) who regularly attend fetish-themed nightclub events, don't have any particular interest in the fetish scene on a whole.

There are no purely Goth events in BC, even here in Vancouver. Long ago in the early 1990's when Goth was getting its second wind there were a couple of regular events that focused in on the Goth/Punk/Industrial trinity and approached being as close to “purely” goth events as it gets, but not even the mythic London Batcave was ever wholly and exclusively Goth. The Goth content of various goth-friendly events now and in the past has fluctuated, washing across the elusive boundaries of the various allied scenes. Even the long-standing cornerstone night of the current Goth scene, Sanctuary, lists “Goth” in the long list of alternative music genres (if the word “Goth” is included at all) describing the night on their promotional material.

The only time you'll every see almost entirely Goth events, where Goth music and Goth attendees are the primary focus, are in the context of larger annual events and festivals with a predominantly Goth focus, like alt.gothic Convergence, Wave-Gotik-Treffen, Whitby Goth Weekend, Blue Moon, and the like. And even then, the wide overlaps with closely allied scenes means there is no shortage of representation from the Punk, Post-Punk, Industrial and Death-Rock scenes (and, conversely, events focused on those scenes, like New York's Death-Rock focused Drop-Dead Festival has no shortage of Goth representation).

In practise, even in large cities with flourishing Goth scenes like London, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, L.A., Berlin, Melbourne, New Orleans and others, it's next to impossible to maintain regular Goth events without latching onto allied scenes in order to round out the numbers and keep the nightclub owners interested. The fact of the matter is that gay-bars and fetish-nights have a more reliable draw than even a generalized “alternative” night, and are often the only goth-friendly night-club option on any given night. It is not possible to make assumptions about an individual goth's sexual proclivities (or by extension any assumptions about the sexual proclivities of goths in general) based on goth attendance at goth-friendly events that happen to have sexual themes.

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