It used to be, that if you screwed up with a bottom, there were people around to take you to task for it. Disregard a safeword, touch something that didn’t belong to you, or even hit on a submissive without being polite got you into some serious hot water. You were entitled to make a mistake. Once. A second screw up, and you’d be wondering why your friends never call anymore. Seriously hurt a bottom, even unintentionally, and your odds of finding a place to play or people to play with were significantly diminished.
In my younger days, S&M was a self-policing group of like-minded people. We had to be self-policing because there wasn’t really anyone to do it for us. There were no bulletin boards, classified ads, twitter, or fetlife to post your dirty laundry on. We took care of the problems we found. The few times I remember “those guys” hanging around, well let’s just say they didn’t last long. But it was also rare that anyone new came into our midst alone. Vouching and being responsible for newcomers lasted until they’d proven themselves to be able to handle their toys and themselves in a respectful way. It wasn’t exactly high protocol that you read about in the books. It was more or less that there were certain standards of privacy, respectfulness and skill that were expected from you.
With the internet, there has become for the first time, a way to call attention to unsafe players. This thread on Fetlife is one. Here's another. There have been many others.
It’s difficult to know the whole story. Is it a bad relationship? Is it just something that tweaked a particular person out but that isn’t really that bad? What exactly IS the problem? Take out the emotion of a lot of these posts and boil it down to facts and there's usually too little to work with.
The anonymity of the internet has done a lot to bring kink to people who never had the opportunities I did to find it first with living people. In the flesh. But it also has become a place where dirty laundry is aired in public. Without knowing the story, usually from a single source, and with no independent verification and nobody else who has seen the incident.
What used to be taken care of locally, within each individual community, now seems to be put out on the internet for everyone to view, sympathize with, and proselytize over. It takes extreme courage for a submissive to call out someone that has done something he or she believes to be extremely disturbing or unsafe, to complain if someone has done something to disregard the rules of RACK, to try to warn other submissives that “this person” is evil and not deserving of even HAVING a submissive. But my question is does it do any good in such a large forum as the internet or does it do more harm?
It is true that one person’s nightmare is anothers dream. So it also stands to follow that someone’s complaint is anothers fervent wish. Nobody wants to be the bottom who tittle-tattles. But how many times have we shared information with other bottoms about a particular top? Or taken that shared information and let it become fact? But when you stop observing and become reliant on others’ points of view for your own vetting process, you open yourself up to people who talk from sour apples, self-interest, and yes, even a genuine caring for others.
I’ve seen people wanting to start a “Bad Dom” or “Bad Sub” directory. Tell your story, get some sympathy for all you’ve been through, and publish the bastard’s name on the internet for the world to see! The phrase that always appears on these sorts of things is that the person posting wants to “warn” others against someone else. What it really does though is make the person posting the multi-national, multi-forum warning seem less than objective.
I’d laugh, except this sort of thing happens day in and day out on the internet.
Being involved in the legal field, I think I have a unique perspective on how facts, although never changing, can be viewed in many ways by different people. The same event is tinged by our own perceptions, emotions, and background. When I view these complaints I always ask if there’s any truth to the facts, and if so, how could I verify the outcome?
Do we start BDSM courts to judge each of us on our actions? Which rules are enforceable with certainty and who gets to make the penalties for breaches of the rules? After all, communities have standards right? If we’re going to have those standards, doesn’t it stand to follow that there also needs to be enforcement of them? Just who gets to say who is right and who is wrong?
And it occurs to me that despite the internet, the only way we can really weed out people that are truly unsafe, is right back where I started. In the local community. There are always leaders, con organizers, leather groups, clubs, and party hosts. Those are the people that need to know about problems in our community. Those are the people that can decide whether or not someone should or shouldn’t be invited to partake of our unique brand of togetherness. You can’t truly protect others from someone else in this arena. The truly awful people just move on, change names, and move to other venues. All you can really hope to do is protect yourself.
People who partake of BDSM activities come from all walks of life, all different experiences, and I’ve said time and time again that just because there’s a guy wearing leather and carrying a flogger and some rope, doesn’t mean that he’s any good at either of them. And just because there’s this hot chick with bare tits and ass in the room, doesn’t mean that she’s not capable of having given permission, yet having the “morning regrets” and come after you. There are people who will abide by the community code, and those that wont. Just because we HAVE expected behavioral rules, doesn’t mean that everyone follows them.
I would encourage people who have specific, quantitative, and verifiable complaints about anyone in your local community to indeed let those people know. But do it with not with impassioned diatriabes about “how you felt”, do it with concrete fact. “This Dom did not respect my safeword” is far different from “I heard that so-and-so might have pushed his submissive too far”. One is something that you know from personal experience, and the other is bullshit. If someone is truly unsafe, people should be made aware of that and watched carefully. I know that the rope community is very particular about calling out people whose ropework is unsafe and at least here in Boston, they’re very up front about whether or not someone has gotten hurt. Mostly it’s because others want to know and learn from the mistakes. And everyone does make mistakes. People who continue fucking up, don’t get asked back.
But If you’re just bitching because the guy told you he wasn’t married and all he wanted was a fuck and you fell for it, well....the community can’t and shouldn’t have to, protect you from yourself.
After all, in that example, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was the “guy” who was unsafe. I’d instead think that it might be the submissive that fell for the line and didn’t do her own fact-checking.