Friday, November 4, 2011

Just Ducky

Septimus and I were having dinner last night when the subject of consent came up again. It usually does after I’ve spent any amount of time perusing things online. I mentioned that I really didn’t want to get involved with a simple “yes means yes” or “no means no” kind of thing. He asked me why. I told him bluntly that relying SOLELY on a change in the attitude of the person who is intent on harming someone will always be a failure and that both of those phrases seemed to put the focus on forgetting that there were people in this world that, no matter what anyone said, will still harm you.

Then he told me a story.

There was a scorpion on the bank of a river. The scorpion wanted to cross the river, but because he WAS a scorpion and couldn’t swim, he couldn’t figure out how to do it. The scorpion waited for a while, looking for options, and finally a duck swam by on the river.

The scorpion called to the duck “hey duck! I need a lift to the other side of the river- can you help me out?” The duck, eyeing the scorpion warily said “are you fucking kidding me? you’re a SCORPION and will sting me!”.

The scorpion and the duck went back and forth, the scorpion asking for a lift and saying that he wouldn't sting the duck; and the duck saying that the scorpion was dangerous. Finally, the duck relented and said “ long as you won’t sting me, hop on and I’ll give you a lift”.

About half way across the river, the scorpion stung the duck.

The duck said “ARE YOU STUPID?! Now we’re both going to drown! You SAID you wouldn’t sting me!

To which the scorpion replied “you KNEW I was a scorpion, right?”

If one is a duck, despite promises to the contrary, despite how things appear, and despite how you WANT things to be different, you still gotta remember that a scorpion will always sting you.

Photo courtesy of Good Weather for Ducks

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Google is Creepy

For most people, we try to draw a fine line between having fun on the internet with our kink, and keeping that fun out of our employer’s, family’s, or civic organization’s hands. We don’t mind talking about the great beating we got (or gave) on Friday night, but we don’t really want our next potential employer, ex spouse, or custody-deciding judge to know about it.

Ever since I had a problem with someone on Fetlife, I’ve kept a watch on his profile. At first it was because he kept posting shit about me on his own pictures (so I couldn’t remove it). Then it turned into a sort of sociology experiment- could this asshat actually learn enough from the internet to get a decent profile together and draw in someone?

Thankfully, in almost a year of checking up on his profile, he still hasn’t figured it out. In fact, he’s garnered several groups specifically designed to call attention to his asshattery, dozens of blog posts about it (not just mine), and even had a fetish named for him. But when he started posting pictures of very young girls, I became concerned (yes, I DO actually report those kinds of pictures). Suffice to say that I’m not the only one keeping an eye on this douchenozzle.

When I tweeted about his latest exploits, one of my friends tweeted back that my behavior was bordering on “scary stalker territory”. That threw me for a little bit of a loop. Was I being stalkerish? In order to know that, I had to figure out why this guy’s antics fascinated me so much. And what my motivations were for keeping an eye on him.

And then I realized that it wasn’t so much about him, as it was about him being the poster boy for all of the other creepy, wanker, jackasses who find our online kink world and instead of using it to explore kink in a really cool way, they use it as a means to bring the rest of us into their fantasy. For the most part- unconsensually. From comments on pictures, to trolling groups, to posting stolen pictures as their own, to sending the same idiotic messages to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people- without regard for the person receiving such messages. To them, the people on the internet aren’t “real”. He’s become the focal point for all of those douchenozzles that have found our way into our community spaces, our munches and our online world who just don’t fucking “get it”. Sadly- his example isn’t unique.

But back to my point- when watching this guys profile change almost daily, it became clear that he didn’t know very much about how the internet worked. He thought that his Fetlife profile was his own site, he thought that everyone was there for the same reason he was- namely to find someone to act as a conduit for living out his fantasy. But what was most interesting to me was that he posted several versions of his “story”, using real locations and names of the people involved. From there, it wasn’t difficult to actually FIND him.

He posted his email address on one thread. Googling that one turned up his real name, his OKCupid profile, and his blog. Googling his real name gave me his address, telephone number, his wife and children’s names, and even his birthdate and last four digits of his social security number. From there, it was easy to get a picture of his neighborhood, find out about his service record, his birthdate and his income. And I never touched any of the “other databases” that are easily accessed for small fees. Or for that matter, did I bother with Ancestry, county property records or any of the other hundreds of databases that are available for free.

It was scary how much I found out about this guy from a simple posting of an email address.

And it made me think about how easy it would be to ACTUALLY stalk someone. It also made it perfectly clear to me that even if we THINK we cover our own tracks, it’s nearly impossible to do so. For someone with time, a few dollars and motivation, it’s all too easy to find out too much information. It doesn’t take a genius and in fact- the tools available to do it are so easily found on Google that it probably wouldn’t even take my grandmother more than a few clicks to do it. There would be few things worse for many of us than to be outed in our online lives. It’s as easy for stalkers, ex spouses, judges, lawyers and employers to get this information as it is for me to do it.

So, I wonder- have you stalked yourself online lately?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fifteen Minutes

I had a quiet weekend at home this past weekend. I got some things done I’d been wanting to do, and I was able to relax. The stress of being part of “The Community” was beginning to bring me down.

I’d been undergoing a sort of metamorphosis over the past few months. From wanting to hang around kinky people doing kinky shit to simply wanting to stay more along the fringes- choosing things that mattered to me, not choosing them simply because they were there. I told Septimus a few weeks back, that I wasn’t having any “fun”. But what it really is is that I’m not having fun doing what I’ve been expected to do as part of “The Community”.

I’m not having fun at conventions. The reason I’m not having fun is that because for the most part- it’s the same people, same classes, same instructors over and over again. After you’ve attended a dozen or more of the same convention, shopped at the same vendors, seen the same classes and spent a long weekend spending too much money with too little return, it gets tiresome. After about 15 minutes in any class, I'm ready to head back to my hotel room, snuggle up in bed, and order room service.

I’m not having fun at classes for much of the same reasons. There aren’t enough interesting classes being taught by “no-name” people with unique points of view. The “money” is the Graydancers, Midoris and Lochais. But when you’ve seen them a dozen times, finding a fresh point of view becomes difficult. This isn’t a crack about whether those top echelons should teach at an event or not, but very often I find myself drawn to the classes by someone I haven’t seen before simply because I’m curious about what THEY have to show me. The big names are good for about 15 minutes, but beyond that, for me, it all starts to be the same.

I’m not having fun at munches for obvious reasons, I think. Too many of them are too large, too chaotic, and run too much like a place solely to meet a potential play partner. And too many of them have an element that is uncomfortable for me personally to be around. Too many with boundary issues and with a lack of social skills to match. Fifteen minutes into any munch, I've already explained several times that "no, I'm not A submissive...."and I’m ready to call it a day.

And I’m not having fun at parties. Most are too large for my liking, with few places to play or even to just sit and talk while waiting to play. Getting dressed up, planning a scene, and waiting several hours before finding out that we won’t be able to do it is aggravating. Watching large scenes as a performance is pretty standard nowadays and as hot as they sometimes can be, having someone else’s scene take over an entire room for a couple of hours just makes me wonder why I bothered to go in the first place.

I sit and think about all the weekends I spent at parties and conventions and classes and wondered if any of it made any bit of difference in my life. Did playing in public make my life better? Or did it just give people a false assumption about me? And I wonder if now, that I’ve formed several close relationships with people, most of which have become my own sort of "core friend group" is it really even necessary for me to dress up in fetish wear, worry about photographs being taken, or wonder which person at *this* party is gonna be the dude/tte who will be out of line and unaware of boundaries. I spent so much time floating from one event to another, one party to another, one fifteen minute scene to another, that nothing I was doing seemed more than a blip on my radar. Forgotten about within the time span of a plate of pancakes after the party. When you’re looking forward to sitting with friends AFTER the party at IHOP for pancakes, more than the party itself- something has to give.

I blame the internet for a lot of my apathy. Being part of The Community, it was too easy to get wrapped up in the various shitstorms, personality conflicts, opinions and wankerdoodles. I’d look at profiles of people posting on Fetlife and my first reaction many times was “what a shithead”. I was beginning to view Fetlife as just another place where horny guys came to view all the titty shots- without having to pay for them. And just another place where it started to draw the kinds of people who think that they’re watching some sort of freak show happening right on their computer screen- and the freaks are the girls who are obviously all whores- who would happily fall upon their cock like a woman with her first pair of Louboutins.

Other than to wish a friend a happy birthday, I’ve stayed off Fetlife for the past week or so. I’ve stayed out of groups, I haven’t read threads, I stopped looking at Lopresto’s profile, and I haven’t missed it. If I want to find my friends- I know that they’re seldom there as well. And I know that if something is pretty funny- they’ll let me know about it. I don’t have to be on Fetlife to keep in touch with my friends. Friends have my email address and phone number.

I realized that I don’t really miss knowing what a particular friend did at the party I didn’t go to. I don’t miss knowing which munch had problems, or which person caused the problem. I also don’t miss having to watch spider pictures appear on my wall from jackasses who think they’re pretty funny.

So what does all this mean? Damned if I really know. Right now I’m on a low point. I’ve removed the things that I don’t find fulfilling from my life. I’ve worked on making the few remaining things more important. I’m working on developing my closest friendships and sadly letting the others slide away to where they probably belonged in the first place. I’m working on things that make me happy, while removing the things that brought stress and anxiety to my life. I’ve decreased my online presence to the few places where I can actually have a conversation with my kinky pals about things other than kink, and I’ve recommitted myself to saying no to things that I’d ordinarily do just because they were there.

I figured out that being kinky was a lot of hard work but it was also a model that kept increasing my expectations about what being kinky was. I want to get back to where I was before. I liked it there and it was comfortable for me. Having a smaller view of the wide-kinky world, taking what worked for me and leaving the rest to others is just right for me.

I’m done with having my life lived in fifteen minute slices.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Question of Good

"So, Silver- tell me how I'm supposed to KNOW if my bottom is consenting or if they're just saying yes and tomorrow I'll be in big trouble?"

That was a question that was in my email this morning.

I took that to mean- “How can ‘Yes Means Yes’ when “non-confrontational” (read “submissive-type) personalities will say yes anyway and I'll be in huge trouble and accused of all sorts of heinous things by someone who wasn't truthful with me?”

The simple answer is don’t play with those types of people. Don’t play with people who can’t be an active participant in whatever you’re doing. Don’t play with people who can’t say no, as well as yes. But then things aren't ever as simple as that, are they?

You want a harder answer? Dominants love the whole idea of submissives NOT saying no to them. It’s really awesome to have a submissive that will do whatever he/she is told, without complaint, without question. Our erotica, our books, our “submissive training” all play into the idea that somehow submissives must always “go along with” whatever is dished out by dominants. However, in my experience, it's never so much about what a dominant expects from their bottom (mind you...we're talking real life here and not weekend fantasy bedroom play) as what a bottom expects that makes them a "good little submissive".

“Good” dominants know this isn’t always the truth and seldom really want a stepford sub. Most dominants I know want someone who knows him/herself enough to know how to simply say no when it’s something outside of a negotiation, outside of an agreed-upon contractual limit. “Good” dominants will listen to the concerns of their bottom and talk about a NO. “Good dominants” usually also insist that their submissives FILL IN THE BLANKS with the information that the top is missing to make an informed decision. Tops aren’t mindreaders. I don’t think that particular phrase is said often enough.

But what truly good dominants do is help their submissives learn how to actually disagree, say no, or question. You want to help the problem of “non-confrontational personalities” saying yes when they really mean no? Teach them how to say what they want. Game playing with yes and no can be sexy too. Teach your submissives that no is an acceptable answer. Teach them how to stand their ground, stick with it, and that not only is a NO expected from time to time, but insist upon it. "No, I said I will not fuck you" should be praised and rewarded the same as "Yes, I want you to fuck me".

The problem becomes when some self-styled dominants don’t care what their bottom says. They don’t listen anyway. And when the good dominants don’t want to hear no from time to time, it becomes difficult for submissives to figure out who's who.

Submissives want to please. It’s inherent in our nature to want to please their dominant. Most submissives think that to mean that they don’t have any power to say no. Our culture thrives on the erotica version of consent, which is to say that bottoms aren't asked, they're told. When they DO say no, they get told they’re “topping from the bottom” or that they aren’t “twue submissives”. As a dominant, you're gonna have to expect no's from time to time, or you're helping build the culture of "okay..whatever". Isn’t it better to hear an actual “No” from time to time than to wonder about semantics and underlying motives of a "yes"? If you knew that you were playing with someone who had no problem saying no, wouldn't it just be easier?

You wanna help this situation? Help your submissives understand that they are an ACTIVE participant in what happens to them. Make them say “yes” and “no” while doing anything. Make them verbally assent and verbally deny what they want. If you’re in a owner/owned relationship, make them understand that by learning how to say NO and YES is what you want them to learn. Make them understand that only by practicing YES and NO to each activity, will they truly learn how to keep safe from the people who never hear no anyway.

This isn’t the Chateau where submissives have no real choice in their own personal responsibility. For the most part, I’ve never actually heard of any D/s or M/s based relationship where the little “s” part isn’t given a voice.

I know this is hard for those of us that play with consensual non-consent, who are in D/s relationships, for those of us into fear, humiliation, and the thousands of other things we do to each other. But as dominants you must help your bottoms learn how to say no to you. The only hope they have of saying no to anyone is to learn how to say it to someone they trust.

After all, protecting your toys from harm IS a responsibility that one has when you choose to play with them. Help your toys learn that saying no isn't the end of the relationship, the end of the scene or the end of their submissiveness. It's a beginning to a path where both tops and bottoms can both take personal responsibility for themselves, while cockblocking those that will never hear no, no matter how loud it's said.

But if you want the best answer- here's what I got. Stop trying to figure out what the other side of the slash wants and just worry about what you do.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Extrapolate to Your Circumstances and Move On.

I’ve found over time that I need to take lengthy Twitter “holidays”. I don’t read or tweet at all. Sometimes, it just becomes “too much” for me. There’s sometimes a mob mentality on Twitter, sometimes it’s too emo for the day, sometimes there’s subjects I’d rather not read, and sometimes trying to even flirt with your boyfriend gets people's panties in a twist. It all gets spewed out on a tweetstream. And sometimes people jump in, without knowing any of the backstory, and usually without even asking a simple question “what do you mean by that?”

One of the things I LOVE most about Twitter is that, simply by ASKING that question- I can learn damned near anything I’d ever want to. I can view differing opinions and question divergent life experiences. Every socio-politico-economic-religious viewpoint you’d want to know about is Right. There. On. Twitter. For the asking.

I’ve been on a Twitter holiday for the past week or so. During that time, I’ve rarely tweeted. I’m still a little pissed off that people think it’s okay to butt in on a conversation, assuming they know what the fuck people are talking about and getting offended that our conversations don't always stop to include their circumstances.

I’m beginning to wonder if people have forgotten that one behaves online in social media- well...sociably? Have people forgotten HOW to actually HAVE a conversation? Here's a hint: It's probably not a good idea to break into a conversation and accuse someone of being an insensitive asshole because their conversation didn't include your specific raison d'etre.

I have a special affinity for Twitter. I love popping in, having a small bite of conversation, and continuing along my day. As Septimus said once “it’s like having a water cooler conversation”. It’s especially useful for me because I don’t actually have a watercooler (or people) where I work. It breaks up my day, and I’ll admit- sometimes I get carried away with it. Especially when flirting with Septimus.

I have a pretty terrific “core group” of people that I tweet with and I seldom have problems there. There's another group of people I tweet with occasionally where I have to be prepared to explain things ad naseum before we can figure out that what we each said wasn't meant as a literal analysis. And then there's a third group of people- the ones that don't really know me who see an out-of-context tweet and get their panties in a bunch.

One of the things about Twitter that often makes it difficult for me is that third group. The other people who find their way into a conversation, midstream, without background, and THINK they know what you’re talking about. And only having a partial conversation showing on their tweetstream, they sometimes get it very wrong.

Just the other day, I was in kind of a bad mood. Septimus knows that when I get like that, I go to Twitter to get cheered up. He also knows that I “read more into” his tweets than he says. That’s part of the benefit of being in a relationship with someone. That shorthand that you learn to pick up over time. We’ve developed a twitter style between the two of us that (so I’ve been told) is quite cute to watch. But mostly, we started using twitter to flirt with each other and we’ve continued in that vein. If Klout had a “knowledgeable about someone” stat, we’d be at the top of each other’s list.

But as I said, I was in a bad mood and he knows what puts me in a better one. So he started tweeting tips about cocksucking. They were tips designed to make me smile. But more importantly, the were tips about how HE liked to have HIS cock sucked. Someone broke into the conversation, perhaps after only seeing one or two of his tweets, and got offended at Septimus’ “generalities”. Another person got bothered by the fact that he was tweeting about cocksucking as if MALES with PENISES were the only people who had their cocks sucked! [I’m not trying to start a gender war here, but seriously?] We’re in a heteronormative-cisgendered-monogamous relationship. Of COURSE he was tweeting about his penis! That’s the only one that interests ME! (and him, I daresay)

At first, when those tweets started showing up on my stream, I got pretty hot under the collar (hee hee). I had dozens of “fuck you PC police” tweets ready to go, when I figured I just needed a break. I sent a last tweet that said something along the lines of “ I can’t even use twitter to flirt with my fucking boyfriend without the goddamned kinky PC police getting their panties in a twist?” (or something along those lines). Then the DM’s started.

One really great tweep- ginger_snap, DM’d me with what has become my mantra for dealing with the nonsense that happens on Twitter: “extrapolate to your circumstances and move on”.

And, with those words- Twitter suddenly became clear.

People don’t “extrapolate to their circumstances”. See a tweet- especially a passive/aggressive one- and it must be directed at you, personally. See something on twitter and it must be directed to the world as a whole. Specifics become generalities and people forget that with only 140 characters, one just CAN’T cover every conceivable permutation of relationship, gender, sexuality, fluidity or experience. We tweet to our own experience and regarding our own circumstances, but social media has fostered a belief that people expect that our experience and circumstance is the SAME as theirs (or at least should include theirs).

And it very well may be- but only if they’re willing to extrapolate to their own circumstances. Don’t like how we tweet about cis-gendered cocksucking? Extrapolate to your own damned circumstance and move on. Don’t like what’s being said about polyamory? Extrapolate to your own damned circumstance and move on. Don’t like how someone’s relationship appears on twitter? Extrapolate to Your Circumstances and Move On.

With only 140 characters a tweet, the ONLY think that’s for certain is that not everything is germane to your circumstances. So extrapolate to your circumstances and move on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ABC's of Kink and Abuse

Some of the Things We Could Do, or Do Better
and the Elephant in the Room

Part One: Abuse and Consent
Part Two: Personal Responsibility and Community Obligation

First things first. We need to admit that we simply cannot make abuse and consent issues go away. As in the "vanilla world"- abuse and consent issues will always exist. There will always be people who hurt and get hurt. We can't change the minds of others. We can't FORCE people to behave correctly or how "we" think they should. But we can change how we talk about this issue and perhaps add a more realistic note to all of the fun, kinky, sexy stuff that we do.

It's never easy to figure out what to do in this situation. For many, it will simply be "do nothing". And if that's what they did, that'd be the lesser of all of the evils. Unfortunately, too often, people just don't "do nothing". Instead, they focus on telling others that they also shouldn't get involved, that they can't understand why anyone else would get involved, or even that the people who are involved are "drama queens" intent on destroying civilization as we know it. That may be an overstatement, but this thread outlines some of the more common reactions: Leadership Forum

If you want to "do nothing, then Do. Nothing. Don't speak out against those who are trying to find a way to deal with the issues; don't choose sides; and don't tell others that they only way to deal with this is to stay out of it. If you want to do nothing. Then do us all a favor and DO THAT.

But for the rest of us who don't want to sit idly by watching people get hurt because they actually BELIEVE all the malarky we spout about how bdsm and abuse shouldn't even be used in the same sentence together, here's some things that I think we could do better. We could incorporate these ideas into our own groups, munches, events, classroom materials and PERSONAL interactions with others.

It still won't make a difference to someone with a different agenda, but we're not talking to those kinds of people anyway. We just want to provide barriers to the ease in which they find their targets among our groups.

Talk more about personal responsibility, recognizing that underneath any relationship, D/s, M/s, playpartners or friendship, that each of us is ultimately responsible for ourselves. Don’t let people get into the mindframe that “whatever a dom says, is gospel” or that “submissives can’t ever say no and still be a submissive”. There is a time and place for learning about someone else, trusting someone else, and negotiating around yes and no, but the first hundred conversations you have with someone about kink, meeting kinky people or playing should not ever include “you must obey from the get go” or “you must be obeyed from the get go”. Trust is earned through repeated actions and we need to do everything we can to discourage the newbies to our scene from thinking that everyone who calls him/herself by any title is actually that or that they live by some ephemeral epitome of whatever they've got in their head about how someone else should act.

Within your groups of friends, your munch groups, your party groups, start a peer mentorship program. A REAL mentorship program...not a dom mentoring or training a young submissive, not grooming or trolling play partners. There ARE people who can make mentorship work and have no expectation of ever becoming anything more to the person than just a friend or sounding board. You know who they are. Every single group of people I’ve ever met has those people who sincerely and only want to help someone find their way without getting hurt. Encourage submissives to talk with other submissives- especially ones outside of their own peer group. Dominants need to be mentored in the same way. Many need to recognize that they are fully capable of being a dominant and still hearing and understanding the simple word “no”; or- if you're on the other side of the slash- that one's submissive "track record" isn't going to be tarnished by saying and STICKING to no, either.

Have a plan in place for when things do get fucked up and reported to you. This is the hardest one of all and the one that I think that people are the most afraid of. Ask the person harmed “what would they like to see happen?" Ask "how you can help”. And then do it. Have a list of support groups, rape counselors, trauma and abuse hotlines at the ready. Most of all, figure out if you’re willing to be the person others can come to for help and support, and if you’re not - then don’t put yourself into a position of perceived authority. If it turns out that there was in fact some sort of "malicious intent" by the person complaining, THAT also needs to be dealt with. Figure out how you would handle this situation if someone came to you. Figure out how you'd deal with it if it were between a "known person" in the community and an "unknown one". Figure out how you'd deal with it if it happened to a friend; a stranger; or someone you thought least likely to be on either side of this issue. If you are a group leader, make sure that people coming into your groups KNOW that this will be how these matters are dealt with.

If you're not going to "get involved in personal problems" then tell people that up front. Let them decide for themselves whether they truly have a "community" within your group, or if they should look elsewhere. Being open and sex positive doesn't necessarily mean being all-inclusive. We all have friends that we can rely upon for support- who have your back. Decide whether yours is strong enough to deal with these issues when they're happening to friends of friends, strangers or people who have stumbled across our subculture through reading material and Fetlife. Decide how you would deal with it.

Be willing to step up for someone. Sometimes all a person needs is a buffer to stop a very bad situation from ever happening. Step up to the plate and be willing to be that person. Competent caring members of YOUR community should be publicly available to advocate for people who have trouble speaking out. If something happens at a munch or party and a person is too intimidated to go to an organizer by themselves, they should know that they have someone who will go with them and make the case. The point isn’t actually whether they receive justice … the point is telling the story, over and over and over until the shift happens. After all if victims of child sexual abuse didn’t start to speak up 30 years ago, we still wouldn’t believe it happens much would we? ~KinkInMotion

Don’t lend your credibility or reputation lightly. Reputations and credibility are very difficult to keep when you continue inviting people to your events who are known to have issues with consent. Unfair as it is, if you keep inviting these sorts of people into your midst, or if you choose to ignore multiple reports about the same person and constantly side with them despite those reports because "you've never had issues with them personally"- then you are lending your reputation and credibility to them.

There ARE issues that we can incorporate into our pre-existing educational programs. Mostly it has a lot to do with teaching people that the kinky “community” is just a smaller subculture of the world’s population. Sometimes, they’ll be really wonderful and play by the rules and sometimes they’ll also be complete and utter jackasses. We also need to be clear that we don't really know who they are until after they've done a lot of damage; that we don't know most of the people we're "friends" with enough to either vouch for them or preach against them; and that we don't have things in place YET to deal with these issues.

There's a lot going on here and only a small portion is about consent alone. You can preach consent until you're blue in the face, but the real issue is in how we deal with what happens when someone doesn't give a flying fuck whether or not his or her partner gives it.

We need to have a fundamental attitude shift in that we've got to stop believing everything we say is heard and understood AND practiced by everyone. We need to make sure people understand that there's no way to know who is walking the walk and who is just talking the talk.

The Elephant in the Room

I presented on these issues recently. I made several mistakes - mostly that I really didn't know what to expect from the attendees. I'd had hundreds of messages about what was going on in my local community and thought I'd known what people needed to hear. My first mistake was that I didn't realize that I wasn't speaking to a group of people who knew me and that my brand of "pit bull humor" didn't go over well when speaking about such a serious topic. My second mistake was not realizing the extent of the "bad things" that people wanted to talk about.

I had a lot of information that I wanted to impart, but ended up getting through less than 1/10th of my material. While I think that education is a vital element in combating these issues- I also think that there's too much going on that people need to get out before a constructive program can be of value. Part of our community support would have to be making available an outlet for people to speak their minds. The only downside I can see- is that they'll also want answers to their questions that will be nearly impossible to give- given the wide variety of issues.

In general, I think the problem with consent/abuse classes in general can be laid out like this:

The people who attend such classes appear to be of two types: A) either don't have a problem with those things, and are coming simply to hear that they're "doing it right"; or, B) they're people who have had bad shit happen to them and they come so that they can talk about those problems. What the latter doesn't want to hear is that they may be "doing it wrong".

In other words, The people coming to these classes - well, this issue doesn't really "affect them" in any personal way. They're there because they feel helpless, may know someone who has been harmed and wonder how to help; and they even wonder if their names are coming out in a bad way or if they're "part of the problem" Generally, these people-they're there because they're interested in finding out what's going on- but they don't really have a personal stake in it. If people stopped talking about this issue tomorrow- it wouldn't change anything about how they conducted themselves.

The others- the people who have been harmed who attend, aren't looking to be told that they may have contributed to the circumstances that resulted in the abuse. I'm certainly not blaming THEM for the abuse, but they don't really want to recognize that there may have been some things that they could have done to avoid being put in the position to allow the abuse in the first place - I know I'm saying that badly, so I hope you get what I mean. To many of them saying "here are some of the things you can do to mitigate your risk" is coming off as "if you wear a slutty dress in a dark alley- of course you got raped". I look at it more as "there's a dark alley where bad things have happened in the past, you should walk down it carefully, perhaps with a friend, or avoid it altogether- even if the other way takes longer".

The general feeling I get is that many people who have been harmed in this way, would rather focus on changing the people who would harm them in that alley (in this case, the attitudes of those that they choose to play with), rather than focusing on changing their own views of that dark alley or of the people who may be lurking there intent on harming them. Realistically, that's never going to work on a large enough scale to make it helpful.

It all comes back to personal responsibility, mitigating risks, speaking realistically about what goes on in the “Scene”, and making sure people know that despite whatever happens- whatever steps they took, didn’t take, whatever we’ve taught or not taught- that if someone rapes or assaults them, that the only blame that can be placed is solely upon the rapist.

The ABC's of Kink and Abuse

The ABC’s
Abuse, BDSM and Consent

Part 1: Abuse in BDSM

Personal responsibility and obligation is a difficult topic to write about. It differs for each of us. Trying to find a balance between each individual’s personal responsibility and the obligation we owe to each other within a community is like walking a tightrope- focus too much on personal responsibility and we risk “blaming the victim”; focus more on community obligation and we risk blaming the community for the actions of a few. We each have our comfort levels. We each have what we’re willing to believe. And we each know how much we want to pretend that all of the questions we ask will have answers.

Nevertheless, I believe that both personal responsibility and the community’s obligation towards others is the first line of defense in combating abusive behavior within the BDSM scene.

Personal Responsibility

This is the duty of care that you owe to yourself. It’s not an easy thing to remember, especially when playing with dominance and submission. But personal responsibility for one’s own actions and inactions can help alleviate your becoming a target for those looking for easy marks.

Personal Responsibility begins by Owning your Shit.- For everyone. I think that it has to be said that if you want to play in this pool, you have to wear your life preserver and take responsibility for yourself. There are sharks in this pool along with the dolphins.

So how does one begin this Personal Responsibility?

By not trusting someone just because they wear a label of “dominant” or they have all the right words. Instead-

“ take your time to get to know someone well so they can earn your trust instead of giving it away. It's about protecting yourself from potential harm.

Many people get sucked into words or promises they want to hear by a potential partner like dust into a vacuum cleaner. Women who are anxious to be in a relationship are vulnerable to men with all the right moves. They get caught up in the initial rush and don't wait to see if he follows through on what he says with actions...Men also get sucked in by women they're very attracted to who act sweet and agreeable until they get serious. Most people are on their best behavior when meeting someone they like. Then as time goes on, the person changes in ways we don't like.

This stuff is common, especially for people who dive in hot and heavy soon after meeting someone they like. That's why it's so important to filter your immediate impression of a new romantic attraction until they've earned your trust in many ways over a period of time.

We get ourselves in trouble by jumping into relationships too quickly. We trust before it's earned, and assume people are nice because nice things are said. Do I think most people are jerks? No! Far from that. I believe that one person's jerk can be another one's treasure if boundaries are set from the beginning and you take it slow.
~Dayelle Deanna Schwartz

Even in a vanilla context, the advice of “take it slow” and discussions of boundaries is often repeated. In the kink sense, “take it slow” means also that one is not in a race to complete your BDSM checklist. Learning about people takes time. Trusting them should take longer. Allowing them to push limits, order you around and skip formal negotiation can take a lifetime.

Realize that this is NOT a competition among people for the “biggest hematoma of the week” or that you’ve played with 200 people this year alone! Nobody cares and in fact, attitudes like that create a situation where you’re not thinking clearly about personal safety, much less about personal responsibility.

Some key areas which we need to keep personal responsibility in the forefront are:

* Know yourself, your boundaries, your expectations and your limits
* Defend those boundaries.
* Be polite but firm.
* Talk. Say no. Speakout about your experiences, good and bad.
* Do not perpetuate the problem. If you are complaining to your subbie girlfriends that Dom X just wont keep his hands off you, but at every munch you are showing him your new bra.. well.. pick one and stay there. You cant have it both ways.
* Be aware of your surroundings and surrounding event goers.
* Be aware of verbal and non verbal communication signals and red flags ~KinkInMotion

Recognize the places where you have may have some trouble spots and find ways to cope with them. Do you have problems coming back out of subspace when something is wrong? Do you have a safeword which is easily misconstrued? Do you have a problem actually saying “no”? By asking yourself what the “worst case scenario” would be, and finding a way to work around that scenario, personal responsibility begins and you become empowered to demand the exercise of your right to safety.

Easier said than done right? Not exactly.

Practice “Active Bottoming”- When playing with someone new, for the first few times, things should move slowly, you should be able to anticipate what’s going to happen, and you should learn how each other reacts, Smaller scenes, shorter duration, and ongoing feedback, are part of active bottoming. Recognize that it is not an“all or nothing”- that there is truth to the words “live to play another day”.

If you’re new to something, a relationship, a playpartner, a toy or an activity- get some help from someone you trust. Ask them to help you negotiate. Ask them to be your eyes and ears during the scene. You don’t HAVE to trust a virtual stranger the first time you meet them at a party to tie you up and beat you, without having a backup plan in place. Safecalls are one form of backup that everyone is familiar with. Why can’t we have “pool buddies” when doing pick up play at parties and dungeons?

If you do enter an altered state [for clarity- any state where someone is not thinking on their two feet, with their brains fully engaged.], and many of us do when bottoming, I’m going to offer two bits of advice.

First to the Tops- I’m going to suggest to you that when you have a bottom with whom you’re new to play, and that you don’t know very well- when that bottom reaches this place, that this is a good time to begin winding down the scene. If you’re in a party scene with a newer playmate, this isn’t a good time for either of you to change the tenor, intensity or parameters of a scene. In negotiations, tell your bottom that when she/he is no longer actively bottoming, that this is when you’ll just let them coast. If a bottom is unable to communicate with you- This is a sign that the bottom is no longer able to consent! Later on, when you’re doing aftercare, and your bottom says “wow I wish you hadn’t stopped” then that response is something you can add to your negotiation for next time.

Second, Bottoms- if you drop at the touch of a rope on you- even with new play partners, you need to have another person who can advocate for you.- one who has perhaps taken part in negotiations and who can be a “spotter”. Tops need to get over their big selves about people “interrupting a scene”. If you’re a bottom who drops quickly or deeply, either find someone who can be that spotter or you need to be acutely aware of how you choose your partners. If you have a top that won’t allow such a person, you may wish to question whether their toppiness is more important that your safety.

And finally, I have to mention safewords. As I’ve already said, safewords won’t work with abusers. But because they’re so strongly urged in consensual BDSM and is often the first clue that someone is going to ignore what you’re saying- get one that is going to work.

But also be aware that people think that safewords mean “stop EVERYTHING, right now! immediately and do not pass go”. A safeword is defined as a word that is unlikely to be said within a scene, and means for the immediate action to cease, not necessarily for the scene to end. This is the reason why they often don’t work properly. Safewords are fraught with difficulty because bottoms tend not to use them due to the fact that they don’t always want “everything” to stop, but also know that responsible tops tend to panic at them and stop any further interaction.

Bottoms who aren’t clear (when facing away for instance) or tops who can’t hear them in a loud dungeon create a disadvantage for both sides. Instead, try using a combination of plain language and body language.

Red, Yellow and Green (beige) are standard. It’s far easier to think about where you are on a color scale than to figure out if something is safeword worthy. If you’re going to use your own safewords, choose something that is unlikely to be said outside of the scene. Ouch, More, Stop, Please and Fuck aren’t good choices. Rigatoni, Elephants, Purple are better. I prefer to use “You’ve hit my tailbone, please stop, NOW” with a footraise so that he can see from behind me (where, frankly, a lot of the “action” is taking place).

And lastly, because I feel strongly about this, If you DO have a safeword that is ambiguous, it is YOUR responsibility to understand that you’re playing with a handicap and to make absolutely sure that your top knows that you’re playing with this handicap. This really is one of those areas where you really have to make a decision concerning personal responsibility.. It is a learning curve wherein practicing active bottoming will help both of you get through the scene more safely. If your top doesn’t hear, or misconstrues your safeword- You’re responsible for stopping the action if it is beyond what you’ve negotiated - by any means necessary.

Will any of this prevent abuse? Not for someone who has that on his/her agenda. But it will go a long way towards making you an unappealing target. And it will also help in vetting people for yourself. Those who won't understand your need for going slowly; those who disregard your safewords; those who insist on bowing, kneeling and submission immediately will always have problems with a show of strength on your part.

Community Obligation

The second part of taking away the predator/abuser’s playground is the obligation of the community. This is the area that seems to create the biggest problems within our community. As with any issue which needs addressing, people will range in reaction from “I’m staying out of it” to “let’s report the fucker to the police, immediately”..and everywhere in between. But if we, as event organizers, munch facilitators, presenters, party hosts and dungeon operators provide this playground for abusers because we are afraid to act or because we “don’t want to get involved in other’s problems”, then we are providing exactly the kind of playground in which predators and abusers thrive. (with a nod here to a very cool blog: SexGeek)

The community, has an obligation to make it perfectly clear that known offenders are not allowed to come to their events. I’m going to say that, given the absolute HELL that people are put through when reporting abuse within our community, that it’s unlikely someone is going to “cry wolf” as often as we think they might. Erring on the side of the accuser, rather than the accused is not only prudent, but may in fact act as a deterrent for others who might think that their safety lies within our community’s often-repeated standard of “he said/she said, not getting in the middle”.

The community has a collective obligation to respect others’ boundaries. Strictly and without question. This equates to making the rules, promulgating them, and enforcing them. Those truly clueless of our community mores will abide by the rules after being informed. Those who have their own agendas will repeatedly offend under the guise of “just being friendly” and will need to have those rules enforced time and time again. This also means that using a position of authority within groups and events to coerce anyone needs to be firmly and strictly dealt with.

We have an obligation to believe others who are speaking- nobody makes that decision lightly. Knowing all the shit they’re likely to get- it’s not unheard of to just keep quiet and disappear. We have an obligation to those who have been harmed to make sure that they are helped. And that they’re not doubly harmed by allowing their abusers easy access to our groups and events.

We have an obligation to speak out. If someone can’t do it for themselves, others must do it for them. Leadership isn’t just about running things your own way, it’s also about meeting the needs of those who look to leadership for support. My personal opinion is that if someone is unwilling to step up, speak out, or help those who look up to their position of perceived authority, then they shouldn’t be IN that position to begin with. This is not a case of “doing no harm by maintaining the status quo”.

We also have an obligation to protect our spaces, our munches and our events from predators, while at the same time realizing that all those “poor defenseless bottoms” don’t need OUR protection. Protection means that we assume someone is weak and they need stronger people to defend their interests. It creates a sense of dependence (on the “weak” person’s part) and righteous strength (on the “strong” person’s part) which in fact is suspiciously similar to the conditions that create and support abusive situations in the first place. (with another nod to SexGeek)

We have the obligation to provide the tools and resources to foster empowerment. We need to talk more openly about the truly “dark sides” of BDSM and abuse. We need to acknowledge it’s existence and stop behaving as if we have nothing to do with it if it doesn’t happen to us.

Every time someone is abused in our community, in a space we provided, using the mantras and empty vagaries we have all spouted as gospel, we are all to blame.

None of this will stop the most egregious offenders, but realistically speaking, not even the vanilla world can prevent abuse. The Kink Community certainly doesn't have any better answers than the populace at large. The most we can hope to do is make damned sure that we're speaking realistically to those finding us and making sure that when the shit happens, we're not so blind to the fact that it does exist within BDSM, that we're too afraid to help those who need it.

ABC's of Abuse and Kink

The ABC’s
Abuse, BDSM and Consent

How many times have we heard the phrase “BDSM isn’t abuse”?

The answer in our own minds is usually “of course, BDSM isn’t abuse-to engage in BDSM, one needs to have consent”. And in a kinky utopia, that is absolutely the truth.

However, too many people coming into our circles tend to hear instead “there isn’t abuse in BDSM”. We’re doing a poor job of communicating that, like any other society, abuse most certainly does exist within a BDSM context. Well, we are not a kinky utopia, and because of our need for secrecy, our silence, and our fear, we provide an almost perfect playground for those whose aims are definitely NOT utopian, to hide within while providing them easy access to their victim.

Abuse comes in many forms and abusers come in many varieties. It’s often very difficult for people who play with things like rape fantasies, consensual non-consent, or even merely the thrill of “giving up control” to a mean sadist, to understand that BDSM isn’t immune to abuse simply because many of us believe that one cannot engage in BDSM without consent. We’re talking apples, and people are getting lemons.

Those who engage in BDSM are a cross-section of humanity. It stands to reason that, like all communities, we also have our share of “bad apples”. Knowing who they are isn’t easy. Knowing what to do with them once known is even harder. Helping those that they’ve harmed is the hardest of all.

This three part post will talk about abuse within the bdsm context (which isn’t much different than abuse without it), how to recognize abuse, the responsibilities and obligations that we all have to ourselves and one another, and most importantly- to offer suggestions on how we can as individuals and as a community, combat this hidden problem.

“There's a difference between blaming the community and not the attacker, and holding the community accountable for enabling the attacker to be there. That's what we’re talking about here. By accusing survivors of being dramatic, by community leaders not stepping up in any active way when multiple accounts of problems with one person come their way, by saying "if you didn't fight back you let it happen"...

Here's the thing, dear reader: if, as a community, we want to say to radfems, the government and the police that What It Is That We Do isn’t abusive (and we say it a lot), then we need to prove it by treating survivors with respect, listening to their voices, not creating a norm of slut shaming and victim-silencing, encouraging negotiation skills via workshops and demonstration, and holding predatory people accountable, from directly and firmly letting them know their behaviour is unacceptable, to publicly outing and banning them if it’s necessary.

Every time we DON'T hold people accountable, and every time someone says my article is proof that I obviously was an attention whore who was turned on by being forced to do things to men I didn't want to do, or that it’s my own fault for not knowing better, and that this sort of writing is a disservice to the kink community, we are proving the radfems, the government and the police right. We are saying, effectively, that BDSM can be abusive, and that we would rather put blinders on and shun those who speak out than address the issue.” ~ Kitty Styker: I wish I could safeword

What We’re Really Talking About

Throwing a lot of terms around will just confuse everyone. Let’s suffice to say that if you don’t understand what a top/bottom, submissive/dominant, or any other “bdsm term” is, go online and find a few dozen of the really good general dictionaries to use. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use the following definitions in the most broadest terms possible:

Abuse- non-consensual actions by a person to control the thoughts, actions, or beliefs of someone else. Abuse comes in many forms- from sexual harassment (the “quid pro quo”), to outright and blatant disregard for someone else’s physical or emotional safety. The abuse cannot be stopped with a safeword and may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and economic abuse. The last of which is often aimed more frequently at male bottoms. Abuse is an ongoing, non-consensual and/or coercive power dynamic between people. Abuse is hardly ever noticed by those outside of such a relationship, and in fact within the context of BDSM, it very often looks too much like two people having a “really good time”.

Predator - anyone who misuses their perceived or actual authority over another to facilitate abuse. Predators often choose their target on the basis of passivity, lack of assertiveness, naivete, low self-esteem, age, lack of education, or other areas of vulnerability - including fetishes. In our communities, this is often the “newbie”. Unsure, unaware, and perhaps not sexually or emotionally ready for playing in this world. Predators come in many shapes and sizes, across all genders and orientations. There is no way to tell who is a predator and who is not at a glance. Whispers and rumors are often ignored. That small voice in your head is likewise ignored. Predators look like everyone else. They’re charming, appear well-connected and always appear to know their shit. Often, they drift to positions of perceived authority on this basis.

Consent - is permission given for an activity, with all the facts known, and requires active and ongoing participation. One cannot give consent when unconscious or asleep. However, it is a mistake to confuse consent as simply “yes means yes” or “no means no”. Yesses and nos can be given verbally, non verbally, implied and anywhere inbetween. In BDSM in particular, where you have predisposition of bottoms to agree, simply hearing a “yes” doesn’t necessarily mean that consent has been given. Unless the person is informed, aware, and actively participating in the activity, then it’s a slippery slope for both sides. If you don’t feel as if you could say no, it is coerced participation and lacks consent. Without consent, BDSM is unethical at the least and criminal at the most.

Mistake - the old adage “shit happens” applies here. Genuine miscommunication, accidents, inattention, mistakes in judgment, aim, or reading body language all happen quite frequently within BDSM. Experts fuck up. Newbies fuck up. No one is immune to mistakes. We are only human. We all bring expectations and preconceptions into a scene. When they don’t work out, we find ourselves in the middle of a mistake. Mistakes are unintentional and don’t generally fall under the definition of abuse. Do abusers make mistakes? Quite frequently. But thinking that a mistake is abuse, dilutes the power of those who ARE being abused. I think that the true test of a mistake is in the behavior of the actor when called on it. Do they own their mistake? Do they feel even more awful that they made it? Do they try to make amends? Do they question themselves? Do they ask for help in fixing it or learning better? And most importantly, do they apologize without “butting”? Saying “I’m sorry that I hit you harder than you asked me to, I got carried away with the scene” is one thing. Saying “I’m sorry that I hit you, but you moved in the wrong direction and it was your fault” is another. Nobody intends to make a mistake, but when they happen (and they will), the intention to clean up your own mess, for me, differentiates a genuine mistake from abuse.


RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) and SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) are short, marketing phrases that too many people believe offers some sort of magical protection against being harmed. Knowing these terms, saying that one is “risk aware”, and believing that those who also can spout these phrases ascribe to the same values, offers a false sense of security and begins a cycle of belief that there is no abuse in BDSM.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Both RACK and SSC are designed to give a voice to an easy to remember mantra of the utopian kink ideal. But neither RACK nor SSC will protect anyone from someone that doesn’t practice them.

Those who engage in BDSM aren't any better or worse than any other group of people who share a similar affinity. You have people who will play by the rules AND people who will pretend to play by the rules for their own agendas. There are sex offenders and predators finding our community daily. There are also vanilla people who just want a little kinky sex finding the scene. Don't believe that just because we have rules for conduct, we preach negotiation, communication, and responsibility that everyone you meet will follow through. Kinky people are PEOPLE...not every member of any "club" is like any other member. Don’t think that just because someone has a Fetlife profile, can copy and paste something that sounds half-way decent, and has followed along enough to integrate themselves into the scene that they can be expected to KNOW what the “community standards and mores” truly are- much less care if they follow them.

If there are people finding us that don’t have any idea that there is a risk of injury while flogging, caning, suspending or anything else, is it any wonder that people don’t realize that there are also others that might abuse them within the guise of BDSM?

Can We Recognize Abuse?

There have been thousands of books written on abuse and abusers in the vanilla world. Abuse within marriage, abuse of children, abuse of pets- those things happen, are written about, and studied by those with actual degrees in psychology. I’m not going to try to recreate the wheel, but I will say that it’s not easy to recognize abuse when it’s happening within the BDSM scene.

“...we’d negotiated a rope suspension scene, and I specifically told him “no sex”. After he suspended me, gagged me, and while I was in a very happy subspace, he opened my legs and started fucking me. When I realized what was happening, I was crying hysterically. I screamed through my gag, tried to undo the rope, and experienced real fear. He finished and whispered into my ear that if I said anything, I wouldn’t be believed because nobody was paying attention and it would be his word against mine...” ~ Author’s name withheld.

Recognizing abuse, even when it’s happening right under our noses, is a tricky thing within the BDSM context. We play with non-consent as a part of many scenes. Begging for something that you don’t really want to happen, roleplaying, rape play, interrogation play...all lend themselves to consensual non-consent. So how does one recognize abuse within all of that? And how does a casual onlooker know the difference between a “really hot scene” and actual abuse?

The truth is, we can’t. When abuse is happening right under our noses, in our parties and dungeons, we can’t tell the difference.

Simply put, BDSM turns to abuse when any of these things haven't been negotiated as part of a scene or relationship:

1. When it devalues you, your thoughts, your fears or your safety.
2. When your limits are ignored.
3. When a timeout cannot be called to discuss a problem.
4. When you are not heard when there is a problem.

It’s difficult for us to spot abuse because for every negative trait abusers exhibit, there is an equal call for such a trait to be evidenced in domination. Some of the more common ones and their analogous BDSM uses-

* Manipulation is at the basis of predicament play.

* Controlling behavior - control is desired by those seeking a D/s or power exchange relationship;

* Use of force- force is often found in most kinky sexual relationships and is most often used in rape play;

* Sadistic fantasies- I hardly think this one needs explanation!

* Cruelty within a scene is common, especially in humiliation scenes.

* Stereotypical gender roles are maintained as a norm especially by het-male-doms;

* Eagerness to Rush into a “dom/sub” relationship. Presses for exclusivity on your part, jealousy in the guise of “protection”

The unfortunate reality is that from the outside, there is little that any person engaging in BDSM would notice as out of the ordinary in another’s BDSM play or relationship.

Unless they’ve been told otherwise.

~Part 2- Obligations and Responsibility: Individual and Community Combined

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small Voices

I’ve had a really rotten few weeks.

Since first deciding to speak my mind about issues happening in our “community” ranging from consent/boundary problems to rape, I’ve received tweets, emails, fetlife mail, dm’s and blog comments aplenty. Not all of them were, shall we say- nice?

But what surprised me more, and was more disappointing than anything, was the voices of those who are still missing in this discussion.

I don’t know what it was about some of the things I wrote, but it seemed to bring out the absolute worst in some people. The support I got privately, often wasn’t quite enough to make up for the shit I was getting. I was at the point of almost giving up on this whole fucking idea of taking a stand on any issue when I started talking to a few really good friends whose opinions and good sense I could rely upon for a clear head. Septimus, Dee Dennis, and Railen Panther. Without those three people, I don’t think that I’d be ready to continue speaking out.

I learned a lot these past few weeks. Since I first put out the call for people’s stories. I got nearly 140 messages from people. Some of them were so awful that there were days I couldn’t bear to open another email. Some of those stories were very hard to read, some emails were hostile, and not enough were supportive. Even, many times, from my friends.

But just as I’d about given up, thinking that my small voice couldn’t make a difference, couldn’t reach anyone, and therefore wouldn’t matter, in little more than a long weekend, several things happened that made all the difference in the world. I listened to what my three paragons of sensibility were telling me- I did have people who supported my efforts; that they wouldn’t consider abandoning me, or telling me to abandon my position when I was feeling discouraged; and that together, they had experiences in the things that I’d need to carry this thing forward. Septimus is able to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of an issue; asking the right questions, and giving me a male tops’ perspective; Dee Dennis was able to help me see the larger issues involved; how to network; and most importantly- how to step back when I needed to regain my own perspective; and Railen- who last night almost brought me to tears when he and his Mistress told me that they understood what I was doing, that they wanted to help and that I was doing a “good thing”.

That, oddly enough, was the very first time anyone had told me that all the crap I’d been reading, hearing, and talking about the past few weeks, was worth it.

I’ve heard a lot in the past few weeks to make me think that part of the problem is that nobody gives a fuck about anyone else. They care about their own small circle of friends, but they don’t generally care all that much about some stranger 20, 200 or 2000 miles away from them. It’s “THEIR” issue. It doesn’t affect them, so why should they worry? And part of me asked that same question. Why should I even get involved in this issue? I have no personal stake in whether or not “someone else” gets their boundaries bent or whether or not someone else was raped. It won’t happen to ME, right? I can go on my merry fucking way, live my merry fucking life and not have to worry about someone else. I’m too smart to be “one of those people”.

Unless that someone else is a friend. Unless that someone else reached out to you for help.

Unless you’re someone who gives a shit about people.

Denial that there’s any problem, silence about it, shaming those that speak about their own experiences, and anger directed towards those who would shed light on such unpleasantness hiding within our “fantasy world” of bdsm, are some of the very behaviors that create the problems in the first place.

Abuse in BDSM exists. Predators in BDSM exists. Harm in BDSM exists. And mistakes in BDSM exist. To deny that those things happen as a he said/she said problem, because we've all read "all the books on how it's supposed to be done" or simply because we aspire to the epitomes of SSC or RACK or whatever behavior and to not talk about them openly and with compassion for those that have experienced those things, simply because “it wouldn’t happen to you”, is to make our “community” somehow more utopian than the vanilla world.

While we’re talking about all the fun, sexy, hot stuff that we do, we also have to remember that we don’t live in the books. We live in a world where abuse, predators, harm and mistakes happen, and we have to include that in our education, presentations, and discussions.

To think anything else, really is fantasy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Running to Stand Still

Sometimes lately I feel like I'm spending more time beating my head against that wall of people who either can't understand what I'm saying or who believe that there's no solution so we can ignore the problem. Maybe I can't explain things nearly as well as I'd like. Maybe it's just that I'm too close to this issue. Maybe it's a lot of things and I've begun to wonder if I should just go back to spending my time on things that make me happy.

I could be spending time doing anything else. I could be playing Pocket Frogs. I could be shopping for shoes. I could be working on that job interview, my Momentumcon presentations, my Bound in Boston classes. I could be snugging with Septimus, I could be doing a thousand things that I love to do.

I could sleep at night.

Instead, I’m spending time beating my head against a wall, screaming at the top of my lungs, trying to make people see that the issues I’m talking about aren’t the same things they are. I recognize that everyone has a story and that others may think that their discussions about fuzzy boundaries or scenes going haywire are important, but those aren't the kinds of things I'm talking about.

I’m not talking about people in a relationship. Who have been IN that relationship for a time. Who met someone nice, who got to know them and spent time forging that relationship.

I’m not talking about people who have decided that they will play by the “rules” to the best of their ability not only because they value their own reputations, but because they value those that they play with and around. They value the opportunities presented within BDSM for exploration and they're not willingly going to fuck that up for themselves or anyone else.

I’m not talking about people who are generally good, decent, people, who may fuck up upon occasion, who apologize, own their shit, learn from their mistakes and become better for doing it. They're not the problem, even WHEN they might fuck things up a bit. Quite often, these people feel more awful about what they did than the person they did it to.

I’m not talking about people who GET IT.

No. What I AM talking about is the attitude that all of those people I just mentioned seem to have about everyone else. That we’re all the same. Simply because we share a common word for What it is that We Do. I'm talking about all those people who think "kinky" means "honorable within that kink".

We educate with an eye towards people who want to be “like us”. We don’t ever think about how there are always some people who just want to “appear to be like us”. And when we're fooled by those people, the betrayal is so hurtful, we quickly just want to forget that it existed.

We tell people “how to meet other kinky people”. Holding munches in a "public place because it's safer". Without ever mentioning that just because they’re with kinky people, doesn’t mean that they’re not also Ted Bundy.

We hold discussions about personal responsibility, without ever holding discussions on what to do when you do everything right and it still goes very wrong. And I’m not talking about mistakes, I’m talking about deliberate and premeditated actions.

We talk about how yes means yes, without really expecting people to recognize that there are people who will always disregard everything that you say because they’re alleged “doms” and you’re not a “twue submissive” if you don’t agree. For a large part of any community already predisposed to “yes”, "yes means yes" is nearly as bad as “just say no”. And for the other large part of our community who dislikes hearing the word no said to them by a submissive anyway, is it any wonder why they only like to hear yes?

We talk about negotiation and communication without telling people that despite negotiations and despite whatever is communicated, there will be those that will not ever care.

We talk and educate about all the “good things”, seldom mentioning the bad in a realistic way. It’s very easy to tell someone that they should “report bad things” or to “leave an abusive relationship”. But unless people understand that bad things and abuse DO happen, even within a BDSM relationship, even with people you think you know, and even if you’ve negotiated and communicated, we're not preparing people to deal with this in the real world.

I'm curious though.

What we never seem to get around to is figuring out how to help the people who’ve actually listened to what we teach and talk about, and still end up being hurt. While we’re talking about consent or boundary issues, we forget that consent and boundary issues aren’t the cause of the problem- they’re often a result of people thinking they’re entering the Chateau, and finding out that they’re alone in a dark alley with no GPS.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Must Be Missing Something

"I'm shocked that anyone involved in bdsm would not explicitly follow their mantra of SSC"

I woke up this morning to another round of emails, fetlife threads and blog comments. Now that I’ve opened this can of worms and invited everyone in, I guess I really should be more prepared to deal with people that only get part of the problem. It’s easy to hear platitudes like “no means no” “consent counts” or “yes means yes” and think that this is the easy way to “deal with our shit”.

People like easy. It makes it feel like they’re “doing something” about the problem, without hurting feelings, making enemies, or putting too much of their valuable time into something that “would never happen to them, because they’re so careful”.

I’m really tired of platitudes and quaint marketing phrases.

We’ve got a ton of them in BDSM- Risk Aware Consensual Kink, Safe Sane and Consensual are two of them. But while we’re listening to those phrases, do we ever really think about what they mean?

Safe, Sane and Consensual has been around for decades. SSC was THE standard that bdsm ascribed to. We all strove to play safely, sanely and consensually. But then people figured out that there were a lot of things that we did that weren’t exactly always “safe” and even sometimes, things that we probably didn’t even consider “sane”. We changed SSC to Risk-Aware Consensual Kink because, although we sometimes did thing safely, they were inherently risky things. Putting a corkscrew in someone’s cock seems pretty insane to me. So RACK became the newest platitude.

But what SSC and RACK boil down to is that neither of those things protect you.

SSC and RACK protect the people you play with **only if you are someone who adheres to either of those principle**. If you don’t, the fact that your bottom adheres to them doesn’t mean diddly shit. You can’t rely on those principles to protect you. And you can’t rely on the hope that every single person you meet practices them.

We avoid definitions like the plague because words have different meanings to different people. If you’ve ever had a “submissive v. slave” discussion or a chat about shibari, collars, service, or protocol, you know what I’m talking about. If these words create such chaos and differing opinions, such that few people agree on a single definition, why do we think words like “consent” are able to actually PROTECT anyone?

What the heck am I missing?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Anatomy of a Destruction

I keep hearing people say to me “if someone is raped/assaulted in BDSM, they should REPORT IT TO THE POLICE!!” The implication is that otherwise, it’s a he said/she said thing, not worthy of the “drama”. Since people really only seem to care about how things affect their own lives, I’m gonna give you something to think about- [Trigger Warning]

Here’s a pretty common scenario (at least up until a point, and no- this isn't taken from "real life", it's a story):

A young woman finds her way to our scene. She’s found out about the local munch through a thread on Fetlife. She’s shown up a few times, and someone that “everybody knows” is a “nice guy” and that nobody will say bad things about, starts a friendship with her. She “friends” people on Fetlife, many of whom are his “friends”. She joins groups and starts conversations and becomes part of the “community”. The woman and her “dom” both seem pretty decent, normal, and not “creepers”. After a few munches and a couple of classes, he’s been seen around long enough and has behaved “normally”. So someone invites him to their next party. He invites the young woman.

This girl, having read all she could about safety, bdsm, consent, and negotiation, feels comfortable that she’s with her “friends” at the party. She negotiates for a rope scene, with a little hand spanking. Nothing else is mentioned.

The “dom” she met at the munch, that everyone is “friends” with, ties up the girl, begins to spank her, and she drops into a nice mellow headspace. The dom then gags her and starts to wail on her ass with a paddle. The girl snaps out of the headspace and tries to make noises, tries to get someone’s attention, tries to stop the dom, but because she’s now gagged, she can’t. Nobody at the party looks twice at the really hot scene going on. After all, these are people they “know” and it doesn’t look any different from any other scene they’ve ever witnessed. The dom then goes on and fucks her and while doing so, tells her that if she screams or says anything, he’ll “make her pay”. Again, it’s a private party, with “friends”, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. He finishes, reminds the girl to keep quiet because “he’s the dom” and unties her. The girl is in tears, badly shaken, sick, disgusted and out of it. The “dom” tells everyone that he’s taking her home for a “little aftercare” (wink wink).

A few days later, the girl tells one of her scene “friends” that she was raped at the party. This friend, who was there, finds it hard to believe because the girl “looked like she was having a good time”. The girl reports what happened to the party host who disavows all knowledge of what went on because he “can’t believe the dom would do such a thing and he didn’t see anything because he was in another room”. The girl then goes to the leader of the munch, where she first met the dom and tells what happened. The leader is likewise incredulous that such a thing really happened and questions not only the girl’s memory of the event, but tells her that she shouldn’t say anything because it’ll “cause problems”. The “drama” continues until the girl is forced to remove her Fetife profile. But not before carefully copying everything she can find about not only the dom, but every single one of those people at the munch and the party who refused to help.

Although very reluctant to involve the authorities or admit what happened, she’s been through the ringer enough and tells about the rape.

With me so far? If you are, thank you.

The authorities ask the girl about the munches. About the party. And about everything she knows about the people. It’s difficult, because these people don’t always talk about themselves, but small details that people did talk about were helpful. She knows that one of the girls “works for a local florist”. And that the leader of the munch is named “Bill” and on his profile he had a picture of his dog. She remembers where the house party was held though. It was at an apartment in East Bumpkis. She’s not able to give ALL the details about everyone, but enough.

The authorities maybe decide that this girls story “rings true” enough to act on. They even have a picture of the guy that did it, thanks to Fetlife. And not only that, he was kind enough to write about what a great time he had with this girl at the party. The decide to prosecute and show up at the next munch with a few subpoenas for the “friend, the leader and the party host”.

Enough of the authorities. You all know where this one would likely go. Arrest, trial, names in the newspaper. This is what people wanted. This is what the woman should have done!

But what about the girl? The girl who was actually brave enough to put up with the crap from the legal system. That brave person we advised to "grow balls and report and leave us out the drama".

Well here’s the part about how quickly destruction could happen with a brave person:

You see, after she went through the ringer with the domly one, and with the police and trial, she’s discovered that she’s ANGRY at the way she was treated by those “friends”. She decides to get even for some of it. Because they refused to help, covered up the dom, and victimized her again through their actions and inactions, she’s decided that the only way to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone again, is to cause a little destruction and chaos.

She calls the place where the munch is held and tells the manager “you know that group that meets there on Mondays at 6?.....they’re freaks, practicing sadomasochism and they have child molesters and criminals involved in their group....if you don’t kick them out, I might just have to let the local prude-with-a-stick-up-their-ass group know what’s going on. The manager decides that his “family restaurant” doesn’t need that kind of shit and bans the group. And the next munch? She does the same thing. Again and again, until it’s really difficult to even find a munch location. No restaurant/bar owner is going to lose business to keep the munch group.

She calls the owner of the hotel where the next really cool convention is being held. She tells the manager “you know that group?......? And then calls the newspaper, the local PTA and a couple of churches and tells them there’s a “sex group doing things at that hotel on the 30th”. Pickets and news crews show up. The hotel tells the organizer that they’re not welcome back. Oh - and for good measure, she also found out about that adorable little girl who was having her bat mitzvah in the hotel at the same time and told her mother what was going on. The same mother that then bitched the hotel a blue streak and told “all her friends” what that “nasty hotel” did! The hotel decides to sue the group for “loss of revenues” because their contract specified that no advertising of the location was allowed, and yet the hotel’s name and address was so kindly posted on Fetlife and the event website.

She calls the owner of the apartment building where the party was held. She sends a picture taken from Fetlife, of the tenants having their party to the owner with a note that says “the people that live in Apt. 2B? They hold sex parties and let people under legal drinking age drink there. There also are needles, and what not... and wouldn’t it be a shame if the police found out” Since the landlord already had one complaint about noise, he evicts those nice party hosts for ruining the “quiet enjoyment” of the other tenants.

She remembers that “Bill” was complaining about his ex. She does a little digging and finds out Bill’s real name (the internet is so wonderful”) and also finds out that his wife was very grateful for all of the information on Bill’s Fetlife profile. Including all those pictures and the really neato list of fetishes including “daddy/daughter”. The judge was also really interested in those things when making his custody decision.

She then sends a copy of that nice “friend’s” picture, the friend that wouldn’t believe her because she seemed like she was having a good time- you know the one- with her sucking cock and getting fucked in the ass?- to her boss, the florist. And when the friend is fired for something a couple of days later, she doesn’t even know why.

She trolls the profiles and writings of every single person that refused to help her and told her to shut the fuck up. She figures that she was ignored, slutshamed and that people who were her “friends” and “leaders” had made it so much harder for her. If only they’d listened and helped....

These are only a few of the ways that someone who is pissed off enough, and victimized enough by “reporting” to the “leaders, organizers and friends” what happened, could do. It only takes one person to cause not only the destruction of the fallacy of safety and support, but one person to cause the destruction of so much more. If the only thing that will get you moving is a personal interest in this issue, I hope I've just given you a few reasons to take it personally.

It just takes one person to care enough to help someone, to believe someone, to advocate for someone.

Here's another really good post that you should read.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When Consent Doesn't Count Enough

Everyone knows the newest BDSM “catch phrase” - Consent Counts? Sure you do. NCSF has done a whole fucking campaign on consent counting. It’s another bullshit phrase in a long line of “feel good” expressions from a really hip marketing department somewhere.

I’ll tell exactly why consent alone doesn’t count for anything.

I make no secret of the fact that I was hurt by someone in the scene a couple of years ago. It wasn't even IN a scene, which is another reason why consent counted for shit. It was unexpected and ended up causing a lot of trouble for me as well as a lot of pain.

When it first happened to me, people I’d told about it had some interesting reactions- they’d either “heard similar stories” or “had one of their own” about the same person; or they couldn’t believe that this person would do such a thing. They believed ME (I am after all fairly known myself and not known to be given to hysterics or lying). But they couldn’t believe that this person could DO such a thing. Fortunately, there were several witnesses around who saw that it could and did happen

Whenever this person’s name is mentioned to me in conversation (usually with someone telling me how “wonderful” this person is), I tell them what happened. I calmly lay out the facts of what happened, admit that the injury was unintentional (you see, even *I* have a hard time believing it happened) and stress the fact that above all, it was completely unconsensual. I also don’t gloss over the fact that this person has to this date not apologized to me for doing it nor has he ever bothered to check up after the fact to see how my injury is doing.

And yet, this person has continued to not only practice what he did to me on others, but has actually taught CLASSES on doing it. I’ve actually heard people extolling his virtues to me without knowing my story and then scurrying away with an incredulous look after they’ve heard it. They don’t know what to believe. They LIKE both of us.

For those that know me, and known to whom I’m referring, I’m sure you’re still saying to yourself “she must have it wrong” or “it was an accident” or even “yeah, I’ve heard worse”. For those that know me, you’ll also be able to verify that it’s difficult for me to even be in the same room with this person. We're cordial because we have to be. But there is little warmth on either side.

What’s even more amazing though is when I start talking to people about this and they tell me “yeah- this person did X to me” or “yeah-this person did Y to me”. Or even worse “yeah, this person has a bit of a problem with consent”.

Funny how I’d never heard ANY of those things until I started talking.

As far as I’m concerned, knowing that someone “has problems” with consent; or has had “several complaints”; or, as I’ve read recently- someone “who will probably drive her out of the scene too”; and NOT saying it to anyone, to their next potential victim, or to EVERYONE to whom you come in contact with about that person, makes you just as culpable for their crimes. If you KNOW someone is a problem, if you KNOW that someone has a reputation for doing things that people have complained about, if you KNOW that someone has suffered, been hurt, raped, or had their trust violated at their hands and say nothing, you’re just as fucking guilty when the shit hits the fan.

In my opinion, the only time consent counts, is when it’s INFORMED consent. And being informed requires the participation of every single person who has any information which may affect the consent.

INFORMED CONSENT counts. Everything else is just non-consensual ostriching by people who should fucking know better.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Of Baby Dommes and Realistic Expectations

I read a profile on Fetlife with interest. This profile was of 21 year old, professional dominatrix. She’d made some posts that were almost illegible, and filled with text-speak. One was a thinly veiled attempt at something that appeared to be a shot at financial domination. The second was a call for people to do various sex acts on camera, for "personal use". Of course. Despite my mirth, I really did try not to question her motives for her financial domination attempt too far, while at the same time questioning her motives and business plan for her pornography empire. I also thought I was relatively mild, I did not get into a criticism of her profile and bit my tongue and said nothing about her obvious problems with language skills or punctuation.

Then I took a look at her profile more closely. It was was so badly written it was almost unintelligible, but it did contain enough information to get a pretty clear picture of just what this young woman thought being a dominatrix meant. At 21 years old, I'm skeptical of the amount of professionalism she could have attained. I didn't discount it, but I looked for something that would give me a clue that she was serious.

The first thing I noticed was that she admitted to being “impossible to please almost” and that she is “mean to alot of people” Combined with statements she’d made on her feed calling people perverts (’re on a Fet site?); how she was tired of the guys contacting her looking for sex when she really only likes women; about how easily she used threats, namecalling, (particularly liking the words cunt and fucktard) and bluff and bluster when posting; and about how she didn’t really LIKE men all that much, I got the idea that somehow this young woman was more than a little confused about domination. I won’t even get into the idea about how she thought it might be possible for people to actually “suck their mothers’ dicks”.

I wanted to tell her that in order to be a pro dominatrix, HATING men probably wasn't going to get her very far. In fact, she's be downright dangerous to submissives if she hated them. But I held my thoughts.

I continued reading her profile (albeit with great difficulty given the aforementioned text speak and lack of punctuation) and noticed that several more things:

She’s in debt.
She is aggravated by dumb/stupid/uneducated people.
She doesn’t have sex on her agenda.
She does “some types of things against others”
It’s about power, fun and entertainment.

Any of those statements alone, wouldn’t necessarily raise any red flags. In fact, all of them are perfectly normal, if a little clumsily expressed. But given her online “history” since she joined Fetlife about a week ago, they were creating a chilling picture of a spoiled, bitchy, misanthropist.

One of the things that bothered me so much about this girl’s profile and writing was that if a MAN had written these same things, he’d be nailed to the fucking wall, ostracized, and perhaps even emasculated by those responding, with efficient ease. But when a woman says the exact same things, she’s not treated the same way. Oh sure, many of the women will still call Bullshit when it’s warranted, but few men will do the same thing. It was curious.

I’ve known many doms over the years, and this woman exhibited almost all of the classic signs of being not a dom female, but being an abusive one. Couched in bdsm terms, on a bdsm site however- and I’m sure that there’s at least one person who wouldn’t bat an eyelash. In fact, I’m sure there’ll be a few men who can look past what this girl has said, and only see the opportunity she presents. Experienced submissives will run. Newer ones? My heart hopes so, but my head tells me otherwise.

But hating men, doing mean things, being impossible to please, offering nothing (not even the hope for sex), asking for money, trying to lure people into porn without full disclosure, and her capacity for quick ANGER make me worry about those that do take the opportunity.

I thought back to many of the female dom profiles that had been sent to me over the past few weeks since my own run-in with the clueless one. When Septimus asked me what in particular got under my skin about this “baby domme”, I truthfully didn’t know. Was it my own prejudices from the past? Was it my recent encounter with the Clueless one? Was I just sick and tired of the sheer douchenozzlery of some people? I'd joked about how I was happy that male doms weren't the only douchenozzles; that it was nice to see women lowering themselves to the plate. But the thought also makes me pretty ill.

I thought about that some more. I was distracted last night thinking about it. I thought about just what it was that bothered me so much about that profile. It was truthfully no worse than hundreds of others that I’d read. It occurred to me this morning as I was driving to work, listening to my book, when I’d heard a phrase concerning “pack behavior and the need to protect”.

I’ve met too many male submissives over the years that have been taken even worse advantage of than female ones. Some of these men, a few I am particularly close to, have been through the wringer with female dominants in more ways than I could probably even remember. And while women are usually pretty happy to share experiences, heartbreak, warnings and stories with other women, there’s few guys that I know that like to do the same. A male submissive is still a male first, with gender based stereotyping wired into them, cultural shame over being taken advantage of by a woman, and perhaps a personal bias against sharing too much of their own feelings.

If a woman gets taken advantage of by someone and talks about it, we tell her how horrible the guy was and that she deserved better. If I guy gets taken advantage of, he too often suffers in silence because telling anyone will bring only shame.

I then realized that this profile that bothered me so much, was very much about being the type of woman who engages in slut-shaming of male submissives, knowing that odds are, they’ll be able to get away with it.

She offered nothing of any value to any potential male submissives except the opportunity to have their wallets emptied by a woman who would make them do things so she could earn a living through them, while being taken care of completely, and that these men would find someone impossible to please; someone who really didn’t like them all that much; and someone who is learning manipulation and not dominance.

As usual too, my thoughts turned to a conversation I’d had just the other night with a male submissive. He’s getting married to his mistress soon, and after we’d discussed some of the plans and whatnot, we’d gotten into a conversation about the two things he thought made the difference in a D/s based relationship: communication and realistic expectations. I’d made the comment that communication is the more difficult because styles differ and people have all sorts of things wrapped in their heads that aren’t always so easy to express -as long as the lines of communication stay open- things got easier over time, and as for realistic expectations, that those had a way of changing once you’d gotten yourself into a situation. That it would be far better to have realistic expectations of changes.

And that, I realized, was the problem I’d had with the baby domme, my male submissive friends and their experiences, and the plethora of douchenozzlery found online.

I’m just expecting too much from some people. But it won't stop me from trying.