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 (duh..you’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.