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 “great...now 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.