Thursday, February 16, 2012

Consent or Responsibility?

For some months, I’ve been enmeshed, embroiled, embattled, immersed (choose one) in trying to bring the issue of consent more out in the open within our local kink scene. Based on the stories, emails, tweets and messages I’d received, it seemed that people just weren’t “getting” this whole consent thing. And since I’m an opinionated person, with no shortage of keyboards- I figured I’d be among the first in my area to “take the hit” and start talking about it.

I fully expected people to be pissed off.

I expected people to obscure the arguments.

I expected people to accuse me of victim blaming and slutshaming.

I hadn’t expected that I would get so angry. But when Septimus asked me last night- “why does this make you so angry?” And I had to think.

I hadn’t expected the polarity, the unwillingness to discuss different points of view, the disinclination to believe that this issue within bdsm is any different on its surface than that faced by the populace at large. The very truth of the matter is- consent makes no difference to a person who is incapable of giving it freely and rationally or to the person who doesn’t receive it and who is bent on destruction. No, Talking about consent isn’t the issue because reasonable, rational adults have a pretty basic understanding of what consent is and most men are rightfully appalled at the notion of consent violations. And those that don't, well- that's why we have prisons.

I’m angry with people rehashing the same shit over and over and over and always focusing on what we should do to change things. I'm angry with the posts about outing, naming, shaming, and blacklisting. Angry with the hundreds of people asking questions about this issue for the first time and getting their heads handed to them. Angry about the way that people seem to be a little naive about kinky people actually having something called community “leaders”. And that those leaders are willing or able to help with a particular consent issue.

But what I’m most angry about is that people still haven’t figured out that we don’t really need to be talking about consent as an ephemeral rule for correct behavior. What we really need to be talking about is responsibility.

Two quotes got my attention this morning, both by M. Scott Peck:

Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity.


The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior.

I’m angry because talking about consent in the way it's being done focuses on trying to get someone else to do or not to do something. Responsibility keeps the focus on each of us for our own actions.

And really? The only person we can ever hope to control is after all- ourselves. If we focus on each of us being responsible for our own actions, consent flows naturally. While providing a safe place for people who have been harmed, let's not forget that part of the healing process for most of us is taking back the power we lost. And, at least for me, part of that was accepting responsibility for myself.

So yeah, I'm a little angry that even after almost 30 years, I'm still having the same discussions about the spider on the bed.

And because, once again I've found others that hit my point much better than I ever do- please see:

Owning My Part
Consent and Abuse are Orthogonal

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lost in a Sea of Semantics

Last night, a friend said “we haven’t seen you around for a while- is everything okay”?

I didn’t really know how to answer that. And because people rarely actually want to hear how things are, I finally said that things were fine, I was just really busy, you know how the winter is, blahdeyblahdyblah. It wasn’t anywhere near the truth. The truth was that I’d become bored, annoyed, angry and frustrated with Kink, The Scene. The Lifestyle and The Community. The more time I spent interacting with those things, the less I found to like about them.

When I’d gotten home, Septimus and I were talking. A question came up about whether or not the “contemporary kink scene” was too commercial. I said that I thought it was too watered down and that I was feeling kind of “lost” within the umbrella of “All Things Kinky”.

When I first discovered s&m, I had NO idea that I was “kinky”. I thought that I was altogether “sick in the head or something”, but over time, I learned that I’m FAR from alone. I’m not even actually really sure when I first hear the words “kinky”, the “scene” “lifestyle” or the “community”. And I still don’t have a clear meaning in my own head what any of those actually MEAN. I suppose, like many words used in this area, ascribing meaning to them is for each of us alone.

I am not kinky. I don’t want to be kinky, act kinky, think kinky or be a member of any kinky club. Kinky is not a word I particularly favor when describing sexuality- especially my own. To me, my sexuality is well...normal. Kinky is still for those “other people” who do weird things with hotdogs and corkscrews. (sorry for the mental picture). I don’t “get” kinky. I understand my own desires, my own motivations and my own turn ons, but I don’t really consider them to be “outside the mainstream”. Hair pulling, face slapping, pinches and floggers are how I get my rocks off. That stuff is just normal. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea- but then I don’t get turned on by lingerie, porn or librarians either. When people tying each other to the bedposts on a Saturday night or engage in anal sex consider themselves kinky (‘cuz Cosmo says so!), I don’t really think that “kinky” has any meaning beyond “I like to fuck”. And yet- that’s what the word has become. Any kind of sex, other than heterosexual missionary in the dark is for some reason now thought of as “kinky”. If ALL sex is kinky- doesn’t that make it “normal”? If anal sex, blindfolds and vibrators are considered “kinky”....what does that make ME? I shudder to think it.

The Scene is another word I just don’t really get. I have had scenes. I’ve caused scenes. I’ve even taken long walks and watched the scenery. But I don’t understand what people mean when they say “are you part of The Scene?” or “I’m a long-time member of The Scene”. What does it mean to people to be part of “The Scene”? Because I’ve been getting the bejeezus beat outta me for as long as I care to remember but only recently have I suddenly become a “member of The Scene”. To me, scenery is a background for something. It doesn’t merit the focus of one’s gaze. I have friends- but I don’t think that simply having friends that you talk about sex with makes “The Scene”. Does seeing your friends or acquaintances naked make “The Scene”? Or does it, as it often feels to me, the secrecy, the drama, the shame and confusion that more often that not accompany WIITWD that creates “The Scene”. Is it someplace where people, wanting to believe that others similarly situated behave with some sort of commonality, can find a place where they don’t consider themselves different? But if The Scene is just a bunch of people seeing their friends naked and doing things to each other that they wouldn’t ordinarily DO (consent issues anyone?) outside of The Scene- is that really such a good place to be?

Lifestyle is another of those words that I just don’t get when it comes to describing sexuality. Sex (and all the accouterments of my particular method of enjoying said sex) isn’t a “lifestyle” to me. Any more than breathing or eating is a lifestyle. Lifestyle is a way to describe a social class using clothing, recreation or wealth and consumerism which hardly seems appropriate in context of how the word is typically used. And given that those purporting to be “in the lifestyle” have very different views of what that means to them. Living a “master/slave lifestyle”, I’ve been involved “in the lifestyle”, “I’m a lifestyle submissive” all have absolutely NO meaning to me. When you say these things, you might as well be speaking in Gaelic. So, yes, you’re a lifestyle submissive. Am I to understand that you have some sort of “class definitive” of what makes a lifestyle? What exactly does one MEAN when they’re “living a lifestyle”. Or do they really mean that those “in the lifestyle” have the same attitudes and habits therefore creating a class? I don’t really know. But if merely having the same attitude and habit creates the class, then is it really a lifestyle? Or is it just life? Because I gotta say- I’ve never found it common that two masters, two slaves or two of any other identified labels ever agree on much of anything when it comes to comparing their own relationship with others.

Each of us lives life. Some with style and some with substance. But if it’s a choice, I’ll have to choose a substantive life over a stylish one (except for shoes!) every time and forgo the label “lifestyle”.

And Finally, we come to The Community.

Now this is a word that Septimus and I have discussed several times. We both know what a community is. After all, we’re not hermits (well, he sometimes is, but that’s another blog post). We have lived in various communities all our lives. Sometimes our communities overlap and we’re members of several all at the same time.

But what do we really mean when we say “The Community”.

I’m guessing it’s more along the “shared participation of a common interest” kind of community rather than anything else. But when The Community regularly eats its own and blindly accepts those who do harm, I’m not really sure if that’s a common interest I really want to engage in.

So yeah, I’m doing okay. I’m just stepping from the insanity for a while. I really can’t handle being a Kinky Scene Lifestyle Member of the Community right now.