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Due to a massive influx of spam registrations here on the blog, I had to do a major purge of subscribers the other day.  I did my best to avoid deleting those of you who are real, legitimate subscribers, but I suspect I did actually nuke at least a few of you because the list was truly massive and it’s impossible to tell who is really real and who isn’t all the time.  So, if you know you were once subscribed here and aren’t any more, this is why.  It’s not anything personal, I assure you, just a mistake – so please, I definitely welcome your signing up again.  And hopefully any of you who did get purged by accident will actually find this ;-)

Dominant vs Domineering – Relationship Red Flag List

A while back, I found a great post on Fetlife by Twysted about red flags and dating tips for kinky people, and reposted it here on my blog with his/her permission.  Fast forward a few years, and I got a message from Robert Rubel the other day that the post was actually originally by Epiphany, citing a list that was written in turn by Saikiji Kitalpha on Second Life.

Upon looking at Epiphany’s post (which was actually posted after mine, I confess to being a bit confused about the actual origin of the list – and realized that the version that she has is actually a lot more extensive.

So, in the interest of completeness, and revisiting a topic that I don’t think we can ever overemphasize, I am here reposting the entire thing as seen on Epiphany’s blog.  Please do feel free to copy and repost the comments and list found below – but please make sure to include the correct attributions to Saikiji Kitalpha, and do not pass it off as your own work.  That’s plagiarism – which is not only dishonest but actually illegal.

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The term “Red Flag” is used to describe a personal trait or behaviour that is common in people who are harmful to others. When getting to know someone new it is very important to look for these warning signs, as they may mean something is very wrong, even horribly wrong. Red flags can apply to any gender, or any role or relationship. Dom, sub, male, female, trans, switch, hetero, homo, bi, pan, friendships, d/s relationships, marriages, relatives, work relationships, etc. They are not specific to any gender, orientation, or relationship.

It is also important to understand that none of these red flags on their own are a sign of an abusive or dangerous situation or person, especially in isolated incidents. Anyone can make a mistake, have a bad day or simply misunderstand or misinterpret. Some red flags merely indicate a need for discussion, or discovery. Others indicate that it is time to get out of the relationship immediately.

What you are looking for are groups of repeating, negative behaviors. It is important to take your time in establishing new relationships as it may take time for these behaviors or patterns to emerge. When you see these red flags, slow down or even stop the relationship to assess your situation. Generally, the more red flag behaviors you observe in a person, the more often you see them and the quicker they emerge in a new relationship, the more at risk you are from being emotionally and/or physically harmed by this person.

CATEGORIES

Isolating

• Tries to limit your access to others in your life friends, family, BDSM community.
• Forbids contact with others or undermines relationships or activities with others.
• Is negative and un-supportive of other relationships you have.
• Monitors your communications (emails, phone calls, chats) with others.
• Controls finances, the car, and the activities you partake in.
• May want you to quit your job, give up your car or telephone.
• Always asks where you’ve been and with whom in an accusatory manner.
• Calls and visits unexpectedly on a regular basis.
• Refuses to allow you a safe call.
• Becomes angry if you show signs of independence or strength.

Deceptive

• Is reluctant to give you personal and factual information about themselves.
• Refuses to give their marital status before a meeting.
• Gives inconsistent or conflicting information or details about themselves or past events.
• When you ask personal questions, gets angry, changes the topic, ends the conversation or answers questions with questions.
• Gets mad if you ask for references or want ask others about them.
• Has very limited times/places/methods where you are able to contact them and gets angry if you try to contact them outside of those conditions.
• Does not give you their home and work phone number at the appropriate time.
• Has multiple online identities for interacting with the same communities.
• Cheats on you.
• Gives the impression of being very successful without any evidence of real success.
• Disappears from communication for days or weeks at a time without explanation.
• Are evasive about their activities, especialy unexplained absences.
• Only interacts with you in a kinky or sexual manner as if role-playing.
• Will not have normal everyday vanilla conversations.

Socialization

• Critical of the BDSM community.
• Critical of multiple respected members of the BDSM community.
• Has multiple interpersonal conflicts within the BDSM community.
• Refuses to participate in the BDSM community.
• Has bad relationships with most or all of their family members.
• Has no BDSM references or friends you can talk to, and becomes angry if you ask for them.
• Has no friendships or refuses contact with their family.

Insecure

• Is always exaggerating.
• Always puts blame on others for things going wrong.
• They resort to extreme measures to prove that they are not at fault.
• Does not take personal responsibility, or acknowledge their own mistakes.
• Their apologies feels insincere, phony, or is insulting in nature.
• Puts you down in front of other people.
• Is constantly comparing themselves to others.
• Brags excessively about their experience, scene credentials, mastery, training, scene name dropping.
• Will not discuss what your possible future relationship could be like, Tries to keep you in the dark about what might happen next in the relationship.
• Never shows you their human side. Hides their vulnerabilities or behave in an emotionless manner.
• Hides behind their D/s authority, says that their authority should not be questioned.

Disrespectful

• Does not respect your feelings, rights, or opinions.
• Is rude to public servants such as waitresses, cashiers and janitors.
• Displays little concern or awareness of the feelings or needs of others.
• Never says thank you, excuse me or I am sorry to anyone.
• Obvious and excessive displays of impatience.
• Believe that they are deserving of some particular reward or benefit even at the expense of others.

Manipulative

• Tries to make you feel guilty for not being “good enough”.
• Says that you are not a true sub/slave/dom.
• Belittles your ideas.
• Blames you for your hurt feelings.
• Tries to make you think that relationship problems are your fault.
• Yells or by threatens to withdraw their love/leave you if you do not do as he/she wishes

Inconsistent

• Consistently breaks promises.
• Makes plans then makes excuses for not meeting.
• Treats you lovingly and respectfully one day and then harshly and accusingly the next.
• Goes through extreme highs (behaving with great kindness) and pronounced lows (behaving with cruelty), almost as though they are two distinctly different people.

Domineering

• Pressures you into doing things you do not want to do.
• Does not respect your limits, negotiations or contracts.
• Pushes you into a D/s relationship too fast.
• Pushes you into a sexual relationship too fast.
• Pushes you into a poly relationship too fast.
• Overly demanding of your time and must be the center of your attention.
• Insists a safe word is not necessary.

Intemperate

• Conspicuous consumption: spending largely and inappropriately on luxury items.
• Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
• Gambles excessively.
• Is constantly asking for money or material goods from you or others.
• Falls in love with you way too fast and swears undying love before even meeting you.
• Begins saying things like, “I can’t live without you.”
• Deliberately saying or doing things that result in getting themselves seriously hurt.

Tempermental

• Loses control of their emotions in arguments. Raises their voice, yelling, name-calling and blame.
• Uses force or violence to solve problems
• Punch walls or throw things when they’re upset.
• Turns on their peers, going quickly from “best friend” to “arch enemy”, often for trivial or imagined reasons.
• Displays a disproportionately negative reaction to being told “no”.
• Holds excessive grudges against others and goes to great lengths to get revenge on people.
• Threatens suicide or other forms of self-harm.
• Hypersensitive and easily upset by annoyances that are part of daily life.

Conditioned

• Were an abuse victim themselves, and may be abusive as a learned behavior.
• May exhibit cruel behavior towards animals.
• Might admit to hitting a partner in the past, but claims the partner “made” him/her do it.

Consent! A study of consent violations in the Dutch speaking scene

 

This summary of the referenced and linked-to study of consent violations in the Dutch-speaking scene in Holland are by Guilty, reposted by permission.
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** Voor Nederlandstalige conclusies, scroll down **

Introduction

Last month KinkyMinds held a survey on consent violations in the Dutch (speaking) BDSM-scene. Not just about the prevalence of consent violations, but also about how consent violations were experienced, where they took place, if they were considered abuse, about doubts about scenes by other people, interventions in scenes, and about party safewords.

The results are, though more nuanced than the results by the NCSF, with some understatement, quite shocking. Almost 65% of all respondents have at least experienced one consent violation. And that’s just one stunning figure.

Below you can find the final conclusions in English and Dutch.

The full 30 page report and analysis is probably more interesting than just this brief summary and contains a lot more analysis and explores many relations between key concepts. The report available for download (PDF) in Dutch and English from the KinkyMinds website.

I wish to thank all the respondents for their time to answer the survey questions, and Pluu, Marijke and Nichi for proof-reading the draft version. Special thanks also to Voleuse for doing the reliability analysis. Without you, the report would have read like a wet newspaper. Of course, all responsibiliity [sic] for the report is mine and mine alone.

English

What is the frequency of consent violations in the Dutch (language) BDSM scene?

Often. The idea that consent is absolute in the BDSM-scene doesn’t hold. Consent is very important, but at the same time, it gets violated on a pretty large scale. Almost 65% of the respondents have experienced at least one type of consent violation. There are significant relations with gender, orientation and experience. Consent clearly is the norm, but not always actual practice.

How are these consent violations experienced by those involved?

Not always equally bad. “Just” 14,6% has experienced at least one bad consent violation and 20,6% has ever experienced a consent violation as abuse. But there are many cases that are not experienced as bad. Women experience more consent violations as abuse than men. Still, only a very small part of the respondents considered filing charges or actually did so.
In this sense too, consent is less absolute than often suggested. It is violated quite regularly, but that´s not always bad. Still, a substantial part of the respondents has experienced a bad consent violation.
Considering the frequency of consent violations and the fact that such violations aren’t always bad, it is a valid question if consent as ultimate division between BDSM and abuse holds up. Consent violations, to some extent, seem to be part of the game. Not necessarily intended, but neither something to be prevented at all costs (which might not even be possible)

How often do people doubt the consensuality of other peoples’ scenes?

Almost a third (28,9%) has doubted consent in scenes of other people, and that tends to make them feel bad. Their concerns are not entirely unjustified. Of the total population 13% has experienced an ignored limit, 5,9% an ignored safeword and 11,8% a scene gone too far at a party. The idea that parties are the ultimate safe place for a first scene is need of some reassessment too.

How often is intervening in other peoples’ scenes considered? And: How often do we actually intervene in other people’s scenes?

A large part of the people who have doubted consent in scenes of other people, has considered intervening. Only a part of them has actually done so. Notifying a DM or asking participants if they are still okay are the most prevalent interventions. Only a minority directly intervenes themselves. But even many of those that do not intervene, tend to discuss the situation first with other people or a DM before deciding not to intervene. There is no massive bystander effect regarding doubts of consensuality.

Can a party safeword contribute to preventing consent violations and doubts about consensality [sic]

A majority of the respondents (60%) is of the opinion that a party safeword can contribute to preventing consent violations. And 7,1% of the respondents has felt the need for such a safeword for themselves. On the other hand, most consent violation do not happen at parties. The victims of ignored safewords at parties are of course the main beneficiaries of a party safeword, but even amongst them “only” 30% has felt the need for a party safeword themselves.
We may conclude that a party safeword can contribute, but certainly will not prevent all consent violations. The question remains if that would be necessary and desirable, as not all consent violation are bad. They seem to be part of the game, and perhaps other attendees should do well to keep that notion in mind as well. It might well be that they experience a possible consent violation as worse than the participants themselves. Nonetheless, there is a case for a more active and attentive DM-policy, beyond introducing a party safeword.

Recommendations

Parties who wish to retain a profile as being safe would do well to consider introducing a party safeword and to uphold an active, albeit not overdone, DM policy regarding consent. Some additional publicity to attendees about what to do when you doubt consent might also help, as a substantial part seems to do nothing.
But we should not forget that the private sphere is a much bigger source of consent violations. More attention for such violations in the private sphere would certainly be necessary.
Finally, we should ask ourselves if consent as absolute demarcation between abuse and BDSM is still valid. Sometimes, by accident or not, limits are violated and this is not always experienced as bad. Perhaps it would be better to relate BDSM to some form of meta-consent. In general, there should be consent, and if things really get out of hand it becomes abuse, but where people play, accidents do happen.

Nederlands

Het hele rapport vind je hier

Hoe vaak komen consentoverschrijdingen voor in de Nederlandstalige SM-scene?

Vaak. Het beeld dat instemming in de SM-scene absoluut is klopt niet. Men vindt instemming wel in hoge mate belangrijk, maar instemming wordt tegelijkertijd op forse schaal overschreden. Bijna 65% heeft ervaring ten minste één soort consentoverschrijding. Daarbij zijn er significante verbanden met onder andere geslacht, oriëntatie en ervaring. Consent is wel de norm, maar lang niet altijd de praktijk.

Hoe worden deze consentoverschrijdingen ervaren door de betrokkenen?

Lang niet altijd even erg. “Maar” 14,6% heeft ervaring met tenminste één erge consentoverschrijding en 20,6% heeft weleens een consentoverschrijding als misbruik ervaren. Maar er zijn ook veel gevallen die niet als erg worden ervaren. Vrouwen ervaren consentoverschrijdingen vaker als misbruik dan mannen. Toch overweegt slechts een klein deel van de respondenten aangifte te doen of doet daadwerkelijk aangifte.
Ook in deze zin is instemming dus minder absoluut dan vaak wordt gesuggereerd. Consent wordt regelmatig overschreden, maar dat is lang niet altijd erg. Toch heeft een fors deel van de respondenten ervaring met consentoverschrijdingen die wel erg waren.
Gelet op de schaal waarop consentoverschrijdingen plaatsvinden en het feit dat dat lang niet altijd erg is, is het de vraag of consent als het ultieme onderscheid tussen misbruik en SM wel houdbaar is. Consentoverschrijding lijkt voor een deel part of the game. Niet noodzakelijkerwijs de bedoeling, maar ook niet noodzakelijkerwijs iets dat ten koste van alles wordt voorkomen (of wellicht niet voorkomen kan worden).

Hoe vaak wordt er getwijfeld aan de vrijwilligheid van andermans spel?

Bijna een derde (28,9%) heeft weleens getwijfeld aan de vrijwilligheid van andermans spel en dat wordt als vervelend ervaren. Dat is ook niet geheel onterecht. Van de totale populatie heeft 13% weleens te maken gehad met een overschreden grens op een feest, 5,9% met een genegeerd stopwoord op een feest, en 11,8% met een spel dat te ver ging op een feest. Ook het beeld dat feesten een veilige plek zijn om af te spreken in verband met de sociale controle klopt dan ook niet geheel.

Hoe vaak wordt overwogen in te grijpen in andermans spel? En: Hoe vaak (en hoe) wordt daadwerkelijk ingegrepen in andermans spel?

Een groot deel van de mensen die twijfelen aan de instemming bij andermans spel overweegt in te grijpen. Slechts een deel van de mensen die het overwegen grijpen ook daadwerkelijk in. Een DM inseinen of aan de betrokkene)n’ vragen hoe het gaat zijn daarbij de meest gebruikte middelen. Slechts een klein deel grijpt direct zelf in. Maar ook degenen die niet ingrijpen doen dat veelal niet zomaar. Een groot deel van hen overlegt met een DM of andere bezoekers alvorens te besluiten niet in te grijpen, of neemt achteraf contact op met de betrokkene(n). Van een massaal bystandereffect is dan ook geen sprake.

Kan een feeststopwoord bijdragen aan het verminderen van consentoverschrijdingen en twijfels aan consent?

Een meerderheid van de respondenten (60%) is van mening dat een feeststopwoord kan bijdragen aan het voorkomen van consentoverschrijdingen. Een 7,1% van de respondenten geeft ook aan daar zelf weleens behoefte aan te hebben gehad. Toch geldt dat voor lang niet alle consentoverschrijdingen die op feesten plaatsvinden. De slachtoffers van genegeerde stopwoorden op feesten zijn er logischerwijs het meest bij gebaat, en zelfs onder hen heeft “slechts” 30% er zelf weleens behoefte aan gehad.
De conclusie is dan ook dan een feeststopwoord wel iets kan bijdragen, maar zeker niet alle consentoverschrijdingen kan voorkomen. De vraag is ook of dan nodig en wenselijk is, gelet op het feit dat lang niet alle consentoverschrijdingen even erg zijn. Consentoverschrijdingen lijken deels ook part of the game te zijn, en wellicht doen twijfelende bezoekers er goed aan dat soms ook in hun achterhoofd te houden. Het zou bvest eens zo kunnen zijn dat zijn een mogelijke consentoverschrijding erger ervaren dan de betrokkenen zelf. Desalniettemin valt er iets te zeggen voor een actiever DM-beleid dat verder gaat dan letten op een feeststopwoord.

Aanbevelingen

Feesten die zich willen profileren als veilig doen er goed aan te overwegen een feeststopwoord in te voeren en een actief, zichtbaar, zij het niet overdreven, DM-beleid te voeren op het gebied van instemming. Ook zou het kunnen lonen nog wat extra voorlichting te geven aan bezoekers wat je kunt doen wanneer je twijfelt aan consent. Immers, een nog altijd substantieel deel van de mensen doet helemaal niks wanneer zij twijfelen aan consent bij andermans spel.
Maar men moet niet vergeten dat de huiselijke sfeer een nog veel grotere bron van consentoverschrijdingen lijkt te zijn dan feesten. Meer aandacht voor consentoverschrijding in de privésfeer zou dan ook niet onwenselijk zijn.
Ten slotte is het de vraag of het onderscheid tussen misbruik en BDSM volledig aan instemming relateren wel houdbaar is. Soms worden grenzen, al dan niet per ongeluk, overschreden. Dit wordt lang niet altijd erg gevonden, en zeker niet altijd als misbruik ervaren. Wellicht is het onderscheid tussen BDSM en misbruik beter te relateren aan een vorm van meta-instemming. In principe moet er instemming zijn, en als het echt uit de hand loopt wordt het misbruik, maar waar gehakt wordt vallen ook weleens spaanders.

Why the Reasons for Consent Violations Matter, and What We Should Do About Them

A post I just made the other day on a thread about whether or not a particular top should be banned for consent violations, and how long that should last. The reason that a person violates consent matters, as I outline below, with some additions to the original post.

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Yes, I think we should hold people like this accountable, but no, I don’t think they should be banned forever just based on one or two reported issues – IF they are obviously and documentably actually getting help and honestly working on themselves. AND it is obvious that they are making progress.

It takes guts to stand up and admit to what one has done, as X did, and to take responsibility in public. Even if he did the same thing before and then fucked up again, as plenty of people pointed out to him.

It also usually takes time to change what might be long-ingrained behaviors even once one recognizes a need to do so, sometimes a very long time.

But once that need is in fact recognized and the issue squarely and honestly faced, a person has to start somewhere. It takes establishing a new track record, and that cannot happen (at least that we can see) if the person is totally banned.

Anyone who isn’t willing to face the whole community once called out and to not only seek and accept help, but to obviously welcome it and work really hard at it, is the person we should be fully banning, not the ones who are at least trying to take full responsibility publicly, and sort themselves out honestly and visibly.

There are plenty of assholes out there who try to shift the blame for what they did onto their victims, or at least completely deny they did any wrong or harm at all. Or they try to minimize the harm done, and enlist minions to agree with them that oh-it-really-couldn’t-POSSIBLY-have-been that-bad-now-could-it-and-while-we’re-at-it-we-should-ban-and-ostracize-the-VICTIMS-for-DARING-to-speak-up.

These are the types we should be banning, not the ones who are honestly trying to accept responsibility for their own fuck-ups and demonstrably trying to do get help and do something about them.

So maybe we warn people we see these people playing with about their history, and suggest that they be extra-careful in their negotiations with this person.

Or maybe we just keep an overall extra close eye on the known and accused perpetrators as a community as a whole. And if evidence surfaces that despite whatever claims they’ve made to seeking help and trying to change that the same shit keeps happening, then perhaps we ban them.

But if we are going to still penalize and endlessly demonize people who are actually honestly trying to take responsibility for their actions and any harm they have caused, what does that say about us?

We must also be cognizant that if we ban these people altogether, that will just drive them underground and out of sight, where we have NO hope of being able to keep an eye on them (and rehabilitate them) or warn their potential victims.

All this said, I think a “break” should certainly be more than a week or three. I would not expect someone who is claiming to be stepping back and seeking help to be showing his face for a minimum of 3-6 months, any more than I’d expect to actually see any meaningful, visible progress in less time than that. Taking just a couple of weeks off from attending events or volunteering is simply not a remotely meaningful “break” in this sort of situation, IMO, and would cause me to at least question the sincerity.

So for me, the question is, exactly what are they doing to get help? And how will we know when they have been successful? How will they know? Why has the inappropriate behavior surfaced? Is it reasonable to believe that in a given case it will be resolved in a reasonable period of time, or is it due to something like a lifelong character disorder that means that this particular person is never going to be able to learn his lesson?

The reality is that many perfectly decent people come into the scene and turn into assholes thanks to a lot of programming/community mores that somehow they interpret to mean that is what they are supposed to be doing now that they’ve assumed the mantle of DOMLY DOM. This “top’s disease” affects different people differently, and for varying periods of time. Some never do drop it, but many more (I think) actually do eventually outgrow it or at least learn better, and go back to being the decent people with reasonable boundaries they were before they came into the scene.

Others may have social issues like Aspergers that render them unable to easily manage normal social cues. Or they are some personality-disordered flavor of sociopath, psychopath, narcissist, etc. who may also not be able to respect normal boundaries, or may be completely unwilling to.

The reason that people violate consent matters because a) it speaks to intent, b) it affects whether or not we can have a reasonable expectation of change, c) it affects what sort of time frame is reasonable to expect a change in, if such is likely to even be possible, and d) it impacts the sort of response a victim might expect once the perpetrator is made aware of the problem.

In short, it affects whether or not a given person is “trainable” to behave himself better in the future or not, and what might actually be involved in accomplishing that.

The harm inflicted by a consent violation happens regardless of why that behavior happens, and I would be the last person to minimize that –
but why it happens directly impacts the likelihood of it happening again, and may also have a big impact on how the victim eventually processes the event.

People who have difficulty with social cues are always going to have some difficulties with them, but they are not bad people as a result, especially if they know they have these problems and actively work on finding solutions and workarounds as many do. They usually know they have such issues, and can help manage damage control by being up front with their play partners. You can tell they are trying, and that they mean well. They may make repeated and varying mistakes over time, but they can learn – and usually want very much to do so. You often see them doing things like actually asking earnestly how to interpret a given cue and discussing the implications of this or that behavior, quite obviously trying to understand.

Someone who is suffering from “top’s disease” is also usually trainable, and a good heavy clue-by-four to the head with one or two major fuck-ups may be all they need to straighten up and fly right. If it takes them more than two or three, then maybe they are in a different category, but intelligent people who actually mean well will usually get it pretty fast even if they’ve fallen into this trap initially. “Fast” being a relative term, though, since these types may still leave a trail of destruction several years long with repeated failed relationships that often leave their now-former submissives quite angry, bitter, and disillusioned.

The personality-disordered are likely completely hopeless, however. They are perfectly capable of putting on the right front when they need to, and of blithely continuing on with doing whatever they want when out of the public eye, and even twisting things ad infinitum to get out from under the mantle of blame while pinning it instead on their victims. Some of them know they have these issues and seek help to control them, but others either don’t know, or don’t care, and in many cases, actually fully enjoy their disorders and totally get off on the harm they cause.

This last group are the true abusers we really don’t want in our midst. Ever. Unfortunately, I think they are disproportionately represented in our circles. They also leave a trail of destruction – but they don’t change.

Some of them will be willing – and able – to make at least enough changes to render themselves at least reasonably socially-acceptable, but most others won’t, and will represent the majority of the long-term treatment failures for both regular therapy, anger management, etc. – if they even start those things at all.

Equally unfortunately, these types are also quite frequently considered very charming and personable, and are often extremely popular, which allows them to operate under the radar for a very long time, and in fact, to enjoy protections they definitely do not deserve.

I suggest that a dialogue around all of these sorts of things may be more constructive than screaming for absolute, forever bans or allowing anyone who violates consent unlimited access early on in the resolution process.

We cannot – and should not – actually try to diagnose anyone, but certainly we can all spend some time learning about these various types of issues and how they present so that we can have at least some hope of spotting and avoiding the truly problematic, for our own protection – and for trying to form some reasonable thoughts about how a specific situation should be handled.

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Please also see the marvelous post about why we should carefully choose who we are kind to by @TheFerrett

Invitation to Participate in a “Needs Assessment Survey on Intimate Partner Abuse Among Practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles”

All interested individuals who are involved in BDSM/Leather/Kink lifestyles are invited to participate in a survey about intimate partner abuse. The purpose of this survey is to gather information regarding the quality of experiences had by those who sought help from domestic violence service providers, or those who wanted to seek help, but did not do so. The overall goal is to help service providers and outreach educators improve the quality of information, responses and interventions regarding the unique needs and experiences of individuals who live a BDSM, Leather or kinky lifestyle.

You are invited to take the survey whether or not you have been involved in an abusive relationship because the survey will collect basic demographic information about those who engage in BDSM, Leather and/or kink, as well.

The survey link is available here: https://www.psychdata.com/s.asp?SID=155554

The survey will take approximately 25-35 minutes to complete.

Please respond no later than January 31, 2014.

Your participation is voluntary. All responses are anonymous. However, there is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions. The final results of this study will be used for research and may also be published in a summary format in a peer-reviewed journal.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Elizabeth Fawcett, Ph.D., M.P.H., at efawcett@mail.twu.edu. This study has been reviewed according to accepted Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures for research involving human subjects, and approved. If you have questions about the rights of research participants or the way this study is being conducted, you may contact Texas Woman’s University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at 940-898-3378 or via email at IRB@twu.edu.

How to Know If You’re In a Toxic Relationship

From Dr. Taku on RelationshipSurgery.com:

This article is for those who can’t really seem to get it down that something is very off about their relationship…

Are you losing yourself to an odd, and ultimately destructive, relationship? Do you find your old friends falling away, while family members remark on how you don’t seem like yourself? Before you can regain your individuality and strength, you’ll need to determine whether the relationship is taking something away, and, if so, you must put an end to the destructive cycle.

And here’s how.

Step 1.  Evaluate Honesty [sic?]: Is this relationship healthy, or is it unhealthy? Try to be objective as you analyze how things have changed since this relationship began.

Step 2. Ask yourself if you’re in an abusive relationship.  Now the following questions are simply Yes or No. There is no in between with these questions.

Does your partner…      (Continue reading the questions Dr. Taku asks and the 11 steps he advises for evaluating your situation, and his sage advice here.)

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay?

Is your partner too good to leave in some way, but also too bad to stay with?  Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirschenbaum can help you make this decision with clarity, and find peace of mind with your choice.

If you have ever found yourself trying to decide whether to remain in a problematic (or even just boring) relationship and continue to try to work things out, or to just get out, you have probably really struggled with making that decision, and probably all the more so if abuse has been involved.

Few relationships (or people) are entirely bad with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, and even some of the very most abusive often still have plenty of good left in them – or at least the abused partner may still have a number of entirely valid reasons for staying.

It can be crazy-making for anyone in any relationship to try to make this decision with all of the conflicting information, needs, and priorities that must often be considered, but people who have been abused are often even more confused than the average bear as a result of the mind-games that abusers tend to play.  Too often, we make lists of pros and cons to try to help us decide, and find them equal in length, or a particular advantage appears to vastly outweigh a long list of real problems, thereby perpetuating the whole dilemma.  Add in the issues inherent in kinky relationships, and it can be particularly difficult to decide what to do in all too many cases – or to actually do it even if you already know.

A couple of years ago, I came across this really superb book that can help you make more sense of this decision, and to make it in a rational and reasoned manner, although I’m only now getting around to writing about it.  If you’re still in the relationship, this book can help you decide whether or not to stay in it.  If you are already out, you may find that reading it will help validate why you are better off without the jerk, especially if you still have any remaining doubts.  It will help you cut through all of the mental ping pong of “yes, buts” and “if onlys” and get right to the bottom line.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay is unquestionably the very best book I’ve ever found about how to make the decision to leave or stay and try to work things out when a relationship is troubled in some way but may still have good in it, there is still love, etc. It’s an absolute gem for those who are on the fence regardless of the reasons you may be straddling it.

Through exploration of a number of specific questions, and analysis of the long-term happiness of many people she has studied or counseled who chose to either stay or go under the particular circumstances of each section, Kirschenbaum helps walk the reader through essentially a decision tree, starting with the parameters she has found to be most predictive of long term success or failure of trying to salvage things and working her way down to the smaller issues. Even if you find your answer in the early sections, I encourage reading the whole thing, as some of the later ones may provide additional validation.

She also makes some incredibly important and surprising points about the value of love in a relationship, including why that actually should not be the primary determinant of a decision like this in many cases – and indeed examines what love actually is and how various behaviors do or do not demonstrate it.

Even if, like me, you don’t find this while you’re still trying to make a decision but only after the fact, it will likely help you better understand why things didn’t work out if you do make the split, or help confirm why you may be better off having made the decision to stay together.

As I worked my way through the book, the points against staying kept adding up more and more.  It really helped put any final doubts I may have still harbored at that point to rest for good, helped completely end the cycle of “If only…” that had continued to torture me for a good while after the end.  “If only” is a pipe dream.  It wasn’t, and never actually could have been, given so many things about the person I was with.  “If only” is probably *always* a pipe dream, for everyone.

One note – Kirschenbaum talks about hitting you as perhaps the most important predictor of failure of trying to reconcile, the one real absolute she lays out as an imperative for leaving. Obviously most of us can’t take that at full face value in the kink world. Just mentally add in the word “consensual” where she mentions physical violence of any sort, and that will help separate things out in a relevant-to-kink way.  If your partner has ever hit you in a nonconsensual way, violated limits, etc., I think this section will apply.

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Thanks to @freewine on FetLife for the prodding that got me to sit down and finally write about this book.

Rape Accusations – Real or False?

In the past year or so, we’ve seen an explosion of discussions on both Fetlife and in the blogosphere about the problem of rape and abuse in the BDSM community, many of which I’ve commented on and linked to in other posts both here on this blog and elsewhere.  There is unfortunately a widespread belief that the majority of these accusations are false, and often motivated by a desire for revenge on the part of a jilted lover.

Well, let me tell you right now that not only is this patently untrue, but according to a recent article in The Guardian, even the widespread belief that most such accusations are bogus is actually undermining the investigation of them all.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that it follows from this that far fewer real rapists and abusers will be brought to justice when even the police mistakenly believe that most reports are false and don’t even bother to investigate them all diligently as a result.

Think about this for a moment.  Even the most heinous cases of rape or assault may suffer from a preexisting prejudice against even the claim that it happened, and official tendency to blow off all such claims as false.  Real victims of real crimes have a hard enough time obtaining justice without the entire system being prejudiced against them from the start like this.

This goes well beyond the old blame-the-victim mentality that has unfortunately already been around for eons to actually saying that people are lying about even being a victim to start with.  Allegedly as a matter of course.

I grow very tired of hearing the cries of “they are lying cause I dumped them” excuse…

So said a friend of mine in a discussion about the question of false accusations in a group called Critical Curmudgeons of Kink, an outpost of sanity in a crazy BDSM world, where such sacred community cows are routinely slaughtered, and where fools are not suffered gladly.

I get really tired of this too, my friend.  And even more tired of having been accused of the same myself.

I am tired of knowing that my ex is likely telling any new women he might decide to take up with that if they encounter me talking about what he did to me that I’m lying, and then regaling them with the same range of stories about how awful I am that he fed me about his then-wife when we first met, the one I later found out he’d lied to me then about being separated from.  Stories that I know will prevent them from even contacting me for a reference, or believing what I have to say, even though it’s information they really ought to have in order to keep themselves safe, because leopards don’t change their spots…

So, I’m particularly glad that there is information surfacing showing how low the rate of false accusations really is – and the distorted way of compiling the data.

It can’t come too soon, in my opinion.  The “blame the victim” culture in this country (and especially in kink circles) has simply got to stop.

My friend continues:

I will also point out that often charges being dropped are counted as false accusations when the reality is there was not enough evidence to take to trial not that it was actually a false accusation.

The Guardian article bears this out as well.

Which is part of why I am so vehemently opposed to the whole disgraceful “conviction or it didn’t happen” attitude we see so much of in our circles.

Most of these cases, even the most legitimate ones, never even get to trial, but not because it didn’t happen.

What’s more (and even more outrageous), when these cases that get dropped get counted as false accusations when they are in fact anything but, even the data that does exist about false accusations is distorted, showing a higher rate than is justified in reality.

Anyone with a brain intuitively rejects the idiotic notion that most (or even a lot of) accusations are false, especially since we all know perfectly well how badly the system itself routinely batters victims attempting to get justice.

As my friend (who has publicly mentioned personal experience with the matter) continues:

However it is still a huge gap between false accusations and convicted rapes, and I can tell you that a decent prosecutor will inform the victim of the you did it to yourself shit they will have to go through and many opt out at that point to save their sanity.

Very true.  We are all perfectly well aware of how this “blame the victim” business works, and how it is the victim herself who essentially ends up on trial in such cases when they do get to that point.

To which I’d only add that this is so if it even gets anywhere near a prosecutor to start with.  Which it often doesn’t.

By the time I finally reported the multiple rapes and nonconsensual battery (and resulting injuries) to which I had been subjected myself by a former dominant, for example, still well within the statute of limitations, the cop didn’t even want to take the report, and refused to even investigate it, telling me to my face that he thought it was a case of sour grapes by that point, or would at least be seen that way.  No way did he even go near the DA with the case.

And frankly, I was too afraid of the dominant in question to even try to insist he do so, among other things.

If anyone else gets hurt by this now-prominently placed jagoff, however, I will go to my grave regretting that I never reported it sooner.  Regretting that I suffered for months (and now years) in silence (from a legal point of view) and in physical agony without even going to the doctor or emergency room when I knew I should have to address some of the injuries, because you always think it will be better by morning…

Which was the main reason I finally stepped forward when I did – to at least *try* to protect anyone else from being victimized by him, since nothing in the world can ever repair the damage he did to me, both physical and emotional.  To at least try to ensure there’s a trail, for the next person…

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars since then coping with the injuries and fallout from them, however.  One of them has played a large role in costing me my ability to even function physically on a daily basis.  As such, it’s a never-ending daily reminder of what he did to me – which also always circles back around to the rapes and other violations of limits.

Interestingly, his last (or maybe it’s now the next-to-last?) submissive has actually moved halfway across the country now, following on the heels of comments that she suffered a “breakdown” after her relationship with him.  I can’t help but wonder what he might have put her through…  You really have to wonder about a dominant who’s collared more women than the years he’s been involved with them all collectively.

And my friend goes on:

While I do think there is a certain type of person with issues who does this in BDSM/Kink I think it is more about repeat offenses with the same people type ATTRACTED to BDSM/Kink that that it happens overall more in all society.

Indeed.

I’ve written a lot here in this blog and elsewhere about why I believe that BDSM is often used as a haven and shield to hide behind for many rapists and abusers.

No doubt there are some who are likewise into false accusations, but there is no reason to believe they constitute even a large percentage of such accusations anywhere, even in our circles, never mind “most”.

Bottom line, we are back to the point I always make – please BELIEVE people when they accuse others of rape or assault or abuse.  Do NOT blame the victim, do NOT try to minimize their experience.

You weren’t there, you weren’t in their shoes or their skin, and no matter what the perpetrator tells you to try to put his accuser in a bad light, you were not the one experiencing what he actually did to her, so you have no damn business judging.  (Fill in gender pronouns of your choice if others apply.)

Above all, please do NOT elevate those who are accused to positions of power and visibility where they can continue to harm others with the apparent blessings of the entire community.

Just because someone is an apparent leader in the community, or puts himself out there as an experienced mentor or assigner of mentors to mentees, or is well-liked, or a popular presenter, does not mean he’s necessarily a safe bet for anything at all. Check references carefully, insisting on talking to his earliest partners, and the ones with whom he is not on good terms, not just his current fan club.  Dig deep, don’t rely on surface appearances, no matter how nice he may seem, no matter how attractive or sexy or persuasive, no matter what fun toys he may have.  Talk to others to find out what they know about him and his current and former partners – and even who they disdain with respect to him, and then go talk to those people as well.  Don’t fall for that seductive domly come-on until you’ve really done your homework to establish that you are most likely actually in safe hands.

Just because someone who is accused of rape or other types of abuse may still do nice things upon occasion for his victim, either privately or publicly, whether within the ongoing relationship or long after the breakup, also doesn’t change the fact of the harm he did inflict upon her and the repercussions it has and might continue to have.  Some stains simply cannot be removed.

It is not the responsibility of the BDSM community or individuals within it to investigate allegations of rape, assault, abuse, etc. or to pass judgment about them much less establish penalties.

It is, however, the responsibility of every single one of us as human beings to extend compassion to the victims, and to honor them with at least believing them and helping them. To let them know that they are not alone, that they will not be blamed for coming forward, no matter how little others may believe what they say, or how hard their abusers may work to discredit them.

If you listen to tales of woe and claims of being falsely accused from someone who has been accused of rape or assault without also having an in-depth and open-minded and unblaming discussion about the matter with the victim, then you are judging with often much less than half the story, and with absolutely zero perspective about how that person was actually harmed.

(I myself have suffered at the hands of one who blamed another ex for all his woes, and made the mistake of believing it all at face value, only to ultimately find out exactly how he set everything up so that it might look, to him (and of course to anyone else he might describe the situation to), like it was actually she who was to blame, with nary a hint of insight into his own behavior or contribution to the problem.  I’ve often wished since then that I could talk to her, but believe she would not be receptive.  Let me state quite clearly here that I *am* receptive to talking to anyone else he might be involved with, or become involved with, present, future, or past, who would like to better understand what may have hit them, or just to commiserate, and I am likewise more than happy to share objective, specific, factually detailed, and documentable information about exactly what he did to me.  But I digress…)

The alternative to ensuring that we both believe and extend compassion to victims is what we’ve got now, a society in which the guilty know quite well that not only will they get away with their crimes, but that they will even be pitied themselves as the alleged victims of disgruntled exes with an axe to grind, or even be cast in the light of poor innocents like the two boys in Steubenville recently convicted of raping a classmate despite an actual conviction.

When we blame victims for their own assaults, and/or heap pity on their attackers, we lose a lot of our humanity both as individuals and as a community and a nation.

To all of you who have done this to me or to anyone else, while I don’t actually wish harm on any of you, I do hope that one day you will live to experience the pain of being blamed yourself for something that was done TO you by someone else, and watching your attacker go free and even be applauded and treated as a victim himself because you spoke out against him, left in peace to harm someone else who makes the mistake of trusting him inappropriately.  Or worse still, watch him be elevated into a position of trust where the chances of someone else being badly harmed are increased beyond the norm.

God forbid it should be your own daughter or niece who should suffer such indignities.  And God forbid they should be afraid to come to you for help for fear that you will blame them as well.

But if you are walking around talking about the compassion you feel for perpetrators, or how the victim had it coming to her for how she dressed or whatever, or accusing others of making false accusations just to get back at someone who dumped them when they speak up about mistreatment suffered at someone else’s hands, then this is exactly the message you will be sending, not just to your friends and acquaintances, but to your own loved ones, who very well may one day need your support to cope with the rape or assault that all women are statistically very likely to suffer at some point in time themselves.

If you’re not ready to pay that price in your own life, then for God’s sake, why would you engage in and encourage such behavior on the part of others otherwise?

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Fifty Shades of Abuse Romanticized

 

Yeah, at it’s core, Fifty Shades of Gray has a very strong vein of pure abuse running right through it.  And I’ve been trying really hard to ignore that.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it, but finding this image on a Facebook group called “The Reality of Domestic Violence” gives me a perfect launching pad.

I know, I know; a while back, I wrote about all the good things in the Fifty Shades series as far as kink is concerned in a post called Fifty Shades of Consent.  Most of what I wrote does apply, but the part where I talked about Christian being in control of himself and a  model of eliciting consent?  Eh, not so much.

In fact, I found myself thinking, “Who the hell do you think you’re kidding?” not long after I wrote it upon rereading it.  Heck, I was thinking that even as I wrote the post, and kept telling myself to shut up and look at the positives.

The fact of the matter is that Christian is one controlling mofo, exactly as detailed in the image above that lists the hallmark signs of an abusive partner.  The fact that things turn out OK in the end really doesn’t excuse any of this.

He’s also a stalker, which the image leaves out.  I mean, honestly, following Anna around, showing up at her workplace in another town, following her out on the town at night with her friends, etc.?  Running a formal background check on her down to what she’s got in her checking account before even doing that?  Scary shit…

I was looking for the good parts, and trying to minimize the bad.

Then it hit me – this is just like we so often do when we find ourselves in abusive relationships.

Exactly what I did as I fell down the rabbit hole with his Ex-ness. I knew it was a bad idea to get back together when he begged me, and I even told him why, which he blew off – and then I bought his own reasons, which I even knew made no sense.  I knew that he wasn’t seeing it clearly and that I ought to be the one to walk away.  But, man, I had so many good reasons to move ahead despite knowing I shouldn’t, so many reasons I so wanted it to work and to be shown that my instincts were wrong, so very many reasons to believe that maybe I was entirely wrong, and not wanting to miss out on all the good stuff I knew was there also…  I was hope, hope, hoping…

And I wrote an entire post that exactly mirrors this process that we who end up in abusive relationships go through of seeing what we need to see and then pushing it aside, out of sight, out of mind.  A post that is full of denial and ignoring the bad parts in our desperate reach for the good, our strong desire that people actually be good and interested in our best interests, just as our heads in the clouds and our eyes blinded when we are in the throes of new romances.  A post that reflected the thought process of denying our own instincts in the glow of attraction, flattering attention – and super hot sex.

So often we see the red flags clearly but we ignore them, or something niggles that we can’t quite identify and so we push it out of our consciousness.

Like Anna, we find it flattering that this hot guy (or gal) finds us appealing, and our pink parts get all tingly, so we ignore the real danger signals that we see coming at us like how annoying it is to have this guy just show up on our doorstep without asking and interfere in our plans.  We don’t want to be alone, or we maybe we don’t even know how to be on our own to start with.  Our self esteem isn’t at its peak for any number of possible reasons, so we’re especially vulnerable even if we aren’t as young and innocent as Anna was.

So often we see the train wreck coming and watch in helpless, frozen fascination as it careens down the track right at us and derails in our front rooms in a screaming, smoking, twisted heap of shorn and molten metal, running over everything and everyone in its path, leaving a trail of bloody bodies and broken hearts, destroying us as well in the process, not having the sense to get off the damn tracks while there’s still time to avoid the disaster, or knowing we should, but then engaging in magical thinking that somehow we will be saved at the last minute even if we stay firmly rooted to the spot directly in front of the oncoming locomotive and its load.

Christian does indeed do all the right things as far as the BDSM is concerned – requiring consent, not violating limits, etc.  His play actions are well within the bounds of consensuality, and are criticized in the kink world as “BDSM lite”, so because this is a kink-related site, I’m not going to get into healthy-BDSM-as-sexual-violence, although of course we know that it can be used in an abusive, nonconsensually violent manner.

But then in the rest of their every day life, he keeps stalking Anna, ignores her pleas to do as she wishes vs what he mandates.  He dictates her wardrobe, brings in a doctor to insert the type of birth control that he wants her to be on without so much as consulting her, and even goes so far as to purchase the company she works for so he can fire her even more predatorial boss ostensibly in order to protect her – but also clearly to keep an eye on her every move.  He is mercurial, spinning from high spirits to rage in an instant. All kinds of fancy gifts follow on his less than stellar moments – the apology and honeymoon phase of a classic abusive cycle.

Oh, he’s got good reasons for wanting to protect her, it eventually turns out, but he does it with a very heavy hand, without fully informing her of his reasoning, and utterly denying her a say in the matter.  Which fortunately turns out OK in the end – but then again, this is fiction, not real life, and the whole series takes place over a matter of just a few months, so we never see how Anna ends up feeling as she gets older and undoubtedly eventually grows tired of all this controlling behavior and begins to see it for the sickness it really is.  And to find out that all the love in the world isn’t going to change it, because the sickness is in his core.

As the series progresses, Christian does tone some of this down as they both kind of grow up together – but in real life, these kinds of negative behaviors usually do not go away so easily, even if the person wants to change.

 

So what’s the lesson for people facing abusive partners, or potentially getting involved with someone who is showing signs of being an abuser?

At the core, it’s about trusting your instincts – and acting on them even if it brings short term pain of loss.

If you don’t like some of the things your date or play partner is doing early on, like Anna didn’t like being followed and made to give up her friends, etc., pay attention.

Don’t try to minimize the lies you find out about or the evidence of broken agreements with past partners.  Don’t let the bad behavior slide.  Don’t ignore and try to pacify the early hissy fits, thinking they’ll subside, because they won’t.  Don’t try to make excuses for why he did this or that, even with previous partners.

Remember that what you see at the outset of a relationship is the very best things will ever be because they are on their best behavior trying to win you; it’s all downhill from there.

In a good relationship with a reasonably healthy partner, everyone will have their ups and downs, and certainly everyone relaxes as they get to know their partner and lets out their less stellar traits, but on balance, you’ll still be dealing with the same basically kind, decent human being you started out with.

Not so with an abuser; that good stuff is an illusion, or a veneer over the real core, the public side, not the private one.  They can’t keep up the facade for long, which is why you’ll catch them in early lies, find yourself feeling uncomfortable in the pit of your stomach (one writer said this is what the “butterflies” in the stomach we feel are really about), etc.  It’s like trying to keep all the steam inside a pressure cooker once you’ve started to loosen the lid.  Hints will sneak out until the whole top finally blows.

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the dominant is good about consent and limits when playing if he’s still an abusive asshole in enough other ways in the rest of day-to-day life.  Not only does the one not make up for the absence of the other, in the end, a dominant (or indeed any other person) who will violate your consent in one arena in life and be abusive will end up violating it and being abusive in others as well.  Yes, there are occasional exceptions – but it is deluding ourselves to believe that we might be the ones lucky enough to find them.  The odds just don’t favor it.

The danger of this story is it romanticizes these abusive aspects – and then shows things working out fine in the end, which perpetuates the myths that abusers (or kinky people in general) just need the right partner to set them straight, and then somehow they will live happily ever after.  It feeds the fear we all have at the beginning when the doubts begin to surface of what we might lose out on if we pay attention to those instincts and run instead of shoving the concerns down and staying.

If you do read Fifty Shades, by all means enjoy the escapism fantasy and hot (if repetitive) sex scenes, but for heaven’s sake, don’t base a real relationship – or your own persona – on this trainwreck of a man’s portrayal.

 

 

A Letter to The New Girlfriend of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

I didn’t write this letter, and a few of the specifics are different from some of my experiences (as they will be for all relationships), but yes, this.

This is exactly what it’s like, and what you’re in for when you end up with a person like this.  Been there, done that, got that t-shirt.  Beware that whirlwind and feeling of having hit the jackpot indeed – especially when it comes very rapidly on the heels of his last relationship (which should be a major red flag by itself)…

Whirlwinds like this do sometimes work out, but if you’re all caught up with someone and the description below even remotely matches your ga-ga state, please do at least consider the possibility that things are not quite what they appear at first.

The letter below is taken from Caught in the Cogs (who adds a lot of interesting commentary that a person might want to be aware of), who in turn got it from the About Relationships blog.  The post doesn’t seem to actually be on the original site any more, but there are a lot of good links about dealing with these types, how to identify cheating, etc., so I’m leaving the link in (also for clear attribution purposes, too, of course).  It’s long, but please do read through to the end; it’s well worth it.

Interestingly, a psychiatrist of my acquaintance, alarmed when I mentioned a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in my own life, told me that this pattern is the single most common presentation of bipolar disorder.  I can now totally believe it.

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A Letter to The New Girlfriend of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
by Dr. M. Analise Torelli, PhD.,MA,MSW,BS.

Dear New Girlfriend,

Let me preface this letter to you by acknowledging that you will not believe a word of it…just yet. Not for months, or even a year or two…or three…In fact, you may read it and go running to your amazing new man, your special King and newly found ‘soulmate’ for some reassurance that none of this is true. And he WILL tell you it is all a lie. He WILL deny everything. And I also expect that he will tell you it’s all the imaginings of his bitter ex-psycho GF. Oh yes, he will say, you are SO much better, his Princess, his One and Only Truest Love. And he will warn you not to ever believe a word of anything ANYONE ever says about him…unless it is all GOOD, of course! If you find out my real name, he will convince you most of all that you must never listen to a word I say or write, and that you should never EVER try to talk to me. You will believe everything he tells you. You will. I know. Because I did too. Once Upon a Time.

Right about now YOU, as the next one in line, are feeling like you hit the jackpot and won the lottery all at once. You could not be happier! You are happy, just deleriously HAPPY! You are dancing on cloud nine and ten and counting all your lucky stars. Continue reading