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