Trust Me…

Of course you can trust me. I’m a skilled top. I mean, you saw me swinging a whip around some and it looked good, didn’t it? You can surely tell I’ve been practicing for a long time, and that I was taught by the best. Safety protocols? Yeah, of course I follow those…

OMG, you have got to run, don’t walk, to read the Sex Geek’s latest post entitled “trust me” [sic], which is an hilarious rant about various ways that some of the so-called more experienced tops, particularly those who are leaders of some sort or another in the scene, get over on the naive and unsuspecting – read “newbies”.

It’s funny, all right, because it’s seriously well-written – but also because she actually nails a number of behaviors and attitudes that are virtually pathognomonic of abusers in the scene right on the head.

Other things to check, although by no means an exhaustive list – what is the ratio of sweet young submissive thangs he’s got on his profile to other friends? Watch it over time, too. Why did some of those seem to drop off and out of sight all of a sudden at some point? And maybe not just one but a handful? Who were his first submissives and longest term partners, and why are they not on his friends list if they’re not?

Make sure to ask people he refers to publicly as his “good friend” if he really is – and watch the reactions of those people very carefully. I’ll tell you right now that there’s at least one such dominant running around in my neck of the woods who is quite extraordinarily deluded as to the actual nature of his relationship with a person whom he routinely publicly addresses and refers to this way. Every arrogant prick is a name dropper, especially when he wants to get into your pants, especially if he’s not as big a name himself.

And oh, yeah, just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they’re safe, either. Many times those are the ones with the absolute most to hide.

They are certainly highly unlikely to let it slip where the bodies are buried, and boy will they get seriously steamed if any of their previous vict^H^H^partners mention what was done to them. They may have even threatened those exes in the past behind the scenes, well out of the public eye, to try to keep them quiet, or had others do their threatening for them. If you look at a pair where one is quiet and is being accused of behaviors by the other that don’t seem to match his public persona, maintain a very high index of suspicion.

And don’t think that what reactions you see from him are the whole story. Some of these people are extraordinarily good at showing the absolute face of innocence publicly while going as far as threatening other people and even ending longstanding friendships of their own behind the scenes in an attempt to manipulate those people into disclosing private conversations with the victim.

I’ll repeat – you cannot, cannot, CANNOT, as in absolutely positively CAN NOT, be sure that someone is safe to play with just because they are highly visible or hold some kind of leadership position in the scene, or even if they say all the right things and look hot as hell.

Perhaps especially not then.

Caveat emptor to the max.

Forgetting

I’ve written some about forgetting to do things one has promised and whether or not it is abusive, and I’d like to add some thoughts to that specifically about what it means when a submissive forgets to do something she has promised her dominant, expanding a bit on my answer to The Eroticist’s excellent post on punishing a masochist and why it is likely to end a dominant up no longer having a submissive.  There are, of course, many other things a dominant can do that will have the same result, but let’s look at forgetting for the moment.

Eroticist posits, in essence, that forgetting to do something she has promised to do basically means that it has been done deliberately, and she likely no longer wants to be in the relationship.  A lot of people think in these terms in vanilla relationships, too, though, and all of it is fueled by pop psychology that tries to put all of human behavior into neat little black and white boxes.

Well, unfortunately, life is just not quite so cut and dried.

You need to remember that there are many reasons why a person might forget to do something (or decide not to do it) despite promising to do so other than deliberate disobedience and not wanting to be in the relationship any more.  I’ve outlined many of them in my prior post, which is somewhat more focused on whether or not forgetting is outright abusive.  Here we are talking explicitly about why a submissive in particular might forget and what it might mean to the relationship, particularly if the dominant calls her to task for it.  The prior post’s points about reasons for forgetfulness all still stand, but the twist of whether or not it means one wants to remain in the relationship was not mentioned there.

The notion of punishment in a BDSM relationship context is one that is very controversial.  Some love it, some hate it.  Whatever your feelings about it are, however, it is undeniable that it carries some risks – including both crossing the consent line into abuse, causing lasting psychological harm, and that of driving the submissive off entirely if it is done inartfully or inappropriately.

There is also no question that raising the issue of whether or not forgetting to do something means the submissive no longer wants to be in the relationship or not could well end up as Eroticist cautions with the end of the relationship, for many possible reasons.

A dominant is very likely indeed to lose his submissive (or at least end up with an increasingly unwilling and unhappy one), if he does things like continue to accuse of her of deliberately forgetting things despite knowing full well that she has a poor memory to start with, whether inherently or because of medical issues, and continues to argue the point, refusing to believe that there was nothing personal about her forgetting something whatsoever if she tells him that, and if he continues to hammer on themes like “If you really cared, you wouldn’t have forgotten”.

That latter idea is a landmine-in-waiting anyways.  It’s like the eternal, “If you really loved me, you’d <fill in the blank>.”  These sorts of expectations are often utterly unrealistic in any relationship, and inappropriately tie things together that frequently have zero cause/effect relationship to one another except in individual people’s minds.  Their partners may well have an entirely different set of constructs, and indeed, a lot of the strife that occurs in relationships results from such mismatched expectations.  There are few, if any, real universals about what people who really love or care about their partners will or will not do – and even those are likely to have some exceptions in certain circumstances.  There are different kinds of love languages, and even within each type, there are huge variations in how love and caring are expressed and thought about.

Once you set this kind of ship in motion, too, continuing to ascribe intent and deliberation to what is actually accident (and likely already very distressing to the forgetter), then it may very well become the herald of a greater problem where it never was to start with.

When people are browbeaten and accused of things they either have not done, or of doing something deliberately that was entirely accidental and coincidental in this kind of manner, it tends to breed both resentment and ultimately fear, neither of which tend to improve memory or performance. Contempt also tends to end up coming along for the ride, ultimately replacing both love and respect.

When people work in an environment in which they feel intimidated by their employers, for example, productivity drops, and errors skyrocket.  No one can work well in an environment of fear, and of being disbelieved, mistrusted, unjustly accused of doing things they never did, or having small infractions blown entirely out of proportion.

It is no different in personal relationships.  And when what one is accused of doing deliberately is a result of a condition over which they have little control to start with, particularly in an intimate relationship, the stress and pain will invariably eventually lead to the breakdown of trust and ultimately the whole relationship.

When you try to punish something over which a person has little control, and is already feeling distressed about, you create a no-win situation that will almost have to create a vicious circle that will destroy the relationship.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, it would behoove you to just add this factoid to your personal databanks about their features as just another datapoint and try not to take it personally.  If they have explained to you that it has been a problem for them for a long time, you will likely also see a lot of distress.  But you should believe them, and take them at their word when they tell you it doesn’t mean anything about you, because especially earlier on, it almost undoubtedly would not.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you’re seeing a lot of distress and contrition once they realize they’ve forgotten something – and recognize that she knows herself and why it happened vastly better than you ever will.

And why would you even want to believe that a long-standing problem somehow suddenly means that they have it in for you?

Now, if a given person doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, there is nothing necessarily inherently wrong with that.  To each his own.  Some of us have more flexibility than others.

The problem comes when the dominant is aware that there are other factors contributing to or causing the problem and does not adjust his own expectations to meet the reality of what the actual person he is with is like and continues to bash her for it vs just ending the relationship if he’s that unhappy.

Furthermore, even when it’s true that the forgetfulness is the manifestation of some ambivalence or problem in the relationship, it may only be about that particular area, and may not have global application at all.  If you try to force the issue of it being all or nothing, that she either wants to be in the relationship or not, you will lose a lot of nuance – and likely the opportunity to work out and negotiate something that will get past a particular obstacle that will allow the relationship to continue and flourish.  You will never, ever get 100% of what you want in a relationship all the time.  People are just not built that way.

No matter what the “party line” in the scene is, compromise and negotiation are the cornerstones of successful D/s relationships the same way as they are in vanilla ones.  This very much includes learning about and accommodating many of your partner’s personal challenges and foibles.  If you’re a “my way or the highway” kind of dom who doesn’t get this, you are likely to burn through a hell of a lot of submissives and throw out a lot of babies with the bathwater, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake.

Leave if you must, by all means – but please don’t brand everyone who is forgetful as automatically inherently unsubmissive, not wanting the relationship, a manipulator, etc.  It just ain’t true.

============

Please do read Eroticist’s post and the excellent comments that follow it (and his comment below here), especially if you are interested in punishment dynamics.  He and I are looking at different aspects of one issue here.

Tolerating Criminal Behavior in the Scene, and Judging Others

Several things have happened over the years that have had me really starting to look at what happens in our circles when clearly and unambiguously illegal behavior comes to light.

My first encounter with this sort of thing was finding out that a former play partner of mine was a convicted pedophile. There are also numerous other reports (usually kept under wraps, but sometimes boasted of publicly) of other acts of pedophilia, bestiality, and much more, up to and including murder.

After much soul-searching on the pedophilia question, trying to sort out whether or not such people should be outted or not, I decided that I would only do so in that particular case if I were to observe this person speaking with people whom I knew had children, especially young girls, and then only to the parents involved. As for my personal encounters with him, I spent a long time trying to decide whether or not to continue to associate with the other members of his leather family, how to handle running into him in public, etc. It was much easier to decide to cut him out entirely than to decide what was appropriate with the others.

Ultimately, I decided that I had to back away from them all, because I didn’t want to be painted with the same brush by others – and because, as my ex once put it when I told him about what had happened, anyone who would stay with someone who was abusive to children or animals knowing that was happening (or had happened) is just as guilty of the crime as the person who actually committed it.

That isn’t true in a legal sense, obviously, but certainly is in a moral sense. Birds of a feather and all that. You hang with pedophiles and bestialists, or thieves and murderers, and you are implicitly condoning their behaviors. You hang with people who have numerous friends who are into these things, and you’d better also consider why they associate with such people even if they deny those proclivities themselves…

The sex with children and animals debate has been going on for a long time in the community. Generally speaking, both are widely condemned, as they should be, since both involve abuse of beings that are unable to consent, and unable to even understand what is happening enough to give informed consent – or indeed any kind of consent at all. These subjects are verboten on virtually every mainstream kink website, except to discuss intellectually, for very good reason. Such behaviors would never be tolerated in our playspaces, and not just because that could get the spaces closed down and send a lot of people off to jail. It’s because the majority of kinksters genuinely understand how very wrong these things are.

Many of the other types of abuse, rape, and assault that occur in our circles can be ambiguous to define and identify. We pride ourselves as a community on tolerance for what gets others off. Which, again, is largely how it should be, although there are certainly exceptions, and identifying what’s OK and what’s not is the central theme of this blog.

But what about other crimes? And how does our whole attitude of “your kink is OK” play into acceptance of criminal and abusive behavior that anywhere else would get people tossed into jail instantly?

Sometime last year, a submissive who appears to be quite popular publicly posted a tale on Fetlife about how she was house/petsitting for someone, apparently something she does as a business, and came across a bottle of 100 Vicodin tablets in her client’s medicine cabinet. These are powerful narcotic pain relievers, controlled prescription drugs with a high addictive potential. They also have major street value as a result. Apparently this young woman has had some major drug problems in the past (her public self report) and described how, despite knowing full well that she should not do so, she swallowed not just one or two of these pills – but literally swallowed the whole bottle.

This would kill the average person, or come pretty darn close, but again, our heroine was sitting there telling everyone about it, without hospitals and ambulances figuring into the story, so obviously she had some pretty major tolerance built up. The sure sign of an addict; they can take doses of controlled drugs that would even kill the average horse and just keep on going.

She talked about her upset at backsliding out of whatever clean period she’d had, and got dozens, if not hundreds of messages of support. To my shame, I was one of them. I do understand how people feel a pull like this, though. I do sympathize with that, and her obvious upset about it.

But here’s the thing.

First of all, she stole these pills. From a client. She didn’t just take one because she had a headache, which virtually no one would have an issue with, she stole the whole bottle – all 100 or so tablets, consuming them on the spot.

She is also a veterinary technician (which she has repeatedly mentioned publicly online) who should doubly have known better. Who still has ongoing access to other such drugs in her employer’s clinic, if she’s still working in this field, because that’s one of the things that vet techs do, is dispense and manage the stock of the medications the veterinarians they work for prescribe. She is putting both her job and her employer at risk doing this shit, not to mention her own freedom. Why she’s confessing to it publicly, I don’t claim to understand, but hey, it’s her life.

If she’s doing drugs again, particularly if she is going to work impaired or seriously hung over, she is also putting her clients’ pets’ lives at risk, because vet techs assist in surgery and doing numerous other hands-on tasks around the clinic that involve direct care of the creatures entrusted to that veterinary practice. You simply can’t have people who are drug impaired in positions like this, because mistakes can be fatal.

Somehow she managed to rationalize all of this away, however, by saying that because the expiration date on the bottle had passed that she believed her employer-the-client wouldn’t miss them. Wouldn’t even know. Wouldn’t notice. Wouldn’t care.

She committed a felony.

Was talking about it openly in public.

She knew it was wrong, and yet her entire focus was on the poor me of being upset that she’d started using again.

And apparently no one (sadly myself included) even took her to task for it in any way.

The only reaction she got was all these people patting her on the back and giving her all kinds of sympathy and encouragement.

Oddly enough, at least one of her friends is a veterinarian. Who still remained friends with her, at least on that site, long after this confessional was posted.

What is wrong with this whole picture?

If she’d have said she had robbed a bank or murdered someone, I like to hope that no one would encourage her and offer her sympathy for whatever feelings may have driven her to that, or might be feeling in the aftermath.

And even aside from the fact that associating with a bank robber could get one’s own self tossed in jail with various types of charges levied in certain circumstances, I like to hope and believe that the people of our “community” have enough integrity to “just say no”, and quit associating with people who commit felonies, not treat them like the victims. This goes quadruple for associating with known pedophiles and bestialists, especially those who see fit to advertise these tastes in fully public venues like anywhere on the Internet.

I also know of a number of other outright criminal acts like rape, murder, and embezzlement that scene members have committed that are known and openly talked about, and yet most people still seem to welcome these perpetrators in our midst.

I’d like to hope that such types would be unwelcome, but sadly, it doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

But how is it that a person feels free to discuss at a party how he served time for murdering his wife, and no one else in the room even bats an eye, and that person is still welcome at events? How is it that he’s invited back? How is it that his wildly improbable tale of how he was the one who was done wrong is believed and sympathized with when a judge and jury with all of the details of the whole story and probably expert witnesses on both sides obviously didn’t buy it?

How is it that sometimes they are still allowed to be in positions of responsibility that fly in the face of their known transgressions, like known thieves still allowed to handle the money at events? Confirmed embezzlers allowed to have access to an organization’s membership records? Known abusers of various stripes allowed to continue to present classes and demos and other events?

Now I’m not saying everyone should report people who commit felonies or other crimes and talk about them in public like this to the authorities. Far from it, although there certainly are times that should indeed happen.

It just seems like something in our social system has broken down beyond repair that such tales could even be told in public without repercussions, never mind such people continue to find safe haven in our midst and even serve among the leaders of the community. That people who say all the right things in public are allowed into positions of influence, particularly around newbies, when it can be well documented that they don’t walk their own talk and have caused numerous others terrible harm. That our culture continues to protect perpetrators in so many ways.

And it seems doubly twisted that anyone whose own occupation is related to such crimes, or whose other personal interests should make them steer far, far away from anyone engaging in these sorts of patently illegal, damaging, and immoral behaviors, or even talking about enjoying them, should still associate with these perpetrators.

I mean, why would anyone with children or who is a teacher still associate with known pedophiles? Or people with pets or animal-related jobs with known and self-confessed bestialists, or even with people who deny they are into such things even when confronted with hard evidence when it’s also obvious from just looking at the interests of those such abusers associate with as well as the comments of all that there are clearly shared predilections of this nature? It simply boggles the mind. And yet we see it every day.

Birds of a feather…

So, yeah, YKIOK – your kink is OK. Sure, but not when it crosses undeniable, unambiguous legal or moral borders like this and harms others who did not or cannot consent.

And no, confessing to robbing your employer because of a moment of weakness does not make it right, or entitle you to sympathy, whether you claim that your drug use or the thrill of the risk of getting caught is part of your kink or not.

Killing your wife by engaging in breath play is still murder, even if she was begging for it. You have the obligation to understand the risks and to not do things that will endanger your partner’s life.

Violating limits is still assault, battery, and/or rape or the like, depending on the details.

Not stopping what you’re doing when your partner safewords is also a major violation of trust if you couldn’t hear it because you have refused to wear your perfectly good and needed hearing aids while playing and have the music turned up too loud in your own home. And you also shouldn’t be excused from the injury you caused because you couldn’t see what you were doing because you refused to wear your glasses while wielding your dangerous implements on sensitive bodies, or to turn up the lights in the room to a level that would have actually allowed you to see.

Accidents happen with WIITWD, to be sure. But when they happen because a top refuses to take the precautions necessary to avoid them, particularly after the need for such has been discussed and agreed upon, then injuries and so on are no longer accidents but the predictable result of careless disregard for your partner’s safety.

Your kink is not allowed to extend to doing whatever the flying fuck you feel like in the heat of moment to your partner when it will endanger her, especially if she’s already made it clear that it’s not OK with her for you to do so.

Claiming it’s part of your kink does not excuse any harm done when you have not taken even the most basic appropriate precautions to prevent it. It does not excuse ongoing harm if you continue to repeat such behaviors, even if your sub hasn’t yet figured out what you’re actually doing or found the personal wherewithal to get away from you or even safeword.

Not calling people on doing shit like this that shows a callous disregard for the sub’s safety only encourages such behaviors to continue. Not naming it as the selfishness that it is, or pointing out the utter lack of self control that it shows, only serves to encourage it further.

And then taking a complaining sub to task for speaking up about nonconsensual things being done to her only serves to perpetuate the terribly damaging community myths that the dominant is God and can do no wrong, should not be questioned, etc.

Horsepucky.

And so we then end up where people can talk with impunity about committing unquestionable crimes and felonies against the obviously nonconsenting even in the vanilla world, and fully expect to get away with it, not only not even forfeiting friends because of it, but ending up with sympathy, and even glorified and more popular than ever!

I believe that the culture of confidentiality and “your kink is OK” as has existed in the scene for years has fostered an atmosphere where not only are there few if any repercussions for any of these kinds behaviors, but people actually go out of their way to defend the indefensible, all supposedly in the name of not judging others or their kinks. And then we vilify anyone who dares to speak up against any of it in any way, as if they are the problem.

A drug-stealing member of the community is less likely to significantly harm others in our midst than people who have a track record of violating limits and repeatedly raping and/or injuring their partners, or even engaging in consensual play that deliberately involves activities that clearly causes lasting physical or emotional damage, whether by design or because it’s a result that ought to be expected.

Still, I think we really need to rethink the degree to which our “community” goes to justify away the commission of crimes of all types, and to which we go to still associate with the perpetrators, never mind allow them into (or to remain in) positions of responsibility and leadership. So doing lends them an air of acceptability that is undeserved, and which can only serve to endanger others, particularly newbies.

We need to think about what our associations say to others. We should definitely think twice about what those interactions may be interpreted to mean when dealing with people who are known criminals or a users of any sort, how they could increase risks to the unwary who observe them.

I know someone, for example, who continues to associate publicly with a known abuser he absolutely despises, who significantly harmed one of his closest friends, all in the name of political expediency, and keeping an eye on the guy. His friend understands his thinking, but is not amused, except by knowing that her abuser thinks this person is actually a friend of his as well, even calling him that publicly to draw attention to the association, when nothing could actually be further from the truth.

But why is this necessary? Does this person not realize how his willingly conversing with his friend’s abuser even in public when there is no compelling reason to do so otherwise just encourages the guy – who knows this person knows full well everything he did?

I mean, sure, you can nod hello to anyone in passing in the name of civility, or chat in passing over the food table about the weather or the outfits others are wearing or the like, especially if no one else is around. But to actually get into conversation when there are others available to talk to? And to not extricate oneself at the first opportunity if cornered? This person is well known and respected, for good reasons, and so any such association lends the problem person an air of acceptability that is utterly undeserved and could, as a result, put someone else in jeopardy.

This person is not the only one to do such things by a long shot, though, sadly enough. We are a group that is full of such artifices. All it does, though, is continue to protect known abusers and criminals, at the expense of their victims.

When you have large groups of people not just seeing nothing wrong with abusive and overtly criminal behaviors, but actively defending them (and defending the supposed right of the offender to continue his harmful ways), and even continuing to go out of their way to associate with the perpetrators, it’s really no big surprise that all kinds of other abuse and violation of limits take place in our midst.

It’s also no surprise then that such behaviors not only go unpunished but are apparently both accepted and even openly glorified, and the victims themselves blamed and wronged instead of the responsibility put squarely on the heads of the perpetrators.

I’m sure that many people must have opinions about these things, and know of or are themselves victims of such transgressions, but all too often, they don’t speak up because they are afraid they will be shunned themselves. They don’t think they have the right to speak up, either to complain a out what was done to them, or to even voice concern about abusive practices observed and perpetuated in the community at large.

We tell them they have no right to judge others. But folks, that is BS.

You are fully entitled to your own opinions about what people are doing either directly to you or just around you – and you have just as much right to talk about your disapproval as you would in any other setting in life.

And you should.

If those of us who see injustice and wrongdoing don’t speak up, it will continue unabated, and more people will be harmed.

Wake up, people. Just because you’re in circles where there is a great deal of tolerance overall does not mean that you should tolerate or condone everything others do, even if they try to label it a kink.

Despite popular practice and community mythology to the contrary, there is nothing wrong with speaking up and voicing your disapproval.

You may not have a right to try to stop people from doing many things you disapprove of, or that are outright obviously illegal, especially if their partners and others directly involved are consenting to it, but you are not a bad person for having your own opinions, for feeling however you do about it – or for sharing those thoughts with others.

It may or may not be appropriate to try to actually stop known transgressive, damaging, or other criminal behavior (and usually you don’t have that right, although there are certainly exceptions), but you sure as hell have a right to your own opinion about it happening – and to voicing it – especially if it concerns something that was done to you. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

If you don’t approve of something someone else is doing, or you think they’re nuts to do it, even if it’s not legally wrong or harming anyone else, you are entitled to your own feelings about that as well. And you’re entitled to discuss it with others if you wish.

There is a big difference between saying you think that something another person is doing is wrong and trying to stop them, or outlawing the practice just because you personally don’t like it.

There’s a difference, too, between a playspace or party host disallowing high risk practices that are known to endanger people and/or property because of concerns for the safety of guests and yes, their own potential legal liabilities, and telling people they shouldn’t ever engage in such pursuits.

Don’t drop your lifelong morals at the door to the dungeon, though. Rape, murder, assault, theft, pedophilia, bestiality, other forms of animal and/or child abuse, etc. are just as wrong when committed by kinksters, either in the name of being kinks or not, as they are for everyone else.

And don’t let anyone else try to convince you otherwise, or to shut you up from openly voicing your disapproval if you want to do so.

You may receive threats for speaking out against certain behaviors or people who engage in them, as I have, but remember that one of the few tools we have to combat abuse and other criminal behavior in our circles is our voices.

Yes, I’ve been threatened and attacked for my outspokenness against abuse and what was done to me and others. In writing. On multiple occasions, by multiple people.

Document those threats if you receive any, and then speak out against them and the people who have made them as well.

Lift your voices. Stand your ground when you know you’ve been wronged, especially when you know you can fully document everything you say (as I can), but also even if you don’t think you can prove any of it. Truth is on your side, and you’d be surprised at what can actually constitute proof.

Don’t let your abusers or their friends browbeat you out of your right to speak up about what has happened to you, or about problems or other criminal behavior you observe in the scene, or try to otherwise separate you from your morals, or convince you that something you know to be wrong is somehow all right.

We are in this fix of rampant abuse, glorification of abusers and other criminals, and justification of their misdeeds precisely because scene conditions and mores have supported their being able to hide their antics without challenge.

Yes, we’re a subset of the population at large, and whether or not there is more abuse in our circles than in the vanilla population or not, we sweep it under the rug even more than the vanillas do, which is all the worse because of our stated community values of SSC, RACK, etc.

That makes us hypocrites on a colossal scale.

We have acted for years as if holding the community-wide ideals of negotiation and consent somehow mean we actually always walk our talk, are somehow automatically more caring, better communicators, etc, just because we identify as kinky and spout all the right words, but that is all patently inaccurate by any measure.

It is decidedly harder to speak out against what others have done when your pool of friends and partners is as small as ours is, no question. It takes guts to stand up and point out the problems – and the problem people.

But we are growing quickly as kink becomes more mainstream, even as our ability to effectively reach and train newbies decreases as a result, and the rot is spreading as newbies are taken in hand by and fall under the influence of those who do not walk their talk, and who no longer seem to understand that yes, Virginia, there really sometimes is right and wrong.

If those of us who see the problems, and who have been at the effect of them, do not stick to our guns and continue to try to rout out the utterly immoral rot that clearly does exist within our own midst, then we have no standing to try to preach the ideals of consensuality, etc. to others, or to put ourselves out to the vanilla world as being anything special or different, to try to portray ourselves as a group as any safer or better in any way.

The lies and myths we have perpetuated for years from within must likewise be resolved from within if we are to either help people in our midst stay safe, or have any hope of widespread acceptance for WIITWD. The vanillas are right that there’s abuse in our circles. So what? It is what it is, and no amount of denial or ostracizing people for pointing it out will solve the problem.

Naming it is the first step – owning that it is real, and likewise, looking at the many ways we continue to perpetuate it, and the additional fallout that comes from an obsessive and unhealthy focus on denying it and demonizing those who speak up about it. We must recognize that when we start letting little things slide and accepting absolutely anything that anyone wants to call a kink as inherently OK, we have opened the door to ever more severe moral and legal infringements upon others.

We simply cannot have gotten to a point as a community where people openly confess to deliberate felonious behavior and get sympathy and encouragement for their crimes without a wholesale abandonment of even the idea that some things in life are inherently wrong and should simply not be tolerated.

Everyone will have his or her own breaking point in this regard, but what we must stop doing is trying to silence anyone who speaks out about issues they see or have personally encountered.

I know from speaking to many people about the subject that there is, in fact, much more widespread discontent and concern over many things that happen than people generally talk about openly. If they aren’t willing to go on record with their concerns because of legitimate fear of censure, then the problems will be allowed to continue.

We must quit trying to tell people that they are wrong to consider behavior they consider inappropriate as wrong. We must quit trying to silence such voices, who have as much right to their points of view as anyone else.

We need to start to listen more often to complaints about people that victims of abuse have encountered, to not so often paint the squeaky wheel victim as the one in the wrong, etc. We need to find a way for it to be safer for victims to come forward without facing community-wide censure for speaking out.

We need to face the fact that just because a newbie (or anyone else) complains about a popular top or other established community figure does not inherently mean they are a problem themselves, but that in fact, quite legitimate complaints often surface about such tops – but are widely ignored or stifled until someone else who is popular finds herself negatively affected.

And we need to look at what we have created that people no longer even seem shockable when someone can openly confess to a felony on a public bulletin board and get sympathy and not even a hint of censure. Where people who express concern for the safety of others who are engaged in activities that obviously cause great bodily and/or emotional harm are vilified for even raising the issue.

What kind of monster have we created that things like this are even remotely possible? What kind of people would create such a world, where all morality seems to be chucked out the window? Where people seem to think that everyone should be allowed to do pretty much anything they want, especially if they label it a “kink”, even if it causes lasting harm to themselves and others?

Abuse and other criminal behavior are never going to go away completely, but we can certainly stop being complicit in hiding and excusing it when it happens to us or we observe it happening to others. And we can quit buying into community values that perpetuate it, and stop teaching them to newbies.

We not only can, but indeed we must.

I am very encouraged by the increase in number of strong, outspoken, articulate people like Mollena, Kitty Stryker, and others blogging about their abusive encounters and our increasing interconnectedness and reposting and interviewing and linking to us by more and more websites. I am deeply gratified by the increase in the number of classes and programs targeted at teaching people the difference between healthy BDSM and abuse. The tide seems to be starting to turn, but we still have a long ways to go.

I think we need to also tie in the issue of openly condoning other criminal and clearly immoral behavior, because we may have created a bigger monster here than we have even realized.

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See also Your Kink Is Not OK and Just because it is “your kink” does not make it OK with me

How You Can Help Combat the Abuse Problem

A newbie I met the other day told a tale of being abused or having her limits violated when playing with someone she said is well known at the Citadel, our local community playspace.  She said she’d like to get involved to help combat this problem, and asked how to go about it.  Here is my response to her.

I’d also add that it’s important to bring the issue to the attention of the dungeon owners if the problem occurs in their playspace, and frankly, even if it doesn’t.  No one will know that someone in an inner circle is a problem child if no one reports it.

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At this point, it’s pretty much a free for all.  People are writing in their blogs and getting interviewed for other publications, doing various classes, etc. I’ve got links to many of them on my blog, so you might want to take a look.

And then there’s my nascent BDSM Abuse Survivors’ Network that one day I’ll set up a separate website for, which is currently housed on the front page of my blog.  It’s purely volunteer, just allowing me to post whichever contact information you prefer that people use so that others who have been through this or are going through it now can find someone to talk to on a peer level.  I have no idea if anyone thus far has actually contacted anyone on the list, and I don’t monitor it in any way.  I get pretty good SEO rankings, though, and am getting more and more hits as time goes by, so eventually something should happen.

And then there’s just speaking out, telling others about your experiences, encouraging still others to speak up.  It very well may cost you something in terms of popularity, I can’t lie, but I’ve come to realize that the people who are ready to pooh-pooh me, particularly because they don’t see my ex doing what he did themselves, or who believe his crap, are people I don’t need in my life.  As some “friends” started dropping away, I found new ones who have a lot more sense coming into my life.

I’ll tell you this, too.  If the person you had a problem with is indeed popular at the Citadel, or in any other way a “leader” in the community, it is *highly* likely that you are far from the only one with a negative experience of him.  The same is true of many others as well, but it’s a near certainty with these most visible people.

One of the hardest things to communicate to newbies is that just because someone is well known and popular around the scene, or even a well-known presenter or group leader, or member of a board of any of the kinky groups, that in no way should serve as an endorsement.  Many such community leaders are just fine – but there is a frightening number who are quite dangerous to one extent or another.

As to what you said about blaming yourself, I do think it’s important that we all look at whatever our own contribution to a problem situation may have been, if any, and there are in fact times when we need to take that sort of responsibility for what has transpired, but when you say “Stop”, and someone doesn’t, or they just flat out violate limits you’ve already set, then hon, I’m sorry, but it is often entirely on them.

This game we play of “the dom is the boss” is a game, although many people do take it seriously.  There is nothing wrong with any level of that as long as both parties are consenting, and in agreement as to the parameters of the dynamic, but at the end of the day, no means no, no matter what, and you are entirely within your rights to object and pin the blame on them if someone violates those agreements with you.

The hard part is that it *is* hard sometimes to know how far is OK to go in any given encounter, but this is one reason we have things like safewords and promote the idea of thorough negotiation.  Pay attention to your gut.  If you don’t like what’s happening, and you do not end up feeling as good or better overall when all is said and done, and especially if the top involved responds poorly to your objections and even continues what he is doing if that is not your agreed-upon dynamic, then there’s an issue that needs attention, even if it’s just finetuning the negotiations next time.

Empathy and Trust

[W]hat good is it to be in a relationship with someone who can’t tell the difference between being really mean, and being REALLY mean. How could I trust someone like that? How good is play as a submissive if you have to keep one eye open?

Most definitely. It completely sucks to play with one eye always open.

SheIsReedS really nails it here, followed by an exceptionally good explanation of the ways in which both dominants and submissives need to be able to trust both themselves and each other – including how the dominant needs to be able to trust that the submissive is “rendering genuine responses…”

That means he needs to be both willing and able to believe that she not just actually likes what’s happening, when that is the case (which is what people are most often referring to when they speak of the dominant needing to be able to trust that it’s really what she does want), but that he is also willing to accept it as truth if she says she cannot handle something he is doing, and needs it to either stop or change.

He needs to be able to accept that the stroke he just landed was an 8 for her even if he thinks it should have only been a 3.

Unfortunately, a lot of dominants seem to think that they know better than their subs do how said subs are feeling, what they are experiencing.  It’s a dangerous notion and fantasy that the “community” has promulgated to the point that it really endangers a lot of submissives – and in turn, endangers the whole relationship.

What dominants who have gotten themselves into hot water with their submissives by failing to respect that the sub really does know what’s happening for her better than anyone else on the planet can often don’t seem to realize is that it is devastating to a submissive to have to stop play, to have to defend herself – indeed, as SheIsReedS says, to have to always keep one eye open.  Much more will be gained by taking her at her word, and patiently helping her work through whatever the difficulty is – or adjusting his own way of doing things to accommodate her needs.

There may in fact come a time in a relationship when the dominant really can read the submissive well enough – and there is a strong enough foundation – that he can then push more for her to take more than she thinks she can.  When that happens, though, it’s not a function of role name as much as it is about maturity, patience, and respect for the submissive – and a matter of having developed a track record together that allows both parties to reach that point of trust in each other.

This really does not happen overnight, or even usually in a matter of weeks or months, at least not in any informed, lasting way, and if there’s already been any breach of trust, it is likely to take a great deal longer to regain what has been lost than most people have any idea.  You can’t just expect it to happen chop-chop.

And at the end of the day, no matter how well he knows her (or thinks he does), and regardless of what D/s relationship agreements there may be, no still means no, and it needs to be respected, without question.

For a dominant to push past what his submissive says she is able to take despite her protests (or to even show displeasure that she can’t take what he wants to dish out) is likely to be the kiss of death to any trust that has already been built up, and the death knell to any further trust developing.  And with the demise of trust, so follows the end of the relationship eventually, no matter how promising it might have been otherwise, no matter how compatible the two parties overall.

Sometimes all it really does take is that empathy – the willingness to just accept the sub’s feedback without defensiveness, without taking safewords or requests to modify what is happening as a threat, to be able to recognize that it is his responsibility to help her find a way through whatever the issue is without expecting her to process on the same schedule he wants and thinks appropriate.

Collecting Newbies

Why is it that some abusers seem to make a habit of collecting all kinds of newbies as friends in places like Fetlife and elsewhere in the scene?

“All kinds” translating to “very young, hot girls”.  Lots of very young, hot girls.  More and more young, hot girls.

Virtually never guys.

And let’s not leave out the other women who maybe aren’t so young, or as inexperienced – again, either almost too young to be legal, or depraved beyond words (even by their own admission), or even ones who have committed felonies and posted about them online.

Again, virtually never men.

As in, if you look at their profiles, you’ll see mostly women.  Girls.  Women whose profiles reveal that they themselves are unsafe at any speed, that they have death wishes, that they are sicker than sick, even by their own admission?

Or they simply have no idea where they fit or what they’re doing because they’re that new – and therefore beyond vulnerable.

And they’re going to get completely fucked up if they get involved in any way with these guys who have no fucking idea how to actually control themselves in play if they aren’t getting exactly what they want.  Or, more precisely, refuse to control themselves so that they don’t injure partners who might, you know, actually have limits.

Some of those “dominants” style themselves as “father figures” to these innocent young things – a really terrifying proposition.  Nothing like an abuser having his own little harem of sweet young thangs who he can lead astray in any way he wants to because they generally leave their brains at the door at those tender ages.

Hell, because many female subs check their brains at the door, particularly when they are new.  Some of them never go back to retrieve said brains.

I think you can take much of the measure of such people by the sorts of friends they have.  Guys who have mostly vastly younger women friends are, shall we say, likely not people you’d want to trust with your daughter.  Or with your own sub.  Or with anyone you’re protecting.

So, yeah.  It’s not news that abusers tend to collect the young and innocent like this.  It’s just as shocking the 10o0th time you see it as the first, particularly if you know the guys in question well.  And it’s just as likely to be a sign that someone is up to no good as it ever was.

 

Drama

Cool – the Urban Dictionary published my definition of drama!  See page 6, #36.

It’s also what bystanders call it when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, especially because they weren’t there.  Too bad I forgot to put that part in.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, which should resume soon.

Training

From SlaveCraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude _ Principles, Skills and Tools”, by Guy Baldwin:

Training means something more than giving orders and correcting compliance. A sadly small percentage of the Masters i know savor the often delicately balanced orchestrations by which a slave does truly develop a deeper level of surrender under Their direction. These Masters delight in devising subtle situations and conversations that challenge and guide us. They watch us closely to see how we wrestle with our inner struggles with surrender, and then determine the best way to coax, tease, kiss, lure, argue, reason, support, reinforce, hurt or love us onward past our sticking points and into doing or accepting exactly what They want from us…AND, making us love Them for it! This is the REAL craft of “slave-training,” and lucky is the slave who comes to the attention of these rare Masters.

If you are not feeling like this is what your dominant/master is doing with you, and you don’t end up loving him for whatever he is doing in the name of training or anything else, there’s a very good chance that you are in fact experiencing abuse.

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The fact of the matter, as Guy says, is that such “masters” are in fact rare.

Just because someone calls themselves a dominant, a master, or SirWhompum, or whatever, does not automatically confer any level of skill upon him – be it with toys, or relationship skills.

In fact, a shocking number of dominants are exceptionally unskilled in these ways.

Which we could then look at as being the norm – and in the sense that there are more who do not have these skills than who do, that is true – but the story doesn’t end there.

In a vanilla relationship, neither party has deliberately taken on the responsibility of owning another, controlling or directing what they do, etc.  It’s not part of the fundamental relationship paradigm.  There are good lovers and there are bad ones, and leaving aside the abusive, that’s not such a big deal in and of itself.

When a person takes on the responsibility of dominance or mastery over another, however, it becomes exponentially more important that he ensures that he has the skills, both technical and personal, with which to ensure not just the submissive’s safety, but to seduce her submission.

Even with subs for whom being pushed is a big part of their kink, there is still the need to seduce compliance – and many times, it is precisely that seduction that actually constitutes the desired pushing, or at least a big part of it.  It’s the being cajoled to take just a little bit more – for him – that does it, not heavyhanded punishment for not living up to what he wants, etc.

When people who lack these kinds of people skills take on such responsibilities for another human being and her life, it is really incumbent upon them to learn how to do this – and to do it damn well.  To make sure that, at the end of the day, she still wants to come back for more.  That she is left in better condition than he found her in.  That she feels that her life has been enhanced because of her overall experiences with him.

Not all will have equal skills in this regard, and not every one of them will be a good match for each seeking submissive, but unless there is a substantial element of ending up enhanced overall by the experiences she has with her dominant, then something is seriously wrong.

If the overall feeling is one of being torn down, denigrated, injured, etc., vs being uplifted by the whole relationship, then it’s quite likely that there is abuse happening and not dominance.

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Thanks to Mollena Williams for posting this snippet on FetLife, which got me thinking about how this definition of training and mastery relates to abuse.

Controlling Men Could Face Criminal Charges

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the UK wants to “…make abusive behaviour by men a criminal offence, even if it does not involve physical violence), according to the Sunday Mirror. He also wants to extend the law to include men who discipline children under the age of 18 “too strict[ly” also a criminal offense.

I don’t know what the domestic violence laws currently are in the UK, if any, but this is clearly a step in the right direction of helping ensure that men who don’t understand and respect personal boundaries and who often end up ruining the lives of partners and/or children are held responsible for their behavior. It’s a formal acknowledgement, in a country in which domestic violence accounts for 18% of all violent incidents, that domestic violence is a serious crime that should not go unpunished, that partner abuse is something that shouldn’t be tolerated in a civilized society.

The problem, of course, is determining a reasonable definition of “spousal abuse” (which I hope they will expand to the more general “domestic partner abuse), which is something they are looking at now.

It’s one thing to realize that some legal support for such victims is necessary, but quite another to pass laws which don’t unfairly target those whom they shouldn’t, and punish too many people, thereby ruining lives unnecessarily as well as contributing to prison overcrowding, and clogging the courts with both criminal and civil cases.

Another problem, as it is in this country, is actual enforcement of whatever laws do exist, and getting police to take the reports seriously enough.

Let us hope that they come up with a definition that will protect a woman’s right to say no and have her wishes respected – and ensure that violations have some real consequences – without causing an ipso facto across the board condemnation of consensual BDSM. If they follow a model similar to California law, which requires affirmative assent, rather than just implied consent, and prohibits the use of the classic “She didn’t say no or safeword” as a defense, it seems to me that this could be a very positive thing.

Did you know that in California, domestic violence is treated as even more serious than violence against those with whom one is not currently or in the past in an intimate relationship? And that the definition includes even those who have had as little contact with someone as a single date?

It is – and is something people who suffer abuse, particularly violence, should keep in mind, particularly bottoms or submissives, who seem to be disproportionately affected by abuse for by partners in the name of D/s. Report it *when it happens*, not later, for maximum police response, and to preserve your legal rights later, and leave a documentable paper trail. And keep a lot of everything that happens, with dates and details in order to keep a documented paper trail. And also don’t be afraid to seek medical help if you are injured in any way, for the same reason as well, of course, for treating any injuries when they occur. Don’t forget that emotional distress caused by abuse can also have lifelong damaging consequences, oftentimes much more so than any physical harm.

What Would You Dump Someone Immediately For?

Is there anything a partner (or other person in your life) could do that would cause you to dump them immediately?

And are there things you’ve said you would never give a second chance for that you not only have done, but maybe have given them far more chances than that?

I’ve often said that there are certain things I’d never put up with if a guy did to me, that I would leave immediately over, but the reality is that I’ve not followed through on those more often than not. I have unfortunately given far too many second, third, fourth, and more chances. Many times, the situations have been full of nuances that have made them less clear in the moment for what they were than they ultimately appeared in the rear view mirror. Or I saw it, but didn’t want to believe it, thought it was an aberration, etc. Denial can be a powerful thing. Or there was enough good there that I was more afraid of losing, had invested so much in the relationship by then that I didn’t want to lose, etc.

Unfortunately, once one gets to a certain point, no amount of good can offset certain offenses, including a growing accumulation of smaller ones – and no amount of shared history, work on a relationship, etc. will be worth staying around for more of.

The trick then becomes a) recognizing that dealbreaker point sooner rather than later, and then b) actually doing something about it.

And a frightening number of people who have been abused in one way or another find it terrifyingly difficult to break away from the very situations and people that are hurting us the worst. I’m realizing that it may actually be rather pathognomonic of having a history of abuse.

There are really only a few things I’d seriously end things with someone over immediately at this point, without at least a discussion. And most of those would be one-way tickets to a jail cell. Do not pass go, do not end up in the friend zone.

The majors are anything to do with child or animal abuse, particularly pedophilia and bestiality, either the person doing it themselves or continuing to knowingly associate with someone else who does, particularly in an intimate relationship.

And hitting or otherwise injuring or threatening me in a nonconsensual manner – including ignoring play limits and not fucking actually stopping when I say stop, forcing things on me that I don’t want to do, and more. I have far less tolerance for the grey areas than I used to. And far more realization of how out of control they get when they are not nipped in the bud by ending the whole relationship immediately the first time an obvious violation occurs.

Theft, murder, other crimes against others, etc. would certainly also send me out the door immediately.

I have also learned that many of the red flags that have surfaced early on that I’ve thought were not that important definitely do turn out to be problems of major proportions, so there is a great deal more now that I will never tolerate beyond a single instance again. I am done, to paraphrase what my father always used to say, with having the tree fall on my head.

I have also unfortunately put up with way more than I should have because of concerns about the effect that my either leaving or sending the guy to jail would have on others, including people I’ve never even met, even the people the guy does business with. Thinking about it now, it is beyond ridiculous that I would risk my own physical and mental health and safety in order to protect someone else from the consequences of an asshole’s behavior towards me, but I’ve done it – out of what I now see was a very misguided sense of both loyalty and inappropriate concern for others to the exclusion of my own safety – and will never do so again. Time has also shown me that to not do what I’ve needed to do in situations like that only ends up creating a new set of issues down the road.

Or I’ve failed to kick someone to the curb or leave myself because it’s been the middle of the night and either they had nowhere to go (or no way to get all of their stuff out of my place at that hour), or I was too tired to leave myself. Never again – even if I have to sleep in my car, or they simply have to come back the next day to pick their things up. Off my front porch. Or even sleep out there themselves if need be. I mean, hello? If some guy literally throws my cat across the room because she was annoying him in bed one night, or hits me with all his might in a way that he knows is both dangerous and a hard limit, nearly killing me in the process, even in “play”, then why should I care where he himself sleeps for the rest of the night?

And better I wet myself in my own car than sleep in his house again if I’m too tired or in too much pain to even drive down the hill to get to a bathroom – and take enough of his bedding with me that I don’t freeze to death. At the end of the day, it’s cleanable. Or better that he just spend the night cooling his own heels in jail or a hotel until I’m awake and gone the next morning.

None of these kinds of concerns will ever stop me from dumping someone for abusive or other nonconsensual behavior again. Because in part, I’ve learned that just waiting overnight will only blunt the effect by morning, and lead to softening up – and the vicious downward cycle getting even more deeply entrenched. Some things are not OK, no matter what – and what we need is more resolve to stand our ground about them, not to do things that will only water that down.

The price that I’ve ended up having to pay for giving too many chances to too many people, for too many things, for too long, has been far too high.

Thankfully, although no man will have a chance to even get in the door of my life for quite a while longer, if ever again, I’m already seeing signs in other areas of my life of greatly decreased willingness to put up with abusive crap from other people – and I know in my heart that this will translate to the romance department when and if the time should come again.

I’ve been closely watching the people I do have around me these days, and realizing how very much shit and abuse I’ve been sitting in the middle of for a very long time. Thankfully, I do also have many quite normal and decent friends and former lovers, and I’ve just been paying really close attention lately to the differences in how the interactions go between the sane ones and the crazy ones – content, tone, body language, etc. How they are with me, and how I am with them.

Although I certainly see areas in which I need work myself, this process of watching has been mostly healing and affirming – that there really are still sane, healthy people in my life. And it’s made me much more conscious that these are the people I want to keep around me – not the crazies I’ve called either friends, lovers, etc. over the years. It’s just easier to be around the sane ones. It feels better.

And so I already have backed way off from several people who have been a problem for a long time – including one whose major crime was in fact one single incident I am unwilling to offer another opportunity to repeat.

I’m also finding it’s happening much more naturally – not even a lot of conscious decision about it. It’s like nature is taking over – I’m naturally recoiling much mor readily from the toxins – and staying recoiled.

It’s like I’m far more creeped out now by things that I used to just put up with far more readily, for whatever reasons were floating around in my head in each situation.

I contemplate what life would be like without those people in it, and the void I used to fear that their absence would create no longer scares me.

Yes, it’s sad to cut people I care about loose, but the fear of what will happen to me if I keep them around has exceeded that of what will happen to remove them from my life, en masse, in both individual contemporaneous cases, and in generic potential future ones.

It’s hit me at a whole new level now that if I don’t rid myself of these kinds of people, how will I find room to both find and to let ones I both care about and who will treat me well in?

It’s easy to pay lip service to it being better to be alone than in a bad relationship (or friendship – which most people don’t even think about), but a far different thing to get it in your gut enough to not only take the actions needed to make that happen, but to then actually also enjoy and appreciate and prefer the resulting peace and quiet.

Part of this is definitely due to the stresses of the past year and the last few months in particular in my life – and reconnecting with some old friends I haven’t seen in years, who have reminded me that life without abusive partners or friends and family is indeed possible. I just don’t have any more room in my world for the abusive shit that I’ve put up with for so long, from so many corners of my life.

And while there is definitely a sense of loss in not being willing to let these things continue, which will mean either ending relationships or drastically cutting back on exposure to certain other people, I am feeling a really neat kind of freedom as well – freedom to find others to be with in all areas of my life who will not cause me so much damage. Freedom to just spend more time with the people I already know who are already decent, non-toxic, etc.

So, even in non-intimate relationships, I’m starting to realize I’ve got a set of boundaries that will cause me to dump even a friend PDQ if they transgress them. I am all too acutely aware these days of the fragility and short duration of life, and by God, I will simply not have this shite in my life any more, from any quarter.