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

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.

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.

 

 

Fifty Shades of Consent

There has been a lot written in both vanilla and kinky circles about the recent phenomenon which is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James.  People seem to either love the series or hate it, and many good arguments have been put forth for each point of view, with people in the kink world mostly coming down on the hate side. It has been decried as poorly written, and as bad education.  It has even inspired some wonderful and bitingly funny parodies such as the one penned by Laura Antoniou, author of the popular Marketplace series.  It is serving as the catalyst for a great deal of discussion in both the kink and the vanilla worlds, and that is never a bad thing.

Despite the negatives, on the whole, I actually really liked the books, and have some thoughts that I’ve not seen addressed elsewhere, specifically around the portrayal of consent.

First of all, before getting to that, what it actually is is a series written by a first time author who researched the subject of BDSM online, and makes no bones about that fact.  It is first and foremost a love story, and largely a literary first in that it is clearly pornographic, but in a format that appeals to a very broad base of mostly vanilla women who generally are not associated with reading porn of any sort beyond the bodice-ripper genre.  It is aimed at the mass market, and has succeeded wildly in exactly what it has set out to accomplish.  It is a mistake to expect a book to be what it is not and was never intended to be – and to read it and to decry it as what it never did set out to be is to entirely miss the point, when reading any book.

The story opens a door into our world that most have never seen, and as such, makes what we do more accessible to the public, and will hopefully serve as a gateway for those who are curious to seek out information and ways to dip their toes into the waters.  It also legitimizes women’s erotica and has gotten the world talking about women’s sexual fantasies and desires, not just those of men.  It was never intended to be a book about BDSM education, so why get so upset that it isn’t?

Great literature it is not, but it is far from as terribly written as many writers have made it out to be.  The much-vaunted Beauty series that is often brought up as a comparison is actually considerably worse, and ultimately deadly boring, despite being written by quite a good author.  For one thing, Fifty Shades actually has a plot line and other things going on in the story beyond the endless jackrabbit-like fucking and sucking that permeate Beauty to the exclusion of everything else, and there is character development.  Whether one actually likes the characters involved or not is a different question, and a matter of personal tastes, but we do see the evolution of both two individuals and their relationship unfold in its pages in what is actually a pretty realistic manner overall, even if the time frame is rather insanely sped up. Continue reading

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

Consent, and Effect of Current or Previous Relationship (California)

Note that this definition requires “positive cooperation” and the “exercise of free will”,  as well as knowledge of the nature of the event that is going to happen, among other parameters.  It’s clearly not enough to just not object.  This statute speaks to the requirement that consent be informed – something that is all too often inadequate or missing altogether from the way in which the notion of “consent” is actually practiced by many in the BDSM world.

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California Penal Code § 261.6 (2011)
§ 261.6.  “Consent”; Effect of current or previous relationship

In prosecutions under Section 261, 262, 286, 288a, or 289, in which consent is at issue, “consent” shall be defined to mean positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved.

A current or previous dating or marital relationship shall not be sufficient to constitute consent where consent is at issue in a prosecution under Section 261, 262, 286, 288a, or 289.

Nothing in this section shall affect the admissibility of evidence or the burden of proof on the issue of consent.

Cal. Pen. Code § 261.6 (2011)

I Will Not Apologize

Stolen from multiple people on Fetlife:

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I will not apologize for setting my own personal boundaries.
I will not apologize for doing whatever it takes to enforce those boundaries.
I will not apologize for doing whatever it takes to protect my emotional well being.
I will not apologize for keeping out and or letting go those who are not healthy
and who would damage my soul, self and mind.

I will not apologize for taking time to think before I speak.
I will not apologize for telling someone their behavior is not acceptable to me.
I will not apologize for deciding what behavior is and is not acceptable.
I will not apologize for stepping back from a situation in order to evaluate my feelings,
however long that takes.

I will not apologize for setting stricter boundaries when I need and sticking to them.
I will not apologize for asking for space when I need it.
I will not apologize for taking responsibility for the way I allow others to treat me.
I will not apologize for cutting someone completely out of my life
if I feel they don’t respect my boundaries.

I will not apologize for not believing everything I’m told.
I will not apologize for knowing what I want and not settling for less.
I will not apologize for letting your problems, your dysfunction be yours.
I will not apologize for not being able to help you when you choose not to help yourself.

I will not apologize for not being able to be all things to all people.
I will not apologize for not accepting deceit and chaos in my life.
I will not apologize for loving myself enough to set these boundaries
…even if it means I risk losing people in my life because of them.

Pushing Past Hard Limits

From The Mistress Manual, in a post decrying Mo’s rape:

A Dominant pushing past hard limits, ignoring the sub’s refusal, has just crossed over from BDSM into the very different, very ugly world of rape and sexual abuse.

Dom/mes need to hear this too, need to hear that pushing someone past their stated limits is not being one badass hawt tough Master or Mistress, it’s being a fucking asshole rapist. Your honor as a trustworthy, skillful Dominant is on the line. You deliberately violate a sub’s consent, you’ve lost that honor. You’ve joined the ranks of leering, pawing sexual abusers. Don’t do that.

Because Lorelei is right, and this needs to be repeated everywhere.

And because someone in particular who also badly needs to hear it, from someone else other than me, is still reading this blog for reasons I know not, and won’t find this on his own otherwise.

I’d add that pushing too much past soft limits is in the same category.

Report on RACK Panel

On March 22, SF Citadel hosted a RACK panel of leaders and educators from the BDSM community dedicated to discussing this question, including its relationship to abuse.

The evening’s discussion was terrific.  Panelists included Levi (who was previously employed by NCSF), Queen Cougar, Disciple, Asher Bauer (Gaystapo on Fetlife, and author of “A Field Guide to Creepy Dom”, which I reposted here), and Chey, who together represented an excellent cross section of various branches of the kink and leather communities, which tend to have some different opinions on a number of issues.  Thorne did a masterful job of moderating, and asked some very important questions.

In the first half of the program, issues such as participants’ preferences for RACK vs SSC, attitudes towards breath play, and a couple of other matters were discussed, with a pretty predictable range of thoughts and opinions, with no two people seeing any of it quite the same way.

Asher felt that RACK is an edgier concept than SSC, because it implies more edge play and Disciple sees the two as falling along a spectrum.  Queen Cougar gave a history of the evolution of both concepts, and pointed out that the entire goal is to keep people safe, which is best accomplished, in her estimation, by just using plain old common sense, and not by mindless adherence to any particular acronym.  Levi spoke eloquently about how both are about safety in overall communications, the value of safety education, etc., distinguishing WIITWD from abuse, both being a “social expression of unified purpose” – and how NCSF feels that identifying with and playing as RACK actually increases players’ legal liability vs SSC.

Someone described RACK as often being used as “a coverup and club” for abusers, which everyone else nodded in agreement with.  My personal feeling is that they are both used that way.

The second half, however, was fully devoted to the question of consent, what it means, and whether or not violations of it should be reported to the police and/or made known to the community at large.  Thorne and I have been discussing these issues together for a while, and a number of the questions she asked were born out of issues I raised and my thinking on the subject.

Levi commented that he felt that consent is a construct, and fantasy container, that responsible masters hold the container for it, and must also take legal, emotional, and physical responsibility for their actions, as well as for their limitations.  He commented about the frequent involvement of coercion in obtaining “consent”, and how consent is sometimes used as justification for abuse, which brought murmurs of agreement from all of the participants.

Queen Cougar spoke eloquently and powerfully about how you “retain your personhood” even in the most intense relationships, and have the right to step out of it and protect yourself no matter what, despite any peer pressure to retain the M/s kind of dynamic and the twisted thinking that comes out of all of that.  Thorne added that that self protection includes emotional safety, as well as physical.

Disciple said that there are many savvy predators out there for whom consent really means nothing and are able to hide behind all the right language, and when he said straight out that they need to be “brought to light”, it drew a gasp of shock from the audience – and vigorous assent from the other panelists.  It was almost like someone had finally given everyone else permission to say out loud, and in so many words, what they had all been thinking, but hadn’t quite had the guts to say in so many words, and a virtual torrent of agreement came out.  He recommended setting aside your pride for the sake of the relationship, and not to rush into anything, taking your time to learn how that prospective partner reacts and treats others when he is under duress before you get involved, because that is highly predictive of how he will treat you.

We often speak about red flags that may clue one in that a particular person is a predator and likely to be dangerous.  Chey mentioned out that it’s a red flag if they’re not willing to come out of role and speak with the sub as equals, and Asher pointed out that sometimes there really aren’t any red flags at all, and that it’s “important not to victim blame”, no matter what.

What really stood out in this portion was that without exception, every single one of these community leaders and educators all agreed as the discussion ensued, particularly once Disciple came out and stated it so clearly, was that not only are violations of consent completely unacceptable, but that they should be reported to the police, as well as publicized widely throughout the community – and with names named.

What’s more, they all agreed that this should apply to all violations, that it is no longer acceptable to sweep so much under the rug as we have been doing for so long.

When I came into the scene a decade ago, this sort of scenario would have been absolutely unimaginable. I can’t think of anyone back then who I ever heard say such a thing, and to even bring the idea up would get one looked at with all kinds of suspicion, and generate a lecture on the importance of confidentiality, policing our own ranks, not involving the police because it would only serve to prove to the vanillas that we were indeed abusers and undermine our attempts to communicate just the opposite, and more – all of which would generally ultimately serve to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the victim.

No one would have said that abuse or violations of consent were OK, but no one would have been willing to actually advocate taking this kind of action.

And a lot more protection was given to D-types who were in M/s relationships in particular, and blame heaped on the S-type, with the admonition that she had entered into this arrangement voluntarily, and that it was all about the dom so he could do no wrong and she had to obey, etc., etc.  Sadly, we still hear some of this claptrap, but on the whole, it thankfully seems to be diminishing.

I’ve written and spoken a lot about what I see as the issues with abuse of various sorts in our circles, and while virtually every individual I can think of with whom I’ve spoken privately has also expressed similar sentiments, there is something about it being said out loud by five separate people who are respected in the community, in front of an audience of probably somewhere around 50 people, that to me, really brings home what I’ve been saying all along for several years, that abuse and violations of consent are huge and growing problems in our ranks, that we absolutely must deal with very differently than we’ve been handling it in the past.

In the “old days”, when the scene was much smaller and more underground, self-policing was much more feasible, and much more essential.  Nowadays, though, attitudes are changing, the police and the rest of the vanilla world are increasingly aware of WIITWD as a fundamentally consensual activity, and as a result, it is less taboo to discuss openly, and in a number of jurisdictions, local law enforcement is actually quite enlightened, so reporting abuses to them, when indicated, is far less likely to have negative repercussions for others than it probably was in the past.  We still have a long ways to go to achieve full understanding and cooperation from law enforcement, but the road is better paved than it was before – and just by virtue of our sheer huge increase in numbers and accessibility, self-policing the way it was back then, especially as a sole solution, is truly no longer a viable solution to these problems.