Can You Face Her In the Morning (How to Assault People Less)

This is a terrific post put up on Fetlife by SadisticLark on how to avoid being an abuser and assaulting your partner, reposted with permission.  Please read the original as well, as he is planning some changes and additions, and there are some great comments there that cannot be reproduced here.

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

This is a rambling collection of thoughts based my own mistakes and ideas I’ve pulled out of my ass. It’s written mostly from the perspective of male top / female bottom engaging in casual/public play. Feel free to disagree, substitute your preferred gender pronouns, and/or go back to looking at nude pics. I’ll hopefully be adding to and changing this as time goes on.

I honestly don’t know much about rape culture and my only experience with unwanted touching was having my ass grabbed by a cougar at a bar (which I thought was funny at the time). It seems like many tops are worried about being ‘falsely accused’ or having a bad scene get blown out of proportion and turn into some kind of witch hunt. I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen but I personally think it’s a pretty rare occurrence (for exceptions see the How to Avoid Problem People link below ). It’s a risk you take by playing with people but if both parties are acting in good faith there are a few things you can do to lower the chances of things going south.

1. Choose your play partners carefully.

There are people you probably don’t want to play with. These people can usually be divided into two groups: People with no fucking clue about what’s going on and people who need professional help.

The first group is dangerous because their expectations can be anywhere from non-existent to complete fantasy and you can easily end up way outside their Goldilocks zone.

Risk of things going bad with group 1 = moderate

The second group I personally try to avoid. I’m not a psychologist, therapist, or doctor (although I play one in the bedroom). Even if I was any of those things, I’m pretty sure hitting them with a stick or sticking my dick in them wouldn’t be approved methods of treatment. I really recommend How to Avoid Problem People. [klg – Ed. note – also found in its entirety on the author Libida’s blog, where it’s easier to read and print out, but the Fetlife version and its sequel have entirely different lists of fabulous comments.  All of it on both sites is worth reading.]

Risk of things going bad with group 2 = RED FUCKING ALERT!

Pitfall: Your partner has “consented” to an activity they know nothing about.

You’re up big guy! This probably isn’t going to be terribly “Risk Aware” (RACK) and it’s debatable if they can “Consent” (RACK & SSC) to something they know nothing about. They are effectively washing their hands of any personal responsibility and leaving everything up to you. If this thing goes south you are probably going to be wearing this one around your neck.

Pro Tip: If you want to play with the hot newbie then tailor your scene to the person you are playing with.

A light laboratory/education style scene with lots of communication may help them get familiar with the reality of this type of play. Once they know what they are getting into you can talk about a heavier scene. If they still don’t seem to ‘get it’ then you may be dealing with someone who belongs in the group number 2.

2. Negotiate what you want to do before, not during the scene.

If you enjoy a good rape-and-pillage just ask during negotiations. If you want sexual touching ask. While you are at it you might want to ask what exactly “sexual touching” means to them.

Example: If I’m round house kicking you in the ass and I accidentally stick my foot in your box is that sexual?

Pro Tip: Rape play works best with people who both agree to have sex with you and enjoy consensual non-consent.

If you are missing one or both of these elements your partner will probably get the strange idea you are actually raping them.

Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is at your mercy (or “physically incapacitated”).

Top: – “Wow she is looking awfully cute all tied up like that. I think I’ll ask if I can stick my penis in her.”
Bottom: – “My god I’m helpless! I had better do what he wants and maybe he will let me live!”

Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is in subspace.

Surprisingly, they may agree to things in the heat of the moment that they wouldn’t normally. This has been known to leave them feeling like they were taken advantage of in a vulnerable state.

Pitfall: Turning into a legal bagel (Yes I know it’s beagle) mid-scene.

People often make the crazy assumption that you are negotiating in good faith. Avoid “omitting” things or your partner might start thinking you are a piece of shit.

Examples:

  • “You didn’t negotiate me not sticking my penis in your nose!”
  • “When you agreed to needle play you didn’t say the needles had to be clean!”

Good luck playing with this person or any of their friends ever again.

3. Don’t assume.

Remember that old saying ‘Assuming makes an ass of u and me’ well it can also end up making an ‘assault of you by me’. We all enter a scene with expectations of what’s going to take place. It’s important to talk about what’s going to happen so we don’t end up with what I like to call ‘a serious fucking mismatch of expectations’.

Pro Tip: The less you have played with someone the more detail you should provide about how you think the scene is going to progress.

Anticipation is the best marinade.

Pitfall: “Everyone knows who I am and that I’m the edgiest of edge players.”

No they don’t. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Wow, you’re really mean” I’d have enough for a happy meal. Assuming that someone magically knows your play style and what type of scene you have in mind is setting one or both of you up for some disappointment.

Pitfall: “Negotiations are Borings-ville and I’d rather be exciting and spontaneous.”

Top: I think I’ll surprise her and brand ‘SL’s Cum Dumpster’ on her chest.
Bottom: OH MY GOD WHAT IS ON MY CHEST!

It’s a common misconception that girls like surprises. In fact rigorous scientific study has show that that girls only like expected surprises. This tricky sub genre of the surprise can often be achieved by negotiating the hard limits around the ‘surprise’ ahead of time.

Example: “How would you feel about me permanently branding something on you that is both degrading and shows my ownership over you?”

4. Don’t fuck around with colours (safe words).

When you cram a bunch of unrelated people together it helps to have some common language to maintain some semblance of order. Colors (safe words) are one of the ways we communicate ‘consent’. Specifically we can use the absence of colours to indicate that our partner is most likely continuing to consent to the scene.

I say most likely because this system isn’t perfect. Our partner(s) are only human and there may be times where they can’t safe word or even communicate their feelings. If this isn’t scaring you, it should be! Just because your partner can’t indicate that you are well out of their comfort zone doesn’t mean they aren’t going to hold you responsible when they come back to reality. This is a whole other topic that I won’t get into but just be aware that colours are one of those necessary but not sufficient things.

Pitfall: Having a meltdown when your partner gives you a yellow/red.

Nothing says experienced master in full control of themselves like a good old fashioned hissy fit. To really pull this off it helps to blame your partner for whatever is wrong and berate them for not being good enough to play with you.

Example: DON’T YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO BE PLAYING WITH ME?! RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!

Side note: S-types please run-don’t-walk when the above happens and tell everyone and their dogs about it. You could be saving someone from injury or worse.

Pro Tip: When starting a scene reassure your partner that colours are available to be used.

You want them commit to using colours if something is wrong. If they can’t do that then your risk level just increased a few defcon levels.

Example: “I need you to use your colours if something is up and don’t be afraid to give me a yellow. I promise not to throw a dom temper tantrum and I’d rather know so I can fix whatever is wrong instead of finding out later.”

Actively and continually procure consent.

Why? We already negotiated and they consented to this! I’m the the one in control now and they need to stop topping from the bottom and let me work my Dom-ly magic.

Some reasons off the top of my head:

  • Negotiations are not perfect. Without prior experience people are often either guessing what they like or trying to extrapolate from tangentially related experiences.This can lead to an awkward situation where someone is engaged in an activity they thought they would enjoy but learn they hate with a fiery passion.
  • They know what they like but there is some stupid little thing easy to fix thing preventing them from enjoying it tonight. Maybe a cuff is too tight, a creeper is staring at their titties, it’s freezing cold, etc.
  • They have done this a million times before but today it just isn’t fucking working. It could be a bad day, a lack of chemistry (I know hard to believe right?), injuries from prior play, etc. etc.

Now you can wait until they say something or you can check occasionally and see how they are doing. The problem with waiting (as mentioned above) is that some people won’t say anything unless prodded and some people can’t say anything. This can mean the difference between “The scene was fucking horrible and I regret ever playing with him” and “The scene wasn’t working but I’d like to try something again some other time”.

Someone once described these check-ins in terms of risk and time:

The risk of the scene going off the rails increases in direct proportion to the time between checking in with your partner during play.

Examples:

  • Incorporate some evil witty banter into your scene. If the last shock had her calling your mother a crack whore she is probably alright.
  • Arrange for them to squeeze your hand if you squeeze theirs and all is well.
  • Take a break. Are they a thirsty kitty?
  • Agree on some body language that indicates things are going well. If she is wiggling her bum in time with the music things are probably good.

Personally, I find colours can be a bit ‘jarring’ and it seems much easier to feel in control of the scene if I’m the one asking how they are feeling and fixing things on on my schedule instead of waiting for them to colour.

Pro Tip: The less experienced your partner is with the activity the more important it is to actively get their consent as play gets heavier.

If you’re lucky you will get a chance to do a scene with someone who finally wants to try out that scary hard limit activity. Do your warmup but before you dive into the unknown it’s a good idea to get consent one last time before starting.

Pro Tip: The scene just isn’t working for them, you’ve tried fixing some things with no success, and you need to end it.

It’s time to attempt the art of the graceful crash landing. The idea is to change the direction this scene is heading so you both ‘win’. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but often changing the pace, modifying the negotiated activity, and winding it down is a good place to start. Avoid the emotional equivalent of dropping your partner by making this a ‘failure’.

5. Check in a day or so later and actually listen to what they say.

Besides being the polite thing to do it’s also your last chance to work things out semi-privately before things blow up. At this point they’ve had some time to think about things and decide how they feel about the scene.

Bang! They feel uncomfortable/’off’/unhappy about something. The first thing is to realize that you aren’t ‘going to make this better’ by arguing. People feel how they feel and trying to rationalize someone’s feelings generally just pisses them off. Instead, try listening and try working backwards to the ‘mismatch of expectations’ that led to this point.

This isn’t a risk free activity, mistakes and miscommunications happen. If you followed my earlier advice you have hopefully shared the responsibility for the failure with your partner by:

  • Making them aware of what they are getting into.
  • Sharing the responsibility for planning and executing the scene.
  • Repeatedly seeking and obtaining their consent (without duress) as the scene progressed.

Talk about it. Own it. Figure out how not to repeat it.

6. Relax and have fun.

BDSM is serious business. No fun allowed! 😛

TL:DR?

Actively involve your partner in all the phases of the scene so they share the responsibility for how things turn out. Periodically get their consent to continue so you are ‘playing together’ instead of you just ‘doing things’ to them.

I wrote this like a guide but it’s more of an opinion piece. People have different ‘styles’ and I can only talk about what has worked for me so far.

If you have any neat stories (anonymous please) of pitfalls I’d be interested in hearing them.

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.

I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading

On the Use of Labels in the BDSM World

This has become more and more of a pet peeve for me over the past several years.

No one fits neatly into any of these little boxes, in my experience. Even those who most seem to always have elements that don’t fit what someone else sees as “the definition”, once you get right down to it.

The older I get, the more I realize this – and the crankier it makes me to see everyone else and their cousin still wanting to stuff everyone into the same little boxes, and to make those boxes and labels mean the same thing to everyone – or more precisely, the same as it means to them. I’ve ranted about this publically for years in a variety of locations, but I’m crankier than ever about it.

We are much too complex to be reduced to one or two word definitions as labels to fully describe who we are, whatever those labels may be – at least any of us with more than a few functioning neurons who aren’t so completely damaged that we let anyone kick us around any way they want. The more neurons, the more complex, and the less well these labels generally function as definitions or descriptions.

Even doormats have limits and issues that may often belie whatever simple label anyone might hang on them. And God knows that even the most fully M/s-identified people certainly do. It’s never, ever as simple or clear-cut as it may look from the outside.

These labels are, at best, starting points for a discussion. Shorthand, if you will. Continue reading

Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships

One of the best and most comprehensive descriptions  I’ve seen of the problem of domestic abuse is at HelpGuide.org, and is entitled  Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships. A couple of excerpts follow, but please read the whole page, as it is full of all kinds of excellent information and links.

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence..

This statement is one of the main reasons that people in the BDSM world do not recognize abuse when they see it, because this is what we basically do – or at least it’s what it looks like.  It is the reason they don’t think the concept applies to them.

This is untrue, and does very much relate to wiittwd because, as the following paragraph states:

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

In a healthy D/s or even M/s relationship, the dom or master may want total control, and that may well be reasonable, once the relationship progresses to where both know what they’re getting into, but a mature dominant will definitely play fair, consider your limits, etc.

MsAuthoritarian concludes on Fetlife that, “It is not what we do within our relationships but ‘how we do it’ that creates the distinction between a healthy dynamic and an abusive dynamic no matter if it is within mainstream or what it is we do. If someone is using fear of harm, guilt, shame, intimidation or violence to gain and maintain dominance then it is domestic abuse plain and simple”.

This is extremely succinct and very well put.  A healthy D/s relationship – or any relationship, for that matter – should build the sub up, not tear her down (and ditto for the dom).  It should leave both parties feeling better about themselves overall, regardless of the nature of the relationship, and as if the relationship enhances their lives and brings out the best in them both.

To read more about abuse in the BDSM community, please visit the Abuse vs BDSM – An Uncomfortable Subject thread on Fetlife.

Protected: Breaking the Rules

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Does the BDSM Community Enable Abuse?

In a post entitled Evidence that the BDSM community does not enable abuse, Clarisse Thorn posits that the existence of several different initiatives outlining the differences between BDSM and abuse indicates that we do not enable abuse.

While many such initiatives and lists demonstrating the difference between wiitwd and abuse certainly do exist within our “community” (and there are a number of others listed in the Links section on this blog), I have to conclude from my own experiences, observations, and the experiences and comments of many others that we may not actively condone abuse, but the very nature of BDSM relationships encourage it.

This is not a conclusion I have come easily to, but has become inescapable the more I talk to others about their experiences, the more I read on various social networks like Fetlife, and so on.

Unfortunately, the very nature of wiitwd, in this day and age, encourages and provides a haven for abusers.

No, it’s not officially sanctioned.  No, properly done, BDSM by itself is *not* abusive.

However, the very structure of a power exchange-based relationship and SM play sets up a situation in which abusers do indeed thrive, hiding much of what they do behind that cloak of D/s or SM, TPE slavery, etc.  It’s a perfect cover, for those who are inclined in an abusive direction. Continue reading

A Slave is Not A Submissive

By Deborah Teramis Christian

A submissive explores the piquant terrain of the surrendering of power. It is not surprising that folks engaged in D/s often spend a fair amount of energy determining what are the appropriate bounds of submission and control to incorporate into their play. For those for whom this kind of power exchange is a lifestyle expression, the scope of dominance and submission excercised may be quite extensive.

Into this mix then often comes the tricky word of “slave” – a concept which never fails to muddy the water, especially in discussions on the internet or among kinksters with limited D/s experience. While some people insist that the word “slave”, like the word “submissive”, can mean to the individual anything they want it to mean, it is nevertheless a fact of the established and more experienced leather community that slavery in an M/s sense of the word has specific connotations, and that slavery differs from submission in significant ways. I want to explore those differences here and illustrate why I believe that a submissive and a slave are two entirely different creatures, as unlike as apples and oranges.

Definitions

To start this conversation I will offer a definition of submissive and slave first put forth by Steven Davis on the old alt.sex.bondage newsgroup on Usenet in 1995, paraphrased here with permission. (Also, when speaking of D/s which is a gender-neutral endeavor, I tend to use the gender neutral pronouns of sie and hir in my discussion. I write for an audience that spans many orientations and I find it helps avoid the pattern of thinking of D/s as happening in any one set of gender configurations). That said:

A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon hir. A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is incumbent upon hir to obey.

I am fond of this definition because it describes not only my personal experience of submission and slavery, but with some minimal qualification also applies to every submissive or slave relationship I have known of. To elaborate, then…. Continue reading

When Dominance Crosses the Line to Just Plain Abuse

How do you tell the difference between BDSM and abuse?  The line can admittedly be rather narrow and grey sometimes, especially when you get into the area of consensual nonconsent, but there are some real differences.

While there are many possible signs, consent is the primary dividing line – along with adherence to limits, and whether or not the whole experience overall, whether in a single scene or an entire relationship, leaves the sub feeling more built up or more torn down.

A good dominant (hell, any good partner) will always seek to ensure that not only is his partner/sub well taken care of overall, but will make sure that any tearing down he may do in scene is reversed and the issues raised dealt with sensitively until the sub is put back together again.

If the experience is more of being torn down and not put back together again, then it’s abuse.

Someone said:

“When the party involved… does not enjoy an activity, can see no benefit to the activity aside from the other party’s enjoyment/amusement/benefit and is in some way injured by the activity on more than simply a bruised basis (bruised ego, bruised skin). If an activity causes non consensual damage and is continued after the damaged party has requested it to stop, it is abuse. This point of view of abuse does not have to be shared by anyone BUT the victim party…”

I think this sums it up beautifully.

I’d emphasize that “injury” doesn’t necessarily have to involve visible bruises, especially for those of us who do not mark easily. Continue reading

Trust, Safety, and Surrender

From Deborah Teramis Christian:

“Trust, safety and surrender are a triad that, in combination, can unlock the doors to deep submission and connectedness between D/s partners. Creating that environment takes some work, though.

Here is an online talk I gave on the subject, getting into some detail about how trust, safety and surrender interact, and how to foster them. This chat is left with some participant’s questions scattered throughout, because I think they brought up some good points. Names are replaced by initials to maintain anonymity.

***

I’m going to talk tonight about the triad of elements that I think best create a healthy foundation for effective power exchange: Trust, Safety, and Surrender. D/s is predicated on trust, unlike in vanilla relationships where we are often content to negotiate relationships that hedge on the factor of trust. You can’t do that in D/s and have a relationship that will endure. Trust is the cornerstone of what enables power exchange to happen (as I will be elaborating)

There is also a given here, a background assumption in what I’m going to be saying: namely, that communications skills exist and are being used, and that you and your partner both have a mutual dedication to creating a trusting and safe environment in which to do D/s. You cannot build trust one-sidedly. It takes two…just as it does to create safety. Continue reading