More on Rape and Abuse in the BDSM Community

More great thoughts from Kitty Stryker, and a whole host of commentary from other community members about the topic of rape, (sexual) assault, victim blaming, and tolerating abuse in the kink community, and what we should do about it.  If you haven’t seen her prior posts, you can find links to them hereSimone Webb of Blogwasred has some other interesting commentary about comparing rape to a car crash, and in a repeat of prior linkages, Mollena Williams has also spoken eloquently on the problem in her blog, and in her duplicate post on Fetlife that so far has garnered 415 comments in addition to the 92 on her blog.  There are many more, and I’ve linked to many of them in prior posts and in the links section of this blog.

Maymay is right: “If speaking up means breaking the rules, let’s fucking break them”.

The system is broken, and is thankfully starting to come apart at the scenes (oops, typo, but I’ll let it stand as the Freudian slip/double entendre it apparently is), er, uh, seams, thanks to fearless bloggers like these who are well enough known in the community to be able to reach a lot of eyeballs.   Awareness is growing; we need to keep the pressure on and continue working to interconnect those of us who are speaking out.

These posts are pretty dense in cross links, and the threads long, but I urge you to read as much of them as possible – and join Fetlife to do so for the ones that are posted there, if you aren’t already a member.  You can do so for free, and anonymously, and need not participate in anything else other than to read if you don’t want to.

It’s not just rape that’s a problem, though.  It’s assault and battery as well – the violations of limits during play of other types.  It’s pushing past hard limits, or even repeatedly exceeding softer ones when the bottom protests.  All of it gets a victim demonized in the community for speaking up.  We need to quit pussy-footing around these issues and start calling them what they are. And what they are are violations of consent – and rape, etc.

If someone hits you without your consent, or does anything else to you that you did not freely agree to, and you object to it, you have been assaulted and battered, if not also raped.  If it’s fully negotiated and mutually agreed to, all well and good – except that consent can still quite legally be withdrawn at any point.  If the top continues on the same path after being told to stop, by any means you choose to use to do so, then he’s well over the line of nonconsent and into assault and/or battery.

Watch this space for definitions of the various terms used in the context of rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, domestic violence, etc.  I’ll be posting the actual statutes as well.

(I am not a lawyer and nothing in these posts should be construed as legal advice, consult your own attorney, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

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.

It’s the Internet, Stupid! How the Online World Encourages Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

I received a private message from someone who was commenting on how BDSM per se doesn’t inspire abuse, but that “…people watch vids on the internet, get it into their heads that subs are just human punching bags that will do anything for anyone and that misunderstanding of everything does cause abuse”.

Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head, guy.  No, it’s not BDSM per se that is the problem, but all of the rest of the crap – and I include the books, including the Story of O and all of the older books and videos, not just the new crap and the Internet influences – that cause the problems.

Or, more precisely, giving them too much weight is what does it.  There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from these sources, but one has to understand the limits of that.

I’ve found that the ability to separate fantasy from what’s viable in real life is sadly lacking in many, and it is the use of these books and videos essentially as “how to” manuals instead of recognizing them as pretty purely wank fodder that leads people astray.

Couple that with the emphasis on secrecy and confidentiality, and a whole lot of really bad – and nonconsensual – stuff gets swept neatly under the rug where it never sees the light of day, and the perpetrators get away with it with more and more people.

Those who eventually wake up to the abuse they are suffering are often too embarrassed to be open about it for many reasons, including embarrassment that they fell for it in the first place, plus fear of being ostracized for breaking the code of silence, especially if the perpetrator is popular or friends with the local community’s leaders, or is powerful in some other way perhaps outside the scene altogether.

Interestingly enough, at the class that Midori and I both attended, when asked how many people in the room had been raped, half the hands went up – and when asked how many of us had reported the rape, all but one went down.  The pressures to not report it are strong, even in the kink world.

Sadly, those who will not or cannot keep their bottoms safe on various levels tend to screw things up a lot for everyone.  I cried when reading an excellent post this guy wrote about why we do wiitwd, going into depth about the passions invoked and the challenges of taking a hard scene and coming out safely on the other side with a trusted dominant, because I do so crave being with someone who can do that with me.  Continue reading

What is Dominance?

This is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever come across:

“Dominance seems often to attract those that confuse dominance with power misused…its so not like that…imagine the best teacher, boss, sports captain… whom ever…did they lead by yelling?… or by bringing out your best and you WANTING to be even better for them?”

Thanks to @subzeero on Fetlife for permission to repost