Awareness of abuse in the kink community is growing, and I could not be more grateful.
Sadly, my friend Mollena Williams, who recently stepped down from her post as International Ms Leather 2010, was raped and only recently spoke up about it publicly. The outpouring of support has been unbelievable – although really hardly surprising considering what a truly amazing and widely loved (and lovable) person she is, and how highly visible worldwide.
That decision to speak up is helping open up the floodgates that so badly need to be opened in our circles, and she continues to speak out. In her thank you speech at the end of her IMSL tenure, Mo brought the issue up in front of hundreds of people, asking attendees how many had personally been sexually abused or known someone who had been, and had this to say about what happened:
It was a very scary decision for me to share my story and to ask for others to stand or raise a hand with me as survivors. And the remaining people I asked to show support if they knew someone who was a survivor of sexual abuse.
Over three-quarters of the room were with me on the first call. EVERYONE was in by the second.
It filled me with many emotions to see this happen. Validation. Pride in US. Rage that so many of us have lived this story. It threatened to take me out. And it was worth it. It was worth the fear and the opening of that wound because so. Many. Of. Us. Live. With. This. Pain.
Seventy five percent of a packed room full of pervs of every stripe were survivors of survivors of sexual assault, and not a single one didn’t at least know someone else who had been, even if they themselves had not had that sad experience.
Seventy five percent – 75%.
Think about this and what it means.
While there’s no way to measure the number of abusers who were involved, and given the size of our subculture and the frequency with which people share partners, either simultaneously or sequentially, we cannot have any certainty of what that number says about how many abusers are involved, that percentage still means that a huge percentage of our group are indeed abusers. And we all know at least one or two people who are serial abusers.
I wrote earlier in this blog that some people I’ve spoken to have estimated that 80-90% of all dominants (at least male) are abusive. Others challenged me on those numbers, and admittedly, there’s no way to prove them.
But when you’ve got a room full of people, it’s quite easy to roughly estimate the percentages involved when questions like Mo’s are asked.
I can’t give statistically accurate numbers or percentages. They don’t exist. It would be great if there were some high quality studies that were to quantify this problem more accurately, and hopefully someday we will indeed have them, but for now, there simply aren’t. All we can go by is reports like this, and hearing more and more people speak up privately or publicly about their experiences – a growing general consensus that this is a far bigger problem in the kink subculture than we as a group have known – or wanted to face. You find out about these things by talking to others, by public presentations about the issue, and people speaking out openly such as in Asher Bauer’s wonderful Field Guide to Creepy Dom, etc.
Mo, I so share your rage and pain, both what you have been through personally, and at the fact that this is such a widespread issue in the kink world, that so many others have also stood in our shoes.
I also fully understand your feeling of validation, as indeed the reaction you got and your report about it help in turn to validate everything I’ve been saying for a few years, and everything I’ve been through myself and continue to suffer from.
And that is why this blog exists, and I will continue to speak out about publicly abuse in the kink world, trying to excise it from our midst, and working to help others recognize it and learn to fight it as well, despite all of the fallout, including some very overt threats.
The time for silence and sweeping this issue under the rug is over.
We speak about power exchange in BDSM as a positive thing, but when it is used as a battering ram, as has happened to so many of us, it’s just plain abuse. It is time for those of us who have been battered, both literally and figuratively (emotionally and sexually) to take back our own power and stand up and fight these injustices en masse.
It is never going to be possible to entirely excise abuse or abusers from our midst, either in the kink world or the vanilla world at large. But we can work together to create an environment in which they cannot hide as easily as the current D/s culture both allows and indeed encourages.
We not only can, but we absolutely must.
Because it’s not OK that even one person has to suffer the effects of any kind of abuse, but the fact that it’s such a high percentage is absolutely intolerable and insupportable.
And it’s just as bad that the culture of silence in the scene has covered it up for so long, if not worse, because that means that we have all been complicit in perpetuating these problems. Indeed the culture of silence and confidentiality at all costs, coupled with the “It’s all about the dom” mentality, has led to frequently victimizing the victims all over again by blaming them and letting the abusers get off scott free without consequences.
These. Things. Simply. Must. Stop.
And we have to all work together to make that happen.
Thank you for speaking up, Mo. From the bottom of my heart.