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.

Rape, Assault, Battery, and Police Reporting

I came across a fantastic post the other day by Saynine about the problem of rape within the BDSM context entitled “This Isn’t Play…BDSM and Rape“, following on the heels of reports by my friend, the outgoing International Ms Leather, Mollena Williams, of her rape by a prominent member of the Dublin kink community.    These are just the two latest posts I’ve encountered speaking out on this topic, and on the importance of reporting these rapes to the police, as well as publicizing them within the BDSM community.

Both posts and the ensuing comments discuss the potential implications of such reporting, both to the individual victims – and to the community as a whole.  The conclusions drawn pretty much without exception in these posts and many others I’m seeing, as well as the opinions of numerous other concerned individuals with whom I’ve been discussing the overall issues of abuse and consent for several years, the participants in San Francisco’s recent RACK panel, etc.,  is that reporting is essential – and that not only are the overall community’s needs secondary to supporting the victim and ensuring as best we can that others are not also harmed, but that doing so can only serve to help our image in the world, by conveying openly to everyone else in the most obvious way possible that we not only do not condone rape, assault, etc., and that that is not what WIITWD is about, but that we stand behind those words with actions that support them.

The question of rape and consent is important, but it’s also important to realize that rape as legally defined (basically, any kind of vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without consent) is only one part of the consent and abuse puzzle.

The other big issue that we face is the problem of either ongoing abuse of various sorts in BDSM relationships, and both in that context or in individual, one-off scenes, the issue of assault and battery if anything other than vaginal, anal, or oral penetration are involved – the questions of other types of play occurring without consent, limits being violated in the process, etc.

What happens when other limits are violated, such as beatings that go beyond the physical limits of what the bottom can take, too much force is used and the bottom is injured even in the course of something she did basically consent to but not to that level?  What about other situations such as if a knife is pulled nonconsensually, undesired cuttings, needles, or take your pick of various forms of humiliation play?  Or you tell your partner (who has been injuring you repeatedly with impact play and ignoring both feedback and ultimately safewords) that you now have a new hard limit, that he absolutely may not hit you with any kind of toy again until he gets some formal instruction and practice with it – and less than a minute later he starts right out doing it again, with a different implement than before, coming out with some lame excuse like, “I didn’t realize that was what you meant” when you protest and safeword yet again?  When even generally innocuous requests or demands happen to cause you intractable problems and yet he won’t relent and continues to demand that, throwing a fit when you object or try to stop it?  Or any number of other possibilities of hard or even soft limits being violated?

Legally, most if not all of these kinds of things are actually assault and/or, in the case that contact is actually made and not just threatened, battery. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Different states have different laws that define each of these things (and domestic violence) differently, and laws and policies regarding arrests and prosecution vary even by jurisdiction within a given state, so it’s not possible to say what will or will not happen in each of these kinds of situations.

Another area that also seems pretty grey (although I’m sure the lawyers and police must understand it) is where the line is between domestic violence and assault and battery – and which one would apply in situations of the sort we kinksters often find ourselves in.

One thing I find particularly disconcerting is that much of what I’ve read about assault and battery seems to require that some sort of obvious and grievous injury occur in order for the concepts to apply and arrests to happen.

But what about those whose injuries never become visible?  Does that mean that they will not receive the same protections as anyone else who is assaulted by a partner or stranger?  I’ve been injured on multiple occasions where nary a bruise or mark ever showed up – but when I’m still in pain weeks and months later, I sure as hell considered myself just as injured as if some bone had been fractured or I’d been cut with a knife.

Regardless of the legal terminology, when limits are violated in any way, it sure still feels like rape.   The feeling of violation is terrible, and the violation of trust is almost as bad and sometimes even worse than the actual event.

I’ve had things done to me that in and of themselves may not have actually been that big a deal, but when they were things that because of other issues in the relationship, or other personal or medical reasons, I had set as a limit, it is precisely that breach of trust of a partner going ahead and doing it anyways, despite agreement not to, and then his negative reactions to my protests, that has often been far and away the bigger problem.

I would add to what both Saynine, Mo, and many others are saying about the importance of reporting rape (as well as other types of violations of limits) is that you need to do it right when the assault or rape happens, or very shortly thereafter.  Otherwise, the police are really unlikely to take you as seriously if you do it later.  Even if you do wait too long and they tell you they will not investigate it as a result, still insist on filing a report, so that at least there is something on record about this person’s behavior to help establish the pattern in case someone else runs into trouble with them and seeks police assistence.  There is also something very personally empowering to just tell your story to the authorities, to name what has actually happened.

Your Kink Is Not OK

There.  I’ve said it.

The words that will earn me the hatred of a lot of the BDSM world.  Words that are anathema to this subculture.  Thinking that runs counter to the mass-think of our counterculture, that threatens all kinds of people who are supposedly secure in whatever it is they do.

I posted my recent post about consent on Fetlife, and the anti-bestiality petition – and all hell has broken loose.  I’ve been accused of being a Nazi because of the consent one, and more.  I’ve been told – like it’s a bad thing – that I seem to be on a moral crusade with respect to being opposed to bestiality.

Well, yes.  Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. On a moral crusade.

I am very much opposed to things like bestiality, child sexual abuse, porn about both, abuse of all sorts, and to an assortment of other things like play behavior that causes bodily damage and emotional harm, and I refuse to be silenced about it by peer pressure any more.

I believe that they are wrong in every possible way, particularly bestiality, child sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse of others (including animals), both physical and emotional.  I believe (and there are plenty of good studies to back me up) that they are deeply injurious on multiple levels, and that injuring other people and other creatures is just plain wrong.  They are sick, disgusting, perverted in the entirely wrong way, and just plain abominations.  People who do these things are sick, too, and in serious need of therapeutic help.

That is very much part of my moral compass, and I have always vigorously opposed these things.

To have deeply held convictions of this nature and to not speak up about them and work to stamp them out is to do one’s own self damage.

So, yes, I am on a crusade to do just that, particularly with abuse of children, women, and animals.

I won’t try to stop people from doing themselves or truly consenting partners bodily harm in the name of kink, but I for damn sure reserve the right to express my opinion of their doing so, and what I believe their mental status to be.

And the thing is that a huge percentage of the rest of our ranks does the same thing, either in private just in their own minds, or among friends, although we all pretend in public like we don’t.  No one wants to be the one to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

This whole “your kink is OK” thing that we espouse in the kink community is actually kind of hypocritical, in my opinion.  We almost all have opinions about the advisability or sanity of at least one or two things that other people do, and these are routinely spoken of in private, among friends – but no one is willing to actually stand up in public and say the exact same thing, either in front of anyone who practices whatever the activity is, or to the community at large.

The BDSM subculture is, in fact, one of the most intolerant and judgmental groups of people I’ve ever come across – or at least certainly no less judgmental than any vanilla group.  The judgments are just about different things, and on the whole, we do have a lot more tolerance of extremes than vanillas do, and the bar is higher.

It’s ironic, though, that while we attempt to be all inclusive of everything that everyone likes, in the process, what gets shut out is the right to freely state our own real opinions of some of those behaviors without facing a crucifying wall of attack from others.

It’s as if when you sign up to be kinky in the public scene, you have to turn in your rights to stating and sharing your own opinions of what others may do.  I’ve written at length elsewhere, particularly on Tribe in the New to BDSM (Uncensored) group, about the many unwritten rules of the scene.  This is a major one.  You don’t get to have an opinion of what others do, or at least you most assuredly aren’t allowed to express it out loud.

Everyone who has been around for more than a month and started to get to know others knows that there is a large and well-established grapevine behind the scenes.  I was told about it when I was brand new a decade ago, and it exists as a deliberate institution to help submissives stay safe by sharing information about dangerous tops.  It’s not only condoned, it’s actively (although quietly) promoted, and polite newbies are welcomed into the fold.  Get any group of submissives together, and you’ll hear all about how we all need to look out for and protect one another.  But God forbid anyone actually share any of that same information out loud in public, or to more individuals than a particular person deems appropriate – and then all hell breaks loose about violating confidentiality, bad-mouthing people, etc. – regardless of the truth or lack thereof of the information being shared, and the actual experiences of the person sharing it, and then the crowd often turns on the messenger.  All this happens right along with a lot of public verbiage about wanting to stop abusive behavior, and people crowing about how we are somehow better than the vanilla crowd and have less abuse in our ranks.

Hello?  You either want to stop abuse and help protect others, or you don’t.  No, it’s not as cut and dried as may appear that I am saying.  There are indeed nuances and specifics to each situation.  Unfortunately, the victim is often revictimized over and over again by her own peers just for speaking up.

There are also significant pockets of people who not only do not condemn behavior such as child and animal sexual abuse, but who actively practice and promote it, despite the fact that they are generally illegal as hell, much more so than any of the rest of what we do, as well as totally amoral and exploitative.  It is appalling that such abusers try to hide behind the wall of calling their perversions “kinks”, and thereby trying to slide in under the umbrella of “your kink is OK” in our circles.

It’s not OK, folks.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not.

And yes, I’m on a moral crusade – and on a legal one.  I’ve worked for years to help stamp out child and domestic partner abuse, and I will now also not rest until bestiality is likewise recognized legally everywhere as the sick abuse of helpless creatures that it is, and helped to create a legal framework within which anyone who causes harm to people and animals who cannot consent can and will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law – a law on a par with how raping children and others is now treated.

Child abuse and bestiality are not “kinks”.  They are full on perversions, sicknesses, and victimization of others who are helpless to defend themselves.  People who do these things are predators, and mentally ill, and should be locked away for life.

Anyone who thinks it’s OK to fuck children or animals is a psychopath.  And anyone who remains in a relationship with anyone who does either of these things once they know about it is equally guilty of the crime because to stay is to condone it.

What I find particularly puzzling is that I know people whose own friends have told them they are sick and in need of therapy because of the extreme nature of their kinks and participation in bestiality.  Why are those people still friends, when such incredibly exploitative and blatantly injurious behaviors are being practiced by those people?  Why do people stay in intimate relationships with such animals?  Birds of a feather flock together, though – so don’t be surprised if others consider that you actually condone the behavior of your partners and friends who engage in these kinds of practices if you remain in relationships with them once you know about these things. Sadly, I know people who have sounded off vociferously about exactly this – and yet are now in relationships with known, self-proclaimed bestialists, and still there, despite knowing full well about it.  It’s really pathetic when people’s desire to get their rocks off so overrides their own moral compasses – or at least what they said were their moral standards.

Don’t even start me on things like breath play, extremes of body modification, skewers, screws and nails inserted through breasts, penises, and testicles, needle play with unsterile needles, heavy impact play on the same kinds of delicate body parts and other areas that are easily injured, extensive brands, etc.  People have had to have breasts amputated because they haven’t healed from play of this nature.  Others have reported it taking literally years for such injuries to heal completely.  I’m hearing more reports of spinal fractures from flogging older people.  The list goes on.

So yeah.  As long as you are not hurting others, human or animal, do whatever you want.  But don’t expect me to condone it, or to not speak up against it, and to try to educate people to not do it if possible, if I find it either morally repugnant or too unsafe.

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See also Tolerating Criminal Behavior in the Scene, and Judging Others, and Just because it is “your kink” does not make it OK with me

Dealing With Anger While Playing, and By Playing

How do you deal with anger when it comes up in a scene?  Or when wanting to find a way to release it to start with?

My friend DaddyDarin weighed in the subject in a thread entitled How to release anger? It started as a question about how a sub can release that anger, perhaps in  a cathartic scene, but it also raises the questions of how a dominant should deal with his own anger, and indeed the fundamental importance of his ability to control his own self.

This is a relatively long post, with my comments interspersed, but the most important questions of how the dominant should address his own anger are towards the very end. 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.

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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

Tantrums, Dominants, and BDSM

I’ve been reading in a few places lately about people throwing tantrums, in both the vanilla world and in BDSM. In an excellent post on the subject, entitled “That’s Life (Vanilla and BDSM Tantrums)“, Ooooohhhhyesss concludes that “Tantrums are tantrums independent of being Dom/me, sub or vanilla. It is a lack of training in being a social animal. In the vanilla world, you can blame your parents until you are an adult. In BDSM you can point to your play partners; however, your behavior shouts out about YOU and merely reflects on others”.

So what exactly is a tantrum, and how do they apply to WIITWD?

Tantrums are, first and foremost, a sign of complete loss of self-control.

Continue reading