This is a story of isolationism and group loyalty. How about we make it a story of compassion?
In the last week or so I found out that Susan Wright became Fetlife’s new Community Manager. Susan Wright, the woman who thinks abuse survivors in the BDSM community shouldn’t go to the proper authorities because before we can seek legal help or emergency intervention “There also has to be a change in the way BDSM is viewed by the mainstream…” Which I’m sure will come any moment now as the BDSM community continues to hide abusers in its ranks to the dismay and disgust of the mainstream.
Susan Wright who goes on to say:
Personally I think we need to empower the physical BDSM groups and events more. If someone is abused by another member, they should be able to make that accusation and get a hearing from the group.
Even as her new boss John Baku counters:
…our focus really is on trying to get people to speak to the proper authorities so that the people who have committed these horrible crimes get put away.
Maybe they should talk.
Susan Wright who I hope understands in taking a job with a social network/dating site focused on BDSM that she is no longer dealing with physical groups, and more importantly can no longer use isolationist politics of BDSM (or the Don’t Bite The Hand That Gets You Laid model) for community control. Except maybe she can, because if there is anything we learn from the Yes Means Yes There’s a War On series it is that the cohesiveness of the BDSM scene, the thing Susan Wright and people like her have been flaunting as a way to protect kinksters for years, is the very thing that allows abuse to happen in these communities to start with. And we’ve known this for years, but now we can actually track the community closing ranks around an alleged abuser. But that is a story about group loyalty, about the fact that Wright like so many other BDSMers would rather align themselves with systematic abuse than question the sanctity of their groups. This is a story about a community and mode of operation that needs to be wiped out because it can’t be saved, it isn’t worth saving, and the fish stinks from the head as it were.
So how about we make it a story about compassion?
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) launched a survey. “We haven’t closed it yet, but so far we have 5,000 responses, and over 30 percent of them had have their previously negotiated limit violated, which I think is horrific,” said spokesperson Susan Wright. “There is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.”
Over 30%. Thirty percent of 5,000 is 1,500. Um, guys, think about your local BDSM scene, pretty small group right? Now think about BDSM conventions you’ve been to or heard of, couple thousand people at the really big ones? Now think about over 1,500 of the people who took this survey clicking yes to the question above. Susan, there is no confusion between abuse and BDSM, there are violent, controlling, unethical people being protected and promoted in the ranks of BDSM organizations.
Here is what must pass for confusion in Susan’s book from Thomas of Yes Means Yes:
A good friend who is a non-masochistic female submissive negotiated “a painless singlestail scene” at a convention dungeon. She was not a novice, but had 3-4 years experience and was very active in the local community. The dominant man was a was a current title-holder, doing the circuit of regional conventions.
In midst the scene, after she was spacey and not able to speak, he re-negotiated the scene and got her agree to body punching. She expected a thumpy massage. She got three ribs dislocated.
When he punched her kidney she fell, so he held her to the floor and kept punching her. She had to pull herself together enough to speak, and to call red, before he stopped. Then he told her not to tell anyone what had happened, and he dumped her on me and left. He did not show up at the pre-arranged meeting place the next the morning.
This was clearly not a scene gone wrong, or a mistake.
It goes on. And these stories go on and on and on.
Here is what these stories sound like as told by members of these communities:
When I was new to the scene, I briefly had a relationship with hephaestus829. During that relationship, he pressured me into having kinds of sex and play that I did not enjoy. He had unprotected sex with others without my knowledge.When I discovered this, he gaslit my concerns about my boundaries and my health. After I ended the relationship, he sexually assaulted me while we were both sleeping over at a mutual friend’s house. He got into the bed I was sharing with a female friend and put his hands under my pajamas, touching my back and genitals nonconsensually. He thought I was sleeping. I later found out that I wasn’t the first person he abused this way; I met another one of his victims at a national kink convention. Their story was remarkably similar to mine. – FAADE 10/27/12
After listening to and reading a number of these stories I can say the one above seems mild and that in and of itself is scary. Here is another one:
This person drove her boyfriend at the time (Kimball Karlson-Martini) to hunt down his other girlfriend, then watched him repeatedly batter that girlfriend with a closet rod over the course of an hour. She and Kimball kidnapped the girlfriend to their shared home in Tacoma when the girlfriend’s roommate interrupted them, then watched as Karlson-Martini humiliated, battered, and raped the victim several times. She then proceeded to cover up for the boyfriend for several months until they brought her in. Suddenly pled “mental illness” from which she instantaneously recovered.
Karlson-Martini was charged with kidnapping, assault, and rape. He pled guilty to lesser charges.
Read the news article attached there. Read the part where “Questioned by police at the hospital, the woman denied any attack” because “Karlson-Martini had threatened to kill her.” Then go back and look at the Social License to Operate presented by Yes Means Yes and the role that past silence plays in future silence.
Realize that Karlson-Martini is the kind of person the BDSM community protects. That 19 year old Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Marriott and Noelle Paquette are the people who die because of it. Pause for a moment. Realize that whatever the fuck the BDSM community is doing, we are doing it wrong.
And then, tell your own story. What have you done in the name of protecting your community? What have you not done? Are the things you’re saying making the world a safer place for people who were abused or for people who abuse others? Are you scared of an edge case or a systematic problem? What are you going to do to change this?