Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Archive for the ‘advice’ Category

Struggling

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So I read this thing, which actually sounds like a lot of other things I read, and like a lot of things I read it positions the sex the writer enjoys having as “SO MUCH KINKIER” than the sex I enjoy having.  And each time I read something about X being kinkier or queerer, or generally all around nicer than Y, I have two reactions.  The first gut reaction is one of, hmm, not anger, defensiveness perhaps?  “My sex is kinky enough thank you very much” defensiveness.  Or if I’m in the so much more group, a reaction of “don’t use me as your banner, person who doesn’t know me.” It’s a gut reaction.

The second, the brain reaction, is twofold: 1) you have just defined More Kinky(tm) as the goal state or more desirable state, why?  Is being kinky is personally important to you?  Basically, it’s a reaction of “you seem hurt by this game, why are you trying to win by the rules that are hurting you?” And 2) Meh, other people’s gradations of how kinky something is doesn’t matter.  I’m not sleeping with them, they can be the most kinky, or the least kinky, or the differently kinky, it’s cool.  Ok, also 3) Huh that got my hackles up, I wonder if I have more identity tied in with kink than I’d like to?  Probably.  This caught me, sorta like a rough nail on fabric, not anything particular, just noticing my own reaction.

It made me think of readers who might feel that way, and what I want to say to that is: have the sex you want with the people you love.  Revel in the joy of it and in that coming home feeling of being seen in your entirety whatever that means for you.  Don’t apologize for the sex you do or don’t want to have, in fact, if you’re a woman, take stock of how often you apologize for existing in the world, you might be surprised.  If it’s important to you to be So Much Kinkier, then you are that.  But when you get there, ask yourself why that’s important and what gatekeeper told you you weren’t kinky enough.  Be what you need to be, but don’t become the gatekeeper – that way lies madness (and the status quo).

I guess the piece I’m struggling with is not defending the sex I want to have as “just as good/kinky/legitimate” because it doesn’t matter.

EDIT: Actually, wait, someone went out of their way to write about the sex that is fulfilling and exciting to them.  Yay.  May it be everything they want and need it to be; hot, loving, radical, or whatever rings true to the people involved.

Written by kinkinexile

December 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Posted in advice, headspace

Predator Alert Tool comes to Facebook

with 4 comments

There has been a bunch of chatter on my social media streams about the Predator Alert Tool for Facebook, so I thought perhaps I should take a look. Oh, and this was largely my first real look – I have let this one completely pass me by in its development. I didn’t preview it or participate in its creation, and so I’m in the interesting position of this being the first PAT tool that’s truly a surprise to me.

The premise is pretty straightforward: automate the process by which (mostly) women warn each other off dangerous men in their social network. And lets face it most rape is perpetrated by someone the victim knows, which means rapists aren’t crazy dudes in a hidey hole somewhere, they’re in our social networks.

The tool is actually introduced as:

The Predator Alert Tool for Facebook is designed for survivors of sexual assault and rape. It allows you to share information about people in your social network who may be dangerous without having to reveal your identity.

Using Predator Alert Tool for Facebook, you can:
Talk about it. Contribute your story with as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable sharing.
Decide who knows. Control who gets to see your story and who doesn’t. Display your identity only to the people you choose.
Get support. Connect with friends who have had a bad experience with the same person you did.
Hear about it. Find out about others’ bad experiences with people you know.

This is an interesting choice of framework, “designed for survivors of sexual assault and rape.” That sounds like designed for sharing, voicing, healing. It’s a valuable framework, but it’s not for me. I’m not a survivor, and when I asked here’s what others said about the word:

“In some ways I think it’s appropriating…survivor is not a word I feel comfortable using abt myself.”

“I was abused as a child, but I don’t think of myself as a survivor.”

“Not a term I’m fond of…”

“We are all survivors”

“I also dislike when people feel that they can TELL me I’m a survivor.”

But there is something for me in this. The much cooler side of this tool for me is designed for hearing, thinking about, comparing notes – designed for active prevention, and ladies, lets be honest, designed for learning more about that guy who bought you a beer. Not that I would ever advocate hijacking someone else’s tool, buuuuut, this is just what the Women’s Information Network needed – way more streamlined than trying to pop into the ladies’ at the same time as his ex’s sister’s roommate :-p

Now the makers of the tool are getting prepared for people screaming about the rumor mill or vigilante justice, and you can read their very well thought out responses here. But let me tell you what actually happens when a woman is thinking about going on a date with a dude: she asks her girlfriends. She engages in the exact behavior this tool would automate, only she does it in analog. “Hey Barbra, do you know Jake from chem lab? What’s he like?”

My coworker once had a crush on the college friend of someone I used to date, we’re all in our late 20s/early 30s, and we still did the “my friend likes your friend” dance. Humans are tribal animals, that’s just what we do.

You know what else women do in the physical world? We warn each other if we see our friends flirting with the douch at the party. Maybe we’re vague about it, maybe we only warn the women we already know not the new girl he’s talking to, but this app is cool specifically because it mirrors existing behavior.

And it scales it.

And that scares the shit out of the douch bags we’ve been talking about all along.

The other thing I really love about this tool is that it’s the first PAT tool I see as truly mainstream. This is not for or about the BDSM scene, this deals with a modality of interacting every western woman I know has experienced. As such, I am really curious to see the response. Frankly, I would love to see a partnership between the creators of PAT-Facebook and college rape crisis centers, and I know the creators are working hard to achieve that.

Still concerned that this will be misused to spread rumors? That will probably happen. Most technology is, sooner or later, used to spread rumors. But tell me, how is it you’re ok with teenagers – scratch that, adults too – having access, to Facebook at all? And what else, aside from opposing this tool, are you doing to combat cyber bullying? Sorry folks, but if this bugs you more than all of Reddit, I’m gonna assume you have some other agenda that’s best served by sweeping rape under the rug.

Written by kinkinexile

October 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm

How I use Tor, when, and why.

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Please note this is not a technical article, I do not have a tech background and security experts should be consulted if you have pressing security concerns. However, I’ve written layman’s perspective security posts in the past and this post comes out of several conversations I’ve had with folks who care deeply about Internet privacy.

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy.  This has a lot of uses in a wider ecosystem of internet security, not least of which being to help people from countries that censor the internet to gain free flowing access to information.

So since I’ve been having a surprising number of conversations about Tor for a non-techie, here are some things to fill in the picture:

I run a Tor relay node. When I am asleep or at work or otherwise not using my allotted bandwidth, I run a Tor relay node which helps people in countries with heavier internet censorship than mine access the internet anonymously. I do this because access to information is important to me, because it lets me more fully utilize a resource I already have with minimal effort, and because I’ve lived in one of those more censored counties and I remember proxy servers being super useful for all my cat video surfing.

I do not run an exit node because I do not want to expose myself to the legal liability and I was advised not to by someone who does.

I use Tor to search for things that I might not want to share with the world or see advertisements for later, while I’m at work. I like the added layer of privacy and I like being able to actively curate my digital persona, so, when I am looking for things I don’t want to have as part of that digital persona, I use Tor.   One place you might want to use Tor is when you leave anonymous comments on my, or other people’s, blogs…because even if you don’t sign in with a name WordPress will kindly give me your IP address.

I do not use Tor to log into any service unless I have used Tor to set up the account and each and every time I have logged in since. Facebook knows who I am, where I live, what kind of phone I own, and who my friends are; telling Facebook that I am suddenly in Algeria does not help protect my privacy.

There are arguments for using Tor each and every time you go online, the most compelling of these for me is that anonymity is very important as an option any citizen can choose at any time, saving Tor for special occasions makes it feel like the “overthrow your government” browser when really it’s just as much the “I don’t want to see ads for sexy ladies in my neighborhood” and “get the snooping grandmas of the internet out of my life” browser and so using Tor for all web traffic normalizes it.

Overall, I agree with this argument, but if internet privacy is new to you, I would strongly suggest you spend some time really thinking about the full ecosystem of your anonymity. Again, if you set up a gmail account, say firstname.lastname@gmail.com from your home computer not using Tor, then added your family to a G+ circle conveniently called “family” logging into this account later through Tor is not anonymous. Your location in that moment in time is protected, but who you are is not.

Here are some more resources on internet privacy:

A step by step guide to using Tor for all your web traffic.

A Wired thought experiment in which one of their journalists tries to disappear. Spoiler alert: he is eventually found because he posted on a social networking site suggesting he was going to eat Pizza. Because the writer was on a gluten-free diet his pizza options were constrained enough that someone isolated his possible location and found him.

EFF surveillance Self Defense guide

Written by kinkinexile

April 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Posted in advice, privacy

How to get your boyfriend into a chastity device…

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This is one of the most common search hits I get so I figured perhaps I should answer the question.  So, dear reader, how to get your boyfriend into a chastity device…

The non-physical stuff:

I’m going to assume that you can’t simply tie your boyfriend up, gag any protests, and lock up his cock if you expect to still have a boyfriend shortly there after.  If this is not the case, I have no idea why you’re reading my blog, but does your bloke have any like-minded friends, and when might I meet them?

For the rest of us, by hook or by crook, we have to convince our partners…

So, how do you convince your boyfriend that it’s a good idea to put something somewhat bulky and a little uncomfortable on his cock for your amusement?  Good question.  I actually have email threads with Maymay dating back to 2009 when I was trying to figure out just how to introduce orgasm control to my then partner.  I honestly still don’t know how to broach the topic.  If an appeal to frugality has failed (think of the money you’ll save on condoms!) and you can’t make a good case for the CB6000 as a fashionable addition to his biking ensemble, consider what you really want out of having your partner wear this thing and then tell him so.  Does the idea of seeing it on him turn you on?  Is there an element of power exchange you find appealing?  Do you like the fact that you think of him more as you try not to drop the key in the elevator shaft?  Basically, my advice for chastity is like my advice for everything else: talk to your partner.  If all else fails, an enthusiastic “FOR SCIENCE” has been doing wonders for my love life for years.

The physical stuff:

I actually had the good fortune to start using chastity devices with an enthusiastic and experienced partner (for science!).  I’ve only ever played with the CB6000 and the ClubFem MCD, the latter of which I’d categorize as a very temporary play device more than a chastity device.  I’ve handled other devices, but with the exception of ones that include urethral sounds (currently beyond my scope of practice) I haven’t been too interested in other options.  You can find tips and tricks for the CB6000 here from maymay and over here from thumper.

The CB6000 is a “trapped ball device,” which is just a fancy way of saying it stays on by hanging on to the testicles as opposed to, say, a chastity belt which might have a belt that goes around the hips.  The CB6000 website has a flash demo of assembly, but for whatever reason doesn’t include a penis in the assembly instructions.  So, if you’d like to flow along here, what’s actually happening is as follows:

  1. Take the big ring object (actually 3/4 of a ring) and slip it on behind the testicles so the open part is on top where your bloke’s penis meets the rest of his body.
  2. Find the small curved puzzle piece that fits into the remaining space to complete the ring from behind (note that there are two plastic pieces of the same size but the groves are inverse so you can tell which way to put them on).
  3. Go ahead and put the two short pins in and line up/connect that back piece
  4. Set up it’s mirror image on the other side of the big ring piece so you now have a complete circle.  The correct order is pelvis -> plastic thing -> testicles -> penis and outside world.  You can also put the longer of the 3 pins through the middle hole at the top of your plastic circle now.  And this a good time to see if you’ve accidentally trapped any pubic hair and try to shift things around to release that.
  5. Learn to juggle, you’re gonna need it.
  6. Put the spacer on, that’s the little plastic widget that fits over the middle pin.  Try to hold it in place while you do everything else.  Have it fall off a few times.  Try not to get flustered.  Get flustered anyway. Put it back on and see if you can get a hand from your partner in keeping it on.
  7. Find some way to lubricate your cage.  My favorite methodology thus far has been lots of liquid soap or body wash cause it’ll wash out easily later (see maymay’s post for how to wash stuff out of the CB6000).  You can also use a nice hypoallergenic body oil or lube.
  8. Slip the penis into the cage, where by “slip” I mean “shove in forcefully.” I’m sure this is an individual thing, but I’ve realized from this process that penises are less fragile than I imagine them to be.  Gent’s, if your partner is new to this what’s gonna happen is she’s gonna start putting it on, meet resistance, and stop because penises are fragile things.  If you want this process to succeed, some well placed “you’ve got it” “that feels fine, go ahead” and various other encouragement would be great right about now.  ladies, target fixation is your friend here, push the cage from a little below his pelvis up toward his body aiming the holes at the top edge of the cage onto the pins you’ve inserted into the ring.
  9. Ok, now you think you’ve got everything on, you got the penis in the cage while holding onto the spacer and aligning the holes on the upper rim of the cage with the protruding pins from the ring and it’s time to lock things up…for some reason this is always a tight fit to get the pin through enough to fit the lock in.  I usually have my partner hold the ring and cage together so I can finish up without getting flustered, and for his part, he usually has the good sense to allow as to how he also wishes he had 4 hands when doing this himself to help me not get flustered.
  10. Lock, rinse out whatever lube you used, and you’re done.

Probably the most important thing I can add to the flash demo on the CB6000 website is: don’t worry, it’s an awkward process, you’re not doing it wrong you just have to be a little more patient and a little more forceful than you expect.

 

 

 

Written by kinkinexile

March 3, 2013 at 11:04 am

Posted in advice, Orgasm Control

Single point of failure is a failure

with 3 comments

Lets say you have a diverse community with a vibrant grassroots organizational style where anyone can show up and start something cool.  Say this community has been organized through loose ties and network affiliations for two decades with various groups using various methods to get the word out about their events.

Imagine, after two decades or more of this loosy goosy organizational system, a new system was available that let all the grassroots organizations funnel all their events through one central place.  Sounds well organized and easier, right?  But what if that central place was privately owned and operated and the groups, in switching over to this new system abandoned their own websites, mailing lists and calendars?

What if this central system had a financial crisis?

What if this central system no longer supported the events you cared about?

What if it simply wasn’t very good?

That’s the problem with Fetlife, not as an option, but as a monoculture.

The problem isn’t that Fetlife exists, it’s that BDSM organizations no longer support their own calendars, websites, mailing lists and so on – they are completely dependant on Fetlife to maintain their group and publicize their events.  Fetlife is owned by one dude, what if that dude gets bored and moves on to other projects?  Single point of failure.

And the problem is that Fetlife really isn’t very good.  You can search for events in the city associated with your account, but not in the city you’re visiting next weekend.  You can search comfortably on your computer, but in 2013 mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools and Fetlife mobile sucks.  No really, pull out your phone and try to find a cool event on Fetlife.  It sucks.

And then there are certain things I expect out of event listings cause that’s how the world rolls in 2013 – I want to import it into my calendar, click on the address, and have my phone provide directions seamlessly.  I want to do this without having to manually enter a bunch of events into my calendar line by line.

Sounds nice, right?

Here you go. :)

Staring blankly at a list of calendars wondering now what?

If you use iCal simply click on the webcal link, you’ll be prompted to open this with iCal so go ahead and do that, the calendar URL will pre-populate as you can see below so hit subscribe.

Make any stylistic changes you need and *this is important* set that auto-refresh option to something other than “no” if you want to know about cool new things as they’re added.  Some other things you might do include renaming the calendar “night life” in case other people might be glancing at your calendar list and you don’t want to have your mom asking “what’s Fetlife,” or change the color so as to not clash with your work calendar.

And then sit back and watch your calendar populate…

Using Google Calendar instead?

Pretty much the same deal…
Open your google calendar or create one, in the “other calendars” area select the “Add by URL” option, paste your calendar subscription URL in the box (in my case it was http://fetlife.maybemaimed.com/icalendar/San_Francisco.ics but you can find yours by right clicking on your city of choice and selecting “copy link address”) and accept.

If you want to be a nice person, and help other kinky people in your area find cool munches and stuff to go to you can also click the “make the calendar publicly accessible” box. Once again, sit back and watch life be convenient.

Just make sure you import this into a new calendar either in gcal or ical so that you can toggle it on and off.  Unless of course you like having your phone, computer, and roomba all beep in unison ten minutes before the start of every munch.

Oh, and no set of instructions for something this useful would be complete without the magical step 5: send Maymay a thank you for giving up his weekend to make this.  You can buy him a cup of coffee here to help fuel the midnight coding :-)

Interested in the technical side of things?  Didn’t find your city on the list and want to add it?  You’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Written by kinkinexile

February 27, 2013 at 8:51 am

Posted in advice, community, the web

Intentional inequality

with 7 comments

Next week I’m going to Transcending Boundaries, “an annual community conference to celebrate the diversity of gender, sex, sexuality and relationships.”  I’m looking over the workshop schedule and find a panel on The Feminist Submissive:

Internal and societal conflicts. How does one reconcile the desire to submit with feminist ideals? How can a relationship based on inequality stand up to modern egalitarian models? How can we, as submissive women, reconcile our desire for submission with our awareness of the hard-won battles and ongoing struggle of feminism? How too, does a male Dominant manage his own conflicts and dominate without guilt? In this talk we plan to discuss how the act of submission can be an expression of choice and an example of “enthusiastic consent” that has been made possible by feminism. The role of D/s in dismantling rape culture will be touched upon, as well as the importance of intentionality and negotiation in developing relationship dynamics. We will discuss what power exchange really means in a relationship and how a submissive holds power within the exchange, how D/s relationships compare to traditional and progressive relationships, and why “different” does not have to mean “unequal” in any relationship.

Ok, “how can a relationship based on inequality stand up to modern egalitarian models?” is a really interesting question, and I remember having conversations about the idea of mixing feminism and submissiveness 5,7, 10 years ago and they were valuable to me, so I’m sure this conversation is still valuable to people for whom it is new.  However, I’m surprised at how limited this conversation is…
How to build intentional inequality is a conversation I see related to female submissive and feminism all the time; where is the conversation around building strategic, long-term, non-porn-inspired F/m relationships?  And why is this not a feminist issue?  Why, when trained gender norms make it that much harder for me and my submissive partner to actually shift the balance of housework (towards them) and the balance of financial decision-making (towards me) are we not having this conversation?

What are some challenges of creating F/m relationships?  How do you step past the gender norms you were raised with, which society maybe still expects?  For male partners, how does taking a submissive role in the home impact relationships with male friends; do you talk about it?  Are you questioned about it?  What models do you have for the kinds of relationships you’re building?  (My model is 1950′s Father Knows Best types stuff with the genders reversed.)  For female partners, How do you build confidence around taking control in your home?  Is there a conflict between femininity and control?  How do you build intentionally power-imbalanced relationships that fit into daily reality with attention to outside pressure?

Written by kinkinexile

October 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

Posted in advice, headspace

Orgasm control the 101 (and maybe the 201)

with 2 comments

Recently, I went to a class on orgasm control that was…ok.  It was actually a really good intro to anal play and prostate play but as a class on orgasm control it fell flat.  It was sort of designed to be sexy and experiential but how much orgasm control can you experientially show in two hours?  And is it worth leaving out a lot of really important communication and sexual response info to make the class more pornographic?

So, if I got to go to my dream orgasm control class, here’s what it would include:

The intro

  • What is Orgasm Control
  • What is Chastity?
  • Are they the same?  Why or why not? Is Tease and Denial the same as either of the things above?
  • And you say this is fun…?

The Background and brain stuff

  • The Masters and Johnson sexual response cycle
  • Your brain on lust… serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine…what you’re playing with when you’re playing with a very horny human
  • Side effects of prolonged abstinence
  • Outside factors and your sexual response cycle (SSRIs, stress, the Coolidge effect, whatever)

The human and communication stuff

  • What do you get out of orgasm control play?  Are your goals aligned?
  • Saying yes, no, and maybe…what do you need to feel like empowered to take control?  How do you get there?
  • Guilt? It’s really ok to say no.  It’s also ok to say yes. It’s also really normal to feel unsure saying either of those things – and now what?
  • “I need to come” (read: you getting to decided if I get to come is soooo hot I really want to ask and then maybe you’ll let me but if you don’t OMG hot.) vs. “I need to come” (read: this isn’t fun anymore, I can’t work, and I’m starting to not like you.) Also known as mind reading 101
  • Checking in without breaking the power dynamic, or building flexible and sustainable power dynamics (duh).

The details

  • Chastity devices and how they work
  • Health and hygiene
  • Chastity games – specifics and springboards
  • If I don’t want to say no? Games of chance and 3rd party solutions
  • Ruined orgasms, abandoned orgasms, forced orgasms – see and this is why we need the sexual response cycle chart
  • More resources

So, anyone – not me – wanna teach this?  I would totally attend and take copious notes :)

Written by kinkinexile

September 2, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Posted in advice, Orgasm Control

Fuck yeah!

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Never, ever assume you need permission from a dominant person to speak to a submissive person.

Maymay says it in far more words, but at the end of the day, yeah, that, freaking that! Also…

  • Don’t assume someone who is not part of your power dynamic will know about your power dynamic
  • Don’t assume someone who is not part of your power dynamic will want to participate in your power dynamic
  • Don’t assume someone who is not part of your power dynamic will give a rat’s ass about your power dynamic

Frankly, yeah, I’ve got nothing.  I don’t want my kids praying to your god in school, and I don’t want to be involved in your sex life when I’m trying to make conversation about the weather, chalk it up to my libertarian ethic, or, you know, being an adult in tune with reality.

Written by kinkinexile

July 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Posted in advice, community

Not married…

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This is a draft I had completely forgotten about but just found thanks to a usability update to the WordPress dashboard…

Jezebel, my guilty commute pleasure, just ran a short article on ten realistic reasons you’re not married as a response to yet another “all the things you need to change to become Mrs. Right” self help book.  Their reasons are, well, reasonable. They are not unlike the reasons I’m not married.

But first a thought about self help books, ones like Marry Him: the case for Mr. Good Enough, and Find a Husband After 35 With What I learned in Harvard Business School – they work. They work if your goal is to be married because there is an easy middle of the road kind of girl that fits well with easy middle of the road kind of American boys. And there are a lot of middle of the road red blooded American boys and if you fit the bill, they will marry you.  Or they work because Harvard Business School prepares you to sell just about anything. Perhaps most importantly, they work because they make you the kind of person American boys *think* they should marry; that image is a generation behind anyone’s reality, and I think this is the case in every generation, but that’s why it’s a fantasy. Perfect doesn’t exist, but you can pretend – you can pretend in your dreams, in fiction, or, for a time, you can carefully curate your life and pretend that way.

Here is the catch, your top goal has to be to become married, that is the goal these books help you achieve.

Now the personal part: I say the yet is applicable because when I think about my future I think about very tight intimate networks and I think about resource sharing in a sustainable and ongoing basis.  I think about kids (ok, mostly I think about being pregnant and wish someone would take away the infant and bring back a teenager some time later).  I think about tax optimization, shared budgets, and mutual support.   In short. I think about things that, while not defined by marriage, are more easily achieved through marriage.

I also think about the sacrifices I am unwilling to make, at this point, to become Mrs. Right.  I think about the time and energy I want to dedicate to my job – time that I have no desire to put into dating.  I think about the people I love, who form non-traditional partner networks around me: my platonic husband C, my play partner and chief agitator Maymay, my newest romantic interest who may or may not want to be named on a blog, my metamour(s)…people whom I love, people whom I invest energy and time in, and people who, let’s face it, take away any urgency I might feel to look for Mr. Right.  (And make me far too messy to be the kind of middle of the road red blooded American girl who is most marketable as Mrs. Right.)

Some days I wonder if I should be doing my future self a favor, just freaking get married so I could cross it off the old todo.  But, y’know, marriage is just not my priority right now.  C is right, my relationship needs are met and I love my life, this saps any motivation I might have for dating like nothing else.

This is all tempered by the fact that I’ve had the chance to get married.  If I was any closer to mainstream I probably would have.  Regardless, the truth of the matter is that I am not married because when faced with the potential in the past I wasn’t ready.  And when faced with the sacrifices and work that goes into meeting someone who is open to and available for marriage today, I’m just not interested.

So yes, there is a part of me that worries about being the only single bridesmaid at my best friends wedding, there’s a part of me that does the math on my fertility, but, there’s no gentler way to put it: it’s just not that important to me and I have enough chutzpah to know that if and when it becomes important I’ll make it happen.

Written by kinkinexile

July 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Posted in advice, headspace

Fetlife privacy or lack there of

with 3 comments

A few weeks ago, Maymay presented a fetlife exporter/backup tool at KinkForAll San Francisco 2.  This, along with a couple other privacy related conversation at KFASF2 and the related feedback directed both at me and at Maymay, got me thinking. About privacy, yes and always, but also about how people perceive privacy and others’ understanding of it.
The first response I got, almost immediately, was in the “well of course it isn’t private it’s the internet!” camp.  This range of responses seeks to dismiss concerns over privacy and security flaws in Fetlife by asserting that anyone who thought Fetlife was private in the first place is a poopy head.

There’s a problem.  While the line of reasoning is generally correct – Fetlife is on the internet and therefore not private – that doesn’t stop people from treating Fetlife as private and sharing potentially damaging information via the service; perception is reality and Fetlife *feels* like a private clubhouse.  Contrary to popular belief, however, this is not because some users are poopy heads.  Knowledge of how your data is stored, accessed, and used is pretty technically savvy knowledge.  That, or it is digital native knowledge – it is common sense, to the average 16 year old, that anything you post on the internet can be found by your classmates, parents, and friends, but applying this knowledge to Fetlife requires unlearning socially coded knowledge, which many older or less tech savvy users may have ingrained. So, while you might know that Fetlife isn’t private, I am unconvinced that all Fetlife users know this by default.

Fetlife is a BDSM community site, like the local dungeon it is safe and will protect my privacy.
False.  Fetlife uses the goodwill and trust you’ve built with your local scene, especially the subcultural mores you learned before the internet was popular, to make you feel safe.  This community goodwill does nothing to protect your data, however, because Fetlife has extremely low barriers to entry. Anyone – you, your boss, your mom, your estranged spouse – can get a Fetlife account.  Furthermore, unlike in your local dungeon you can’t see them watching you.

 

Fetlife is better for privacy than Facebook.
Fuck if I know, but someone actually said this.  This is sorta false.  Which is to say, Facebook is not a safe space to put your deepest darkest secrets, however, I believe Facebook is safer than Fetlife in a couple of interesting ways.  Facebook allows you to customize how and to whom your data is presented.  It has user specific content segregation, meaning you can show something to your friends but still make sure your mom can’t see it.  You can show something to people you know and their friends but not the world at large, etc.  Fetlife does not.  Any content you post to Fetlife’s forums, event pages and so forth is available to all other Fetlife users, and as we just heard, getting a Fetlife profile is trivial.  As you can see, quite a bit of information is collected, but with the exception of your email address nothing is verified.

Then conversation about Maymay’s exporter tool heated up with the second and rather more bizarre thread of conversation that can be summed up as “how dare you!” and/or “this tool makes Fetlife unsafe!”  Sadly, no, Fetlife has been unsafe far longer than this tool has been in existence.  To my understanding, and more technical minds please correct me if I’m wrong, but this exporter tool doesn’t allow you to access any information not already a) public or b) accessible to the account you’re using this tool through (i.e. your account).  And as we’ve now seen a half dozen times in this post alone, a Fetlife account is trivial to get.

The core of the problem is that Fetlife wasn’t designed for privacy.  Instead, it depends on goodwill to protect its users.  You know, your vindictive former spouse’s goodwill and agreement not to create an account, download the naked pictures you’ve posted to Fetlife, repost them to facebook, and tag you.

Fetlife does not protect users from each other, but it does isolate conversations from the rest of the internet.  That sounds like safety, but is actually a gross approximation of such. When I use Facebook I can post a status that I only want close friends to see, when one of them links to it outside of Facebook any users not in that category “close friends” will not be able to access the content.  Not so with Fetlife – you post something to Fetlife and a friend links to it from outside of Fetlife, sure enough anyone following the link will be presented with a page that explains that this content is only available to members.  They can then sign up and access your content.  It doesn’t matter if you know them, trust them, or are working for them: they can make an account and access the content you create.

What does an exporter tool do?  Well, first it lets you export your data.  Lets say you are looking for a job, you live somewhere conservative, and just to be super duper safe you want to take down your Fetlife profile.  But maybe you’ve used it extensively for years and you don’t want to lose everything you’ve written.  Well, now you have a backup option, go you!
The part that people seem to find frightening though, is that this also makes their content searchable.  In its current iteration, I believe, it makes content that you created and then exported searchable if and only if you then post it somewhere outside of Fetlife, like a website you create.  That is to say, if you do extra work to make it searchable then it will be searchable.  What people fail to note, however, is that this content was already public.  Your data was already vulnerable, there was nothing to protect it besides hobbled search capabilities, and as I’ve said before your biggest security threat is someone who knows you, and they know how to find you.

So what’s the takeaway here?
If the idea that Fetlife is completely open access once you’re inside A) makes sense to you (you know what that means) and B) doesn’t surprise you (you knew this was the case) then you are probably already treating Fetlife in a way that protects your privacy namely by not creating and sharing content you don’t want your mother and your boss to see.  Either that, or you’re very comfortable with your mother and your future or current boss seeing naked pictures of you on the internet.

If, however, the above doesn’t apply to you, then you need to know that anyone with a Fetlife account can access any content you create.  Furthermore, you need to know that the only thing stopping them from posting things like screen captures of things you’ve posted or from downloading and reposting your images, technically speaking, is goodwill.  Yes, doing so will violate the Terms of Service, but violating the TOS will simply have that account banned from Fetlife, forcing the user to rather inconveniently make a new account.

And finally, if you are a digital native and unsure as to why this post needs to exist, consider that Fetlife’s user base includes a population that is very experienced with BDSM but not very experienced with the internet.  Not everyone understands that a walled garden is a faulty privacy model.

 

Written by kinkinexile

June 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Posted in advice, privacy, the web

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