Archive for the ‘community’ Category
There’s something personal I’ve been trying to post about that I’ve actually not yet figured out how to talk about. Instead I’m gonna talk about something even more personal because it kept me up last night. I’m gonna talk about suicide. Don’t panic, I’m fine.
When Aaron Swartz died I cried for days. I didn’t know him personally, though I’m all but certain everyone reading this has touched his work, and there was a sort of 2-degree social separation. I cried for Aaron, yes, but I also cried for what my social circle, and to some degree my generation, had lost: one of the most brilliant minds we’d had. More than that I cried because suicide scares me. In fact, the whole experience of depression makes me panic; I remember October, each and every October, when I lived on the East Coast and before Seasonal Affective Disorder was a thing people treated, was a frantic time of doing everything I wanted to do before the following March because next would come November with its crying fits and paralyzing fear. Despite having broken this time-bound ritual, I’ve given up exercise plans because I associate my lowest adult weight with my worst years, and I watch for the creeping signs of depression with a level of vigilance most people reserve for late-night muggers. But suicide scares me…differently.
I consider suicide to be a fundamental personal choice tied into bodily autonomy, and at the same time I consider it to be a collective failing. As much as I tell myself that depression is a lying bitch and no one is at fault, I keep coming back to how did we as a community leave one of our own so alone? Not one, also this one.
Suicide, and it’s more genteel cousin “end of life decisions,” typically reserved for ending a terminal illness early, are things I’ve been aware of since childhood both in familial and social context. It was such a ubiquitous occurrence that after the 9-11 attacks, at least one person I know thought the heightened police presence had to do with “another MIT kid jumping off a roof.” I remember not being at all moved by that possibility. That should scare you, it does me.
I don’t think suicide began to scare me until after college, until I realized the depression and alone-ness that’s tied into it. And that’s also when it became both a personal choice (again, not mine) and a communal failing. Because depression is a lying bitch, and because our inability or unwillingness to see eachother’s pain gives credence to those lies. And so I’m wondering (actually stayed up last night wondering) how do we find ways to support people we love, or people we care about, or hell people who just happen to be in the same spaces we’re in, without concern-trolling. How do we acknowledge other people’s pain without making them explain themselves to us? How do we maintain a presence while allowing space?
On the flip side, how do we ask for support? If you’ve never had an illness that goes on not for weeks but for months maybe it’s hard to picture just how carefully you start curating your asks in a vein hope to not burn out your support structure. How do we build more supports, and more security around those supports? And how do you let go of your own past failing as part of a community that let one of its own slip through the cracks? How do I?
And you feel the PAT-OKC chocking question is unfair because what you did is consensual, you say?
But Susan Wright will be the first to admit that “there is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.” What does this bring the Fetlife murderer tally up to now? Three at the least? Consent is fuckin’ confusing man!
By saying that not flagging a consensual kinkster as a potential predator matters more than getting as much information as possible into the hands of people who need it, you’re really saying that your poor, delicate ego is more important than other people’s physical safety. Their physical fucking safety! If you really believe that, you haven’t been mis-flagged. You are dangerously self-absorbed, if not outright predatory, and people are absolutely right to fear and avoid you.
Now might be a good time to take a good hard look at your community cause if you’re still trying to hide/deny/normalize abuse, you’re every bit as disgusting as your worst visions of mainstream backlash make you out to be.
Love Steven Thrasher’s brilliant and moving piece about the move of the LGBT community into a mainstream and military/corporate sponsored positions. It reads in part:
Listen up, fellow homos—you have been bought, paid-for and sold to the highest bidder. The military industrial complex is so far up the ass of the LGBT movement that it can feel what is being digested in its upper intestines. Talking points and “messaging,” not discussion and debate, are the preferred methods of “communication” in a movement now run and owned by PR-firm trained Professional Homosexuals. Dissent will not be tolerated, and the assimilation of homosexuals into the rest of the militarized American public is complete.
In the fall of 2009, on the eve of the National Equality March on Washington, I covered my first (and only) fundraising gala for the Human Rights Campaign. But before the crowd could be entertained by Lady Gaga, Judy Shepard, and the President of the United States, it was time for a word from our sponsors—the “honor roll”: a nearly 10-minute-long video extolling the virtues of player after player in the military industrial complex.
I understood why certain entertainment sponsors were HRC donors, given their audiences. I had no clue at the time why it seemed like nearly every defense contractor under the sun was shelling out money to a gay rights group. (As of today, confirmed sponsors for the 2013 HRC dinner, still six months away, already include Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.)
Regardless of what you think about PFC Manning, the connection between the LGBT movement and defense contractors is chilling. The corporate sponsorship of Pride events which turns the entire experience into a day-long ad campaign for Bud Light is disgraceful. And the fact that a movement born out of the suffering and frustration of a marginalized group has evolved into a movement that throws some of the most vulnerable members of our community under the bus is truly sad.
On a very personal level, spending time with other people who had similar desires as I did helped to legitimize my own thoughts and fantasies…
I am pilfering. I am pilfering shamelessly and entirely out of context, because I just realized something cool happened today: I explained to someone how I didn’t want to deal with the BDSM scene, how the community aspects, the political aspects of it, were deeply unpleasant to me…and I felt heard. Really heard, for maybe the first time, with openness and empathy. Without “but how are you going to find partners” or “some groups are ok.” Without the unrelenting “but this is the only place I/you/we can be accepted,” my sense of I don’t want to do this anymore and I want to be ok with that became…normal, feasible even.
But this thing I am pilfering, it’s important. It’s important because having examples of the things I want existing in the world is so very important. Examples let us shape the experiences we fantasize about, they give us language to negotiate these fantasies with others, they normalize what we want. So what if I don’t have examples of what I want?
“A desire that cannot be named or described is a desire that cannot be valued, acted upon, or used as the basis for an identity.”
Pat Califia in the introduction to Public Sex
You see, examples of what I want are hard to get because what I want is the sex I want with the people I love behind closed doors. I want a power imbalance in my relationships that is personal and intimate. I want it to be between my partners and I. I definitely don’t want to negotiate my relationships with complete strangers. I don’t want to play in public even though there’s a behavioral science voice in my head that’s all like “but third places and sacred places change how you related to yourself and others…” And you know what, I actually do want sex to be a sacred healing thing in my life (but not the only sacred healing thing in my life). I want to have the kind of sex that shifts my world not in “ooh yummy” ways but in challenging, emotional, sometimes scary ways – this is why BDSM has historically been more bonding for me than intercourse. I would also like to have ownership over this, and to have access to it, that is decoupled from the BDSM scene, which has been on my radar far more often for rape and abuse of late than for world-changing pair bonding experiences.
Seeing examples of, well, anything that happens behind closed doors is fundamentally hard. So while I know that there are people out there having amazing kinky sex without being part of the BDSM scene, I don’t have all that many examples. I don’t have the experience of my desires, my fantasies, being validated.
So fuck this shit. I’m a child of the internet, I know I’m not alone, the reason I’m writing this is because I just realized it’s important for you to know you’re not alone. By which I mean, if I don’t get the example I want, I’ll build it, but I want the next person to have something to link to.
I am not the first to break up with the BDSM scene. You will not be the last, so find the words for the things you really deeply want, and then share those word so we can expand the vocabulary of what is possible.
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?
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?
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.
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?
I described the scene as “gross” today to a friend who described kink and poly as “my life.”
I feel like I am in a hostage situation: I want a sexually submissive partner who will give me agency over his orgasms, and let me beat him. The BDSM scene reports to have such people as members in ready supply. I want nothing to do with the BDSM scene. So I’m stuck between not getting the type of loving relationship that feels best for me and getting it through a mechanism I don’t want to be part of.
So, why gross? Why can’t I take the advice I’ve been given time and time again by people who “just don’t go to munches” or “just go fishing” find what I want and leave with it in tow?
I could, but fundamentally, the above is a threat – do it our way or live alone.
So I say gross for a number of reasons, I say gross because the insular nature of the scene is based on scare tactics “the sex you want is weird, it is wrong and strange therefore you can only get it here.” And I say gross because this sense of fear creates some pretty fucked up power dynamics, it causes people to cover up abuse because of what the outside world might think AND because they feel like they have nowhere else to go and it causes people to feel ashamed of the sex they want. It makes something as wonderful and precious as love feel like a scares resource. Maybe it is.
But you know, the real reason I think the scene is gross is far less political. I just don’t want to spend time with people I have nothing in common with except that we all like non-normative sex. I’m angry because intentionally or not exposure to the kink scene from, literally, my 18th birthday made me think for years that this was the only access to partners I’d ever get, and that sitting through one munch after another where some dude older than my father told me I was doing it wrong was the cost of entry.
I think it’s gross because presenting the public BDSM scene (munches, classes, events) as the only way to find sexually like minded partners sort of shovels 18 year olds through the doors…for what? By the way, would someone care to share the history of TNG groups as well as the resistance from within organizations such as TES and Black Rose to “allowing” younger members their own space?
I’m grossed out because the old dude who walks up to every 18 year old woman to enter the room and warn her about “dangers” is so ubiquitous in pretty much every kink community that just about anyone steeped in the scene knows exactly the dude I just described. If you agree that dude is gross why does he still exist? More importantly, what are the circumstances that made him that dude? He was jailbait too once.
And if the kink scene really is that dangerous, why would I want to join?
If the private party you go to every year is an amazing experience for you, go, by all means go!
I don’t want to take away your party, I just want us all to stop pretending that BDSM is a secret cabal because as long as we do that it will have a monopoly on the sex I want and as long as it has that monopoly I can’t come and go as a free agent.
Here is what I want: I want to have the sex I enjoy with the people I love without going to meetings, munches, and state-wide fairs about it. My lifestyle is going to work, and making bread, and traveling. Kink is not my life, but it’s a huge part of what I want in my intimate relationships. And you know, I would love to go to that party and enjoy it, but right now I’m too raw with all the shit I watched for years because I thought it was the only way.
Someday, when that party is just a party to me again I can meet you there. But right now this is what hurt looks like. I want to breakup with the scene, and I’ve internalized the message that if I break up with the scene no one will ever love me again, and that’s why I’m fighting so very hard.
Maybe that’s what healing looks like.
I’ve been pretty anti-BDSM community lately and I figured this merits some explanation. Specifically, it merits explanation in light of my own history.
When I joined the public BDSM community, I was 18, most of my friends were doing it, and I joined the way I would join any other social clique, which is to say, I didn’t join the BDSM community for the kinky sex, I joined for the Tuesday afternoon coffees, the book club, and the expanded pool of roommate options. I want to separate out the sex from the community because I think there are two important pieces of information in that. The first is that I am anti-community, as in anti- clique, anti-shroud of secrecy and ingroup/outgroup dynamics, anti-othering, and anti-boarder policing; I’m not anti-kinky sex. The second is that I want to frame the BDSM community, based on Dr. Newmahr’s framing, as not the place you go because you like kinky sex, but the place you go when you like kinky sex and have nothing else going on. The BDSM community is, much like a gardening club, a community of interest. However, what I think makes the BDSM community toxic is that, unlike other communities of interest, it is also isolating. Your gardening club encourages you to talk to others about your interest, your BDSM community informs you that it is the only place where it is safe to talk about your interest regardless of if this is true for you and in fact if it is safe for you to speak within the BDSM community either.
I do not trust groups based on secrecy and the mores of the BDSM community value secrecy. I do not believe that isolationism is healthy, and I see the BDSM community promoting itself as the only clique you need join. And when I see people draw the lines informing me that those people over there are “weekend warriors,” “tourists,” or “not serious players,” I see a group that is insecure and struggling to define itself.
A couple of weeks ago I was at a party, it was lovely, a leg of lamb was roasted and consumed, and as happens in the valley people with NDAs had vague conversations with other people with NDAs. I had a conversation about Fetlife privacy with a woman who holds federal security clearances. Her take on the matter – it didn’t even blip the radar on her clearance process, it doesn’t matter. Lets look at this for a moment: the BDSM community is obsessed with the idea that what it does is a) scary b) secret c) dangerous and d) forbidden. A woman who is not only actively kinky but has performed in pornography discounts all of this because it didn’t mater for the sake of a federal background investigation. And incase you’re unfamiliar with the investigation process, another woman I know had her investigation delayed by over a month because she forgot/failed to report a couple hundred dollars she earned while babysitting in the year prior.
I don’t trust actions that lack transparency, apparently, that’s one thing I have in common with the US government.
But from there, lets move to the kinky sex and ask the question I’ve been asking myself for a month now: if I hate the BDSM community so much, why am I still talking about it?
There’s a couple reasons, one is because hate is not the opposite of love, it’s indifference, and I haven’t gotten to indifference yet. One person I am close to described what I am going to as analogous to a religious person becoming an atheist – first they are filled with indignation and fury, outraged that the religion that had a grasp on them for so long still holds the hearts, mind, and wallets of others, and then, slowly, over time, they let go not only of the religious leanings, but also of the anti-religion backlash. They realized that their new-found way of life need not be threatened and they move on. Someday I will not care about the BDSM community, but breakups take time
The other is that I really do enjoy kinky sex – as one non-kinky friend aptly put it, it’s my sexual orientation – and the BDSM community would like to have you believe that it holds the monopoly on kinky sex. The reality, I’m finding, is that there are plenty of kinky people who don’t go to BDSM community things out there in the world providing both a model for how not to deal with BDSM fiefdoms and still get laid, and opportunities to meet new partners. But this mental shift also takes time.
So with that, I am going to continue trying to make a space for myself that is nurturing, grounding, and sexually fulfilling and user this space to share, think out loud, and perhaps talk about the substance but not the group dynamics of what I do. After all, this is a sex blog
Today I am incredibly disappointed with chosen ignorance. I am disappointed in people who choose to shoot the messenger rather than realize that their assumptions about security have been incorrect and I am disappointed in community leaders who continue to willfully mislead their site’s users into a disastrous sense of security.
If you can not afford to be outed you can not afford to use Fetlife. Not today, but also not yesterday or last year. The site offers no security, which Fetlife should have informed you of more clearly.
Anyone assuming that anything they post here is private is fooling themselves. It may be harder to get to, but all it takes is one compromised trusted account (a “friend”) one time, and your “private” stuff may become available forever. Not me being a dick, just simple computer security truth.
Or as EvilSeraph put a little more emphatically in response to another comment:
“However, I don’t expect a site who usually has to be logged into to see to be out there for the world to see. Distinct difference.”
No, there isn’t. You can’t even be considered naive, since you are apparently aware that anything you put up here is, in fact, freely and publicly available. You are, IMNSHO
A FUCKING MORON
and deserve whatever approbation, embarrassment or other difficulties caused by your revealing sensitive details
ON A FUCKING PUBLIC SITE
Fetlife lacks security. This isn’t news. To anyone. WoD explains it as follows:
This is a NON-ISSUE
It is not reasonable nor proper for that guy to setup a proxy to do that, but its not a major security hole. Certainly nothing that should cause anyone to suddenly remove face pictures.
Because anyone can already gain access to all this content by merely creating an account (real or fake). No verification that the person is a “real/true” kinkster occurs. Its just like every other Internet site, you simply sign up and get access. Sign up and presto, you have an empty account that grants you access to all public FetLife content. The same information that proxy provides access to.
In fact, signing up for a new account (be it real, fake, sock puppet or whatever) would probably be easier than trying to use the proxy.
So, really, this proxy changes nothing.
WoD is almost right. A proxy changes nothing in the actual tangible security of your information, but it does force you to face the truth. A problem that some Fetlife users seem to be dealing with by taping their blinders firmly in place. John Baku for his part having recently spoken to his own breach of community mores took this opportunity to assure users that the proxy has been blocked, but did not for a moment address the actual concerns around privacy on Fetlife. Far be it for Fetlife to disabuse users of their idea of utopian secret garden on the World Wide Web, that would create a breakdown in the blind trust users seem to put into the site. It would also be ethical.
I’ve had a lot of life recently. And then I had a spot of drama. Between the two I’ve had a hard time getting back on the alt sex/blogging bandwagon so I figured I’d start light.
First, despite the occasional traffic spikes around women in tech, gender stuff in general, and some strain of activism or another the most common search hit on my blog has something to do with male chastity and orgasm control. For those of you here for that I have something:
This 2001 Chicago Tribune article on chastity devices in modern times. I somehow had never encountered this article before and while it’s not particularly detailed it is a sort of interesting example of mainstreaming. The again, it focuses on fidelity rather than kink, which, I don’t know, might be the focus of most chastity device purchasers.
And in the mean time there seems to be yet another scandal in Fetlife land. I’ve posted about Fetlife’s lack of privacy before and Maymay beat me to pinpointing the dangers of Fetlife by at least a year, but there seems to be a new stir of discontent. The source of this discontent includes things like Fetlife’s monopoly on alt sex social networking, and (shockingly) mild worries about privacy. Far more emotional is Fetlife’s long standing policy banning users from naming people who have violated their consentin some way. For those who don’t want to log into Fetlife John Baku has this to say:
Currently, the 11th most popular suggestion in FetLife’s Suggestion Box is to “let us name abusers.“.
In the majority of the discussions I’ve seen on the topic, the community is pretty split on what stance FetLife should take. Some people feel that they should feel free to openly make criminal accusations while others think that FetLife’s groups and writing are not the right place to make criminal accusations.
I want to first clear up any confusion about what we do and don’t remove.
What we remove:
- We remove criminal accusation made against another member of FetLife. In the case of OPs, we just blank out the names and in the case of comments… since we don’t currently have the ability to edit them… we remove the whole comment and ask the user to repost their comment without mentioning names.
What we don’t remove:
- Discussions about people’s past abuses that don’t name names.
- Private discussions naming people who’ve abused them.
Note: I am not saying that all of the caretakers have been perfect in following these guidelines but we’ve been as a team working our butts off for the past month (and will for many months to come) to make sure the caretaking team’s actions are more consistent. I will post about this in another announcement.
Is there any room for improvement in our policies? Most definitely. But since the community as a whole is very split on the subject I don’t feel comfortable with either extreme. I am confident though that we can find an even better solution if as a community we come together and figure what is best for the health of our community.
To start the ball rolling here are some improvements to our current guidelines that I am toying with in my head:
- Ban members from FetLife who’ve already have been banned by multiple local events/groups for inappropriate behaviour.
- Make it so, certain caretakers, can blank out names in comments so we don’t need to remove the whole comment.
- And most importantly, do a much better job at being consistent.
Call me an optimist, but I really think as a community we can come together and find a solution that the large majority of us think is best for the health of the community. We might not come to a solution tomorrow… but hopefully we will come to a solution that we are proud of.
So, what it looks like from here is Fetlife is making a policy decision to cover its legal ass and this is pissing people off because the (optimistically) unintended consequence of covering their legal ass is protecting rapists in the BDSM community. Now trouble has been brewing in the kink scene over denying sexual assault and protecting abusers for some time, and as at least one friend of mine is happy to point out, we’re no different than other communities in this regard. However, while I’ll allow that the BDSM scene and the Roman Catholic Church are united in this matter, the BDSM scene is the only one of the two that goes around actively promoting access to safe sexual partners as one of its core value propositions. So, when SunshineLove highlighted both poor community management by Fetlife caretakers and poor understanding of consent by Fetlife creator John Baku she definitely caused a stir. John Baku issued a letter of apology for essentially going to a play party piss drunk and others started chiming in on this and other matters.
I’ll lay my cards on the table: I hate Fetlife. I don’t hate Fetlife for it’s policy on naming abusers (it’s a stupid decision, I totally get why people are angry, but I can see Baku’s lawyer hard at work trying to secure his fiefdom in that one), I don’t even hate Fetlife for its utter lack of privacy or data security (I don’t use it for anything vital and I don’t upload anything I don’t want my grandmother to see). No, I hate Fetlife for its completely antiquarian community creation and management model, its horrific interface, its demonstration of how the whole structure of the BDSM community is (or should be) obsolete.
Why would you make a website with a black background, white text and red accents if you were making this website anytime after 1998? Why would you make the login screen font huge so your user name could be read by strangers across the room? Why would you make a website designed for a sensitive somewhat private subject so utterly in your face it can only be browsed in a dark corner of one’s own house if the browser is to maintain any amount of privacy and anonymity?
Is it perhaps so you could capitalize on people’s existing cultural markers around the BDSM scene? Are you trying to signal that this is an “ingroup” sorta place? Are you asking people to transfer their pre-internet understanding of safety to the internet age by painting your website the same color as their dungeon walls?
Fetlife has a monopoly in its space. People don’t use Fetlife because it’s awesome, easy to use, convenient and well managed. People use Fetlife for the same reason I used to go to munches full of unpleasant occasionally invasive and creepy people with whom I had nothing in common outside of BDSM: It is the only game in town.
My goal is not to destroy the BDSM scene or bully Fetlife, but to make them one of many options and see what happens. Because, see, I believe that in competitive markets consumers win, and I know that as soon as I had an option that wasn’t either a) go to a creepy munch or b) not get the sex I want ever, I took it gladly. Competition forces market players to push their edge and improve services to stay relevant to potential consumers. Fetlife can, in fact, offer competition to the existing scene…and to some degree, by allowing people to find each other more easily, it does. Except it’s also part of the scene infrastructure and so in that capacity it is hobbled.
Fetlife is a tool, we should use it as such rather than imbuing it with the power to hold us captive, which is precisely what we do when we use one website, owned by one man, to hold most of the event information for an entire community. The BDSM community is also a tool, it is a community of interest, a social group; The BDSM community is not the regulating authority for your sex life. Community leaders are leaders by virtue of showing up and being loud. Community mores are, by definition, communally defined and you have as much as say in defining them as the next person over.
The message is simple and it’s a very Gen Y sort of message: Stop being fearful that you’re not good enough or cool enough and stop blindly accepting what the BDSM scene tells you. Instead, ask “what will it offer me.” Ask this of Fetlife, of your local munch, of your BDSM community and of your BDSM community leaders.
Push the issue. Demand value and demand transparency. Do not be lulled into complacency by the belief that this is the only game in town. It isn’t. There are close to 7 billion people in the world, I guarantee you, whatever you’re into, you are not the only one. BDSM leaders, websites, and communities get power because you give it to them, don’t you think you deserve something in return?