Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Every time I see “you’re not queer enough” or “you’re not kinky enough” all I want to is put up another sign on my proverbial front lawn that says “have the sex you want, with the people you love, and if you have the energy create the space for others to do the same.”
Sometimes I also want to stand on my front lawn and scream “who the hell cares!” But I don’t, because sex is actually really important. And group belonging can be very important. So this whole thing breaks my heart from all directions. And then I remember that time a friend and I had an argument about it, and he was sitting on the stairs later, trying to pacify me I think, and he says “it’s bad for everyone but for some people the good outweighs the bad.” And that’s true, but what he missed was that my heart broke in that moment. Sex is powerful and intimate and beautiful. It has the power to connect us and make use feel whole. People risk beating and jail time for the right to have sex they want with the people they love. And you want to take this precious, beautiful thing and put it in a place that’s “bad for everyone”? No. We can do better.
That friend was defending the BDSM scene. But then I see people who realize that the BDSM scene is sorta a cult of personality, or it’s broken in some way. Specifically it’s broken in that it hides abuse and puts itself out there as the only place to have safe kinky sex at the same time. So people try to break away from that, but then they police their new borders even more thoroughly. It’s the lavender menace all over again.
So I guess what I really want to say is that people have been trying to tell others how to have sex for 5000 years. Just because they are a leather title holder or they are a radical anti-bdsm queer fairy, doesn’t give them any more say-so about what you and your partner do wherever you do it.
Another friend told me a while back that “there is no such thing as radical sex.” You can work for cultural change, you can try to change social views such that everyone feels accepted and open about their sexuality. You can work to educate people about consent and change the frameworks we use to talk about it. But when the bedroom door closes, whatever you do, it’s about you and the person or people you’re with, and it’s normal and perfect.
This morning I came across yet another article about how only 3 in 100 accused rapists see any jail time. This is riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s annoyance about creepy reddit so I am, not unexpectedly, annoyed. Or disgusted. One of those for sure :)
And I’m also annoyed because I really freaking love the Predator Alert Tools that maymay and Co. created. Specifically, I love the Facebook add-on which scales the protective behavior I already do, and the OkCupid app because it’s an easy at-a-glance alert. What I’m pissed off about, is that like many a technical solution to a human problem, adoption was spotty. Actually, from speaking with the creator, it wasn’t spotty so much as not attempted – the tools were a proof of concept.
Proofs of concept, however, don’t reach the regular Jane, and social tools need high conversion rates early on to be seen as worth while, and in this case, to generate the content needed to protect users from sexual assault. It’s ok, I’m not saying the people working on this suck or anything, these tools were made in a metaphorical garage with minimal resources (you can help). If Google+ can’t cope with the roll out/adoption challenge and it has the backing of an Internet mongrel, I’m surprised small social enterprises happen at all.
What I am saying, however, is that this absolutely hands down matters. For OkCupid less so, because you can piggyback off of OkCupid’s existing community since all the questions are crowd sourced but from the general question pool, not from specific PAT-OkCupid questions. Here you have a direct link between people who install and run the plug-in and people who are helped by it. The challenge you have is easier, really you just need to get the influencers in college dorms (and with age of first marriage going up, urban book clubs and wherever mid-20s women gather) to try it out. If they tell their friends, or better yet, use it while a friend is shoulder browsing, you’re 75% of the way there. PAT-OkCupid is a technical challenge, make it fast enough and non-obtrusive enough and it’s worth a try. Roll out a feature that lets users add specific filter questions on their version only (he wants kids, he loves dogs, whatever) and you can alert users to potential sexual predators while they’re using a better filtering convenience tools.
The Facebook app is harder. It requires users to give a little in order to function. User generated content is hard to bootstrap already, I can only imagine how hard it is to bootstrap such private and sensitive content. I have to say, I was royally miffed when this was marketed as “by survivors for survivors,” but people who identify publicly and conscientiously as survivors are most likely to create this kind of content. Unfortunately, that framing is extremely off-putting to most outside the social justice clique. I hate to say it, but this is a fantastic engineering solution that was incubated in too niche a bubble and missed it’s mark. Well, actually, that may not be true – if it’s target has always been social justice die hards who want to share their story and help each other heal it’s probably spot on, it just doesn’t address my problem: how to we proactively flag inappropriate sexual behavior and put preventative information in all women’s hands?
Again, I have to applaud the creators for doing so much with bare bones resources. The tools themselves are a solid foundation, they achieve their goal of being proofs of concept, and they certainly spark conversation. Where they miss the mark, in my mind, is on adoption and market growth – areas the creators weren’t interested in to begin with.
Anyway, back to the if I ruled the world scenario (I just love that scenario!) You have these tools that from a technical perspective are really cool, and they use technology to scale an existing human behavior, and they help women avoid sexual predators: that’s awesome! But they seem pretty niche, which is less awesome because it means fewer women will use them to avoid sexual predators. So, what would I do if I had a dev team and all the money in the world (or the mythical million dollars which runs a small team for one year…)
- Focus development on making the tools faster and more reliable. I hate to say this, but faster browsing today beats avoiding coffee with a douchbag tomorrow :-(
- Position the tools as convenience or information sharing, not as a crusade against sexual assault or a survivor support group. Most rapes are not reported, there are a lot of reasons for this not least of which is a desire to move on with one’s life. We also have some pretty negative perceptions of what walking through the world as a survivor means even when we are trying really really hard to not blame the victim and to give them space to heal. Finally, and I know this sounds weird, but sometimes doing the things you’re supposed to do to not get raped feels dis-empowering. Just think about all the times women are told not to wear that, or not to walk there, you get the idea.
- The people who are most invested are most invested for a reason – they’re also the most likely to be butt hurt when it doesn’t match their vision. That’s why I’m up to 930 words on the topic, but it’s also why there is soooo much chatter about every little detail of these tools from the choking question (come on dude, haven’t you used Yelp before!) to moderation (because you clearly don’t realize that these conversations happen already). Which gets me to the point: cultivate the passive users too. This is harder for the Facebook app, again cause content, but rather than going after every evangelist in the social justice scene, grow a large user-base of folks who just want a better flagging mechanism. 1) They’ll be helped from day one, and 2) you can rally them later around a big issue, or slowly over time.
- Build relationships with the sites themselves, with college rape crisis centers, and with consumer brands. This is a serious blue sky if I ruled the world thing. It’s not what the creators of these tools are about, and I know and respect that. I also know they’ve reached out to the sites themselves and didn’t get a response (shame on you OkCupid). However, this is my blue sky solution and in that solution I want Jezebel to promote it. I want mid-range women focused brands (brands like Healthworks, which recently partnered with rape prevention programs to offer self defense classes) to sponsor the damn thing, and then I want OkCupid to be pressured or shamed into integrating this and other rape prevention methods (perhaps post-date reporting) into their services. By the way, some of this is way far out, but other things, such as promoting PAT-OKC on college campuses, is the easiest place for you to get involved (there’s a list of groups to reach out to here, but PiratePad is down as of this writing).
It’s easy to theorize about how a thing should be different when someone has already done the hard work of making it to begin with, so what concrete, non-theoretical, things can we do today to make sure that rapists have nowhere left to hide?
TL:DR – You fucking douchbags how are you not outraged?! Here, this person did a thing, go do things like that.
I think I’ve said this before, but there has been a lot of chatter coming through my world recently about creepy reddit – a subreddit devoted to creeping on random snapshots of women, either taken without their knowledge in public, or used out of context (since shut down). And I’ve been meaning to pull together a couple of links about how we don’t trust women for C. The bottom line is this: I get that the idea that you might be accused of rape is scary. It is also statistically small, much smaller than you imagine.
Meanwhile forums devoted to being creepy about women exist. Revenge porn exists. Oh, yeah, rape exists. So, first off, how about you lower the chance that you’ll be accused of rape by working to make rape itself less ubiquitous and therefore a less common threat in popular culture both as an action and as an accusation. Secondly, if you are deeply and vocally concerned by the reputation impacting power of the Predator Alert Tools, and yet have remained unconcerned about the things mentioned above, just so we’re clear: you’re part of the problem and I look forward to that rug being pulled out from under you.
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 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.
…Can I just say I never expected to hear myself saying those words? In 2011 I didn’t support Occupy, didn’t feel safe in the Occupy encampments, and was firmly of the opinion that “the 99% doesn’t accurately represent me.” Except I totally just said to someone, in a conversation about what a success case for change in America would look like, “I want to see bankers arrested.” Hello Overton Window. I wonder if the legacy of Occupy won’t be a simple shift of classically liberal leaning voters into classically radical positions – I can’t be alone in this, there’s nothing unique about me and my experience.
BTW, I was following the news out of Turkey, wondering what it would be like to see 40,000 people on the streets of America, and then I found this, and that made me rather sad.
I want to delete this blog.
Every time I think about it I burst into tears. I made a backup to protect myself, among other things, against overly enthusiastic future self. It’s not even “I want to delete this blog” it’s I want to walk away – it’s just too cyclical. I want to walk away because when I come back in 5 years – because as one brilliant woman just told me, “burnout doesn’t last forever” – we will still be having the same conversation about sexually submissive men, about rape and naming abusers, about BDSM as consumer culture. Think about it, the mainstream BDSM scene, as it stands today in North America, has had at least 20 years to address sexual abuse in its ranks. Clearly, it’s failed. You want me to believe it’s really gonna change this time? It won’t, they’ll still be arguing over if one should say the acronym SSC or RACK while molesting newbies at knife-point in the back corners of private parties.
It turns out that burnout is incredibly personal. It looks like “I did stuff that was hard and the payoff wasn’t that great and now I’m a little tired.” It feels like “I gave this thing everything I had, changed my life, and my hobbies, and the ways I walk through the world around it, and when I needed something to lean on everyone and everything disappeared.” That’s not true, depression is a lying bitch, we know that now don’t we? I am guessing burnout is too.
At least part of what’s happening is that I don’t see how this is a priority. BDSM just doesn’t matter when the best minds of my generation are dying or in jail. The food we eat is genetically modified and processed in ways that we don’t have any long term research on. Police violence is rampant. What were popular revolutions of the Arab Spring are giving way to Islamist reforms in the tradition of Iran. And you want me to care about anal fisting? Sure, as a personal thing, kinky sex is something I want in the privacy of my own home with someone I love, and I’m willing to go out of my way to find sexually compatible partners in that regard,* but to reform something you have to love it. You have to want to live in the world you build, you have to fight for your future self at least if not for your children’s children as that hippie song goes.
I don’t want to live in a world with a better BDSM community. I mean, yes, I want to live in a world with less rape, I want to live in a world where everyone has access to the sex they want with the people they love, I want to live in a world where who you sleep with and how you do so doesn’t impact your job prospects or your ability to get a spousal visa or custody of your children. But that’s not a better BDSM community, that’s a world that has obsolesced the BDSM community. And it’s a world in which I do not believe the BDSM community would survive because it needs the fear, and the isolationism to thrive. It needs its threats and its ways to enforce fucked up in-group norms.
So I want to delete this blog. What I am going to do instead is keep talking about the fact that the BDSM scene does not have a monopoly on kinky sex, and I’m going to figure out how to get backups of my tumblr blogs, and look into doing that with various other feeds that I follow. And I’m gonna figure out hosting just in case, because I think these things should be out there, and findable, so that I can be the last person who isn’t sure if their kink is out there cause c’mon, it’s the internet, “only one” doesn’t exist. And then I’m gonna go do things I’m scared of doing somewhere else.
*I don’t know if I believe that, I’m just not sure what else to say given, ya’know, my history. We’ll see.
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.
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?
Something happens when I sit down to blog these days. Something unexpected that keeps me on the verge of that cool post I want to make about how lessons learned from the quantified self movement can inform orgasm control and chastity play but never with enough oomph to sit down and write it. Something that intensifies each time I have a conversation about the BDSM scene. I feel…empty. Maybe not empty, maybe illegible or unseen.
I think it looks like this:
- Kinky sex rocks, but the BDSM scene has caused enough fucked up things around me that it is toxic to me.
- Talking to people about these toxic things usually results in “but this scene I’m a part of is awesome unlike those other ones”
- I have heard this enough times that no instance of this is believable
- I try to explain either a) the disconnect between some of my core values and what the BDSM community brings to the table, or the many cases of abuse within the scene and hear something along the lines of “but what else is there.” “How else do you meet kinky people.” etc.
- I give up on shared meaning making around BDSM. (Translated for those outside the Bay Area as: I give up on finding common ground.)
- I feel invisible because the BDSM scene is protecting rapists why aren’t you outraged!
But you see, I am a child of the Internet. I know I am not alone. I am not alone in the sex I want, sure, yes, we know that, but much much more importantly, I am not alone in my discontent.
Last night I told a friend that many of my issues with the BDSM scene are basic Gen Y vs. Boomer issues – I don’t like positions of power or people in them. I don’t like secrets. I don’t like centralized information accessible only to the “right” people. The BDSM scene has insisted in subtle or obvious ways on all of these things, it is not a place where I can make my home.
The question is: let it burn itself down – move on, write that post about quantified self and then the other one about behavioral modification as learned from advertizing – or stay – swim upstream and convince the people in power that rape in the ranks has got to go?
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?