Getting back in the swing of things
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?