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When safe words are ignored
March 21, 2012 10:34 PM   Subscribe


 
So, why not start a website or something where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone?

Not meaning to get into the victim-blamey "you must research your playmate" thing which was mentioned in the first link in this FPP, but surely the social pressure of knowing that you might be outed as someone who doesn't honor limits would either remove the offenders from the scene entirely or at least remove the veil of secrecy which allows these creeps to continue their practices.

In the handball scene that I was part of a while back, if you were known as a top who was unwilling to listen to bottoms who weren't comfortable with what was happening, you could show up at as many play party weekends as you wanted and never find anyone willing to climb into the sling for you. I saw more than once where a creepy top would show up at night one of a party, have one or two holes to play with, and then find themselves refused for the rest of the night and then never come back. Surely that kind of ostracization would work in the BDSM community too?
posted by hippybear at 10:57 PM on March 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the handball scene that I was part of a while back, if you were known as a top who was unwilling to listen to bottoms who weren't comfortable with what was happening...

I'm going to go Google some things because I'm not sure if this is the same "Handball" I'm thinking of...
posted by Jimbob at 11:10 PM on March 21, 2012 [35 favorites]


I'm going to go Google some things because I'm not sure if this is the same "Handball" I'm thinking of...

Gay male anal fisting.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 PM on March 21, 2012 [23 favorites]


So, why not start a website or something where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone?

I'm guessing creepy doms / rapists would respond by suing for slander once the website started doing its job.

posted by sebastienbailard at 11:39 PM on March 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


So, why not start a website or something where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone?

I'm guessing for the same reasons outlined in the article that these subs feel/are pressured into not choosing a safeword. If they're known as someone who posts names to the site, they'll be less attractive to potential doms.

Hopefully this is one of those problems where there is safety in numbers. Hopefully the more people talk about the issue, the more people realize they're not alone, the more victims feel comfortable articulating their boundaries w/o being shamed, then things will tip and the situation will reverse where abusive doms now feel in the minority.
posted by sbutler at 11:46 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gay male anal fisting.

Aaah, that makes much more sense. Carry on!
posted by Jimbob at 11:49 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants

One reason is that the reaction of the community is not always positive. At the club mentioned early in the article, I know of at least one woman who accused a man of this behavior and was subsequently not believed by many (this was many years ago). It definitely did not help her deal with this at all. Of course, usual story -- he was more popular, so people took his word over hers. Outing someone publicly for this behavior is a risky move, sadly.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:51 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some people who indulge their desire to inflict pain and humiliation upon others are unwilling to stop when the pain and/or humiliation moves from not-quite-real to very real.... this is my surprised face.

The BDSM community, by its very nature, is playing with deep psychological forces. I find it strange and abhorrent that there is any level of "take it like a real man/woman" in the apparently common disdain for those who use their safeword.

What ever happened to the notion that a safeword was sacrosanct, that it's only fun when all participants are having fun (for each person's value of fun), and when anyone's boundaries are breached, everything stops with no judgement?
posted by chimaera at 12:18 AM on March 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are there kink site equivalents to, like, Yelp and/or RateMyProfessor? With anonymish reviews a la "A+++ would bottom again!!!!" or " Creepy Dom who smells bad, RUUUN AWAAAAY"
posted by nicebookrack at 12:21 AM on March 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Playing games with the animal brain.
posted by stbalbach at 12:26 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


throw in detailed user scene surveys for the online reviews you fill out, too. "How many times did the dom check in with you the sub to make sure scene was OK? Did you safeword out at any point, and how many times?"

For every review you get 5 extra plants in FarmVille or something.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:28 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd suggest going beyond a website, maybe a hanky code mirroring the website's ratings, enforced by the clubs. "All doms must wear their reviews to play here"
posted by jeffburdges at 12:51 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone

I'm thinking because it would be too easy to just say bad things about people with no verification. Heck, i've watched people break up, and while they were nice and friendly, saying good things about each other before the break up, started to say nothing but bad afterwards. Especially about sex. Word of mouth isn't a bad thing, but there are always sides people don't see.
posted by usagizero at 12:53 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


What disturbs me about these articles is how often some variant of "when I think about it, this has been happening to me over and over again for years" comes up followed by the idea that if only the community could change everything would be all better.

If they were talking about an individual instead of a community, the situation would be instantly and tragically recognizable.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:50 AM on March 22, 2012


Surely that kind of ostracization would work in the BDSM community too?

I think what they are trying to do is stop the assaults before they happen, rather than just limit the number of future assaults. If they aren't trying to do that, why the hell not???
posted by karathrace at 2:03 AM on March 22, 2012


I thought it was pretty well established as a crime to do something sexually to a person when they have made it clear that they don't want the thing done to them.

I know that the law enforcement/legal community is flawed when it comes to sex (blame/shame the victim still happens w/women raped by men so I can't imagine it would be easy for men or for something that started out as consensual) but don't the same rules theoretically apply? How have cases like this played out when people have pressed charges?
posted by headnsouth at 3:22 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard enough to get law enforcement to take victims seriously if they report they were raped by, say, an acquaintance or a partner. A bdsm sub going to the police would probably face a traumatizing level of disbelief and victim blaming that would continue right through trial, if there ever was one. And that is one big if.
posted by lydhre at 4:24 AM on March 22, 2012 [25 favorites]


Unfortunately, I think it really is going to take a lot of brave subs going (relatively) public to root out this fairly pernicious problem. WIthout people saying, "No, this is wrong, and they violated my boundaries," BDSM is just too full of perfect victims.

On the other hand, subs could start reminding doms that the law all took Delia Day perhaps more seriously than they should have when she blew her husband's head off with a shotgun.

(One of my lasting frustrations is that when I tried to write a story about that incident, no one would talk on record, and most would be incredibly free with the stories until I pulled out a notebook or tape recorder. If any of you know anything first-hand, I'd still love to write that story.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:21 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as someone was saying in that ghastly Twilight fanfic thread, it is way too easy for women to get in over their heads with guys who haven't the first fucking clue what they're doing, and it can only end badly.
posted by elizardbits at 5:47 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gay male anal fisting.

The qualification in that sentence is giving me a wonderful mental image of a bunch of Totally Straight dudebros watching the game and then all locking the door and closing the shades during halftime and going to town.
posted by griphus at 6:20 AM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Back in the very early days of social networking (Friendster, pre-Facebook), a friend of mine and I had the "million dollar idea" of creating a gay sex party partner site called Fuckster for situations just like this. I still think it would be a good idea.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:31 AM on March 22, 2012


grindr
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:33 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hardy, co-author of the bible on polyamory, “The Ethical Slut,” doesn’t deny that sexual assault is a problem in the community, but she takes issue with arguments about the social pressure to not safeword. It has “some of the flavor of the kind of victimhood that we see from some second wave feminists,” she says, “and I don’t want to get too deep into this because I’m going to get myself into trouble, but you know where I’m going with this.”

Can someone please explain where she's going with this? I don't have a clue what she's talking about, including "the kind of victimhood we see from some second wave feminists."
posted by mreleganza at 7:10 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surely that kind of ostracization would work in the BDSM community too?

It can and does. Abusive tops are shunned from the local community through word of mouth. I know one top who tied up the sub and stole all their stuff, and then threatened that sub in public. I personally told my ex's potential partners that he was a serial cheater who'd lied to me about having been tested for HIV (by the grace of God I escaped that) yet continued to engage in unsafe behaviors.

However, I vehemently disagree with (real) naming and shaming online. It's one thing to warn someone in person; it's another thing to publicly post their name where present and future employers and divorce attorneys can find it. You may feel they deserve it, and although my ex was a cad, he didn't deserve having his life ruined over it. A naming-and-shaming site will turn into a dramafest as people post not just sexual assaults but "he was a bad lover"-type reviews.
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


It seems to me like what would really help the situation is if a few respected doms would speak out against those practitioners who flout consensuality or otherwise show signs of Creepdom. It's my sad experience and one of the reasons I vacated The Scene that people in it take tops more seriously than bottoms.

I used to call it "top's disease," a term I think I found in Pat Califia. I think he had it to a certain extent; must have to write about it so vividly. There's a kind of acquired narcissism longtime doms get (and dommes, though that's a different variety) that makes them think they can push too hard, demand too much on too little negotiation, and generally behave like a pill. The longer the person has been in The Scene, the more the behavior is tolerated by the group at large, even applauded.

A side note: Ever notice that every subculture calls itself The Scene? It's in BDSM, punk rock, and others I'm sure.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 7:55 AM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


So, the basic gist of this is, people are putting themselves, literally, at the mercy of people they don't completely know and trust, and when it goes wrong, they're surprised?
posted by crunchland at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gay male anal fisting.

The qualification in that sentence is giving me a wonderful mental image of a bunch of Totally Straight dudebros watching the game and then all locking the door and closing the shades during halftime and going to town.

It's not gay if the game's on while you do it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, the basic gist of this is, people are putting themselves, literally, at the mercy of people they don't completely know and trust, and when it goes wrong, they're surprised?

That's how intimate-partner abuse works outside of the BDSM community as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:10 AM on March 22, 2012 [23 favorites]


No-one here is masochistic enough to enjoy another "is kink dangerous?" concern troll marathon, so please let's not do that. All sexual orientations and their related communities have their problems, victim blaming is no more appropriate here than it is in any non-kinky context.
posted by howfar at 8:23 AM on March 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that I was trying to blame the victim here. Clearly, there are all sorts of situations, sexual and non, where people go in with certain expectations and when the scenario goes pear-shaped, it's certainly not their fault.
posted by crunchland at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2012


TIL what handball is. I'm a very open-minded, progressive, and informed individual, but this one was new to me, which is saying something, given the crowd I work with and hang out with.

The mental image that was briefly painted by the simple four word explanation included very aggressive "throws" and sound effects of balls bouncing off of hard surfaces, as well as a cheering crowd. The word 'sling' being involved somehow made this image involve people being launched into the horizon from a massive sling as part of this. I'm not sure how that ties in, that may have just happened in the background as a separate but related event. Maybe it's how you eject bad tops. I did not pursue it further.

This is the first time that I've been legitimately perplexed by the origin of terminology, and I do not care to google further, but I really wish that my image was close to the reality of it.

Metafilter is constantly expanding my horizons.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Community policing in the BDSM scene is valuable and important but it has its limits. I have certainly seen creepy would-be doms get both educated by and removed from the club that I used to frequent, and it was definitely a good thing. There were also a lot of people who'd been around for a long time and knew about other specific folks out on the edges of the community who had bad reputations, and they'd warn new people off of them when necessary. It's not perfect though, and there are two major cases where I think it fails. One is something that probably oughtn't be inherent to the BDSM scene and which people in the scene should (and I think sometimes do) actively work to fix. The other is just a problem that is due to the inherent limits of an opt-in, informal "scene" which not everybody who practices BDSM is a part of. (Also, I'd like to note that while I have little first-hand experience, these problems are to the best of my knowledge just as common in the gay BDSM scene as they are in the pansexual one where most hetero kinksters hang out. There's not really a straight BDSM scene, but there's a pansexual one and a gay one and while they're not totally the same I think they're the same in these issues.)

Sorry in advance for the confusing pronouns and lack of identification in the proceeding paragraph; the story that follows is not mine and I'd like to keep identifying information to a minimum.

First, sometimes bad actors in the BDSM scene do get protected by other members. Not all play happens at parties after all, and as a general rule people save their hardest play for private time. It's perfectly possible for people to behave in a totally respectable manner in public and then go home and abuse their subs in private. (Actual, nonconsensual, non-roleplay abuse here -- if you aren't sure what the difference is then that goes right back to Kink 101: Intro to BDSM, whereas this conversation is really more a part of Kink 212: Safety and Community Dynamics.). I've seen it happen; I was once confided in by someone who was just getting out of a bad relationship with a dom who had done some pretty shitty things in the context of the relationship, a dom who up to that point had been my friend. We're talking ignoring safewords, hitting in anger, repeatedly crossing pre-negotiated boundaries, that sort of nasty stuff. The sub in question explicitly requested that it not become public knowledge (though they told at least half a dozen people privately, so it wasn't a total breakdown of community policing as there were people who could watch and warn) and while I didn't agree with this (the reasons given were pretty classic ones given by victims who want to protect their abusers -- still care for their abuser, don't want to see the abuser's life destroyed, don't want to be seen as a troublemaker, etc.) I'm not a mandatory reporter and I think that it's important to respect victims' wishes in publicizing the things that happen to them, so I didn't make a big public deal out of it. (I did kill the friendship with that dom, though.) Still, as far as I know that dom is still around at that club, and still enjoys a good reputation with at least some people there.

Things like the preceding incident highlight what I think is the first way in which community policing in the BDSM scene breaks down. There is a tendency for victims to protect their abusers (just as in other sorts of relationships, though I think it's valid to say that maybe people who are naturally submissive and who are in relationships with their abusers where they are very explicitly submissive and the abuser is explicitly dominant might be more likely to do this than other people) and there is a tendency for the community to protect its members in general. This can be exploited, intentionally or not, in ways that cause the community to kind of circle around its members and either minimize the incident ("That's in the past, you're both good people, we don't want drama.") or push out the person who is seen as a troublemaker -- often the victim themselves. ("We don't want trouble here. If you insist on making a scene, you're not welcome at our parties anymore.") This is exacerbated by the fact that BDSM is marginalized and in some states specifically illegal, and some members of the community have a very justified fear that if public scrutiny (i.e. law enforcement, lawyers, media) were drawn down on their club then it might have severe impact on their social standing, careers, and family relations.

This is why you don't see more people going to the police or the public with these cases. You wouldn't just be pursuing justice against your abuser, you would also be outing many of your closest friends as kinksters. Some of them might already be out, but others might come from conservative families, or be elementary school teachers, or be in any number of other situations where it's not OK to be out. This is a shitty position to be in and I don't blame people for their decisions when they have to make that call, but aside from changing perceptions of kink in the wider society I think it's kind of an inevitable bind so I don't think it's surprising that public reporting happens so rarely. I do think that we should continue working to change perceptions of kink in society at large, through education and speaking out and other methods of normalization. In the meantime, we need more stringent community policing; more willingness to side with victims (recognizing that it is the abuser, not the reporter of abuse, who is the true troublemaker); a safer atmosphere in which victims feel more comfortable reporting abuse to the community; and a community culture that makes it very explicit that abuse of submissives is intolerable whether done in public or private, and that encourages victims to speak out and make the community safer by outing bad doms.

Now, secondly, there is another problem with community policing that isn't so much a problem with the kink community as much as simply a limitation of it. The fact of the matter is, most people practicing BDSM aren't really part of a local scene. A lot of people are understandably shy about their kink, even in an atmosphere that is explicitly friendly to it. Many if not most kinksters are never going to go out and track down their local BDSM organization (itself a somewhat shy and secretive group) and many kinksters live in places where there is no local BDSM group to begin with. (If you don't live in a city, chances are slim that your community has a club. Some people drove hours every week to visit the club that I went to down here.) This makes for a situation where you have a lot of kinky people out on the margins with nobody around them to protect them and give them guidance. We live in a time where there are many resources on the internet for experiencing depictions of BDSM (often depictions that give a dangerously distorted view of what BSDM should be) not to mention communities for hooking up with and talking to other kinksters from the privacy of one's computer (which is for sure a net Good Thing and when well-used can help provide some of the benefits of an in-person community) and it can be easy to get into trouble.

People can become aware of their kink -- even research it to the point of feeling like they understand what they like and what to do -- without ever having experienced kink with another person. This sounds obvious, and it is, but it creates a problem. People can be easily taken in by the first person who approaches them and offers them the opportunity to consummate and explore their kinks with another human being, and the sort of people who approach inexperienced kinksters and offer to take them on as a slave or whatever are generally not the kind of people who you'd hope to have with you in your first experiences. All of this happens away from the sight of other kinksters, and is therefore very difficult to protect against. All we can do is try to create a better environment for kink in society at large, I think -- try to get pro-kink and pro-victim legislation passed, talk about kink more in public and be as out as we can, try to educate people around us (you never know when that person sitting next to you in class asking you silly questions about BDSM is a budding kinkster just trying to figure things out!) and just generally build a safer society.

Like most problems of this class, it's a complicated one with a lot of different factors in play. There's no single solution to the problems that cause these kinds of situations to crop up, as they regularly do. It is also not something that we should simply resign ourselves to, however -- there is much to be done, both as individuals and as a community. By being more open about kink, by being strong advocates for safe kink, and by striving to create communities that are safer both in emotional and physical terms, we can help to reduce this problem and make BDSM a safer and more fun thing for everyone who wants to take part in it.
posted by Scientist at 9:36 AM on March 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


So, why not start a website or something where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone?

Well, not that I've been involved in dom/sub situations, but when I've tried to help other people by warning them that this one person is really bad fucking news and should be avoided, they assume that I've got an AGENDA, that I've got some kind of petty grudge, and that I'm the one who's being unreasonable.

In one case, the guy I was warning people about later turned out to have been molesting children for 30 years. But no, everyone thought he was such a good community member, he was on the board of the food co-op, the waldorf school, the arts+crafts school- how dare I say he was a creep?
posted by dunkadunc at 9:39 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, why not start a website or something where women (and men) who have been forced beyond their desired limits by asshole tops actually NAME their assailants and provide a quality community resource for everyone?

Because then the assailant sues, and won't you love sitting through that deposition? May also need to depose some family members/co-workers and quiz them on your relationship with your top - don't you think they'd love that? And all of this will then be public record, of course.
posted by kgasmart at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Why does she stay with that jerk?" by the Pervocracy I think is worth mentioning.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:47 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, the basic gist of this is, people are putting themselves, literally, at the mercy of people they don't completely know and trust, and when it goes wrong, they're surprised?

You are so off you are not even wrong.

I'm not into bdsm or the scene, but I've been following this issue on blogs and the gist is this:

1) Rape and abuse are endemic in the bdsm community (like everywhere else).
2) Nobody talks about it.
3) Victims who try to talk about it often told to shut up and stop causing drama. They are often blamed, ostracized, ridiculed, etc.
4) It's often an open secret who the abusers are. But if you aren't in with the right clique no one will warn you. So even if you do do research on the person and get references you may still end up with an abuser.
5) Despite all the emphasis on safe words, there is a lot of cultural pressure on bottoms to not use their safe word.
6) 1- 5 are pretty fucked up. But it is more fucked up in a subculture that is supposed to be all about consent.
7) What should bdsm communities do when the victim accuses someone of abuse but the accused denies it? Take her word? His? Door number three?
8) What should tops do when to keep from unknowingly violating a submissive's boundaries and what should they do when they violated a sub's boundaries?


These post is a general round of the issues.
Safe/Ward, Safewords, and the Battle of Community Accountability
Safe/Ward: I never called it rape.
Consent Culture

You can also look at these:

Safe/Ward Blog Carnival

Safe/Ward Blog Carnival 2, Part 1
Safe/Ward Blog Carnival 2, Part 2
Safe/Ward Blog Carnival 2, Part 3: Porn and Prejudice
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:10 AM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


What should tops do when to keep from unknowingly violating a submissive's boundaries and what should they do when they violated a sub's boundaries?

Dom, as in dominate, as in "I dominate you."

I mean - isn't it distinctly possible that some of these tops get their kicks specifically from violating a sub's boundaries? One doesn't truly dominate another unless you do to then what you want regardless of what they want. I realize that's not what the culture is about, but that's surely what some people are about.
posted by kgasmart at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2012


man, y'all are in a totally different scene. I have experienced NONE of the following locally:
2) Nobody talks about it.
3) Victims who try to talk about it often told to shut up and stop causing drama. They are often blamed, ostracized, ridiculed, etc.
4) It's often an open secret who the abusers are. But if you aren't in with the right clique no one will warn you. So even if you do do research on the person and get references you may still end up with an abuser.
5) Despite all the emphasis on safe words, there is a lot of cultural pressure on bottoms to not use their safe word.
I'm not into bdsm or the scene

Oh.
One doesn't truly dominate another unless you do to then what you want regardless of what they want.
Okay... look... I don't come into discussions of particle physics and pretend that I know wtf I'm talking about. This is so fucking ridiculous it's not even worth discussing.
posted by desjardins at 10:46 AM on March 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


man, y'all are in a totally different scene. I have experienced NONE of the following locally:

Like I said, this what the blog posts said. Read the posts I linked to. I haven't distorted anything.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:49 AM on March 22, 2012


The fact of the matter is, most people practicing BDSM aren't really part of a local scene.

This is a salient point. I used to run a local group, and I would get dozens of emails from people who were too shy to show up at our (totally sfw) gatherings. Others showed up, decided it wasn't for them, and then disappeared. I'm sure there are countless more who didn't even know we existed or didn't care. The community has no way of policing them or influencing them in any way, any more than the gay community can police condom usage amongst men who have sex with men but don't even identify as gay.
posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I experienced some of those things in my local scene, desjardins. They were certainly the exception and did not destroy my experience there (I left on good terms, though I doubt I'll go back -- I'm just at a different place in my life now) but were certainly disquieting and unpleasant when it interfered with my desire to just have a good, kinky, consensual time with other like-minded people. Now, if I'd been a sub instead of mostly a dom, it might have been a different and somewhat scarier environment. I was not as aware of it at the time except in the sense that I found the cliquishness and petty politics to be distasteful and tried to hold myself above them, and that I tried to be well-behaved myself and avoid those who I saw as behaving poorly. With the benefit of a few more years and some better perspective, I can see how that kind of stuff is actively harmful to the community and serves to create an environment that shelters predators.

I'm glad that you don't find that sort of thing in your group. I am sure you are right, as I see no reason why these problems should be universal -- they are not inherent to the community as a whole, but rather symptoms of the fact that you get a lot of people in the BDSM community who are kind of weird, maybe a bit awkward and dysfunctional, and you have them all being tied together in a close-knit, semi-secret club where they have to look out for each other and keep quiet about things for fear of drawing down serious sanction from outside forces. Also it is incestuous in a somewhat literal sense -- there's a lot of shuffling around of partners, a lot of non-traditional relationships, and so the energy gets really weird and complicated. I'm not saying it can't be a beautiful, safe, empowering thing for all involved, but it isn't always totally like that.
posted by Scientist at 11:05 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The purpose of the relatively closed IRL leather communities is specifically to protect their members from inadvertent outing while hooking up with like-minded pervs. Along the way there are the side benefits of education and socialization. However, the same forms of small-community gossip (ummm, reputation building) that ideally protects against potential bad actors can also smear good but unpopular folks, people who have consensual but squicky tastes, or as mentioned above, those in a messy breakup. Intimately meshed communities with reputation hierarchies have a very delicate balance of useful-interpersonal-info to vicious-character-assassination.
posted by Dreidl at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2012


There's not really a straight BDSM scene

Que fuck? All I can say is that apparently you and I have encountered very different BDSM scenes, or perhaps we have very different definitions of what "straight" means.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:12 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


A bdsm sub going to the police would probably face a traumatizing level of disbelief and victim blaming that would continue right through trial, if there ever was one. And that is one big if.

On my phone so I can't easily dredge up links, but the legal system handles this more often and more effectively than you might imagine. We tend to hear all about cases that yield unjust results, little about the many more that turn out more or less correctly.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:21 AM on March 22, 2012


"Straight BDSM group" meaning only-for-straight-people in the same sense that gay BDSM groups are only for gay males. It's a quirk of culture that in any city you'll typically find two types of BDSM groups: one for gay males, and one for everyone else (and gay males too, if they want to come, but typically they don't). "Everyone else" does not equate to "straight people". It includes straight people, gay women, bisexuals, and anybody who doesn't quite fit into the one-dimensional sexual orientation continuum including transgendered people, polygamists, and gender-queer people. The two scenes are not the same, although they have similarities. I think it's sort of a historical quirk that arises from the fact that gay men have been so ghettoized in our society that in many places they have had to erect a parallel society of their own, but I'm not really qualified to give a detailed explanation. I'd love it if someone more-qualified would do so though (in MeMail if you want to avoid a derail) because it's something that I'm aware of and I think it's interesting. Not super-relevant though except as a way of trying to bring in The Whelk's early comment.
posted by Scientist at 11:22 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, hippybear's early comment. Mea culpa.
posted by Scientist at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2012


"One doesn't truly dominate another unless you do to then what you want regardless of what they want."

Oh, no, no, no, no, no. The dominant is in control of the situation, and because of that, has a responsibility to the sub that includes honoring what they want out of the experience and giving it to them. It is very much not about doing what the top wants in violation of the bottom, but rather letting the bottom give up control in a freeing way, with that control maintained by the top. I know it's Spiderman, but the more control, the more responsibility.

(I will also cop to not being part of a scene, but for a while I worked producing media for and with professional kinksters.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The gay leather scene has a lot of ritual and tradition and rules that the "everyone else" scene does not have. It started due to the ghettoization, but it's not the same thing at all.
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This has made me even more convinced that I'm not going to allow anyone to top me that I can't trust with my life. And if I decide to Top anyone, I'm going to ask for status checks with the sub often.
posted by Val_E_Yum at 11:33 AM on March 22, 2012


Val_E_Yum: As much as they can be flawed, might I suggest that if you're looking for a good first experience you could do worse than to go check out your local group (if it exists -- try FetLife to see about finding it, that's a good place to look) and hang around, make friends, learn stuff, and then maybe find somebody who you'd be comfortable playing with at a party, where there are Dungeon Monitors around and a whole community of supportive people who would love nothing more than to help make sure that your first experience was amazing for you. It's a fun thing to do even if you don't find a partner, and it's easier (and I'd argue, safer) than trying to find one person who you can trust absolutely unconditionally.

Periodic status checks should be a given anytime you're doing any kind of play that entails a degree of physical danger, anything that approaches the submissive's stated boundaries, or anything at all with a new submissive who one has not already played with extensively. I think they should be the default, but I would venture that under some circumstances by mutual agreement between dom and sub it can be good to back off the status checking a hair in order to keep things more "in the moment". Being able to do so is one of the benefits of finding a regular partner who you work well with and who you can really get to know inside and out.
posted by Scientist at 11:45 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This has made me even more convinced that I'm not going to allow anyone to top me that I can't trust with my life.

And as a top I am aware that I am fully responsible for that person's life, including if I'm dizzy and hit my head and go unconscious, they will be unable to get help. (Why I don't play while drunk or on medication, and why the floor is swept and clear of any obstacles, and why I don't wear heels)
posted by desjardins at 12:10 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


One doesn't truly dominate another unless you do to then what you want regardless of what they want.

*******

I mean - isn't it distinctly possible that some of these tops get their kicks specifically from violating a sub's boundaries? One doesn't truly dominate another unless you do to then what you want regardless of what they want. I realize that's not what the culture is about, but that's surely what some people are about.


I think before there's too much discomfort or outrage or correcting of kgasmart's comment , I think people ought to read the sentences immediately before and after the eyebrow-raising part. It provides helpful context.
posted by entropone at 2:05 PM on March 22, 2012


I think before there's too much discomfort or outrage or correcting of kgasmart's comment , I think people ought to read the sentences immediately before and after the eyebrow-raising part. It provides helpful context.

The point is that there are plenty of non-kinky people who want to dominate and violate the boundaries of their sexual and romantic partners. Of course there are bad people in the world who either can't control their tendency toward, or actively get off on, abuse and violence. Some of these people are actively kinky and self-identify as such, but the majority of them, by
sheer force of numbers, aren't.

Drawing an association between kinky sex and real violence, while ignoring the fact that exactly the same association exists between vanilla sex and real violence is really not helpful, original or interesting in this context.
posted by howfar at 2:29 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Totally agreed.
posted by entropone at 2:33 PM on March 22, 2012


"Straight BDSM group" meaning only-for-straight-people in the same sense that gay BDSM groups are only for gay males.

Scientist, I know exactly what you meant, and I am telling you that I have seen straight-only BDSM scenes in several US cities. To me, as a bisexual or whatever woman, a scene where man-on-man play is either explicitly or implicitly not permitted, and woman-on-woman play is encouraged only if men direct it or are getting off on watching it, is a straight-only scene. Or, if you prefer, a "heteronormative" scene.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:36 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was the topic of the essay Pat Calfia contributed to Coming to Power. In 1982. La plus ca change...
posted by localroger at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got a lot to say on this subject, and I'm hoping I'll get my post together sometime today. But the following made me grab the keyboard:

The BDSM community, by its very nature, is playing with deep psychological forces.

No we're not. Some people probably told you this was the case, but they were mostly lying.

The truth is that most sessions don't go too terribly deep. Serious, mind-risking humiliation isn't very popular in our world. People who engage in rape play and other forms of consensual non-consent might do so a few times a year. The vast majority of BDSMerie is someone getting their ass whacked, someone being tied up, someone having something shoved in an orifice by their partner. Our adventures are usually not any more psychologically deep than vanilla sex. Which is not to say they're shallow, mind you, just that it's nothing you haven't seen before.

Why is this? Why don't we let loose all sorts of twisted internal demons? First, because the bottoms don't want it. Second, because the tops don't want it. Third, because the tops don't know how to do it.
___________

Also, Sidhedevil is not without a point here. The 'pansexual' (to use the polite term) BDSM community is indeed pretty straight-male centric. Not only that, but it's very male-dominant centric.
posted by Clay201 at 3:03 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sidhedevil, I stand corrected. It's not something that I've experienced, but I've only really participated in two clubs, and I'm perfectly willing to bow to your experience. It does kinda make me sad to hear, though. The clubs I've been to have been full of all kinds of different sexualities and genders, and I guess I just assumed that was the norm. I shouldn't be surprised to hear that it isn't, but I am a little.
posted by Scientist at 3:35 PM on March 22, 2012


Metafilter: I'm going to go Google some things
posted by d1rge at 3:59 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh ugh, this one is a real pickle.

There's a serious problem in the scene not just with abuse, but managing the all inclusive attitude while keeping away Mr. Catpissman type creepers, the people who want to make it about their own personal hierarchies of mentoring (for the newbies, we respected our elders back in the day don’tcha know, I’m just giving back!), the my-fetish-is-better-than-your-fetish, the mandatory female bisexuality for the sake of the menz, the inability to separate your turn ons from reality people (very dominate everywhere! twoo submissives have no free will!) and the number of people who think real life stopped the instant they got turned on by something weird.

At a munch, one of the duties of the hosts here is to sort out newbies who bought the line that a submissive obeys any dominant. The tendency to treat this like a super secret society is probably to blame, but that doesn’t seem to be lousy education as much as wishful thinking trumping common sense half the time. Meanwhile whisper campaigns seems to be about the only thing used to police people. A particular gentleman, I’m told, cycles through a new significantly younger female newbie who always leave the scene at the break up, to whispers he did something awful. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Because of protecting people’s privacy, a goal I can kind of get behind, prosecuting things seems to be on the bottom of people’s priority list. It’s not effectively helping anyone. For absurd reasons people are asking me for references now (strangers who have no way to know my credibility) so basically all we’ve got going on for safety is either volunteers or “hey, you look sane!” style gossip fests.

And some shit is just stupid. There is a well connected scenester, a gold star volunteer. Let’s call him A, not because I’m not above mentioning his scene name, but because I really don’t want to out my mefi name with direct activity. He’s the sort of educator who is running a workshop every week, doing his fetish thing on stage with a never ending stream of professional models, he Dungeon Monitors and lectures on safety… He’s scum.

This is the guy who I got in over my head with, something I still mentally castigate myself over as I feel responsible for this situation getting out of hand. Despite not liking him, because he was dating a friend I tried my best to be friendly. There was giggling and joking and waving a little shocker toy that I guess he took as a no hold barred invitation to play. I should not have provoked him with implied consent by joking around with him in a rough manner. I think he was out of line to physically pick me up, which is why I flailing thumped him in the head and barked put me down in my party pooper voice. But now I feel like an idiot and everyone thinks I had it coming, it was a miscommunication. Great. Social whoopsies happen. I apologize but not a single apology to me.

One time and I’d think it was stupid miscommunication, but there’s been a handful of incidents like this. He’s a hair fetishist and likes to play with women’s hair. I’m chilling on a couch and he asks if he can play with my hair. No, I say, I don’t like strange guys touching me so I wouldn’t say yes at the best of times, but I just had scalp surgery. Cue head touching and me screaming. Whoops, he just didn’t hear me. Haha, how awkward! Okay fine, every other woman says yes, so maybe it was a reflex that made you fondle my stitches.

Only there’s the third incident. Actually this happens before I had to hit him in the head. I mistakenly consent to let him demonstrate pressure points on me and he tries the one on the jaw. Apparently I’m a corpse because all it feels is really annoying, and starts dislocating the bone. He stops when I tell him. Tries bending my little finger. Similarly fails to induce screams. Grabs and twists my nipple. Um, okay, why are you touching my breasts? No dice with the pressure point, and I’m caught kinda flat footed, since the reactions up until this point were supposed to be demonstrative of technique. Am I supposed to show off my godlike pain threshold? Tell you off for managing to work a titty fondle in with someone who you really only have a nodding acquaintance with? Anyway because of the aforementioned pain thresh hold, A gets annoyed and tries his trick with the jaw on a random non-consenting male sub. Needless to say the guy experiences unexpected agony. A walks off triumphant with the sub asking why he thought that was okay.

I remain friends with his girlfriend, who never has any boundary related complaints and the gossip rolls in. So he has such trouble controlling his aggressiveness he was fired from his job. So he lost his gun license because one of his friends thought he was a shooting risk (oh, she’s crazy, he says!). So he’s occupied just about every month with some inter-clique drama between his specific sort of male dominated male dom fetish, he gets banned from some tradeshow for reasons never clearly spelled out, but publicly described as “scene bullshit”. I deal with things by refusing to play around him, or with his girlfriend even when he’s not present, especially since he had gossiped I was trying to poach said girlfriend (she's nice, I'm 95% straight). They finally break up, major lying drama, crying, encouraging his new girlfriend to fight with the old one, texts after she says he shouldn’t contact her. And he’s still in the scene, at every single event. He teaches an anti-rape class. Motherfucker.
posted by Phalene at 4:23 PM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Okay... look... I don't come into discussions of particle physics and pretend that I know wtf I'm talking about. This is so fucking ridiculous it's not even worth discussing.

In fairness, the difference is that some vast percentage of people have tried out at least a few kinky sexual practices, and pretty much everyone has been in an uncomfortable sexual situation or at least seen an abusive relationship, and everyone has seen abusive kinky scenes in movies, so pretty much everyone has an opinion about (bdsm) + (abuse). It may not be an opinion informed by any knowledge of official bdsm culture, but it isn't just imaginary, either.

There are, by my highly exact and scientific count, a gazillion people who have experimented with spanking, tie-me-up-tie-me-down, and "oops, wrong hole!". There is some tiny fraction of that who identify as kinky or members of a bdsm community; the vast majority of people might enjoy the activities but feel no connection whatsoever to The Community or The Scene, especially the more formalized versions.

At the same time, I think it's a really fair question to ask why the community hasn't found (or in most cases, even tried to find) a way to police people like the person Phalene describes out of the scene (or help get them prosecuted, as appropriate).

And he’s still in the scene, at every single event. He teaches an anti-rape class. Motherfucker.

That's totally fucking unacceptable, and a well-functioning community would be working a lot harder to protect all of its members.
posted by Forktine at 4:30 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Are there kink site equivalents to, like, Yelp and/or RateMyProfessor?

I donno of course, but RateYourProf is not reliable, eg:

Young-gitch and this guy who is 10x better and doesn't need to put a sucky fake grin pic there and spend half his time trolling for sad teaching awards.

So, no, don't hope for a site like that.
posted by Listener at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2012


That's totally fucking unacceptable, and a well-functioning community would be working a lot harder to protect all of its members.

If i had to blame something, other than it being a natural product of anarcho-capitalism at work, it's on the endless fixation on fetish skill. The jerk rides on being a big expert and an educator, and constantly tries to battle other male doms over credentials. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that he say, attempts to secure monogamy while openly cheating with a seemingly endless supply of rope bunnies (wtf, why does anyone think an endless parade of nekkid ladies in macrame is what every event needs?) and that he's really grabby with every woman and seems to have a talent for using being an expert to paw them.

If people ask me for a reference for him, I tell them straight, and the next time I see him if he tries the Montreal cheek kiss he's getting an ear full, rather than more passive agressive "oh noes drama", but I really wonder how many women have gotten this shit from him.
posted by Phalene at 5:24 PM on March 22, 2012


Not super-relevant though except as a way of trying to bring in The Whelk's early comment.

I'm sorry, hippybear's early comment. Mea culpa.


Possibly the only time I've been conflated with Sir Whelkster. I'm a bit tickled. I wonder if he knows, what he thinks, and if I should tell him...
posted by hippybear at 5:55 PM on March 22, 2012


Yeah, I have no idea why but in my mind you are both gay bears. I'm sure that says more about my mind than about The Whelk. Very sorry.
posted by Scientist at 6:30 PM on March 22, 2012


Well, for now I have a husband and a close friend to go to for my submissive needs.
I joined FL earlier this month (found the Mefites too!) and have been to a munch. I'm looking forward to getting to know my local kinksters.

Though I will say that if anyone--kinky or vanilla--tries to take advantage of me, they won't know what hit them. I went through date rape once, nearly half my life ago. Never. Again.
posted by Val_E_Yum at 7:02 PM on March 22, 2012


Young-gitch and this guy who is 10x better and doesn't need to put a sucky fake grin pic there and spend half his time trolling for sad teaching awards.

Second guy has a better rating (and tons of "best prof ever" comments), so what's the problem? Yeah, so-so profs can get their ratings inflated (or deflated) a bit. Most people aren't going to log in to report a so-so experience, but that's not much different from any other user-review site. So you take it with a grain of salt, which is still better than going in blind.
posted by purplecrackers at 10:00 PM on March 22, 2012


Related Meta
posted by Forktine at 10:32 PM on March 22, 2012


An interesting, complicated, and (I'm sure some will disagree) related issue, is how topping connects with real feelings of anger or desires to control that are not unconnected from feelings that lead to abuse. I'm not implying that topping is abuse or that tops are abusive, but I also think these issues - the desire to consensually control or hurt - are not totally divorced from the non-consentual ways these feelings can come out. I imagine we don't talk about this much because we have to spend so much energy explaining to vanilla people that SM is not abuse, but I'd be really interested to listen into or participate in a conversation with people who top about what complicated feelings topping brings out for them.
posted by latkes at 4:21 PM on March 23, 2012


Topping (I gotta say I'm with Pat Califia here when I prefer to say "sadism") is weird because it is really almost entirely vicarious. And I say that as a sadist. There was a time in my early teens when I was drifting toward a normative English Vice form of masochism, but at a critical point I learned that there existed these mythical beings called female masochists. It was one of those imprinting moments that stays with you forever, and I never again had a desire to be tied up myself.

But it is weird, because it's about powerful feelings and loss of control and all kinds of wonderful symbols, but it's about other people actually having those powerful feelings and losing control so you can have the relatively thin gruel of a symbolic ascendancy.

I think normal people who aren't imprinted early can be seduced into masochism later in life because the feelings are their own attraction, but sadism is something pounded into you before you even know what sex is. Masochism is about feelings in your own body, but sadism is about a pure abstraction of power and control. That such ideas are associated with sex at all has to be due to the prevalence of domination and power arrangements in early child rearing so that these abstract concepts are foremost at imprinting moments.

I am not stupid enough to kid myself that there aren't bad people doing really bad things motivated by basically the same things that motivate me. I find it more rewarding and fulfilling to fulfill my desires by making someone else feel something that will make them happy and want to play with me again, but it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that others with similar desires might not be so scrupulous. It is frustrating and horrifying to be regarded as a pervert or monster when all I want to do is make my partner feel a degree of pleasure I'm incapable of experiencing myself. But really it's frustrating and horrifying to be human for similar reasons. The ways in which we can end up broken are myriad and amazing.

I have to admit there is a part of me that really likes the idea of being SuperTop star of the whole local scene. I think seeing the documentary Graphic Sexual Horror pretty much killed that fantasy though. I may get my rocks off fantasizing about whipping naked women, but I'd prefer not to have to admit that I'm also an asshole.
posted by localroger at 7:40 PM on March 23, 2012


Dear God what have you people been doing to my name?!
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


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