Some thoughts on ethics, safety, and conduct in BDSM: Part I

Part 2 of this essay is here.

The largest producer of BDSM porn, by far, that I am aware of is Kink.com.They’re headquartered in the old Armory building in San Francisco, where they produce controversy, BDSM porn, and demonstrations, though as near as I can tell it’s only the second one that actually makes them money.

Bear with me for a minute; this is just backstory. I’m going to get all Ranty McRanterson in a minute here.

Kink.com has something of a mixed reception in the BDSM community, as far as I’ve seen anyway, though my experiences with them have always been positive, and I quite like all the Kink.com folks I’ve met personally. (Their reception in the Christian anti-porn community is less mixed; when I was at Baycon talking to some of the folks who work for Kink, I heard stories about a Christian group who’d been picketing the Armory building with signs reading “End Torture Porn.” The irony in that is left as an exercise to the reader, though there was a part of me that wondered how many of the protesters were wearing crucifixes around their necks. But I digress.)

Kink.com was founded by a guy with a genuine interest in BDSM, and one of the things the company has done is try in various ways to support and give back to the BDSM community. There are some folks who take exception to that, and an argument can always be made that it’s hard for a for-profit company of any kind to really have the best interests of the community that supports it at heart; having said that, I do believe their heart is in the right place.

Recently, one of the folks from Kink.com called me to talk about a new project they’re launching, the BDSM Pledge Web site. The idea, as I understand it, is to create a kind of BDSM ‘Code of Conduct’ that folks could sign on to, post on their Web sites, and so forth.

It hasn’t formally launched yet, and they’re still soliciting comments about it. My opinion is that it’s an interesting idea, but I’d like to see more from it. A lot more.


Before I get to the rant, I need to digress for a moment about two of the notions anyone who’s at all familiar with the BDSM world has almost certainly encountered: “SSC” (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) and “RACK” (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).

These are two different-but-not-really notions about what it is that sets BDSM apart from abuse. The SSC folks emphasize that BDSM activities should, naturally, be safe, sane, and consensual. The RACK folks rightly protest that the notions of ‘safe’ and ‘sane’ are highly subjective. No kind of sexual activity (and indeed no activity in general) can ever truly be ‘safe,’ and ‘sane’ is a pretty damn slippery concept that’s often used as a blunt instrument against folks who do things in bed that other folks don’t much like. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that homosexuality was considered inherently ‘insane’ by the psychiatric community. They prefer instead to acknowledge the risk and say that BDSM is OK if the participants are aware of the risk and still consent to the activity.

Quite a lot of column inches have been wasted on the feud between these two camps. The BDSM Pledge comes down on the side of Safe, Sane, and Consensual, and the person I spoke to at Kink.com ruefully conceded that it’s got some of the RACK contingent’s backs up.

I personally am in neither camp. I think that both ideas are a load of bollocks.

Not because of what they say, mind you. I’ve written quite a lot about BDSM, and the issue of abuse is a central one, a defining element of kink as opposed to abuse. It’s what they don’t say that I find most annoying. Or, to be more precise, it’s the way that members of both camps often fail to apply their own principles that I most object to.


So here’s the part where I start to rant.

It has been my experience that the BDSM community as a whole gives a lot of lip service to the idea of ‘consent,’ but the practice doesn’t track with the preaching very well. I’ve already written about a friend of mine who was sexually assaulted by a prominent ‘leader’ in the BDSM community, but the problems that I see go beyond out-and-out assault.

The problems as I see them exist in three areas: constant, low-level non-consensual behavior, an inability to distinguish between consensual non-consent and real non-consent, and predatory behavior. And I think the three are all related.

Now, I’m absolutely not suggesting that everyone in the BDSM community is a bad person, of course. I’ve met many wonderful, interesting, compassionate, intelligent, friendly people in the community who are absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, however, the bad actors can mess things up for the people who are fantastic.

And I’m not even saying the BDSM community is any worse than society as a whole. But we can, and must, do better.

First, there’s the low-level non-consensual stuff I sometimes see at a conferences or play parties. It most often manifests as harassment of submissives, particularly female submissives; people swat their asses as they walk by, give them orders without negotiating whether or not it’s appropriate to do so, and otherwise behave as if their boundaries are irrelevant. (This isn’t entirely limited to men harassing women; it’s happened to me at play parties when I’ve been with a partner who was holding the reins.) In its more subtle manifestation, it’s a disregard for, sometimes even extending to a refusal to acknowledge, anyone who’s clearly in a submissive role.

Look, I get it if that’s your kink. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. You see those two ideas up there? You see the word they have in common? It’s “consensual.” That means, the submissive consents to the activity. Nobody should ever make assumptions that it is okay to disregard someone’s boundaries, or to touch someone, merely because that person is a submissive. This should be common sense. If you haven’t asked, don’t touch.

The folks in Master/slave or “TPE” (Total Power Exchange) relationships get wrapped around the axle on the same point. I know I’m likely to catch a lot of flak for this, but listen, guys: It’s a fantasy. You may feel like you have a relationship that is a “true” or “real” Master/slave relationship, and you might even feel like those folks who aren’t in relationships are poseurs or players, but it’s still a fantasy. The millisecond, and I mean the millisecond, the “slave” stops granting consent, it’s over. And if you try to make it keep going on after that point, you’re not a dom. You’re a rapist. You may think you’re entitled to be a rapist, because total power exchange whatever whatever, but then every rapist always feels entitled to rape, so it’s not like you’re special on that point.

I had an acquaintance, many years ago, who carried on to great length about how he was a “true” master and his slave was “truly” his property and how other people could “play” at BDSM but for them it was real because he owned her just as surely as he owned his toaster and yadda yadda yadda. He kept on about it right up until the moment she served him with divorce papers. Poor guy was gobsmacked; he never saw it coming. One’s toaster does not normally walk away with custody of one’s child and alimony when it wants a change of scenery. Again, this should be obvious. No matter how firmly someone has convinced himself (and it’s almost always a “him,” though I’ve seen a couple of women fall into this trap) that he he really owns his slave really for reals, the instant that person stops consenting to the arrangement (even if part of the fantasy is that that person has given up consent), it’s done. Anyone who can’t acknowledge that fact is best left as a matter for the police, not the BDSM community, to deal with.

Which brings me to the third variety of problem person, the out-and-out predator.

These people are difficult to deal with. They’re charming. They often rise to positions within a community that gives them respect and power. They host parties. They teach lessons. And folks don’t want to deal with the fact that they are bad people.

We are, as a species, breathtakingly gifted at ignoring evil. Part of it is selfishness; we don’t want to lose access to the things they give the community–the play spaces, the parties, the instruction. We find them likable, and don’t want to believe bad things (and guys, seriously, if somebody says “so-and-so assaulted me” and your response is “Well, I’ve never had a problem with him,” that’s fucked up on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start). We find it easy to blame the victim if we do become aware of something hinkey going on. (Astonishingly, I’ve seen women do this to other women–“Well, she should have known what would happen if she agreed to play privately with him; why was she leading him on?” or “Well, if she was a REAL submissive, she would be GRATEFUL for what happened!”) We talk the talk about consent, but when an uncomfortable problem manifests in our faces, we find it hard to walk the walk.

This stuff–all of it–needs to stop.


Which brings me back to the BDSM code of conduct and the tussle between SSC and RACK.

Folks, I don’t care. SSC and RACK come at the same general idea from different directions. Fighting about which one is better is squabbling over who should put the dishes away while the house is burning down. It doesn’t matter how you define “safe” and “sane” or what level of risk is acceptable between consenting adults. What matters–what really matters–is acting like consent is important. Not just talking about it.

All the time. In little ways and big ways.

That means, no casually swatting some self-identified submissive on the ass just because you’re a big domly dom and you think she’s cute, and that’s what you do with submissives. That means recognizing that consent is always important. It always matters, even when part of the fantasy is that it doesn’t.

And that especially means not making excuses when other people fail to respect the boundaries of those around them.

Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when you think it might cost you something.

My friend edwardmartiniii has this to say on the subject of inappropriate or abusive behavior in a community: “Don’t allow this behavior in your social group. It’s your group and that means that it’s your job (as well the jobs of everyone else in the group) to not allow the behavior you find undesirable. It’s your job to stop it. The people who are doing it might be clueless, or they might be malevolent, and I guess you are going to have to make that call, but the bottom line is that you are responsible for policing yourself and those around you. If you see something, then speak up. Right then. Act.”

And I agree.

So I would like to see a code of ethics that goes beyond “be safe, sane, and consensual, negotiate, and respect limits.” I’d like to see something that covers a lot more ground: Understand that roles are roles, but people are people, and it is your responsibility as a decent human being to treat everyone with respect. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t step on boundaries because you think the roles permit it. Don’t excuse others who do.

There’s more, and in Part 2 of this article I plan to talk quite a lot more about the things I’d like to see the community do.

Before that, though, I’d like to hear your reactions. What do you think? What problems, if any, have you seen in your communities? What would a code of ethical conduct for the subcultures you belong to look like?

126 thoughts on “Some thoughts on ethics, safety, and conduct in BDSM: Part I

  1. I agree with most of your rant; “consent” is the key word. I, personally, prefer “Informed Consent” but I can see where even that could be argued (are mindfucks “informed”?). The whole point is to have willing consentual partners, not targets of abuse.

    I don’t think, though, that any “code of conduct” is gonna work. If not done carefully it could just lead to finger pointing and accusations of abuse. Every persons relationships are unique and there will always be outliers. I don’t want to hand ammo to anyone.

    We need education; we need outreach; we don’t need standards nor codes nor pledges.

    • There must be interim help for victims while outreach happens. There must be an “all fronts advance” on getting rid of this horrible element among us. Fear keeps victims silent and that is harmful to all of us, including future victims. They NEED ammo, they need a way to say no and make it stick. And organizers need on paper, published rules that allow them to say okay, you are wrong, get out. And make it stick.

      • Yes. Exactly.

        When there is a set of “rules” or at least “standards” in place in a community, it helps. Especially for the new folks walking in, but also for the veterans, too. It helps for one to be able to look back and say, “a, b, and c are all standards this community talks about and upholds on a regular basis.” The precedence is important.

    • A code of conduct does have the possibility of turning into a prescriptionist, literalist ‘you have to do it this exact way or else you’re a Bad person’ instrument, sure. I am not sure if there’s a way around that, except perhaps to try to make a code of conduct that’s flexible enough to communicate the spirit of the intent without bogging down in a series of prescriptivist rules.

      I do think such a code is useful, though, because it can offer newcomers a sense of what is reasonably expected. For example, I know of one person I’ve talked to online who ended up in an abusive situation because she was told that submissives can’t set limits. A code of conduct that stressed the importance of boundaries and consent might have helped her to avoid that trap.

  2. I agree with most of your rant; “consent” is the key word. I, personally, prefer “Informed Consent” but I can see where even that could be argued (are mindfucks “informed”?). The whole point is to have willing consentual partners, not targets of abuse.

    I don’t think, though, that any “code of conduct” is gonna work. If not done carefully it could just lead to finger pointing and accusations of abuse. Every persons relationships are unique and there will always be outliers. I don’t want to hand ammo to anyone.

    We need education; we need outreach; we don’t need standards nor codes nor pledges.

  3. As you indicate, this problem is hardly limited to the BDSM communities. It happens at science fiction conventions, too. For some, a revealing costume looks like consent to touch. We do not take kindly to this, we have an in-your-face, one warning only policy. Cos-play is not consent at all. Ever.

    Until we learn how to teach children about their personal boundaries and that these are theirs alone, that they can change them if they want to but only if THEY want to, this problem will continue apace. Too many people are hitting puberty with no clue as to what they are in charge of. And the other side of this coin is, too many people are hitting puberty thinking the world owes them what they want to such an extent that they’re somehow exempt from observing basic human rights. Entitled, fantasy-ridden individuals reach adulthood having never had this bubble burst. It’s supposed to happen around age 4 to 6 years. No, the world does NOT revolve around you, and no you are NOT a special snowflake.

    Reality always works. But only for those of us who observe it. Not so much for those of us who have spent years or decades immersed in our own fucked-up versions. Humans hate hate hate to be wrong, about anything. But this level is like the worst wrong to be, and they fight coming out of it like wildcats. And the other broken people support them.

  4. As you indicate, this problem is hardly limited to the BDSM communities. It happens at science fiction conventions, too. For some, a revealing costume looks like consent to touch. We do not take kindly to this, we have an in-your-face, one warning only policy. Cos-play is not consent at all. Ever.

    Until we learn how to teach children about their personal boundaries and that these are theirs alone, that they can change them if they want to but only if THEY want to, this problem will continue apace. Too many people are hitting puberty with no clue as to what they are in charge of. And the other side of this coin is, too many people are hitting puberty thinking the world owes them what they want to such an extent that they’re somehow exempt from observing basic human rights. Entitled, fantasy-ridden individuals reach adulthood having never had this bubble burst. It’s supposed to happen around age 4 to 6 years. No, the world does NOT revolve around you, and no you are NOT a special snowflake.

    Reality always works. But only for those of us who observe it. Not so much for those of us who have spent years or decades immersed in our own fucked-up versions. Humans hate hate hate to be wrong, about anything. But this level is like the worst wrong to be, and they fight coming out of it like wildcats. And the other broken people support them.

  5. There must be interim help for victims while outreach happens. There must be an “all fronts advance” on getting rid of this horrible element among us. Fear keeps victims silent and that is harmful to all of us, including future victims. They NEED ammo, they need a way to say no and make it stick. And organizers need on paper, published rules that allow them to say okay, you are wrong, get out. And make it stick.

  6. One of my partners tells of an experience she had when she was taken to a munch by a former partner and dom of hers. He had her wearing her collar and cuffs and some other ‘marking’ identification clearly indicating that she was his submissive. While she was not physically harassed, she did experience the behavior you describe: no one there would talk to her directly. Needless to say, she did not enjoy that experience and I’m determined to take her to an event with a classier group of people!

    The worst part of this to me is that it is a self-perpetuating cycle. If people who are new to the BDSM world see that type of behavior, they very likely come to believe that this is they way that they too should act. In the case of my partner, she’s in a relatively small metropolitan area (Louisville, KY), with a proportionally small BDSM community. There’s really few groups from which a newbie can learn better behavior.

    As a contrast, I’ve never experienced this myself, even when I’m clearly in the submissive role. This may be a matter of location (Chicago / Milwaukee / Madison) or it may be simply because I’m male and prevailing social norms make it harder to treat me as ‘not there,’ even if I am naked save a collar and leash at the time.

    I think one thing our community needs is more general discussion of guidelines like the one you’re putting forth here and less “The One True Way” approach often associated with both RACK and SSC. I look forward to your next installment of this.

    • As a woman of color in BDSM social spaces, I’ve been treated as “not there” even when my white, male, partner was on his knees next to me, wearing my collar and cuffs.

      This crap goes pretty deep.

      N.

      • (OK, now that LJ is letting me respond, let’s see if I can remember what I tried to post this morning …)

        Wow … just wow. I wish I could express some doubt about this, but unfortunately I can only too easily believe it. I’ll just express sincere hope that this is something you don’t encounter very often.

    • Wait…

      @Awfulhorrid – “One of my partners tells of an experience she had when she was taken to a munch by a former partner and dom of hers. He had her wearing her collar and cuffs and some other ‘marking’ identification clearly indicating that she was his submissive. While she was not physically harassed, she did experience the behavior you describe: no one there would talk to her directly. Needless to say, she did not enjoy that experience and I’m determined to take her to an event with a classier group of people!”

      I am confused… you said that “no one would talk to her directly” and that because of this you feel that the people in attendance were unclassy?

      In my experience if someone is in their cuffs and collar and in attendance somewhere with their Top/Master/Domina whatever… it is always better to seek permission to talk to said submissive from their Top first and to never directly engage them… that having all of their “identifying” accouterments clearly says that the submissive is actively in service. I would never approach someone directly if they appeared to be in service even in a social setting, I would approach their Top first or none at all.

      • Re: Wait…

        If they’re in a social setting, they’re there to be social. If the dom doesn’t want them to talk, they can say so at the time or they can take their little play and go somewhere else. The rest of us did not ask to engage in such restrictions. Yes, it very much lacked class to assume that the sub is automatically engaging in submissive behavior towards anyone with which they did not agree to do so.

        If you’re seeking to have a scene with them, that’s a different matter, of course.

        • Re: Wait…

          Rules, Protocol & Ritual apply no matter what the setting… so stating that “If they’re in a social setting, they’re there to be social” does not mean that their individual protocols or etiquette no longer apply within that setting. By definition protocol is “a code prescribing strict adherence to correct etiquette and precedence.”

          For those of us who follow protocol of any kind it is NOT “a little play” they are rules of behavior that are to be followed all of the time. As a military wife I have a lot of protocol that I follow because it is what is expected of me and within that community it is a thing of HONOR to follow such protocol. So please don’t be so submissive of the choices others make for themselves or what is considered correct for their community.

          If you friend didn’t enjoy that part of her protocol then that is something that she should have discussed with her partner at the time. Its apart of the negotiation process. In the situation you mentioned, the people whom recognized her cuffs & collar as a sign of being “in service” and made the choice of following a generalized protocol of not addressing her directly where doing the right thing for our community. If her Dom had chosen to NOT have her wear all of her cuffs and whatnot, people may have approached her differently.

          • Re: Wait…

            If, as Graydancer has described elsewhere in these replies, the sub is next to their dom in some obvious protocol pose or something otherwise indicative of their status at the time, that would be different. If the sub is simply there at a party (you know, just standing there being a person who’s there to met other people) then it’s just rude to assume it’s your right to treat them in any way. To complete the picture, these jerks carried on this behavior despite the fact that she obviously wasn’t restricted in such a way. Even when she tried to be friendly, they were dismissive and went back to ignoring her.

            I’m sorry if I seemed dismissive of protocol play. I know that for some people it is an enjoyable activity and I wouldn’t go and interrupt a protocol scene, although I might enjoy watching it from a respectful distance. You understand military protocol? Think of it this way: the people in the described situation were trying to enact parade ground discipline in what should have been a NCO club setting. While the members present might not be free to speak to supervisors in just any manner they please (at least not without consequences), if someone insisted on “Airman Jones reports as ordered, sir” type of responses, it might be considered a little odd, to say the least.

  7. One of my partners tells of an experience she had when she was taken to a munch by a former partner and dom of hers. He had her wearing her collar and cuffs and some other ‘marking’ identification clearly indicating that she was his submissive. While she was not physically harassed, she did experience the behavior you describe: no one there would talk to her directly. Needless to say, she did not enjoy that experience and I’m determined to take her to an event with a classier group of people!

    The worst part of this to me is that it is a self-perpetuating cycle. If people who are new to the BDSM world see that type of behavior, they very likely come to believe that this is they way that they too should act. In the case of my partner, she’s in a relatively small metropolitan area (Louisville, KY), with a proportionally small BDSM community. There’s really few groups from which a newbie can learn better behavior.

    As a contrast, I’ve never experienced this myself, even when I’m clearly in the submissive role. This may be a matter of location (Chicago / Milwaukee / Madison) or it may be simply because I’m male and prevailing social norms make it harder to treat me as ‘not there,’ even if I am naked save a collar and leash at the time.

    I think one thing our community needs is more general discussion of guidelines like the one you’re putting forth here and less “The One True Way” approach often associated with both RACK and SSC. I look forward to your next installment of this.

  8. The first time I met a couple in a 24×7 D/s relationship was at a science fiction convention. I’m bad at dates, but I think it must have been about 25 or 30 years ago? Something about his attitude towards her rang my young alarm bells; I sought out an excuse to get talk to her out of his earshot to verify that she was okay. And I got rather insistent that she drop character long enough to do so.

    I took a huge ration of shit over that: it’s not sexy for people in 24×7 D/s relationships if they ever have to drop character for any reason, and it gets downright annoying if it happens every time they meet someone new who has to be reassured that the Dom’s control over the submissive truly is uncoerced. I was bullied into knocking that shit right off.

    Last year, we wrapped up a high-profile series of trials here in the St. Louis area. A triad who were some of the biggest names in the leather community, a male/female dom couple and their shared 24×7 D/s slave? Yeah, turned out not to be so consensual. She turned out to be a mentally retarded girl that they were keeping strung out on drugs to keep her non-verbal. There are dozens of men and women in the St. Louis area who now have to live with the fact that they took that couple’s word for it that it was by the slave’s consent that they did all of her talking for her, and that she had consented to have sex with them. And there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of customers of their website who’ve paid good money for what turns out to actually be rape porn. So far, the prosecutors are accepting people’s claims that they really didn’t know and only jailing the couple. So far.

    I felt a lot better about having been a bit of an asshole about 24×7 D/s when I was younger. If outsiders honestly can’t tell whether what you’re doing is consensual or coerced? That’s an unacceptable risk to put them in for your kink.

    – – – – –

    As someone who was an AIDS awareness/safer sex instructor early in the epidemic, my personal opinion is that in this context, pushing back against the word “safe” is a derailing tactic. Yes, most of us know that there is no such thing as “safe sex,” any more than there is such a thing as “safe driving.” But grown-up English speakers know that when we tell someone to “drive safely” we don’t mean “don’t drive at all, because no driving is actually 100% safe.” We mean “observe every safety precaution.”

    When somebody pushes back against the word “sane,” because after all, what is sanity? I also suspect a derailing tactic, unless they’re very, very new to this. In this context, insisting that your BDSM play be sane doesn’t mean “don’t have sex if you’re even slightly crazy or with anybody who’s even slightly crazy.” It means “don’t make yourself or other people crazier,” which in practice usually comes down to don’t push people’s buttons in ways that break them. As I was taught at a relatively young age, people are like campsites: you should leave them better than you found them. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

    Which leaves consensual, which to anybody who didn’t grow up in Redneckistan ought to be uncontroversial. But it’s obviously not, is it, because to some people, stopping to ask for unambiguous consent is unsexy. All I can say to those people, as my story above points out rather brutally, is that coerced consent is a crime and assumed consent is incredibly risky. Maybe it’s not anybody’s place to tell you how to behave in private? But insisting that you obtain explicit unambiguous consent in front of others if you’re going to involve them in your play even as spectators is a reasonable request. Observe it, or go play elsewhere. And if you choose the latter, it is entirely reasonable of us to involve the police, given the history, if we feel enough need to get third-party verification of somebody’s consent.

    • “Sane” can be a bit of a hot-button word. I have both PTSD and a diagnosed debilitating mental illness, but it’s not something that’s easy to spot i.e. I can drive, carry on a conversation, enter into legal contracts, and consent to have whatever freaky kind of sex of want in any sort of combination I want.

      And oh the fun I’ve had backing people into corners when they started the whole “sane = no crazies allowed” attitude. Particularly fun was watching somebody keep doubling up with the “I don’t mean you, I mean people who are X” only to discover that I was, in fact, both X and a volunteer at that very party. For several different values of X. Never has the phrase “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” been so appropriate, and so disastrously unfollowed.

      If what you mean by sane is “first, do not harm,” then really and truly good on you for it. But do be aware that’s not how everyone is using it, and that there’s still a lot of anti mental illness crap in the scene.

      • If sites are taking the stance that “you must be certified mentally healthy in all ways to play here,” I can see why they’re getting pushback, given that when I was in the leather community back around 1990, at least a quarter of the doms I met and at least a third of the subs were in the scene specifically to work out some past psychological trauma.

        Which I did not find fun, did not find sexy, did not enjoy being around, found to be an emotionally fraught minefield, and considered to be a circumstance that I and everyone else there lacked the competence to handle. Which made me unsurprised at the amount of drama. So maybe I do, on some level, understand space operators who want to set a “you must be at least ‘this’ sane to ride this ride” standard. I’m crazy for a living, but there’s a level of crazy beyond that where even I don’t feel safe with you around, myself.

    • ‘As someone who was an AIDS awareness/safer sex instructor early in the epidemic, my personal opinion is that in this context, pushing back against the word “safe” is a derailing tactic. Yes, most of us know that there is no such thing as “safe sex”‘

      To the extent that people stopped talking about “safe sex” and started talking about “safer sex” because it’s about assessing genuine risks rather than chasing after 100% safety. Was that change a “derailing tactic” too?

    • Response to above

      “The first time I met a couple in a 24×7 D/s relationship was at a science fiction convention. I’m bad at dates, but I think it must have been about 25 or 30 years ago? Something about his attitude towards her rang my young alarm bells; I sought out an excuse to get talk to her out of his earshot to verify that she was okay. And I got rather insistent that she drop character long enough to do so.”

      Good. No one can possibly be that averse to going out of character for that short a time. It wouldn’t kill the fantasy. Besides, how is the person supposed to function in public on thier own (supermarket, etc), if they don’t step out of character?

      “I took a huge ration of shit over that: it’s not sexy for people in 24×7 D/s relationships if they ever have to drop character for any reason, and it gets downright annoying if it happens every time they meet someone new who has to be reassured that the Dom’s control over the submissive truly is uncoerced. I was bullied into knocking that shit right off.”

      Yes, in order to examine a lie, ask yourself what it accomplishes and who does it serve.

      Who does it serve to say that a sub should never break character? The sub? How would five minutes of non sub time ruin an entire five year fantasy? And even if it did, and the sub weren’t being abused, it’s worth it to inconvenience some subs for the safety of others who are being abused behind that rationale.

      “Don’t ask questions”, in ANY scenario, sexual or not, should ALWAYS ring alarm bells, because if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide from the wider world.

  9. The first time I met a couple in a 24×7 D/s relationship was at a science fiction convention. I’m bad at dates, but I think it must have been about 25 or 30 years ago? Something about his attitude towards her rang my young alarm bells; I sought out an excuse to get talk to her out of his earshot to verify that she was okay. And I got rather insistent that she drop character long enough to do so.

    I took a huge ration of shit over that: it’s not sexy for people in 24×7 D/s relationships if they ever have to drop character for any reason, and it gets downright annoying if it happens every time they meet someone new who has to be reassured that the Dom’s control over the submissive truly is uncoerced. I was bullied into knocking that shit right off.

    Last year, we wrapped up a high-profile series of trials here in the St. Louis area. A triad who were some of the biggest names in the leather community, a male/female dom couple and their shared 24×7 D/s slave? Yeah, turned out not to be so consensual. She turned out to be a mentally retarded girl that they were keeping strung out on drugs to keep her non-verbal. There are dozens of men and women in the St. Louis area who now have to live with the fact that they took that couple’s word for it that it was by the slave’s consent that they did all of her talking for her, and that she had consented to have sex with them. And there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of customers of their website who’ve paid good money for what turns out to actually be rape porn. So far, the prosecutors are accepting people’s claims that they really didn’t know and only jailing the couple. So far.

    I felt a lot better about having been a bit of an asshole about 24×7 D/s when I was younger. If outsiders honestly can’t tell whether what you’re doing is consensual or coerced? That’s an unacceptable risk to put them in for your kink.

    – – – – –

    As someone who was an AIDS awareness/safer sex instructor early in the epidemic, my personal opinion is that in this context, pushing back against the word “safe” is a derailing tactic. Yes, most of us know that there is no such thing as “safe sex,” any more than there is such a thing as “safe driving.” But grown-up English speakers know that when we tell someone to “drive safely” we don’t mean “don’t drive at all, because no driving is actually 100% safe.” We mean “observe every safety precaution.”

    When somebody pushes back against the word “sane,” because after all, what is sanity? I also suspect a derailing tactic, unless they’re very, very new to this. In this context, insisting that your BDSM play be sane doesn’t mean “don’t have sex if you’re even slightly crazy or with anybody who’s even slightly crazy.” It means “don’t make yourself or other people crazier,” which in practice usually comes down to don’t push people’s buttons in ways that break them. As I was taught at a relatively young age, people are like campsites: you should leave them better than you found them. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

    Which leaves consensual, which to anybody who didn’t grow up in Redneckistan ought to be uncontroversial. But it’s obviously not, is it, because to some people, stopping to ask for unambiguous consent is unsexy. All I can say to those people, as my story above points out rather brutally, is that coerced consent is a crime and assumed consent is incredibly risky. Maybe it’s not anybody’s place to tell you how to behave in private? But insisting that you obtain explicit unambiguous consent in front of others if you’re going to involve them in your play even as spectators is a reasonable request. Observe it, or go play elsewhere. And if you choose the latter, it is entirely reasonable of us to involve the police, given the history, if we feel enough need to get third-party verification of somebody’s consent.

  10. As a woman of color in BDSM social spaces, I’ve been treated as “not there” even when my white, male, partner was on his knees next to me, wearing my collar and cuffs.

    This crap goes pretty deep.

    N.

  11. One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with this kind of behaviour is to always dress “dominant” when I go to play spaces, even if I intend to play the bottom while there. It helps that I am a bottom and not a sub. But I’ve found I get a lot less shit – I get the privilege – when I present as a dominant. I don’t get touched without consent, I don’t get ignored, I am treated with respect – or at least my boundaries are adhered to.

    And when I bitch about this topic in general, the victim-blamers point to the things I do to protect myself and say “see? You found a way around it, so you’re obviously in favor of the victims making changes to their own persons in order to prevent bad things from happening!”

    NO! That is not the point. I do that the same way I walk to my car with my keys in my hand and I don’t wear shoes that I can’t run in. Just because I’ve learned to take precautions doesn’t mean that I should have to.

    What’s that saying going around these days? The only one who can stop rape is the rapist – something like that.

    Telling people how to prevent their own abuse, while necessary, is not the solution. Stopping the abuse is. Submissives shouldn’t have to dress as doms to avoid unwanted behaviour – that’s not their kink and it’s preventing them from experiencing their kink in places where they are supposed to be allowed to go to experience their kink.

    I happen to switch, so I like dressing domly. But I do not like being required to dress domly (or in any particular style, for that matter). The solution is not for subbies to have to keep jumping out of their role to put doms in their places. The solution is for doms to back the fuck off and allow subbies to enjoy their role without threat.

    • But I’ve found I get a lot less shit – I get the privilege – when I present as a dominant.

      Okay, so I am not the only one who does this. That’s… validating, if sort of sad.

      • I do this too – but I find that it only sometimes works. I think being a person of color in the BDSM scene adds to the fucked up way I get seen. It’s really fucking annoying and has made me pull back from the scene a LOT. Especially because I’m there to LOOK for sub male partners, and for SOME REASON me dressing the part of the top, acting like a top, STILL gets me treated like a sub.

        I fucking hate it, and so don’t really go out to play spaces anymore unless they are vetted by people I trust deeply.

        N.

        • Wooooooow. There is a very very deep hole of screwed up assumptions underneath that. Like… people see someone dressed and acting like a top, but assume that… what? A person of color is just naturally submissive no matter the context?

          That’s fucked up.

    • I’m honestly a switch, but I’m thankful for the social effect of being a switch: namely, people interact with me and not the role I’m supposed to be playing.

      It’s kinda sad that it has that effect, really.

  12. One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with this kind of behaviour is to always dress “dominant” when I go to play spaces, even if I intend to play the bottom while there. It helps that I am a bottom and not a sub. But I’ve found I get a lot less shit – I get the privilege – when I present as a dominant. I don’t get touched without consent, I don’t get ignored, I am treated with respect – or at least my boundaries are adhered to.

    And when I bitch about this topic in general, the victim-blamers point to the things I do to protect myself and say “see? You found a way around it, so you’re obviously in favor of the victims making changes to their own persons in order to prevent bad things from happening!”

    NO! That is not the point. I do that the same way I walk to my car with my keys in my hand and I don’t wear shoes that I can’t run in. Just because I’ve learned to take precautions doesn’t mean that I should have to.

    What’s that saying going around these days? The only one who can stop rape is the rapist – something like that.

    Telling people how to prevent their own abuse, while necessary, is not the solution. Stopping the abuse is. Submissives shouldn’t have to dress as doms to avoid unwanted behaviour – that’s not their kink and it’s preventing them from experiencing their kink in places where they are supposed to be allowed to go to experience their kink.

    I happen to switch, so I like dressing domly. But I do not like being required to dress domly (or in any particular style, for that matter). The solution is not for subbies to have to keep jumping out of their role to put doms in their places. The solution is for doms to back the fuck off and allow subbies to enjoy their role without threat.

  13. But I’ve found I get a lot less shit – I get the privilege – when I present as a dominant.

    Okay, so I am not the only one who does this. That’s… validating, if sort of sad.

  14. I’m honestly a switch, but I’m thankful for the social effect of being a switch: namely, people interact with me and not the role I’m supposed to be playing.

    It’s kinda sad that it has that effect, really.

  15. Not far enough

    Franklin,

    It’s proof that you’re doing it right that my “response” to your post ended up turning into a blog post on http://www.graydancer.com/?p=1429 . So I won’t take up much of your page, except to say I mostly agree with you.

    However, I disagree that it’s always the tops who are ignoring the bottoms. Any man who’s worn a kilt around inebriated females knows that “inappropriate touching” (or just the simply rude and invasive “so, whatcha got on under there?”) happens. That’s not an excuse for tops mistreating bottoms – it’s simply an observation that the problem is even more prevalent than you say.

    I also take issue with the gent who insisted someone “come out of character” to have a discussion. I realize that for him, and for many, the idea of a D/s relationship falls into role play and kinky games. That’s fair, I’ve played a few myself.

    But for some – including some relationships I’ve been in, or hope to be in – it’s not something you “come out” of. It’s not a character, it’s YOU. So asking someone to “come out” of it is like asking a fundamentalist to “come out” of being Christian to answer questions. Asking a man to “come out” of being a father to answer whether he wanted his kids. Or maybe like asking you, Franklin, to “come out” of being poly to “really” discuss whether you are happy in your relationships.

    I don’t know if that was the case in what the gent above relates – my point is that NEITHER DOES HE. It’s worth considering the possibility that, for example, when you go to an event in collar and cuffs and in obvious subservience to someone – people not talking to you can be considered a mark of respect for your apparent choice of relationship. I know if I saw a couple like that, I would never address the small-letter-type without first making sure it was ok with the Big-Letter-Type. If so, then great! I can have a wonderful discussion. But to just go in and start talking? Unless little-letter has chatted with me first, I’m going to respect the apparent boundaries of their relationship. Much like I wouldn’t ask you and your partners “Ok, sure, you’re poly, but which of you is the REAL couple?”

    Can’t wait for part 2!

    • Re: Not far enough

      Agreed with “breaking character” but not agreed on “don’t talk to submissives” – it’s not my job to presume what the relationship is, and ignoring a submissive that ISN’T in such a situation is just plain rude.

      If nothing else, *I* haven’t consented to that scene, so the domme doesn’t get to tell *me* who I can and cannot talk to. If the submissive isn’t allowed to *respond*, that’s fine.

      In a space with an *explicit* protocol to the contrary, we’re also fine, since then I’ve consented by being there. The idea of “implied consent” in a BDSM space is so horrifying that I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, though. It must be EXPLICIT protocol.

      • Re: Not far enough

        I think we have a misunderstanding here.

        I’m not talking about “ignoring” the submissive. If I wanted to talk, I would simply say to the Big-Letter-Type “Do you mind if I address your submissive directly?” Then I would abide by their custom. Because I’m polite. If the submissive addressed me directly, then I’d respond as I would to any other person, without asking permission.

        Maybe an analogy would help: I meet a couple who are obviously together, obviously wearing wedding bands, have the same last name, they are, as far as I can tell, married. I meet them, say, at a business convention – a non-kink, non-poly event.

        If I am attracted to the woman, I will not just start to ask her out. The default role is that they are most likely a monogamous couple, and it would be rude if, over dinner, I said “My god, you have beautiful eyes. I really like what you’re saying. You’d probably be great in bed- wanna fuck?”

        If at some point in conversation I say “yes, and I’m polyamorous, that means -” and they light up in big smiles and say “Hey, we are too!” and suddenly she leans in and puts her hand on my knee, and he starts massaging my neck – then it’s a different situation.

        It’s not ignoring the person. It’s respecting the choices they’ve made, as far as possible.

        • Re: Not far enough

          > It’s not ignoring the person. It’s respecting the choices they’ve made.

          But that’s half my point. You don’t KNOW if they’ve made that choice. The assumption that ALL submissives have AUTOMATICALLY ceded speaking privileges to their domme is completely at odds with the assumption that BDSM is about individual consent and negotiation. It creates a social default that “if you are submissive, you require your dominant’s permission to talk.” Speaking as a submissive, I’d find that an extraordinarily insulting and de-humanizing behaviour to run in to on a regular basis.

          This may be partly a cultural difference – in my circles, such behaviour is extraordinarily rare. A submissive might tell you that you’ll need their domme’s permission before playing with them, but asking the submissive directly isn’t considered at all rude or inappropriate – the submissive will just let you know if they need their domme’s permission. It’s often the submissive that goes and asks, too, since not everyone is going to feel comfortable interacting with a third party.

          Even if it’s common, though, assuming it as a default seems like it invalidates everyone who DOESN’T choose this as a default.

          I’ll also happily ask married women out without checking with their husband – I trust the wife to be honest with her husband and to let me know if there’s any boundaries I need to respect.

          • Re: Not far enough

            Really? You’ll ask a married woman out in front of her husband, without any indication beforehand that she’s poly? Interesting social norms where you are…may I suggest you stay out of Texas?

            > The assumption that ALL submissives have AUTOMATICALLY ceded speaking privileges to their domme is completely at odds with the assumption that BDSM is about individual consent and negotiation.

            Again, I believe this is where you and I are talking about two different scenarios. I don’t think all submissives do anything – in fact, I tend to avoid hyperbole EVERY CHANCE I GET! (see what I did there?)

            Ahem. What I’m talking about is a situation where I meet a couple, and the D-type is looking all D-ish and the S-type is wearing a collar (that, in my circles, is usually the significant symbol in the situation) and standing head bowed, hands together, perhaps slightly behind and to the side of the D-type, or kneeling next to their leg.

            In THAT situation, it would be very rude for me to intrude upon the bubble of submission they’ve created for themselves. So I would ask the D-type if it was appropriate, because yes, I prefer direct communication. If they said “no” I would respect that.

            Other people who identify as submissives come in as many varieties as Catholics, Republicans, Geeks, Cosplayers, or Luddites. Taste the rainbow, as it were, and certainly if a submissive addresses me directly, I’m NOT one of those who looks at the D-type and says “HOW DARE THEY!” in a fit of domly wrath.

            So I hope you understand, this is not an assumption about submissives, it is a cultural nicety among the people that I hang out with, and it has, in my experience, been always appreciated

          • Re: Not far enough

            > without any indication beforehand that she’s poly?

            See, what I said was “I’ll also happily ask married women out without checking with their husband.” I don’t ask out non-polyamorous people, except possibly by accident.

            > In THAT situation, it would be very rude for me to intrude upon the bubble of submission they’ve created for themselves.

            If the situation is “the domme is scening, having a conversation with, or otherwise clearly sharing a private moment with their sub” then, yeah, of course it would be rude to interrupt. It would be rude to interrupt anyone else in those circumstances, though.

            If you’re assuming everyone who has a collar and is in close proximity to someone that looks “dominant” is in that category, however, then you’re enforcing your particular style of play without the submissive’s consent. I speak as someone who wears a collar and leash, and walks behind my girlfriend, head bowed, hands together…

            > this is not an assumption about submissives

            Yes, it is. It is absolutely and unequivocally the ASSUMPTION that you should ask the domme before talking to any submissive that matches this particular appearance.

            > it is a cultural nicety among the people that I hang out with

            My point is, there are people who would not appreciate this. I am one of them. If it works amongst your friends, great. Keep it amongst your friends, and don’t push it as a community standard – that only serves to exclude everyone who DOESN’T view a collar as a sign of ownership (hint: I am not owned)

          • Re: Not far enough

            “If it works amongst your friends, great. Keep it amongst your friends, and don’t push it as a community standard – that only serves to exclude everyone who DOESN’T view a collar as a sign of ownership”

            See I have lives in 3 different areas of the US (Midwest, Midsouth, PacNW) and I have played in the deep south and the NE as well… in all of those regions it have been my persona experience that this kind of behavior is actually a cultural norm. It is safe to assume that if someone is collared & cuffed, as the Original Poster described, that person is to be considered “in service” and it is the polite thing to go through their Top/Dom/Domina first before directly engaging the submissive/bottom/slave. Sure if their Top is not around you could ask the bottom directly if their protocol allows for direct conversation with other Tops and if they are they will say so and if they are not they will direct you to their Top.

            In my experience it IS the polite thing to do.

      • Re: Not far enough

        This is when I wish LJ used the “like button” system. I would click it for all your responses to the horribly assumptive & dehumanizing “ask the dom first” scenarios.

    • Re: Not far enough

      Well, congratulations, Ropecast. Everybody else in the St. Louis leather scene agreed with you. Which is why they’re all party to the nearly decade-long rape and torture of someone whose consent was coerced by force and psychoactive drugs.

      Shit like this is why, no matter what my personal kinks are, you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near the leather community on their best day.

      When I see a man (especially) bullying a woman, and using force or the threat of force to make him obey her, and denying her the right to even speak in order to express or withhold consent, I am looking at one of (at least) two things: I am looking at a consensual 24×7 D/s relationship, or I am looking at ongoing horrific domestic abuse. Is it your position that, if they’re wearing expensive enough costuming or if they paid admission fee to a kink-themed event, that’s all the evidence I should need? Uh, no. Is it your position that I should simply not care, that I should look the other way while (potentially) a woman is being raped and tortured? Uh, hell no.

      If neither I nor anyone I know has obtained her word on it under circumstances where she is free of his supervision and/or threat? Fuck no. At the very least, I’m not okay with it and need to be elsewhere. I may even call the cops. And you do not want me to do that, not in Missouri, because if I’m wrong, it won’t matter if she consented or not: Missouri is not a “consent to assault” state, all BDSM is legally fraught.

      But I will not be party, even as a silent bystander, to rape and domestic abuse. So isn’t it better to periodically step out of the role long enough to assure everyone that no, really, the submissive has given uncoerced consent?

      (And if this isn’t a kink thing, if this isn’t a role, if you really do need to 24×7 domestically abuse your partner for some reason? If you, or whoever she knew before you, have left her so brutalized that she can no longer affirmatively assert consent? Then hell yes I will call the cops. If actual domestic abuse, as opposed to role-played domestic abuse, is your thing, you need to be in jail and she needs to be in treatment.)

      • Re: Not far enough

        Wow, I can see you feel strongly about this. So I’ll just ignore your rude and confrontational tone and ask if you do the same for all marriages? Since there are far more abusive, raping, non-consentual fear based relationships in that particular institution. But since it’s your duty not to be part of it, you must insist that anyone wearing a wedding ring take it off and talk to you “out of role” so you can be sure.

        Of course in an abusive situation, something should be done. My problem with your statement is that you, by your own admission, are not able to distinguish between an abusive situation and a chosen relationship. So if you are concerned – and believe me, I’m glad you are – then perhaps you should contact someone more in tune with the actual customs of the community.

        Going up to someone, separating them from their primary support system, and then bullying them into answering your questions “out of character”? That’s not a solution, Mr. Hicks. That’s just a different kind of abuse, at the very least rude.

        My suggestion is not that abuse doesn’t happen. It happens all over the place. I’m suggesting that discounting an entire lifestyle choice because of a certain case you’re familiar with (and by the way, I’m familiar with it too, it was horrific, I agree) may not be the best strategy.

        • Re: Not far enough

          Would I be just as likely to call the cops on a guy who was emotionally and physically abusing his wife if his wife acted afraid or unwilling to talk in front of him in a non-BDSM setting?

          Is this even a question? Are you saying that you wouldn’t?

        • Re: Not far enough

          > perhaps you should contact someone more in tune with the actual customs of the community.

          That only works when the community isn’t actively protecting abusers. From what I’ve heard, the majority of BDSM communities that deal with abuse issues, also end up passively (or even actively!) supporting the abuser by refusing to investigate, exactly because of such concerns.

          So, since the community-writ-large has repeatedly failed to police itself, responsibility falls on each individual to make sure that things are okay.

          Given that confronting the person in front of their abuser is unlikely to produce anything useful… you sort of have to talk to them away from their “primary support system”.

          > discounting an entire lifestyle choice because of a certain case you’re familiar with may not be the best strategy.

          No one here is saying that BDSM isn’t acceptable, or even that 24/7 power play isn’t acceptable (they are saying that actual ownership is a bullshit concept, but you don’t seem to be arguing that). What people are saying is that sometimes you need to check and make sure things are still in the realm of BDSM and not the realm of abuse. You can’t just blithely assume that a lack of safewords means consent.

          If you’re at a PUBLIC event, then you need to make sure that consent is a PUBLIC action before you do anything else. Most communities let this slide, but it absolutely HAS to be, from a LEGAL standpoint, possible for me to personally confirm that this is consensual.

          If I cannot PERSONALLY confirm that a flogging I’m witnessing is consensual, then I’ve just witnessed an assault. This is a crime. I now have a legal obligation to call the police (otherwise I am guilty of a new crime!)

          Getting two two innocent BDSM practitioners arrested is a horrible thing, and I never want to be part of that. The ONLY way to prevent that is to make consent OBVIOUS.

          Yes, I have in fact threatened to call the police because a person was unwilling to “break character” and admit that it was a BDSM relationship, not abuse.

          The cost of “breaking character” is 30 seconds of your time. If you get a lot of new comers at your events, you can develop all sorts of systems to ensure you’re not spending 20 minutes/day answering to all of them.

          The cost of letting ONE abuser slide through the cracks is ten YEARS of a person being tortured.

          30 seconds of discomfort or 10 years of torture.

          This is not a difficult choice. Even if you only ever run in to ONE abuser in your entire life, you will have done VASTLY more good by questioning consent.

          • Re: Not far enough

            Thank you. But I must add one thing to that. You say that “since the community-write-large has repeatedly failed to police itself, responsibility falls on each individual.”

            I say: responsibility always falls on each individual. I’m not even an expert in the field, and I know enough social psychology to know that diffusion of responsibility is one of those things that you always find at the site of monstrous evil. Always. Without exception. Any time you outsource your conscience to anyone, whether to a superior, or to an expert, or to the community, you are volunteering, should it come to that, to hesitate in the face of evil. Just like almost literally the entire St. Louis leather community did. (I heard from a total of 3 people who left events or scenes because something about this triad “didn’t seem right” to them. Not one of them took any further steps.)

            I do know how high the false alarm rate on this can be. And I know, more than most people, how dangerous false alarms are. But I also know that, in the end, we are all responsible for our own moral choices, and not to choose is a choice.

            I also know that the false alarm rate is, potentially, dangerously low. I mentioned, above, that it’s not uncommon to find both doms and subs with significant mental health issues in the community, or at least it was very common when I was in it 20 years ago?

            I also know, both from first-hand experience then and second-hand report since, that the community attracts abusers and rapists, looking for validation for their “lifestyle,” the way that any attempt at Norse revivalist paganism attracts neo-Nazis. If Kink.com is taking flack for policing against those people in intrusive ways? I don’t have any difficulty taking sides in that fight. None whatsoever. I can take the side of people who’ll overlook actual rape and domestic abuse in others if it means they won’t be inconvenienced in their kink; or I can save lives and sanity by imposing minor inconvenience.

            That there are people who would choose otherwise and that these people are not challenged is why I do not self-identify as leather or BDSM.

        • Re: Not far enough

          Going up to someone, separating them from their primary support system, and then bullying them into answering your questions “out of character”? That’s not a solution, Mr. Hicks. That’s just a different kind of abuse, at the very least rude.

          mantic_angel already responded very eloquently, but I wanted to chime in as well.

          The ONLY way to discern whether a person truly consented to something is to hear it directly from that person, in a situation removed from the suspected abuser. Perhaps it is “separating them from their primary support system,” but that’s part of being a grownup.

          Even a 24/7 submissive is still an adult person who lives in the context of a society and is, ultimately, responsible for his or her own behavior in the eyes of the law. Asking them to verify their consent isn’t asking them to “break character” or forcing them to be someone they aren’t. It’s simply asking them to abide by the rules of the society they live in.

          You talk about respecting the customs of BDSM relationships and that’s important, but there are times when other customs have to take precedence. Someone who witnesses an assault is legally bound to report it to law enforcement. Refusing to verify one’s consent to such activity puts another human being in a terrible ethical and legal position. It can also put one’s dominant partner into legal jeopardy. If someone is so submissive that they can’t “come out” of the role to verify their consent to a concerned party, what happens when their Dom is arrested and they have to testify in court? Because in my experience judges don’t let you have the person accused of assaulting you come up on the witness stand and tell you what to say.

          You talk about other roles that people can’t simply “come out” of, like being married or being Christian. But I can’t think of any other chosen roles in which an adult cannot freely verify their consent. Furthermore, societal rules and laws do dictate that we set those roles aside at certain times. The evangelical Christian schoolteacher who refrains from proselytizing in the classroom doesn’t cease to be a Christian, but they do put that role aside when they are on the job. There are plenty of situations in which I behave in ways that go against “who I am” because custom/culture/law demands it. It doesn’t mean I cease to be who and what I am–it simply means that in human society, we all have multiple roles and sometimes one takes precedence over another.

  16. Not far enough

    Franklin,

    It’s proof that you’re doing it right that my “response” to your post ended up turning into a blog post on http://www.graydancer.com/?p=1429 . So I won’t take up much of your page, except to say I mostly agree with you.

    However, I disagree that it’s always the tops who are ignoring the bottoms. Any man who’s worn a kilt around inebriated females knows that “inappropriate touching” (or just the simply rude and invasive “so, whatcha got on under there?”) happens. That’s not an excuse for tops mistreating bottoms – it’s simply an observation that the problem is even more prevalent than you say.

    I also take issue with the gent who insisted someone “come out of character” to have a discussion. I realize that for him, and for many, the idea of a D/s relationship falls into role play and kinky games. That’s fair, I’ve played a few myself.

    But for some – including some relationships I’ve been in, or hope to be in – it’s not something you “come out” of. It’s not a character, it’s YOU. So asking someone to “come out” of it is like asking a fundamentalist to “come out” of being Christian to answer questions. Asking a man to “come out” of being a father to answer whether he wanted his kids. Or maybe like asking you, Franklin, to “come out” of being poly to “really” discuss whether you are happy in your relationships.

    I don’t know if that was the case in what the gent above relates – my point is that NEITHER DOES HE. It’s worth considering the possibility that, for example, when you go to an event in collar and cuffs and in obvious subservience to someone – people not talking to you can be considered a mark of respect for your apparent choice of relationship. I know if I saw a couple like that, I would never address the small-letter-type without first making sure it was ok with the Big-Letter-Type. If so, then great! I can have a wonderful discussion. But to just go in and start talking? Unless little-letter has chatted with me first, I’m going to respect the apparent boundaries of their relationship. Much like I wouldn’t ask you and your partners “Ok, sure, you’re poly, but which of you is the REAL couple?”

    Can’t wait for part 2!

  17. “Sane” can be a bit of a hot-button word. I have both PTSD and a diagnosed debilitating mental illness, but it’s not something that’s easy to spot i.e. I can drive, carry on a conversation, enter into legal contracts, and consent to have whatever freaky kind of sex of want in any sort of combination I want.

    And oh the fun I’ve had backing people into corners when they started the whole “sane = no crazies allowed” attitude. Particularly fun was watching somebody keep doubling up with the “I don’t mean you, I mean people who are X” only to discover that I was, in fact, both X and a volunteer at that very party. For several different values of X. Never has the phrase “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” been so appropriate, and so disastrously unfollowed.

    If what you mean by sane is “first, do not harm,” then really and truly good on you for it. But do be aware that’s not how everyone is using it, and that there’s still a lot of anti mental illness crap in the scene.

  18. Re: Not far enough

    Agreed with “breaking character” but not agreed on “don’t talk to submissives” – it’s not my job to presume what the relationship is, and ignoring a submissive that ISN’T in such a situation is just plain rude.

    If nothing else, *I* haven’t consented to that scene, so the domme doesn’t get to tell *me* who I can and cannot talk to. If the submissive isn’t allowed to *respond*, that’s fine.

    In a space with an *explicit* protocol to the contrary, we’re also fine, since then I’ve consented by being there. The idea of “implied consent” in a BDSM space is so horrifying that I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, though. It must be EXPLICIT protocol.

  19. I see a lot of people in subculture communities preaching about how enlightened and accepting they are, but in reality I find that any group of people contains the same percentage of assholes and idiots as any other group, whether they are poly people, BDSM folks, Christians, Democrats, or figure skaters (Okay, I actually have no experience with figure skaters. Maybe they really ARE enlightened!)

    I expect this in groups, so it doesn’t surprise or upset me. But I see outsiders use the bad behavior of a few members of a group to denigrate the whole group. All doms are rapists. All poly people are emotionally dysfunctional. All Christians are bigots. etc.

    In the BDSM scene, there is a lot of opportunity to act in non-consensual ways. And yet, I’ve seen so much non-consensual stuff happen in so many other areas. I’m not sure the BDSM community is any better or worse than any other community, but they will suffer more when violations come to light because people already perceive BDSM as being dysfunctional and are looking for “evidence” to support this belief.

    So is an ethical code of conduct useful for such groups? I don’t know. I got into swinging and then poly without having any experience in those areas, and without knowing other people who practiced these relationship styles. Now I look at discussion forums and I see people giving advice that would have been useful to me when I started–advice about how I should expect to be treated and how I should treat others. My ignorance caused a lot of hurt and angst and so that kind of advice, perhaps in the form of a “code of conduct,” would have been useful.

    I think such codes would be very useful for people like me who are just ignorant or inexperienced. But there are always going to be predators in every group who will simply ignore these kinds of guidelines. They aren’t interested in protecting their partners, they are simply interested in getting what they want. Codes are useless for such people.

    Where they might come in handy, however, is for showing their victims (or potential victims) how they deserve to be treated. You can tell a sub that they always have the right to revoke their consent, at any time and for any reason, even in a 24/7 D/S relationship. It might not stop their partner from doing things without their consent, but it might help them decide to get out of that relationship and/or report the behavior to someone else.

    And that latter part is important, too, I think. If you consent to being tied up and flogged, and your partner does something else that you did *not* consent to, the general public is going to claim that “you asked for it.” But the BDSM community should know better. So perhaps any code of conduct should not just focus on the behavior or the people involved in a particular relationship, but also on the behavior of the community when violations are reported.

    When my son’s school started a new anti-bullying program, they focused a great deal of attention on bystander behavior. In other words, they didn’t simply tell kids not to bully, or tell victims how to respond to bullying. They insisted that anyone who witnessed bullying had a responsibility, as well. AND they gave them the appropriate skills to do so. Perhaps something like this is a necessary part of any BDSM code of ethics, so that we don’t have situations where someone gathers up the courage to say, “So-and-so raped me” only to hear, “Well *I’ve* never had a problem with him!”

    • “In the BDSM scene, there is a lot of opportunity to act in non-consensual ways. And yet, I’ve seen so much non-consensual stuff happen in so many other areas. I’m not sure the BDSM community is any better or worse than any other community”

      The risk is amplified because of the behaviour: In a poly/Christian/etc. meetup, you can’t just pull off your belt and start beating your significant other. In a BDSM event, that’s actually fairly tame behaviour.

      “Codes are useless for such people.”

      That’s the point. A GOOD code of conduct is pushing OTHER people to check in and make sure things are okay. It’s making sure the abuse victims are aware that what’s happening isn’t okay, and that the community will side with the victim rather than pretending nothing is wrong.

      It’s not about getting the predator to play by the rules, it’s about creating an environment that’s hostile to the predator.

      The anti-bullying program at your son’s school sounds like exactly the sort of thing that’s useful πŸ™‚

      • A GOOD code of conduct is pushing OTHER people to check in and make sure things are okay. It’s making sure the abuse victims are aware that what’s happening isn’t okay, and that the community will side with the victim rather than pretending nothing is wrong.

        Yes, exactly! You put it much more succinctly than I did.

      • It’s not about getting the predator to play by the rules, it’s about creating an environment that’s hostile to the predator.

        THIS. This is what I have been trying to say for years in a variety of contexts.

        This.

    • I think such codes would be very useful for people like me who are just ignorant or inexperienced. But there are always going to be predators in every group who will simply ignore these kinds of guidelines. They aren’t interested in protecting their partners, they are simply interested in getting what they want. Codes are useless for such people.

      That’s true. A predator or a sociopath will not, by definition, be constrained by a social code of conduct.

      But where a code of conduct IS useful, I think, is in educating people in the community not to tolerate predators. It is easy for people to rationalize looking the other way when they hear about abuse; a code of conduct that says, clearly and directly, ‘it is the duty of members of this community to take a stand against abusive behavior’ won’t directly affect the predators but it will indirectly affect the predators by making the community less tolerant of predation.

  20. I see a lot of people in subculture communities preaching about how enlightened and accepting they are, but in reality I find that any group of people contains the same percentage of assholes and idiots as any other group, whether they are poly people, BDSM folks, Christians, Democrats, or figure skaters (Okay, I actually have no experience with figure skaters. Maybe they really ARE enlightened!)

    I expect this in groups, so it doesn’t surprise or upset me. But I see outsiders use the bad behavior of a few members of a group to denigrate the whole group. All doms are rapists. All poly people are emotionally dysfunctional. All Christians are bigots. etc.

    In the BDSM scene, there is a lot of opportunity to act in non-consensual ways. And yet, I’ve seen so much non-consensual stuff happen in so many other areas. I’m not sure the BDSM community is any better or worse than any other community, but they will suffer more when violations come to light because people already perceive BDSM as being dysfunctional and are looking for “evidence” to support this belief.

    So is an ethical code of conduct useful for such groups? I don’t know. I got into swinging and then poly without having any experience in those areas, and without knowing other people who practiced these relationship styles. Now I look at discussion forums and I see people giving advice that would have been useful to me when I started–advice about how I should expect to be treated and how I should treat others. My ignorance caused a lot of hurt and angst and so that kind of advice, perhaps in the form of a “code of conduct,” would have been useful.

    I think such codes would be very useful for people like me who are just ignorant or inexperienced. But there are always going to be predators in every group who will simply ignore these kinds of guidelines. They aren’t interested in protecting their partners, they are simply interested in getting what they want. Codes are useless for such people.

    Where they might come in handy, however, is for showing their victims (or potential victims) how they deserve to be treated. You can tell a sub that they always have the right to revoke their consent, at any time and for any reason, even in a 24/7 D/S relationship. It might not stop their partner from doing things without their consent, but it might help them decide to get out of that relationship and/or report the behavior to someone else.

    And that latter part is important, too, I think. If you consent to being tied up and flogged, and your partner does something else that you did *not* consent to, the general public is going to claim that “you asked for it.” But the BDSM community should know better. So perhaps any code of conduct should not just focus on the behavior or the people involved in a particular relationship, but also on the behavior of the community when violations are reported.

    When my son’s school started a new anti-bullying program, they focused a great deal of attention on bystander behavior. In other words, they didn’t simply tell kids not to bully, or tell victims how to respond to bullying. They insisted that anyone who witnessed bullying had a responsibility, as well. AND they gave them the appropriate skills to do so. Perhaps something like this is a necessary part of any BDSM code of ethics, so that we don’t have situations where someone gathers up the courage to say, “So-and-so raped me” only to hear, “Well *I’ve* never had a problem with him!”

  21. I was directed to this post from my friends of friends list. I am very interested in reading Part 2 of your rant.

    One thing that jumps out at me is the whole I can treat you as a submissive because you are clearly submissive. When the reality is, just because someone is a submissive doesn’t mean in anyway that they are submissive to some asshole they don’t even know who will take liberties and touch when not invited to do so.

    I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?

    You raise some very valid points.

    Oh, and so I don’t miss the second part of your rant I am going to add you. I hope that is okay?

    • Yeah, no shit. There is no difference in my mind between “I know you submit to someone else, so I don’t need your consent to top you” and “I know you had sex with someone else, so I don’t need your consent to fuck you.”

    • “I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?”

      Anyone who did that around me would get exactly one warning, followed by a citizen’s arrest and calling the police.

      Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the norm πŸ™

      • Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the norm πŸ™

        Then that is a fake Dom/Domme, because a real one wouldn’t put up with that shit. Someone just playing at it. IMHO

    • non-consent

      “I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?”

      How does ANYONE act when they are touched without their consent?

      • Re: non-consent

        There were a couple of things in the post that made it clear that people are touched without their permission and that is part of the problem being ranted about:

        First, there’s the low-level non-consensual stuff I sometimes see at a conferences or play parties. It most often manifests as harassment of submissives, particularly female submissives; people swat their asses as they walk by, give them orders without negotiating whether or not it’s appropriate to do so, and otherwise behave as if their boundaries are irrelevant.

        And, Nobody should ever make assumptions that it is okay to disregard someone’s boundaries, or to touch someone, merely because that person is a submissive. This should be common sense. If you haven’t asked, don’t touch.

        My question was more to a trust arrangement between the Dom and sub, where it would seem that the Dom has the DUTY to protect the sub, especially from non-consensual contact. This is my take on the situation, and could be completely opposite of every one else’s experience.

        I don’t want to put words in the mouth of but that seems to be one of the 3 main things the rant was about. That the sub can be in an abusive situation and may be too afraid to say NO and so is then abused or touched by other people too. That it is for the sub to give consent, but it seemed in addition to that the Dom/Domme should be protective too.

        I may be completely off base, but that was part of what I was reading there.

        • Re: non-consent

          And while I agree I would also like to point out that this kind of behavior exists in everyday life not just in the cultural context of the Leather lifestyle.

          I can recall more times that a random person in public has made such gestures such as cat calls, slaps on the ass, and whatnot in everyday life when I am standing right there with my husband. Hell I am the dominate one in my marriage and everyday life yet when I am with my husband, the high speed soldier type, people ASSUME that he is the dominate one and that it’s ok to treat me “less than”. Its not just a problem within the context of which we are talking about… it exists in our everyday world culture.

          Abuse of another human being is wrong no matter how it is disguised… “lifestyle”, “a happy marriage”, or “spiritual doctrine” or what have you… I have personally seen more counts of inappropriate behavior towards another in the context of “what the vanilla world does” vs the leather world. In my experience, and I can only speak from my experience, when someone has been identified as a predator or abuser they are blacklisted and the folks in the community become hyper-aware of their surroundings for some time protecting “their own” as much as possible… getting the victims help and making sure that the aggressor knows first hand that their behavior is not acceptable in their community. Again, I can only speak for my experience and not that of others. Like I said before, no matter the community… ugly shit happens and we should stand up together to rise above it.

  22. I was directed to this post from my friends of friends list. I am very interested in reading Part 2 of your rant.

    One thing that jumps out at me is the whole I can treat you as a submissive because you are clearly submissive. When the reality is, just because someone is a submissive doesn’t mean in anyway that they are submissive to some asshole they don’t even know who will take liberties and touch when not invited to do so.

    I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?

    You raise some very valid points.

    Oh, and so I don’t miss the second part of your rant I am going to add you. I hope that is okay?

  23. Yeah, no shit. There is no difference in my mind between “I know you submit to someone else, so I don’t need your consent to top you” and “I know you had sex with someone else, so I don’t need your consent to fuck you.”

  24. Re: Not far enough

    Well, congratulations, Ropecast. Everybody else in the St. Louis leather scene agreed with you. Which is why they’re all party to the nearly decade-long rape and torture of someone whose consent was coerced by force and psychoactive drugs.

    Shit like this is why, no matter what my personal kinks are, you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near the leather community on their best day.

    When I see a man (especially) bullying a woman, and using force or the threat of force to make him obey her, and denying her the right to even speak in order to express or withhold consent, I am looking at one of (at least) two things: I am looking at a consensual 24×7 D/s relationship, or I am looking at ongoing horrific domestic abuse. Is it your position that, if they’re wearing expensive enough costuming or if they paid admission fee to a kink-themed event, that’s all the evidence I should need? Uh, no. Is it your position that I should simply not care, that I should look the other way while (potentially) a woman is being raped and tortured? Uh, hell no.

    If neither I nor anyone I know has obtained her word on it under circumstances where she is free of his supervision and/or threat? Fuck no. At the very least, I’m not okay with it and need to be elsewhere. I may even call the cops. And you do not want me to do that, not in Missouri, because if I’m wrong, it won’t matter if she consented or not: Missouri is not a “consent to assault” state, all BDSM is legally fraught.

    But I will not be party, even as a silent bystander, to rape and domestic abuse. So isn’t it better to periodically step out of the role long enough to assure everyone that no, really, the submissive has given uncoerced consent?

    (And if this isn’t a kink thing, if this isn’t a role, if you really do need to 24×7 domestically abuse your partner for some reason? If you, or whoever she knew before you, have left her so brutalized that she can no longer affirmatively assert consent? Then hell yes I will call the cops. If actual domestic abuse, as opposed to role-played domestic abuse, is your thing, you need to be in jail and she needs to be in treatment.)

  25. If sites are taking the stance that “you must be certified mentally healthy in all ways to play here,” I can see why they’re getting pushback, given that when I was in the leather community back around 1990, at least a quarter of the doms I met and at least a third of the subs were in the scene specifically to work out some past psychological trauma.

    Which I did not find fun, did not find sexy, did not enjoy being around, found to be an emotionally fraught minefield, and considered to be a circumstance that I and everyone else there lacked the competence to handle. Which made me unsurprised at the amount of drama. So maybe I do, on some level, understand space operators who want to set a “you must be at least ‘this’ sane to ride this ride” standard. I’m crazy for a living, but there’s a level of crazy beyond that where even I don’t feel safe with you around, myself.

  26. Re: Not far enough

    Wow, I can see you feel strongly about this. So I’ll just ignore your rude and confrontational tone and ask if you do the same for all marriages? Since there are far more abusive, raping, non-consentual fear based relationships in that particular institution. But since it’s your duty not to be part of it, you must insist that anyone wearing a wedding ring take it off and talk to you “out of role” so you can be sure.

    Of course in an abusive situation, something should be done. My problem with your statement is that you, by your own admission, are not able to distinguish between an abusive situation and a chosen relationship. So if you are concerned – and believe me, I’m glad you are – then perhaps you should contact someone more in tune with the actual customs of the community.

    Going up to someone, separating them from their primary support system, and then bullying them into answering your questions “out of character”? That’s not a solution, Mr. Hicks. That’s just a different kind of abuse, at the very least rude.

    My suggestion is not that abuse doesn’t happen. It happens all over the place. I’m suggesting that discounting an entire lifestyle choice because of a certain case you’re familiar with (and by the way, I’m familiar with it too, it was horrific, I agree) may not be the best strategy.

  27. Re: Not far enough

    I think we have a misunderstanding here.

    I’m not talking about “ignoring” the submissive. If I wanted to talk, I would simply say to the Big-Letter-Type “Do you mind if I address your submissive directly?” Then I would abide by their custom. Because I’m polite. If the submissive addressed me directly, then I’d respond as I would to any other person, without asking permission.

    Maybe an analogy would help: I meet a couple who are obviously together, obviously wearing wedding bands, have the same last name, they are, as far as I can tell, married. I meet them, say, at a business convention – a non-kink, non-poly event.

    If I am attracted to the woman, I will not just start to ask her out. The default role is that they are most likely a monogamous couple, and it would be rude if, over dinner, I said “My god, you have beautiful eyes. I really like what you’re saying. You’d probably be great in bed- wanna fuck?”

    If at some point in conversation I say “yes, and I’m polyamorous, that means -” and they light up in big smiles and say “Hey, we are too!” and suddenly she leans in and puts her hand on my knee, and he starts massaging my neck – then it’s a different situation.

    It’s not ignoring the person. It’s respecting the choices they’ve made, as far as possible.

  28. Re: Not far enough

    > It’s not ignoring the person. It’s respecting the choices they’ve made.

    But that’s half my point. You don’t KNOW if they’ve made that choice. The assumption that ALL submissives have AUTOMATICALLY ceded speaking privileges to their domme is completely at odds with the assumption that BDSM is about individual consent and negotiation. It creates a social default that “if you are submissive, you require your dominant’s permission to talk.” Speaking as a submissive, I’d find that an extraordinarily insulting and de-humanizing behaviour to run in to on a regular basis.

    This may be partly a cultural difference – in my circles, such behaviour is extraordinarily rare. A submissive might tell you that you’ll need their domme’s permission before playing with them, but asking the submissive directly isn’t considered at all rude or inappropriate – the submissive will just let you know if they need their domme’s permission. It’s often the submissive that goes and asks, too, since not everyone is going to feel comfortable interacting with a third party.

    Even if it’s common, though, assuming it as a default seems like it invalidates everyone who DOESN’T choose this as a default.

    I’ll also happily ask married women out without checking with their husband – I trust the wife to be honest with her husband and to let me know if there’s any boundaries I need to respect.

  29. Re: Not far enough

    Really? You’ll ask a married woman out in front of her husband, without any indication beforehand that she’s poly? Interesting social norms where you are…may I suggest you stay out of Texas?

    > The assumption that ALL submissives have AUTOMATICALLY ceded speaking privileges to their domme is completely at odds with the assumption that BDSM is about individual consent and negotiation.

    Again, I believe this is where you and I are talking about two different scenarios. I don’t think all submissives do anything – in fact, I tend to avoid hyperbole EVERY CHANCE I GET! (see what I did there?)

    Ahem. What I’m talking about is a situation where I meet a couple, and the D-type is looking all D-ish and the S-type is wearing a collar (that, in my circles, is usually the significant symbol in the situation) and standing head bowed, hands together, perhaps slightly behind and to the side of the D-type, or kneeling next to their leg.

    In THAT situation, it would be very rude for me to intrude upon the bubble of submission they’ve created for themselves. So I would ask the D-type if it was appropriate, because yes, I prefer direct communication. If they said “no” I would respect that.

    Other people who identify as submissives come in as many varieties as Catholics, Republicans, Geeks, Cosplayers, or Luddites. Taste the rainbow, as it were, and certainly if a submissive addresses me directly, I’m NOT one of those who looks at the D-type and says “HOW DARE THEY!” in a fit of domly wrath.

    So I hope you understand, this is not an assumption about submissives, it is a cultural nicety among the people that I hang out with, and it has, in my experience, been always appreciated

  30. Re: Not far enough

    Would I be just as likely to call the cops on a guy who was emotionally and physically abusing his wife if his wife acted afraid or unwilling to talk in front of him in a non-BDSM setting?

    Is this even a question? Are you saying that you wouldn’t?

  31. Re: Not far enough

    > without any indication beforehand that she’s poly?

    See, what I said was “I’ll also happily ask married women out without checking with their husband.” I don’t ask out non-polyamorous people, except possibly by accident.

    > In THAT situation, it would be very rude for me to intrude upon the bubble of submission they’ve created for themselves.

    If the situation is “the domme is scening, having a conversation with, or otherwise clearly sharing a private moment with their sub” then, yeah, of course it would be rude to interrupt. It would be rude to interrupt anyone else in those circumstances, though.

    If you’re assuming everyone who has a collar and is in close proximity to someone that looks “dominant” is in that category, however, then you’re enforcing your particular style of play without the submissive’s consent. I speak as someone who wears a collar and leash, and walks behind my girlfriend, head bowed, hands together…

    > this is not an assumption about submissives

    Yes, it is. It is absolutely and unequivocally the ASSUMPTION that you should ask the domme before talking to any submissive that matches this particular appearance.

    > it is a cultural nicety among the people that I hang out with

    My point is, there are people who would not appreciate this. I am one of them. If it works amongst your friends, great. Keep it amongst your friends, and don’t push it as a community standard – that only serves to exclude everyone who DOESN’T view a collar as a sign of ownership (hint: I am not owned)

  32. Re: Not far enough

    > perhaps you should contact someone more in tune with the actual customs of the community.

    That only works when the community isn’t actively protecting abusers. From what I’ve heard, the majority of BDSM communities that deal with abuse issues, also end up passively (or even actively!) supporting the abuser by refusing to investigate, exactly because of such concerns.

    So, since the community-writ-large has repeatedly failed to police itself, responsibility falls on each individual to make sure that things are okay.

    Given that confronting the person in front of their abuser is unlikely to produce anything useful… you sort of have to talk to them away from their “primary support system”.

    > discounting an entire lifestyle choice because of a certain case you’re familiar with may not be the best strategy.

    No one here is saying that BDSM isn’t acceptable, or even that 24/7 power play isn’t acceptable (they are saying that actual ownership is a bullshit concept, but you don’t seem to be arguing that). What people are saying is that sometimes you need to check and make sure things are still in the realm of BDSM and not the realm of abuse. You can’t just blithely assume that a lack of safewords means consent.

    If you’re at a PUBLIC event, then you need to make sure that consent is a PUBLIC action before you do anything else. Most communities let this slide, but it absolutely HAS to be, from a LEGAL standpoint, possible for me to personally confirm that this is consensual.

    If I cannot PERSONALLY confirm that a flogging I’m witnessing is consensual, then I’ve just witnessed an assault. This is a crime. I now have a legal obligation to call the police (otherwise I am guilty of a new crime!)

    Getting two two innocent BDSM practitioners arrested is a horrible thing, and I never want to be part of that. The ONLY way to prevent that is to make consent OBVIOUS.

    Yes, I have in fact threatened to call the police because a person was unwilling to “break character” and admit that it was a BDSM relationship, not abuse.

    The cost of “breaking character” is 30 seconds of your time. If you get a lot of new comers at your events, you can develop all sorts of systems to ensure you’re not spending 20 minutes/day answering to all of them.

    The cost of letting ONE abuser slide through the cracks is ten YEARS of a person being tortured.

    30 seconds of discomfort or 10 years of torture.

    This is not a difficult choice. Even if you only ever run in to ONE abuser in your entire life, you will have done VASTLY more good by questioning consent.

  33. “In the BDSM scene, there is a lot of opportunity to act in non-consensual ways. And yet, I’ve seen so much non-consensual stuff happen in so many other areas. I’m not sure the BDSM community is any better or worse than any other community”

    The risk is amplified because of the behaviour: In a poly/Christian/etc. meetup, you can’t just pull off your belt and start beating your significant other. In a BDSM event, that’s actually fairly tame behaviour.

    “Codes are useless for such people.”

    That’s the point. A GOOD code of conduct is pushing OTHER people to check in and make sure things are okay. It’s making sure the abuse victims are aware that what’s happening isn’t okay, and that the community will side with the victim rather than pretending nothing is wrong.

    It’s not about getting the predator to play by the rules, it’s about creating an environment that’s hostile to the predator.

    The anti-bullying program at your son’s school sounds like exactly the sort of thing that’s useful πŸ™‚

  34. “I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?”

    Anyone who did that around me would get exactly one warning, followed by a citizen’s arrest and calling the police.

    Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the norm πŸ™

  35. Re: Not far enough

    Thank you. But I must add one thing to that. You say that “since the community-write-large has repeatedly failed to police itself, responsibility falls on each individual.”

    I say: responsibility always falls on each individual. I’m not even an expert in the field, and I know enough social psychology to know that diffusion of responsibility is one of those things that you always find at the site of monstrous evil. Always. Without exception. Any time you outsource your conscience to anyone, whether to a superior, or to an expert, or to the community, you are volunteering, should it come to that, to hesitate in the face of evil. Just like almost literally the entire St. Louis leather community did. (I heard from a total of 3 people who left events or scenes because something about this triad “didn’t seem right” to them. Not one of them took any further steps.)

    I do know how high the false alarm rate on this can be. And I know, more than most people, how dangerous false alarms are. But I also know that, in the end, we are all responsible for our own moral choices, and not to choose is a choice.

    I also know that the false alarm rate is, potentially, dangerously low. I mentioned, above, that it’s not uncommon to find both doms and subs with significant mental health issues in the community, or at least it was very common when I was in it 20 years ago?

    I also know, both from first-hand experience then and second-hand report since, that the community attracts abusers and rapists, looking for validation for their “lifestyle,” the way that any attempt at Norse revivalist paganism attracts neo-Nazis. If Kink.com is taking flack for policing against those people in intrusive ways? I don’t have any difficulty taking sides in that fight. None whatsoever. I can take the side of people who’ll overlook actual rape and domestic abuse in others if it means they won’t be inconvenienced in their kink; or I can save lives and sanity by imposing minor inconvenience.

    That there are people who would choose otherwise and that these people are not challenged is why I do not self-identify as leather or BDSM.

  36. I do this too – but I find that it only sometimes works. I think being a person of color in the BDSM scene adds to the fucked up way I get seen. It’s really fucking annoying and has made me pull back from the scene a LOT. Especially because I’m there to LOOK for sub male partners, and for SOME REASON me dressing the part of the top, acting like a top, STILL gets me treated like a sub.

    I fucking hate it, and so don’t really go out to play spaces anymore unless they are vetted by people I trust deeply.

    N.

  37. My experience with this topic is broad and I am opinionated. I attend sci-fi conventions and have had problems with people taking liberties. I find there far more often that women who are intoxicated are the most aggressive offenders in this setting. I have a work around by surrounding myself with people who will step in and stop someone if they can see inappropriate behavior. I know I shouldn’t have to but I prefer to know I am safe so I can have my fun.

    I have also attended festivals that have a high kink/BDSM aspect. I was discouraged from wearing a piece of jewelry that looks like a collar because I might be treated like a sub. As described it was accepted in this set of people to ignore subs, give them tasks, take physical liberties all without getting consent. I was afraid to express myself in ways that would have made it a happy place for me because people would have treated me in ways that would have enraged me.

    Also in this same group, women are treated as sub-capable by man of the dom men. When asked point blank if they needed assistance with a physically demanding set up project I got, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. Just leave it to the menfolk.” I am a 6 foot tall massage therapist. There is nothing about me that looks incapable except for the fact that I have breasts I guess.

    On Fetlife I had to change my profile to say I was a TOP because of the number of inappropriate solicitations I was receiving. It was obvious that the men(and in this case it was all men) never read my profile, had no interest in whether or not I wanted the type of attention they were sending my way. Had they done so it would have told them everything they needed to walk away slowly. Doesn’t mean I am a top. I am more accurately labeled independent. However, to get them to stop treating me as a piece of meat that is what I have to display. Now I get the opposite type of offer. If it weren’t for the art and photographic displays by people I know that are not posted elsewhere online I would abandon the whole site as a waste of time.

    I was raped by my then partner because I was there and he “needed” to have sex. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to. I was a sexual partner for him and therefore he got to have sex with me when he felt he wanted it. Yes there are extenuating circumstances. Yes we were long distance partners and so didn’t get the opportunity often. But when one person is sobbing in pain and begging the other to stop it is no longer consensual. It is rape. This is the same man that taught his daughter about safe words and dutifully respects them anytime she uses is in play. *shrug*

  38. My experience with this topic is broad and I am opinionated. I attend sci-fi conventions and have had problems with people taking liberties. I find there far more often that women who are intoxicated are the most aggressive offenders in this setting. I have a work around by surrounding myself with people who will step in and stop someone if they can see inappropriate behavior. I know I shouldn’t have to but I prefer to know I am safe so I can have my fun.

    I have also attended festivals that have a high kink/BDSM aspect. I was discouraged from wearing a piece of jewelry that looks like a collar because I might be treated like a sub. As described it was accepted in this set of people to ignore subs, give them tasks, take physical liberties all without getting consent. I was afraid to express myself in ways that would have made it a happy place for me because people would have treated me in ways that would have enraged me.

    Also in this same group, women are treated as sub-capable by man of the dom men. When asked point blank if they needed assistance with a physically demanding set up project I got, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. Just leave it to the menfolk.” I am a 6 foot tall massage therapist. There is nothing about me that looks incapable except for the fact that I have breasts I guess.

    On Fetlife I had to change my profile to say I was a TOP because of the number of inappropriate solicitations I was receiving. It was obvious that the men(and in this case it was all men) never read my profile, had no interest in whether or not I wanted the type of attention they were sending my way. Had they done so it would have told them everything they needed to walk away slowly. Doesn’t mean I am a top. I am more accurately labeled independent. However, to get them to stop treating me as a piece of meat that is what I have to display. Now I get the opposite type of offer. If it weren’t for the art and photographic displays by people I know that are not posted elsewhere online I would abandon the whole site as a waste of time.

    I was raped by my then partner because I was there and he “needed” to have sex. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to. I was a sexual partner for him and therefore he got to have sex with me when he felt he wanted it. Yes there are extenuating circumstances. Yes we were long distance partners and so didn’t get the opportunity often. But when one person is sobbing in pain and begging the other to stop it is no longer consensual. It is rape. This is the same man that taught his daughter about safe words and dutifully respects them anytime she uses is in play. *shrug*

  39. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the norm πŸ™

    Then that is a fake Dom/Domme, because a real one wouldn’t put up with that shit. Someone just playing at it. IMHO

  40. Wait…

    @Awfulhorrid – “One of my partners tells of an experience she had when she was taken to a munch by a former partner and dom of hers. He had her wearing her collar and cuffs and some other ‘marking’ identification clearly indicating that she was his submissive. While she was not physically harassed, she did experience the behavior you describe: no one there would talk to her directly. Needless to say, she did not enjoy that experience and I’m determined to take her to an event with a classier group of people!”

    I am confused… you said that “no one would talk to her directly” and that because of this you feel that the people in attendance were unclassy?

    In my experience if someone is in their cuffs and collar and in attendance somewhere with their Top/Master/Domina whatever… it is always better to seek permission to talk to said submissive from their Top first and to never directly engage them… that having all of their “identifying” accouterments clearly says that the submissive is actively in service. I would never approach someone directly if they appeared to be in service even in a social setting, I would approach their Top first or none at all.

  41. Re: Not far enough

    “If it works amongst your friends, great. Keep it amongst your friends, and don’t push it as a community standard – that only serves to exclude everyone who DOESN’T view a collar as a sign of ownership”

    See I have lives in 3 different areas of the US (Midwest, Midsouth, PacNW) and I have played in the deep south and the NE as well… in all of those regions it have been my persona experience that this kind of behavior is actually a cultural norm. It is safe to assume that if someone is collared & cuffed, as the Original Poster described, that person is to be considered “in service” and it is the polite thing to go through their Top/Dom/Domina first before directly engaging the submissive/bottom/slave. Sure if their Top is not around you could ask the bottom directly if their protocol allows for direct conversation with other Tops and if they are they will say so and if they are not they will direct you to their Top.

    In my experience it IS the polite thing to do.

  42. non-consent

    “I wonder, how does the Dom or Domme react when some person touches their submissive in a social environment when that third party has not been invited to interact with them physically?”

    How does ANYONE act when they are touched without their consent?

  43. Wooooooow. There is a very very deep hole of screwed up assumptions underneath that. Like… people see someone dressed and acting like a top, but assume that… what? A person of color is just naturally submissive no matter the context?

    That’s fucked up.

  44. Re: non-consent

    There were a couple of things in the post that made it clear that people are touched without their permission and that is part of the problem being ranted about:

    First, there’s the low-level non-consensual stuff I sometimes see at a conferences or play parties. It most often manifests as harassment of submissives, particularly female submissives; people swat their asses as they walk by, give them orders without negotiating whether or not it’s appropriate to do so, and otherwise behave as if their boundaries are irrelevant.

    And, Nobody should ever make assumptions that it is okay to disregard someone’s boundaries, or to touch someone, merely because that person is a submissive. This should be common sense. If you haven’t asked, don’t touch.

    My question was more to a trust arrangement between the Dom and sub, where it would seem that the Dom has the DUTY to protect the sub, especially from non-consensual contact. This is my take on the situation, and could be completely opposite of every one else’s experience.

    I don’t want to put words in the mouth of but that seems to be one of the 3 main things the rant was about. That the sub can be in an abusive situation and may be too afraid to say NO and so is then abused or touched by other people too. That it is for the sub to give consent, but it seemed in addition to that the Dom/Domme should be protective too.

    I may be completely off base, but that was part of what I was reading there.

  45. A GOOD code of conduct is pushing OTHER people to check in and make sure things are okay. It’s making sure the abuse victims are aware that what’s happening isn’t okay, and that the community will side with the victim rather than pretending nothing is wrong.

    Yes, exactly! You put it much more succinctly than I did.

  46. Re: non-consent

    And while I agree I would also like to point out that this kind of behavior exists in everyday life not just in the cultural context of the Leather lifestyle.

    I can recall more times that a random person in public has made such gestures such as cat calls, slaps on the ass, and whatnot in everyday life when I am standing right there with my husband. Hell I am the dominate one in my marriage and everyday life yet when I am with my husband, the high speed soldier type, people ASSUME that he is the dominate one and that it’s ok to treat me “less than”. Its not just a problem within the context of which we are talking about… it exists in our everyday world culture.

    Abuse of another human being is wrong no matter how it is disguised… “lifestyle”, “a happy marriage”, or “spiritual doctrine” or what have you… I have personally seen more counts of inappropriate behavior towards another in the context of “what the vanilla world does” vs the leather world. In my experience, and I can only speak from my experience, when someone has been identified as a predator or abuser they are blacklisted and the folks in the community become hyper-aware of their surroundings for some time protecting “their own” as much as possible… getting the victims help and making sure that the aggressor knows first hand that their behavior is not acceptable in their community. Again, I can only speak for my experience and not that of others. Like I said before, no matter the community… ugly shit happens and we should stand up together to rise above it.

  47. Re: Not far enough

    Going up to someone, separating them from their primary support system, and then bullying them into answering your questions “out of character”? That’s not a solution, Mr. Hicks. That’s just a different kind of abuse, at the very least rude.

    mantic_angel already responded very eloquently, but I wanted to chime in as well.

    The ONLY way to discern whether a person truly consented to something is to hear it directly from that person, in a situation removed from the suspected abuser. Perhaps it is “separating them from their primary support system,” but that’s part of being a grownup.

    Even a 24/7 submissive is still an adult person who lives in the context of a society and is, ultimately, responsible for his or her own behavior in the eyes of the law. Asking them to verify their consent isn’t asking them to “break character” or forcing them to be someone they aren’t. It’s simply asking them to abide by the rules of the society they live in.

    You talk about respecting the customs of BDSM relationships and that’s important, but there are times when other customs have to take precedence. Someone who witnesses an assault is legally bound to report it to law enforcement. Refusing to verify one’s consent to such activity puts another human being in a terrible ethical and legal position. It can also put one’s dominant partner into legal jeopardy. If someone is so submissive that they can’t “come out” of the role to verify their consent to a concerned party, what happens when their Dom is arrested and they have to testify in court? Because in my experience judges don’t let you have the person accused of assaulting you come up on the witness stand and tell you what to say.

    You talk about other roles that people can’t simply “come out” of, like being married or being Christian. But I can’t think of any other chosen roles in which an adult cannot freely verify their consent. Furthermore, societal rules and laws do dictate that we set those roles aside at certain times. The evangelical Christian schoolteacher who refrains from proselytizing in the classroom doesn’t cease to be a Christian, but they do put that role aside when they are on the job. There are plenty of situations in which I behave in ways that go against “who I am” because custom/culture/law demands it. It doesn’t mean I cease to be who and what I am–it simply means that in human society, we all have multiple roles and sometimes one takes precedence over another.

  48. Re: Wait…

    If they’re in a social setting, they’re there to be social. If the dom doesn’t want them to talk, they can say so at the time or they can take their little play and go somewhere else. The rest of us did not ask to engage in such restrictions. Yes, it very much lacked class to assume that the sub is automatically engaging in submissive behavior towards anyone with which they did not agree to do so.

    If you’re seeking to have a scene with them, that’s a different matter, of course.

  49. I’m not going to dive into this, cause I got’s shit to do (FINALS SUBMISSION DEADLINES FUUUUUUUCK), but a quick ctrl+F search of these comments didn’t turn up, in my opinion, two of the biggest writers on the topic of patriarchy, dom-ism, and abuse in BDSM.

    Thomas @ YesMeansYes.wordpress.com
    MayMay @ MaybeMaimed.com

    There’s too many individual posts between those two writers/sites to link all of them, but anyone interested in the intersection of systems of domination, abuse, and kink should go check ’em out. πŸ˜€

    • Thomas has a summary up over at Feministe here.

      I meant to post that link earlier in the conversation, but apparently forgot click “post comment” before walking away.

    • The second part of this essay, which I’m still working on, will link directly to some of the Yes Means Yes blog posts on conduct in the BDSM community. πŸ˜‰

  50. I’m not going to dive into this, cause I got’s shit to do (FINALS SUBMISSION DEADLINES FUUUUUUUCK), but a quick ctrl+F search of these comments didn’t turn up, in my opinion, two of the biggest writers on the topic of patriarchy, dom-ism, and abuse in BDSM.

    Thomas @ YesMeansYes.wordpress.com
    MayMay @ MaybeMaimed.com

    There’s too many individual posts between those two writers/sites to link all of them, but anyone interested in the intersection of systems of domination, abuse, and kink should go check ’em out. πŸ˜€

  51. (OK, now that LJ is letting me respond, let’s see if I can remember what I tried to post this morning …)

    Wow … just wow. I wish I could express some doubt about this, but unfortunately I can only too easily believe it. I’ll just express sincere hope that this is something you don’t encounter very often.

  52. Re: Wait…

    Rules, Protocol & Ritual apply no matter what the setting… so stating that “If they’re in a social setting, they’re there to be social” does not mean that their individual protocols or etiquette no longer apply within that setting. By definition protocol is “a code prescribing strict adherence to correct etiquette and precedence.”

    For those of us who follow protocol of any kind it is NOT “a little play” they are rules of behavior that are to be followed all of the time. As a military wife I have a lot of protocol that I follow because it is what is expected of me and within that community it is a thing of HONOR to follow such protocol. So please don’t be so submissive of the choices others make for themselves or what is considered correct for their community.

    If you friend didn’t enjoy that part of her protocol then that is something that she should have discussed with her partner at the time. Its apart of the negotiation process. In the situation you mentioned, the people whom recognized her cuffs & collar as a sign of being “in service” and made the choice of following a generalized protocol of not addressing her directly where doing the right thing for our community. If her Dom had chosen to NOT have her wear all of her cuffs and whatnot, people may have approached her differently.

  53. Re: Wait…

    If, as Graydancer has described elsewhere in these replies, the sub is next to their dom in some obvious protocol pose or something otherwise indicative of their status at the time, that would be different. If the sub is simply there at a party (you know, just standing there being a person who’s there to met other people) then it’s just rude to assume it’s your right to treat them in any way. To complete the picture, these jerks carried on this behavior despite the fact that she obviously wasn’t restricted in such a way. Even when she tried to be friendly, they were dismissive and went back to ignoring her.

    I’m sorry if I seemed dismissive of protocol play. I know that for some people it is an enjoyable activity and I wouldn’t go and interrupt a protocol scene, although I might enjoy watching it from a respectful distance. You understand military protocol? Think of it this way: the people in the described situation were trying to enact parade ground discipline in what should have been a NCO club setting. While the members present might not be free to speak to supervisors in just any manner they please (at least not without consequences), if someone insisted on “Airman Jones reports as ordered, sir” type of responses, it might be considered a little odd, to say the least.

  54. Re: Not far enough

    This is when I wish LJ used the “like button” system. I would click it for all your responses to the horribly assumptive & dehumanizing “ask the dom first” scenarios.

  55. It’s not about getting the predator to play by the rules, it’s about creating an environment that’s hostile to the predator.

    THIS. This is what I have been trying to say for years in a variety of contexts.

    This.

  56. Thomas has a summary up over at Feministe here.

    I meant to post that link earlier in the conversation, but apparently forgot click “post comment” before walking away.

  57. Re Ehica bdsm

    I have blogged and blogged about his, the desire to use jargon and magic words ( I refuse to call them safe words) speaks to the very worst of BDSM. The idea it is dungeons and dragons with sex combined with the idea that we are some secret society who need to keep the plebs out.

    What kind of ethical framework would I like to see ? The same one I see and use in my day to day life. There should be no difference. Hope you don’t mind the links but it seems silly to repeat myself and you wanted input πŸ™‚

    http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/safe-words-dont-make-women-safe/

    http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/white-dress-and-cuffs/

  58. Re Ehica bdsm

    I have blogged and blogged about his, the desire to use jargon and magic words ( I refuse to call them safe words) speaks to the very worst of BDSM. The idea it is dungeons and dragons with sex combined with the idea that we are some secret society who need to keep the plebs out.

    What kind of ethical framework would I like to see ? The same one I see and use in my day to day life. There should be no difference. Hope you don’t mind the links but it seems silly to repeat myself and you wanted input πŸ™‚

    http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/safe-words-dont-make-women-safe/

    http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/white-dress-and-cuffs/

  59. ‘As someone who was an AIDS awareness/safer sex instructor early in the epidemic, my personal opinion is that in this context, pushing back against the word “safe” is a derailing tactic. Yes, most of us know that there is no such thing as “safe sex”‘

    To the extent that people stopped talking about “safe sex” and started talking about “safer sex” because it’s about assessing genuine risks rather than chasing after 100% safety. Was that change a “derailing tactic” too?

  60. Yes. Exactly.

    When there is a set of “rules” or at least “standards” in place in a community, it helps. Especially for the new folks walking in, but also for the veterans, too. It helps for one to be able to look back and say, “a, b, and c are all standards this community talks about and upholds on a regular basis.” The precedence is important.

  61. It’s interesting to me because there are anecdotes – not all that rare – about Cybernet Entertainment being in violation with its performers of these self-same goals. There is argument that in the scenarios in question, the doms were merely “pushing the sub’s boundaries” but it’s also possible to argue that in a scene shot for film, the actress has a right to know what she’s going to be asked to do. In fairness, it’s not a claim that’s all that unusual in the adult industry – gonzo films are particularly hindered by allegations along these lines – but it’s an interesting juxtaposition, non?

    I know this isn’t the larger question at play, but I felt it worth mentioning.

    • It is. I’ve seen some of those complaints, and it’s really tough as an outsider to know how to respond to them; most of the complaints I’ve seen personally seem to be embedded in a larger salary dispute that’s happening right now.

      In general: Yes, absolutely. The same rules apply to BDSM performers. Anyone who’s doing a scene for a BDSM film absolutely has the right to know what to expect (unless not knowing what to expect has explicitly been negotiated).

  62. It’s interesting to me because there are anecdotes – not all that rare – about Cybernet Entertainment being in violation with its performers of these self-same goals. There is argument that in the scenarios in question, the doms were merely “pushing the sub’s boundaries” but it’s also possible to argue that in a scene shot for film, the actress has a right to know what she’s going to be asked to do. In fairness, it’s not a claim that’s all that unusual in the adult industry – gonzo films are particularly hindered by allegations along these lines – but it’s an interesting juxtaposition, non?

    I know this isn’t the larger question at play, but I felt it worth mentioning.

  63. Well said. It’s a lot of the reason I gave up on the leather community. I think it came when someone I introduced into leather came back to me several years later and said “goddamn you, you showed me an amazing time and I thought it was all like you. I have never found anyone who comes close” Her point was while I was very involved in doing it ethically, I was often alone in these efforts. I have been depressed to watch the community degenerate to the point of wondering if I was at a frat party.

      • code of conduct

        excuse the lateness of the reply:

        Code of conduct is generally pretty easy, simple civility; clean up your own mess, treat others with kindness, build relationships.

        The problem is, of course that no one code applies to everyone. There are some in the elite who are allowed to whitewash reprehensible behavior while ostrasism is used as a weapon against those less well regarded or connected. At the point you can see this, you have decide if the reality of the community is worth the weight of it’s excesses. I have not seen an alternative community (nor many of the mainstream ones) that has a reliable mechanism for addressing abuses of authority. Having been exiled from a few groups for being willing to cry “foul”, I have some idea of conduct but perhaps little faith in it’s execution. Communities provide excellent cover for those with bad intentions.

        I stay away from ideas of good and evil, I prefer weave and unweave. There are actions that create a better place for people to be and others that drag us apart. The trick is to make certain that we are indeed rewarding building behavior. The best measure I have seen so far is the simple “who benefits” analysis. Is the action of the community to benefit the members as a whole or divert benefit to a select few? do the rules create more engagement or simply sanction dissent?

        Likely there is more to this but I don’t have it together as of yet.

  64. Well said. It’s a lot of the reason I gave up on the leather community. I think it came when someone I introduced into leather came back to me several years later and said “goddamn you, you showed me an amazing time and I thought it was all like you. I have never found anyone who comes close” Her point was while I was very involved in doing it ethically, I was often alone in these efforts. I have been depressed to watch the community degenerate to the point of wondering if I was at a frat party.

  65. A code of conduct does have the possibility of turning into a prescriptionist, literalist ‘you have to do it this exact way or else you’re a Bad person’ instrument, sure. I am not sure if there’s a way around that, except perhaps to try to make a code of conduct that’s flexible enough to communicate the spirit of the intent without bogging down in a series of prescriptivist rules.

    I do think such a code is useful, though, because it can offer newcomers a sense of what is reasonably expected. For example, I know of one person I’ve talked to online who ended up in an abusive situation because she was told that submissives can’t set limits. A code of conduct that stressed the importance of boundaries and consent might have helped her to avoid that trap.

  66. I think such codes would be very useful for people like me who are just ignorant or inexperienced. But there are always going to be predators in every group who will simply ignore these kinds of guidelines. They aren’t interested in protecting their partners, they are simply interested in getting what they want. Codes are useless for such people.

    That’s true. A predator or a sociopath will not, by definition, be constrained by a social code of conduct.

    But where a code of conduct IS useful, I think, is in educating people in the community not to tolerate predators. It is easy for people to rationalize looking the other way when they hear about abuse; a code of conduct that says, clearly and directly, ‘it is the duty of members of this community to take a stand against abusive behavior’ won’t directly affect the predators but it will indirectly affect the predators by making the community less tolerant of predation.

  67. The second part of this essay, which I’m still working on, will link directly to some of the Yes Means Yes blog posts on conduct in the BDSM community. πŸ˜‰

  68. It is. I’ve seen some of those complaints, and it’s really tough as an outsider to know how to respond to them; most of the complaints I’ve seen personally seem to be embedded in a larger salary dispute that’s happening right now.

    In general: Yes, absolutely. The same rules apply to BDSM performers. Anyone who’s doing a scene for a BDSM film absolutely has the right to know what to expect (unless not knowing what to expect has explicitly been negotiated).

  69. code of conduct

    excuse the lateness of the reply:

    Code of conduct is generally pretty easy, simple civility; clean up your own mess, treat others with kindness, build relationships.

    The problem is, of course that no one code applies to everyone. There are some in the elite who are allowed to whitewash reprehensible behavior while ostrasism is used as a weapon against those less well regarded or connected. At the point you can see this, you have decide if the reality of the community is worth the weight of it’s excesses. I have not seen an alternative community (nor many of the mainstream ones) that has a reliable mechanism for addressing abuses of authority. Having been exiled from a few groups for being willing to cry “foul”, I have some idea of conduct but perhaps little faith in it’s execution. Communities provide excellent cover for those with bad intentions.

    I stay away from ideas of good and evil, I prefer weave and unweave. There are actions that create a better place for people to be and others that drag us apart. The trick is to make certain that we are indeed rewarding building behavior. The best measure I have seen so far is the simple “who benefits” analysis. Is the action of the community to benefit the members as a whole or divert benefit to a select few? do the rules create more engagement or simply sanction dissent?

    Likely there is more to this but I don’t have it together as of yet.

  70. Response to above

    “The first time I met a couple in a 24×7 D/s relationship was at a science fiction convention. I’m bad at dates, but I think it must have been about 25 or 30 years ago? Something about his attitude towards her rang my young alarm bells; I sought out an excuse to get talk to her out of his earshot to verify that she was okay. And I got rather insistent that she drop character long enough to do so.”

    Good. No one can possibly be that averse to going out of character for that short a time. It wouldn’t kill the fantasy. Besides, how is the person supposed to function in public on thier own (supermarket, etc), if they don’t step out of character?

    “I took a huge ration of shit over that: it’s not sexy for people in 24×7 D/s relationships if they ever have to drop character for any reason, and it gets downright annoying if it happens every time they meet someone new who has to be reassured that the Dom’s control over the submissive truly is uncoerced. I was bullied into knocking that shit right off.”

    Yes, in order to examine a lie, ask yourself what it accomplishes and who does it serve.

    Who does it serve to say that a sub should never break character? The sub? How would five minutes of non sub time ruin an entire five year fantasy? And even if it did, and the sub weren’t being abused, it’s worth it to inconvenience some subs for the safety of others who are being abused behind that rationale.

    “Don’t ask questions”, in ANY scenario, sexual or not, should ALWAYS ring alarm bells, because if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide from the wider world.

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