When I read the below, I actually cried. I felt like finally, the work we’ve been fighting to do is being validated as important- including by Fetlife themselves.
NCSF’s Consent Counts project was originally mostly about explaining to various professionals (cops, therapists, nurses etc) that BDSM is different from abuse because of consent. I am so fucking glad to see that they’re also addressing that it can be under a BDSM guise and still not be consensual. This is a MAJOR success for Consent Culture and Safe/Ward, even if NCSF doesn’t acknowledge us as a resource in the back of their pamphlet, despite the nonstop push we’ve made over the past 6 months (correction: please see comments below for clarification). It means that these resources for improved consent and better resources for abuse victims will spread further and have more weight. It means that there is room to talk critically about sex, rather than being forced into the over simplifications of “sex negative” or “sex positive”.
NCSF Launches the Next Chapter for Consent Counts
February 27, 2012
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) announces two new publications as part of its nationwide campaign, Consent Counts. The Consent Counts Project was launched by the BDSM-leather-fetish communities in 2006 to decriminalize consensual BDSM in U.S. law by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. “For the past 18 months, NCSF’s Consent Counts Project has almost exclusively focused on the legal and policy issues surrounding decriminalization of BDSM activities,” says Leigha Fleming, NCSF Chairperson. “We have learned that the Consent Counts project also needs to do more to work within our own communities to better understand and articulate what consent is and to better educate about the importance of prior informed and ongoing consent.”
NCSF is proud to announce the publication of two new guides “The Aftermath: A guide for victims of sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence in the BDSM community,” by Natalie Quintero, and “When the Levee Breaks: A guide to dealing with and avoiding arrest and prosecution in BDSM scenes.” “The Aftermath” is a compilation of advice that is regularly provided to victims who ask for help through NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response project. This guide will educate anyone in the BDSM community who has been victimized on what one might expect to experience after an assault, what one’s options are, things to consider when weighing options and making decisions on what to do next, what one might expect if one decides to report the experience, as well as the resources available to assist in coping with and healing from abuse.
“When the Levee Breaks” is a companion to the NCSF publication, “The Aftermath,” and is a guide to provide a perspective for those who have, through mistake, misunderstanding, or a fleeting lapse of reason, committed an act of criminally actionable sexual assault. It is not intended to provide a defense for indefensible acts. “When the Levee Breaks” also provides information on how to better protect oneself against arrest and prosecution.
You can join the NCSF Consent Counts community at FetLife to talk about these two new NCSF guides online! Join our Consent Counts groupwww.fetlife.com/consentcounts to discuss issues of consent with kinksters both in the US and around the world.”Sexual abuse and intimate partner violence are a real problem in the kinky community. The nature of BDSM greatly increases the importance of having a clear definition for consent when addressing these issues – both inside our community and at the legal and legislative levels,” says James Lennon, VP of FetLife. “That’s why FetLife has decided to partner with the NCSF on the Consent Counts project. Together, we can make the BDSM community a safer place for everyone.”
“The Aftermath” and “When the Levee Breaks” are only a couple of the tools developed by NCSF as part of our Consent Counts Project. In the coming year, Consent Counts will be presenting continuing legal education (CLE) programs to attorneys, prosecutors and law students, and participating selectively with “friend of the court” briefs in legal cases.To date, the Consent Counts Project has completed a review of the relevant laws in all 50 states and on the Federal level, and has developed educational programs and outreach materials. These resources, including a state-by-state guide of relevant consent related assault laws, the appellate legal cases involving criminal prosecution of BDSM as assault as well as some of legal cases relevant to the alternative sexuality communities have been posted on the NCSF website under Resources,
The final piece of the expanded Consent Counts project will be released by March 15, 2012. To facilitate a community-wide discussion on and about consent, Consent Counts has created a Community Discussion Guide and a survey that groups, munches, individuals and events around the country can use to create a framework for the thoughtful examination of the nuances of consent.
What do we mean by consent? When is consent invalidated? Does “safe, sane, consensual” still work as a community creed? Are there behaviors that the BDSM community doesn’t accept? FetLife, an NCSF Coalition Partner, is generously providing a space for NCSF to facilitate this discussion within FetLife at www.fetlife.com/consentcounts. In addition, the survey will be available online via the NCSF website. Responses will be collected and collated and used to develop a community statement on consent that will be presented at the Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) in Seattle in 2013. For more information, go to www.ncsfreedom.org or contact Judy Guerin, Director, Consent Counts email@example.com.
Every year there’s an event called the Erotic Awards that happens in the UK, and every year they take nominations. It’s a great way to signal boost an event, activism work or a performance artist.
There’s a fancy party, and it’s fun, but it’s also serious- it’s a place where you can get recognized for the work you’re doing.
I would LOVE to see Consent Culture nominated- but I need YOUR help!
Anyone can send in a nomination- doesn’t matter where in the world you are. In fact, you can nominate in a couple different categories if you want! The form takes just a few minutes, and it would mean the world to us working CC- it’s the sort of thing we can then use to catapult this concept into more venues and have it treated with respect.
You have until Feb 29th if you feel inclined to nominate Consent Culture for campaigner of the year at the Erotic Awards. I mean, you can nominate other things too- Barelesque, which was a women-run cooperative show for charity is up for nomination, or maybe you want to nominate Jiz Lee’s porn for charity Karma Pervs, or something else entirely!
But we’d be delighted if you could help us keep doing this work, and help us spread the word even further.
This was an excellent post on Fetlife by @hockeysub08that I asked to repost here, because I felt it was really relevant to discussions about consent and how to move forward.
Also, for some reason the title makes me imagine that Consent is the name of a steampunk adventuress, examining why the train of Accountability derailed at the town of False Accusations.
Maybe I’ve been doing waaaaay too much of this and need to step away.
Consent has become the topic of the week again, and for good reason. However, when those of us start to try to address issues of abuse and predators in the scene – there always come a slew of derails in the form of the “I agree but (false accusations/ manipulative bottoms/ what about the [men/ doms/tops]).
Here is what I need to know, honestly and truly. To those who are saying these things, is that what you really think of us? Is this what you really think of your fellow people in the scene?
This may seem like a weird topic, but I need to ask it. Those of us who are spearheading this discussions are coming from a place of reality and shared history. We are coming from direct personal experience. We are coming from pain. We are coming from abandonment, apathy, and downright hostility from our community. It is real. It is current. It is now.
We have lost safety. We have lost friends. We have lost lovers. We have lost time. We are still losing by taking on this conversation. But we do it, because we know what its like and for me, I will do everything I fucking can to make sure that no one else has to lose.
Then the masses come in. What about false accusations, they say. Well, what about them? Its a hypothetical. Yes, it can happen however it is rare. In the meanwhile, we are seeing slews of stories of abuse. So I need to ask to those who are worried about false accusations to look around you. When you say that someone may falsely accuse, therefore the consent efforts are harmful- it is implying that this is a problem in Boston. That this is a real problem in our scene. So tell me, who you do think does it? Why do you think it is a problem? Can you tell me via private message who these people are so I don’t play with them? Please, do this. I really want to know where this epidemic is happening because somehow my ladybrain has missed it.
Or do you think that once we get a consent culture, your friends, lovers, play partners are such manipulative, selfish people that we’ll start seeing a slew of false accusations appear that moment that a consent culture becomes an actuality?
Here is the thing. Our society teaches us that some people are inherently untrustworthy. That women are hysterical and overemotional and manipulative. We have these things for all marginalized identities. This is where the myth* of false accusations comes from.
When there is a discussion on rape, abuse, predators and survivors and people come in and say “but false accusations”, it is saying that the discussion over false accusations is more important and takes more precedent over the discussion of abuse- despite it being incredibly rare and despite abuse being reported left and right. Take into accounts that many reports of “false accusation” are actually true events that are just not believed and then the derail gets even more insulting. Also, in my world- rape is a much more serious crime than slander.
Look, I care about reality. I care that almost every person that bottoms in the scene that I know has been abused. I care that these people are suffering. I care that it is a very very small number of people doing a great deal of harm. I care that this is an real, current problem. No, I do not care about hypotheticals right now. No, I do not want to hear about how “well yes, these are good things but someone could lie!” I care enough about those who are suffering now that I will take that risk. If this community is serious about consent and serious about supporting survivors, you all need to take that risk with me.
*I use myth of false accusations in reference to the idea that false accusations should take same weight as abuse and that it is a major problem like abuse is.
This is a fabulous guest post from the window on Fetlife. I’m really glad I got permission to post it here, as I feel like it’s one of the most concise explanations for why people get defensive when trying to discuss consent culture, entitlement culture and “gray areas”.
I think a lot of anger/impassioned feelings is about “gray” situations, the ones where <99% of people would call it one way (consensual) or the other (non-consensual). What if someone wanted to leave but didn’t safeword, and the other person was only doing negotiated things? What if someone seemed fine at the time and later said it was abuse?
Here’s my understanding of why trying to discuss these situations cause so much anger and so many hurt feelings. I hope that this can help people understand the responses they get if they talk about the way that “gray” situations are one way or the other, and they get angry responses.
I also understand that it is not “top” or “survivor.” I am talking about survivors and tops here because I feel like those are the situations we are hearing about the most. Tops can be survivors. Bottoms can be abusers. These two examples I am talking about are orthogonal, not opposite.
This is my guess – would love to hear people’s thoughts. I don’t want to hear thoughts about which gray situations are actually black or actually white. I want to hear about why people think these discussions cause so much heat. I want to hear what people think will make them cause less heat.
Why people get upset when others say,Let’s talk about the times that gray situations are consensual.
99% of survivors of genuinely abusive interactions / assault have some of the following thoughts go through their head:
She must have thought it was okay, so it’s not her fault.
I should have safeworded. It was my fault.
I didn’t tell them it wasn’t okay until afterwards, so it’s not their fault.
He only kept going because I didn’t say no, so it’s my fault.
The human brain has a very hard time accepting that the world can be so cruel and that the human being it belongs to can have so little control that it does everything it can to justify that it was the human being’s fault alone. Otherwise, they are powerless, and the human brain will flip if it is powerless.
When that survivor finally gets up the courage to talk to someone about this, the survivor might say, “Well, I told them that I’d fantasized about someone doing X to me, but we didn’t negotiate it – they must have thought that it was implicit, right?” Part of them may even be looking for validation that it wasn’t the other person’s fault, because that brain doesn’t want it to be. The brain will fight against any indication that it is powerless.
So then the survivor hears things like, “Yup. You probably weren’t clear about what you wanted to actually happen.” “That sucks that that happened, but yeah, you probably should have said no. I’m sure they just misunderstood.” Even after the survivor recognizes that it was assault, those people might say, “But you said you weren’t clear about what you wanted.” “But you should have said no, like you said.” Their human brains can’t accept a situation so horrible either.
Coming to terms with trauma means recognizing that you were powerless over the situation, and recognizing that your body is not out to betray you – that it’s not that you made a choice that made you feel terrible, it’s that the choice was taken away.
Being told that it was a choice brings a survivor back to a place of feeling beaten down, of being confused, of being hurt, of reliving the feelings after the assault, of reliving the assault. Statements about rapes being choices can be massively triggering.
So even if someone who’s saying “Let’s talk about when gray situations are consensual,” isn’t talking about a specific survivor’s specific situation, it will likely trigger a bunch of survivors out there. “Sometimes bottoms don’t safeword when they should have and it’s not the top’s fault” will remind many survivors of when their friends told them that in response to their abusive experiences. They will be reminded of their own inner monologue saying it was their own fault. They will revisit the darkest places of their recovery.
Understand that if people get upset in “Let’s talk about when gray situations are consensual” situations, it is because it reminds them of when that kind of talk was used to justify their own experiences as ‘their fault.’
Why people get upset when others say,Let’s talk about the times that gray situations are notconsensual.
99% of tops – heck, 99% of people in general – who have had genuinely 100% consensual experiences have had the following things run through their head:
They seemed to space out at some point. Did I hurt them?
I haven’t seen her make that face before – did I do something we didn’t agree on?
He said to keep going, but he looked like he was in such pain. Should I have stopped?
They said later that they felt unsafe – why didn’t they tell me at the time? Why didn’t I pick up on that?
The human brain has a very hard time accepting that the world can contain such hurt and that the human being it belongs to can have so little control that it does everything it can to justify that it was the human being’s fault alone.
The person might beat themselves up for crossing a line. They might think that they are evil. They might think they are dangerous. They might worry about hurting people again.
Maybe they talk to their partner who says that they were actually fine. Maybe their partner says that the were in too much pain but thought the scene was ending so figured they could hold out until it did.
If a third party catches wind and accuses the top of being an assailant, it brings that person back to a place of feeling horrible, of being confused, of feeling like a monster, of reliving the feelings after the scene. Statements about consensual scenes being assaults can be triggering.
So even if someone who’s saying “Let’s talk about when gray situations are not consensual,” isn’t talking about a specific top’s specific situation, it will likely trigger a bunch of people out there who have had this experience. “It’s always the top’s responsibility if the bottom is hurt” will remind many tops of their own self-talk, or maybe what others said, about their genuinely consensual – or genuinely messed up by both parties- situation. They will be reminded of their own inner monologue saying it was their own fault. They will revisit the darkest places of that situation.
Understand that if people get upset in “Let’s talk about when gray situations are not consensual” situations, it is because it reminds them of when that kind of talk was used to justify their own experiences as ‘their fault.’
How tone policing fits in
Tone policing means, in this context, “Stop being so angry; we’ll get more done.”
Anger from survivors is justified. Survivors have had a world of hurt laid at their feet. They have been silenced by our community for too long. They have been excluded when their predators are not excluded. They have been accused of lying. They have been accused of making drama.
It can also feel hurtful for some people to be trying to talk about solutions and have anger instead. I bet those people are feeling, “Well, I’m not the problem. I’m trying to help! Why am I being yelled at?” I think that in general the anger from people who try to help and are shut down is also justified.
But it might be that what these people are saying is part of the problem, or at least perceived that way, in so far that, “well, this gray case is consensual” can trigger a lot of people who have had that excuse used on them as why what they went through was actually their fault. You might not be meaning to say, “Your assessment of your situation as abuse is invalid,” but it sounds like that.
What’s the solution?
I’m not sure exactly. I keep thinking about this and have even changed this post, as you’re seeing now. These are some things I think though:
“Well, I get that survivors’ situations were abuse, I’m not disputing the experiences of anyone reading this, but I want to talk about the gray areas that are actually gray because…” because why? Because you want hope for our scene and not just doom and gloom? Because you want to increase communication skills around gray areas? Because you feel guilt about situations you’ve been in? I can’t imagine it’s “because I think secretly every survivor is a liar,” but it can come off that way. Think about why you want to assert that gray areas can be consensual, and see if you can make that point another way. Find other ways to share hope – “I stood up for consent this week in this way.” Find other ways to promote communication skills – “I’m trying to put together a class on negotiation for X con. Anyone want to help? What should I include?” Find other ways to work through your guilt – Talk privately to friends who you know will support you, because airing guilt publicly can’t feel good.
To create a consent culture, trying to avoid the pain of survivors being triggered should be prioritized over the trying to avoid the pain of tops feeling blamed. This way people will feel more comfortable stepping forward about their abuses. They will feel more comfortable talking to an event leader about someone who has hurt them. They will feel more comfortable posting their story. They will feel more comfortable second guessing a gray situation as non-consensual and really examine whether they should try to extricate themselves. Asserting the gray situations that are consensual will not do these things.
As the tone policing argument goes, “If you tread on someone’s toes, and they tell you to get off, then get off their toes. Don’t tell them to “ask nicely”.” If someone says something hurtful to you, whoever you are, tell them to stop being hurtful. And if someone says something you said was hurtful, respect them and stop it. But – let’s all try to say “ouch! Get off my toes” and not just “ouch!” If we don’t tell people to get off our toes, they won’t know what to do.
Survivors have a right to be angry. Survivors can also be triggered by anger in others and feel unsafe. Maybe we don’t need to ask the person stepping on our toes to get off nicely for their sake, but we should be careful about how what we say and how we say it might negatively affect other survivors around us.
This post is by ethical spanking porn producer and performer Pandora Blake, who is incredibly fucking rad and apparently can read my mind. I totally needed a piece that spoke on playing with non-consent while also addressing negotiation, and she does it really well here! It’s a repost with permission from her blog Pandora Blake: Spanked Not Silenced. You should also check out and support her spanking smut site Dreams of Spanking, which treats and pays male and female performers equally and seeks to address some of the issues with mainstream spanking porn- she reflects a variety of content and focuses the camera on the male body as well as the female. Yay ethical porn!
Consent is complicated, and playing with non-consent can be really difficult to do in a way that feels reassuring and secure for all concerned. This short film, found via Kitty Stryker, offers an awesome introduction to the complexities of non-consent play:
The “obvious answer” to the problem posed by this film is to use a safeword, but safewords can also be pretty complex. There’s a lot to say about safewords, but right now I want to focus on the negotiation part of non-consent play.
Holly wrote an excellent post recently called Rescripting Sex, which proposed an alternative script for communicative sex. This was very clearly put forward as one possible example of a consensual script, which wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone, but which hopefully shows a way in which negotiating during sex can be sexy rather than mood-killing.
Script: Communicative Sex That Doesn’t Suck
Partners A and B are alone together. A detects (or wishful-thinks) the whiff of romance/lust in the air. A says to B, “You are so goddamn cute, you know that? I’d really like to make out with you.” B answers by leaning in and passionately kissing him.
B puts a finger on A’s top button and asks “may I?” with a wicked grin and a raised eyebrow. He nods and she opens his shirt, touching and kissing down his chest. “Shall we take this to the bedroom?” she asks, looking up at him, her lips brushing his skin just above the line of his jeans. A responds by taking her hand and leading her there. B sits on the bed and starts undoing her clothes. She pulls A into the bed with her.
“Do you want to have sex?” A asks.
“Oh hell yes,” B says, and starts kissing A again. She brings her hand down to the level of his zipper but hesitates, making eye contact before going further. “Hang on,” A says, “just so you know, I really don’t like having my balls touched.”
“Okay,” B says, “but can I play with your cock?”
“Please,” A replies, and she slips her hand into his pants, his answer turning to a groan as she wraps her hand around his cock and begins to stroke.
And you know, so forth. I’m not trying to make this particular scenario a prescriptive thing. People communicate in different ways. What really matters is that you know rather than hope that whatever your communication style is, it’s in sync–that the other person is intentionally sending all the signals that you’re receiving, and vice versa. It’s also nice to get in a little more specificity, both physically and emotionally, than “sex or not sex.” Also, when you’re used to this degree of extremely engaged back-and-forth, it’s really obvious when something’s wrong or the other person isn’t really into it.
When your sex includes non-consent play, this sort of negotiation necessarily looks a bit different. In the past, I’ve mostly gone for the pre-negotiation method: talking beforehand about what you’d like, how you think it might work, what you think your boundaries will be, and then just going for it and seeing what happens – with essential debriefing and discussion afterwards. I like planning and post-morteming scenes and analysing my responses, so that’s always worked pretty well for me. But I’ve also started branching out into the sort of on-the-fly negotiation that Holly is talking about.
I recently played a hot, edgy anal scene which pushed some boundaries and tried some new things. Quite a lot of negotiation went into it, but it didn’t all happen at once.
Tom usually reads me quite well, but when things are unclear we back that up with verbal communication. For instance, if I’m finding a spanking really hard to take and am struggling and yelling more than usual, he’ll check in with me. “You seem to be struggling with this today,” he might say, stroking my back. I might say, “yeah, I guess so. Sorry, I think I need you to go easy on me today.” Or I might say, “Actually, I think what I need right now is to make a big fuss, but I don’t want you to hold back – is that okay?”
We do have a safeword, too: his real name. I very rarely use that one, though. If I need him to back off a bit, but don’t want the scene to end, I’ll say, “I’m struggling” or “shit, argh, give me a minute,” or “ow ow ow please, please, I’m finding this really hard”. If I need the scene to stop I’ll say “I don’t think this is working” or “hang on, I just need to [go to the loo/take a breather/uncrick my neck]” or “sorry, can we pause for a bit”. Mostly, our zone is one where he’s being encouraging and I’m being obedient, so none of these comments are invitations to override me.
The first scene we played that day, the one that didn’t work, ended when I safeworded. At the time, I didn’t realise that was what I was doing; but he stopped, which was the right thing to do. He’d given me three cane strokes, not hard, but cold, and I wasn’t really in the right mood to take them yet. He switched to the other side and gave me another one. I reared up and said “Ow – no – fuck – okay, that’s too much.” He said, “okay, I’m going to leave it there.” Everything up to the fuck wouldn’t have been a safeword, if I’d left it at that. In fact the whole thing might not have been, except my tone of voice made it clear that it needed to be. We cuddled and talked about it, and yes, I felt bad for not being able to cope, but stopping was the right thing to do, and we played a good scene once we’d recovered.
2. Establishing a code
In our dynamic, it’s the times that I want my consent to be overridden which are explicitly encoded. Rather than having an “I need to stop” safeword, we have clear signals for “I don’t REALLY want to stop”. These have been agreed when we’re talking after a scene in which we needed clearer communication; or talking about things we’d like to do and how we might approach them. They are:
“No, please / Please, no”. This means Please, yes; please let me resist you; please, don’t stop. I’m very careful not to say “please, no” or “please don’t” if I actually want him to stop.
“Please don’t do X, sir.” This means Please do X, please make me take it. I’m going to beg you not to but please do it anyway. The “sir” makes it extra clear that I’m consenting to stay in scene.
In general, if I say “Sir”, I am signalling my desire to continue the scene. “Please, sir, this isn’t good for my back” expresses my need for a different position while making it clear that I want to continue playing.
On my previous visit, he gave my thighs a couple of smacks while I was over the knee. This was horribly painful, and it struck me that it would be the hottest thing ever if he held me down and did it some more. So I said, “Please, sir, not my thighs.” He picked up on the cue, and growled to me that he would spank my thighs if he so wished, and that he wanted to train me to be able to take it for him. I communicated my assent by saying, “Please, no, not there, sir, please, that would be horrible.”
When he did so, I went quiet. He needed to check in on my reactions, so he stopped spanking me and drew me into his arms. He stroked my hair and seemed prepared to stop if I needed him to. I realised I needed to make my consent more explicit. Nervously, urgently, I said “Please don’t spank my thighs, sir. Please don’t hold me down. I would hate that.”
I love anal play, but thanks to the embarrassing, unglamorous reality of haemorrhoids I’ve not been able to indulge that kink much in the last few years. Visiting the bathroom on my most recent visit, I realised that things in that area weren’t as bad as usual. I did a little investigation on my own without ill effect, and came to the conclusion that play might finally be possible.
Coming back to bed, I whispered this discovery to Tom. He loves anal sex, but I admitted that actual fucking might not be possible on a first try. “If I were you,” I said, “I’d start with a vibrator and lots of lube – I find those much better than a finger for relaxing me – and play with that for a while, and see where it goes.”
He nodded. “That sounds like lots of fun.”
“That might be as far as we get the first time, but practice makes perfect.” I grinned. “And you did mention you liked the idea of buttplugs, if you wanted to train me to get used to it again…”
We enjoyed ourselves for a while talking about the possibilities and practicalities of plugs. I thought of something else: “Oh, and the other thing you could do – I love this but it’s totally embarrassing -”
“- is … oh god, I can’t believe I’m saying this … like, inspecting me. Um. Like, pulling my cheeks apart. And having a look. I find that REALLY hot, in a horrible humiliating sort of way.”
“I imagine I can probably work with that,” he smiled.
4. Communication in action
I’m sitting in his lap and he’s roughly fondling my breasts. I squirm and writhe in his lap, and our body language establishes a power shift: when he does the things I like best, I yelp and look down, bashfully, as if embarrassed to meet his eyes. I put my wrists submissively behind my back, making my breasts more vulnerable. He responds by doing more of the things I like.
When he takes my throat in one hand, I whimper “no sir, please” because having my neck gripped is really fucking hot. That gives him permission to grip more roughly, to throw me backwards onto the bed, to pull my head back by the hair. Despite my protests, I signal my assent to all of this by making free with the sexy noises and meeting his eye with a gleeful grin whenever I get the chance. All this gives me the space to say “please” and “no” as much as I like while he hauls me up against the wall and shoves his cock in my mouth. My cunt backs up the yes half of my communication by getting ridiculously wet, as he quickly discovers.
On his instruction, I kneel up to arrange pillows in the middle of the bed for me to bend over. Cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling, I realise there’s something I desperately want him to do, which I couldn’t expect him to know about. I don’t even know if he’d want to do it.
“I’ve had a filthy idea,” I admit, blushing.
“It’s a fantasy I’ve had for ages…”
“What is it?”
“You know I was saying about, um, inspecting me…”
“Well, I’d quite like you to … ohh, I don’t even know if I can say it. Oh, god.” I hide my head in my hands. He waits, patiently. “I’d like you to, um, get a cane, and…” It’s no use: I can’t say it.
He thinks. “Huh. Really? I’m not sure that would work.” He fetches a cane, showing me the end, and I realise he thinks I’m talking about penetration.
“No – no. I mean, a much thinner one. And… um… whip me there. Very lightly, I mean.”
He looks at me, smiling. “Would you really?”
“Um. It’s more about the humiliation than the impact. Not very hard, of course. I’ve never done it before. I just, it’s something I’ve thought about…”
His smile is broader now. “I’ll bear that in mind.”
After whipping me with the riding crop, he picks up on my earlier idea and plays with my arse cheeks, pulling them apart, trailing a finger between. I hide my blushing face in the pillow and beg him not to, all while not moving a muscle to stop him and lifting my hips as high as they’ll go.
When he picks up a cane and begins to tap me there, firstly I think I might actually die from arousal and embarrassment, and then I communicate my consent by moaning and sobbing no no no, oh god, no, please, I can’t bear it. I trust that he won’t actually stop unless I cut the whimpering and ask him to stop in a normal voice.
I honestly didn’t expect us to have anal sex this time, but after giving me an anal orgasm with his dildo, and fucking my cunt for a while, we both wanted to try. I can’t remember what we said to make this clear to each other, but I definitely agreed before he began. And it hurt – it always hurts – and I rubbed my clit and rested my forehead on the pillows and probably said “please, no” quite a lot as well. Had I withdrawn my consent, I would have stopped rubbing my clit, and said something other than “please, no”, like “hang on, that’s a bit too painful actually,” or “sorry, I think we might need to stop”. But I didn’t, and begging him to stop definitely made it sexier for me, and easier to get through the painful bit and into the bit that was so horny it felt fucking fantastic.
After the scene, I showed him a blogpost which had recently got me craving anal sex again, in which she also finds it horny and helpful to beg him to stop and have her “no” ignored. We ended up talking quite a lot about consent and negotiation, and when no is no and when it’s yes, and how you tell. We agreed that it can be problematic and dangerous to tell non-consent stories out of context. In fact, Girl on the Net wrote a follow-up post about Consent and the meaning of ‘no’ which added some context, and expressed the complexity of consent and non-consent play.
I haven’t always felt comfortable or confident asking for what I want in scene, or indeed saying “no” when actually I mean “yes”. It’s taken a lot of conversations, experiments and post-mortems to develop a language we’re both comfortable with.
It’s also involved a lot of porny clichés, hammy tone of voice and body language, because sometimes over-acting how turned on you are is the clearest signal you can give that you want to carry on while your mouth is saying “no, please stop”.
After reading Holly’s proposed script for communicative, enthusiastic consensual sex, I thought people might be interested in hearing one script for communicative non-consensual sex. This isn’t the only way of doing it, and you’ll probably have your own codes and signals and ideas. I feel like our mechanisms for playing at “please, no” are still fairly simplistic. But if you’re new to this sort of thing, I don’t think simple is a bad place to start. And hopefully, the above examples show that communicative play can be hot, even if you’re playing with non-consent.
So this post will bring the second Safe/Ward blog carnival to a close- please check out part 1 and part 2, and thank you for all who contributed by sharing deeply personal stories.
I felt like this story deserved its own entry, in part because it highlights how entitlement culture is not just an issue with BDSM, but an issue in altsex generally and society at large. I also think it’s important to outline that boundaries and clear limits are complicated- for example, in this situation, it’s not just the way he keeps badgering her after she says no, it’s also the consequences of her no that she worries about, which leads her to say yes.
I used this image, which is a Slutwalk sign, because it quotes one of the videos we use for Safe/Ward, an “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” segment that, to me, highlights why a yes may not be a 100% consensual yes. To ignore that a yes may be coming from a place of uneven power distribution is a dangerous thing.
“If I can’t say no, I can’t really say yes” is a phrase I use a lot.
I’m an adult actress in San Francisco and while I now focus on my own projects, there was a time when I mostly worked for other people. I was exclusively a girl-girl and solo performer for the first few years before I told my jealous partner that it really was just work and I wanted to earn the higher pay rates given to performers in boy-girl scenes and sleeping with a bunch of handsome, well-hung men who wouldn’t be bothering me the next day was just icing on the cake.
At every single adult company I worked at, condoms were routinely–mandatorily–used on toys, but male partners only wore one when requested. I had always been told that it wasn’t a big deal and wouldn’t prevent me from getting work, so when I did my first boy-girl scene, I asked that my co-performer wear a condom. I mean, why not? It was just an extra layer of protection. I also wanted to maintain something private for my long-term partner. Yet if someone had asked me point blank why I wanted my co-star to wear a condom, I’m not sure that I would have been able to articulate just why that bit of latex seemed so important, yet also so inconsequential.
The producer-director was a former adult actress and very understanding of my limit. She told the guy I was working with in advance, along with my few other limits. From working with her in the past I knew that she had a few little tricks here and there to make shooting easier and I was sure she would be a great facilitator for my first boy-girl shoot and I still think that she did her best.
I arrived on the set on time, picked out my wardrobe, and sat down to talk to my co-star about our limits and what we wanted to do. He asked a few times if I was sure that he had to wear a condom. I said yes and we got into position.
As we began setting up the scene, he started talking about how dirty I was, how I was probably crawling with venereal disease. The director cut the scene and asked him what the hell he was doing. “Well, there has to be a reason why I’m wearing a condom.” She told him not to question my health. He’d seen my test and I was clean. Anyway, the audience didn’t want to fantasize about some disease-riddled girl.
We started again. It was some of the best sex I’ve ever had, rough but with lots of kissing. One of the best parts was that he wanted to continue off-camera. I was used to working with girls who mostly made it very clear that I was not to touch them off-camera and the few girls who were interested in continuing on our own had been working with me for months before we got to that point. It was fun to be with someone who just wanted to fool around. Every ten minutes or so he asked if he could take off the condom. I continued to say no.
At some point, the director pulled me aside. “You don’t have to keep playing with him off-camera, you know. He’s taking advantage of you because you’re new.” I told her that I was thrilled to be having sex with this guy. He was hot, enthusiastic, and knew what he was doing. I could tell that he was a jerk, but we were both going home at the end of the day and he would be someone else’s problem.
I was enjoying myself, but it was still a long day. There were a lot of difficult positions and really deep face-fucking. I threw up. I was getting tired. He kept asking to take the condom off. I kept saying no.
When we moved on to the anal scene, he took the rubber off and looked me in the eye. “Please.” He looked at me hard, staring me down.
The director asked, “It’s just to prevent pregnancy, right?” That sounded like a much better reason than, “I just want him to.” After all, I’d seen his test. He was a professional. I was insulting him. This was my first boy-girl scene. I didn’t want to fuck it up. I wanted to get more work. He’d been asking all day and if I said no now, he’d just keep bugging me. He might even tell other male talent to avoid me. Maybe he already would. It would cost me money. Perhaps it would affect my girl-girl and solo work, too. Maybe it really was unusual to use condoms on set. Was I implying to the audience that I had a disease? Would I get a bad reputation? Was I just slowing down the whole shoot? I wanted to go home.
“Yeah. It’s to prevent pregnancy.”
We finished the shoot sans condom. I went home and took a shower. I updated my blog. I reassured my partner and we went to sleep.
It seemed that everyone was excited to hear about my first boy-girl scene, like it had been a first date or something. I’d been around for a long time before actually taking the plunge, but when I told female talent who I had worked with, they all turned their noses up. One woman said, “There are two guys on my no-go list: that guy and my brother.” A few months later I heard that there had been some sort of problem between the female director and the co-star where she had laughed him off the set as he cussed her out.
Evidently he was not a nice fellow, but no one had told me anything about him until afterward, like I had to go through a rite of passage in order to be told these things. Perhaps I would still have worked with him, but I would have also been much more assertive and committed to proclaiming my limits, or maybe I just would have gone in knowing it was futile, that he was going to pick and pressure until I gave in. I went on to work with other male performers, but I didn’t bother having the condom argument again. I like to think that other performers were nicer just because they were nice guys, but it may be that I didn’t insist on safe sex. A few even told me that I was their favorite performer to work with. I’m back to performing exclusively with women and on my own, so I suppose that I’ll never know if they would be just as nice if there was a thin layer of latex involved.
Yesterday (Sunday 2 February) I went to the London Alternative Market workshop on “Due Diligence for Deviants” being run by Master Cosmic. I’m going to talk a little about that.
(For people following breadcrumbs, I’m not doing the 101 on Consent Culture here. A good start is Kitty Stryker on Safe/Ward; if you’re strapped for time you could do far worse than starting half-way down at the paragraph beginning “Again, there’s this expectation that if you do enough work…” and just reading the next four or five paragraphs.)
Trigger warning: this post contains discussion of rape and assault, victim blaming, rape apologism and normalization, and casual transphobia. It includes second-hand anecdotes of assault and abuse.
I had hoped for a talk on useful things to do before playing; establishing safewords, discussing health concerns, agreeing limits. That’s not quite what we got.
The talk started with a explanation of the term “due diligence”. I’ll not go into the details here, but in short, the aim is to reduce the legal ramifications of playing with someone, minimize the chances of being accused of assault, and to ensure that if you are accused of violating someone’s consent you have a community around you who’ll stand behind you and believe you over the accuser.
One of the most important things to do before playing with somebody is to get references. Talk to folk before you play with your potential play partner, particularly if you’re planning on playing privately, and find out about their history and past partners. Reasonable advice, were it not for the following kicker, repeated a few times throughout the talk: “I have no sympathy for you if you don’t.”
Everyone who’s been on the kink scene (possibly this only applied to people who top) more than a year (apparently I’m the sole exception to this rule) will have stories of being accused of violating consent. It’s normal, and something you just learn to live with. Everyone who’s been on the scene a while knows who to avoid, but we’re not going to do anything about them because it’s safer to keep them where we can see them and warn people about them (provided they come to us and ask) and because they’ll just create a new identity and prey on people elsewhere.
If you’re having a relationship online, you should still be getting references, or at least being far more careful. Anyone who’s been on the scene for long enough can tell you about spending time and considerable amounts of money on online partners who’ve turned out to be trannies ripping people off. (And, again, while Cosmic has some sympathy the first time it happens, the second or third it’s your own fault.) (Yes, he did say trannies. I almost walked out at that point.)
And we had some anecdotes. The one that stands out in my memory is the fetish model friend, who did all the reasonable due diligence she could be expected to, but went to a photo shoot and ended up tied up in the photographer’s basement for a number of days. She now has triggers around just going to visit the relevant area of the country where she was abused. It’s terrible, but that’s part of the acceptable risk of being a fetish model, so it’s okay.
I’ll admit I didn’t engage with any of the issues at the talk. I talked a little bit about the legal status of SM under UK law when it came up as a tangential question, but I didn’t talk about victim blaming or consent culture. Frankly, I didn’t trust myself to without it turning into a (IMO justified but nonetheless unconstructive) rant. When I came out of the talk I was quite literally shaking with rage.
For context, Master Cosmic isn’t just some random person. He’s the guy who owns and runs the LAM. He’s a trustee of the Spanner Trust. At least in the London fetish scene, he’s a fairly well known name.
Don’t get me wrong, there were useful bits in the talk, particularly around good questions to ask when getting references, about attempting to avoid personal biases, and about setting up safe calls. But. But this sort of victim blaming is why we need Consent Culture, is why I want to get involved with this effort.
It’s worth reading through the commentary for the responsesfromCosmic, as well as from otherlocalsin thecommunity. As to be expected, there’s some logical fallacy and some derailing for dummies. What I keep finding interesting is the request from event organizers that the discussion “be taken privately”. BAGG’s event organizer did something very similar, asked why I didn’t go to him personally first. Well, frankly, when you’re not as well known, it’s very easy for the things you say to be dismissed- additionally, in “private”, it’s very hard to hold people accountable. They get defensive, they say they didn’t say things they did in fact say, it’s easier to make it messy.
Plus, and perhaps this is coincidence- it’s easier to manipulate someone one on one than it is to do it publicly. This is why abusers like to isolate their victims, after all. Not to say that either of these fellows are abusive, but it may be worth them reflecting how “let’s meet up and chat about this, you and me” can be perceived as somewhat uncomfortable if the other person is less privileged and ESPECIALLY if that person is trying to hold a “leader” accountable for their actions.
After all, these are ultimately conversations best held publicly, because they affect everyone. They’re community issues. Why are we a community until we’re addressing problems, and then it’s all individual? And since usually the people requesting one on one interactions often seem concerned about their words being taken out of context, wouldn’t such a public discussion benefit them, too?
seriously, I needed an image that didn’t
(trigger warning for discussion/personal stories of nonconsent/abuse/rape)
Due to having enough stories needing to be told to warrant two posts on the subject, here is Part 2 of the Safe/Ward blog carnival, and one story from a porn performer that I felt deserved a Part 3. Part 1 is here.
I am deeply saddened and yet also honored that these people are brave enough to come forward with their stories and experiences, especially as most of them aren’t bloggers themselves. It’s a scary thing to have something happen to you- even scarier, sometimes, to admit that what happened was abusive. Thank you to all who contributed.
About a year and a half ago I was briefly involved in the BDSM scene in New York City. I had come from a rather puritanical upbringing in the Midwest and gone through adolescence and college thinking that sex was this sort of dangerous and bad thing. It never occurred to me that the fact that I didn’t try to avoid it was because I was, like most people, a sexual person. I thought it was because I was self-destructive; I experienced a lot of depression and mental illness because I felt like I was broken, corrupted by my sexual desires. I dated nonmonogamously because I needed sex, but I didn’t feel I could find it in a traditional monogamous relationship.
The BDSM scene felt like a community where nobody was going to complain about me wanting to have sex or not wanting to be monogamous or anything like that. I finally felt safe. I started to date a male dom a few years older than me. For me, it was the first time that I had dated a guy who self-identified as feminist, and that felt really amazing. He told me how disgusted he was that other people in the scene didn’t take consent seriously, didn’t take rape seriously. I continued to date multiple people, but my focus was on him—my other partners didn’t explore sexual stuff with me, didn’t give me an adrenaline rush in the same way.
Even though I told myself I felt safer, I was in this weird state of constantly feeling anxious, but constantly feeling like he was the only one who could lift my anxiety. Unlike other guys I had dated, he really seemed to relish the role of caretaker/comforter. The other women he was dating were, like me, survivors of sexual abuse. It didn’t turn him off the way it turned other guys off. But then it started to feel like he only knew how to deal with me as a “broken person,” when I did things that asserted my independence, or questioned his decisions, he would emotionally withdraw. There was a lot of tension in the relationship, but I had fallen in love with him, and he was my only partner who was willing to explore s/m. All of our mutual friends, even the non-scene people, had recommended him to me as being incredibly nice. I felt like I must really be crazy if I had stopped feeling safe with such a nice guy.
He was a knife fetishist, which we had explored a little. He was interested in doing an insertion scene with me (you insert a knife into a vagina, but you don’t cut anything). I felt scared, but I didn’t give him a hard no, I said maybe I’d be ready in a few months. He used to insert his finger and tell me it was a knife, and be amused when I freaked out. One morning, he inserted something, and it really was a knife. We finished having sex, and my heart was beating so fast and everything seemed so far away. He said, “I can’t believe I got you to do that.” When I left his apartment that morning, I went to a Starbucks, waited in line for the bathroom, and then, finally, I threw up.
I started having panic attacks. My brain couldn’t form the idea that this person had done something scary. I trusted him so much. When we met up for drinks a few days later, he told me that he had decided not to date me anymore because I was too emotionally unstable for him to trust with his feelings. I brought up that he had made me feel really scared with the knife thing, and he got angry and said “I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done, because I know I’m leaving you better than I found you.” I hadn’t even said “rape” or anything like that, I just said he hadn’t checked in with me, hadn’t made sure I was ready.
I stopped being able to have sex without having panic attacks. I fell into a deep depression. He told all his friends that I was this crazy chick who had wanted him to be monogamous when he wanted to be poly. I lost pretty much all my scene friends.
I am so scared to rejoin the scene, even though I want to, because so many people respect this person as a nice guy, an activist, and that means that maybe there are a lot of people who are even worse, and I have no way of knowing. He is in positions of authority at organizations that are supposed to be safe spaces that prevent this kind of stuff, so even safe spaces don’t feel safe. I am so scared that he will do something to his current partner, and it will be my fault, because I didn’t speak up.
I am doing ok now; I am in a really healthy relationship and I am recovering from a lot of my anxiety about sex. But I can’t trust people the way I used to.
-F, NYC, early 20s
I’m a submissive male with long hair, and I drop off into subspace at the drop of a hat, or more commonly at the tug of my hair. It is something that I love about myself, actually, how quickly I can be dropped to submission. Used to love, rather.
Many people have seen how fast I drop, and have found it (hot|funny|amusing|curious). It would be common for someone I was with to, in the middle of a conversation say “watch this”, grab my hair in his or her fist, and I’d feel the world shimmer and fall away beneath my feet. It was like a little moment of heaven.
Unfortunately other people who saw this over time thought I was fair game, a party toy to be tricked out like this for their amusement whenever they wanted, even if there was no other involvement between us.
The first time was awkward.
The second time was uncomfortable.
The third time was panic inducing.
I didn’t know these people, in that head state, I become pliable – and generally limit myself to playing with those I know and trust (or those known and trusted by those I know). But I didn’t have that with these people. So my reaction shifted. When a lover grabbed my hair in public I’d tense and fight against the drop.
I hated it – and in the moment I couldn’t explain why, even out of the moment I couldn’t explain.
I thought I was overreacting, it was just hair pulling.
It has been years, my reactions to those I love have gotten a bit better, but I still have that tense moment of “wait, what, who is that, stop!”. I’m starting to think I always will.
-even the little things, M, 38, bay area now, Boston when this happened.
I am sharing my story in response to the request for stories about non-consent. I believe the more we speak up, the stronger we be. My story is not a typical D/s scenario. It involved my husband and myself- neither one of us really identify with any group or labeling except maybe we are heteroflexible and curious and occasionally play with others. I am open to just about anything… just about. My #1 rule (unless committed and tested together) is no condom, no penetration. Period.
I fancy myself to be a strong woman. I stand up for myself and for others if I see or feel they need support and I’m not afraid to speak up when I see someone being treated poorly.
I’ve never identified myself to be a submissive or Dom (in the bdsm world) but if I had to, I’d lean more towards the Dom side there (I’ve actually been paid for (light) Dom work a few times) and at home, more submissive in the way of serving my husband food, filling his needs and making him know he is the Man.
So my husband, who is my best friend and I implicitly trust with my life, and I are always exploring together and he had a fantasy in his head whereas he would invite his friend over and I would serve him and his friend beer, dress sexy, and basically play the sub. I’ve never played that role in my life and nobody had ever given him the opportunity to explore that in his self. We have done some things, like he’s thrown me in the field and “raped” me, stripped me and degraded me, etc.
Everything went ok for a while but (we did A LOT of learning from this) alcohol, combined with someone who has never subbed or dommed, and a friend who had no knowledge of that world, period, was a cauldron of bad brewing.
Without going into too much detail, something in my head changed. I can’t pin down when it happened but I somehow handed over my wellbeing, life and spirit when I slipped into “sub”. In doing so, I lost the power to speak, to say no. I was owned. I had no mind. “It did as it as was told”. Before the night was over, someone had unprotected sex with me and was the last person I’d ever have sex with sober. I was repulsed. I only left my room to go to the bathroom. I was scared to leave the house. I started having feelings that were familiar but couldn’t put my finger on it until I finally reached out to someone and they helped me realize those feelings were familiar because I had been raped at 18 by knifepoint. It was confusing because my husband, the one who protects me, was actually he instigator. All the trust I had in him was gone in an instant. Was my gut wrong the entire time about him? Was he this guy or that person?
After I was able to sort my thoughts out and also get my friend K’s opinion, and to lean on, I was able to start communicating with my husband about it. The more we talked, the stronger I got. We haven’t done anything like that since nor has he asked me to. He is very aware of how badly that affected our relationship and me and We are more important than his exploring that side. At this point, knowing what I know now, I’d consider more light play but if we ever did anything like that again, I’d definitely research it and involve someone with experience.
I’ve also learned the term aftercare, and believe that had we talked about it right after (he just went to bed having no clue I was in a state of shock), it might not have taken so long for me to heal.
I’ve been to enough parties to identify “that” douchy guy who uses the label “dom” to abuse and take advantage of people, my husband is NOT that guy. Anyone who knows my husband, knows how kind, thoughtful and sweet he is and he IS that person. This story is different in that we aren’t major players in the scene. We just tried to play out a fantasy at home and got into something neither of us realized the head change that happens.
From the husband.
I would say that every guy has this fantasy at one point or another. Watching your wife, or girlfriend with another guy. I found that for me, it was a third person perspective. There are views that you just can’t see when you are the participant. Well, my wife is everything to me, and we’re not a part of any group, or full on into any real fetish; just dabble here and there. My wife is submissive to me in our own special way. And she agreed to fulfill this fantasy for me, but with some set rules. We agreed that sex would not happen. Just some fun, and play.
One thing led to another, and we all got drunk. She passed out in bed or very close to it. Reactive, but not able to really say “no”. I was too drunk to read the signs, to know what I would have known if I were sober. (Drunk is no excuse- it had an affect on the situation.) Sex ended up happening, and unprotected at that.
Almost a year later, and I still hurt inside when I think of the pain I caused her. It was not violent, but it was a violation. She may forgive me, but I will carry the regret in me for the rest of my life. We learned, and carry the lesson on to the next adventure.
She knows in her heart that I’ll never let anything like that happen again, but that night a little part of my wife that she gave special, to me, and no one else, was lost forever.
We headed into my room where he slammed the door shut behind him and tossed me to the floor. He pinned me down and started groping me aggressively. He grabbed a blindfold that was proudly hung on my door knob and roughly put it on my head. The harder I fought, the more he laughed. He slapped my ass and bit my neck.
Now. This was TOTALLY something I was into. And? He was pretty to look at. Only thing was – I had no freaking idea who he was. He had not asked about any safewords, limits or heath issues. We had known each other for all of an hour and a half aside, from some drunken flirting at the party where we met.
Had he bothered to get to know me, he would have known fun little facts like, where I kept the good toys or where I kept the safer sex supplies or that I had an abusive ex-husband and was not a fan of being unexpectedly pinned to the floor and laughed at.
Luckily, even with his hand across my mouth, I was able to get the point across that he had about 2 nanoseconds to get out of my house before I screamed for my friends who would come and kick his ass in less then safe, sane and consensual manner. And thank you for dinner.
From the speed at which he exited, I’m pretty sure he believed me.
Fizz, another blogger who’s been thinking a lot about consent culture, sent this in to be included- keep an eye open, as Labcoats and Lingerie will have some Consent Culture Sex Stories upcoming to highlight when consent goes right (also incredibly important in this work!). This piece talks a bit about what it’s like to negotiate when you’re not great at figuring what you even want or how to ask for it, much less how to safeword:
And that’s the point: we never talked about D/s. He never said “I want to submit to you” and if he had I wouldn’t have known what that meant. I never chose to step into the complementary role; I just fell into the vacuum left behind by his passiveness. Accepting exchanged power, without ever feeling in control, is not dominating. I couldn’t give informed consent to D/s because I wasn’t informed, either about what he intended and wanted or about its alternatives. Remember that this wasn’t just my introduction to kinky sex; this was my introduction to sex. For all I knew, touching someone who never touched back was all I could get.
This is why I have a special hatred for the “ice queen” stereotype–the dominant who gets all the satisfaction she needs from touching others. I’m not that dom, never was and never will be, but I have played the part unwillingly for someone I wanted to please because neither of us knew how to articulate what we’d rather have. To this day I don’t know if that’s what he genuinely wanted from me, or if he wasn’t comfortable asking for something else, or if he’d been looking at femdom porn and thought that what it showed was just how this was supposed to go…
We’re still in touch, and have been close on and off. A few years ago, after a lot of maturing but still before I knew much about BDSM, we wound up fooling around a bit at his place. The day after, he told me he was still feeling sore from something new I’d tried, and described how it had felt as “about a four.” When pressed, he clarified that it hurt enough that he didn’t enjoy it, but he would do it for his dom. (A five would have been what I’d now call a hard limit.) I was incensed. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t tell me at the time if it was that bad, and then expect me to intuit the scale he was using as if there were a standard I should already know. It hit all the same buttons that our silence had in the past, and I threw up my hands and gave up on the idea of trying to connect with him honestly.
About a year later, I told that story to a mutual friend, venting some frustration that the memory brought back. “I just wish he would tell me these things, instead of expecting me to read his mind!”
“It sounds like he was trying to,” she said.
That stopped me cold. She was right, of course. When we’d talked the next day, he was giving me exactly the kind of feedback I wanted–just later and in a different format than I expected. And I’d yelled at him for it. No wonder it was so hard for him to talk to me about sex!
The next time I saw Galen, I brought it up. “I don’t know if you even remember that,” I said, “but I’m sorry for getting mad about it. I know you were trying.”
And finally, I wanted to add a bit of this piece from Adele Haze, who cherishes her safeword and is fierce about using it when she needs to:
I couldn’t help but notice that where the ease of safewording is concerned, I am, let’s just say, unusual in my local community. This makes me quite cross. You may have heard me rant about this in person, as it’s a pet topic of mine. I’ve also written about it in a less blunt way over on The Spanking Writers. I’ve found my dedication to safewords quite difficult to keep or defend on a few occasions.
I’m going to give you some direct quotes I’ve heard in the scene just in the last 3 years.
Said by tops:
“If you’re just going to safeword, we may as well not start.”
“She’s a serious player, she doesn’t safeword.”
“It’s not a punishment if you safeword, is it?”
“But I was so looking forward to this!” (Unsaid: “Until you safeworded and ruined everything.”)
“You’re being difficult.”
Me: “Safeword.” Him: *Flounce*
Me: “Safeword.” Her: *Tears*
Said by bottoms:
“I know I have a safeword, but I wouldn’t use it.”
“I don’t like safewords.” (Times many.)
“Safewording just doesn’t feel very submissive.”
“He doesn’t deal well with safewords.”
“I didn’t safeword. It wasn’t an option.”
Let me tell you, then, how easy it’s been to remain the sort of safe, responsible bottom who can be relied upon to safeword when she needs to. Let me tell you about the sulking divas with canes I’ve had to deal with, until in the last couple of years I drastically limited the circle of people I will bottom to. Let me tell you about comforting friends who aren’t quite as bloody-minded or determinedly blunt as me.
Do you know what’s interesting? None of the scary shit ever happened to me in my professional spanking work. It has to people close to me, but never to me. Go figure.
I wanted to maybe encourage other people, Dominants particularly, to speak up for the Blog Carnival with a story of my own. It’s a time that I violated boundaries in a scene (ignorance? not bliss, people), and discovered how complicated safewords and consent can be. I thought about submitting this story anonymously, but then I felt pretty strongly that I wouldn’t be taking ownership. To not add my own voice to this would be against why I want other people to speak out, and I think hiding behind anonymity would be a betrayal to the consent culture I want to work towards. Activism starts with you, be the change you want to see and all that.
I was playing with a woman who was younger than me by a few years, 20 to my 25 or so. I knew she had a history of abuse, having been groomed by a paedophile, and I knew that she liked some really dark play, something I have experience in both as the bottom and as the top.
Still, I overestimated my ability to hold a container for the scene… and if I felt unsure in my gut that I didn’t have enough information, I should have waited until I did. She was cute, and I was so excited to play with her that I pushed common sense to the side. We had played before, some lighter stuff, and I said to myself that we had enjoyed that so we could take it down a notch.
We discussed playing with a guy we both thought was pretty, and who was a switch, so we invited him along. We discussed limits (no vaginal penetration, anal was ok, bondage was good, sadism was good) and looked at the playspace together. I made sure we had chocolate on hand, a blanket, and a first aid kit, the practical, physical things a Responsible Dominant has around the place.
The scene maybe took an hour and a half in total. I bound her fingers with zip ties (something I had seen in a kink.com video- yeah, they are not easy to get off) and spanked her til she was pink and crying. Worried about the crying, I checked in, probably in a very mother hen sort of way and she told me she was fine. We had a safeword in place, so we kept going.
I remember he did something sexual to her- perhaps it was fingering her ass?- and slapped her face while she sobbed. I remember being really worried that she was in a place where she couldn’t safeword, and equally worried to assume she was and stop things only to have her dismiss me as a bad Dominant. I wanted to play with her again, to impress her, and him, and maybe myself. There was never a safeword used.
But I should have used my own safeword. I didn’t because I wanted to be the hard Dominant, I wanted her to want me. And I should have trusted my gut instead, because she had been struggling, she didn’t have fun, and I felt like a total shit. Even so, my first internal reaction was a defensive one- “well, she didn’t safeword, so that’s on her!” I said to myself, frustrated.
Then I stopped. And I thought about that, and about rape culture, and about why someone wouldn’t safeword. I thought of some of my own experiences, where I didn’t because I didn’t want to disappoint my Dom… or, worse, because I was scared if I did say something, and they kept going, I might get it worse. I realized I might be that person for this girl. And I didn’t know what to do.
I asked her what I could do to make her feel safe, encouraged her to talk about it with others if she wanted to, asked her if she needed space from me or to process with me. And I pulled away from Topping for a while to reflect on it all. It was one of the hardest things. I’m still processing it.
Sometimes, playing with darkness, we can discover just how dark we can go. It scares us, and we worry about it scaring other people, so we clam up and walk away pretending we never saw Mr. Hyde lurking within. To combat that silence is to admit that you’re not always entirely sure if you’re a sadist or a serial killer. I admire respect the guts of one blogger who wrote about the time he almost raped and killed a woman- he posted the story of the experience on his blog, and did an interview about it. I think it’s a horrible story. He knows it’s a horrible story. He said any comments posted that eroticized the event would be deleted and the people who posted them banned. It’s not a sexy story, it’s a terrifying one. It was hard to read, incredibly hard, not just because of the story but because I realized- this guy is talking about it… but he’s not the only one who’s been there.
What makes me sad is that now those links to his posts are gone. Why? Because people used his honesty to tear him apart, as we do to people who express their darkness. It’s extremely vulnerable to say “I have thought/done some fucked up things”. I hope he allows these posts to be public again soon, because I think they’re a HUGELY important part of the puzzle, and how can we talk openly about consent unless we talk openly about when consent is ignored/ broken, or betrayed?
Or there’s the other side- we eroticize it, present Hyde as a frightening but charismatic Dominant figure. Sociopaths are so sexy, after all. So rather than be seen as a n00b Domme, I continued to smack her while she sobbed, because she didn’t safeword so it was ok, right? But it wasn’t. Why did I not safeword myself? Because I wanted her to find me sexy, scary, fun to play with. I knew that it can be hard for many reasons for a submissive to safeword in scene and I kept going anyway. That’s hard to sit with.
Even when you know all the techniques… you can still fuck up. And it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or that your submissive is a dangerous bottom. It doesn’t mean it should be blown off as “oh, BDSM is playing with fire”- ok, sure, but that doesn’t mean we should have fire extinguishers or that we start giving matches to arsonists. It means that we live in a society that puts pressure on women to please their partners and on men to be tough and hard. It affects all of us. Of course it does. And we need to reflect on how those social norms affect us within BDSM… whether or not we realize it.
Please consider submitting your story to the Safe/Ward blog carnival. It’s anonymous, after all, but it’s a major first step in pulling back the curtain.
So after a discussion on Twitter between Consent Culture activist Maggie and a guy who goes by @crash_restraint, wherein he ended up harassing Maggie about consent culture and what we were doing- i think originally he was wanting to help but instead was just tweeting at her til she got overwhelmed and asked him politely to slow down. He then whinged about how “oh, white straight cismales don’t get a voice in this discussion, even if they’re allies, I SEE”, because she asked him to give her some time, and because she didn’t respond to his email fast enough.
I pointed out that in a discussion about consent and boundaries, maybe he should, I dunno, respect politely stated limits? I also suggested he email me with his suggestions in full, because hey, I like hearing people’s ideas about this stuff- he emailed me, and the text of the email is below. He said I should publish it in full, because the context was important, “if you think anyone cares”. See what you think:
Below is the E-mail I sent Maggie last night, and as a starting point, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in response to it. Since writing this, I’ve had some other ideas of my own, but I’d love to hear your response to my initial problem statement first, both because I think it would help me frame my proposal in context, and because, frankly— I already went through the effort to write this much, and want to be assured I’m not completely wasting my time talking to you.
To avoid wasting *your* time, though, to be clear, I have no interest in publishing anything via your blog. You already seem to be in support of the idea that I shouldn’t be allowed to speak freely on /my own twitter feed/, why would I want to express myself in a forum that /you/ moderate?
Also, I no longer have any interest in working with you and/or Maggie to implement anything, but I would still love to get your opinions on my thoughts, in case I eventually find other partners with whom I could put them into practice. If and once you reply to this E-mail in a way that shows an openness to reasoned good-faith dialogue.
———— Original Message ————
Subject: Lynching rapists
The idea that our community would tolerate, let alone promote and celebrate, people known to be rapists, is completely repugnant to me.
But I would like to think it’s more an issue that those people manage to slip through the gap of reasonable doubt. And I’m not sure how to solve that.
Obviously, we can silently boycott those who we have some sort of first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing about — but that’s a pretty weak salve. I’ve seen cases where a local kink scene has driven someone out based on accusations ranging (in my judgment, worth who knows what) from almost certainly true to pretty clearly farcical. And in every case, even ignoring questions of the accuracy of the verdict, the situation was handled HORRIFICALLY badly on all sides. Without some sort of clear guidelines for how to respond to such situations, all we get is random drama.
As I tweeted, while that may be better than silence, it’s also easy to see why people are eager to avoid it — it can completely tear a community apart, in the worst cases (and not always because anything was deeply rotten). Obviously, throwing our hands up and saying “well, it’s a legal problem” does not constitute working towards a solution, either. But I’ve not seen any evidence of the community’s ability to dispense extralegal justice in any way that could be called seemly or effective.
So..what do we do?
My impression of the email specifically to me went something like… so… as an ally, you want to refuse to work with us, steal our content AND then not credit us? AWESOME. I like how one of my friends put it- “I wanna fight against rape culture and I won’t take no for an answer!”
Also, a subject line like “lynching rapists” either indicates to me that he thinks it’s a good idea, or that he’s worried about being seen as doing that. Both are problematic, in my opinion- I’m not interested in mobs, personally, I want to see harm reduction practices in place. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see any suggestions on that front. Do you?