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 responses from Cosmic, as well as from other locals in the community. 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?