Category Archives: Safe/Ward

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BDSM Dungeons: Your Policies Are Your Politics.

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this should be a hot scene, not your abuse response policy

“On the Handling of Disputes Between Members and/or Participants

5. I understand that The South Bay Spot will not be put in a position to mediate disputes among members and/or participants. Therefore if I have a problem with another member and/or participant which results in either (a) uncivil behavior on either of our parts; or (b) any legal requirement that one of us stay away from the other, that in either case, both of us may be banned from the premises and/or suspended from membership. I understand that such ban or suspension can be done without any regard to fault.

I verify this statement by placing my initials here: _______.

This is being put in the Membership Application to alert those who wish to join The South Bay Spot that bringing deliberately bringing incivility and extreme, open drama to our club is not only not desired here, but may, in egregious circumstances, lead to suspension of membership and/or expulsion.”

This is the (new) policy of local BDSM venue “South Bay Spot”. It’s not currently in their Code of Conduct on their site (which does include “I shall also endeavor not to bring
physical or reputational harm to either through my purposeful and
deliberate actions,” which sounds to me like “I won’t call out people who are harmful publicly and I’ll be very careful who I talk to privately or I might lose access to this venue”).  It’s been declared by one of the board members as being to prevent “extreme drama“. The Code of Conduct emphasizes that everyone is an adult multiple times, as if to suggest that discussing issues of consent, abuse, and BDSM is a childish, melodramatic thing to do.

Like it’s not fucking vital.

As one of my friends put it:

“So, basically, you can go to the club, and be assaulted, verbally abused, or threatened in a completely unwanted, unprovoked manner… and that is justification, at the South Bay Spot’s discretion, to kick you out, suspend your membership, and ban you from the club forever. 

I mean, it’s really standard for everything from public businesses to online services to reserve the right to boot you, period. You have those sorts of protections, because weirdness can and does happen, and, well… liability. But usually, they don’t spell out the fact that they reserve the right to boot you for potentially being victimized.”

Many of the members have recoiled, rather understandably, against this policy, saying that it will potentially silence victims of abuse, leading them to not pursue legal action because they may be expelled from their community for doing so.

Some folks have clung to the fact this policy says “may” be banned, not “will” be banned. I’m going to remind the reader that most of the stories of abuse I have received in my 3 years running this project have been involving “pillars of the community”. If your policy says something like “may”, what I hear and what I’ve seen practiced is “we will side with whomever we like best and/or is more useful to us”. This is not a good strategy and not very transparent for enforcement, though why it came to pass is shockingly transparent in this case, particularly as this policy came into being after a friend of the board was served with a restraining order.

DID I SHOCK YOU I KNOW I KNOW WHO WOULD’VE SEEN THAT COMING

Now, it seems like the Board of the SBS (all white, cis, and over 45) decided on this policy thanks to their attorney, who is unnamed and therefore I couldn’t follow up with them to ask some questions. But any attorney would say that their prior policy, which said simply They also say this is because they “don’t want to take sides” (though as we know, refusing to take a side is actually taking a side with the abuser).  They enacted this to apply retroactively to people who were already members, which also seems sneaky when they didn’t allow the members to discuss/critique it before it was laid out.

Another defense of this policy was that another local dungeon, the SF Citadel, has a similar policy. I couldn’t find an online code of conduct for the SF Citadel on their site- I did however find what looks like an older version here.  I didn’t notice any clause for banning both parties in a restraining order situation- it has happened in the past but as far as I know its currently regarded as a terrible way of handling situations of abuse in the community.

Side note: most of the Citadel’s policies are pretty standard, but I did find this, which was one reason I stopped going to the Citadel:

“Use safewords. At SF Citadel, the house safeword is “SAFEWORD” Dungeon monitors and other experienced players will come to your aid when they hear it. We ask that all players use this word as a call for assistance from outside your scene. Don’t misuse this call for help.”

“Don’t misuse this call for help”. Creepy, no?

Who decides what is “misuse” of a safeword? How many people push themselves past where they would like to safeword simply because they don’t want to find themselves accused of “crying wolf”? Don’t you think that socially pressuring someone to stay in a situation that feels unsafe until their need for it to end overwhelms their fear of being called “dramatic” is intensely fucked up and an abuse of power?

I think this sort of reasoning similarly reflects poorly on the SBS’s choice of policy. Knowing that a friend of the board was served a restraining order, the SBS won’t want to ban their friend- and, as they’re a private business, they can reject whomever they choose, legally. The law may even lift a restraining order if the protected person goes regularly to a place where the served person will be- so if you get a restraining order, and your local dungeon decides to support your abuser, you may get penalized for continuing to go to that local dungeon.  This might lead to a victim second guessing if they want to pursue legal action against an abuser, as they can very clearly be labeled “drama” and tossed out.

If the venue doesn’t step in at all, then the restrained party is, I believe, the one who has to leave, legally speaking. The onus is on them to stay away from the protected party. Now, the protected party would have to call the police to have the restrained party removed, and I did see some worry that calling the police to the venue would potentially shut SBS down… yet another reason why BDSM venues need to find better ways to self-police. The prison-industrial complex is not only dangerous for marginalized people, who are often the victims of the violence committed, but also for kinky people generally.

If the venue decides they want to protect the restrained party, though, there’s nothing saying they can’t effectively ban the protected party. Well, nothing except ethics, but who cares about that!

What may the consequences of such a policy be? Well, by making your silence and complicity part of the entry fee for the venue, the SBS has made it clear that they are more invested in making a space that’s safe for their buddies than focused on consent or the safety of the rest of their membership.

Basically, this suggests that 3 years out from starting Consent Culture as a project, we’re STILL fighting the same victim blaming, silencing crap we did in the beginning.

There’s a bright side to all this shit, though. These policies have been subject to some hot internal debate among the Citadel community, and after an email I received from a staff member there that validated my concerns, was totally not defensive, and outlined some plans they’re putting into place, I believe that clause may be getting removed (and about time).  The Citadel doesn’t have an Official Policy, but if X has a restraining order against Y, I have been reassured that now Y gets banned, not both, not X.

I hope that the South Bay Spot will similarly reflect on these policies, and perhaps ask one of the three consent in BDSM projects, two of which are local, to advise them. The critics were told not to “grab the torches and the mob”, as well as use of my favourite phrase (and incidentally my Halloween costume this year) “kangaroo courts”. I’ve written this up to the best of my knowledge, and will update with any further details.

The SBS have said they are going to review the policy, and I noticed the owner of the venue was joining the NCSF Consent Counts groups (not the best one, as they are pro-cops and don’t recognize the intersectional reasons why someone may not want to get the police involved- an interesting combination with a venue where one member said they couldn’t get the cops involved, because they would potentially lose the space).

Time will tell.

o-DUCT-TAPE-MOUTH-facebook

Guest Post: On the costs of talking about consent

o-DUCT-TAPE-MOUTH-facebookThis guest post is from one of our contributors, who wanted to repost their writing here. I’m really glad to be getting more guest posts on here, so that we can begin to paint a fuller picture of what consent culture might mean, and where we’re at currently, from various standpoints.

Cross-posted from: http://queerfeministkilljoy.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/on-the-costs-of-talking-about-consent/

Content Note: rape, child sexual abuse,  self harm

It’s been a trying time of late to be someone for whom consent is really important. The Washington Post published a column within which were posted the words, “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” More of the usual victim blaming asshole-ry has blown up on Fetlife, and I  recently received a phone call from a dear friend wanting to process newly recovered memories of sexual abuse. The conservative columnist (whose name I’m not using purposefully, as he doesn’t deserve any more air time) who penned the piece for the Washington Post probably has no idea how common rape and sexual violence is because he isn’t a target for that sort of assault. In his experience, as a white cisgender hetero man, rape and sexual violence are somewhat rare. He applied his broken validity prism, threw in some heartless conservatism, added some dubious statistics and stirred et voila! Rape apologist tripe!

So now we have another example of victim-blaming narrative. I’ve seen this particular approach elsewhere of late– apparently we’re all doing this for the positive attention, you guys. You know, all the attention? How like… positive it is? Yeah. We’re completely hooked on it. Yup. That’s the argument, and homie ain’t the only one making it. Let me just let that sink in for a minute. Survivors who refuse to be silenced by their own internalized shame and self-blame, by the obvious hostility, the gaslighting, denial, and threats from all of those who wish to silence survivors– are in fact making it all up. Yup, because of all the positive attention.

I wonder though, what does all this positive attention look like? Maybe its like the time I asked politely that folks refrain from using the term rape to mean anything other than rape. To which a crowd of barely literate mansplainers linked me to the dictionary definition and sounded off about how words evolve and change and mean different things. Wow, thanks guys! I’m so glad you were there for me about that because frankly, my graduate program in Comparative Literature left something to be desired in terms of, “how words work,” and complex stuff like that. –So instances like this- in which someone who is/was/has been/will continue to be continually targeted for sexual violence asks someone who veeeery likely isn’t/hasn’t been/won’t be to have the tiniest smidgen of sensitivity to that issue and gets so much pushback you’d think she’d asked for blood or plasma… These are perhaps not the instances of, “positive attention,” to which the columnist is referring? Maybe there is some other place and time where all the positive attention comes into play? Because in situations such as the one mentioned above I’ve personally been, at best- laughed at, verbally bullied and shouted down for daring to challenge the status quo or assert my right as a survivor to be comfortable in a space, and at worst called names, the target of threats (typically threats of sexual violence, because that’s not at all triggering for a survivor) and the recipient of gendered insults.

Regardless of how this narrative about all this positive attention actually flies in the face of survivor’s stories and statistics, (many survivors report being disbelieved, shamed, blamed, and/or ostracized when seeking support) this is the argument in a nutshell. We’ve got something to gain- attention, fame, noteworthiness, sympathy– some damn thing. That’s the latest version of bitches be trippin meets lying liars— we aren’t all some woman scorned after all, it seems. And we aren’t all slutty sluts with buyer’s remorse who changed our minds and decided to cry rape. Nope. We’re attention seekers who desperately desire the adoration of fawning acolytes. We’re seeking positive attention- all the real and desirable effects that come of claiming survivor status. We’re drama queens, and narcissists and liars. Anyone else notice the similarity of this particular bit of victim blaming to all the others? Notice how they’re all coded femme? Ain’t life grand?

So let’s back this bus up a smidgen, shall we? Survivor privilege, what might it look like?

Well, at least in part, for me, it looks like being one of a few people that those whom I love who are also survivors can come to when they need to process shit so dark you wouldn’t watch it were it in a movie. Like what happened on Monday first thing in the morning, when a woman I love and consider family called to discuss the depths of horror she lived through as a helpless child. She needed to talk so I listened, because I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and rape. It was only natural she’d talk to me about this– besides her therapist, who would be willing to go down that particular rabbit hole? Ah, but there’s the rub—because I’m a survivor, I can empathize, perhaps a bit too well. Unfortunately, I’m so traumatized that hearing firsthand accounts from those I love is triggering and integrating new information is a painful process. I have to rearrange things to make a space in my brain where I can put some more wordless horror. I have to process what I now know while walking the world acting perfectly normal while making space for this dark sludge alongside all the other nightmare inducing things already stored in my full to bursting little brain.

So, what else is there? What else do I stand to gain? I’m an outspoken feminist for whom it took twenty years years to properly name a drunken-teenage-passed-out-drunk-woke-up-to-someone’s-peen-in-my-vagina-moment (surely we’ve all had those? amirite?) what it actually is- rape. I never told my friends about it; even though he was their friend too and we were all passed out on another friend’s living room floor. It didn’t even occur to me to say anything.  Instead I just glared at him when I saw him after that, and I didn’t explain to anyone, not even to myself, until fairly recently- that this was a tipping point for me as a teenager. Soon after that I started to cut myself. Instead of speaking about violation, I bled and had nightmares and my mom told me that I was, “sick in the head.”  Ain’t that cute? That’s how girls are supposed to deal with things you guys! Internalize it! But quietly! Don’t cause anyone else a moment of inconvenience, though. That’s survivor privilege. Taking twenty years to sort out the precise moment I started cutting my wrists, arms and inner thighs and being able to trace it to directly to a single moment after a lifetime of truly dramatic history. It was  a –one thing too many- sort of thing, which happened just as I was starting to come to grips with all the horrors I’d been through. Survivor privilege is having some more stuff loaded on to your back when your legs are already broken. Survivor privilege is when people who are carrying very little yell at you to get up and move and stop being so self involved.

Survivor privilege is being dismissed whenever I talk about that night when I woke up all drunk and woozy and confused to discover that sex was being had, apparently, with me. Survivor privilege is having anything I say that has to do with the systemic and systematic sexual violence which primarily targets women and other fem(me) folks dismissed out of hand due to my gender identity, mistakenly attributed to either my politics or my hatred of men. Whatever I say is dismissed because I already have an opinion about rape (hate it) and rape culture (hate) and the violent misogyny (grr hate) and male supremacy (triple hate) that excuses and denies all of the aforementioned hateful stuff.

I’m completely biased, get it? As a woman, as a femme, and as a survivor I cannot discuss bodily autonomy– especially that of women and/or fem(me)s without having a vested interest, a stake in the topic. Therefore my opinion is always already irrelevant because I have one. Unlike other people whose opinions are valid regardless of their history or lack thereof– mine is suspect, because its personal. Survivor privilege is having my passion for changing the situation that we call rape culture—the situation where sexual violence is permitted and permissible and alluded to continually and used like a bludgeon to force feminine people into line in service of male supremacy and compulsory heterosexuality– all of this is attributed back to completely subjective feelings and therefore irrelevant. I’m not objective you guys. Unlike all those hetero guys with a vested interest in telling us all about their friend who was falsely accused, or so they say, because some bitch cried rape—and they all seem to have a friend like that, have you noticed? Funny, I don’t have any of those friend but most of my friends have been raped. A girl I started dating recently said something like, “well you know, when you just go with it? Because it’ll go easier?” and what she meant was: you know, those times when you have to choose between mild coercion and brutal rape? Because women and fem(me) folks make that choice frequently enough that its not unusual.  We have that experience, well I guess about as often as dudes friends get falsely accused, I’d guess. Unlike the rape apologists, those bastions of all things objective and reasonable and traditionally coded masculine and good and glorious and great, I already have an opinion, one that is totes subjective and stuff. Yeah I can see why you’d dismiss my opinion in advance, seeing as how I got one, or whatever.

Waitaminute though, I’ve forgotten already what it is I’m supposed to have gained from having all these conversations where I’m triggered and gas-lighted repeatedly, where insensitive clods say the most foul, misogynistic, backwards, sexist, victim blaming,  rape apologist shit they can think up– all to convince me to stop talking about consent. I wake up crying from nightmares during consent wars, I cry more easily and often during the day. My depression gets worse, and I get rageface- which we all know leads to wrinkles. No bueno. No fucking bueno, compadres.

You know what else it costs to write about and talk about consent? I’m going to be super real with y’all. It has cost me the vast majority of my relationships with men. Not all at once, but eventually, over time, one by one. It was one sexist joke too many, it was one boundary-crossing-creep-defender over the line. It was the constant microaggressions or the combination of being privileged and defensive about it and unable or unwilling to do any better.  Most grew weary of arguing about feminist issues, or about the fact that I wouldn’t let them just win those arguments, even though they usually had no idea what they were talking about. They couldn’t deal with the fact that I won’t allow anyone to say disparaging shit to and about me and mine. Or they won’t or can’t do better after I explain how to do better many many times and finally I have to peace out on them for my own safety. I have at present a tiny handful of guy friends. One I get into arguments with nearly every time we talk. I fear that relationship may go the way of most of my past relationships with subtly sexist men- away, that is to say. Which is really too fucking bad. Because the truth is, I don’t hate men- I hate male privilege. I really like men, shit, I love them actually, some of them. I miss having men friends, but not enough to let the mild misogyny slide. I have got to take care of me and mine. That’s where we clash, because I refuse to just smooth things over, to just let things go. They’re accustomed to deference and I’ve taught myself to drop that habit as best I can.

So, for me, the cost of talking about consent is pretty freaking high. Why do I keep doing it then? Well, Audre Lorde said, “your silence will not protect you” –I’ve been guarding the boundaries of my person from folks who felt they had the right to lay their hands on me for as long as I’ve had consciousness as a human being.

I was born with a target on my back, or was it between my legs? The point is that I’ve had to fight a war without end. The combatants are my right to bodily autonomy and the right of folks who feel entitled to my person regardless of my granting or not granting consent. That includes grown men who tried to fondle me when I was just a kid and it includes the little boys who did the same. It includes the teachers who excused such shenanigans and it includes the politicians who currently wish to legislate what I may or may not be allowed to do with my own person.

I’ve had to fight for the right to not be touched by men my entire life and the struggle hasn’t ended yet. Because I have a primary partner who is also a woman, I continue to be treated as, “fair game”– and frankly that’s how it feels. Like some of us are hunters while others are prey. I’m a relatively small person, and people seem to find it hilarious to pick me up. I find it utterly terrifying. I dislike being touched by people I don’t know but have a very difficult time making folks hear that over the noise of their preconceived notions about what/whom my body is for– which is to say– I am for them, apparently. That’s why I’m curvy despite being so short, that’s why I have such a big butt- its for the visual and tactile pleasure of men. I’ve gotten good at stating boundaries loudly and staying away from people who set off alarm bells, but this has only mitigated some of the harm. The constant warding off of potential incursions remains. Not talking about this isn’t going to change that, and it isn’t going to educate the people who are privileged but are also decent humans. Silence won’t make the world safer for people like myself.  Talking about and modeling the changes we need our culture to undergo will start shifting both the behavior and the thinking that underpins it.

So I keep going. I don’t shut up. I defend my borders assiduously. The last time a stranger decided to put their hands on me was about two weeks ago now at the bus stop. He asked how I was doing and I replied that my back hurt, so he tried to rub my shoulders and I asked him to stop. He did, and then he commented on my big old butt. And I’m sure if you were to ask him, he’d say he’d done nothing wrong- crossed no boundaries, not violated anyone’s consent. Why, after all, should he inquire as to whether he can or cannot put his hands on me? That’s like asking a sofa before you sit down. I’m sure he wouldn’t have put it that way, he’d have said its no big deal and I’m taking it too seriously. Gaslighting aside, the reality is that he is granted bodily autonomy in a way that I am not. That’s why he violated my space with such ease, it literally didn’t even occur to him that I’m not there for him to touch, to push my boundaries, to hunt.

Convincing other adults that I am an autonomous human being and not an object for their visual or tactile pleasure and that they have no right to demand my time or attention is an ongoing struggle. Convincing other adult humans to not put their hands on me without asking first is an ongoing struggle. So what do I get out of it? I get better at stating my boundaries, better at tracking those who are grooming potential targets. I get derided, made fun of, called names- almost always gendered insults, what a surprise. I get yelled at and threatened with violence. I get to have bad dreams and sick sad feelings that take days and days to go away. But I keep doing it anyway. Because only having these conversations about consent will change the way that we as a people understand consent and autonomy. Only by modeling a different way of doing consent where we use our words and ask each other first can we create a world in which each and every one of us regardless of gender or size or status or race or age or ability is an autonomous being who can grant or refuse consent.

Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)

From Top To Bottom: Confronting Myths About Consent & Respecting Dom/mes

So Jetta Rae/Doublecakes is going to be joining us as a staff writer and editor, so this is not, strictly speaking, a guest post, but rather a post I’m adding because I have yet to make another login. :) I particularly like this piece because it speaks to the dynamic between D types and s types, how often it becomes about what the D type can provide in a Mad Libs type of way, rather than a connecting of interests and desires. I’ve spent time as both, and felt like I was being objectified whether I was the Domme or the submissive- like I was just there to impersonate someone’s fantasy, rather than speak to my own. Consent requires being able to make space for each other, I think. 

There but for the grace of this Old Navy’s clearance swimwear section go I.

Sometimes I’m still a child, drumming on my gut, reckoning the ripples through the hot frost of the bathroom mirror. Waiting for my mother to come, to beat down on the door. She hates this. More than being called “mumsy”. More than action figures that “sweat”. Nothing makes her billy goat gruffer than me playing with my own fat.

Maitresse (1975)
Maitresse (1975)

Was it plain shame, or does a mother know–the gulps and groans and gags of passerby and fellow fitting room tenants? Was she trying to prepare me for adulthood, a life in exile on a world without pity, where the suffering of fat people, specifically fat women, is so ubiquitous and commonplace that it’s become written into our social contract. Doctors, airlines, the Forever 21 on Bay Street–it seems no stratus of our waking life remains that has not capitulated to the fear of a Size 20.

I ask not for whom this chorale of cringe emanating through the fitting rooms tolls for. I mean really: it just wouldn’t feel right without this affronted backdrop. Baby’s first bikini, la vie en lime green, with ruffles. It’s not quite the hue of green that I was hoping for–but it’s not the top that I’m admiring in the mirror.

The ochre has given way to a muddy yellow, laid over blemished black. Two on my left breast, one beneath the collarbone, and a bitemark at the back of the neck. The bikini gets a score of four out of four; she’ll be able to see her work, and in doing so, see me.

My wings have been singed. I once played that apex prey–the lifestyle Domme. A two star motel matriarch, I have captivated a cavalcade of “it’s complicated”s, from Peoria to Menlo Park. I would chain your heart to my boot heel and feed you the key for breakfast!

I’m missing so much tupperware.

Maybe there’s some in my dresser. No–just orphaned butt plugs and t-shirts two sizes too small. A song as old as rhyme.

But your husband can just microwave something for himself, right? No, that bus doesn’t run 24 hours. You’ll need to get an Uber.

Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)
Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)

“It’s not so cut and dry, Mom,” you say. “There’s a lot of moving parts, you know. She’s trying to get a job as a head librarian. She’s still living with her parents. She’s sponsoring her husband to live here and you know, the government just doesn’t get polyamory, you know? They all love me. I have an abundance! I have so much I can’t ever tell anyone about it. Like the lottery!

Well what do you know, Mom? You date men.

They cry “there’s never enough tops!” and I do my little turn on the catwalk.

Please hurt me, mistress. Please punish me. I’ve been bad, Mistress. I need it, Mistress. I need you to wear this, Mistress. I need to you come over tonight if you can, Mistress. And I need it to be not so expensive, Mistress. Please, Mistress: I’ve been very bad!

A swayed gaze at the wayback: I’m needlessly tip-toeing into my house. It’s instinct. It’s awkward. I left a suicide note on the fridge a couple days ago. Bad form.

There’s a strange girl in the living room. Or rather, a girl who I do not recognize. Everybody’s strange, now. So nobody is. I’m from a heyday where a hot pocket dipped in ketchup meant something. Now everyone throws birthday parties for house bugs and quotes song lyrics to authority figures.

“I loved your zine! I’ve been looking for a Mommy for like, forever! I showed it to my mom, and she loved it too! Especially that part where you talk about ‘washing out someone’s mouth with cock’”–

And now she’s in my bed. And naked. And my roommate is drinking in the living room, probably upset with me that I sneakily swept their hopeful hookup away with my charming tale of just getting out of the hospital and feeling frail and like I should be alone.

That dress, man. That red polka dot dress. I got apprehended on the Golden Gate Bridge, I got held for two days in a psychiatric hospital–not so much as a sweat stain. I come home and some drunk earlytwentysomething gets beer drool all over it trying to kiss me.

When I was younger than this girl, my ex would call me girl’s names during sex to prove how much happier I’d be if I transitioned. I joked that I’d wear earplugs in bed from then on. And sometimes I wish I’d followed up on it–those first few months or years would be hard but after a decade of practice I’d be almost superhuman at understanding people through earplugs and no wayward sub could coax arousal from me by drunkenly whispering the name for such a core element of myself.

She likes spankings, but not too hard. She likes the word “client” over “John” because it’s more compassionate. It’s amazing how much you can know about a person without, like, being able to identify them and what they did to you.

“Thank you for last night and especially this morning. Once my divorce with my husband is over–”

No, this isn’t the next day. It’s three months ahead. I only have so many dresses. And there I am, waiting to get into the club to get dressed for wrestling. I’m nervous–I’m wrestling a woman I just started dating. And here comes hashtag clients not johns. She’s introducing me to her Daddy. Oh,  how have I been? Did I know she’s thought of me since that day?

Would you rather not, with this, right now? Well, I’ve got the whole series of “Crying By Myself On The BART Station Because I Got 65 ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ Texts But Not One Offered To Make Plans With Me”.

It wasn’t well received by critics, as it were, but still very popular and long-running.

You know: this is not what I had in mind when we moved to change the party line to “The Submissive Has The Real Power”. I’m not saying I wish we hadn’t changed it. All the other ones we had before this were fucking awful. I just wish we had thought to make room for an acknowledgment that the D could use some TLC and R-E-S-P-E-C-T when it comes to their boundaries and consent.

They cry “but only butches are ever tops though, right? femmes can’t top” and I do my little turn on the catwalk.

Despite myself, I get it. We’ve been laid low all our lives, told that we are lacking. That we need to give, give, give to make up for this deficiency of normalcy within ourselves.

And it feels good to give. Flat facts here. It feels good to serve.

Until you’ve tasted your partner’s armpit sweat, get out of my face with this “a relationship is built on trust” shit. We’re survivors, hustlers roughly rehabilitated mental patients. Who the fuck trusts us?

I live in a world where a shared netflix account is not a kindness, but an act of necessary mutual support. Some days you just need to write an IOU to the battle royal outside and watch Black Books in it entirety, for sanity’s sake.

Recreation of Madonna’s outfit from one of her music videos at a fashion gallery of Gautier & Beth Ditto
Recreation of Madonna’s outfit from one of her music videos at a fashion gallery of Gautier & Beth Ditto

The bubbling cacophony of contentment and feeling sated that pricks the back of my throat when she slaps my face–it’s probably not trust. It’s smallness and safeness. It’s knowing we both got what we wanted without half-truths and coercion. It’s everything and it feels good.

It feels good to give; we should be doing more to make it good to receive, too.

The receipt of unprovoked tweets asking to lick my feet or trying to wake me up through fervent phone notifications so I’ll flirt with you does not feel particularly gratifying. It feels being loaded with so much unwanted information that I can’t boot. It feels like I’m being overwritten in real time. Especially when you subject your Dom/me to the self-same stigma you decry in squaresie vanilla cishets.

You cannot achieve liberation by burning the closet and then showing your partner out through the back door. Those of you who have backdoors.

Let me lay it down here: if you live alone and you see your partner out through the fire escape you should probably be put on a list somewhere.

The person who puts you on that list needn’t be me. I’ve retired, purged the full-time persona. I’m not a Mommy. I’m not a Domme. I’ve fought hard to hold onto this. My gender. My fatness. My still being alive. I’m awkward and I’m scared and I once threw candy on myself when I met Shaq and I need that to be viable, visible. Heavy weighs the crown; I will not give oblivion the right of way.

I’m just a sick fuck looking for a clean break. A fattie in a dressing room preening her bruises. A combat queen. Okay: maybe a little full of myself, still, but I sure as hell didn’t learn that from you texting me about how long it’s been since you’ve come at 2 in the morning while I’ve got strep throat.

I say “our empowerment of the sexually realized submissive cannot come at the cost of the de-personing of dominant people and the current narratives we are afforded on how consent is negotiated between people confines us to a rigid binary of active vs passive agents and you know sometimes you should fucking check in with a dominant person before you describe splaying your ass to them on twitter”, and you do your little turn on the catwalk.

On the catwalk, yeah. On the catwal–okay: so Shaq used to play for my hometown hoop squad, the Phoenix Suns. He would do this thing on twitter where he would tweet where he was and if you came up and talked to him then he’d give you tickets for the game. But tickets to a Phoenix Suns game are just an ephemeral fetter, man! It’s temporal. But recreating a scene from the cinematic sidewinder “Kazaam” is forever. Just like the duration of your ban from Chandler Fashion Square. It’s something you can count on.

You are beautiful, and deserving of the desire of others. Not despite, but in spite of society’s blaring brainwash. You don’t need to convince me or any other Dom/me that you’re worth our attention/s.

R100 (2013)
R100 (2013)

Try instead to convince us that you realize aggressively oversharing with us in public space in the face of our attempts to assert boundaries isn’t that far off from a man on the street who won’t take “no” for an answer because, and here comes the money shot: IT TOTALLY ISN’T. It doesn’t matter how big a butt plug you can take in or how long you can massage a foot with your tongue before it gets tired; why bother being a good little slut if you can’t be a decent fucking person? There’s nothing radical and transgressive about your kink if you don’t treat your Dom/me any better than an RNC attendee treats a craigslist hookup.

You know what you can do for your queer sexual revolution? Take your Dom/me out for ice cream and shut up about how heavy of a paddle you can take–if only for a fucking minute. Maybe see if they’d like to hold your hand while you get to where you’re going.

To neglect someone who provides you with things you need, things that make you a more whole/complete person–it’s the wrong kind of masochism.

Not that my “flex my fat in the mirror” masochism is the only right kind of masochism, but it comes from a good place. She sees me–the way I want to see myself, the way my mother may have seen me–she sees it and digs her finger into it until I moan in front of a room of half-naked burlesque dancers and it feels like I’m the epicenter of an electrical storm where the wind is made of screams and the rain is my own sweat and it feels so nice and right.

It’s inciting and exciting, to commit myself to the command of another, a denouement to a decade-long power trip. It’s also really scary–I mean shit: the closest thing to a role model about respectful submission are the assholes that made me reconsider kink altogether. Thanks for all the textbook examples of how not to a consent-dismissing taint stain, I guess!

I’ll do my best to do right by her. I can’t say that I won’t fuck up, but I will endeavor, without end, to –impress or disappoint–to see her through it all.

 

Nine Abuser Personality Types

I wanted to add this as a resource on Consent Culture, though I want to note that I find the language very binary gender-wise and very heterosexist. I think this is a good starting place for acknowledging where we ourselves can look at our behaviour and say to ourselves- does this look familiar? What can I do instead? In addition, I want to link to Pervocracy’s “Why Does She Stay With That Jerk?“, which is also good for a personal check in.

These are summaries from Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men“. 

The Demand Man–He has little sense of give and take. His demands for emotional support, caretaking, or sexual attention are well out of proportion to his contributions to the relationship; he constantly feels that you owe him things that he has done nothing to earn. When he doesn’t get what he feels is due him, he punishes you for letting him down.

Mr. Right–He considers himself the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun; you might want to call him “Mr. Always Right”. His superiority is a convenient way for him to get what he wants. When he is arguing with you about conflicting desires, he turns it into a clash between right and wrong or between intelligence and stupidity. He ridicules and discredits your perspective so that he can escape dealing with it.

The Water Torturer–He proves that anger doesn’t cause abuse. He can assault his partner psychologically without even raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, using his own evenness as a weapon to push you over the edge. In an argument you are the one who leaves the room crying, or yelling, and then he can accuse YOU of being the one with a problem.

The Drill Sergeant–He takes controlling behavior to its extreme, running his partner’s life in every way he can. He criticizes your clothing; tell you where you can go and how long you can be there, even to the grocery store. He doesn’t want you to develop relationships outside of him, not friends and in many cases no family contact. He accuses you of cheating because he can be very jealous. Getting away from him can be very difficult because he is watching your every move. This type often has some psychological problems, although mental health issues do not cause abusiveness.

Mr. Sensitive–He appears to be the diametric opposite of the Drill Sergeant. He is soft spoken, gentle and supportive – when he is not being abusive. He loves the language of feelings, openly sharing his insecurities, his fears and his emotional injuries. [I pull you in with words like developing closeness, working out our issues and facing up to hard things about myself.] He presents himself as an ally. With the passing of time he increasingly casts the blame onto you for anything he is dissatisfied with in his own life; he starts to exhibit a mean side that no one else ever sees.

The Player–The player is usually good looking and often sexy (sometimes he just thinks he is) in the beginning of the relationship he seems head over heels in love and want to spend as much time as possible with you. Then over time his attention starts to wane towards you and starts to focus on other women, even your friends. He knows how to make a woman feel that she’s the special one and yet at the same time keeps her off balance, so that she never feels quite sure of where she stands with him. Eventually you will start to view any women as a potential threat to you. Chronic infidelity is abusive in itself, but the player doesn’t stop there. He is irresponsible, callous and periodically verbally abusive. His abuse can escalate abruptly if he is confronted about his behavior and can turn physically, fighting if he is caught by his partner cheating.

The Victim–Life has not been fair to the victim, he is misunderstood. He is the one who had the awful ex-wife and he tried everything in his power to make the relationship work. When you accuse him of being abusive, you are joining the parade of people who have been cruel and unfair to him. This makes you just like the rest. He had it so hard he is not responsible for his actions. He knows how to look and sound so pathetic; you may find yourself feeling sorry for him.

The Terrorist–He tends to be both highly controlling and extremely demanding. His worst characteristic is that he frequently reminds his partner that he could physically harm her or even kill her. He doesn’t have to beat you to terrorize you. He seems to get enjoyment out of causing pain. His goal is to paralyze you with fear. He is the type who may stalk his partner if she leaves him.

-Lundy Bancroft

 

A Confession

581903_10151288920806218_1395710096_nIt’s been a while since I’ve posted here in Consent Culture, in part because I’ve honestly felt a little embarrassed and triggered by this project, as much as I still consider this work important.

I started this project with Maggie Mayhem because I was frustrated on a personal level about a community issue, but also, I realize now, because I was in an abusive relationship and I needed it.

I needed a consent culture to exist, because I needed to come out about my experience, and I needed it to not be as bad this time as it had been before with the victim-blaming and the gaslighting and the ostracization and the accusations of “just stirring up drama”. I needed to be able to tell people that my relationship was abusive, that it scared it, without worrying I would lose friends over the confession.

So I co-founded a movement. Cause, you know, why take an easy path?

The problem, of course, with all this is that while I was doing the work on Consent Culture I would compare my story to other people’s and decide that it wasn’t as bad, and therefore wasn’t actually abusive. And then I think I got to a point where I felt I had to lie to myself to get by- how could I tour the country talking about abuse in BDSM when I was living and excusing it at home? So I kept quiet, and felt miserable, and trapped, and silenced. I felt shame as I advised people to leave abusive situations if they were ready while realizing I wasn’t ready yet, and hating myself for that realization.

In my experience, it’s hard to be an activist for a cause you’re living in.

My anger at my relationship falling apart and the systems that made that so excusable- the mental health system that told him he didn’t have depression, or anger issues, he just needed more sleep, or the police officers that pulled me aside after he had thrown a vacuum to ask me if I really wanted him to get arrested on Mother’s Day- got funneled into Consent Culture, and I became determined to change it so that this shit was fixed at the source, at every source, not just within the alternative community but outside of it. I was fed up with the expectation that I should put up with being treated badly because my partner “seemed like a nice guy/a good feminist”. And I was fed up that my friends expected me to feel triggered and upset because they didn’t want to deal with their own complicated feelings about confronting the idea that someone they knew was abusive, and therefore I should keep quiet so they could stay comfortable in their ignorance.

But Consent Culture began to make me have expectations about my boundaries. As I became more solid in the work I was doing as an activist, it became more and more obvious to me that my relationship was not healthy, that boundaries had to be drawn, that my partner needed to seek help that I could no longer give. It made me realize it was ok for me to tell my friends I needed them to choose between us, because his abusiveness and lack of accountability for it was problematic enough for me that I couldn’t be around them and not resent them for wanting me to pretend nothing happened. I lost some close friends in drawing that line. I don’t regret it a bit.

It kills me. Every day I hear at least one, maybe two, maybe more stories of women, men, children who have been the victims of rape culture. Often it’s brutally affected them. It’s hard to stay fierce when your heart is breaking because you’ve been that girl, more than once, and you want to reach out but it’s too late for her. It’s impossible to stay neutral.

This can’t keep going on while we turn our heads and pretend it’s not real life. This is happening in our communities, to people we love. People we love are the abusers. We need to deal with this, and I speak as an activist and as a survivor. Consent Culture is the personal and political entwined so tightly it chokes.

The system is broken. It’s very broken, and it’s broken in many places. But more and more people are saying “fuck that noise”. I don’t pretend to know everything about what a consent culture would look like, or how we get there, but I do know this- consent culture paved me some space to leave an abusive relationship and come out to my friends without feeling shunned. When I was raped 11 years ago, 90% of the people I knew and called friends blamed me or didn’t want to talk about it and didn’t support me. This time, about 90% supported me and thanked me for my boundaries and talking to them. You can read more about that whole situation here.

Things can change. WE can change. But it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be one size fits all, and we’re going to fuck up and have to take ownership when we do. I realize now that this is probably the work I’m going to do for the rest of my life, that this work saved me, that it could save others. I hope you’ll join me in any way you can. We’ll need an army of lovers.

If this sounds at all familiar, I recommend reading “The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities” and reading this post by Pervocracy, along with Captain Awkward. Know that you’re not alone, wherever in the process you are. 

Consent Culture Briefs

I liked this for this post mainly because I feel when we take that step it’s a big step and scary towards closure and moving on, away from an abusive partner.

Here’s another quick roundup of articles and links relating to consent culture in the news and the blogosphere that I’ve come across!

  • Charlie Glickman writes one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject of men and creepiness, Five Things Men Can Do To Not Be Creepy, and does a fantastic job with it. Such a good job I edited this post to add it in! A quote:

    I’ve been following a lot of the conversations in various circles about creeps, both online and in various communities I move through, and I’m really glad that this topic is getting more traction. I know that it’s a tough thing to bring up, for a variety of reasons, but until something gets brought into the light, it’s not going to change. Creepiness ends up affecting all of us, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and it’s especially challenging for male-female interactions. Plenty of women have articulately described how annoying it is for them, though so far, I’ve seen far fewer men talk about how it affects us.

    It’s important for guys to be talking about this, too. Given the very scary possible consequences for women when men approach them, I think it’s entirely reasonable for someone to assume that a random guy hitting on her is a possible predator until he demonstrates otherwise. I understand that that creates a frustrating situation- after all, who likes to have to prove their good intentions? And it’s also one of the many ways in which sexism and misogyny make things harder for men. If you want that to change, work to change things. Don’t complain that women don’t assume you’re a good guy. Their reasons for not doing so are useful protective measures in a world that sets them up as targets to be harassed, groped, and assaulted while simultaneously blaming them for it. You’d do the same thing in their shoes.

    Go read his tips and become a better person. This is how we change a culture. This is how YOU change a culture.

  • Jezebel posts an article about a woman who posted on Fetlife about her Halloween experience where she was sexually assaulted, supposedly “for not wearing a costume”, and how many of the comments on her experience shamed and victim blamed her for being on her own and for smiling at them (and i’ll tell you, many women smile in those situations, hoping that they’ll seem unthreatening then and de-escalate the situation so they can get away- it’s not an invitation, it’s a fear response):

    Chalk off FetLife, a members-only social network run by and for fetish enthusiasts, as yet another purportedly non-judgmental, welcoming online community that hosts a shocking number of slut-shaming misogynist assholes.

  • This election was excellent for consent culture, with rape apologists being defeated left and right, making me pretty happy. GlobalGrind has a brief rundown of this “victory for vaginas” though I’d argue it’s also a victory for pretty much anyone against rape/entitlement culture:

    We heard it all from Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and inference that “the female body” can prevent pregnancies during rapes, to Richard Mourdock’s statement that rape pregnancies are what “God intended,” to Joe Walsh who declared that “the life of the woman is not an exception” for a woman to have an abortion.

    Though most people were angered, or perhaps in awe by these ignorant remarks, it was even more nauseating to think that not only did these men believe their flawed theories, but they were close to actually enforcing them.

    But women struck back! Through voter awareness and campaigns, we stopped these men from taking office and taking control of our anatomy.

    On Tuesday, it was declared that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost their run in the Senate and Roger Rivard, who’s infamous for saying “some girls rape so easy,” lost his re-election bid in the Wisconsin State Assembly.  

    In addition, Joe Walsh lost his congressional race in Illinois and John Kosher, a GOP candidate who was recorded dismissing the idea that women should decide what to do with their bodies when “the rape thing” happens, was defeated in Illinois. 

  • Apparently some former Miami University student got convicted with a misdemeanor and paid a fine for posting a flier giving detailed instructions on how to successfully rape a woman on a college campus called “10 ways to get away with rape”. There was some argument about whether or not this was protected free speech. I can’t even begin to express my disgust.
  • For personal reasons, I’ve just ordered “The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities“, co-edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. I’m really looking forward to checking it out, especially as I’ve been having frustrating experiences with “activist” men in my own life/experience who have a particular set of stated politics and then behave in a way completely contradictory to those values. Plus, it sounds awfully familiar to what’s going on around the silence within the kinky/altsex communities.

    The extent of the violence affecting our communities is staggering. Nearly one in three women in the United States will experience intimate violence in her lifetime. And while intimate violence affects relationships across the sexuality and gender spectrums, the likelihood of isolation and irreparable harm, including death, is even greater within LGBTQI communities. To effectively resist violence out there—in the prison system, on militarized borders, or during other clear encounters with “the system”—we must challenge how it is reproduced right where we live. It’s one thing when the perpetrator is the police, the state, or someone we don’t know. It’s quite another when that person is someone we call friend, lover, mentor, trusted ally.
    Based on the popular zine that had reviewers and fans alike demanding more, The Revolution Starts at Home finally breaks the dangerous silence surrounding the “open secret” of intimate violence—by and toward caretakers, in romantic partnerships, and in friendships—within social justice movements. This watershed collection compiles stories and strategies from survivors and their allies, documenting a decade of community accountability work and delving into the nitty-gritty of creating safety from abuse without relying on the prison industrial complex.

  • On that basic thread, I had a bit of a rant on Fetlife that I’ll share here for those who aren’t on there:

    I know I said I wasn’t going to get into this on here but something maymay said on Twitter made me so fucking angry I had to rant. So here we go. @maymaym:
    “Process #SexWorkers use to screen clients is great success case replication model for “consent culture” folks to stop #abuse in #BDSM Scene. I posit “#consent culture” people don’t know or don’t care how to stop #abuse in #BDSM Scene, cuz nobody knows what consent even feels like. I also posit “#consent culture” people are basically unwilling to work on modeling a safety process cuz abuse culture makes them rock stars. So in other words, there are two main groups who benefit from the #BDSM Scene’s rampant #consent violations: predators and consent warriors.”
    I want to punch him in the face.

    So maymay is bashing my consent culture work while ignoring most of what I’ve actually been doing, ignoring the fact that I’m a fucking sex worker and part of my whole fucking reason for suggesting a blacklist in the first place came from being one. The irony of the situation of course is that his tweets on the topic are fairly emotionally abusive, if indirect. So, erm… yeah.

    Meanwhile, he’s suggesting people like me don’t actually want to fight abuse in kink cause we want to be rock stars. I live for the day when calling out rape apologism makes me a fucking rock star-plz let me know when I get to have my special parking space. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to field getting told I deserve to be raped for calling this shit out. You know, like a rock star.

    As someone who not that long ago (had an emotional breakdown) because in part at least this activism was so thankless and I was so fucking tired, maymay, you’re a dick. An abusive, part of the problem dick.
    And I’m calling you the fuck out.

  • Let’s reflect a bit on the idea of teaching teens about enthusiastic consent as part of their sex education, which we HAVE to do if we want to fight rape culture, says Nerdy Feminist:

    When you are inexperienced–not just sexually, but just in life in general, it can be really hard to parse apart feelings of excitement, worry, nervousness, fear, giddiness, and/or arousal. I mean, if you really think about it the physical response to those things are all similar, but there is clearly a big difference between feeling fearful and feeling excitement. If we are not talking with teens about how their body might respond and how that varies from listening to what you really want, we are doing them a big disservice. If someone never tells you that it’s ok to be excited and nervous during a sexual experience, but never afraid or dreadful, then how can you know? These are nuanced distinctions, and if you aren’t properly educated and don’t think about these things before you encounter a sexual experience, how can you possibly communicate what you are feeling in the moment? And when we don’t teach teens that talking about sex in society or our schools is ok, how can we expect them to communicate within their own intimate relationships?

  • Clarisse Thorn did this blog hop thing for writers to talk about their books, and tagged me, so I wrote about the Consent Culture book I’m rolling around in my head, if you want to read about it.
  • Here’s a video of Pat Robertson awkwardly lecturing a woman about porn. 50 Shades of Gray, even. Oh boy.

The Red Card/Yellow Card Project

A friend of mine posted about this project she was doing on her Facebook wall. When I saw it, I got really excited.

One of the things I hear a lot about boundaries and negotiations is that people are nervous to confront others. Sure, it’s scary to call someone out on their shit- or, if you’re not nervous about it, you’re probably tired of having the same conversation over and over and over again, arguing with someone about why what they said was sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise inappropriate.  Finding the words can be hard. Finding the guts can also be hard, especially when the response is often defensive and angry.

While these cards could totally be useful in an altsex environment, it’s important, to me, to point out that they weren’t in fact made for a dungeon or a play party. No, they were made for something fairly different- DEFCON, a large, underground hacker conference. One that women repeatedly feel uncomfortable at.

I want to quote her post, because she explains the reasoning and the concept very well.

“I am currently writing this post from an airplane in the sky. This airplane is hurtling me at hundreds of miles an hour towards New York City, where I am excited to be attending the ninth incarnation of HOPE- Hackers On Planet Earth. This will be my first time attending, as well as the first time I’ll be visiting New York as an adult. This will be the first of two hacker cons I’ll be attending this summer with Defcon being the second in a few weeks.

Because I am a Very Bad Adult, I finished packing my bags at a completely unreasonable hour of the morning last night. While I was deciding what clothes to take with me to New York, something dawned on me; I was already thinking about what clothes I would avoid taking to Las Vegas for Defcon. Short skirts, low cut tops, tight dresses, and anything that might be overtly attention-grabbing have been bumped to second priority on that packing list.

Why? Please, I invite you to find any woman who has attended Defcon for the answer. Go ahead. Go ask one. I’ll be here.

Are you back?

Good.

For anyone who wasn’t able to immediately find a female Defcon attendee, I will let you in on a not very well kept secret. Defcon is hell for women. Defcon is also many wonderful things. It is a fantastic environment to learn, network, and connect with friends old and new. But I’m not here to talk about that. There are plenty of other people who have been going to Defcon for longer than I, and who have gained more from it, who are infinitely more equipped to speak about it’s strengths as a conference. All I can speak to is my somewhat jarring experience last year, the first time I attended.

Let it be known that I went to Defcon with a reasonable amount of armor on already. I was reasonably aware of the frat party environment I was stepping into. I have many friends who are involved with helping make Defcon roll smoothly each year, from speakers to goons. And still, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of bad behavior I experienced.

Like the man who drunkenly tried to lick my shoulder tattoo. Like the man who grabbed my hips while I was waiting for a drink at the EFF party. Like the man who tried to get me to show him my tits so he could punch a hole in a card that, when filled, would net him a favor from one of the official security staff (I do not have words for how slimy it is that the official security staff were in charge of what was essentially a competition to get women to show their boobs). Or lastly, the man who, without prompting, interrupted my conversation and asked me if I’d like to come back to his room for a “private pillowfight party.” “You know,” he said. “Just a bunch of girls having a pillowfight…. fun!” When I asked him how many men would be standing around in a circle recording this event, he quickly assured me that “no one would be taking video! I swear!” I’m pretty sure this is the point where my lovely partner Morgan asked him if he thought propositions like his had anything to do with contributing to women not feeling welcome at Defcon. This was a very difficult concept for this poor soul to wrap his head around.

After that last interaction, Morgan and I ran into one of his kiwi hacker brethren. In a huff, I told him about Mr. Pillows. Being of the Rugby-watching persuasion, he jokingly mentioned the idea of being able to hand out yellow and red cards to the men of Defcon who crossed boundaries.

So I went back to my hotel room and made these two cards:

They ended up being quite the hit! My tweets with links to the .jpgs went viral on the #defcon hashtag and they apparently got circulated on some internal goon mailing lists. I knew I had done well when a woman who I had just met excitedly told me that there was “some girl who had made these awesome cards to deter creepers.”

I know I’m not alone in being frustrated with the climate at Defcon. Last year at Deepsec in Vienna, I met a fantastically intelligent woman developer who flat out refused to attend Defcon because of interactions like those listed above. I can think of countless other women I know in the tech industry who are regular Defcon participants and speakers who are just as fed up with this crap as me. I wonder why we’ve all been so polite about such an unhealthy atmosphere.

I ended up not being able to do a print run of the cards last year because of time and money constraints. However, this year I am making a new run of actual physical cards! The original ones, while they were great at the time, were thrown together quickly with Gimp. This year I’m going to update them slightly so they look nicer. Mostly, I want something that women will feel eager to hand out should the need arise. I think this is an incredibly playful and relatively non-confrontational way to engage with behavior that women at tech conferences are all to eager to simply shrug off.

Regardless, I am excited about Defcon. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about getting the chance to hand a few of these bad boys out.”

-Sexism red/yellow cards at Defcon

KC originally expected that she wouldn’t have enough funds to make any for conferences. She was overwhelmed by the financial support to make this happen, thus allowing her to give handfuls of cards away freely. She got to redesign them, too, and is even trying to work out what to do with the leftover cash. So many people felt there was a need for these that she got $1000 and had to tell people that she had enough and they could stop now. That suggests an issue, right?

Also, I want to mention that there are also green cards you can use in an interaction for positive reinforcement. So if a guy starts to tell a rapey joke, and another guy says “hey, man, not ok”, you can give him a card, too, and say “thanks for not being an asshat”. That sounds silly, but its actually really important to not just discourage bad behaviour, but encourage what we want to see more of.

I’m really curious to hear how these went- what the reception was like, how many people used them, how people responded when they were given a card. I think these could be a helpful way to encourage people to use their voices. I struggle to speak up all the time, myself, and I think that having tools is really important. I can’t wait to get my hands on a handful myself! I think I’d like to have these embraced as part of the Safe/Ward workshops.

Finally, I’ll close with a quote from KC’s latest blog post:

“Yes, I have received some disheartening comments. Yes, I have been told that I’m being a bitch. I have been told that I need to grow a thicker skin. I have been told that I’m just trying to ruin everyone’s fun time. And yet for every one of those comments, I have about five coming from women saying thank you. For every comment that tries to devalue the work that I’m doing or the discussion that is happening, there are so many more thanking me for taking this on.

But you know what the coolest response has been so far?

@KdotCdot: @mikeestee At this point I think I’m ok re: design, I just need to sit down and decide on a final size (depends on $$) and make em :)
@thedarktangent@KdotCdot Don’t sweat the price, as long as it is reasonable I will pay for it. Love the idea.

When the founder of the conference you are writing about is willing to support your project to address sexism at his con, you know you’ve done something right.”

Yes indeed. And may there be more where that came from!

Anyway, further info, with photos of the latest, general version of the cards:

“Use of the cards

While you can use these cards however you see fit, I feel like I must point out that these were meant to be a non-confrontational way of engaging with harassment. If you are planning on handing out these cards, I recommend keeping a couple in your pocket or purse. If the opportunity arises to hand one out, simply chose which one you feel is appropriate, pull one out, and hand it to the perpetrator. At this point I recommend calmly walking away. You have said what you need to say and are under no obligation to discuss anything further. Congratulations! You’ve just carded someone!

Where can I get these cards?

If you are at Defcon 20 this year, drop me a line at consentcards@gmail.comI’ll be around the conference, likely with a stack in my bag. I’m bringing a lot of cards and I am more than happy to meet up and share. They will also be available at the EFF‘s booth. I’m incredibly thankful to have the support of the EFF at Defcon this year. After the conference, I am more than happy to mail a stack to you free of charge. There are a wealth of opportunities to use these cards outside of Defcon. If you run another conference (tech related or not), a consent working group, a BDSM space, or if you are someone who just wishes you had an easy way of sidestepping creeps in bars, get a hold of me! Just drop a line to consentcards@gmail.com.”

 

 

The Ongoing Battle

So, I haven’t posted on this blog (or my own blog, really) for months. I’ve also avoided Fetlife, because I lost enough sleep over that site. I did an interview for Salon about BDSM Blacklists, and how frustrating I find it that Fetlife doesn’t let you name your abuser *by their screenname* (an argument that people have voted hard to have changed, which is a great step). I presented “Safe/Ward” with Ava Solanas, my new partner, at OpenSF, and was scheduled to at Paradise Unbound before I realized that I couldn’t emotionally or financially carry that on my own. I’ll be doing a playshop on sex parties at Burning Man, along with helping out the Bureau of Erotic Discourse (who provides consent workshops and rape counseling on the playa). Maggie Mayhem and I have just been asked when we’re presenting Safe/Ward again, cause apparently the Oprah Network wants to see it. A lot of my work has been offline while I regrouped.

Because of this, I’ve been accused of taking a softer stance on rape and consent in BDSM by a couple of radical feminists. My story about playing with a submissive wherein neither of us safeworded and backed down and we both should have has been recharacterized as telling “a story of how she viciously beat a tied up, sobbing woman”. I knew in writing about that situation I was opening myself up to being painted as a horrible sadistic beast, and you know what… it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and mulling over and crying over and trying to figure out. At the end of the day, I know I’m not, and part of how I know I’m not is that I’m willing to publicly be wrong, to publicly have fucked up, and to publicly be vulnerable.

I get why these radical feminists are pissed off, why they feel my stance has lessened. In part, this is because I’ve said that I believe consent is more complex than simply yes or no- rather, that while “no” is absolute, “yes” is fraught with issues and it’s hard to disentangle them. I’m not sure that one hundred percent consent is possible in a society affected by patriarchy, rape culture and capitalism. I’m sticking to that. In part, they feel I should be fighting nonstop to change this issue in my community, and unless I’m writing about it, they can’t really know that the work continues, so fair enough.

The truth is,  it’s really exhausting taking a stance on this. And too bad, right? I mean, it’s work that needs to be done. But one thing I realized is that I, too, need boundaries. When I went from not having been triggered around sex for years to having nightmares about past nonconsensual experiences, when I spent nights crying and rocking because I had heard so many stories of issues that I became overwhelmed, I knew I needed to step back. And I did. I refuse to apologize for that. I refuse to accept that rape culture means I should be revictimized to save others. Put on your own oxygen mask first, people- you’re no good to the communities you serve if you’re a wreck.

Thanks to “50 Shades of Grey”, I’ve been getting calls nonstop for my stance on BDSM and consent.  And I’m talking about it. I make sure every single time I’m reached for an interview I say that kink is complicated, that rape culture exists and is mostly unchallenged within BDSM communities on- and offline, and I think that “50 Shades” demonstrates an unhealthy relationship between people who are not self-aware enough for kink. I’ve proposed a talk on the ways “50 Shades” is impacting the discussion of female desire and kink for South by Southwest, even. The work continues, as it always does- I haven’t abandoned this project. If anything, I’ve been too busy doing it to write about it.

And my energy? It’s best spent on reaching out and confronting altsex communities in person from a sex critical stance, not on trying to persuade the anonymous and unpersuadable.

NCSF Believes Consent Counts

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”.

Fuck. Yes.

Finally.

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.

Both guides are now available on the NCSF website:www.ncsfreedom.org/consentcounts.html

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 atjudy@ncsfreedom.org.

Please Nominate CC for the Erotic Awards by Feb 29th?

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.