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.
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.
It’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.
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.
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?
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?
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.”
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’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 email@example.com.”
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 ofradical 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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.