Gossip and Being a Scene Newbie

I spent most of a slow day at the store a couple weeks ago reading Fetlife discussion posts. (You need to have an account to read.) There was a big hubbub in one of the local groups over some inappropriate behavior by a leader of said group. The main thing to come out of it was that invasive/abusive/assaultive behavior doesn't get addressed very well in the kink scene in New York. In various threads on what is essentially the Facebook of kink, people have been proposing different methods to deal with this problem. (If you read my post on dirty laundry, you know what my ideal solution would be.)

I've always been really wary of and hesitant to enter the kink community. It's true that there are misogynist and entitled men everywhere. In any bar or club or party I could go to, at least some segment of the male population will be liable to creepily hit on, grope, or even rape a woman. That's just the awful truth of things today. I do think there are things we can all do to help change that state of affairs, but that change is definitely not here yet. Not even close.

In the specific kink community, though, we are dealing with intensified power dynamics and some potentially very dangerous forms of play. Interactions that are already really problematic in the straight world take on a heightened importance when you need to trust someone to tie you up and beat you. Or even just be a present at a party where you're being tied up and beaten. Kink creates vulnerability, and I was hesitant for a long time to be that vulnerable in the presence of a whole community.

One of the cool things about reading this discussion is that people seem to have a better sense of gender dynamics and the consequences of abuse. There's much more open discussion about consent than in other arenas. It's a community that has to be more aware of respectful sexual practices because of the extremes of play it favors. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, it's become really clear that there are plenty of kinky folks who have NO inkling of acceptable behavior or speech*. Some people who posted in the thread, a couple of whom I've met cordially in real life, were completely out of line and exposed themselves as misogynist, or gay-bashing, or victim-blaming, or some horrid combination of the above. I of course had no idea of this when I met them and wouldn't have ever known if I hadn't finally found enough friends that someone mentioned to me that I should check out the threads.

I find myself in a weird position here. I'm a newcomer to this group and I want to find partners to play with. There's a lot in BDSM that I haven't done and want to explore and I know the best way to do it is to get into a relationship with someone who has the same interests. The play parties and munches and all of that are largely forums to meet people with similar interests.

But really the only way I have to tell who is safe to play with, who is not going to be an asshole, is through the grapevine or from reading posts on an online forum. Which I find very frustrating. I much, much prefer to keep my relationship with any given person between me and that person. I hate triangulation, all that he-said-this and she-did-that bullshit that's really just a consequence of not dealing with conflict directly. But when it comes to safety, I suppose I must get information wherever I can.

The consequence of the shit that I alluded to last week (which, no, I'm not going to say much more about) is that I'm just going to throw myself into the community. If there's a rumor about someone, I want to hear it. Just to be on the safe side. If I'm going to play privately with someone new, I'm going to ask for references from past partners. I wish very much I didn't have to do all that, but it seems that I must. On the plus side, I'm finding a cool new community, which I've already started to have great fun with. It's a whole new world to open up and explore.

*Please don't bring up the first amendment, I'm talking about speech that makes someone an asshole, not that makes them a felon. This is about ethics, not law.


figleaf said...

Cool cool point, Paradox.

Every alt community has individuals who use the community's sense of solidarity and discomfort with outside scrutiny as protective cover for their own darker interests.

Teabaggers have their white supremacists, "celibate" Catholics and (weirdly) nudist/naturists have their pedophiles, "hemp" activists have their dealers, doctors have their quacks, used car dealers have their outright con artists, and... yeah, BDSM people have their rapists and bullies.

Covering up and hoping it'll go away hasn't worked out so great for Catholics. It hasn't strengthened them, it's weakened them. And it sure hasn't made them appear more respectable or acceptable -- quite the opposite! There's no reason to keep imagining that covering up for users and abusers will make BDSM/Kink more social acceptance either.

Funny, though, how in almost all alt communities from Kink to Catholics it's most often abusers and users who are most likely to argue for keeping "dirty laundry" under wraps.

The best reason to believe the Kink community is more progressive and/or evolving towards broader acceptance, though, is that you and others are finally starting to challenge the logic of coverups and question the "enthusiasm" or "commitment" of members who seem to wind up with more creeped-out victims than play partners.

There are so many people in kink who feel the way you do -- wishing they could feel comfortable -- that you could almost call it an alt-alt community. It's bad enough that one highly-respected long-time sex activist says categorically the safest place to do BDSM is outside rather than inside communities.

It shouldn't have to be that way. It's cool that you're doing something about it. Even more cool that you're doing something about it in public!


Unknown said...

I think you're right about alt communities, although it's a little sad for me that the darker interests I'm most worried about are abuse and rape and those are the ones in the community where I can play the way I want to. Why oh why should it be so hard to find someone to tie me up and beat me and then respect me in the morning?

I hope you're right about an alt alt community, and I'm trying to find what there is of that here in New York. I figure if anyplace has got enough people who want to be straightforward (when dealing with everything including abuse), it's here.

Thanks for commenting, I very much like your blog and appreciate that you've read mine!

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

Creative Commons License
This work by anewparadox.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.