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Personal Attacks and the Anti-Kink Crusade

April 5, 2010

It’s a losing battle. Too many people do BDSM, or know someone who does. Like gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (but unlike trans folks), there is simply a generational shift, where the numbers necessary for culture-wide political ostracism are going to go away. So they resort to desperation tactics.

In a series of attacks that apparently originated in a private blast email from University of Rhode Island professor Donna M. Hughes, the Salvation Army and others are personally targeting MayMay, a BDSMer and blogger who uses his real name, and who is the founder of the KinkForAll series of conferences.

Because simply shouting that someone is kinky will not convince anyone outside their existing following, some of the people involved have tried to insinuate that he’s a pedophile; saying it in a metaphorical way that could easily be read as a declaration rather than a rhetorical comparison. They should walk that shit right back before they get sued, because depending on the jurisdiction that might be libel per se, and if they had any actual information to that effect they clearly would have used it.

It’s a smear campaign, targeting a vulnerable person. MayMay admits it rattled him, though I expect he’s made of stern stuff and the long term effect will be nil. But this tells us a great deal about the character of the folks who have a problem with kink.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. makomk permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:50 am

    It probably goes without saying, but Donna M. Hughes is of course an anti-sex trafficking campaigner with a fair chunk of political influence – and yes, she is a feminist (and professor of women’s studies). This is important.

    Smearing the outspokenly kinky as pedophiles is far from a new tactic or a desperation one. Part of the reason the 80s sex wars ended up getting that name is that they were really, impressively nasty. A lot of the modern commentary downplays this, but if you look at the contemporary coverage things were pretty bad, including lots of accusations of supporting pedophilia against sex-positive feminists and lesbian BDSMers. (Supposedly, other tactics included violence, attempts to get them sacked and their kids taken away, and similar unpleasantness.)

  2. phrodeaux permalink
    April 5, 2010 5:38 pm

    Painting someone you don’t like with the pedophile brush is growing increasingly popular as it rapidly becomes the last taboo (and I seriously doubt it will ever cease being a taboo, children not being able to give informed consent).

    Still, I will never understand why someone’s sexual uptightness is threatened by my liberation. Unless there’s some sort of jealousy involved, of course.

  3. April 5, 2010 6:02 pm

    “Like gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (but unlike trans folks), there is simply a generational shift, where the numbers necessary for culture-wide political ostracism are going to go away. So they resort to desperation tactics.”

    Um. I don’t get this. Why do you think that this will happen with/about LGB and kinky people, but not trans people?

    • April 5, 2010 10:50 pm

      GLB and kinky people are becoming widely accepted, but trans folks are still marginalized.

      So it is no longer shocking (to most reasonable people) to point at someone and yell, “HE’S GAY!” but trans is still a taboo subject for many.

      • April 6, 2010 4:15 am

        I don’t think that’s true round here (UK). While the prejudices experienced by all 3 groups are somewhat different (although obviously overlapping), from the impression i tend to get of “general public” culture, being trans is much further along the road to widespread acceptance than BDSM is. (I have friends who are trans, gay and kinky, who are very out about the first 2, but very much not except to other kinky people and known allies about the latter.)

        (Then again, i do have one friend who’s “stealth” about being trans to all except partners and pre-transition friends, and very openly kinky. But that’s one vs several…)

        Also what Thomas seemed to be implying was not so much about *current* levels of acceptance, but demographic shifts – that numbers of people who are accepting of LGB or kinky people will increase over time, but that somehow numbers of people who are accepting of trans people won’t – which very much doesn’t seem to be true here, as i’ve noticed a very prominent increase in public visibility *and* acceptance of trans issues in the UK just over the last c. 5 years.

      • makomk permalink
        April 13, 2010 2:31 pm

        shiva: yeah, I do wonder about the UK. On the one hand, there’s stuff like the NUS women’s conference apparently no-platforming Julie Bindel because of her transphobic comments (and she’s not exactly uninfluential). On the other hand, she’s still incredibly influential and still writing for the Guardian.

        (Of course, the feminist movement here in the UK is odd too. As best I can tell, its public face seems to basically consist of the anti-sex trafficking and anti-porn movements, with all the problems that brings. I’m not aware of any widely known sex-positive feminists or communities thereof. This is typical. Oh, and transphobia never really went out of fashion there either.)

    • April 6, 2010 6:02 am

      Shiva, I probably should have specified US. We’re at a point in the US where GLB acceptance can be quantitatively demonstrated to be a generational matter, with huge swings in views by age bracket almost overwhelming every other variable. To be crass, all that has to happen now for significant progress is voter replacement.

      I really wish US culture was there on trans folks, but that’s not my impression and I have not seen evidence of a coming demographic change that will create a pro-trans majority. I’d rather be wrong, if someone has seen evidence.

  4. April 5, 2010 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this, Thomas. It means a lot to me to see other bloggers like you publicly acknowledge the awful nature of Donna M. Hughes’ personal attacks. She has apparently made a name for herself with exactly these sorts of character assassination attempts, targeting Megan Andelloux and others before me. (Here’s how Megan describes Donna M. Hughes’ attacks against her.)

    What made this attack even worse is that Hughes and her co-author Margaret Brooks dragged one aspect of my personal sexuality as a submissive man into the limelight as though that accounts for what KinkForAll is supposed to be.

    In reality, I have been very vocal that my intention for KinkForAll was not in any way specific to a particular sexuality. Even my use of the word “kink” here relates not to BDSM but rather to its dictionary definition of “unconventional sexual taste or behavior.” See the KinkForAll FAQ called “Why ‘kink'” or this post called “The ‘Kink’ in KinkForAll” for more on that.

    It really frustrates me to hear language distorted in this way, and I hope others begin to carefully examine the words they use when they describe things like this more closely.

    • k not K permalink
      April 7, 2010 7:55 am

      maymay, I just wanted to say that I clicked over to your blog post and found your responses to that woman to be really, really amazing and inspiring. Reaching out to someone who’s written such horrible things about you was such an amazing act of strength and compassion. You’re a great spokesperson for your movement and I’m so glad that you do the work you do with such grace!

      • April 7, 2010 1:13 pm

        Thanks for the kind words, k not K, although I’m not really sure it’s “my” movement. KinkForAll has spread far beyond me already. I’m proud to have guided its first year, but more than that, I’m encouraged by how many other individuals have taken it upon themselves to plan KinkForAll unconferences themselves. If it is a movement that I’m a part, then it’s our movement, not mine. :)

        In any event, I hope you’ll help us spread the word about the events and help combat the inappropriate conflation of public discussion about sexuality with human trafficking. An inability to see the difference between those two things strikes me as extremely dangerous to the public (and personal) good.

  5. April 5, 2010 10:37 pm

    It seems like the “pedo” label is being thrown around partly in response to maymay’s welcoming of all ages (even teenage minors) at KinkForAll events. Still disgusting/depressing that these people apparently equate talking honestly about sex in the presence of teens with wanting to hump them. No wonder we can’t get factual sex ed in the USA.

    • April 5, 2010 11:24 pm

      It seems like the “pedo” label is being thrown around partly in response to maymay’s welcoming of all ages (even teenage minors) at KinkForAll events.

      Osborroacho, may I ask what you mean by “even”, in your quote above?

      I ask because I am left wondering: is it my place to judge who can come to a public venue? Is it ostensibly my place because I founded an unconference model, even though I’m a supporter and not the organizer of most of the KinkForAll events that took place so far? For that matter, is it Donna M. Hughes’ place to preside over who may or may not show up at open to the public events, such as KinkForAll Washington DC, held in the Montgomery County Executive Office building (a government-owned building), which is one of the events she and Margaret Brooks have cited as such a dangerous thing?

      Or, I wonder, is it an individual’s own right to move freely about the world?

      It was my intent that KinkForAll would welcome everyone with as unambiguous language as our community knows how to use. “Welcome” means welcome; i.e., remain accessible to—nothing more and nothing less. Everyone means everyone; i.e., any person with a desire to learn or with something to contribute, “even” fat people, “even” black people, “even” straight people, and “even” minors, who are also people, lest we forget that.

      Anyway, I hope you read this as a genuine question, because it is. :)

      Still disgusting/depressing that these people apparently equate talking honestly about sex in the presence of teens with wanting to hump them. No wonder we can’t get factual sex ed in the USA.

      Indeed. And, as Thomas noted in the post above, the fact that Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks have jumped to such disgusting and terrifying assumptions certainly “tells us a great deal about the character of the folks who have a problem with kink.”

      • April 7, 2010 5:14 pm

        All I mean is that some of the moral outrage is ageist in origin. I think your excellent talk on sexual adultism is relevant here. KinkForAll being accessible to minors is what some of the attackers find so offensive about it, and you by association. I know you aren’t the only person involved with KinkForAll and don’t wish to claim it all, but you do look like the figurehead/face/leader/father of sorts. Thus, you are chosen as the target for libel and love.

        Hughes must be terrified of adults discussing or consenting to sex she doesn’t fancy, but she’s particularly offended when younger people might overhear and be corrupted (my dismissive assumptions about her views). You might be right that she fears predators could approach kids at conferences, but I think it’s probably a really bad case of adultism.

Trackbacks

  1. Courtny Hopen » Against Slander – Rumor & Intellectual Responsibility
  2. Maybe Maimed but Never Harmed › My opinions on youth at KinkForAll unconferences
  3. There’s A Reason Why Sex Education is Radical – Sugarbutch Chronicles

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