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There’s A War On Part 6: Anti-Sunshine League

May 7, 2012

Part 1 is Here

Part 2 is Here

Part 3 is Here

Part 4 is Here

Part 5 is Here

[Trigger Warning for the whole series, as it deals with rape and abuse.  This part, however, contains less in the way of graphic descriptions of abuse than previous parts.]

Justice Brandeis said that sunlight is the best of disinfectants.  We’ve talked about abusers and how they derive their Social License to Operate by using the cover of other dynamics: the miscommunications;  the secrecy; the geek social fallacies; and so forth.  They can’t operate in the open in the harsh light of day.  If people are free to talk about their experiences without intimidation or ostracism, if they are as free to say, “I had a bad experience with so-and-so, ze ignored my hard limit” as they are to say “I had a really good experience with zir,” then the predators can’t operate. In a transparent environment, people would have to own and learn from their mistakes; those who were not really making mistakes would become apparent really fast. They’d get shut down and shut out and maybe even prosecuted right away.

Who could be against that?

The single largest online organ in the BDSM universe is against that: Fetlife.  The Borg that is taking over all online BDSM discourse has a TOU (Terms of Use) that flat-out helps the abusers.  There have been suggestions to change it through formal channels.  They’ve gone nowhere.

A radical social experiment started last winter.  In one small group of mostly New York youngish queerish kinksters, the owner started taking anonymous, first person accounts and posting them — including ones that named names.  The results were mixed.  Several people owned up to past misconduct, or said that if anyone thought they should be named that they welcomed it.  Some folks who were named talked about things they had done wrong and their process to fix it, including not playing while impaired, or recognizing bad relationship dynamics that they had felt gave them license to act wrongly.  Others reacted poorly, of course, and some people whined about the drama, because resolving interpersonal conflict is uncomfortable.

On March 5, the Carebears who run Fetlife shut it down, disappearing the items that named names.  Their message to the owner went as follows:

We really love that you are presenting an opportunity to FetLife members to anonymously tell their stories in “Confessions: TRIGGER WARNING”. We’ve thought from the beginning that allowing people to present their stories of experiencing non-consensual activities was an important thing to allow on FetLife, and even wrote a clause into the Terms of Use to specifically state that real rape could be discussed from a therapeutic perspective. Registered sex offenders convicted of sexual violence and/or non-consensual sexual offenses are not permitted to have accounts on FetLife. We’re also trying to work with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom on their “Consent Counts” project, which is helping to tackle the problem of sexual abuse & intimate partner violence in the kinky community. In short, if someone is convicted of non-consensual activities in the scene, we’ll kick them off and we should be warning people about them!

However, we also do not allow accusations of criminal conduct when a conviction has not happened. Unfortunately, many of the posts in this thread are doing just that. We’d like to give you the opportunity to continue this great service to the community in this way. We’ll delete all the comments that name names. If you can anonymize any accusations that come in from now on, we’ll allow the thread to stay open. If not, we’ll have to delete the thread completely. We hope it doesn’t come to that – we’d really hate to do that – and we hope that we can come up with a way to keep this going in a way that helps everyone.

[Bold mine.] I got the group owner’s permission to post that.  It’s such bullshit.  I discussed in Part 4 that conviction isn’t a realistic expectation.  This policy ensures that in well over 90% of incidents, and abuser can’t be named.  See, there is no way to “help everyone.”  We can help the victims, or we can help the perpetrators. “Help everyone” is Fetlife’s “I Don’t Do Drama.”

(Let’s be honest about Fetlife’s history: they now ban discussion that encourages child molestation, and they now ban actual photos and real-world recounting of bestiality, but that wasn’t always the case.  That was a recent change just a few years ago, and as I’ve heard the story in many, many Fet groups, those rules were instituted when those topics became a threat to Fet’s ability to process credit card transactions, and not before, and Fetlife apologized profusely to the pedophilia and bestiality group members for having to spoil their fun.  Halfhearted enforcement of these rules remains a bone of contention among Fet customers, and popular writings recently have decried the Carebears’ laxity in pulling down pedophile content.  There is money to be made off BDSM communities, and there’s access to partners, especially young women, to be had.  See Part 5: there’s no shortage of craven self-interest when it comes to stifling discussions of rape and abuse.)

The real kicker is that Fetlife isn’t even consistent about its own TOU.  I linked to the Consent Counts project in Part 4; lots of consensual BDSM is a criminal act in many places.  Someone who says they were flogged and caned by their partner in Boston, for example, has just accused their partner of a criminal act.  Fetlife, of course, makes no effort to shut down that discussion.  And it’s not at all clear that violations of consent are all criminal where they occur: sexual assault statutes vary widely, and penetration with an object of a finger may or may not violate the law where it was done, depending on the jurisdiction, and participants and the circumstances.  So Fetlife has this unworkable and ambiguous TOU, and their effective interpretation is that if you say that someone did something nonconsensual to you, you won’t be allowed to say who it was.

It may seem I’m unfairly picking on Fetlife here.  I am picking on Fetlife, but it’s only fair.  John Baku wanted to make his creation the Facebook of kinky people … and succeeded.  It’s so ubiquitous that it sucks the air out of the room.  Fetlife isn’t just one organ of BDSM, it’s the overwhelming online center of the BDSM universe.  With great power comes great responsibility.

Look at it from the victim’s perspective: going to the cops isn’t realistic.  Often, going to the leaders of the community isn’t realistic; the abuser may be better connected and that would just mean ostracism.  Going to the abuser only works for actual miscommunications, so that fixes the easier problem but leaves the really scary people untouched.  So … what?

The other alternatives are (1) say what happened; or (2) don’t.  Fetlife has made their position clear: don’t.  They’re not saying go away mad, or even go away, just shut up.

When the possibility of people telling the truth comes up, people always always raise false allegations.  I direct you to this post on why that’s a derail:

Those of us who are spearheading this discussions are coming from a place of reality and shared history. We are coming from direct personal experience. We are coming from pain. We are coming from abandonment, apathy, and downright hostility from our community. It is real. It is current. It is now.

We have lost safety. We have lost friends. We have lost lovers. We have lost time. We are still losing by taking on this conversation. But we do it, because we know what its like and for me, I will do everything I fucking can to make sure that no one else has to lose.

Then the masses come in. What about false accusations, they say. Well, what about them? Its a hypothetical. Yes, it can happen however it is rare. In the meanwhile, we are seeing slews of stories of abuse. So I need to ask to those who are worried about false accusations to look around you. When you say that someone may falsely accuse, therefore the consent efforts are harmful- it is implying that this is a problem in Boston. That this is a real problem in our scene. So tell me, who you do think does it? Why do you think it is a problem? Can you tell me via private message who these people are so I don’t play with them? Please, do this. I really want to know where this epidemic is happening because somehow my ladybrain has missed it.

Or do you think that once we get a consent culture, your friends, lovers, play partners are such manipulative, selfish people that we’ll start seeing a slew of false accusations appear that moment that a consent culture becomes an actuality?

Here is the thing. Our society teaches us that some people are inherently untrustworthy. That women are hysterical and overemotional and manipulative. We have these things for all marginalized identities. This is where the myth* of false accusations comes from.

When there is a discussion on rape, abuse, predators and survivors and people come in and say “but false accusations”, it is saying that the discussion over false accusations is more important and takes more precedent over the discussion of abuse- despite it being incredibly rare and despite abuse being reported left and right. Take into accounts that many reports of “false accusation” are actually true events that are just not believed and then the derail gets even more insulting. Also, in my world- rape is a much more serious crime than slander.

[Bold mine.]  There are several points that bear repeating or emphasizing here:

First, the relative frequency of rape and abuse, so often unreported, swamps all other narratives.  There are just a lot more rapes and boundary violations than there are accusations.  Most victims stay silent.  The scale of that problem is so large in comparison to all allegation, true and false together, that all effort should go to dealing with the rapes before worrying about the smaller number of false allegations.

Second, convictions just don’t result in BDSM cases except the most severe abuse cases with the most video evidence or severe injuries.  The harm of rape and assault far outweigh the harm of an allegation of rape or assault, since all the allegation actually does is, at most, get the accused disinvited to a few parties.  The real-world consequences are stress and reputational damage rather than imprisonment. Somebody might have some story about a false accusation that led to loss of job or kids or something: it’s always someone’s cousin’s brother-in-law and you won’t be able to verify the facts, and if you could, those facts would look a lot more sympathetic to the survivor than they’re made out by the accused’s supporters.  Anyone fantasizing that simply made-up allegations of abuse in a BDSM scene are going to result in imprisonment is just out of touch with reality, or they’re really acting as a press agent for the alleged abuser in a well-known story.

Third, there is no effective method to verify the account.  For the reasons I stated in Part 4, the courts won’t resolve BDSM community cases unless there’s a video or a hospitalization, no matter how clear the boundary violation.  There’s no grand high panel of dispute resolution, and if there were it would be immediately co-opted by the Powers That Be in the scene and the panel members would have to worry about their own access to parties and play spaces.  So we don’t have the formal process, and we don’t have an informal process, to tell us who is telling the truth.

Letting the survivors speak out in public is actually more likely to lead to an adjudication: in the US, truth is a defense to libel, but the wrongly accused have a claim and they can hire a lawyer and sue, and the standard is preponderance of the evidence.  Juries sure are not perfect, but if people really want an impartial (whatever that is) panel to determine what happened, then allowing survivors to speak out subject to defamation laws is the best we’re going to get.

There is no value-neutral choice.  Anyone who says to survivors, “police report or it didn’t happen” might as well say, “I’ll side with the rapist every time,” because that’s the effect.  They should just be honest about it.  Instead of “I don’t do drama,” they should just be straightforward, and say, “when I hear allegations of rape, I choose to treat it as if it didn’t happen,” or even, “if someone I like does something bad to you, you’re on your own.”  That’s what “I don’t do drama” means.

I reject that solution out-of-hand.  I find any outcome better than simply throwing up our hands and saying, “survivors should just shut up, because we can’t know whether they’re telling the truth.”  Any outcome.  I’m not going to mince words here: the comparatively small problem of false allegations is not important enough to me to stop the solution to the comparatively huge problem of real abuse for which there is no other remedy but transparency.

A note about comments: I am not going to let this blog be a forum for people who think that the mere possibility of false accusations is a reason to silence survivors.  This is my space: comments serve the function of moving the conversation in a direction that I want it to go, and I do not allow comments that move the conversation in directions that I do not want it to go.  You can call that an “echo chamber”, and you’d be correct.  Also, all comments are my property and I’ll publish your IP if I see fit.  [1]  Because I’m not a nice person.  You have been warned.

If tops know that people feel free to just say that a top violated boundaries, tops might be a bit more worried about how they conduct themselves, they might be a little more stressed, they might have to trust their partners more.  But right now, bottoms have to trust their partners a ton.  Checking reputations and safecalls and the community leaders don’t protect someone from having their limits violated in private, or even in public.  Right now, all the weight of risk is borne by the bottoms.  How the hell is that fair?  (It’s not.  And it leads to a slash-and-burn culture where bottoms, particularly women bottoms, come into the scene and many just bail because of experiences they have.  I think some people prefer it this way, because it can have the effect of lowering the average age of bottoms while leaving the same cohort of tops.[2]

[1] blah blah whine entitled free speech waaaaah:  Free speech is a right against the government, I am not the government and this blog is not a government program.  My threads are my space; people express here only what I choose to allow, and what I allow is subject to my policy: complete discretion, which may be exercised for any reason, no reason, inconsistent reasons, biased reasons, or arbitrary and capricious reasons.  Blah blah marketplace of ideas: I do not agree that all spaces are open to all debates, and my purpose is not to discuss this here.  In fact, properly understood, this series in particular is not a discussion.  It’s a brief.  The purpose of this series is to provide tools to people who agree with me.  If you disagree, we’re not having a conversation.  You’re the enemy, and I’ll treat you as such.

[2] Yeah, people switch; in fact, probably most of us do.  But a lot of people lean heavily one way, particularly in play outside one or a few lasting relationships.  And there are a lot of cis het male exclusive doms.

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140 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2012 1:27 pm

    Soooooo much love for this whole series. TY TY TY.

  2. Cass permalink
    May 7, 2012 2:04 pm

    I keep a username at FetLife just so I can stay aware. Especially in light of their actions, I doubt I will ever pay for the service, and I don’t think I’ll ever advise anyone to do so, either.

  3. May 7, 2012 2:07 pm

    Excellent post, just commenting to subscribe to comments.

  4. May 7, 2012 7:25 pm

    First of all, great series. I can’t read any of the parts in one sitting, but that was to be expected.

    (trigger warning) I just wanted to say that I have a very weird position in that I’m a survivor who watched someone close to me get falsely accused. I saw it tear apart a community because of instigators who were not involved in the original situation using a bad situation to induce false accusations and rip people into emotional pieces. The problem with what happened? Because of the lack of open communication and the lack of sunlight, a large group of people falsely accused someone and ostracized them, when the real abuser remained in their midst, driving the whole crusade. Open speech would have helped the situation. The anti-drama bullshit kept the abuser driving the crusade from being acknowledged as an abuser, enabling them to ostracize someone who was engaging with the situation’s participants to figure out what had gone wrong.

    So when people claim “false accusations” will happen if there is open communication I get very very angry. Because there is no better way to create an environment for abusers to use false accusations than by stomping on open forums and communication.

  5. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    May 8, 2012 10:22 am

    Publishing accusations of rape that name names, yet are not connected to convictions, is at least potentially libelous – and if a suit were filed, Fetlife would be one of the parties held responsible. It’s absurd to expect a small business to take that kind of risk, regardless of the ethics of the situation. I’m actually pretty surprised that nobody has pointed this out.

    Janet Hardy
    Editorial Director, Greenery Press

    • May 8, 2012 11:28 am

      (1) Fetlife’s TOS provides for arbitration, and for Canadian choice of law. Given Concepcion v. AT&T, US courts are very friendly to arbitration clauses. In the US, there are some protections against holding online service providers liable for defamatory statements that are user-generated; how Canadian law deals with that I don’t know. If you do, you should be more specific.

      (2) If it were that simple, Fetlife’s rule would be universal in social media, but it’s not. That provision is fairly unique, suggesting that it is driven by Fet’s unique concerns and not ones of general applicability to social media, like libel.

      But I’m sure you have your own ideas about how to create transparency, identify and stop rapists and abusers. Care to share them?

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 8, 2012 12:27 pm

        I fear that the problem is not simple. In an ideal world, anyone who had been abused would feel free to go to the police and file charges. In a world where BDSM is still widely misunderstood and oppressed, that happens far too rarely. The long-term solution is a concentrated effort to educate law enforcement about the realities of BDSM play – an effort which NCSF is already undertaking, but which could certainly be implemented at the local level as well.

        In the shorter term, however, there are no easy answers. These occurrences by their nature usually take place with only two witnesses, so by their nature they’re one word against another. And they’re made even more complicated by the reality that consent is often gray, and that people often allow things in the heat of the moment that they later wish they hadn’t. Certainly, the first solution is for the two people concerned to have a serious discussion about what happened – often, the issue turns out to have been one of misunderstanding and not malice, and while that doesn’t make the problem any easier to recover from, it does change the issue of culpability.

        But seeing the BDSM community in general, or Fetlife in particular, used as a forum for what is essentially vigilante justice is not a good solution. Naming names and its sequelae – community banning et al – are an absolute last resort, and hopefully someday (when law enforcement can be depended on to defend our rights the same way they would anyone else’s) will be unnecessary.

        As to the libel question, I am not knowledgeable about Canadian law. But I know for sure that as a small publisher myself, playing any part in the dissemination of such material is not a chance I would take. At best, it would eat up months of my time and resources in defending myself in a courtroom; at worst, it could bankrupt me and ruin my life. Do you really want an important community resource to run that risk?

    • August 12, 2012 7:50 am

      Janet, I understand where you’re coming from, but Fetlife might not face the same kind of risk you as a “standard” publisher might – especially if they were to quit trying to censor and sanitize everything.

      Please take a look at http://www.ripoffreport.com/ConsumersSayThankYou/WantToSueRipoffReport.aspx to see why RipoffReport.com not only sees few lawsuits, but has *never* lost one that has been filed against it – which in turn has led to a real drop in people trying to sue them.

      The most important section is number 4, concerning a federal law called the Communications Decency Act or “CDA”, 47 U.S.C. § 230, specifically § 230(c)(1), which states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

      As another poster already said, basically, an interactive website like Fetlife, Facebook, etc. is not a publisher the same way you are. You control the content that goes into the books you publish; no website, no matter how hard they may try, can possibly accomplish that effectively and thoroughly when it gets to the size of a site like Fetlife.

      Individual posters can certainly still be held liable for whatever they may say, but the site probably would not be.

      Truth *is* a defense in the US – and a conviction for libel requires that both falsehood as well as damages, usually monetary (among other things), be proven.

      Eons ago when I was a sysop on some extremely active forums on Compuserve, we had some of the top legal minds in the business advising us regarding censorship and other issues pertaining to online publishing/running online discussion groups. The bottom line of this advice (and coming from court decisions) is that the more hands off we were in controlling content, the less our liability would be.

      This is where I see Fetlife potentially getting their asses into hot water, is in even trying to decide what is true and what isn’t and interfering in that process the way they currently do. All they really need to do is change that policy, and stay out of these discussions, except, if they choose, to do things like moderate flaming and to keep things on topic in respective groups.

      And, IMO, they definitely do need to insist that reports be first hand, posted by the victims themselves, not told about second or third hand. Continued emphasis on the problems with false reporting needs to happen as well.

      klg
      http://kinkylittlegirl.wordpress.com in the process of transitioning to kinkylittlegirl.net

  6. May 8, 2012 12:56 pm

    I agree that boundary violations are often miscommunications (I said so in Part 5). But there are way too many of the other kind. Not miscommunications and not buyer’s remorse (I keep hearing that in a vanilla context, too, from Katie Roiphe and her ilk, and it’s bullshit) but plain old tops violating limits. Jay Wiseman’s piece is crystal clear about that; his informant expressed penetration as a hard limit, but reported that it had been violated again and again. Nina in the story in Part 3 had clearly said that knife insertion was off-limits, but Boris did it anyway. I wouldn’t call that grey. I’d call that abuse. When that happens, what does the community do about it? Is your answer, “I can’t sort it out, so I do nothing”? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying.

  7. May 8, 2012 1:04 pm

    I want to add that outreach to law enforcement is not going to fix the problem. While there are problems with law enforcement, the real problems are with juries. Even if the cops and the prosecutors are perfectly sympathetic and professional, if juries refuse to accept that violating a hard limit is rape even when the victim negotiated a scene and went with the abuser freely, then nothing that happens in the rest of the system will fix that. The criminal justice system (for the reasons stated in Part 4) is very broken for the purposes you want it to work for, and will remain that way for a long time. During the decades that it will take for juries to evolve, I’m not willing to live with, “well, it’s a tough situation” if that means that rape survivors are expected to shut up and to away.

    And that is what you’re saying, isn’t it? That you can’t know whether to believe them, so they should either go to the cops (we both recognize that’s usually a doomed enterprise) or shut up so as not to make people uncomfortable?

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 8, 2012 1:29 pm

      Thomas: Unfortunately, yes, that is what I believe, although I don’t like it any better than you do. The criminal justice system is fucked up in many, many ways, but the alternatives are worse. If you can propose a schema in which the abusers you describe are suitably punished, but that still protects me from, say, the friend or spouse of one of my bottoms who hears about our play, decides that it isn’t OK, and decides to attack or defame me on that basis, I’d be interested in hearing about it. Once you leave the existing system behind, then the vigilante justice you suggest could lead to kinksters being attacked simply for being pervy – an outcome that I think you’ll agree is suboptimal. Until someone comes up with something better, I fear that we’re stuck with trying to fix the system we’ve got.

      • May 8, 2012 1:45 pm

        We agree that all available outcomes are suboptimal. But I think that rape and abuse are bad enough and common enough that suboptimal solutions are better than throwing our hands up. If you’re afraid of your bottoms, pick better bottoms. If you’re afraid of your bottom’s other partners, don’t play with people who are otherwise attached. Both of those, to me, are better outcomes than “if someone violates your limits, shut up.”

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 8, 2012 1:53 pm

        “If you’re afraid of your bottoms, pick better bottoms.” Would you suggest that an abused bottom simply pick better tops? If not, why not?

        What would *your* solution be to this issue, then? A bottom, or even a few bottoms, claim that a particular top has consistently exceeded their stated limits. They are unwilling, for whatever reason, to go to the police. What happens next?

  8. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    May 8, 2012 1:34 pm

    Also: Buyer’s remorse and next-morning-syndrome do happen. They’ve happened to me, they’ve happened to every other experienced top I know, and they suck. The least that can happen is tops questioning their own abilities (and I know of tops who have simply left the scene in the wake of such occurrences); the worst is damaged reputations and, perhaps, lives. Unless you can propose a magic machine which will not only distinguish truth from lies, but which will also distinguish misunderstandings and mind-changings from malice, I fear we’re stuck with the mechanisms we’ve got.

    • f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact permalink
      May 8, 2012 2:05 pm

      What would the BDSM community’s response be if a victim raped or assaulted their rapist in retaliation? Am I correct in thinking the community would do nothing?

    • May 8, 2012 4:15 pm

      I respect your work a lot, Janet, and I’m glad to see your perspective here. I’m a bit confused about bringing up the “vigilante” thing, though. Thomas isn’t suggesting anything other than allowing people to write about it on FetLife if they feel they’ve been abused. The community consequences against that can be quite bad enough for kinksters — people are socially punished A LOT for talking about bad experiences. If we were talking about a situation where people could make accusations with no fear or problems, then that would be one thing, but we’re not; it’s not like accusers have some kind of unilateral power.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 8, 2012 5:05 pm

        To both Thomas and Clarisse: The original question was whether FetLife had an obligation to host these complaints. Obviously, any bottom (or, for that matter, top) who believes themselves to have been abused has every right in the world to make their complaints known, with the understanding that they are risking a slander or libel suit. So do the friends of the abused person, if that’s a risk they feel it’s worth it to take.

        But FetLife, or any other publication, has no obligation, legal or ethical or moral, to publish those complaints, and in fact would be taking some significant risks to do so. When you ask FetLife to host such threads, you’re asking them to take the risk of a legal action that could potentially close down the site and bankrupt its founder – and that’s just the legal risk; I’d suggest that there are also ethical risks to publishing allegations by someone that you don’t know personally and have no way of judging.

        As for the question about inviting abusers to my party: No, I would not. But I wouldn’t delude myself into thinking that being banned from my home, or from public playspaces, or even from social support networks would do a damn thing to prevent an abuser from finding new victims. It would make me feel better, of course, but it wouldn’t do a thing to solve the actual problem.

      • May 8, 2012 5:12 pm

        “but it wouldn’t do a thing to solve the actual problem.”

        I disagree. As I’ve explored at great length in my Meet The Predators post and its sequels, rapists can be shown empirically to use the tactics and select the targets that make it hardest to catch them. If we let the predators into the parties and tell the newbies they are safe, and then tell them that if they are assaulted they shouldn’t say anything, that makes it comparatively easy for the rapists to keep getting away with it: their Social License to Operate. If we make the easy routes less accessible, compare notes, share information so that people can decide who to play with and party hosts can decide who to invite, we force the predators to ever more marginal territory, and they’ll be more likely to end up in a position where they get prosecuted. None of us can do it alone, but as a community we can have transparency.

        When there’s a huge scandal and everyone is talking about “did he really do that?!” two years later it’s down the memory hole and lots of new people in the community have no idea there was ever an allegation. How do they judge for themselves if they don’t know there was an allegation?

      • May 8, 2012 5:14 pm

        (some of this stuff I’m x-posting from Facebook)

        I haven’t seen any evidence that FetLife risks legal problems by allowing people to talk openly about this stuff. They aren’t in the role of publisher, like you are; they’re more like Facebook, which (as Thomas noted) has no policy along these lines. If a company like Facebook doesn’t have that policy, then I’m guessing there’s no legal risk.

        Also, it would be one thing if FetLife weren’t basically the only big BDSM discussion board, but it is. No other BDSM discussion group or message board can even remotely compare. When FetLife closes down a topic, they affect the discourse in a way that no one else can.

  9. May 8, 2012 1:42 pm

    I posted a paragraph from this post to my tumblr, btw.

    I have long felt that by not supporting the victims, you by default support the perpetrator. When I was sexually assaulted, I had told the guy to stop as he was hurting me, and he opted to keep going (until I shouted for him to stop and the whole room turned to look). Despite people being in the room or being mutual friends of ours, only one person spoke to my perp in private about why what he did was wrong. He never apologized and still maintains that it was just “a bad thing that happened between two good people.” (As he said shortly after the assault when I tried to discuss things and sort out what happened that left me traumatized.) I was afraid to even hint at who it was on my blog for over two years after. Then, I quietly mentioned him by blogger name now and then.

    I spoke to the police a month or so after the assault, and it was clear that he would likely not even be prosecuted if I pursued filing a report. So, like many victims, I didn’t.

    • August 12, 2012 8:10 am

      > What would *your* solution be to this issue, then? A bottom, or even a few bottoms, claim that a particular top has consistently exceeded their stated limits. They are unwilling, for whatever reason, to go to the police. What happens next?

      Janet, given the issues inherent in going to the police, the only possibility *at this point in time* is that we quit allowing the abusers and rapists to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, and that we allow for a community mechanism to try to control things.

      This *is* an attempt to try something different, because the options heretofore engaged in and available simply haven’t worked, and have instead created a worsening environment where abuse and rape have snowballed as the scene has grown by leaps and bounds.’

      The definition of insanity is, after all, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

      What we’ve had doesn’t work any more, if indeed it ever really did; that much is abundantly obvious. I think we can all agree that there are no other fully viable options in the “real” vanilla world at this point in time.

      The reality is that not every violation of consent is going to rise to a level that is legally prosecutable, either, even assuming that going to the police is viable – but that does not mean it is excusable on a social level.

      We are at a point where the rubber really is meeting the road about whether we are going to walk our talk as a “community” about demanding consensuality and accountability – or not.

      Shit *is* going to happen. People *are* going to get hurt, sometimes wrongfully. But that is already happening, in spades.

      How wrong is it that hundreds, if not thousands, of people are nonconsensually raped and/or battered in our circles every year, and no one does anything about it? That the victims are blames, the perpetrators in no way held accountable? How is that any better than what a person who might face a false accusation might experience, especially when the numbers are already so skewed?

      Change is simply never going to happen without a lot of people taking a lot of really big risks – and yes, a lot of hurt happening, egg hitting faces, and more.

      If we make it less taboo to name the perpetrators within our circles, maybe, just maybe, we’ll build a world where victims will have enough support that we might eventually see a groundswell of support of them going to the police and influencing the law. That’s a long ways off, but given that the legal recourse is realistically simply not there in most cases, we still cannot continue to abandon people who are harmed by the unscrupulous who are hiding behind the cloak of BDSM and anonymity/confidentiality.

      It’s just simply time to try something else – almost anything else. If this idea doesn’t seem reasonable to you, what would *you* propose?

  10. May 8, 2012 4:44 pm

    “Would you suggest that an abused bottom simply pick better tops? If not, why not?”
    Well, you are the one who is saying that to the bottoms. You said that they should go to the cops or shut up. I asked, and you said that yes, that was what you were saying. That puts all the burden on the bottom to pick a trustworthy top.

    I am saying it isn’t fair for all the burden to be on the bottom.

    Suppose that laws against BDSM were really enforced, but only against the top. A bottom unhappy with a scene could just walk into a police station the next morning and make a complaint, even if there was nothing nonconsensual. Then all the risk would be on the top, and that wouldn’t be fair, would it?

    So how to we get to a balance of risk? My answer is, let people share the information they have, and let everyone decide what to believe based on the sum of the information aviailable. But right now, the overwhelming online outlet in which people talk about WIITWD has said, “we will prevent you from saying what happened here.” That’s what I’m on about.

    Janet, let me ask you this: if a friend of yours said to you, “X ignored my safeword; I said it three times, it wasn’t an accident,” AND IF YOU BELIEVED THAT TO BE TRUE, would you invite X to a party you hosted?

  11. May 8, 2012 5:19 pm

    Janet, you said:
    “Obviously, any bottom (or, for that matter, top) who believes themselves to have been abused has every right in the world to make their complaints known, with the understanding that they are risking a slander or libel suit. ”

    Have you abandoned your previous concession that you’re saying police report or shut up? You’re now saying that the victim and the victim’s friends should go ahead and say what happened as long as they understand they may have to defend a libel claim?

    (About which, many people have defamation coverage as an add-on to homeowner’s policies that will pay for part of a defense — check your coverage, folks — and that’s actually a pretty good way to get courts to resolve it. Let the assailant sue, raise a truth defense, take the depositions and see who says what under oath. In civil cases, it isn’t a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, but “preponderance of the evidence.”)

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 8, 2012 5:40 pm

      I’m saying that if the abused person actually wants some action to be taken against their abuser, something more than a round or two of “poor baby, ain’t it awful,” then, yes, the police are their best option – the realities of the way BDSM-land works precludes anything else. But they’re free to complain, of course, and to use whatever means are available to rally others to their side. (Which does not mean that FL or anyone else has any obligation to be one of those means.)

      As for your contention about banning someone from parties being an effective deterrent – I’m sorry, my experience differs. I’ve seen a few people banned, generally deservedly. I have not seen any of them retire from the scene and become better people; they simply change their screen name and start finding their victims on Craigslist, or in bars, or in a different city. The one difference that this could potentially make would be to function as an intervention – a come-to-Jesus moment that makes the abuser realize there’s something seriously amiss; this can actually work if substance abuse is involved, as it very often is in such issues. But I know of exactly one case in which an abuser became a non-abuser by getting sober, and their banning from parties took place several years before their recovery, so causality is dubious.

      Bottom line: FetLife is a privately held business. If Mr. Baku wants to ban posts about Maypole dancing or left-handed spankings, he is free to do so. If you’d like to see a collaboratively and democratically run BDSM message board, you are welcome to start one (I give it six months; the democratic model doesn’t seem to work all that well in pervy circles). The Eulenspiegel Society, the oldest pansexual BDSM club in the US (now TES), was founded specifically as a way for bottoms to share information about dangerous tops, so people managed to share such information decades before anyone could have possibly imagined something like FetLife,

      • May 8, 2012 6:46 pm

        I do not believe in quiescent consumerism. If I want to change the way for profit businesses behave I have many tools from request to protest to competition to petitioning the government for regulation, and I will use whichever ones I choose. The people who say “it is his business and he can do what he wants with it” are generally free market conservatives and randroids, and their policies result in massive inequality and instability.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 8, 2012 7:06 pm

        “Free market conservatives, Randroids,” and small business owners. I can assure you that neither the profit nor the pleasure involved in running a small BDSM business is such that it will convince anybody to keep doing it if it isn’t fun, or doesn’t feel growthful, any more.

      • May 9, 2012 9:55 am

        I am also a small business owner. My clients don’t owe it to me to like how I run my practice: I need to serve a market or community to make a living. If I’m free to run my business as I see fit, the clients are also free to not like it and go somewhere else. And as Fetlife’s customers, content providers and (as viewers of advertising) it’s main product, I don’t owe it to Fetlife to be happy with the choices they make. Your attitude that the community owes allegiance to businesses and not the other way around is one I reject in strongest terms.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 9, 2012 10:31 am

        Re: small businesses: Did I ever suggest that the community owes FetLife any allegiance? I believe I did just the opposite – I pointed out that anyone unhappy with their decision is welcome to start up a website whose policies they like better, and also that people had ways of sharing info about bad tops before the Internet, much less FetLife, was born.

      • May 9, 2012 11:15 am

        You certainly did suggest that when you said: “Bottom line: FetLife is a privately held business. If Mr. Baku wants to ban posts about Maypole dancing or left-handed spankings, he is free to do so. If you’d like to see a collaboratively and democratically run BDSM message board, you are welcome to start one (I give it six months; the democratic model doesn’t seem to work all that well in pervy circles). ” The only fair way to read that is as urging that we not try to get Fetlife to change its policies, and instead if we don’t like it, compete or go away. I disagree. Building a different mousetrap is only one of the tools consumers have, and I am not on board with any directive not to use others — including petitioning business owners to change the way they are doing things, and telling them that their current policies are fucked up.

  12. Xzenu permalink
    May 8, 2012 6:39 pm

    Thomas,
    While you are right that false accusations are a much smaller problem than sexual abuse, this is only true for the real world. The online world is different in many ways, the biggest of them being that any predatory male can easily create multiple “female” sockpuppet accounts to launch accusation campaigns against any user he may dislike.

    I have had a lot of problem with one such guy. He’s the kind of predator you’re talking about in these posts. He once got banned 30 times in a row from one single community because he kept creating new accounts to make false accusations against a woman who had “wronged” him by:
    a) Refusing to sleep with him.
    b) Reassuring a 15 years old girl who got cold feet and didn’t want to sleep with him either.

    This same guy recently made a false accusation against me as well. I don’t know exactly what he claim I did, but it was against a female customer in the (imaginary) bookstore where I was working. (In reality, I have never worked in a store, ever, books or otherwise.)

    Changing FetLife’s policy to allow accusations… well, lets just say that it’s a two way street. Let me also point out that guys like him often having much less to lose than the people they consider their enemies. As well as more time on their hands, and other similar advantages. The tools against them mus be more sophisticated tha opening the floodgates of anonymous personal attacks: They will take every chance to use it to their advantage.

    • May 9, 2012 11:45 am

      Predators and abusers will use any tools that come to hand. This may include false accusations. But the solution can’t be “no more accusations, period.”

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 9, 2012 3:25 pm

        Publicly and anonymously on sites such as Fetlife is not the solution either,

        The question is in what ways it should or shouldn’t be okay to accuse named individuals, not whether or not accusations should be allowed to be made “everywhere and always i any form” OR “nowhere and never in any form”.

      • May 9, 2012 4:14 pm

        That question has already been answered by the arbitration clause!

      • August 12, 2012 8:15 am

        Ah, Clarisse, you can’t know how it warms the cockles of my heart to see you saying that the solution can’t be “no more accusations, period” ;->

      • August 14, 2012 2:28 am

        I never, ever claimed that there should be “no more accusations.” You and I have had disagreements (and I’ve apologized for my conduct) but really, KLG ….

      • August 14, 2012 3:35 am

        I never said you said that, Clarisse! However, in light of your previous objections to my assertions that we have a big fucking abuse problem in the “community”, and seeing you start to shift your perspective over time, including with your apology, I was just commenting that it’s nice to see you say this.

  13. scootah permalink
    May 8, 2012 7:53 pm

    I’m really torn on this issue.

    For the first, I should say that I fucking love Fetlife. I was in the first 2500 users and have been a paid member for ages. I give paid membership as gifts semi regularly and generally love the service.

    I’ve also volunteered in the past at rape shelters and and spent a lot of time very close to survivors and writing about prevention and avoiding abuse.

    But the naming names thing really feels like a bad idea to me. I mean not naming names feels like just as bad an idea. That seems stupid and terrible. There’s a guy in my local scene who’s allegedly done 8 years for rape in the past and several of his former partners have told some pretty horrific stories. We’ve collectively done what we can to warn/educate/support/encourage former partners to get police involved and kick the asshole out of ‘the scene’ as much as we can. But people don’t want the police involved and kicking him out of ‘the scene’ isn’t exactly a crushingly punitive step when he can still find partners online. I want that guy crucified. I wish there was some better way to plaster his name over the intarwebs and make sure everyone knows that he’s a dangerous jerk.

    But at the same time, I’m wary of witch hunt politics. And the Abusers register really does feel like exactly that. And while I absolutely agree in this case that there are absolutely very real witches that need hunting – I’m still wary of this approach for being about as methodical and scientific as the court of Oyer and Terminer. And maybe my experience is atypical – but I’ve been around very near as many false claims of abuse as legitimate in the scene. Relationships go bad and hurt and angry people sometimes forget their ethics and use whatever means are available to hurt the person they’re angry at.

    The tragedy of this kind of witch hunt is that it won’t even be a reliable way to get the witches. I mean maybe the collateral damage and the people who’s kink lives are destroyed by nonsense from this would be worth it, if it would genuinely rid the scene of abusers. But it won’t. It won’t even come close. The reality is that if someone named me on that abusers register? It wouldn’t take. I’m one of the cool kids in my local scene. People would be inclined to side with me. I write well and I’m good at the whole internet arguments thing. I’d post a defense and my friends would swarm around me and the person claiming to have been abused would end up lynched for false claims. Shit, I’d probably get more play partners from it because there are lots of people in the scene who use these kind of ‘dangerous player’ warnings as shopping lists for edge play.

    I’m not an abuser, thank fuck. But if I’m immune to this kind of policing, surely there are other people out there who are equally immune. I’m sure some of them don’t deserve that status. But the painful truth is that they have it. What good is a system where some of us are more equal than others? How is it possibly fair that someone who isn’t as popular/well known/eloquent when arguing online should be crucified and cast out based on an unsupported accusation when others would be immune to even a well supported complaint?

    And how as a community would we even begin to police complaints/accusations? Do we interrogate victims? Or do we blindly ignore the reality that people manipulate this kind of system for malicious reasons? There are no impartial police in the community. We’re all loaded with bias and preconception and ill equipped to examine the evidence.

    And shit, I understand not wanting the real police involved. There’s a bong in my kitchen and my handcuffs and several of my other toys are prohibited where I live. Needle play outside of a commercial piercing studio or medical practice is illegal where I live. If the police come to my house even over a completely false sexual assault claim – I’m probably going to come away with a criminal record that will seriously damage my vanilla career, restrict my ability to get travel visas, cost me a fortune in fines and legal fees at a minimum and may even end with me going to jail. I’d much rather there were some kind of community means of dealing with abusers.

    But honestly? I don’t think this kind of abuser register is it. And I certainly haven’t been able to come up with a better one.

    With brief regards to the legalities of Fetlife’s position – it’s a mistake to think that it’s simple, or that other social media behaviors provide guides for Fetlife. Google for example engages in practices that have seen many smaller enterprises shut down and in some cases their owners/operators sent to prison for copy rights violations. The reality is that size and ubiquitous understanding provides a shelter from a non technical judiciary. The court understands Facebook. It’s far less likely that they’ll extend that understanding to fetlife given the taboo nature of the content and the conservative proclivities of the courts.

    There are also other issues with libel law. IE under Australian law, digital publications are deemed to be published where they are read. There is case history documenting this principle against the New York Times, where libel claims that would have been unsuccessful in North America were successfully prosecuted in Australia. Fetlife hardly has the resources to deal with international lawsuits, and I doubt that the owners would want to (or could reasonably be expected to) risk the personal outcomes of such a suit (IE never again being able to visit anywhere within the reach of whatever country they’re sued in).

    I mean regardless of the legalities, I’m not convinced that the register is a right and proper thing for Fetlife to allow. But even if it were moral and ethical – there would still be a lot of legal practicalities that would make me understand their reluctance.

    I do however agree that their behavior is in some cases inconsistent or hypocritical. The litany of other distasteful and potentially legally risky things that they do allow has been well documented in other places relating to this argument. But I think this is kind of a risk management thing. Any common sense risk management approach is to evaluate risks and assign resources to them based on that evaluation. Given how much noise was being made about this register both before and after it’s closure – it’s easy to see how it made it to the top of the list.

    I don’t particularly like the way the caretakers dealt with the issue or the way they mod in general. I hate a number of their rules and practices like deleting email in your inbox if the sender blocks you, or deleting writing pieces and entire response threads if they contain email someone sent you. I would have preferred if they’d edited posts to remove names or done something else more moderate and placing more value on the contributors rights to the content in those threads. But the anger directed at the ‘carebears’ in response to these issues really does seem excessive given the nature of the site.

    I really don’t have any good answer. I don’t think there is a good answer. But I also really don’t see this as being as one sided as it’s being presented.

    • May 9, 2012 7:39 am

      Personally, I just don’t get where the witch-hunt thing is coming from, though. I really don’t understand why it’s so bad to allow people to speak publicly about who they feel have abused them. I mean, how is it different from everyday life? The main thing that Thomas is asking here is that discourse on Fet be allowed to be the same as it is in, say, a dungeon, rather than artificially favoring one potential side of the issue.

      From the perspective of an assault advocate, I think it’s my job to support survivors — but I wouldn’t support an initiative that demanded that the courts automatically believe all survivors. That’s not what’s being suggested here, though.

    • May 9, 2012 9:50 am

      About the “witch hunt” terminology.

  14. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    May 9, 2012 10:34 am

    Clarisse: there is a big difference, both legally and functionally, between talking to friends about an issue, and publishing it for anyone to read. If FetLife were a paper magazine, like the old Sandmutopia Guardian, would you expect it to print unsubstantiated allegations of abuse? If not, then what’s the difference?

    • May 9, 2012 11:03 am

      Papers and magazines have editors. FetLife doesn’t, and neither does any other social networking site. That’s the whole point. Social networking sites are like marketplaces; they’re not like books or newspapers.

      I accept that the Internet isn’t all free speech, all the time. Thomas is moderating comments on these threads. I close comments on my blog occasionally — when they start being too stressful for me to deal with, which is rare, but does happen (especially in cases where I’m getting personalized hate comments). I’ve taken heavy (HEAVY) flak sometimes, for closing comments on my blog … so I’m definitely familiar with the arguments both ways. But I don’t dominate any of these discussions in the same way FetLife does. If I honestly thought that shutting down conversations at my blog actually meant that those conversations *wouldn’t happen* elsewhere, then I’d reconsider.

      Also, it’s much easier to make the case that I’m the publisher of my blog than it is to make the case that FetLife is the publisher of material that’s on their site. Laura Antoniou recently wrote a hilarious send-up of “50 Shades” that she published on her blog, on FetLife and and Facebook. If FetLife or Facebook suddenly decided to publish Antoniou’s work in a booklet and sell it, then there would be a huge fracas, and rightly so. In that case, would you make the claim that FL had the right to do that?

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 9, 2012 11:33 am

        Obviously, FB does not own the print rights to the material that it hosts; copyright has not been transferred to it. If it were a print magazine, it might or might not raise the transfer of copyright on the material it printed (as a rule, the larger and better-paying the publication, the likelier it is to want to retain rights). That does not change the fact that websites, as I understand the law as it now stands, can be named as codefendants in suits regarding their content, whether or not it’s user-generated, whether or not it’s been moderated. This is one of the innumerable ways in which law is being slow to catch up with technology, and someday it may change, but I believe that is the status of the law as it stands.

        As for @Rachel’s comment about “rape trumps libel,” that’s all well and good in terms of interpersonal communication. But I’d argue that it is unrealistic to expect a neutral third party who knows none of the people involved to play an active role in disseminating an unsubstantiated allegation. If I called you up out of the blue, a stranger, and told you “My friend Lola says she was raped by Joe Blow; tell everyone you know” – would you?

      • May 9, 2012 11:43 am

        Are you sure that websites can be effectively pursued in such lawsuits? You’ve made this point several times now, and Thomas has disputed it. Thomas is a lawyer, and he does a lot of social media stuff (like this blog), so I’m inclined to go with his claim about the law, but if you can produce a similar expert or an article on the topic, then that might change the equation. For now, I’m just not buying that FetLife is in any actual legal danger here.

        FetLife isn’t in the role of a third-party friend receiving the phone call, though. FetLife is more like the telephone operator. A better analogy would be if you tried to call a friend to say that you’d been abused, and the telephone operator prevented the phone call from happening. In a way, this is a lot like the Net Neutrality stuff that keeps coming up in free speech circles. FetLife is much more like a service provider than a traditional publisher.

      • May 9, 2012 12:36 pm

        Folks who want to learn about the protections offered to those who support user-generated content can read this free handy resource, the Citizen’s Media Law Project. I’m not a media lawyer and when I need one I hire one, but for purposes of debating the issues of concern here, I’ll say that this matches what I think I know. The shorthand often used is “CDA 230″, referring to the Communications Decency Act provisions codified at 47 United States Code 230 et seq. (for the nonlawyers, “et seq.” means “and the numbers immediately following”). The definition of “interactive computer service” covers Fetlife, there should be no doubt. So they get broad protection under US law. What I don’t know, because I’m not an international media lawyer, is what the interplay of Canadian law and US law on this is. But if a US user tried to sue Fet for a user comment, they face formidible obstacles:

        (1) Fet would say, “CDA 230 makes us not the maker of the statement.” I think that is a clear winner under US law.
        (2) Fet would say, “you can’t sue me because in the TOS you agreed to arbitration.” That’s pretty strong.
        (3) Fet would say, “you can’t sue me in the US because in the TOS you agreed to Canada as the forum for disputes.” I don’t know how that one comes out.

        Together, those are formidible defenses. And they are defenses that work at the motion to dismiss level — the first motion out of the gate knocks the plaintiff out of court. And arbitrations are traditionally corporations’ fora of choice against consumers where the law allows it, because arbitrations are low-cost and low-risk for the companies.

        I don’t know enough about Canadian law to know if a user would have a better go of it in the Canadian courts, though I doubt it. Remember, too, that the allegedly defamed person, unlike the defendant, doesn’t have an insurance policy to pay for their legal fees. They have to either pay out of pocket — who can do that, except the very wealthy? — or get a lawyer to take it on contingency. And with the hurdles in place, it looks like a very poor bet on contingency.

        Bottom line: the notion that Fet faces real dangers of being sued for libel if users name abusers is tenuous.

      • May 9, 2012 12:50 pm

        Adding:

        However, if their blog’s comment section is host to the defamatory comment, then they are acting as an Internet Service Provider and are not liable for the damage to your reputation. To the extent that they act as a third-party, allowing users to use their blogs as communicative outlets, they are exempt from any responsibility whatsoever.

        Even in the event that bloggers edit these comments, guest editorials, or republished material—they cannot be held liable. The sole exception to this is if the editing process itself creates defamatory comments, e.g., changing “Chris is not a murderer” by removing the “not”. Similarly, any forum website, wiki, or chat site cannot be held responsible for the defamatory statements of its users. This is true regardless of whether the website has posting guidelines or not—those guidelines have no bearing on who is liable for which comments. Section 230 of the CDA also makes clear that republishing defamatory content is not illegal, assuming the republisher does not add his or her own two defamatory cents.

        Also of interest is that bloggers cannot be legally penalized for deleting any comments left on their blogs (the same goes for owners of other Internet Service Providers). However, as noted above, they are also not legally required to do anything of the sort.

        From Here.

        The wikipedia entry on the CDA backs up the other sources. There’s a list of defamation cases that have been thrown out in the Wiki.

        I would love to hear a Canadian lawyer weigh in on the use of Canadian defamation law against a social media provider like Fet, because that’s the piece of the puzzle I don’t have.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 9, 2012 12:45 pm

        Thomas has stated that FetLife would win such a lawsuit, and I’m willing to take his word for that. But he has not, as far as I can tell, stated that they couldn’t be named, or that they couldn’t undergo a lengthy, expensive and difficult process in clearing themselves. Am I correct about this, Thomas? I do think that most people wildly underestimate the “officialness” of a web posting; to the best of my understanding, it is copyrighted material, just like a newspaper article, and subject to the same legal standards as any other copyrighted material. I don’t know anything about Canadian copyright law, but I know that at least in the case of porn, suits can be filed on the basis of where the material is viewed, not where it’s published, so I’m not sure it matters one way or another.

        Bottom line, the law doesn’t deal very well with the Internet, yet – laws change slowly and technology changes very fast. It’s not a chance I would take with my own small business, thugh, and I don’t blame FetLife a bit for choosing not to take it either.

    • May 9, 2012 11:11 am

      Patently the wrong model, both because print publications are not crowd-sourced the way a social networking site is, and because they don’t have the protections that online providers have. We are talking about User Generated Content. The models are Facebook and Twitter. Does Facebook bar me from saying, “John stole my stuff”? No. They don’t. They probably don’t as a matter of TOS, and they certainly don’t as a matter of practice. But on Fet, the same statement violates the TOS. In fact, that statement probably does not get pulled down, though, as the primary enforcement seems to be against statements that someone violated someone’s consent.

  15. May 9, 2012 11:10 am

    Rape trumps libel. Personally, I’d rather be falsely accused and left to work through the noise than sustain that trauma and be required to swallow my voice. Silencing those who’ve suffered trauma is a rape culture norm, and its sickening.

    See, the problem is, if we don’t talk about it, it just keeps happening. And if we continue to respond to ALL allegations with victim blaming and accusations that the victim is lying; then nothing changes. I want us to hear out ALL the accusations, of everything. Its like this; people I love know I won’t be silent if they are saying or doing oppressive or destructive shit, intentionally or not. I expect the same in return. If I cross someone’s boundaries, or make someone feel uncomfortable, I wanna fucking know about it, so I can fix it and learn from it and never do it again.

    Its about accountability. And increasingly, online community ties are tighter than rl ones. I want to live in community that is accountable for stopping violence, for educating itself, not for forcing survivors to swallow back their words, in order that everyone can pretend everything is fine. Silence enables violence. I’m fucking DONE protecting all of y’alls delicate little feelers. Get an education, or stay the hell away from me and mine.

  16. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    May 9, 2012 1:00 pm

    Thomas, you’re still assuming that Fet has insurance coverage, which I hope for their sakes is true. If they do have insurance coverage, it is entirely possible that the coverage precludes them from publishing anything that could be considered libelous; if I were they, and I had coverage, I’d have showed the group to my agent and asked for an opinion. I hadn’t thought of this (I’ve gotten used to having no coverage so I don’t think about it much), but it might well be that their decision had at least as much to do with hanging onto their policy as it did with the actual fear of a lawsuit.

    Bottom line: What you people are asking FL to do is to *provide a forum for unsubstantiated allegations of serious crimes*, written by people they don’t know and have no way of vetting. Can nobody see what an imposition – legally and ethically – it was to post those things in the first place?

    And how much worse it is to rage against a firm “no” from the administrator? Fetlife – a small business founded by a single individual, at his own risk – has told its members that it does not feel safe or ethical running such material, and those members are attempting to bully it out of that stance. What does that remind you of?

    • May 9, 2012 2:18 pm

      Okay, whoa. I am willing to say that bullying does happen sometimes in social justice communities. I think people within any small community, including feminism or BDSM, will sometimes treat each other badly during disagreements (and I have personal experience with this; there are a number of hate comments about me across the Internet that I won’t link to because some of them make me cry). I don’t always agree with the “feminist standard line,” I don’t always agree with Thomas (nor he with me), and there are even a few aspects of Thomas’s original post here that I disagree with.

      But since we’re talking about bottom lines, the bottom line here for me is that I still haven’t seen any convincing evidence that FetLife is in legal danger if they allow people to speak freely about accusations of abuse on the site. And we have to be able to disagree with the business decisions of companies in the BDSM community, especially gigantic ones like FetLife (or Kink, or whatever). It’s possible that Thomas should have written the original post more gently; if I had been writing it, then I certainly would have (which is why other feminists so often call me an accommodator, no doubt). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s critiquing a company that is intended to serve our community — and it’s not okay to shut down such critiques by invoking loyalty to the community. I love your books, Janet, and I recommend them all the time, but if you published something that I thought was dangerous or problematic, then I should hope I’d have the integrity to call you out on that, even though I admire your previous work.

      Like everyone else, I wish there were a clean or neat solution to these problems, but there’s not. It’s true that there will be both covert abusers, and false accusations. It’s true that the social situations will be messy and difficult and painful and everyone will have to work hard to get past abusive incidents. But FetLife’s approach to this problem is too blunt and too broad and it’s not helping anyone deal with these problems, it’s just burying them.

  17. May 9, 2012 1:40 pm

    Bottom line: if Fet wants to be the primary medium through which BDSM communities communicate online, then with all the protections it has it should just step back and let the adults say what they want to say about each other.

    Do you fail to see that the reason CDA 230 provides what it provides is that Fet is a host for and not a participant in the conversations we have about each other? Legally, and morally, by my lights, the responsible person is the person who makes the statement and Fet ought not to tell us what we can and can’t say about each other.

    As to “bullying” Fet: I am for bullying companies. That’s called consumer activism. Fetlife isn’t Exxon or Facebook. But it isn’t Greenery Press either. You keep trying to portray it as a hobby business run by Baku alone out of his basement using his credit cards for capital.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 9, 2012 2:35 pm

      Perhaps the danger is legal, perhaps it isn’t; I’m willing to let Thomas’s opinion prevail on that one. Nevertheless, I will state it once again: What you are asking FL to do is to *provide a forum for unsubstantiated allegations of serious crimes*, written by people they don’t know and have no way of vetting. Whether or not there are legal risks involved, I think doing that would be extremely dubious from an ethical standpoint. I wouldn’t do it if I owned a website, no matter how big it was or how universal a resource the website had become.

      If someone thinks it’s important to have such a list, they are absolutely free to set up a domain with a nonjudgmental provider, maintain the list themselves, and link to it from FetLife (and FB, and Leatherati, and anyplace else they feel like it). Would you do it? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

    • Xzenu permalink
      May 9, 2012 3:41 pm

      Two questions for Thomas and Clarisse Thorn:

      Lets say that there is a user who nicknamed hirself “Shiela”. She has no contact information, no evidence that she even exist: The user may or may not be female in real life. She makes a post (as a reply to one of your blog posts) about one of the participants in this thread. Male of female name, doesn’t matter. Could be either of you two, could be me, could be Janet, could be mindmechanical, and so on.

      In this post, she claims that the person is a pedophile who raped her in gruesome ways for many years but managed to escape justice because the system is unfair to victims. The post contains the alleged child-molesters full real name, social security number, home address, job address, telephone numbers, and so on.

      My questions to you:

      1. Would you let this post be on your blog for everyone to see?
      2. Is your answer the same regardless of who the accused person is? Or is there a difference between whether the target is yourself, someone you know and like, a total stranger you know nothing about, or someone you dislike and think might be creepy?

      • May 9, 2012 3:57 pm

        I won’t delete a first person account. If false accusations were such a problem, then when yandy posted the anonycorn complaints on her thread, why didn’t people just make up shit about people they don’t like? Actually, like Republicans with voter fraud, I think the single most likely source of false allegations is someone trying to prove that false allegations are a real problem by creating some. In fact, your question makes me suspect that you intend just that.

      • May 9, 2012 4:10 pm

        In the case you outline, I would leave the person’s full name but remove the address, SSN, home address, etc. Depending on the situation and whether the comment was a derail from the thread topic, I might ask the commenter to stay on topic after that. And I happen to know the answer really well, because something incredibly similar happened to me earlier this year.

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 10, 2012 10:05 am

        You are both willing to participate in anonymous harassment campaigns against innocent people, as long as the harassers stay anonymous so that whatever accusations they make can never be disproven.

        Duly noted.

        Thomas: I have shared some experiences from my life. Experiences of women close to me getting harassed in an indirectly sexualized manner over the internet. Your response is to insinuate that I’m lying in order to further some kind of political agenda. Interesting.

        Well, at least you agree with me that one ought to be sceptical about statements made by strangers on the Internet. Well, the thing is this: Since I’m not naming names, it’s no disaster if my claims are actually lies. (They are not, you have my word on that. But of course, my word is worthless if I’m a liar. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhFpbgvmyao ) But if I start trying to destroy the lives and reputations of other participants in he debate, it suddenly DOES become a huge deal whether I’m telling the truth or not.

      • May 10, 2012 11:16 am

        You’ve misrepresented what I’ve said in two regards:

        First, I am not willing to “participate in anonymous harassment campaigns against innocent people.” I’m willing to not silence an account that makes a first-hand claim of abuse. You say that’s participating, I say it is only not stepping in to prevent. FWIW, Congress saw it my way.

        Second, I didn’t insinuate you were lying about past events. I insinuated that you intended to make a false accusation yourself, as a sock, to show that it’s worth worrying about.

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 11, 2012 1:35 am

        Thomas,

        Sorry, but your blog IS your responsibility. When someone want to use you and your blog as platform for a personal campaign, your choices are to either participate by giving them that platform or abstaining by not letting your blog be a part of it. Neithet choice require you to make a judgement on whether the person is honest or not – a judgement that would be arbitrary in either case.

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 11, 2012 1:55 am

        As for your second claim, the point is that you don’t trust me.

        Anyway, what an elegant argument for having your cake and eating it too! You can maintain that you support anonymous smear campaigns, yet if one ever shows up you can remove it anyway – by blaming *me*! :-D

    • Xzenu permalink
      May 9, 2012 3:45 pm

      Oh, and a third question!

      3. Is your decision based only on whether your action/inaction may or may not be illegal? Or do you have moral concerns as well? If someone loses his or her job because random people keep calling the office with rage based on information found on your blog, is that none of your business or do you think there is some credit/blame in it for yourself?

      • May 9, 2012 4:01 pm

        Xzenu, the responsibility for the truth of the allegation is with the maker. That’s not just a legal matter. If I can’t vet or verify the allegation, why is it more morally acceptable for me to silence it than to permit it? Either way, I’m effectively taking a side.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 9, 2012 4:52 pm

        Whoa. That’s the first thing you’ve said here that I think is truly wrongheaded – your other contentions have been ones that I disagreed with but respected. Choosing not to propagate a conflict is not “taking sides”; it’s letting the status quo stay, well, quo.

      • Erl permalink
        May 10, 2012 4:01 am

        “Choosing not to propagate a conflict is not “taking sides”; it’s letting the status quo stay, well, quo.”

        The appearance of preserving the status quo is, to my mind, an illusion. Once you, as a blogger or as a private individual or as Fetlife, receive a message alleging rape on anyone’s part, the status quo has changed. There’s no going back to it.

        “Taking sides” may not be the best descriptor; I’d prefer “taking a stance.” The message is in your inbox, or mod queue, or automatically published to your site, and you must respond. More than that, you must come up with a basis upon which to respond.

        Now, part of the problem is that the practical consequences of a wide range of stances are nearly identical. “I don’t want to be an indirect party to a morally serious allegation without substantiating it myself” entails the same policy actions as “I never believe that anyone is raped,” so it becomes very hard to issue partial credit. That said, even the former is a decision.

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 10, 2012 10:09 am

        Wait, you put the responsibility on anonymous sockpuppet accounts that may live for only the few minutes it takes to make the accusation? You consider yourself, who run the blog, to have less responsibility for what happens on your blog than a random anonymous account does?

    • Xzenu permalink
      May 10, 2012 10:44 am

      Another question for Thomas and Clarisse Thorn:

      If a reader on your blog disagree with your opinions, or with the opinions of another commenter, are the allowed to make generic accusations of being a rapist or pedophile WITHOUT claiming to be the victim or going through the trouble of making a sockpuppet account to represent the victim? You have already stated that you will allow the sockpuppet tactic, just in case there’s a real person behind the sockpuppet account. So my question now is whether you will allow it without using a sockpuppet?

      I mean, is unsubstantiated claims of first hand experience needed, or is claims of “logic” enough?

      If someone make an “analysis” that claim that Janet and I must be rapists and pedophiles because that’s the only logical explanation for why we would ever contradict you, would you consider that a acceptable argument on your blog? If someone make a similar “analysis” claiming that YOU must logically be a rapist (making an argument about “overcompensation” or some bullshit like that), would that be an acceptable way of conducting the debate, in your eyes?

      At a real life BDSM club, the leaders should make sure to know a bit about everyone. At a community like fetlife, however, the moderators have no way of knowing that the people there even exist.

  18. Ella permalink
    May 10, 2012 12:36 am

    I’m not sure what to respond to first, the post or the discussion happening in the comments :)

    With regards to naming names, I really couldn’t agree with you more. Is there a danger of false accusations? Absolutely, okay, we get it. But in the long run, what is more important? Should victims be silenced because someone somewhere made up a story to get back at some jerk? And anyway, who gets to decide an accusation is false? I mean, in a classic he-said-she-said scenario, one party is going to point their finger as say “You did ___” and the other party is going to say “No, you’re a liar. Stop falsely accusing me.” Or some variation of the sort.

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to hear people say that reputations are on the line if we allow people to name names in a public forum like FetLife. Frankly, I don’t care who’s reputation is on the line. If you have a standing within your community, a false accusation will eventually be revealed as false, and no real damage will have been done. Heck, in a some cases, little damage will be done even if you actually did what you’re being accused of. My point here is that the damage done to one’s reputation simply pales in comparison to the damage done to a PERSON who is raped or assaulted.

    The idea that sitting down and shutting up is preferable to standing up and speaking out is just…well it’s non-nonsensical. I cannot understand how that helps anyone, with the exception of the predators who thrive on the silence. So…that’s my really verbose way of saying kudos on the post.

    As for the discussion in the comments, specifically the questions being posed by Xzenu–there is a big difference between naming names and what you’re describing. Going into an open forum and saying “So and so raped me.” shares the posters story. Going into an open forum and posting all sorts of personal information REGARDLESS of the validity of the statements being made crosses a line, IMO. But, and here’s the important part, an open forum is an open forum and people can say whatever they want. I personally would edit the comment to “blackout” things like addresses, SSNs and phone numbers, but I would leave the name. And technically it is not my legal or moral obligation to do even that.

    • Xzenu permalink
      May 10, 2012 10:28 am

      In my opinion, saying that you have been raped by a named person,,, there’s a huge difference between saying it to people who know you and saying it online to people who have no way of finding out if you even EXIST in real life.

      Having a stalker trying to ruin your reputation IS real damage, even if your reputation survives the assault. And no, you are not right that justice always prevails. That’s merely wishful thinking, and it goes both ways. Many real victims get disbelieved, many innocently accused gets their reputations permanently tarnished.

      The legal system is far from perfect, it does many mistakes… but at least it usually makes a honest attempt to be fair. Random people, not so much. They tend to automatically side with whatever fits their personal preferences and prejudices.

      And no, a open forum should not be a place where people are free to say whatever they want ABOUT EACH OTHER. Forums that allow personal attacks always deteriorate into cesspools. Well, almost always, although I have never heard of any exceptions to that rule.

      Another story from my own life:

      I was a moderator on a BDSM forum where two members suddenly got unwanted media attention as they was forced to go to trial. One man and one woman. The man was accused of sexually abusing the woman, but the accusation didn’t come from her. A friend of a friend of hers had filed charges.

      Big chaos, with some people picking sides. Some people sided with whatever they considered to be the woman’s side, some of the making threats against the man. Some other people sided with whatever they considered to be the man’s side, some of the making threats against the woman. As a moderator, I protected them both from the harassment.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 10, 2012 10:36 am

      “Frankly, I don’t care who’s reputation is on the line. If you have a standing within your community, a false accusation will eventually be revealed as false, and no real damage will have been done. Heck, in a some cases, little damage will be done even if you actually did what you’re being accused of.” Do you truly believe that? I am personally aware of an incident in which friends of the accuser in such a situation showed up at the door of the accused, fully intending to kick the crap out of them; the situation ended with a 911 call before serious harm was done, thank heavens, but it didn’t have to end that way. And that’s only one way such a situation can go down; there can also be genuine and irreversible damage done to the accused’s relationships, employment, et al.

      (And what of the accused who does not “have a standing within [their] community?” A newbie, or an outlier, or just someone with an abrasive personality? We’ve talked a lot here about predators who are popular and well-liked, and thus get away with bad behavior, and that does happen. But so does the opposite: the newbie or other not-well-known person who does a scene, has it go badly – either because they misunderstood the scene, or because they made a rookie mistake, or because they didn’t know enough to pick a sane and well-bounded partner – and who has nobody to speak for them.)

      [Backing up a step] The essence of this problem is that outside law enforcement does not do a good job taking care of sexual assault victims in general, and kinky assault victims in specific – if it did, accusers would simply take that route and let the criminal justice system do what it’s designed to do. Since it doesn’t, groups like this one run in circles trying to figure out a way to fill the gap, a form of due process. But here are the difficulties with that concept:

      1. “The community” does not exist. There are gay and lesbian and pan and het communities; there are support groups and on-line environments and public dungeons and private lists and munches and a lot more. In the absence of an overseeing body, the most that any one group can do is to ban a particular individual from its functions – which makes everyone feel better, but does not accomplish a thing in terms of preventing future harm. And even if there were a governing body – if, for example, the NCSF were to develop an arbitration function for such matters – the best it could do would be to drive a wrongdoer away from those public functions that are part of its scope, and/or to turn the case over to law enforcement. Public floggings of assailants might be entertaining to the rest of us, but probably would not work as a disincentive. (Just in case anyone’s wondering, yes, I’m kidding.)

      2. In the absence of an overseeing body, the most that any one group can do is to ban a particular individual from its functions – which makes everyone feel better, but does not accomplish a thing in terms of preventing future harm.

      3. Because of the previous two points, people react to allegations of wrongdoing by attempting to take the consequences into their own hands. Worst-case scenario is a lynch mob, like the one I mentioned in my opening paragraph. A lesser response is to attempt to shame the accused by naming names in a public forum. Leaving aside questions of how shameful such an action actually is (and I think you could make a case that the more sociopathic the individual, the less they will be affected by such matters; the ones who will be hurt by it are the ones who already have a sense of empathy, a need to belong, and a streak of social responsibility – in other words, the redeemable ones), what good does it do? Does it drive away potential partners? Not much – there’s a never-ending supply of newbies and outliers on CL, plus there is a not-insignificant number of edge player types for whom a “dangerous” reputation is a plus, not a minus. So it’s basically a contemporary version of the scarlet letter, only less effective and not decided on by any sort of governing body.

      And that’s why I’m making a case that the only real long-term solution to this problem is to work to improve the criminal justice system so that it can do an equitable job of handling such matters. It will, of course, be imperfect – a few innocent people will be punished, and a larger number of guilty people will get away with their actions, just as happens now (remember OJ?). But it’s the best solution we, as a culture, have developed in several millennia of work, and I think it’s sort of naive to think that a handful of folks typing into their computers will invent a system that is fairer and more effective.

      • Xzenu permalink
        May 10, 2012 10:53 am

        Good points. Let me ad that the psychopath I mentioned earlier, the one who got banned 30 times i a row… he LOVED the attention and the fame he got from being hated and publicly considered to be a child-molester.

        I, on the other hand, do NOT enjoy when he make up random creepy stories about me. Or about clubs he dislike. He did that once, and managed to land himself lifetime immunity from getting banned from that club no matter how he behaved there. The girl who owned the club was very frightened of bad publicity and of being outed as a sadomasochist. So she had to make peace with him: He won’ make up stuff about hr online, and in return she won’t tell the truth about him.

      • May 10, 2012 11:19 am

        But the problem with the criminal justice system is not the cops or the prosecutors. It’s the juries. See Part 4 of this series. Fixing that is a decades-long proposition. In the meantime, I reject OUT OF HAND “there’s nothing we can do.” Status quo is, on my account, literally the worst realistic outcome. And I think that’s probably the last thing I have to say about it.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 10, 2012 11:38 am

        Obviously, educating the general public, and educating attorneys about how to educate juries, needs to be part of the process.

        And, OK, if you reject the idea that “there’s nothing we can do,” I’d like to hear your proposal about what we *can* do. If you could wave a wand over the BDSM/leather world, what would happen after someone gets assaulted?

      • May 10, 2012 12:04 pm

        The only real long-term solutions to EVERY social justice problem are long-term and complicated. In the meantime, we need to have a way of dealing with short-term problems. In terms of situations I am personally aware of, I am personally aware of someone who is widely rumored to be abusive — including testimonials from people whose word I have no reason to doubt — and this person comes down on all attempts to spread this information by calling the people who talk about it “divisive” and “rumor-mongers,” and by claiming that the people who are willing to give personal testimonials are “crazy.” At one point, someone I cared about asked for my opinion about this person, and I related what I’d heard; at which point there was literally a month-long harassment campaign from that individual against me, including threats, which only quieted down because I have a good reputation plus friends in the community with standing who told that person to stop threatening me. Someone with less standing could have been driven out of the community by that behavior. And my understanding is that, yes, discussion of that individual’s behavior has been widely chilled by the actions they’ve taken against me and others, including people they’ve played with.

        Was it right for that person to threaten me and harass me because I answered a question about them that came from someone close to me? Would anyone point to my experience and claim that, when there’s an open conversation, people can make accusations without fear or anxiety? That’s not what it looks like to me!

        NO ONE is advocating vigilante justice on EITHER SIDE of this issue. Obviously, I would be unhappy if a false accusation came against me, or against someone I loved. And personally, I have not experienced abuse. But this whole series started because people across the BDSM world are talking about abusive incidents. YES, I will do education and outreach; I’m betting that I already do more of that than most people commenting on this thread. Furthermore, this isn’t just a matter of helping people within the community. If we really want the mainstream to respect BDSM sexuality, then (as Thomas has pointed out) we have to be able to show that the abusers are not us. BDSM is way less underground than it ever has been, and our public standing partly depends on what kind of environment we create.

      • judas permalink
        May 11, 2012 1:22 pm

        Janet,

        “‘The community’ does not exist. There are gay and lesbian and pan and het communities; there are support groups and on-line environments and public dungeons and private lists and munches and a lot more. In the absence of an overseeing body, the most that any one group can do is to ban a particular individual from its functions – which makes everyone feel better, but does not accomplish a thing in terms of preventing future harm.”

        But don’t you see that, as the primary communication tool within the BDSM world–from town square style conversations to event planning–Fetlife cuts across communities in exactly the way you claim is impossible. By talking about who is trustworthy and not trustworthy on Fetlife, we can get a better idea about our geographic region or places we are visiting even if we only play at one club or with queers or using rope or whatever.

        Due process applies to LEGAL proceedings, not social ones. You said earlier that people who have been assaulted need to go to the police if they want some action taken against their abuser: “I’m saying that if the abused person actually wants some action to be taken against their abuser, something more than a round or two of ‘poor baby, ain’t it awful,’ then, yes, the police are their best option” Some of us don’t feel LEGAL action to be useful in healing the damage caused and changing the abuser’s actions in the future. Some of us want SOCIAL action taken against abusers, and acting like the only kind of action possible is legal is ridiculous. Communities have social power. Communities can (and do) take social action. It’s just that, 9 times out of 10, the social action communities take is siding with the abuser and silencing the victim in a chorus of “witch hunt! due process! let’s not take sides! this is a private matter! think about the accused’s reputation!!”

        I’m disappointed that you’re such a follower, echoing the thoughtless voices of the victim-blaming norm, instead of standing up and using your social power and alleged leadership to support and believe people who have been abused. The rates of false accusations for sexual assault are the same or lower than for other crimes, yet it’s only in EVERY conversation about sexual abuse that the mindless masses scream, “FALSE ALLEGATIONS! LYING LIARS! LIBEL! SLANDER! POLICE REPORT OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!”

        If someone murdered you and cut your body up into little pieces, but the search of the location where your body was found was inadmissible in court and therefore the person who killed you got away with it, would it not have happened? Would you still be alive, since you don’t have a conviction to back up the allegation that you were killed? Give me a break!

        People scream that the rules of evidence dictate the rules of reality when it comes to rape, but never with any other crime. That’s hypocrisy, stupidity, and is what enables sexual violence to flourish in our society. When people continue to get raped, it’s because of all the people like you who stand by and pretend that “not taking a position” is a morally neutral action rather than one that actively supports abuse.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 11, 2012 5:08 pm

        “But don’t you see that, as the primary communication tool within the BDSM world–from town square style conversations to event planning–Fetlife cuts across communities in exactly the way you claim is impossible.”

        Well, no, I don’t see that. Here are a few communities that Fetlife does not “cut across”: newbies who have never heard of it; queers who have left in disgust at the heterocentrism prevalent in Fetlife; longtime players who are not ‘Net users; people who simply don’t enjoy the weird amalgam of good and bad advice, flirting, one-true-wayism, saber-rattling and soapbox declamation that is Fetlife. Fetlife is an excellent resource for beginning-to-medium heterosexual poly players with a D/s slant. Its usefulness for everyone else depends on how far one drifts from that description. As someone who fits exactly one of those criteria (I am poly), I go there only out of a desire to be useful; there’s nothing there that improves my life a bit.

        Furthermore, before Fetlife there was Tribe, and before that was soc.sexuality.bondage-bdsm, and before that was alt.sex.bondage, and before *that* was Sandmutopia Guardian, and before *that* was Screw… you get the idea. Fetlife is not the be-all and end-all of kink communication tools; there have been others, and in another five to ten years it will undoubtedly be a Friendsteresque footnote in kink history, and some other resource will have come along.

        And the main point is that even if running unsubstantiated allegations were the best idea since someone sliced a loaf of bread, that still conveys upon Fetlife absoutely no obligation to do it. From my understanding, Mr. Baku had no intention to found “the primary communication tool within the BDSM world”; he just wanted to make a nice little kink website where people could talk, and he happened to time it just at a moment when people were fed up with Tribe (remember Tribe?), and it took off out from under him. (FWIW, I never intended to found “the preeminent kinky book publisher” either; I was just trying to figure out how Jay and I could make enough money off our knowledge and abilities to pay the rent.) The fact that Fetlife is currently modish and useful for some people does not mean that it can or should fulfill every possible need of every imaginable kinkster – including the very real and important function of giving a voice to the disenfranchised. It’s a kinky sex site, for heaven’s sake, not a confessional or a police station.

      • May 13, 2012 4:46 am

        Here are a few communities that Fetlife does not “cut across”: newbies who have never heard of it; queers who have left in disgust at the heterocentrism prevalent in Fetlife; longtime players who are not ‘Net users; people who simply don’t enjoy the weird amalgam of good and bad advice, flirting, one-true-wayism, saber-rattling and soapbox declamation that is Fetlife. Fetlife is an excellent resource for beginning-to-medium heterosexual poly players with a D/s slant. Its usefulness for everyone else depends on how far one drifts from that description.

        Hahaha. I disagree with you in a lot of ways here, Janet, but I have to say that this description is hilariously accurate. I don’t write on that site much myself. At the same time, though, I think it’s the most universal forum we have available. Plenty of people don’t use it, but an amazingly large cross-section of people do.

  19. May 10, 2012 11:59 am

    I can’t even get through all of the comments here. As far as I see if, we have two options; allow folks to speak, or silence everyone unilaterally. The problem with silencing everyone is that it supports the status quo and the problem with the status quo is that those with greater power and authority can abuse those with less with impunity already. The status quo is already seriously for suck. If we allow someone to say x (username, not real name not dob not ss# not address) violated my consent; then we equally allow x to respond to those charges. We let some light in, we make that an accountable process.

    Those more concerned about false accusations than real victims act as though the two harms were equal, and they aren’t. One is real trauma sustained by real people who are then retraumatized by a culture that willfully blames them for their own violation, refuses to believe them when they speak, silences them if they dare to speak up, and typically ostracizes and outcasts them as ‘drama’ or ‘troublemakers’ while sheilding those who violate boundaries.

    Fet already publishes plenty accounts of illegal activities. This has nothing to do with libel and legalities, this has everything to do with a culture of secrecy and silence and lies. The requirement that victims be silent and never speak out does one essential thing *for* the status quo: it protects abusers. It does one essential thing *to* the targets of abuse, it punishes them further for daring to speak and requires that their suffering continue in silence.

    Janet you say ‘buyer’s remorse’ is real, that people recast scenes after the fact. I find that tough to swallow, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. But the thing is, you’re allowed to say that. Any and all of us is always already permitted to cast aspersions on potential targets of violence. We all *expect* it. But let any of us dare suggest that an abuser is an abuser? Nope, that can never freaking happen.

    Its like this. (content warning for all kinds of fucked up bullshit like child abuse)

    We as a culture always protect the rights of those with greater power, authority or entitlement to abuse and violate those with less. And when the facts come out, we blame the victim, almost every time. Let’s imagine that ‘the community’ is a big old family, bc that’s how its operating here, like a nuclear family. I suspect that ‘nuclear’ business is a reminder; what do nuclear families do? They explode. The power and authority of those who have the most power and authority must not ever ever ever be questioned by those with less.

    Am I the only one who wonders what those folks are so freaking afraid of? If all victims are lying (and rape culture teaches us that all victims are to blame, or lying) then why are the perpetrators so afraid of even a whisper of truth?

    So, I came up very poor in a huge family and responsible for my younger siblings. Anyway, when I was a child, I once came upon some pictures my stepdad took of my and my friends at a slumber party. We slept in nightgowns, with no panties. So these delightful pics were a display of our tiny bare vulvas. Anyway, when I came upon these images, I was too young to articulate what was so very disturbing about them. I brought them to my mother. I was 5 years old. I remember the two of them fighting, and nothing more was said of the matter. I wore pants or thick tights beneath my skirts and dresses from that moment on. Luckily for me, my dad backed off, he didn’t touch me inappropriately then or ever, unless you count beating the shit out of me, which I personally prefer to the alternative. Anyway…

    My point is, I walked away from that encounter feeling ashamed, as though I’d done something wrong. Nobody *had* to blame me or silence me, I was already silenced and blamed. That’s how it works. It took so much fucking bravery for my tiny little child self to approach my mama. And she didn’t save me. This happened *again* and *again* and *again*. I was poorly supervised and an easy target. Folks tested my boundaries. They were almost always men or boys, and I learned very young how to evade their hands and how to sheild my younger sibs from them. *Every Single Time* I tried to ask for help, I was shut down. Here are some of the responses I got to my attempts to reach out: ‘don’t talk back’ ‘don’t say that about your uncle’ ‘respect your elders’ from family members and ‘he likes you and thats how he shows it’ or ‘boys are just like that’ from teachers.

    Here’s my point; we’ve *already* got an ideal setup to allow those who violate folks boundaries to get away with it, scot free; without adding anything else to that mix. Heirarchy, power, authority; the extreme sexualization of women and children and poc and other marginalized folks. The insistence on silencing and blaming folks for their own violations as the norm. Nobody has to fight to make those things the norm. They already are. So my question remains, wtf is going on when people care more about hypothetical possible future victims of false accusations than actual real existing victims of boundary violations, of violence, assault and rape? Why so worried about those with the greatest power and authority in *this* family? Why so little concern for those with the least?

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 10, 2012 12:40 pm

      Nearly all the posts here are assuming that abuser=top and victim=bottom.

      What if someone were to post the following:

      “Last night I was playing with Jane Doe of Sandusky, Ohio. We had negotiated spanking, clamps and oral sex, and that’s exactly what we did. At no time did she use the safeword I gave her, and she appeared to be enjoying the scene. Afterward, though, I learned that she had called a mutual friend and told them I was a terrible top, that I should have known she was in trouble, and that I was clearly an unsafe player. I would like to warn all tops and dominants in Sandusky and beyond that Ms. Doe clearly lacks the boundaries and experience to take responsibility for her own well-being, and is a dangerous loose cannon. DO NOT PLAY with this woman.”

      OK or not? Why, or why not?

      • Erl permalink
        May 10, 2012 1:13 pm

        Of course it’s okay to post that. It’s wrong if it’s dishonest, of course, and with the sort of third-party account it entails there’s a real risk of communications errors, but there’s nothing morally wrong with posting that. I don’t see why there would be. Unless Jane Doe is a real name and you’re in a space that requires ‘nyms, but that’s just a question of community standards.

        I also find it a little curious that you began your post by saying “Nearly all the posts here are assuming that abuser=top and victim=bottom,” implying that the following story would be one of an abusive bottom, and it was not. It was a story about a dishonest bottom, perhaps even a vindicative and malicious one, but it was not about abuse.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 10, 2012 1:36 pm

        Ah – so we’re only talking about physical abuse here? I’d argue that this is indeed an abusive bottom: Ms. “Doe” has taken advantage of the heightened vulnerability of a top post-scene to convey messages that the individual is bad, unethical and unworthy – and, worse yet, she has done so publicly, rather than in a one-on-one discussion to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent such problems in the future. But if we’re only talking about physical abuse, yes, of course you’re correct.

        And I’d argue that it is completely wrong to publish such a thing with real names. I could tell you my own story of a bottom who turned on me after I’d done exactly what they asked for; the name is one that is well-known in the scene. But I haven’t, and I won’t. There were extenuating circumstances that lead me to believe that such behaviors are not part of the individual’s usual patterns, so I’m not overly concerned that other tops are at risk – but even if they were, I would do my utmost to get things straightened out one-on-one with the individual involved before I told another soul what had happened.

        I could also tell you my story of a time when a scene that *I* asked for, one in which I was the bottom, went pear-shaped – besides being physically quite intense (which was my norm back in my bottoming days), it dropped into an emotional level that I hadn’t anticipated and that my top was neither emotionally nor experientially prepared for. I freaked out fairly badly. My subsequent attempts to communicate with the top to try to figure out what had gone wrong left my phone calls unanswered. I could have gone the “watch out for Joe Blow at 125 Main Street in Tujunga” route – I’m certainly well enough known that I could have caused the guy some serious grief, and his behavior was at least borderline bad enough to merit such treatment (I was OK with it all until he didn’t return my phone calls, at which point I’d say it slipped over from an oops to an uh-oh). But I didn’t, because I knew I bore at least partial responsibility for taking on an emotionally and physically risky scene with someone I’d just met, and because an inexperienced and not-all-that-emotionally-intelligent top is not the same thing as an abuser, and *because it would be wrong to do so*. If I felt that he were putting other bottoms at risk, I’d have gone to the cops, but I didn’t. If someone had asked me for a reference on the guy, I’d tell them that he was, well, inexperienced and not all that emotionally intelligent, and to be careful.

        And I think those are really the only two options we have.

        Number one: We decide that a person has some problems as a player – maybe they’re hamhanded and intuitionless, maybe they habitually play above their skill levels, maybe they don’t take responsibility for their mistakes, maybe they have a substance abuse problem (and my personal guess is that this last one accounts for at least 85% of these cases), whatever. We caution our friends, do our best to gently educate the clueless person or lead them to resources that will do so, perhaps keep the person away from parties and places where they can get into trouble until such time as they can prove that they’ve learned how to act. Either they get better or they disappear; in either case, they’re not our problem any more, although that doesn’t prevent them from finding other places and people with whom to be clueless.

        Number two: We decide that the person is malicious and/or genuinely dangerous. For such a person, excluding them from parties and sharing their name will not make a damn bit of difference. Iron bars will make a difference, if only by limiting the prey population to people who are as big, strong and conscienceless as the offender.

        I just can’t see how publishing unvetted and unsubstantiated accusations is an aid to either of these processes. And, as we’ve already discussed _ad nauseam_, it is a practice with tremendous potential for abuse.

      • May 10, 2012 1:51 pm

        “we caution our friends”

        You’re conceding here that you signal-boost allegations that you believe are credible and act on them. You tell a few people, and if they’re your friends they know, but if they’re newbies, nobody tells them, and a year later it’s all down the memory hole until the next time …

        Look, I think almost every comment you’ve made here says something that is basically wrong. I think you have the wrong view, the wrong priorities, the wrong concerns, the wrong outlook, and I’ve said so. We’re not going to find any more common ground than the very limited amount we already have, and I think you’ve made it very clear where you stand. Done.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 10, 2012 2:19 pm

        You don’t see the difference between telling a few friends – which I have agreed all along is appropriate and a well-established function of having a kink community in the first place – and asking a neutral third party to help spread the word without meeting you, your adversary, or anyone else involved?

        Well, I can’t say the same about you; I don’t think everything you’ve said is wrong. (And I’m a little puzzled, because I thought you said on FL that you agreed with me on several points.) But I do think that you’re proposing solutions that are simultaneously too big and too small — too big for the genuine misunderstandings and mishaps that happen to us all, and *much* too small for the genuine sociopaths and abusers in our midst.

        And I agree that we’ve covered about all the ground we’re going to cover. Done, seconded.

    • Xzenu permalink
      May 10, 2012 5:13 pm

      Hi Rachel.
      I don’t think anyone here want silence in the subculture. The differences in opinion are not as big as you might think.

      As for your example: You told your mother, and I think that was the right thing to do, If you had told the authorities I would have supported that as well. (Yes, I know you were too young for that option at the time, but you could have done it it when you got older.) However, if you had launched an anonymous smear campaign on the internet, I would NOT have supported that.

      My first rule is this: If you are going to accuse someone of a serious crime, stand up for your own accusation. The anonymity of the Internet or the anonymous phonecall is not acceptable. (Well, an anonymous phonecall to someone who need to be warned MAY be acceptable, i special cases. Calling around to anonymously ruin someone’s reputation is not.

      The people you and Thomas think of are doing the right thing, while the people I’m talking about are doing the wrong thing and usually for very wrong reasons. We need the community to function in a way that give real victims room to speak up while not giving room for vindictive psychos. Thomas talks about transparency, that’s a good start: This transparency MUST go both ways, that’s all I’m saying.

      Also. When you say that abusers are more powerful than their victims, I agree with you on that in general… However, you are making a great fallacy when you when you assume that “Abuser” = “Any person accused of abuse”. It’s not the same thing. ESPECIALLY not online, where any predatory psycho can effortlessly create a sockpuppet with a tailored sobstory.

      • May 11, 2012 10:16 am

        I’m afraid I must disagree. It seems clear that everyone everywhere feels it would be far more convenient if all victims/survivors were silenced. I’m not saying, and I don’t think anyone else is either; that the first and/or only resort of a victim is to make a claim online. What I’m saying is that a response to trauma that privileges the needs of the target of violence will mean allowing folks to speak when they feel that its the best option for them. I’d like our first response to allegations of abuse to be, ‘how can we support the person who has been traumatized and had their consent violated’ instead of ‘what about those poor boys/doms/rapists/tops’ and/or ‘what about false allegations?’ … We can go around all day; some of us feel the real needs of real victims trump the possible hypothetical needs of those falsely accused.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 11, 2012 11:37 am

        I don’t think anyone here has suggested that victims be required or encouraged to keep quiet. The question is, does a neutral third party, unacquainted with anybody involved, have an obligation to disseminate the accusation?

        Something I suggestrd earlier and that nobody has responded to: there is no reason at all that any of us could not host a web page on which people could post their allegations – basically, to take over hosting the thread that FL banned. You could then maintain links to the site on FL, Leatherati and other sex and leather sites. Would you do that? If not, why not?

      • May 11, 2012 10:21 am

        I should clarify, I said ‘everyone everywhere’ because rape culture is omnipresent, a more accurate statement would be something like ‘a vast majority’ because for various reasons we societally would rather silence problems than deal with them. The problem with that is that it doubles down on harm for those who are already traumatized. And once again, for the folks in the cheap seats: I’m not saying the only option or the initial response *must* be an online account of consent violations; I’m saying it ought to be an option. If I waved my magic wand the BDSM community, and my queer community, and my personal community; would take a restorative justice approach to consent violations. We’d start by prioritizing the victim’s needs, and allowing them to speak.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 11, 2012 11:43 am

        Well, good – that’s the first response I’ve seen that actually is willing to answer the question of how to solve the problem in the short term. But I’m not clear, exactly, on what is meant by “restorative justice.” We cannot restore to victims the things that have been taken from them: their trust, their boundaries, their physical integrity. What *would* we do, then? Fine their assailants? Could be possible, I suppose, in a private club; everyone who joins could be requires to sign an arbitration clause. Elsewhere, probably unenforceable. What, then, does “restorative justice” mean in this situation?

      • May 13, 2012 4:41 am

        Janet, I apologize in advance if you already know this, but “restorative justice” (or “transformative justice”) is a term of art that describes certain approaches to rehabilitating offenders within small communities. I listed some links here: http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2012/01/30/some-transformative-justice-links/

        Another consistently recommended resource is a 2011 book called The Revolution Starts At Home.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 13, 2012 12:00 pm

        No, I didn’t know that; thanks. But now I’m even more puzzled, because that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with allowing victims to heal, which I’d thought was the purpose of what we were discussing here.

        I think the reason (or one of them, anyway) that this discussion has gone on as long as it has, and achieved as little as it has, is that it keeps conflating several issues:

        – Should victims speak up, and under what circumstances?
        – Should they name names?
        – Should victims’ friends help spread the word?
        – Should people who don’t know the victim help spread the word?
        – Do people (or entities) who don’t know the victim – specifically, Fetlife – have the *obligation* to spread the word?
        – If they do, what risks (legal, ethical, logistical) are they taking?
        – How can any of the above (victims, friends, outsiders) sort matters out when the two people involved tell different stories?
        – What should happen to abusers? Specifically, how can we prevent them from hurting more people?
        – How can we, individually and as a loose conglomeration of tribes that we call a “community,” help make sure that it happens?

        (NB: I’m aware that I bear my share of the blame for this thread drift. When in the middle of a heated discussion, it’s not always easy to tease apart what’s being discussed.)

        If we could choose one of those questions and stick to it, it would still probably be a pretty contentious argument. But as it stands, we don’t have a hope of achieving greater clarity. (The fact that people who read one quote out of context on Fetlife are coming over here gunning for me, without actually bothering to read the thread, isn’t helping either.)

        I vote for ending this discussion on the grounds that its parameters are too ill-defined for usefulness.

      • May 14, 2012 5:09 am

        I’m OK with ending the discussion, although first I should note that I was actually wrong to conflate restorative and transformative justice — I’ve heard them conflated a lot in conversation, but it turns out that there are more differences than I realized. Wikipedia:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_justice

        Snip:
        In contrast to restorative justice, no quantification or assessment of loss or harms or any assignment of the role of victim is made, and no attempt to compare the past (historical) and future (normative or predicted) conditions is made either.

        So, maybe that’ll answer your question. I was trying to clear things up but it looks like I just made them more confused — my fault, I apologize.

  20. May 10, 2012 1:38 pm

    Janet, there you go equating a false accusation with sexual assault again.

    I’m fine with saying, “so-and-so is a lousy bottom who can’t negotiate or advocate effectively for themselves, do not engage.” I’m for transparency. I’m also fine with “so and so is a crappy top who didn’t have a clue that I was totally in trouble and nonverbal and couldn’t safeword.” But if that’s a mistake, it’s not abuse. And tops who have been there feel terrible about it, and endeavor to never do that again … right? Because honest people make mistakes and learn from them. And making mistakes does not make one a predator.

    But when someone violates hard limits (rarely does a bottom violate a top’s hard limits, though it is possible), and the circumstances just don’t really permit the interpretation that it was an accident …
    when the victim has said many times, “no knife insertion” and ends up with a knife inside her before she knows what happened, and no safeword is going to undo that …
    when the top has a track record of renegotiating scenes with spacey bottoms to get them to agree to stuff they said they didn’t want before the scene, not once but repeatedly so it’s clearly a modus operandi …

    Those things should not be equated with saying bad things about someone. It’s a false equivalency, and it’s a transparent rhetorical tactic. In fact, I’d really really rather have someone say bad things about me, then have someone seriously violate my bodily integrity, and I think just about all of us would.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 10, 2012 2:15 pm

      OK, so we’re narrowing the field to malicious abusers who know they’re doing wrong, and do it anyway; fair enough. I’m fine with that (although not with the idea that malicious predation is the only way to be abusive).

      So, we’ve got our malicious predator, who is repeatedly going past stated limits, ignoring safewords, whatever. What, exactly, do we intend to do about them? Do we really think that being banned from a party or support group is going to stop them? Do we really think we can reach all their potential victims, the ones who don’t even know that FetLife or the scene are out there, or who don’t even know the names for their desires?

      I’ve been mentoring a newbie here in my midsized Oregon town, who until he met me was cruising for partners on CL and AFF; he had never heard of either a safeword or of negotiating, and did not know that substance use was not a normal part of play. (On our second meeting, he was speaking in a croak because a top had taken his fantasy about mouth-rape a bit too literally and had torn the back of his throat.) It’s easy to forget how uninformed newbies can be, even in this day and age. How many people like my friend would your predator hurt before someone did the one thing that has a chance of stopping someone like that – filing charges and putting them away?

      What stops predators is either death, or being put somewhere that there’s no prey. Neither of those is within our power. A note on FetLife does no good at all, and has the potential to do great harm (not, obviously, to our malicious predator, but to all the people that you’ve just excluded from the discussion, the ones who have made mistakes or misunderstood limits).

      If “saying bad things about someone” is not inherently harmful, why are you proposing it as a just recompense for someone who is a rapist and/or predator?

      • judas permalink
        May 11, 2012 2:10 pm

        Another thing that can change behavior is PEER PRESSURE. Some of us believe in rehabilitation and the possibility for change. Putting the world in prison isn’t the end goal for all of us–and I have been seriously abused by both biological parents, several partners, a few friends, a whole bunch of strangers, and on and on. If 1 in 4 people will be sexually abused, think how many people there are out there sexually abusing them. Maybe a handful of people are predators with multiple victims, but not all. And some survivors have been assaulted by multiple people–whether in group settings or discrete acts. This means that a huge percentage of the population are abusers and rapists. I don’t think the solution is to put them all in jail. We need to find community based solutions for changing their behavior and keeping our communities safe. Shunning is only one form of social action.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 11, 2012 4:55 pm

        I agree. But the narrowing we just did eliminated the kind of people who can be swayed by peer pressure – the people who care about what other people think, the people who have a capacity for empathy. The parameters Thomas set narrow this discussion to the malicious predator – the predator who does wrong, over and over again, knowing that it’s wrong. A different beast altogether, quite probably sociopathic and thus very unlikely to be changed by peer pressure.

        As for the garden-variety abuser, the kind you’ve encountered: do you really think that publicizing their name and activities to their friends and coworkers would have helped them understand the issue? My instinct is that doing so would instead anger and distance them, making the problem worse, not better. But that’s not really the issue at this point; we’re discussing the malicious predator now, and I stand by my statement that jail is the proper place for such people.

      • snowdropexplodes permalink
        May 12, 2012 9:12 am

        I don’t think we are narrowing the field in the way you suggest, Janet: rather, having accounts of mistakes, scenes gone wrong, and so on, is a good thing in my view for those who are willing to learn; those who are not willing to learn, it doesn’t matter if it’s because they are serial abusers or just really self-absorbed, or whatever: they represent a risk. But all tops represent a risk (and, emotionally, all bottoms do, to): having some information about what those risks are, and how a prospective partner deals with the aftermath (for example, aftercare, talking about it, etc) is not a bad thing when we’re dealing with mistakes. So I’m happy to see that stuff in the open.

        And that’s where it becomes possible to see the patterns that indicate an abuser (or “person unwilling to learn”) versus an honest mistake-maker.

        So part of the problem is this claim that somehow having an account of a bad scene out there will damage reputations and make someone a pariah. It’s that attitude that leads to the belief that a culture of openness would drive away the honest-but-ignorant newbie who needs to learn.

        “What stops predators is either death, or being put somewhere that there’s no prey. Neither of those is within our power.” This is no excuse for doing nothing at all. We may not be able to stop predators from operating completely, but we can make it one heck of a lot harder for them to do so, and thereby reduce the number of victims that they are able to harm. In my book, that is a worthwhile aim even if the perfect result is, as yet, beyond our reach.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 12, 2012 10:11 am

        Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here; I’ve built my life around educating newbies. But what does naming names add to that process?

      • judas permalink
        May 12, 2012 12:11 pm

        Janet,

        When you say that naming names doesn’t help newbies, what you are saying is that you, as a professional BDSM educator, see no value in people having the information necessary to evaluate the trustworthiness of potential play partners. In fact, you would discourage them from making judgment calls about trustworthiness based on how they interact with other people because you don’t want us to be able to talk about how other players treat us and you believe that such transparency is bad for the community.

        Because if there are people who cross boundaries and commit sexual assault at our parties, you don’t want us to be able to talk about them directly, only MAYBE allude to them without giving any identifying information that would enable others to know who we’re talking about, which means anyone who didn’t witness the events in question won’t have information they need to make an informed choice.

        That’s pretty fucking irresponsible.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 12, 2012 1:07 pm

        Judas: I have said several times in this discussion that I have no issue with people naming names – using their own voices, among friends who know them and thus have criteria for judging the truthfulness of the accusation. That seems entirely different than accusations posted anonymously (e.g., the accused is named but the accuser can remain hidden) and published in a large international forum.

        And, once again: even if it were the best idea imaginable for victims to be able to name names without revealing themselves and without anyone vetting their accusations for truthfulness: that still does not obligate Fetlife or anybody else to pass that information on. If you got a phone call from someone you’d never met and had no reason to trust, accusing a friend of yours of abuse, would you immediately call up everyone you knew to pass the word along?

      • judas permalink
        May 12, 2012 1:28 pm

        Clearly, you use fetlife differently than many of us because we DO know each other and it’s not anonymous. I think you should give people the benefit of basic intelligence…enough that they can decide for themselves who to believe or not. But to prohibit people from speaking about it is ridiculous. I’m not talking about a listing of abusers–Fetlife prohibits us from naming names at all, even when we do so with our own fucking voices on our own profiles. What you seem too thick to realize is that fetlife is not a publisher, fetlife is not a newspaper, fetlife is not a person. Fetlife has nothing of value that its users do not create. The users make fetlife what it is, generate all the content, give it all its value. Other illegal acts and potentially slanderous/libelous content get posted ALL THE TIME and fetlife doesn’t care, so this is NOT about potential risk. It’s about silencing rape victims specifically. You are a fool if you think that corralling talk about trustworthiness away from our everyday conversations is the most useful way to handle this. If this played out in real life and people could only talk about problematic players one day of the month in a certain room at the local dungeon or house, do you think people would really show up for that conversation? There would be so much stigma, the silence already present in the community would have people isolated so only the bravest would attend…people would only go if they thought they needed to, but the information wouldn’t reach anyone who didn’t know they needed it (for example: newbies or people who hadn’t been abused yet). That is the online equivalent of what you’re saying.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 12, 2012 3:06 pm

        “…we DO know each other and it’s not anonymous.”

        Oh, really? Quick, who am I on FetLife? It’s not difficult; I use a real headshot… but unless you’re one of my personal friends, or we’ve been involved in a discussion on one of the half-dozen groups I frequent, you probably have no idea. And even if you knew “theoryandpractice”=Janet Hardy, there’s not a thing in the world stopping me from opening a new account under another name, using someone else’s picture, and making any accusations I want. That’s pretty much the definition of anonymous.

        “I’m not talking about a listing of abusers–Fetlife prohibits us from naming names at all, even when we do so with our own fucking voices on our own profiles.”

        Arrgh. That prohibition is what’s being discussed here. The rest of the people in this thread – who are, unlike, apparently, you – following the discussion, recognize that the question is whether or not Fetlife should continue making that prohibition. The other folks here *are* arguing for “a listing of abusers.”

        I’m sure you have convincing arguments to make somewhere, but you’re arguing a different point than the one that’s being discussed here. I’m through discussing this with you.

  21. May 11, 2012 10:55 am

    I’d advocate for allowing victims/survivors to speak rather than be silenced (which I have to stress once again; silencing victims is common, usual, and normal) because silencing them does incredible damage. The kind of process I’d love to see is one based on supporting folks needs around trauma and seeking healing for them and restitution, and it *starts* with allowing them to speak.

    Nobody said, ‘well this will stop predators in their tracks’. Frankly, however, in situations where we are talking about actual predators, folks who continually prey upon the uninformed and new, yeah allowing folks to speak up actually will help, it will allow for some transparency. I say let the sunshine in and let the chips fall where they may. I for one, would be far more willing to deal with a false accusation than an assault on my person.

    I appreciated some of the accounts of communities dealing with intimate violence and rape from “The Revolution Starts at Home” and would love to see similar processes in my own communities.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      May 11, 2012 11:55 am

      Ah, excellent. (Sorry, I wrote my previous response before reading this.)

      You will perhaps be amazed to hear that I agree with you – there *is* healing in being able to tell one’s story. (Hell, I teach personal essay writing; it’s what I *do*.) I don’t think it’s realistic, however, to ask a large, non-political, entertainment-driven entity to take on the task of providing a venue for those voices.

      So, my earlier thought problem becomes a serious suggestion: why *isn’t* there a website in which victims can post their stories? I recently viewed an excellent and very moving site that was simply photos of rape survivors holding signs bearing the words that their rapists said to them during their rapes; it was chilling and very moving. A site of first-person stories of abuse within BDSM would be healing for the people who post there, and also an excellent teaching tool for novices who could learn about some of the strategies abusers utilize to find and control their victims. (I must confess, though, that I’m not sure about the value of naming names in the healing process; it smacks to me of revenge, not healing. But, not being an abuse survivor myself, I’m willing to take others’ word on this one.)

      The work involved in maintaining such a site seems minimal to me, although its psychic toll might be significant. If folks think it’s important to have such a venue, why doesn’t somone step up and do it?

      • judas permalink
        May 11, 2012 2:14 pm

        Fetlife is the primary communication tool for the bdsm community. Separating accounts of trustworthiness from the ordinary flow of communication is a disservice to transparency. It is unbalanced and fucked up, and saying, “Go talk about it somewhere else” is impractical and wrongheaded.

      • Janet W. Hardy permalink
        May 11, 2012 4:51 pm

        Perhaps the New York Times, then? It is, after all, the paper of record. And if that seems to you to be an absurd response, then you might question why. “Because it isn’t within their scope of endeavor”? Well, yeah.

  22. LadyBlues permalink
    May 11, 2012 3:04 pm

    Thomas,
    Being relatively new to kink, and only have just started poking around on Fetlife, this may be an unrealistic suggestion, but is there anything preventing someone from making a website in which people can name their abusers, and posting the link to Fetlife? Regardless of the discussion going on here, nothing that anyone says here would is necessarily going to convince Fetlife to change their minds about what they want to allow on their site.

    So, why not instead create a website or thread, or another space in which this kind of discussion could take place, and link it to Fetlife, or advertise it in other internet spaces kinksters frequent, like this blog, or others?

    Something somewhat similar was created during my college experience where someone made a website in which people could post Anonymous Confessions about whatever they wanted (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Confessionals).

    In theory someone could use a similar structure for people to post about their experiences with abusers, and one could make it a requirement that people not post anonymously, if that’s what the creator of the site wanted.

    If there isn’t an existing structure in place to hold abusers accountable for their actions, why not make one?

  23. Ella permalink
    May 11, 2012 7:02 pm

    I guess I should clarify with my comment that names should be named. That is not the first or only solution I would advocate for. There are other choices, other options for victims (be the tops or bottoms) to seek justice and find peace. And I don’t just mean justice in the legal sense.

    And personally, I don’t think naming names is any kind of solution. It creates its own problems and doesn’t fix many of the ones that exist currently. But speaking out is better than keeping silent. If I were assaulted, and chose to name names, yea it might create a whole big mess, but if my speaking up and naming my attacker stopped one person from playing with him, prevented one attack, or reduced his potential victim pool by even one person, I tend to think THAT makes a difference. Janet said “A note on FetLife does no good at all…” I agree, it is most definitely not a solution. But it’s better than the status quo. It’s better than NOT posting and letting other people be victimized.

    In one of the groups I’m in over on Fet, a question was posted about rape and who would you tell. I’m copying and pasting my response:

    “>If you experienced abuse, who would you tell? Would you report it to the authorities? Does the fact that it occurred in a BDSM context CHANGE whether or not you would report it?

    This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to as I’ve listened to all the chatter on FetLife about rape and what not. Would I go to the police? I’d like to think I would. I’d like to think that I would be brave enough and strong enough to report an attack on me to the police and pursue charges. But the truth is, having never been there, I really can’t say for sure.

    When I think about it, I personally find the idea terrifying. I can’t imagine, say, having my injuries documented and having to explain that the bruises on my ass were from a spanking two days ago, or the fresh welts on my thighs were from a consensual beating before the rape took place. I would feel like a fool, and probably wouldn’t be taken very seriously. How do you explain to a very vanilla police man that you agreed to let a man beat you, but the sex that followed crossed the line? I’d like to think I’d be brave enough to out my kinky self in an attempt to seek justice, but I can’t say for sure. And don’t even get me started on the number of rapes reported that never result in convictions much less criminal charges.

    As for who would I tell? I think I’d speak to a close friend or two. I’m not sure I’d bring it up with the community at large. Maybe that sounds contradictory. After all, I am saying that silence promotes rape culture. But after seeing how victims who speak out are treated, I am honestly not sure I would be strong enough after a traumatic experience like rape to stand up and speak out. I’d like to think I would.”

    And that’s my .02 cents on the “report is or it didn’t happen” B.S.

  24. June 21, 2012 7:42 am

    Because of the persecution that exists around BDSM, it’s much easier to blackmail someone or destroy someone’s life by outing them. That’s what false accusers do. Blackmail is the largest form of harassment against the BDSM community according to my Violence & Discrimination survey in 2008.

    False accusations may be a tiny part of the mainstream, but not in the BDSM community. NCSF is contacted by plenty of people who have been reported by their partner for abuse or assault after a consensual scene as a form of retaliation for breaking up, cheating, relationship problems, etc. The problem is so pervasive, that NCSF has just published two guides to navigating the social service and law enforcement systems – one for victims and the other for people accused of abuse. Criminal issues and domestic violence comprise about half of the reports we get to NCSF’s Incident Reporting and Response.

    I definitely don’t want to silence accusers, but claiming that there’s no harm in false accusations is completely wrong. People lose their jobs. Child custody hearings are often venues for counter abuse allegations. And I recently spoke to a guy who was arrested by the Military Police and is going through a court martial over allegations of abuse because he lied to his sub about being married and she knew that was the best way to get him back.

    Allowing anonymous accusations is not the way to go. That leaves the door open to false accusations. Personally I think we need to empower the physical BDSM groups and events more. If someone is abused by another member, they should be able to make that accusation and get a hearing from the group. I was elected the Arbiter of TES for several years, and we had to deal with hard issues like this. An arbitration would give abusers a voice, and it would give those accused a voice. Then the situation could be discussed to determine if it was a consent violation, or a technical error, a mistake in communication, or a bad scene which is not necessarily abuse. Even if there is no definitive conclusion, if someone is accused a second or third time, then a pattern exists and that person could be refused entry to attend events.

    By encouraging communication about abuse, we’ll be educating people in the scene how to protect themselves. By holding people accountable for what they do, we will be encouraging responsibility for everyone. I think transparency is the key, but it has to be equal. Accusers can’t be anonymous if they are going to point fingers.

    • June 21, 2012 8:50 am

      Susan, I would be interested in hearing more about your experiences as an arbiter for TES. What I have seen has led me to distrust our communities’ ability to police our own: the Philadephia shitshow, and several of the incidents I relate in Part 3, the clusterfuckatastrophe at CSPS where a known accomplice of a convicted abuser was allowed to remain and my own allies’ unwillingness to sever ties with people that they themselves believed to have committed acts of abuse. But obviously your experiences have led you to the conclusion that self-policing works. What can you share to support that? Can you tell us who TES excluded or sanctioned based on panel findings for misconduct during play? (I know the TES three-person panel has other functions, like policing disruption of society functions. I’m not talking about that.) Were there any allegations of in-play boundary violations even brought to TES during your term? Does TES share the findings with other organizations, or publicly, so that if there is an abuser ousted from TES, other parts of the community may act to protect their members and play spaces? Since the three-member panels consist of one board rep, one rep selected by the accused member and the elected Arbiter, has there ever been a vote on play-related misconduct that did not come down to a tie-breaker by the Arbiter?

      Basically, you say it works. To credit that, I think people need some visibility.

      • June 21, 2012 4:29 pm

        The TES case was a boundary violation (harassment) that didn’t involve play and resulted in subsequent removal from the group. I’ve had several experiences where people at different events have consulted me as to what to do when a personal accusation was made about an attendee, and once against a prominent staff member. I also get asked for advice involving behavior that while it isn’t prohibited by the rules, is not something I think individual players can consent to in a public setting (extreme medical play was one) because of the danger to everyone at that event.

        Internal arbitration can work. It’s not perfect, but it gives everyone a voice, and a framework for evaluating complaints. I think I’ve made mistakes along the way – in one instance I spoke to the accused and the witness to the scene, and soon realized he had made a technical error combined with newby ignorance, and I recommended he apologize deeply to his victim and be removed from his staff position to make it clear to anyone who knew about the situation that it was being taken seriously. I didn’t personally speak to the victim, which in hindsight I should have insisted on doing so. The co-chair of the event did speak to her, and at the time I respected their desire to do it that way. She stayed for the remainder of the event, and her friend told me she was happy with the result. But that was one reason I’ve come to think that transparency is key – and both people need to get their say.

        I think it’s good for people to know there is a committee, or an elected individual in the group who has been around a very long time, who can listen to both sides, ask pointed questions to pin down where the incident falls – your outline of different kinds of boundary and consent violations is a really great start. At the very least, victims won’t be silenced, and the accused can have their say. The expectation that the group is empowered to police their own is a great starting point.

        I really hate anything that suggests that we as a community are silencing people who have experienced abuse. The best thing about the BDSM community is that we teach people how to talk about sex and consent. We just have to go the next step further.

        As part of NCSF’s Consent Counts discussion, we will be holding discussions about consent and what role BDSM groups should play in making sure there is ongoing consent. For me personally, this is one of the most important issues we are dealing with right now.

      • June 21, 2012 5:17 pm

        Well, thanks for answering, and I think it’s an illuminating answer — but I think it’s an answer that supports skepticism. In your several years as TES Arbiter, as I understand you, there was one boundary violation issue raised, arising from harassment and not from play. No issues of rape or abuse were brought to the Grievance Committee in your tenure, as I understand it. Now, given what you know about rape and abuse, would you say that that reflects a serious underreporting situation? If so, why are people who are raped and abused in play between TES members not coming to the grievance committee with it?

        The event you discuss in your second paragraph clearly is a play-related incident, but because you don’t mention it with the TES Arbiter role I take it that happened while you were serving in in an event staff capacity. I know how the TES grievance panel works, but you have not said anything about how the event processes worked, or what the results were.

        As to people playing in ways that bystanders don’t like, well, that’s totally beside the point. I’m talking about one play partner violating another play partner’s consent.

        I’m really asking about a very specific problem: a consent violation, by one person against another while the two are engaged in play together. What can you tell us about your experience with the use of arbitration to address that specific situation that can give people confidence that it is effective?

  25. Sinth permalink
    June 21, 2012 10:57 am

    Fuck you, janet. I hope you got hit by a truck, I really hope you die in a horrible death.

  26. June 22, 2012 9:59 am

    Yes, most of my dealings in this area are as event staff or an adviser to event staff. And I do have a different experience than many people who are posting on this website – I have seen groups and events trying to to be reasonable and fair to people who complain about consent violations.

    But it’s true that those efforts have been largely behind-the-scenes, and I think that has hindered its effectiveness, which is why I am leaning more towards transparency and an open process to address consent violations. I think by encouraging groups to have a process in place, outline how that would work and questions they could ask that parse the difference between consent violations, mistakes, and morning after regrets, that would be a huge educational boon for everyone in the BDSM community.

    I don’t have proof that it would work because I’m suggesting a systematic change. I want groups to have consent discussions where this is talked about regularly, and a mechanism in place to address violations when they happen. That’s new, so it would have to be worked out. But there are arbitration standards that we could base this on that are used in the real world every day.

    It’s a suggestion for how to deal with this issue. I don’t see any other viable suggestions being offered, and I’m a fix-it kind of girl. I don’t want consent violations to happen and be brushed off by the community. I also don’t think that anonymous complaints does anyone any good because they are considered just that – rumors and gossip, not accomplishing the goal of warning people or removing predators from our midst. Plus I have seen a lot more false accusations than you claim are happening because the stigma of BDSM can be used against people, and that is just as abusive as consent violations.

    And take a look at the comment above mine from Sinth – that’s why we need a real change. Not a place to make anonymous complaints that really don’t address the damage that’s been done and the hurt that people feel. Victims need support and a place to air their complaint where they are heard by people who have taken on a responsibility to stop abuse. I’m putting this out there to see if it is something that the Consent Culture and victims support groups feel would help.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      June 22, 2012 10:41 am

      Thanks, Susan. Sinth’s comment is such a perfect example of why some people ought not be allowed to anonymously post potentially harnful information about others that I’m honestly not sure whether s/he is on my side or not.

      I’m not sure why my unsubscribe notice from this thread hasn’t gone through. Will try again.

      Janet

    • June 22, 2012 3:16 pm

      Susan, I appreciate that you’re looking for solutions instead of just naysaying. Now that it’s out on the table that you’re proposing something that hasn’t really been tried, I think people can evaluate the idea. Unfortunately, for the reasons demonstrated in Part 3 and explained in Part 5, I’m skeptical.

      Suppose such a group were selected to resolve disputes within, say, an organization affiliated with some of the highest-profile parties in New York City. How would you pick members for that panel who would be impartial if, for example, there were an allegation of rape against one of the founders? Would those members be willing to say, “our friend and colleague, the person who gets us laid, is hereby deemed responsible for a willful violation of consent and removed from membership”? If they did, would they be protected from retribution from an inner circle close to the offender? In the past, in practice, on the East Coast and on the West Coast, I’ve seen kinky communities mostly close ranks around the accused and shut out the accuser.

      Also, I agree wholeheartedly that we need transparency, it is hard to come by when it is not in the best interest of an organization: it is for that reason that I count on individual outcry and not organizational policy for transparency. Colleges routinely cover their conduct counsels with confidentiality orders that prevent victims from saying what happened, even if the adjudication goes their way. Why? Not to protect the victim. To protect the institution.

      Informally, when you’ve handled consent violations at parties, what are the names of the people who were found to have done something wrong, and how were they sanctioned? Of course, you’re not going to answer that, either because you’re barred by some explicit agreement or understanding, or because you feel you have some implicit obligation not to. Getting individuals to stand up and say, first-person, “this is what was done to me” is a lot easier than getting organizations to say, “we have received a complaint, and will deal with this openly.” At a recent TES panel, one party promoter said that his parties had never had an incident. You think he wants to have to stop saying that?

      If you can make it work, I’ll be a big fan. If you can get organizations to arbitrate, hear both sides and actually make findings against the abusers when the accuser’s account is supported by the stronger evidence and credibility, then I’ll be a big cheerleader for everyone adopting that model. I don’t actually think you can get that process working anywhere. I think you might be able to get a process that is secret unless and until an accused person is found to have committed a willful violation — but then, like universities’ Clery Act rape reports and public school’s bullying incident reports, the number will be zero for a very long time. And zero can’t be right, because we know the number of rapes and other violations isn’t anything like zero, so no substantiated complaints means either massive underreporting, or a process failure. Either way, a process that doesn’t adjudicate anyone to have done anything wrong would be a total failure at addressing the actual rape and abuse problem.

      I also think you could get a process adopted that didn’t make any findings, that did mediation instead of arbitration. But I am flat-out against that. One of the reasons survivors have given me for leaving kinky communities after a consent violation is that they felt pressured by their friends to accept an apology from an assailant who wasn’t really sorry or agree that it was a mistake or miscommunication and lay the whole thing to rest, so that people wouldn’t have to choose sides. But when it comes to intentional violations, people should be choosing sides. People should be able to apologize for mistakes made in good faith, but intentional consent violations don’t need to be mediated or smoothed over. There’s no meeting in the middle of an intentional consent violation. With an intentional consent violation, one side is the perpetrator and the other side is the victim; one side is right and the other is wrong. BDSM communities don’t need to be smoothing that over. BDSM communities need to be excluding bad actors who cannot be trusted to respect consent.

      Finally, on Sinth’s comment, since Janet conceded that her position was that victims should report to police or shut up, a lot of people have been very angry, publicly and privately. What Sinth said was raw anger, but my position is that it is what Janet said that is the problem.

      • June 23, 2012 11:13 am

        I started out as an anti-abuse activist. My first nation-wide project for the BDSM community was the creation of the SM vs. Abuse statement that took two years of input from people around the country. It was voted on unanimously at the LLC in 1997 and is still in use today. For me, distinguishing between BDSM and abuse is the most important thing the BDSM community teaches people.

        This is the next step for us. I think it will take a combination of initiatives including education, awareness, transparency for everyone involved, guides for group arbitration, if we go that route. NCSF is already working on some of these initiatives – our Aftermath guide for victims to help them through the legal and social service system (and assistance in doing so), continuing education for social service workers, and our consent discussion guide that will be released soon for the BDSM community. I’ve already starting leading these consent discussions around the country.

        I think Consent Culture took the right name. We need to shift our culture to the point where we take pride in acknowledging that we deal effectively with consent violations and that we have the responsibility to do what we can to prevent them from happening through education and awareness. I think groups and events have a responsibility to listen when allegations are made. It makes it a safer for everyone when everyone is talking about consent and understanding where the lines are, the gray areas, and the things that invalidate consent. Also I would like to see a way for everyone involved to speak about their experience.

        The anger over naming names has led to a burst of attention on the issue. NCSF doesn’t have a position on this issue – it’s under discussion and evaluation now. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that naming names anonymously is not the long-term solution we need. Anyone with any ideas please feel free to write to me at susan@ncsfreedom.org

      • June 23, 2012 12:55 pm

        Susan, I agree that having conversations about consent is part of the solution. But many of the stories I’re given voice to and many others that I have heard privately cannot be fixed just by everyone having a better understanding. I love that NCSF has redoubled its efforts to promote communication about consent. But we were talking about how to handle the intentional violations, and your last comment ignores virtually the whole of my last comment. I have my doubts about arbitration, especially since you’ve clarified that your proposal is not one that has been tried.

      • June 23, 2012 12:18 pm

        I don’t think there’s any sense in defending a comment like Sinth’s comment. Yes, anger is legitimate, but saying things like “I hope you die a horrible death” is still unnecessary and drags the discussion down.

        Susan, of course I think the idea of building a better consent culture is great. But I have to say, my experience matches Thomas’s in a lot of ways: there are really serious problems with these arbitration ideas, which often incentivize cover-ups. Also, even if we do manage to build a system that does a better job, what happens in the meantime? In development work, people think a lot about the short term, the medium term, and the long term. For example, if trying to promote physical sexual health, then the long-term solution is to cure all the diseases — but in the short-term, we still have to hand out condoms. Creating a better consent culture — I’m there! But in the meantime, where are the condoms?

  27. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    June 23, 2012 12:18 pm

    Thomas: you, not I, were the one who paraphrased my argument as “go to the police or shut up.” (For the record, I will quote my actual response at the end of this post.) You then took the liberty of going into other forums and telling people that I’d said so, without context and without encouraging them to read the actual thread, which was considerably more nuanced than that. Your ethics in this situation give me no indication that I should look to you as an example of ethics in any other situation; I am shocked and furious at the way you’ve handled this (the second time in the discussion about consent culture in which my comments have been callously if not maliciously taken of context – the first being the appalling Salon.com article).

    And, because we live at opposite ends of the country and, as far as I know, have never met, I have no recompense (except, perhaps, to go post *your* comments out of context to *my* friends, and what a charming concept that is).

    If Sinth or someone like them is less balanced than I hope they are, and decides to act on their desires, you will be directly responsible. Welcome to the wonderful world of vigilantism that you are helping to create.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      June 23, 2012 12:19 pm

      Oops, sorry, forgot to add the quote: “Thomas: Unfortunately, yes, that is what I believe, although I don’t like it any better than you do. The criminal justice system is fucked up in many, many ways, but the alternatives are worse. If you can propose a schema in which the abusers you describe are suitably punished, but that still protects me from, say, the friend or spouse of one of my bottoms who hears about our play, decides that it isn’t OK, and decides to attack or defame me on that basis, I’d be interested in hearing about it. Once you leave the existing system behind, then the vigilante justice you suggest could lead to kinksters being attacked simply for being pervy – an outcome that I think you’ll agree is suboptimal. Until someone comes up with something better, I fear that we’re stuck with trying to fix the system we’ve got.”

      • June 23, 2012 12:51 pm

        And there it is right there. I asked you to clarify your position, and you read my paraphrase and said, “yes, that is what I believe” and that’s all there is to it. You signed off on a formulation that is beyond the pale for me and for many of us. You could have said “no, that’s not what I am saying.” Instead, you said “yes, that is what I believe.” Done and done.

        I am not aware of or do not recognize any ethical requirement that I stop pointing out the formulation that you agreed with in a public forum.

      • June 23, 2012 12:58 pm

        For what it’s worth, I do not wish you a horrible death. I wish you a long and happy life, complete with the realization that what you said, the thing you said was what you believed, is wrong, and that you need to rethink it. But I’m not expecting any epiphany.

  28. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    June 23, 2012 1:00 pm

    I expressed my fundamental agreement, expressed my great dismay that I couldn’t think of a better way, and challenged you to propose one – which, to date, you still have not done. Now I challenge you to go post *that* – “Janet Hardy suggested that I come up with a strategy that would protect victims without promoting vigilantism, and I couldn’t.” That would be exactly as accurate as what you posted. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    • Janet W. Hardy permalink
      June 23, 2012 1:09 pm

      I’ll also note that you’ve done the same thing to Ms. Wright – torn down her position without coming up with a better one yourself. I’m not going to bother to go see if you’ve tattled to our friends on her too, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

      I am not a person who angers easily, but you’ve managed it. Congratulations; you’re a member of a very select group. “Gotcha journalism” – which is *exactly* what you’ve done here – is ugly enough on the Fox Network; at least there, someone is making money from it. Here, it’s inexcusable.

      • June 23, 2012 1:27 pm

        I like and respect Susan. I’ve been trying to clarify her position and I think she and I have significant disagreements, but I fundamentally believe she recognizes the problem and is willing to put real effort into changing things. That’s what I’ve said to my friends about her.

  29. Janet W. Hardy permalink
    June 23, 2012 1:41 pm

    I guess I’ll have to live with being disliked and disrespected by you, then. Oddly, I’m not finding that as difficult as I’d have expected.

  30. June 23, 2012 9:58 pm

    In regards to deliberate consent violations: I’m working on this issue right now with a big event that will take place later this year. There are 3 people who have been brought to the attention of the co-chairs for consent violations, and they have determined that all three will not be allowed at this event. I will be holding the consent discussions over the course of the weekend, and as part of it, the co-chairs want me to include a 15 minute summary each time of what their event’s standard of consent is, which includes getting permission for touch and each level of activity up to and including different sexual activities. We’ve also discussed how we will deal with any consent violations that are brought to our attention during the event. It includes immediate investigation, and if the violation is deliberate and/or with intent to harm, the top will be ejected from the event.

    Actually, I think the predators are the easiest to cut off. It’s the gray situations where both parties have some responsibility that are the hardest to deal with.

    • June 25, 2012 1:07 pm

      I think it’s fantastic that there are three people your event won’t let in. That’s huge progress. A lot more of that, and we’ll see many of the predators excluded from the formal segments of BDSM communities. If you believe as I do based on the research that most of the intentional violations are committed by a small percentage of the population, then tossing them and forcing them to the margins will actually make our communities safer.

      I think mistakes and miscommunications are not the hard part. If communities tell people, “they happen; acknowledge and apologize when you mess up” and if the people who are recognized as leaders will model that behavior, then I think it’ll become the norm. What I’ve seen is that when the violations pretty much don’t lend themselves to the explanation that it was a mistake or misunderstanding, the abuser’s friends back up the abuser. One longtime scenester said to me privately about the abuse she suffered that lots of people came to her, unasked, in the immediate aftermath, and said they’d do whatever it took to keep the abuser from doing it to anyone else. Fast forward several years, and he’s still friends with people who say they care about consent, he’s still welcome at public and private venues, he basically brags that several of his exes say he abused them, right on his fet profile. In fact, of the people I blind-itemed in Part 3, all the ones whose identities I know are still participants in the BDSM communities that they were participating in at the time of the acts I wrote about.

      I’m glad to hear that events are excluding people based on credible allegations of consent violations and if events and communities can actually manage to police themselves consistently, fairly and effectively I’ll be very happy.

  31. August 12, 2012 7:22 am

    Fantastic post as always, Thomas.

    I’ll comment on a few things separately, but suffice it to say that I fundamentally support the naming of names, or at least posting information that will allow others who could be concerned to at least contact someone to get more details if they think it might be relevant to their situation.

    I do worry about false reports, but the reality of the situation is if they are going to happen, they are going to happen anyways, no matter where people talk about them.

    Considering that probably fewer than 1/4 of the rapes and assaults that happen in general are ever even reported, I think that more than makes up for the roughly 4% of false reports we can expect.

    Personally, what I suspect would happen would be that initially, there might be a real shitstorm – and we are only just seeing the start of it now. We might in fact see a flood of false accusations, no doubt about it. Then the pendulum will swing back in the other direction and eventually come to rest in a middle position, where the novelty of backing away from the sacred confidentiality we have always espoused in the scene will wear off, and the increasing overall freedom to speak our minds will become the norm, which in turn will result in none of it being nearly as sensational as it is now – which should in turn also result in more objective reports.

    And all that said, the idea of false accusations really is troubling, because even one life ruined unnecessarily is too many, never mind the legal fallout. But we are already seeing many more lives ruined by allowing and protecting the rapists and abusers to get away with their shit unexposed, and that is just completely unacceptable at any speed.

    There are indeed potential legal concerns, but if Fetlife were to play its cards right, that would largely be left between the parties directly involved and not involve Fetlife.

    klg
    http://kinkylittlegirl.wordpress.com in the process of transitioning to kinkylittlegirl.net

  32. August 26, 2012 3:47 am

    Thank you for this series – it has been very useful in informing my determination to do something about my community’s (probably few, but I am prepared to find out that it is more) ‘broken stairs’.
    In relation to this post, in the UK, libel law is in the process of being changed by Parliament , including adding something that would protect website operators (but possibly only if they can identify who posted the material complained about, when I have a chance, I will wade through the debates). The presumption that it will be tried before a jury will go.

    However, the onus will still be on the defendant to prove that the material is substantially true, not on the complainant to prove that it isn’t. So the maxim that what you know to be true being different to what you can prove to be true will remain very relevant.

    For sites owned and operated outside the UK and Europe, it will be harder to sue them in UK courts. However, Ripoffreport may not have any assets here and its operators no interest in visiting Europe, but that is not the case for everyone.

Trackbacks

  1. On Rape and Reporting « Another Feminist Blog
  2. All the linkspam in the world
  3. Links 28 « High on Clichés
  4. What a lovely, lovely blog post series on BDSM and abuse/rape! | Steelwhisper
  5. What a truly remarkable, great blog post series on BDSM and abuse/rape! « Steelwhisper
  6. Got Consent? Part II: Safewording Abuse | Disrupting Dinner Parties
  7. Got Consent? Part III: FetLife Doesn’t Get It | Disrupting Dinner Parties
  8. tw: prioritizing abusers | tumblr backups
  9. Abuse Enabling – Things that suck about FetLife | tumblr backups
  10. tumblr backups
  11. tumblr backups
  12. Snarksy | Notes From a Conference

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