Abuse in Kink Communities? There’s An App For That.
It’s not an app. It’s really just a piece of script that a hacktivist whipped up, but what it will do is install a warning from a database over the top of a Fetlife profile.
I’ve written before about the role of Fetlife, the Borg of online BDSM, and its rule against naming names of people who violate consent. There has been no meaningful movement from Fetlife on this front.
Hacktivist and kinky person and all-around troublemaker Maymay decided on a DIY solution. He created the Fetlife Alleged Abusers Database Engine. It has been around for a few months, but he has just updated and re-released it.
I’ll stop here to note that Maymay is one of the most polarizing figures I know, and I’m not exactly Mr. Agreeable myself. Maymay is so polarizing, intransigent and infuriating that people I like and respect can’t even say his name without a string of expletives, and call him things like “a bag of mashed assholes.” Hate Maymay? Get in line. But he gets passionately angry about abuse and he won’t just sit around; he does things about it.
[I missed something this August and Fall when I was too busy with other things to blog. Maggie Mayhem, Maymay's ex, called him out not just for his approach as an activist, where I have a high tolerance for belligerence between activists, but for personal behavior. Making your ex feel threatened and stalked is fucked up.]
The face of the FAADE is a front-end that Maymay wants people to install. But the heart is the database itself, which Maymay also makes available for download without the front-end. That database allows identified or anonymous reporting of allegations of consent violation, with a severity level, a description, date and location. The information is, by design, unverifiable from the database itself. The database can’t tell you what’s true, only what some anonymous person says. And nothing inherently follows from being named in it. No judge bangs a gavel, Fetlife doesn’t delete accounts, no lightning bolt flies down from on high to smite those accused. It’s just … information. If you know what’s been said, you can ask around on your own, and you know what you should be asking about.
You might expect that people would spam the database to make it useless. There are many obvious griefing entries, just junk filled in with silly descriptions. But so what? In fact, sometimes, the patterns of those entries tell a story themselves. Someone named a British kinkster, and the response over the next two days was a flood of obvious griefer traffic, many of the reports made by people who identified themselves and were in fact friends of the guy identified as having violated consent. This is the community response to survivors’ stories, captured in real time, the support for the accused and pressure to shut down disclosure. That swarm had one other nugget in it, though: another report that the accused had violated someone’s consent.
And maybe any particular allegation there isn’t true. But how can someone evaluate its truth if they don’t know what has been said? In the Cycle of Silencing, if the allegation gets ignored and shut down until the accuser goes away in disgust, then by the time there’s a next accuser many people won’t even remember the first, and the pattern that is key to figuring out what really happened will be lost.