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Tracking Shit On The Carpets

June 30, 2010

Nothing is consent except actual consent. Women do not consent to allow sexual contact with some random person they don’t know just because they’re sex workers, just because they’re trans, just because they’re walking down a public street, just because they’re kinky, or just because they’re in kinky or sexual spaces.

None of that should be a problem, but it obviously is. The last two are of particular concern to me. I’m a kinkster and so I have a sense of direct affront when predatory creeps visit their misconduct on kinky people and kinky spaces. It’s hard to maintain the integrity of a space or community that stands against the dominant culture and permissions alternative sexualities; where we the kinky wierdos (especially women) can be ourselves and not be judged and shamed for it, not feel like they have a target on their backs. I’ve written before about how kinky communities are far from perfect in their handling of abuse and predation. Sadly, it needs be said again, this time by Halo P. Jones, an NYC domme, feminist and blogger:

At one point, as I sat on a couch laughing with some friends, an older white gentleman sat down next to me. I was engaged in a scene, so I paid him no mind–there was a shortage of sitting room at the party, and besides, a cute friend had his hands on my knees while he was being spanked by my mentor. I was busy teasing both of them, so my attention was almost entirely otherwise engaged–but I was present enough to notice the strange hand that slid under my blue dress. I immediately turned to the assaulter and yelled in his face: “Don’t touch me–I don’t even know your name. You didn’t have permission to touch me! Back off!” He mumbled sorry, walked away immediately, and disappeared into the mass of people beyond my friends’ couch.

Saying no like that was super awkward to do: it broke the fun momentum of our scene, it killed my buzz, and it made me prickly as fuck.

***

Later that night, I stood with my arms around my student and his girlfriend, shooting the shit, when I felt hands on the back of my neck that began the first strokes of a massage. I turned around and it was the same man, coming in for sneak attempt #2. He only touched me when I was distracted–he did not ask for permission to touch me–and frankly, I had no idea who the fuck this dude was. And I wasn’t letting him get away again.

She cornered him and, to their credit, the organizers kicked his sorry ass out. This is the kind of guy that ruins sexual spaces. This kind of guy, who violates little boundaries, cannot be trusted to respect the big ones either — I’ve heard this story before and the next victim may have physical as well as psychological hurts. And if this stuff goes on, it sends a message that the space is one where limits are not respected and predatory behavior is tolerated.

This is the kind of guy whose sense of entitlement destroys the fragile bubble that allows women to escape the cultural pressure to be sexual only in approved ways (object, never subject) and spread their wings. Sexual spaces that include women are an alternative universe, really, one where slut-shaming is overwhelmed by praise for sexual self-expression. That’s a hard thing to maintain against the world. It’s even harder to maintain when the members of our own community track their shit in the door from outside and get it on the carpets.

Edited to add, in case people don’t click through (click through — Halo’s post is worth the read) that Halo tells us what needs to happen:

My friend chose to let the incident where he touched her shoulders slide–it didn’t seem like a big deal. When he touched my shoulders, if he hadn’t already slid a hand up my leg, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal either. But there was a pattern emerging of cowardice and boundary pushing–when he thought women weren’t noticing. What would he have done if he’d found someone drunk? Passed out?

What if everyone who heard me loudly state my boundaries had spoken up too? As I yelled at him, people watched, seeing what was developing. If he had tried to punch me, no doubt people would have held him back. But they just watched. What if–while I yelled at him–there had been a chorus of voices, yelling “You do not touch her without permission”?
That would have felt pretty great.

[Emphasis supplied.]

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Halo permalink
    June 30, 2010 12:06 pm

    Kinky spaces are certainly not immune to the virgin/whore dichotomy.

    I would like to think that we play with it, and in the best spaces do away with or at least subvert it (the name “Halo” is certainly part of that for me).

    Unfortunately, the sex-negative, the ignorant, and predators tend to think that makes all women in those spaces sexually available…you and Clarisse Thorn and Stacey Fowles and Jenny Block have all taken them down systematically before better than I can.

    It also saddens me that kinky women head out of the scene because of shit like this. I’ve heard complaints about the discrepancies in numbers between heterosexual men and heterosexual women, especially top and Domme women and sub men…but what woman wants to stick around when there is such predation?

    I don’t think I’ll be leaving the public scene yet, but the more people push me, the more tired I get of having to set the same boundaries over and over–when they are supposed to be part of the rules which everyone is required to read before entering a party.

  2. June 30, 2010 4:45 pm

    “you and Clarisse Thorn and Stacey Fowles and Jenny Block have all taken them down systematically before better than I can.”

    You perhaps shortchange yourself.

  3. MertvayaRuka permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:31 am

    Reading about stuff like this happening both breaks my heart and worries me at the same time. My wife has all ready been the victim of the exact kind of unwanted contact Halo spoke of; the sneaky hands-on-shoulders from behind. It’s only happened once at an event, but once was really enough to sour the experience. We’re coming up on the first event our partner has ever been to and I know that most of my attention is constantly going to be on making sure that nobody puts their hands on her because they assume a girl in a collar with a leash is “up for it” and fair game. I just don’t want that to be her first experience at an event. I don’t want to have to tell her to be on her guard constantly when she should be having fun and learning.

    • July 2, 2010 2:34 pm

      This sort of thing is why, even though I identify as sub/bottom, I do not wear signifiers of submissiveness in public. Ever. I’ve had enough problems with people who know my husband and I well enough to know our proclivities, making assumptions about submission to one being submission to all.

      One guy nearly got his fingers broken, because after I informed him that I was not his sub and he would not touch me, he tried to force the issue to “reassert his dominance.” My husband stepped in to allow Jerkface McAsshead to “save face” by being warned off by my “owner” (gag!), and keep the peace.

  4. Kyra permalink
    July 5, 2010 9:18 pm

    SO MUCH THIS. YES.

    People like this—and their less-blatant-about-it allies, the won’t-get-involved moderates—are the reason I won’t be a submissive in a public event, especially unattached as I am, and also why I’m a “both-but-not-either” switch in any situation. I know I’m missing out on good doms/dommes who simply are not switches, but I need the reassurance that they’re not having me do for them something they consider beneath them to do for me.

  5. July 6, 2010 10:30 am

    Kyra’s comment above strikes a chord with me. I’d like to say that I’m 100% open to playing with non-switch doms, but I really am more interested in switch-doms than non-switch doms these days, and not because I want to top all that much. I just … when I play with switch doms, they are so much more likely to understand and appreciate my experience.

    I’ve never experienced much harassment within the BDSM scene, so I may have a rosier view of it than many. (On the other hand, in a variety of ways, I’m not easily triggered. I’ve also heard that the Chicago scene is better than the scene in many, many, many other places.) Most of the icky stuff I’ve encountered comes from people outside the scene who project stereotypes and assumptions onto me because “ooh, she’s into S&M, she must be craaaazy”. I’m always sorry to hear about stories like Halo’s, and I wonder how I’ll feel if something so blatant does someday happen to me within the scene.

  6. July 24, 2010 6:00 pm

    Friend of mine just posted on her LJ about some of the shit going on in the NYC kink scene.

    Anyone who thinks the bDSM community doesn’t have rapists and fucked up shit in it is kidding themselves.

  7. Teresa permalink
    July 26, 2010 11:14 pm

    I was thinking about this, and then I went and read https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/anatomy-of-a-street-groping/ , and I was thinking about the one guy who hung back but didn’t say anything.

    I think in a lot of these situations, it’s all to easy to have the deer-in-headlights “wtf?” response. I moderate a number of online fora, and while I’m very much into the whole “yes means yes”, “rape jokes aren’t funny”, etc deal… it’s still very hard for me to pinpoint that exact moment when the line gets crossed—and more importantly, find something to say. In real life, I tend to go non-verbal under stress, and so important situations like the ones in these posts usually leave me gaping going “um buh wha huh buh?” and frozen.

    I think for me, part of that is the inherent fear of being a woman. When I do speak up, I have to be ready for the calls of “bitch”, “cunt”, “stop spoiling our fun”, etc. If I see a scene where it’s not clear to me that consent has happened, it SHOULD be fine for me to stop it and make sure consent has been given—but instead I get demonized for it. This is doubly true for attacks on the “anonymous woman” of the internet, where simply saying that calling a woman a cunt in abstentia for refusing to play rape with you is not acceptable behavior has gotten me vilified more than once. (Yes, I’m serious).

    So when someone does do something unacceptable, my first response is “holy fuck, did I just see that?” followed by a moment of total verbal loss. That’s followed by the “oh fuck now what do I do about it?” and in real life, the moment to act can be over before I manage to come up with something to do.

    What I think we need to do, as feminists, is come up with a battle cry. Your notion of “Don’t touch her without permission!” is a really good one, but I’m not sure it’s broad enough. If we could codify an acceptable response, one applicable across a large range of situations, and drill it into our heads, maybe those of us who have the nonverbal/fear response to these situations could actually DO something useful.

Trackbacks

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