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Abuse in Kink Communities? There’s An App For That.

January 11, 2013

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.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. jemima101 permalink
    January 11, 2013 10:54 am

    A really interesting post. I generally oppose name and shame in the swinging and kink communities as it is open to abuse. However this idea of a database people can choose to look at,then make up their own minds seems like a useful tool. Nothing replaces using your own judgement, but information that is freely available seems like a good thing.

    • January 11, 2013 3:11 pm

      Naming and shaming is open to abuse, sure. But opposing naming and shaming is even MORE open to abuse.

      We live in a society that makes it hard to come forward, especially for women. Women in the swing and kink communities who come forward with any kind of report of abuse often face enormous backlash from the community. A friend of mine found this out when she reported being raped by a well-known member of the local kink scene (and we’re not talking about unwanted harassment or some kind of edge case here; we’re talking about out-and-out, he-tied-her-up-and-put-his-penis-in-her-without-consent rape). She was ostracized, ridiculed, and blamed for it, until several other women in the scene saw what was happening and said he’d done exactly the same thing to them.

      Do false accusations happen? Sure. So do people getting hit by meteorites. They’re so uncommon, though, that opposing naming and shaming in practice becomes little more than a tool to protect abusers.

      I think abuse is far, far more common in kink and swing communities than we think it is. I think that part of the reason we don’t understand how common it is is that we make it so difficult and so expensive for victims, especially women, to come forward. And that is not OK.

      • jemima101 permalink
        January 11, 2013 3:18 pm

        I have to say it is the idea sharing a kink makes people somehow unable to commit crimes, or that people should protect abusers, that leads me to have allmost nothing to do with the kink community. Until it gets rid of the idea shared sexual tastes somehow tells us anything about someones morals or virtues it will be by its very nature a dangerous place.

  2. Matt permalink
    January 11, 2013 11:31 am

    @jemima101 What if it this database listed your username AND your legal name and telephone number? Is free information still good, even if it compromises your private life in conjunction with an unproven allegation?

    • jemima101 permalink
      January 11, 2013 1:28 pm

      Since it is a database using fetlife ids i cant see your point.

  3. ErnestGreene permalink
    January 11, 2013 3:18 pm

    “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.”

    Though we agree on most things, this isn’t one of them.

    That’s a rather cavalier attitude toward the credibility of such a system. By allowing anonymous posting and making no effort to let those accused confront their accusers or address the vague claims made against them, it undercuts its own trustworthiness. By no means are all of them guilty as charged (I’m one of them so let’s just disclose that now). If they and others who have reason to doubt the truthfulness of what gets said there simply walk away from the effort to expose abuse in the community because of those who don’t care what’s true and what isn’t, is this system not counterproductive to the recognition of the seriousness of the overall problem?

    How can anyone evaluate the truth of anything if only one side is heard?

    This thing is an unmanned, unguided drone hovering over everyone who might have an enemy out there (and who doesn’t?), the joystick available anybody with a grudge or an urge to make mischief or, worse, anyone motivated by a desire to discredit survivor testimony.

    It’s unlikely to have any impact on my life, but as utterly, preposterously untrue as the accusation made against me there is, its presence further degrades the believability of those claims that are clearly made in good faith, as does the presence of all the other noise this system generates.

    If I wished to call out an abuser with the hope of being taken seriously, this is the last method I would use to deliver the message. That it is the only one available at the moment is no excuse for failing to condemn its obvious shortcomings or recognize its potential for doing damage not just to individuals but to the overall goal of raising community awareness to a major, ongoing problem in its midst.

    It does more harm than good. Lending it any kind of support plays right into the hands of those who wish to preserve the status quo, if this is regarded by those hoping for change as an example of what change might look like.

    So what to its reckless disregard of truth or falsity? That’s what.

    I have been an early, long-term and highly visible supporter of the 429 campaign on FetLife and I have every reason to suspect (because I was explicitly threatened by anti-429 people that they would do such a thing if the option to make deliberately fabricated accusations against myself and other 429 backers became available) that this is precisely what won me a spot near the top FAADE’s shit list.

    Why place this weapon in the hands of nameless individuals whose purposes, as demonstrated in the many griefing posts already there, may include the discrediting of survivors and their supporters overall?

    Even if you believe the ends justify the means (a view with the most unsavory historical associations), I fail to see how these means can produce an end worth justifying.

  4. January 15, 2013 5:58 am

    Thank you for finally helping me get the word out about this, Thomas.

  5. Really? permalink
    January 15, 2013 4:30 pm

    Maymay is controversial for a number of reasons. Some of them have to do with the fact that he’s not an ally to women who have been sexually assaulted. He routinely attacks other consent activists and women, all while claiming to be our greatest ally.

    One of them is that he sent someone, under false pretenses, to watch an ex of his at a party as a form of intimidation.

    When a performer talked about her sexual assault, he was busy tweeting away. Apparently he had more important things to do than listen.

    God forbid anyone criticizing him for being a less than excellent ally. When a small time Tumblr blogger had the temerity to criticize him, he used his considerably larger platform to harass her.

    Also, he’s given a platform to a prominent Men’s Rights Activist.

    And here’s a video where mansplains to a female sex worker and consent activist how to talk about sex work.

    That being said, I think the tool is interesting. But I really think Yes Means Yes should not have given Maymay a platform/implicit endorsement. There are very legitimate reasons why people in consent activist circles don’t like him. And it’s not because he’s just super edgy. It’s because he’s the kind of white cis male activist who hurts movements.

    • January 15, 2013 5:10 pm

      The above comment is an absurd decontextualization—one I am tired of defending myself against in private—and anyone who is interested is welcome to email me a request for documents that I have received permission to share non-publicly.

      Here is a text copy of an email I sent to a reporter who asked me specifically about the above:

      Hi Katie,

      As you requested in our chat, embedded at the bottom of this email are all emails between myself and Maggie Mayhem dating from March, 2011. They aren’t very interesting unless you’re very interested in me or Maggie personally, but since you asked, and Maggie told me it was okay to share them with whoever asked,[0] here they are.

      Since you only have 2 days for your piece, I’m also writing you a summary of what I believe the accusations regarding me being a “stalker” are referencing. The email exchange below references some of this stuff, and you are more than welcome to do whatever cross-checking and other digging you’d like to do about my history in this regard.

      So here’s the story.

      One of the things that I do pretty often at BDSM venues is tally the venue’s imagery. How many images depict traditional images of dominance in men, of submission in women, and so on. How many images depict submissive men at all? I then post the results of these tallies on my blog. I do this often, including when I was at a party at San Francisco’s Mission Control venue, and then I wrote about it on my blog.

      The party in question was a Threshold party at Mission Control. The Threshold parties are explained here:

      Like the majority of Mission Control’s parties, Threshold is typically an event open to everyone as long as they arrive with a PAL:

      That was the case for the party I wrote about. This post is what I believe people are saying constitutes “spying” or “stalking” on Maggie:

      As described here:

      I attended a prior Mission Control event and then blogged/tweeted a tally of the imagery. I also had a Twitter conversation with Mission Control about this:

      As mentioned in the last tweet in that thread,[1] I promised to return to Mission Control to make another tally. My attempt to do so next was the party Maggie was hosting. As described in the email exchange forwarded below between Maggie and I, when conflict arose between us, I asked Maggie for explicit permission to attend the party.

      Maggie declined, so I posted a Tumblr post about that fact:

      Then, on FetLife, a friend of mine said they’d do a tally for me. Since it was on FetLife, and my account is deleted, this record is no longer on FetLife’s server, but I’ll post a copy of the page, which I saved, publicly here, for now:

      When my friend offered to do this tally, I contacted them back and said yes, please do, thank you. Our communication is then detailed in the “On Epistemic Violence” post as described, linked above.

      And that’s that. Since then, Maggie has said my friend’s tally of the imagery was actually an attempt to “spy” on her. I understand she felt threatened, and have even apologized for that numerous times on Twitter,[2] but the issue is not yet resolved, and so I choose to no longer engage. I am unsure what else I can do, and the louder I get about abuse in the BDSM community, the more I fear interactions between Maggie, Kitty, and I are simply fuel for political infighting that I am uninterested in encouraging.

      In fact, I have asked Kitty Stryker, Maggie Mayhem, and others who regularly tweet some pretty derogatory things @-me to please stop interacting with me numerous times, but I no longer even do that because doing so has been counter-productive. *shrugs* Make of that what you will.

      I am happy to answer whatever further questions you may have. I am, as you might have guessed, something of an open book. 🙂

      Talk show:



      • January 15, 2013 6:53 pm

        This has turned into more discussion about Maymay’s past actions than the tool. I’m not going to do that here. I posted the link to Maggie’s post, comments contain plenty of other material, and Maymay’s had his opportunity to respond. I’m calling off-topic here.

      • January 15, 2013 7:00 pm

        This has turned into more discussion about Maymay’s past actions than the tool. I’m not going to do that here. I posted the link to Maggie’s post, comments contain plenty of other material, and Maymay’s had his opportunity to respond. I’m calling off-topic here.

        THANK YOU for that, Thomas!

  6. February 19, 2013 3:12 am

    After I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

  7. July 10, 2014 6:19 pm

    It’s being used to out community members for being “loud mouths”, and MayMay refuses to even take out the name. He’s a vile creep.


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