So this isn’t a very cheerful post for Valentines Day (for that, see here and here), but it’s important, and it’s been on my mind. See, my sweeties and I are headed to a big kink conference this weekend. I expect it will be a lot of fun. It’s pretty much the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day, as far as I’m concerned. But I am also painfully aware that there are people I care about who no longer feel safe going to such events. And that’s a huge problem. And yet it is often an invisible one. Regardless of the context, people tend not to keep track of those who leave their communities. People leave, and they just…disappear. Maybe you look around and everything seems okay with the people you meet. But what about the people who are no longer the room? Why did they leave? What can we learn from them?
It’s not always easy to answer, because when people leave a community, they tend not to talk about it. For starters, they may not want to or feel able to tell their friend in the community, because of fear of–or actual experiences of–being silenced or shamed or told “it just isn’t a big deal.” And they may not feel able to talk to people outside the community, especially if revealing their former membership could have negative social consequences–as is often true for kinksters. So maybe you have things that you want others to hear, but don’t know how to talk about it. And we so need to talk about it. There’s a battle going on in kink communities around consent (as I’ve written about a bunch). Yet some of the voices who have the most to contribute aren’t present.
Blogger and activist Motley Mayhem is out to change that, and I want to signal boost her work. She’s started a project to collect and aggregate stories from people who have left BDSM or kink communities, and their reasons for doing so. You can go fill out the survey form here. There is a FAQ post about it, and a follow-up here.
More thoughts on the survey, on scenes and communities, and my own experiences, below the fold.
I found out about the survey from Thomas Millar, knows Motley and writes that:
The project has grown organically from a call to Motley’s friends to share stories, into a much bigger effort to capture the frequency and commonalities of these narratives. I don’t have access to any raw data, but I can tell you from the stories I’ve seen and heard over the years that I expect the real news to be the frequency and similarity of certain patterns.
When I took this survey myself, I wrote about how I’d gone in and out of kink communities over the past decade. To be honest, the main driver in that journey has been my own mental health. But feeling uncomfortable in certain spaces that have a lot of heterosexism and Domism going on also has been a major problem. Fortunately, I don’t think there’s just one “community.”
When talking about kink, I purposefully try to use the term “kink communities” instead of community or “Scene.” Because I hate the word “Scene.” (As in The Kink Scene, or The Dance Scene.) Because when it’s a scene, it’s about status and connections and image. Not about humanity and caring, the way an actual community should be. And in that sense, maybe scene is a better word for organized kink. But I don’t want it to be so. It doesn’t have to be so. As I said in Safewording Abuse, I don’t think there is a single kink community. We’re fractal and diverse. And that’s a good thing. If the community sucks, sometimes it’s possible to work with others who feel similarly to find or make new spaces. And I’ve found there are queer kink communities that are more friendly and more supportive of consent and safety, though they’re surely not perfect either.
And fundamentally, I guess that’s why I haven’t left the public kink scene. As I’ve said, I don’t want to surrender a space that I’ve found valuable to those who ruin it with their action or inaction. Since I can stay, I want to stay and make things better. I don’t expect that of everyone, of course. I support people making decisions that preserve their safety and mental and physical health. That must always take top priority. But I don’t want to lose their voices! If we can better document and show others why people are being driven away, we can help drive change.
So please, if you’ve left a kink or other alt-sex community, please fill out this survey. And if you don’t have a story to tell, please forward or signal boost this survey so it reaches the people it needs to! Thanks!
I wish you a safe and joyful Valentines Day and Holiday Weekend, whether you spend it with yourself, with friends, with one lover, or with three.