There have been numerous posts about the issue of consent on DDP. This is not surprising given how horrifyingly common sexual assault is and how pervasive rape culture can be. Hopefully by now many people have been exposed to the idea of positive consent: it’s not enough to just stop if you hear a “no,” it’s also necessary to check in and receive a clear, preferably verbal “yes.” However, being committed to a culture of consent requires another responsibility: recognizing the implicit power dynamics that are present in all relationships.
Hey, it’s been a while since I last wrote about consent+kink on this blog! I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about it though, and here’s where I’ve come out. This post follows the four others linked to above, but also stands quite well on its own.
Go to any BDSM conference or event, and you’ll find lots of workshops on concrete, observable, and often flashy technical skills. Like how to do particular rope bondage techniques, how to use electrical devices in play, how to use a cane, how to do fire play, etc. You’ll probably also workshops on more mental things like planning a ‘scene,’ issues in age-play, on humiliation, etc. These are the sort of things that are accorded social status in kink circles.
But you know what you won’t find much of? How to own your own mistakes. How to mess up, take responsibility, and restore trust. How to better avoid violating consent, and what to do if or when it happens. How to hold each other accountable for our actions. These are the tools we aren’t teaching. And yet, in a community where one-third of all participants have experienced a consent violation, these are the tools we need most badly.
After a lot of writing and thinking and many hours of conversations over the summer,* I’ve come the the conclusion that fighting rape culture in BDSM communities requires changing how we communicate about mistakes. Yes, better discussions around errors won’t end abuse. But they are essential to removing the Social License to Operate that predators too often enjoy. Because when we normalize responsible practices and lower the cost of vulnerability, we then expose the behavior of abusers as aberrant, so they can no longer hide. And that’s how things start to change.
This guest post is written by Rebecca Flin
So we know what “rape-culture” is at this point, right? Thank god we finally have a word for it! Like the emergence of the term, “sexual harassment” in the 1970s, the recent addition of the term “rape culture” to our everyday lexicon has given us a way to describe what used to be called “just the way it is” or “life”. Therefore, we are now able to see and discuss it. And I don’t know about you guys, but I see it everywhere: movies, the news, music, child-raising, the subway, you name it. Rape culture is our culture. But now that we see it, we can start changing it right?
So tell me, what can I do to move away from rape culture? There’s certainly a lot of discussion out there about what NOT to do –aka what rape culture looks like. But I rarely come across a blog post, an article, or really any kind of discussion whatsoever of what I SHOULD do—what consent culture might look like. Is rape culture so pervasive, that most of us, honestly just can’t even imagine a culture of consent?
I personally wasn’t able to imagine a culture of consent until I saw it. And now that I have seen it, I feel the need to share my story, so maybe others can imagine it too.
This is the fourth post in a series on abuse in BDSM communities. While topically linked, each post does stand on its own. Please refer to our glossary for definitions of a number of key BDSM terms.
As I have been writing about, kink communities have a lot of problems with abuse, and a culture that has mirrored, rather than rejected, mainstream rape culture. So what can we do? Making kink communities safer starts, in part, with making our spaces safer. Over the years of attending and hosting parties, and talking with other consent activists and friends, I’ve developed a number of theories about how to make play parties better and safer. So last week, I decided to put all those ideas into practice in a very intentional way when my group house threw a play party. In this post, I’m going to talk about what we did, why we did it, how it turned out, and what we want to do differently next time.
I think there are lessons from this post are applicable to people who aren’t kinksters, too! Lots of spaces have problem with boundary violations. Dance scenes, for example. And while many details differ, I think some of techniques may be applicable (such as posting rules on the wall, and clearly designating support people).
Content Note : This series discuses rape and rape culture in kink communities. This is the third post in a series on abuse in BDSM communities. While topically linked, each post does stand on its own. Perhaps especially this one. Please refer to our glossary for definitions of a number of key BDSM terms.
This post is all about FetLife.com, aka Facebook for kinky people, and how and why it stands against efforts to address safety and abuse in BDSM communities. The story of FetLife’s lack of respect of consent, privacy, and personal autonomy is an important one for all kinky people to know. But it also represents a fascinating case study for anyone interested in privacy, transparency, and rape culture on the Internet. However, while there are many articles talking about various parts of this problem, these discussions have been scattered and often assume a lot of prior knowledge. Moreover, the common threads of FetLife’s various problematic policies haven’t always been explicit. So in this post I’ve tried to weave these disperate threads together into one (obsessively hyperlinked) article. I will also level some new accusations at FetLife that, as far as I know, have not been voiced before.
Last week we talked about what a “model of consent” is and what a few models were. Today is about consent under the “yes means yes” model.
Consent is being in agreement that what is going on is good/ desirable/ fun/ sexy and should keep happening. You need to have your partner’s consent for sexual activity, or it is sexual assault/ rape.
Consent is a state, like trust. or paying attention. And it’s between your partner’s ears.
Affirmative consent is when you know that you have consent, because there are concrete things your partner has done that tell you so. Putting a condom on your dick and climbing on top of you, for instance. Or using their words to say, “I kinda want to fuck you again.” (while the afternoon light streams in the kitchen windows….) Knowing that your partner wants you, as opposed to basically guessing, makes for hands down better sex.
The consent that I’m referring to in this post is an ethical/moral/be-a-decent-human-being term, not a legal term. Most people, I think, are basically decent and kind and want to do the right thing, but I also think a lot of us grew up with some really fucked up information and ideas about sex. Like that it should “just happen” and you should not plan for it or talk about it.
What does consent look like? How do you communicate your consent, as well as your boundaries? How can you know that you have your partner’s consent, and where the boundaries of that consent lie?
In the past few weeks, my facebook (and probably yours) have exploded with conversations about “rape culture.” So much so that it rated a shoutout on George Takei’s page.
And since it’s already come up a few times at DDP and is extremely likely to come up again and again, I’d like to talk about what we mean when we say “model of consent.”
“Model of consent” = What is it that makes sex not-rape?
“Model of consent” = how you know you’re good to go. No orange or red on the dashboard.
A model of consent is a set of conditions that you hold in your head that tells you, if you meet them, that you have your partner’s permission and agreement and can ethically proceed with sexual activity.
Different models have different conditions. Let’s talk about three different models of consent that people use, one of which (not my favorite) is our legal standard.
Content Note: This post focuses on rape and rape culture, especially in kink communities. Please refer to our glossary for definitions of a number of key BDSM terms.
Last week, I began this series by describing my own history and love affair with kink and enthusiastic consent. As I wrote–and I’m sure I’ll talk about again–BDSM communities have developed numerous elaborate tools for negotiating boundaries and consent–tools that have gone on to influence more mainstream perpectives on consent as well. It is also true that the community is full of radical allies who care deeply about consent and do their best to honor it. So this is awesome! But it can create a false sense of security, and blind us to the reality that BDSM communities actually have a big problem.
[Edit: For those who have been following debates on abuse in the kink scene over the last 18 months, some of this post may be review, but I hope you’ll find some new material; we’ll dive into original material in earnest in the next parts. For everyone else, I hope it is eye opening—but not paralyzing, for there is much work to be done.]
Evidence of a Crisis
In January 2013, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), a legal advocacy organization for kinky and/or ethically non-monogamous people, released a survey about consent in BDSM communities. At the very end of they summary of findings, NCSF writes:
Additionally, 30.1% of respondents indicated that they had a pre-negotiated limit violated and 14.9% had experienced having a safe word or safe sign ignored. The aggregate total is 33%: 1 in 3 kinky people have experienced a consent violation, further emphasizing the need for greater education.
33%. That’s dramatically higher than the already-way-too-high rate of sexual assault in America (20%).
Susan Wright from NCSF says the results indicate “there is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.”
[Content Note: Throughout this series, I’ll be talking about rape and rape culture. This introductory post will discuss these topics in much less detail, though.]
“You’re going to write for a feminist blog? But you’re a MAN! How are YOU a feminist? What sort of feminist are you?”
So said my Mother a few days before Christmas, when I told her about the plans for what was to become Disrupting Dinner Parties.
“Of course I’m a feminist! Feminism is for everyone! As for what sort of feminist I am, well, that’s a very good question indeed.”
To help further the conversation, on Christmas I gave my Mom a copy of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and World Without Rape.” We’ll come back to that in a moment.
From the moment I was asked to write for this blog, I had a topic I knew I wanted to write about. A topic that I given a lot of thought to, and about which I have all the feelings.
I want to talk about consent and abuse in BDSM communities. Because that’s not complicated or anything, right?
Shortly after the New Year, I read a post by a young woman of what it means to be a woman in a world of discrimination and indoctrination. The post, “I Am Reminded I Am a Woman When I Learn to Be Silent,” by Laura Jensen, is a powerful sentiment that I have seen reflected in many forms of media. The piece hit me in many ways that were both unexpected and obvious. It made me sad, reminding me of all the times catcalling had occurred to me. It made me angry and oddly comforted that this writer did what I did when presented with a situation in which I may be harassed; I attempted to hide in plain sight, downplay my identity and wish for invisibility. The plight of women is real. So is discrimination. Women, as well as, many identities of humans in all societies feel the weight of otherness placed on them by the dominant society. My initial take-away from this piece was that it was a straightforward post that needed no other evidence to support it. Women feel othered, littled, harassed and disrespected; it is an unpleasant, universal reality.
A week later, reminiscent of the author’s own decision to revisit her own initial response to the question of whether she thought often of her identity as a woman, I thought again about what feelings this piece evoked in me. There are other truths that the statements silence. While a majority of the time I may avoid a construction zone because I fear harassment, there are other times when I don’t. I asked myself the questions: Why didn’t I? Why should I?
This post is a thoughtful and reflexive response and an answer to those questions. I am very grateful to the author’s post and how it inspired me to think beyond. This blog post will first quote the original piece, followed by my own interpretation in bold.