I absolutely loved this post and have considered writing one of my own for quite some time. I’m probably going to end up sharing way too much here, but you know, I believe in authenticity. I believe in honoring one’s own truth. I believe in honoring each other’s journeys so I share a little of mine.
I remember the first inkling I had that I was attracted to women was when I was in 6th grade…in Catholic school. I was heavily Catholic. Believed in and practiced the Church’s teachings to the fullest extent possible. Believed with my whole soul. And back in the early 90’s, bisexuality wasn’t really a thing yet. Not like it is now. I chastized myself heavily for even looking at other girls, for thinking anything sexual about them at all. Read the rest of this entry
EDITS: I posted this in November 2012 on FetLife. I was asked to publish this in a larger forum where they could more easily link to the content for people who might have FetLife blocked or just aren’t members. With over 300 “loves” and 100+ comments and countless personal emails and messages I agree that this is worth sharing with a much wider audience.
As of 2016, I was banned from one of the local venues reportedly because of my activism, but also likely because of the connection they had to the person below.
I’ve also added a trigger warning on the title for those who are survivors of sexual assault whether in or out of the scene. However, there is no cut to protect against the triggers.
September Gateway 2007.
I’ve been part of the BDSM community for 8 years and the Denver community for 6 years. There was a time when I was new. And when you’re new you do some pretty stupid things.
When I was new I agreed to play with someone who told me he’d listen to and respect my boundaries, even though every conversation seemed to revolve around how great he thought he was. When I sent him my personal narrative about the “whys” of my limits, he told me “well, that was more than I ever needed to know”. But you know, I made a commitment to be there and I didn’t want to back out since absolutely no one else expressed an interest in playing with me (before the days of FetLife).
When we played I safeworded, calling Red, three times only to have him to continue the exact thing that I said I didn’t want on the spot that was already sore, the very thing I negotiated as off-limits and for the DMs to walk by or watch oblivious even when in earshot of “Red”. He ended the scene by shoving three fingers up my cunt as my face is covered in snot and tears and asking me if I liked it, expecting to be able to start on my front-side since it was clear he thought that went well.
I told him I was done and was non-verbal for the rest of the night. I didn’t confront him because it was clear that he enjoyed himself, chiding and mocking me for not being able to take more…that more would be expected of me next time. And the gall that he thought there would even be a next time combined with the passive-aggressive insult that I wasn’t a good submissive, that I didn’t give my all, that I was lacking in some respect told me that he would only try to justify his poor choices and blame me if I confronted him head-on or publicly about what he did. I was a nobody in Denver at the time nor did I feel strong enough in myself to not only endure having been outed but to also be unwelcome in a community I wanted to be a part of. Who would ever listen to me?
But the fact is, I wasn’t wrong to trust and communicate when things were going badly. I wasn’t wrong to trust someone who was in such a position of authority. I wasn’t wrong to communicate when there was a problem (screaming Red counts!). The only thing I really did wrong was waiting so long to really talk about this.
The parallels between this event and my rape are too sad when you think about it. Much like when I had been raped 16 years ago while hanging out with my friends in their dorm room, I didn’t tell others until much later. Much like the people who witnessed my rape and heard my “No” (and who jerked off as it was happening), no one stepped in to stop it, even when they had a duty to do so. And like 16 years ago I didn’t confront him, but just made sure to avoid him or anyone closely connected with him. As a person, I tend to always put blame on myself and I definitely did for this – I even thanked him a week later in an email (which years later is quite embarrassing):
Thank you for the time you spent last week…I’m still trying to piece together what I’ve learned. The fact that I safeworded concerns me. It’s never happened before, partly because I’ve never been played that hard before. And while you reassured me that I took it well, the tears streaming down my face the whole time also concerns me. This points to unresolved issues I have with my previous Dom that I want to figure out before I play any more with anyone else, including you. There is far too much history to allow it to play out with someone new. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to play with you, but I don’t think I can go any further than we did. I am not emotionally prepared for it…not to mention physically ready for it either. I will be taking the next few months to really piece together where I am with D/s right now…and whether it even still fits into my life. You opened my eyes to a lot of issues I’ve been failing to face up to…and it’s given me a lot to think about. Again, I am very grateful for that…but with where I am right now, where my experiences have led me to. This was a chance to see whether we’re a good fit for each other and sadly I don’t think we are, especially considering the issues I still need to work through in my own life.Email, Sept 22, 2007
It isn’t about naming names as naming the problem
What prompted this post? It isn’t to publicize his mistakes. It’s to share an experience that, much like the date rape I survived, is far more common and one where I see a lot of others wrestling with whether they should say something or just keep quiet. What’s worse is I see others who continue to act badly, who take no responsibility for their actions or the impact they might have on others (particularly in a public space) and continue to act as if they are the ones who are victimized whenever anyone wants to address their behavior.
I’ve had enough. It is precisely the pattern of consume-destroy-silence-shame-repeat that is hurting members of our community and I’ve had enough. Particularly with the influx of people coming to BDSM from 50 Shades I am quite concerned about the model we are setting for those who not only have unrealistic expectations to start but who genuinely feel a draw to practice what we do. What responsibility are we going to take as a community?
I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Hell, we wouldn’t have had to have hosted a FuK Yes! party if everything was working smoothly, we were protecting our own community effectively, and people weren’t getting hurt by the same limited few who continue on this path of consumption and destruction. We needed the community conversation and we need a LOT more of them. That conversation needs to continue but more than anything it needs to be followed by action.
The do-nothing or the no-drama response is cowardly, irresponsible, and does not actually fix anything. Nor does crying foul when someone is told they are no longer welcome at a particular venue or event. Nor does retaliation when you or a friend has been asked to stop a particular behavior such as touching things and people who aren’t yours or targeted harassment and stalking. Nor does shaming or silencing someone who decides to speak out about their experience whether privately or publicly.
For those on the “we just don’t know what really happened” or “we don’t have enough evidence yet” fence let me clarify how utterly insulting and insidious that response really is. First of all, there are very few of us in the community who have a law degree even fewer of us who are trained to be third-party neutrals. So to suggest that our community is even qualified to hear or evaluate evidence in any sort of neutral, balanced way is fucking ridiculous. And to sluff it off as if there is some magic organization that we created or even trust to sort out the problems in our community is invincibly ignorant.
When we imply that it is the survivor’s burden to bring forth that evidence in sufficient quantity (judged by whom?) suggests that justice basically consists of victim-shaming, silencing and outright dismissal until some superior (that we haven’t actually designated) finally decides that the complaint is “worthy” of listening to. And in those rare cases where the perpetrator was you know -really, really bad- then we won’t say anything about it publicly, but we’ll have some silent agreement (not always involving the actual stake-holders) on how we will deal with that person. Probation? Supervised by whom? Suspension? For how long? Who gets to decide what is needed to keep our community and its survivors safe?
Justice in our community should be easier, but often is just a trap of mainstream victim blaming summed up with “report or it didn’t happen”.
It’s our job to fix the broken stairs in our community spaces
At the risk of repeating the obvious, here is another link to the article “The Missing Stair”. Pretending you are dealing with the problem by ignoring the problem or rationalizing why it’s not a problem is akin to denial. And, for example, it’s what many families who are confronted with an allegation of sex abuse from within do as well. Denial, shaming and victim-blaming is anything but healthy because abuse is abuse. We as a family, we as a community are in denial and people will continue to be hurt until we wake the fuck up.
Yet when people actually do something about the problem such a party host, a bystander, or community leader who confronts someone either privately or publicly with an issue, the backlash is extraordinary. Whether it was the person who was confronted or their merry band of misfits who do the retaliation, it actively discourages others who felt or experienced the same from speaking up and standing up. But more than that it affirms the original perpetrator’s lack of remorse or empathy and allows the wrong behavior to continue as a pattern harming more people along the way.
Tell me how that is called responsible, much less safe or sane?? And yet, we continue to invite them or at least tolerate them in public spaces despite their alarming lack of concern for the consequences of their own actions. We have acquiesced and turned a blind eye and yet we have no problem judging other institutions such as churches who do the exact same thing.
The minute we call them out on their lack of action, they are on the attack instead of taking any amount of energy to determine whether these survivors might actually be right. Much like the abusers themselves, leaders become oppositional the moment they are confronted with wrong-doing and use every tool in their rationalization toolbox to assert themselves as the actual victim or excuse sexual assault as the survivor “not taking responsibility for themselves”. Blame-shifting is a dangerous defense mechanism, a wobbly, crooked, and sharp one that has been honed by years of people stepping out of its way instead of stopping it. And the more we allow these behaviors to continue the more we are the ones perpetuating the problem instead of solving it.
Lack of self-awareness in a partner is a deal-breaker for me. A non-starter because eventually, they will disappoint me when confronted with their own behavior. And when I see such a gross lack of awareness in the community, I likewise feel unsafe. The excuses and victim blaming make their shocking lack basic remorse and empathy even more dangerous. I do not trust their judgment and want them nowhere near my personal space. I have survived too many violations to my very reasonable boundaries and limits to simply “tolerate” those who excuse this level of harm. Nor am I the only one who feels this way.
We are all stewards of this community.
Look, I deal with conflict. It’s my job. It’s a job I chose. And it’s not that I don’t encourage us to deal with our problems peacefully in private with education or healing conversations. What I’m saying is that the people who are actually doing this have been confronted privately and they continue to engage in this behavior and worse yet, they try to lean on those who were trying to be understanding and compassionate about lapses in judgment by wrongly assuming we are on their side.
I know confrontation is scary to everyone. Everyone has their hackles raised. It’s uncomfortable and it’s hard. And those, like me, who normally are more willing to accommodate and accept blame rather than make anyone feel bad about themselves are the least likely to do it – as I proved in my email above. This is a normal response. But nothing stopped the many witnesses that night from either checking on me or reporting his abuse of my safeword.
When we take the passive way out, we remove ourselves from the community responsibility we share. We throw up our hands and wait for someone else to take care of it. We limit ourselves waiting for someone else, someone with the illusions of actual authority to step up to fix the broken stair.
Not anymore. We are each stewards of this community and responsible for making it as safe as we can.
I am no longer willing to wait for everyone else to wake up to this problem. And I support those who tell problem players that they are not welcome. I’m happy to shut doors of opportunity in our venues, pulling away welcome mats to those who continue to violate others and act without regard to the consequences of their actions. No more skipping over that stair for me.
Victim blaming leaders are quick to point out that personal responsibility, integrity and awareness are everything.
For Further Reading:
The Denver community is in a tizzy this week. The founder and “un-organizer” of KinkforAll made some pretty divisive statements (as summarized in the Silence is Golden presentation from the “unconference”) about the BDSM community which ended in discouraging the locals involved in the community from attending the event. Much has been made of his statements, including by me on FetLife and elsewhere all over the internet such as Twitter, Google Groups, the Denver Westword not to mention the site of the un-organizer himself, MayMay (please for the love of god, please do not click on the link or else you will be subjected to a load of mostly irrelevant links with 47+ linking back to his own blog or spaces that he has some primary control of most of the content).
While I take issue with the un-organizer’s uncanny ability to stay just as un-organized in his writing, making it virtually impossible to discern what he actually believes from the gratuitous, self-serving nature of making links back to his own blog, thus driving up traffic and feeding a narcissistic tendency that is wholly evident from a simple reading on its face…I only briefly visit that issue in this post. That is my personal opinion of him based on my read of him. Granted I have never met him in person and despite his “invitation” for someone to meet him for coffee before he leaves the Denver area on Tuesday, I just can’t after going through being triggered by another outing scare.
See, what I find utterly offensive and reprehensible about this man is how this self-proclaimed, sex-positive advocate and sexual freedom fighter has the gall to link someone’s legal name to their FetLife profile, thus effectively outing them. Involuntarily outing someone doesn’t seem like the work of a sex-positive advocate. In fact, it seems much like what happened to me when conservative bloggers decided to do something similar.
Even mentioning this incident today to my husband put him through a visible state of panic and fear. We both remember what happened when I was outed. It’s taken us over 5 years to fully recover and still haven’t financially. In the grand scheme of things I’m not sure which was worse…my rape or my outing. Both had a profound effect on my sexuality, inevitably inhibiting my freedom and the safety I feel in expressing my ideas even in such a general way here. And yet, for as much work as I have done to recover and heal, today I still had the knot at the pit of my stomach, afraid I’d be MayMay’s next non-consensual victim. Afraid I’d have to face difficult questions about ruining my kids by being kinky, queer and poly. Sex-positivity goes hand in hand with self-determination. All of us should be allowed to control the time, place and manner we choose to become open about our sexuality. It should never, ever be decided for us by someone playing blog-politics with our lives. And what’s sad…I have more forgiveness for the conservative bloggers who outed me than I do for MayMay at this point. Why? Because MayMay should know better.
At what point did sex-positivity become about outing people? I don’t care if it’s one person or a hundred. His selfish need to be -right- on such a small and insignificant event (which by the way the majority of the kink, gay and lesbian communities knew nothing about) blew away any credibility he had left as a sex-positive advocate in my book. And I have no problem warning other communities that he visits fall-out they can expect. For he fails to recognize the true human cost of his relentless pursuit of righteousness and justifies his disrespectful behavior with a taunting recitation of his own website where he calls FetLife unsafe. And yet, none of that excuses the shameless disregard for the human cost in his obvious pursuit of his spiteful agenda.
Denver will recover, it always does. Like I have said in the past I feel Denver has a strong community base. The Denver BDSM community has been having conversations about racial, gender and class privilege for the whole time I have been involved. We’ve been more active in calling each other out when there is a sex-negative agenda. We’ve been educating about queer leather, trans inclusion and a whole host of topics in between. Which is why so many in Denver were eager to be a part of KinkForAll.
The people who have been offended by the words and actions of the past few months are not Denver’s “elite”. These are the ones who have been in the trenches making “traditionalist leaders” re-evaluate their terminology, practices and even identifications. These are the people changing the face of kink everyday and doing so without recognition or thanks. And yet, despite all of this, these extraordinary men and women were brave advocates for those same traditionalists to be included and be welcome to contribute side-by-side with them. We may not like what they have to say, but they are part of the “all” in the title and we won’t leave them behind.
We could debate all day about the meaning of the word “kink”. I can say that back home it’s defined as someone who “lets you in the backdoor”; whereas in other communities I’ve been a part of it means you do more than just piss in someone’s mouth. But while kink isn’t always synonymous with BDSM, at the very least they are closely related and certainly never mutually exclusive. Excluding members of the kink community -or- specifically targeting them -or- outing them -or- exploiting them really betrays a weaker-minded agenda than the stated intent of providing an open forum for discussions about sexuality.
Sex is a difficult topic for many and must be approached with care and dignity for all present. BDSMers for the most part are able to talk about sex much more easily and openly than most people i have met and have a lot of value to add to any discussion about kink while still respecting the boundaries of those new to the topic. In fact, my topics were these: Conflict Resolution for Multiple Methods of Loving, the politics of slut-shaming culture, the impact of the Sexual Freedom Movement on racial and ethnic minority communities (and vice versa), Healing through the Sacred Whore/Prostitute Archetype, creating culture, responding sufficiently to sex offenders within our environment, the experience of recovery after being outed. None of these were exclusively BDSM-oriented and could have benefited the discussion.
Yet, I chose not to attend after finding out that a) the media had been invited, b) they would be livestreaming/videotaping the sessions and c) that as a BDSMer/queer leather femme I might be targeted by this man’s personal bias. What’s worse is that mine is not the only voice that was silenced by MayMay’s personal prejudices and agenda. Many more valuable voices were likewise left out as a response to not wanting to promote this problematic agenda even further.
I will always be supportive of the idea of a conference, a gathering, a teach-in or any other model that promotes open, safe and constructive (rather than “uncomfortable”) discussions of sexuality. I will fully support efforts to confront privilege whether it be in the BDSM community or beyond in an equally constructive way. But when it is executed poorly because of the directed and unchecked prejudices of one person, then the community must take up the responsibility to create a forum of its own where the stated intent of “all” is respected and openly welcomed.
This fall-out has shown me we still have so much further to go. In a world like this where Rush Limbaugh calls a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for wanting to testify about reasonable access to birth control (which can have health benefits unrelated to preventing conception) do we really need to nitpick over what the meaning of kink is? After all, none of that matters when examples like the Limbaugh one above exist every single day and members of his own party won’t even denounce him publicly for such egregious and unwarranted attacks on something as simple and easy to understand as birth control. The nuances of kink, BDSM, and fetish pale in comparison to the work we have to do in the rest of our world about basic sexuality. And if we ignore these opportunities and decide instead to exploit the precious freedom we’ve been able to create we do a disservice to our own selves and the vision we have for greater acceptance.
Liberate from the madness.
Last night a bit of a debate erupted over my post about the Focus on the Family ad during the Broncos-Patriots play-off game last night. While I thought my small opinion might be controversial what I didn’t expect was that two people so unlike each other would get into a snarky religious battle in the thread that I’m sure making people on either side of the issue uncomfortable. Okay, maybe I did foresee that just a little. But there I was at 2 am ready to settle in for some sleep when I finally checked my notifications and saw it. So after I woke, I updated my response and share it with you in every form I can imagine:
Dear friends…I am not going to get too involved in this at 2 am. However, if you have been on my list for any amount of time please let me remind you quite clearly that:
a) I believe in equal rights for all, including homosexuals, bisexuals and trans men and women, including but not limited to those who seek to engage in same sex marriage and non-traditional relationships;
b) I have spent the majority of my life defending those rights and fighting the injustice of those who would seek to undermine equality;
c) I believe that God creates us as true perfection and loves each of us with infinite wisdom, innate goodness and unconditional love and does not require the exclusion of anyone from the fullness of oneness with the divine;
d) I believe that freedom of consensual sexual expression is a fundamental right and indeed a gift from the divine meant to express connection to others and provide a greater experience of our shared humanity;
e) I respect the right of each individual to experience and share their experience of faith in an equally respectful manner including but not limited to Athiests, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Pagans, Taoists, Jewish and so many other traditions…I welcome all faiths because I find your journey fascinating;
f) However, remember that you are a GUEST in my space amongst some of my most intimate and respected friends and I ask you kindly treat it as such;
g) As the host of this page, I am unilaterally and unequivocally allowed in MY own space to share my opinions, ideas and observations and will attempt to do so solely as a reflection of my own experience and research;
h) I spent most of my young adulthood studying the bible and later working my way through some of the apocryphal writings and have concluded during my journey that there is not only one way to God, the divine or universal oneness, but many paths that lead in the same direction;
i) If, by some chance the god of love that I have personally experienced in my upbringing, research and my Calling does not exist and is indeed such a vengeful, jealous, emotionally needy, and fearful being will sit in judgment of me upon my death, I will happily risk exclusion from heaven to stand proudly by my beliefs hopefully having spent my lifetime lending my power to those whose voices have been shamed into silence by needless and destructive emotional, physical and spiritual violence condoned by their earthly brothers and sisters;
j) As an attorney and political activist I believe strongly in a separation of church and state…something many of our politicians should remember when accepting donations and our churches should stop trying to exploit through the historically blurred lens of religious freedom,
and finally…yes, finally, I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated.
You are allowed to disagree, you are allowed to debate, but understand quite clearly that I identify as an active and compassionate member of the LGBTQ community and deeply spiritual woman. Because I choose not to remain ignorant of either the Catholic faith I was raised in or the moral abundance of teachings from other sources, I cannot be swayed by arguments solely comprised of scripture. I am an intelligent, queer, cisgendered woman who has spent over 20 years healing the fractures left in human souls by the improbable demands of religion and the social fear manipulations surrounding among other things concepts of sexuality and gender.
Pray for me if you like…but when you have lived my life, borne witness to the messages on the hills of Podbrdo and Krisevac touched the hearts I have and loved as deeply and as fully as I have…then judge not. And I pray to the god, goddess or entity of my choosing that upon your death you will be greeted by a divine presence who is actually IS unconditional love made manifest through each of us.
I expect this message to suffice for the time-being. Defriend me, block me, rally against me. “Like” it if you wish, re-post and share as needed, but do not presume to teach me about my own faith and my god-given life experience any further. I do reserve the right to limit further commentary in my space. My inspirational playground, my rules. A clear statement of healthy boundaries that I expect you to respect.
When a friend showed me this article today, it was creepy how similar it was to my own experience starting out in the BDSM community. I’ll excerpt a bit of it here for with my own commentary.
When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into “the BDSM community”, I can’t actually count them. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.
Okay, I know the last thing I should be doing is linking to an article written by daft, biased “reporters” for the organization Americans for the Truth about Homosexuality, but the following is just so fucking ridiculous that I had to make my response, snarky though it is. Yes, it is feeding the trolls, but in some ways I feel it is my responsibility to publicly state some of my own truths and expose the opinions masquerading as facts meant to scare vanillas.
My comments are in red italics
AFTAH Writer Is Grossed Out by ‘International Mr. Leather’ Perversion-fest Hosted by Hyatt Regency Chicago
Already we can tell this will be a highly informative, perfectly balanced and well-researched article. The use of the term “grossed out” is particularly useful in relating facts and “truth”.
WARNING: Highly Offensive and Graphic Images and Subject Matter
I have taken the liberty of removing the images, but not the subject matter.