This is rape culture –

 

I’ve sat with this for the last day. I wanted to write an emotive, reactive piece, full of as may expletives I could fit into one blog post. But I decided to sit with this and come at it from another position. Angry, yes, frustrated and pissed that I even should write this, you bet! So exceptionally frustrated that I made the decision last night to not write anything at all.

But after giving myself some time to sit with, and really think about what I wanted to say, what I really needed to put to paper I realised that this deserved more from me than silence. Silence caused by a fear of being labelled nothing more than “hysterical feminist nagging”.

I have never hidden the place of feminism in my writing. I am a feminist who writes about female sexuality and submission. I try to use this platform to bring an alternative position to some of the more dominant framing of both female sexuality and submission; because I think it’s needed and important to those of us who live this. If we only get to see or participate in one version of all of this; then how can we evolve our sense of self to a place it’s most safe within? If the only way that I am allowed to write about any of this is from a place which positions privilege of and obedience to those with power than doesn’t that rule most of us out of both conversation and change?

If I can’t write in a way that makes people uncomfortable and, yes, challenges those who have done wrong to see their choices as illegitimate within BDSM, then I have no reason to keep on writing! For me, as an ardent and unapologetic feminist, I am all about challenging the status quo. About recognising that the way things are, and have been, are so deeply saturated in patriarchy that women have little safety and legitimacy; especially when it comes to our sexual autonomy, choices and voices.

I write because I believe my voice is important and legitimate. I believe my words are needed. And if my words can empower one woman to feel safe enough to explore her sexuality and surrender, or let one victim of sexual violence feel like they are heard and believed then I’m going to keep going.

Even if some would characterise what I write as interfering!

This has all been prompted by the appearance before the courts of “the wolf” (from here on in only referred to as this man) and the allegations of bullying made. Allegations may not be the right words here. I’m not sure if they are exactly that; but they were repeated in the media overnight, and so I am going to go with allegations made. Yesterday it was implied there is an organised attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to the acquisitions of sexual assault being investigated and before the courts. This man, genuinely believes that he is the victim of an orchestrated campaign against him. One that is being undertaken by any of us that comment about him in any way; and I can only assume is a continuance of the one that was happening before he was arrested.

If I believed for a moment that this man felt bullied I would completely disengage with what I’m doing. I’m not calling him a liar, or saying that his lawyer stood before the Bench yesterday and made a false claim. I just don’t believe that what he’s experiencing is bullying; so much as it is the seismic shift of power being taken away from him!

And power is the key theme here. Power over others to extract what you believe that you are entitled to; be in submission, sex, social platform or silence. Silence begotten through the accusations of bullying, and positioning him as the victim. You see, the second men like this lose power, they become the victim. Because they no longer wield the authority to control that becomes the oppressed! Pretty pathetic huh?

The connections between this bullying claim and his manifesto are so obvious to me. See, he was saw himself as an almost puppet master; not just of women – his victims and otherwise, but of the outsiders too. Those of us questioning is writing. Laughing at his predictable prose and poses and supporting those who were posting pieces against him.

One of the most telling pieces he published was a piece called “The exquisite blondes”. The title itself tells you a lot about his need to objectify in order to find connection. For me it was a particular paragraph that really cemented who this man believes, and even now still believes, about himself. He writes …

“I’d been thinking about almost nothing else for a week. I’d been with multiple girls before and yes, the thought of that alone is enough to (literally) keep me up at night but there was far more two this, another level of adventure that had me completely enthralled. I played the scenarios over and over in my head. I could expect complete compliance from both of them, I held the paintbrush and they were my canvas. How corny is that? But how hot is it too?

He held the paintbrush. He, and he alone was the one on active control over everything. His image, the caricature of “the wolf”, his audience and the stories permitted about him. And, like he wrote, he expected complete compliance (how many times can we say this COMPLIANCE IS NOT CONSENT) and, unfortunately, he got it.

Until one woman stood up and said no more! Until she went to the police and made the initial complaint, that lead to the initial investigation, his arrest and multiple charges being laid. An ongoing investigation with the potential of more changes being laid.

The moment Miss X went to the police was the moment that the paintbrush fell out of his hands and his imagined, compelled blind and complete compliance of those around him began to fracture.

Bullying or a smear campaign by the media and those, like me, who write about this, have nothing to do with him being where he is today. The relationship of victim 2 (full disclosure here, if this is who I think it is I have no respect nor time for this man. I think he’s sexual ethics are just as atrocious as this man’s) has now if of no concern to the facts of the (alleged) act of sexual violence perpetrated against her. It is his choices, his absolute lack of regard for the law and for the autonomy and wellbeing of those that, genuinely, loved him, trusted him and wanted to be with him, that see him and his smug face plastered across the Sydney media, and his ass hauled before the courts.

Likewise, and more importantly, it is neither those of us who are discussing this nor the bullying that he is claiming, that is empowering women to step forward and talk about him; to the police or others.

How one can even begin to rationalise that it is through bullying that women venture into the vacuum that is the legal justice system is beyond me! This idea that it is only because of bullying towards him that another woman has stepped forward is, quite simply and nothing more than rape culture!

For those unaware of the concept of rape culture let me explain what I mean by it.

Rape culture are all the dysfunctional, erroneous and compounding ideas, the social norms and sanctions, the language of the media, legal arguments, attitudes and statements of politicians and the public that combine to not only frame the way that sexual violence is perpetrated upon the female body but to constrain the way women are allowed to speak about, and demand redress for their own experiences of sexual violence.

Let me put what was said in context. This case in no longer about two women who were victimised by the sexual choices of this man. This is no longer about victims seeking out the courts to get justice for the crime/s perpetrated upon their bodies. For victims to access legally entitled redress from a man who chose to ignore their agency and violate their right to make informed, reactive decision about their bodies and sexual labour.

No.

This is about a conspiracy.

This is about a man. And another man.

This is about one man orchestrating a vendetta against another and using an allegation of sexual violence to bully the other.

This is about a perpetrator of sexual violence using the courts and the media to discredit and silence the victim. She cannot possibly be believed because she is lying; and she is lying because her boyfriend is bullying the accussed!

Look up the statistics! Listen to the reasons why women are reluctant to come forward with accounts of sexual violence.

Now take every vile word, attitude and deed that creates rape culture and add to it, that women are now the pawns in an orchestrated bullying campaign for male supremacy in BDSM.

He “claims he has been the victim of an “online bullying campaign”, leading to an extra charge of sexual assault being laid against him”. Yep this man believes, once again, that he is the victim here!

Sound familiar to anyone else?

You see, the second his lawyer stood up yesterday and said the “B” word he not only began his campaign against the second victim, but he began his platform to curate and control the parameters of discussion allowed about this.

This is about, one last desperate attempt, to take back some control over the story that he is the lead villain in. One last pathetic attempt at rebranding himself as a victim as opposed to the perpetrator of sexual violence against women.

This is nothing more than rape culture!

 

 

 

 

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Like Anastasia.

When I first stepped into the world of feminism; from what was a very antifeminist stance, I was stunned by the sense of community that I had entered. Women who were not only encouraged to find their own tribe and their own voice, but who had a responsibility to listen to those who, for so many reason, experienced the world in a way they never would. To form; from near or far, a deep sense of solidarity with each other no matter how different our, inequitable, oppressive experience of the world were. We had each other’s back and made decisions, especially in regards to the words we chose to speak about each other, that would let others know we’ve got this.

Of course this utopian nirvana I thought I had found has lost its shine over the last decade. Feminism is imperfect, complicated, diverse and sometimes down and out infuriating. But it is, and will always be, the one choice I will always make. To not only be a feminist but to deliberately use my space in this world to smash the status quo. 

But, to me, the almost universal premise that brings feminism from the world of theory and academia and into the ways that women, right here right now, make and experience their bodies in this patriarchal world is the curiosity and respect for each other’s voice. And right at the heart of this idea (or is that ideal) is that no other person, feminist or not, is not in any position to tell women what they should or shouldn’t do. While this new vouge feminism centred in choice is deeply problematic; choice, not just the ability but the permission to, engage or disengage with the world in informed ways, has to mean something.

One of the things I’m learning about being a submissive woman, is that I now exist in this cultural paradox. Within BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are negative, that she has been harmed. That she is living with trauma. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed. Outside of BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are positive, that she feels safe, that she is experiencing pleasure. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed.

It doesn’t matter what we are saying; our voice is ignored, ridiculed and rejected.

I’m not arrogant enough to tell women what they should be doing. So it was no surprise that Caitlin Roper’s latest account of her angst surrounding the newest Fifty Shades release was something that I was going to find hard to read. To me it is deeply paternalistic, her words and those like her are founded in the genuine belief that they know what is best. Rejecting the experiences of women who genuinely enjoy the franchise and intentionally subjugating the dozens if not hundreds of reasons why they are going to see the movie.

So when I see women like Caitlin Roper jumping from the clichéd volley of platitudes usually directed at the franchise (I’m surprised that the condescending mummy porn portrayal wasn’t front and centre in her piece) into the position that tells the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald that “these are the services where women like Anastasia end up” I have to stop and really think hard about what the overall intention of this piece was.

Did Caitlin want to add something to the numerous conversations about the structural and cultural barriers to women freely engaging with frontline services? Was she writing this because she has a genuine concern for women “like Anastasia” and a desire to make sure that we too have access to relevant interventions and services?

Call me sceptical, but I’m going to say it’s a sure bet that neither of these were part of the reason why she wrote this piece. Nor why the Sydney Morning Herald chose to take it to publication.

Because the reality is that women like Caitlin Roper have little to no concern about women like me. The women that they choose to cast as presumptive victims while choosing to ignore our voices and our stories. Women like me, who are safe in our intimate spaces even though the behaviours, language, attitudes and community commonly associated with BDSM and dominance and submission are at the core of our relationships. While people will jump to read the narratives of our sexploits when it is all about the whips and chains and orgasms; it’s getting harder and harder to get others to actually take the time to sit down, shut up and listen to us. Well they have no reason to right?

For all of the pieces about “women like Anastasia” I have not yet encountered one which actively seeks out what we need in frontline services; especially with regard to mental health care. And from the hour or so of searching on the website of those organisations behind this campaign, I can safely assume that not one of them has any dedicated service or counsellor informed about or directed to meeting the needs of submissive women.

But beyond “these services” that she has so carefully promoted in her piece not actually being services that would be responsive to who I am and what I would need if in fact I did ever need to access their services; I want to question the dominant narrative of her piece.

There are lots of things wrong with the character of Christian Grey. He is materialistic and status driven. He believes that his philanthropic endeavours account for the business choices he makes. He has acquired so many unhealthy and dysfunctional approaches to and behaviours within both his relationships with women and in his sex life (it’s interesting that, of all the pieces written about his behaviours not one piece has tried to explore the correlation between child abuse and the attachment disorder that Christian so clearly has). He has unresolved trauma. And most importantly connected to BDSM his sexual identity has stalled in its infancy stage, the only way he can feel safe engaging with sex in a mutually satisfying way is my having a signed piece of paper kept in the bedside table; or wherever a billionaire would keep his important documents. Christian Grey also embodies a lot of the fragile yet toxic masculinity that has created the realm of the pickup artist; and, unfortunately, has begun to infect BDSM. It’s egocentric, entitled and dangerous for women, because, amongst other problems it schedules women as passive in their own bodies and as characters that men create through their own sexual prowess. So I am not defending the character that is Christian Grey. And let’s be honest he and the world that he commands is one walking, talking product placement.

Christian is not the absolute everything of FSOG. And while he clearly exhibits problematic behaviours he is a fictional character that is a cluster of everything unlikable and unacceptable. And women are allowed to like him.

And this, as far as I’m concerned, brings to a head the idea that the franchise is glamourising intimate partner violence.

Finding something alluring about a fictional character; even one as dysfunctional as Christian Grey. Finding points of reference in fiction that you connect to, that resemble the story of your own sexual realities. Does not, in anyway, negate the way you perceive intimate partner violence! And to consider the audience of Fifty Shades Darker as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence., is quite arrogant!

And that is just not how I choose to approach the millions of women, throughout the world who have gone and will go and see Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. I see them, as I see myself as women entitled to make their own decisions regarding how they spend their disposable incomes. But more than that, I am not so isolated from the community of women who either enjoy the Fifty Shades franchise or who choose to bring behaviours commonly associated with dominance and submission into their erotic space, to see these women as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence. We see the same news headlines as you. We read the same reports that tell us the attitudes regarding women, violence and sexual behaviours is repulsive. We know that intimate partner violence kills at least 1 woman a week in Australia and costs our economy billions of dollars in lost wages, first responders, health care and our legal system We see the same shallow and pathetic attempts at awareness, band aid solutions, funding cuts and inadequate structural and institutional action as every other woman. We see the casual and often inadequate ways that the media engage with the complexity of gendered violence. We understand that domestic and family violence has, over generations, has been relegated to behind closed doors, assigned to the too hard or not our problem basket. We may enjoy a movie that some see as problematic, be we, as individuals and a collective group of women are neither the cause of intimate partner violence not blatantly ignorant of it.

I think that there is a lot wrong with infantilising women’s consumer choices. The women who are seeing this movie found something interesting to see; and dare I say it something that turned them on. I know I did! And I will unapologetically, defend the right for a woman to watch a movie and, when well informed by complete understanding, motivated by mutual satisfaction and framed by affirmative consent, defend the choice to be “like Anastasia” in her boudoir. 

So while I have to agree with her proposition that we (although I have no doubt that her “we” does not include women like myself) need to begin to really interrogate the way that intimate partner violence is discussed and represented I will not be actively supporting anything that intentionally creates and us and them divide. As a woman “like Anastasia” I will let other women just like her make their own choices about what they watch at the cinema and how they come to understand what intimate partner violence is.

And if that contribution to creating a better understanding of women’s experiences of intimate partner violence involves actively boycotting one book/movie franchise than, by all means, actively boycott Fifty Shades Darker; and in a years’ time when Fifty Shades Freed is released, make the same choice. But the choice to watch the movie is no more or less a choice.

But please, understand the services and the political/social ideology that you are really supporting. Spend 5 minutes Googling the individuals and organisations behind it and where exactly your money will go. Because, as a feminist, I unequivocally stand behind the idea that it is only through education; both as a social institution and self-driven, that women will be able to make the best choices for themselves.

I’m not asking you to change your opinions about the FSOG franchise; love it, hate it, it’s your decision. But what I am asking of you is that, before advocating for a particular campaign or position, you choose to understand the realities of those women “like Anastasia”. The women like me, like dozens of friends of mine – women and men alike. To stop and listen to our voices and our stories.

Being able to write and to write well is a privilege. Being given a public platform is an entitlement. Those who are gifted this public space are entitled to their own words and their own agendas. But doesn’t someone with this privilege have a responsibility to, at least consider, their potential audience? The Sydney Morning Herald is not some niche blog or sub forum. It is a mainstream media platform, and one that has a diverse audience; an audience that includes women “like Anastasia”.

Social media, power, influence and consequence.

I’m not at all sadden by the arrest of a 41-year-old Sydney man on multiple aggravated sexual assault charges. This man and those like him, embody everything that I despise and everything that frightens me about kink. His attitudes to consent and mutuality make me nauseous and his recounts and fantasies makes my clitoris want to flee my body. (His constant and maybe even deliberate misrepresentation of a “rape fantasy” to sell what it is that gets his dick hard infuriates me. Fortunately, there is some fantastic research out about what exactly a rape fantasy is and how women use the imagery and language associated with the fantasy to create deeply satisfying sexual encounters.) I’m not afraid of men like this but I am afraid of the culture that men like this create for women like me. Women for whom submission lies at the heart of our sexuality. Women who need intense physical stimuli to become aroused. Women who use emotionally and socially laden language to communicate with our intimate partners. Women like me who are forced to create a choreographed dance around illusion and innuendo created by men like this. Women who are the ones who are hurt.

But the thing that frightens me the most about this culture, from which these social media platform “Fetlebrity” are created and are catapulted into extraordinary reputation and influence within the kink community, isn’t that it exists. But that they exist within absolute assent of us all. Yes, this includes myself. Blind obedience. It’s something I lived with in my decades of existing within the Catholic Church. It is something that is instilled into us through fear of being ostracised from community and identity that has meaning for us. It is something that exists because we are conditioned to accept the way that is because it always has been. Blind obedience exists because we are so desperate for connection and belonging that we feel entitled to gloss over that which is uncomfortable.

It is this obedience to what is, this fear of being ostracised and this desperate need for connection and belonging that is destroying what is for so many of us genuine and safe experiences within our intimate relationships.

If blind obedience didn’t exist in kink men like Mr M wouldn’t be able to attain so much power and influence.

The unchecked power of toxic social media fame is becoming more and more of a problem. Most Aussies would remember the infamous Belle Gibson, the so called wellness blogger who was able to spin such elaborate stories around herself that she was afforded immense power over some of the most vulnerable people and to create business relationships with some of the biggest names. Belle built up her reputation over years, as it seems Mr M did. Belle created her online self in a way that provided references and reputation, as it seems Mr M did. Social media fame seems to cause this impenetrable bubble that protects celebrities from question and accountability; until there is considerable harm. Considerable enough to be believed that is. Those who do question and offer up the other side of the story are routinely shamed and shunned. Sidelined for the hype, glamour and inclusiveness. See, these social media stars are fantastic marketers! They understand their target audiences better than most of us understand ourselves. They create self brands and platforms from their authentic voice, but they grow it through their audiences. Ohhh they know how to use disclaimers and “I’m not an expert” tags like the best of us. They sell themselves the way that the latest, must have, beauty products are sold. Always with the fine print written in a way that is intentionally obscured by the glitz and promises of what is being sold.

Social media personalities; of which this man certainly falls, are influential. They use the intimacy that their social media voice enables them to create, what is, for their unsuspecting audience, real relationships. And maybe they are. Maybe I just too cynical to believe that one man can form and maintain genuinely authentic and consensual sexual relationships with women based on his social media fame. Or that one woman can create genuine connections with those suffering deliberating illnesses like Belle Gibson did. These relationships seem to be based on the conventional formats of communication. I speak you listen, and maybe they are just as real as the conversations I have with those off the computer screen.

Maybe the stories and antidotes that Mr M posted on Fetlife were enough for some women to engage in genuinely healthy intimate relationships. Hey, for all I know his writings were all the information necessary for some to have made an informed choice? Who am I to declare their relationships invalid?

I want to dismiss him and the one like him that will come next, and then the one after that, then the next and the next one, as simply narcissistic, power hungry psychopaths who manipulated the power of the social media celebrity to his advantage. It would make things so simple to cast him off as “evil” and “bad”. And in a way he is. He and he alone is responsible for the choices he made on the night of the 21st of August 2015 because he chose to do something that is deemed “bad”.

But can we just, simplistically, assign him a label; say that of narcissist and move on? Is it really that simple to label his behaviour as clinically pathological?

I don’t think so. Have I seen evidence of narcissistic tendencies within his writings and interactions? Yes. But I am not, nor are most of us, in possession of the skill necessary to clinically analyse and diagnose his behaviour, using the DSM. It would be easy, and in all honesty it would be so much more comforting to be able to sit here with confidence and dismiss him as just another sick, pathological perpetrator of male violence against women! Rendering his choices as the consequence of a pathological personality disorder would enable me to “tut-tut” and “see I told you so” while sitting on my feminist high-horse. Without ever having to spend a second in reflective thought about what this means for me. Label him, crediting his choices to narcissism really would let me and you off the hook.

Narcissism is a word that I’ve found creeping more and more into kink online spaces, it seems to be the go to defence of behaviour – ‘ohhh he’s a narcissist what do you expect”? Except to categorise and minimise his behaviour as mere narcissism removes a whole other variable in, not so much this one case specifically (keeping in mind that the full extent of his actions that are being interrogate by the law are still not known) but the overall culture within which this occurred

But that wouldn’t bring us anywhere near identifying let alone understanding the root cause. Let me make this clear, understanding this in the context of the environment it occurred in does not, in any way, diminish the severity of his choices. Nor does it try to create any distance between him and the consequences of his choices. This man chose to act in the way that he did on the 21st of August 2015. No one but he holds any responsibility for what he did. But understanding the social and cultural context within which he was allowed to become to guy now outed in the media as an accused rapist can, potentially, enlighten us to what comes next. Not for him, fuck him, he can do the maximum sentence and then some for all I care. But for the rest of us. He has been, forever, connected to our community, to this website and the Sydney scene. We are, thanks to his choices, connected to him, to this, as long as we associate ourselves with the site and the scene.

Brene Brown wrote that:

“Labelling the problem in a way that makes it all about who people are rather than the choices they’re making let’s all of us off the hook. Too bad. That’s who I am.  I’m a huge believer in the holding of people accountable for their behaviours, so I’m not talking about ‘blaming the system’ here. I’m talking about understanding the root cause so we can address the problems”. (p.22)

                   Brene Brown. Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

Brene is known for her Ted talk on the Power of vulnerability, and it is amazing! But in her book Daring greatly she takes the idea of vulnerability and moves it into the realm of our behaviours within our environments. Like she says in the above quote it’s not about blaming the system (although as a feminist I cannot extract our subjective lived experiences from the totality of patriarchal power) but it’s about exploring our environments in a way that allows us to go beyond simplistic diagnoses. Like narcissism.

Brene goes on to talk about our fear of ordinary. That we always need to be looking for the next best thing. She writes about how we are all so vulnerable to the messages that sell us the drive to be extraordinary. And what could be more extraordinary that not having consensual sex? What could distance us from those mere muggles of the world than playing hard and to the edge? We don’t want to feel small, ordinary, inadequate right? Especially in our sex lives! We don’t want to be seen as kink light! That would be embarrassing wouldn’t it? I know I feel the need to justify myself and my unwavering commitment to just doing what I need as opposed to flying on the edge of kink. I can’t be the only one?  We need to feel like we are more than just keeping up with the Jones’s, we need to feel like we are surpassing them and living the most extraordinary that we can.

He sold us the lie that he is extraordinary and will bring those worthy into that realm.  That he didn’t need to meet the same relationship standards as the rest of us because he is something unlike the rest of us because he is not like us. He can take one look at you and know exactly what it is that you want. He could make you beg to be a part of his pack and belong to him so that alone becomes the only focus of your choices and reactions. Simply because he is something that you cannot get anywhere else. It, the stepping outside of your own moral compass and disregarding that “gut feeling” becomes your new normal. Simply because you belong to something the rest of us never could. You, out of the hundreds of women who like, love, gush and fawn all over his words, fantasies and his exposes of his sexual adventures, you are the one he is paying attention to right now. You are worth it so what you ignore, put up with and condone is worth it.

I understand how.

His idealised narratives spun around the position and importance of consent aren’t that new. They aren’t actually that different from most of the commentary and advice I’ve seen across most of the PUA crowd.

The idea that “the alpha” embodies the full spectrum of sexual prowess and is able to, with little effort seduce his prey into debaucherously James Bond style, glorious masculine fucking. He recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

What girl hasn’t dreamed of the prince upon the white horse, galloping in and just knowing that his true loves kiss will eradicate the spell and lead us to living happily ever after? We are spoon fed this fantasy, this dream of the perfect prince coming into our lives and just knowing everything about us and knowing what to do with us.

Again he recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

So where to now?

How can we reposition the social media celebrity, their influence and power in our space?

How can we use what has happened to this victim and to any other to try and minimise it from occurring again? Because to disconnect the power of the social media celebrity from this would be disingenuous. He sold us his snake oil and we offered him up the platform to do so! Ohhh we mocked him and his pathetic prose and grandiose sense of self. But most of us, including myself, didn’t have the balls to stand up and do any more. Ohhh I went to the police with what I knew, but I chose to come back into his space, knowing how he used it. Watching the next part unfold, concluding in this last instalment of “the wolf files”.

We are a product of our culture. We’ve all liked and commented on, watched, read and written ourselves products like his. I have. I’m guilty of participating in this culture that enabled him to believe that his choices were right.

So don’t we all now have a responsibility to challenge our own conceptualisations of kink? To question the messages that K&P, porn, erotica and our own social media usage, are selling us. New and old alike.

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know how to reconcile the need for social media with the overwhelming influence and personality it creates. Maybe there isn’t an answer. Maybe the way that social media catapults ordinary into these positions of power and influence is just something that we are going to have to learn to live with. That people are going to get hurt, women are going to get raped.

But I have to believe that there is something to do next.

 

 

 

My consent is not what makes his choices okay!

I’m not here to write passionate arguments defending BDSM. The socially constructed acronym used to umbrella an innumerable number of experiences doesn’t need my few words to argue on its behalf. I don’t feel the need to defend anything that I do nor do I feel the need to explain away the absolute bullshit that others claim as kink that I encounter almost daily. Those who demonise or glamourise BDSM typically lump all and everything into their explorations and conclusions and will never be persuaded by anything that I could say.

But I did try once or twice.

I’ve written a few times here that I started this as a means of adding to the conversations that we have about sex. Something that I’m passionate about. But there’s something that came before this decision. An ‘incident’ so to speak, that made me understand that there is often something missing from the way that we perceive and talk about sex.

And I guess as many other “ah ha” moments, this one began on Facebook. I’d just started connecting with the community of sex writers on social media, I was confident enough to add my 2 cents but not yet sure of my place. I’d managed to toe the party line for a few months, although I had already seen a number of things that confronted and confused me and some that really did offend me. But I’d let them go, choosing to maintain a polite silence rather than question or ask others to question their position.

This one post was on a woman’s page who is a feminist, has been writing for a number of years and has a few hundred followers. She contributes regularly to ‘sex positive’ online publications. She is articulate in her words, she not only writes about sex objectively but she candidly brings her sex life into her space with descriptions, antidotes and pictures. Nothing about her is, really noteworthy, and I’m not going to name her here. We have very different ways of using our own spaces but this is neither here nor there. It just is.

One morning she posted a meme, it was one of those artistically styled black and white ‘tumblr’ posts, with words over the top of the picture. From what I remember it was a typical male dominant, female submissive caricature. The words were simple ‘the difference between kink and abuse is consent’. There were a hundred or so comments all in gushing agreement with the statement and rephrasing it in various ways. Almost all of them were contextualising the statement in a male dominant female submissive relationship and were all assigning consent to her not him. She is the one who gives consent, this was a matter of fact statement. There was this constant theme (and it was/is not only on this one Facebook meme where this occurs, it seems to be quite typical way that consent is positioned in kink) that what she did justifies what he does.

I didn’t get it, I still don’t. How is it that what I do absolves the person I’m having sex with from their choices?

I asked just this. I asked about how intention fits into this, his intentions not mine. I asked what would happen if we began positioning intention rather than consent as the thing, well one of them because there are numerous factors that come together to distinguish my relationship from those where one half of the couple is the victim of domestic violence? I wondered what would happen if, when something goes wrong, we examine the intentions of those who do (allegedly do) harm to others. 

It’s something that I’d been thinking about for a while. And genuinely believed that this was the appropriate time and place to have asked what, for me was a pretty straight forward question.

Boy! Was I wrong!

I was shamed and ridiculed. Not one comment offered me a reason for why my question was wrong. In fact, no one actually directly answered my question or challenged my position that his intention should be more of a concern that my agreement or actions. What did happen were individuals dismissing someone who chose to cross a defined line. Consent is the all and everything. And while I am the first to position the importance of consent I am not prepared to use something that is of such legal and cultural significant to continually justify and defend the actions of those who intend to do harm.

That’s not to say that accidents don’t happen. They’ve happened here and will probably happen again. Nor am I talking about things that are directly asked for, negotiated and that are for the mutual benefit of both partners. But what does not happen here is him intending to hurt, coerce or manipulate me. His intention, going into everything that we do, is to create and facilitate mutually beneficial physical interactions.

 

His intentions matters. And while my consent matters, they are two very different elements of our relationship. His intention most certainly influences what I consent to and my consent frames what he intends to do. But what he ultimately does comes from his intentions not from my consent.

Positioning his actions as a direct consequence of my consent renders his decision making process and his accountability almost invisible. As if what comes after my agreement (consent) is void, inconsequential. When in fact he and he alone creates the decisions that manifest in his actions.

We can also bring this into efforts to dismantle rape culture. If, instead of centring the consent of the victim as the core element of distinguishing rape from sex, we then are able to actively interrogate the actions of the accused based solely on what they chose to do. What did they intend? What we the mental process that he went through in his mind to assess the entirety of the situation and judge his next action as being right? When he did whatever it is that he is accused of what was his aim? Did he intend to contribute to a mutually agreed upon sexual interaction, something that would create mutual satisfaction – however that plays out. Or did he intend to take what he thought was his, intestinally rejecting part or the entirely of what was agreed?

Does this give us an exceptionally objective measure enabling us to clearly differentiate between sex and rape or BDSM and abuse? No. the complexity of the crime is such that one element is not (or should not) be the crux of a prosecution. However, focusing on intention and examining the decision making process used by an accused to lead him to believe what he was doing was the right thing would dramatically shit the currency that victim blaming has in rape. If it is more about him than her blaming her can’t be so central to a defence can it?

Reflecting back on the way the idea was responded to in my social media interaction mentioned previously still doesn’t make any sense. Here I was being ‘blacklisted’ and blocked, prohibited from commenting all because I wanted to take the responsibility for someone else’s choices away from me and put it squarely on them. Because I want consent to reflect the ability for me to be able to form a sex life that works for me not as something that defends the actions of him.

So let me ask, why is it that my voluntary agreement is the only this that distinguished BDSM from intimate partner violence?

I’ve got a kinky teenager … & you sir can stay the fuck away from her!!

My kid is fucking amazing! She is the most creative, passionate, empathetic, emotionally intelligent, beautiful teenager you will ever come across (yeah, yeah mother bias). And she is kinky!

Well her assumptions about sex certainly fit into the realm of kink – trust me I’ve seen the porn she watches and seen the Fanfic she reads! She has asked every question you can imagine – “what are safe words?”, “why do people get tied up?”, “how do you know that something is okay when it looks like it’s hurting?” “how would I know I’m doing something okay?”, how would I be able to say no?” “why does some pain feel good?” You name it we’ve talked about it!

(Keep in mind I’m writing this as a parent of a teenage girl, navigating the world of sexual literacy from a very feminist orientated position)

My approach to sex with her has been simple: I know she’s going to have sex, lots of it, good and bad. And as her mother it is my “job” to give her everything I can in order to, when the time comes, empower her to make the best decisions for her!

See, I’ve taught sex education to 15 to 18 year olds. It was my second job out of college. I was thrown into the deep in, Independent religious and private Christian schools, with know-it-all monsters who thought the world ended at their school yard fence! I had to explain, within the boundaries of “abstinence” focused education how the hell the human species fucked! It’s no wonder I lasted less than a year before I was moved into another position!

So when I read another Fet users post questioning how we “fit” exploring teenagers into BDSM I managed to get a third of the way through the replies before I was seeing red!

If you think “teaching” kink to teenagers is something that the “community” should get involved in – step away from the children! You’ve missed the point completely about how to engage teenagers with sex in a healthy, constructive way that enables them to make the best decisions for them!

A teenagers brain is A full of all these new feel good, make me horny chemicals and B so far underdeveloped that they cannot possibly ascertain the realities and consequences of their choices!

You & I have a very adult perception of the world build from real life experiences. We can see, feel, taste, hear and smell the world as it is for us because we’ve had enough experiences to understand the context of what it is we are encountering. Teenagers, even the most mature ones, do not have this lived experience. And it is because of this that adults, no matter how well-meaning your intention may be, have to stay away from teenagers! We cannot and do not experience the world in the way that they do. We cannot possibly create empathetic, authentic and safe spaces for these teenagers to experience the world as they need to. And the reality is they need to construct their own version of kink – however that eventuates, in order to construct the relevant knowledge base about themselves in order to make informed decisions about who they are, where they are going to position themselves in the wider social sexual landscape and how they are going to formulate the structure of their affectional and sexual relationships today, tomorrow and into their sexual experiences through their life span.

Our teenagers are information saturated, and yet they are, for the most part, digitally illiterate. We just do not teach our kids (especially our girls) how to navigate internet resources; heck I didn’t even learn how to do it until I began university! The internet, for all intents and purposes, is one big advertisement; a one stop shop of domains to sell us the way that we are meant to be. Once it was the creative genius of Coke-a-cola Amital who persuaded us that our identity was connected to the product we drank. Now it’s Facebook, Youtube and Google that are convincing us of who we are. We are not taught how to navigate the myriad of crap that constitutes information and advice. If we, as adults, find it difficult to navigate the web without being drawn into charlatans. Snake oil salesmen and down and out crackpots how do you expect kids to do it! They may have the information (can we please stop referring to Wikipedia as a value source) but do they know what to do with it? Nope!

“Adults need to provide information”. No! Just because you’ve reached a point in your life where the law considers you “an adult” does not mean you have automatically earned to right to do anything! And you certainly do not have the right to go anywhere near my daughter to tell her a damn thing about sex or kink! SSC, RACK, consent, safe words – for crying out loud! We can’t even come to a consensus about what these actually mean (meaning is not definition) but you think you can provide this as “information” to the next generation?

What we can do is VALIDATE and NORMALISE these teenager’s desires. We can acknowledge that, for some, intense sensation and structured relationships are normal. We can validate that there are genuine feelings of arousal when we encounter certain images or thoughts. But that is it!

We do not, ever, apply adult concepts into teenager’s stories. The stories they are telling us, the way that they are expressing their curiosity and arousal must be created by them. We cannot put our language into their stories because our language, often, has very different context for us than it does for them!

Sex, for the most part, is entirely abstract. Most teenagers start to explore their sexuality – their conceptualisation and performative narratives, well before their clothes come off! They may have very legitimate desires to experience rope or pain while they are tucked safely in their beds with their pyjamas on, but in real lived, highly sexual experiences with another person, maybe not so enthusiastic.

That is not to say our girls are fragile little flowers that need protecting! Take your paternalistic bull shit and shove it where the sun don’t shine! I don’t want to discount what I saw as very real concerns with positive intentions. But lets get honest here! Adults, for generations, have been hand ringing about what the youngers’ of the species are up to in the sack. It’s not new, it’s not going to stop and we are just the next lot of old farts creating the next lot of “won’t someone please think about the children”. Again, I accept that the intention was well meaning, but that doesn’t change the fact that adults telling kids how to fuck is so ingrained into us that we aren’t actually doing anything radical!

Our kids know what they are doing – they are just doing it their own way! My daughter and the teenagers like her do not need you to come in and “save” them. To protect them and to guide their sexual discoveries! Think back to when you were a teenager for a second. Would you have want adults your parents and grandparents age (my kids grandparents are only in their 50’s, so yes, we are talking their grandparents generation) doing what you’ve said you want to do? I’m guessing not!

How about this.

We clean up what constitutes kink, get rid of all the messed up adults who use kink as a cover for anti-social behaviour, misogynistic attitudes, fear of genuine intimacy, vile intentions and unhealthy sexual performances. How about we (those of us who are genuinely kinky) take back the idea and recreate it into something that is a legitimate representation of who we are.

That way, when sex, however that eventually manifests for my daughter & those teenage girls like her, becomes something which they begin to experience, when she has to start making decisions regarding how she is going to formulate her relationships, she wont have to navigate the same fucked up shit that we did?

You want to create a kink for teenagers? Try fixing your own adult world first!

 

 

Negotiation; it doesn’t work when you don’t have informed consent.

I’m often perplexed by a lot of questions raised on Fetlife and more often than not frightened by some of the answers given. No more so than in the popular discussion group “Novices and Newbies”. It’s a mixed bag of know-it-all never have’s and know-it-all genuinely believe my experience is enough to tell others how it should be done. I couldn’t imagine being someone taking their fantasies into reality via Fetlife. You would think that a group created to bring in those with limited actual experience so that they can ask questions and pull apart ideas in order to make the best decisions for themselves would encourage actual engagement with the questioner and genuine empathy when offering up answers to questions and advice to situations. 

If I had to narrow down the frustration that I feel it would have to be with questions about negotiation. Here’s the context – submissive posts asking how to approach a first time interaction, they have no actual experience but are eager and absolutely certain in their decision to step into this experience.

More and more I am reading people describing their “style” of interaction with someone new. Granted, as with everything I read online I take it all with a grain of salt and try to read between the lines, but recently I saw this description given by someone I was sitting across the table from. So I sat back and listened to what he was explaining and then watching the feedback being given, by those with way more experience than me.

Essentially we are talking about the blueprint of what is going to happen, answers often fall into a few categories relating to their interpretation of what negotiation is for them. There seems to be a generalised and commonly accepted format that most see as essential to “successful” negotiation:

Check lists – downloadable spreadsheets created by a stranger which give you a list of words in which you distinguish between what you consent to and what you reject.

            Focus on the end goal “submitting” (as opposed to the means of getting there), what is it that needs to occur in order for the goal to be achieved?

            Limits and safe words

            Practicalities – toys, language, actions, the elements that create the kink.

While at a quick glance this seems to be an adequate representation of how someone wanting to engage in a successful and healthy interaction; I find it frightening. Simplistic and missing the core of what it is negotiation is trying to achieve – informed consent.

I am not trying to suggest that using a checklist or focusing on limits and practicalities is the wrong way of going about things. What I’m asking is for you to consider that informed and consent have to be core to any initial conversations that preceded the physical interaction involving kink. When you move your focus away from creating the starting platform from which decisions are made (information) in order to create (consent) mutually satisfying interaction you run the risk of causing harm not healthy kink!

 What makes me uncomfortable is that there is no consideration for the fact that one person had absolutely nothing to give their potential partner, in terms of relevant information, from which they could make informed decisions. 

When I took my first steps into kink I had no experience. I had desire and ideas but I had no knowledge about how exactly these things would feel in my body or how my body would react to particular stimuli or circumstance. This lack of experience left me in a position where I could not genuinely negotiate with my partner. I had no information to give him about me, my body, my reactions or areas of concern, so that he could make informed decisions. I had nothing but abstract ideas and desires. Not much to give a dominant who needs to make relevant decisions for himself for me and to react to issues when they arise. 

What I was able to give him was very explicit directions as to what exactly I wanted from him and our first few experiences together. I was very explicit in my intentions to him. I was not doing this for him, in anyway, I was doing this to gain the needed information in order to make future decisions. I’d had fantasies and I’d imagined how something might work, but I had nothing factual to test if those fantasies and thoughts would eventuate.

Essentially he was the facilitator in my experiment.

I needed to see everything, understand how it was going to be used, what things were made of, where they were going to be used and his intentions for using them I expressed my expectations and made it clear that it was my body and my reactions that would be guiding his actions.

Now, I understand that not everyone is able or willing to be so explicit in their experiences. I was very hesitant to take things any further and so was giving myself permission to explore but still retain all control. Not just the ability to say stop, but the ability to structure the directionality of what was happening to my body through to the point of stop. Each of us has to begin somewhere right? My way may not be the stock standard way nor would it work for everybody. But, as someone with a tad more experience and a passable and confident understanding of how some things work, I feel that the “informed” part of informed consent is being minimised. While it’s great to give a synopsis of how things worked, we really need to bring these conversations and answers back to some of the fundamental aspects of how safe, healthy relationships work – consent, informed consent.

It is only when we recognise the imbalance that exists when someone has no experience within which to provide genuine information from which the other person can make informed decisions; that we can create mutually satisfying interactions with genuine informed consent.

I’m submissive and I say no.

There is this common trope within BDSM that, while worded in various ways, conveys the message that “no” is a down and out no-go for any submissive. That to be submissive – or obtain some kind of deeper level of submission, one must yield completely and without hesitation. And while for some this may express a genuine carte blanche statement for others, like myself it does not, in anyway represent me or my experiences of or need for submission. The word “no” nor the message it conveys to him has no power in our relationship. It is not something that is outlawed or rejected. It is, purely and simply a word. So I wanted to spend some time writing, what I guess you’d call the opposite statement and to show how the word no can become just another communication tool within a relationship.

But I want to make two points before I do.

First, keeping my ability to say no is a very personal and very political choice, that has nothing to do with him.

There are just under 50 countries throughout the world where a woman does not have the right not be raped by her husband.

20 countries do not have laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Dozens of women every year are murdered in an archaic attempt at restoring family honour.

1 in 6 women in my country will encounter some form of sexualised violence in her lifetime.

To me, giving up something that is so often rejected or just non-existent in so many women’s lives feels wrong. That’s not to say that other women are wrong when they make the choice to do so, it just means that for me, doing so would feel so wrong.

Second, let me make something very clear. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens here that has not been asked for or agreed to. Our sex life, no matter how kinky, is absolutely something that is mutually beneficial and satisfying. I want this. Not is some obscure ‘she asked for it’ kind of way. But in a genuine, this relationship is sexually satisfying for me.

When I say no to him, there is something going on for me. Something that he didn’t notice or forgot about. Usually it is a response to uncertainty – I’m confused about what he is asking of me, or it is a reaction caused through fear. Not of him, but of the process or consequence of what he is planning on doing. Sometimes for me the only response I can give him is no. Anything else would be a lie and me lying to him, hiding the truth or ignoring the reactions going on within me is going to, eventually hurts me in a way that saying no doesn’t.

Because let me be completely honest here. Saying no to him hurts. I don’t want to say it. I want to surrender – that’s why I asked for a relationship founded in dominance and submission. That’s why I agreed to the way things are here. Sometimes no to him is an obvious reaction to what he is saying or doing. He may be my master but he is one heck of a human being, and sometimes he misses something that is relevant to his choice or he just doesn’t see what I do. Other times just saying those two little letters can be an excruciating experience for me. I go through this ridiculous inner negotiation with myself, where I will try and bargain with myself to try and get out of saying the word. Even though I know I need to say it. Even though I know I am going to say it and that saying it is the right things to do, I still try and get out of it. Why? No idea! I wish I could figure it out because that conversation I have with myself has, once or twice, lead me down that negative self-talk spiral and, as I’m sure some of you know, that never ends well.

No, here, is the beginning of a conversation, one that is more often than not a very long and ongoing one. Never once has no meant yes – and if anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise give them a miss. Getting me from a no to a yes is not manipulation or coercion. It is a process that we work through, together. He has an idea and it’s up to the both of us to get me, or us, to that place. Sometimes it’s a simple as him walking through things with me so I understand what it is exactly that he wants of me. Sometimes it’s been one step, stop, talk about my reaction or what I need to get to the next one. Other times it’s taken me several, sometimes very difficult conversations, to get me to even think about giving what he wants a try.

And sometimes the no remains a no. No matter how many steps forward and backwards we take, no matter how much we talk through things, no matter how much I might want to surrender; what he wants just doesn’t happen.

And that is okay.

No doesn’t have to be the end, as it is with us, it can be the beginning of something that, more often than not, turns into something amazing. But even when it doesn’t end that way, when whatever it is he wants is and stays a no, the fact that no is my response is still okay without justification.

 

 

 

Saftey is never an acronym – no matter how convincing they may seem.

Risk aware, personal responsibility or safe and sane? Spend any time in any kink space; online or in real time, and the inevitable safety debate will emerge. Safe, sane and consensual might be tried and true but the SS and the C are too literal and/or limiting – depending who is on the soapbox. Risk aware makes us know (although who tells us what it is we need to know is still not settled) what needs to be known. And personal responsibility is victim blaming – ooops I mean making sure you own your own shit, even when you didn’t create this shit in the first place.

Look, I don’t give a shit – personal responsibility or otherwise, which bunch of letters you claim, it’s actually quite irrelevant to the bigger picture of what it is that kink is. And dare I say it a smoke screen used to stifle any deeper conversations about the practicalities of safety.

The desire to feel safe is not imagined nor is it exaggerated. Those of us who do this thing called kink, just as every other human being, need to feel safe. To feel safe is to be able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as I can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible.

To be safe, not just to be aware of risk of harm, but to have a genuine feeling of safety is only achievable through action. It’s through the choices that we make that we are best able to remove and respond effectively to the outcomes of what we do. In all reality we cannot remove every possibility of encountering harm. We all have seat belts in our cars, we don’t drive while intoxicated, we drive to the speed limits and we stop at red lights. Yet you could be as sober as the day you were born, wear your seat belt and drive to the conditions within the letter of the law and you can still be killed in a car accident, Accidents do really happen.

Safe is not awareness. It’s not researching on line, it’s not buying a book written by a self or community proclaimed expert, it’s not a workshop or a munch. Awareness is more than knowledge. Yes, knowledge is a must. But knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes into the equation when you take what you know and apply it to the what it. You take all that you know and you put it into practice.

How is this going to actually affect me?

What do I need to do to ensure that, if the consequences of my/our choices are undesired what is the next step?

What do I know about myself – through past experiences or expectations that could create something that we need to address?

I love being flogged – give me a long, slow flogging on my back and I will sleep like a baby, and just between you and me the last time he flogged me I fell asleep. What I didn’t know was that I can’t play first thing in the morning. I need to, at the very least, drink water before he does anything to me. How did I come to know this? I fainted. He woke up in the mood and something went wrong with my blood pressure, I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 10 maybe 11 hours. Nothing could have changed what had happened. I fainted. He made sure I was safe, wrapped me in a blanket, got some water and toast. And then when I felt up to it got me to my GP’s office to make sure it wasn’t anything else. At each point of this experience I felt nothing but safe. Even though I was not aware of the risk of harm his choice had, even though I was on the receiving end of something that was unwanted and unpleasant I was safe

We have been together four years, know each other intimately. Have great communication, and there was nothing to show me that the outcome of what has been done to my body dozens and dozens of times would be any different this time. Unfamiliar or undesired outcomes – including harm, can happen no matter how aware we are of ourselves and what it is we are doing.

By acknowledging that sometimes things really do just happen. By accepting that safe comes from more than awareness. When we remove the acronyms and focus on creating genuine safety I think we can begin to offer some more practical strategies into our understanding of safe kink.

I’m starting to learn that changing behaviours and attitudes don’t come from how to, step by step guides and checklists. They are too simplistic and can’t address the intricate difference and needs that come with the nuance of human sexuality.

So the next time you’re thinking about trying something new I want you to do one thing.

Put the entirety of yourself into the interaction and ask yourself this

Is this going to cause me death?

Is this going to cause me disability?

Is this going to cause me disease?

Is this going to cause me distress?

The 5 D’s are something that we use in health care provision to measure the outcomes of the choices that need to be made for our clients.

Death and disability are pretty obvious – and please no arm lobbing strawman arguments!

Disease – not just STI’s. While the common safe sex message is still relevant to kink, we need to take this a little deeper within our physical and mental health. Is something that I want to do going to interfere with any illnesses or medication? What about skin irritation or infection? A UTI? Food poisoning or an allergic reaction? Sunburn? Is this going to affect your mental wellbeing?

Distress – Is the thing that I want going to, in anyway, interfere with the way I need to live my everyday? Stop you from going to work or affect your ability to do your job? Pay your bills? Having healthy relationships with the other people in your life?

These questions allow us to understand our realities within the expectations that we have and to step back and address or change anything that may be relevant to the situation. I believe that if we stopped focusing on acronyms and arguing the measure of safe and sane (which by the way has nothing to do with our mental health and everything to do with our legal competency) and started merging what it is we want with who we are as individuals then we can truly have healthy, safe and satisfying sex lives and relationships.

The tools we use and the intensity with which we use them are irrelevant here. Whether you are using a knife or handcuffs, a latex hood or a blindfold brought from Kmart, if you are able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as you can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible than you are actively; through your actions rather than an acronym, trying to keep your sex life as safe as possible. And as accidents can and will happen this is the best that we can achieve.

 

#What is – safe word

Safe words. The always present catchphrase when kink is around.

But what is the safe word?

While most people with even the slightest understanding of BDSM would have heard of a safe word, many fail to understand the reality and relevance of how a safe word actually connects with their actions in the boudoir.

First, a safe word is just a word. While it’s called a safe word, in reality nothing about that word itself can keep you safe. It really is just a word. What keeps us safe is the message and the set of instructions that the word gives us.

It can be any word that communicates the same message. For some the use of an obscure word is necessary; this can range from an individual’s name to something quite unusual. And for others ‘stop’’ conveys the same information. The word you choose has to be something that works for you and the interactions you intend to be a part of.

A safe word in and of itself is useless until the meaning behind it is clearly agreed upon. It’s not enough to put forward a word and call it a safe word if there is nothing behind it. If the submissive/bottom is calling out ‘pineapple’ and the dominant/top has nothing to tell them what to do next the word is nothing more than a bunch of letters strung together being said.

A safe word communicates an instruction. Promptly and clearly to the other person. What that instruction is varies. For some it means the entirety of the interaction is over. For others it’s a ‘pause’ button, or a way of halting what is happening so the submissive/bottom can further communicate something that is going on for them – the need to change positions, a cramp, to catch your breath, lessen the intensity etc. Whatever the meaning is, the what that comes next after the word is said needs to be understood and agreed upon.

A safe word is just one of the ways to communicate with each other. It’s not the only tool in the kinky tool box. Some argue that a safe word is for both (all) participants, and while I can see merit in the idea I’m not going to put it forward here. Why? Because the makeup of the interactions that constitute kink creates the need for two very different communication requirements. While both (all) participants have the obligation to communicate the submissive/bottom often has elements of the play that creates a very unique set of obstacles to effective communication. Obstacles that can be situationally overcome through the use of a safe word. As I said it’s not the everything that some make it out to be, but when it’s used in a way that is realistic and used with the intention of communicating an agreed upon meaning; a safe word can be a positive tool within a healthy sex life.

In saying this I need to make something very clear. The safe word is the not the responsibility of the submissive/bottom alone. Let me say that again – THE SAFE WORD IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM ALONE.

A submissive/bottom has the right to expect their safe word will be acted upon in the way that was agreed to.

While a safe word is a communication tool predominantly said by the submissive/bottom it is useless if it goes no further than being said. Communication is ALWAYS a two way street. What is said by one must be heard and acted upon by the other. We communicate in dozens of ways and this doesn’t stop when the kinky fun begins. Communication is the only way to great sex and satisfying kink. You cannot get to the great stuff without having the foundations present and maintained. A safe word is a part of this foundation that has to be present.

Now before I become the next ‘kink shamer’ or meeting point for those whom a safe word cannot be present in their world STOP. The safe word is an idea that allows us to convey and discuss a complex need, it a means of communication that is present in kink interactions. By all means tell me how you don’t need a safe word but please understand that I’m not interested! I find the argument a backdoor way to try to recreate what already is. When you deconstruct the argument of no safe word, what you are left with is an agreement that communication is essential and a part of all healthy, functioning relationships.

Check ins.

A check in is another way to use the idea of a safe word. Most often it’s a ‘traffic light’ system of colours: red, yellow and green. Again the meaning behind each word (or number, which is another system of check in) needs to be clearly communicated and agreed upon. It needs to be clearly understood what comes next after the word is said.

As a quick guide

RED– I need you to stop immediately. I have something that you need to know right now.

YELLOW– I need you to alter what you are doing. Stop so I can tell you what it is I need from you to keep this going.

GREEN– I am okay with everything that is occurring and I don’t have anything you need to know.

 Safe word when unable to verbalise a word.

Some elements of kink are used with the intention of removing the ability of the submissive/bottom to speak. It’s one of the obstacles that are present and need to be overcome. If you choose to put an obstacle in the way you need to put something in place to work around it if/when the need to communicate arises.

Again, this is something that must be decided upon before the bedroom door. If the intention is to remove the ability for the submissive/bottom to speak their safe word you need another way to communicate the meaning and instruction.

Some ideas –

Using an open/closed fist to communicate a stop/go message.

A bell or buzzer which the submissive/bottom can ring when they need to get the attention of their dominant/top.

Giving the submissive/bottom something to hold onto and drop when needed.

A tapping signal.

One thing that must be considered when implementing a non verbal safe word is the environment you are in. If you have loud music on or are in a public play space where there is significant background noise that could inhibit your ability to hear the bell or tapping you might want to consider something else. If you are going to give the submissive/bottom something to drop, make sure it’s something that is going to be obvious. A black scarf being dropped onto black flooring could be easily missed.

Safe words seem simplistic and are often presented as such. But they are a part of the complexity that is communication. We must acknowledge that having a safe word is not a magic word that protects us from harm. The best intentions may be present and honourable but if the integrity of what a safe word is – a means of communication, is violated the interaction can very quickly move from kink to abuse. Implementing a safe word that communicates a clearly understood and easy to understand and acted on message is the only way to make a safe word work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abuse is not just a kink just as kink is not abuse.

There is a lot written about sex and sexuality that makes me angry and yet nothing induces the anger like the way too often used and very inaccurate line “consent is the difference between abuse and BDSM”.

I’d be so happy if people just stopped claiming this crap!

My understanding of this that the underlying premise of BDSM is “if she asks for it then it’s okay’ or another way that I read this is ‘if there is no safe word said then everything is okay’. This is in a way correct but it is also significantly Immature and a depressing representation of the sexual reality we exist within. To me this attitude and this oversimplification come about not from wanting to have “good” sex but from wanting to protect our own arses! Yeah I said it!

Consent isn’t the bare minimum of what constitutes a functioning, healthy, safe LEGAL sexual relationship it’s the go to catchphrase when afore mentioned arse needs defending/protecting.

We no longer have consensual relationships because that’s just what good people do. Nope. Can’t be had. We claim consent in relation to our relationships to defend what it is we do!

The reality is this; kinksters are just as bad at consent as the rest of the sexual world and we are all bad at it because we just don’t understand what it actually is.

Consent is all about ME – it is my free agreement. It’s my legal right to enter into and exit out of sexual encounters as I so choose. That’s it. It really is this simple and I cannot for the life of me understand why people get this so wrong.

Did I ask you to XYZ? Nope! Then I did not consent.

Section 61HA of the New South Wales (the State that I live in) crimes Act states very clearly that consent it a FREE AND VOLUTARY AGREEMENT. The wording may differ but there is an almost universal (especially in Australia) legal consensus that this is what consent is.

If consent is about me and my free will than how am I in any way responsible for the actions of another? How then can my consent; what I’ve agreed to, be justification for your actions?

Within the Act is a list of conditions that need to be meet in order for the prosecution to create a case– again these relate to the State I live in, the wording may be different but the essence of the conditions are the same.

Three of these conditions are:

(a) the person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse, or

(b) the person is reckless as to whether the other person consents to the sexual intercourse, or

(c) the person has no reasonable grounds for believing that the other person consents to the sexual intercourse.

The first “the person” is the nominated accused – that is the person that the victim is accusing of sexual assault.

The second “person” is the victim.

If you read what is stated above (which is a direct copy and paste from the Act) you will see that what we are actually interested in when establishing the legitimacy of an accusation are the actions of the nominated accused. We are looking at what the accused KNEW, what the accused INTENDED and what the accused DID.

What they did not what I did.

What matters when establishing the legitimacy or the illegality of ones actions and if that constitutes a crime are not the actions (or inactions) of the victim but the actions of the accused!

How does my free agreement cause the actions of another?

Do we really have no ownership of our actions?

It is not consent that creates the difference between abuse and BDSM its intention.

I am not responsible for the actions of my sexual partner as they are not responsible for mine. To agree to be intimate with, fuck, or engage in something kinky is not some kind of blanket cover against abuse. If your intention is to act outside of the law and commit assault nothing I have agreed to matters! If your partner is assaulting you there is nothing, not your consent, not your inaction, nothing you do allows that to happen.

If we are serious about BDSM and all it entails being a legitimate form or sexual expression then we need to take a significant step away from the simplicity of what I’m calling consent washing and allow the reality to be had. A reality in which nothing I do creates the foundation for an abusive relationship. Nothing I’ve negotiated, consented to or done in the past allows abuse. Nothing about me creates another actions. This nothing goes both ways to the d and the s and includes all genders as the accused and the victim.

If kink is serious about fighting back against both the abuse within and the instance that it is all abuse from beyond then there needs to be an acceptance of the complexity of the humanness that creates those within these types of relationships and interaction. Dominants can be abusive and there is nothing a Submissive does that creates that. Submissives can be abusive and there is nothing a Dominant does to create that. A top can abuse their bottom regardless of anything the bottom has done.

Allowing ourselves the space to cast a critical gaze over what it is we do and to question is not a bad thing. Questions do not hurt people who have answers – even wrong answers can be enough to cause great change within communities and society as a whole.

Abuse is not just a kink just as kink is not abuse. Abuse is a deliberate act indented to harm. Kinks are deliberate acts intended to create mutually satisfying experiences.

That and that alone is the difference between abuse and kink – no consent needed!