Consensual Issues (part 1): Rape Culture & the lifestyle

The recent fervor of discussions, disagreements, and posts about what is happening in our communities has escalated to the point of yelling, pointing fingers, and blame.   At the heart of the current discussions is the notion of rape culture and how it pertains to the lifestyle.  It’s a very emotionally charged discussion that has a lot of merits from all sides involved.  While such discussions would normally be really good points of reference, there’s a lot of emotion out there (and rightfully so).  When emotions get the best of us, the rational part of our brains seem to go bonkers.

Let’s start from the beginning:  We have long since been taught to treat women with respect.  We have very strong ethos that we shouldn’t be violent towards women.  I agree with that.  Yet, in regarding our lifestyle, there is violence–consensual violence–that transpires between like-minded folks.  By and large, we all smile, nod excitingly, and go: “yes, Yes, YES!”

We are all a little warped.

But we like it that way.

So right off the bat, the first questions we need to be asking ourselves are:
1.) Am I comfortable with the concept of consensual violence towards women?
2.) Am I okay with others looking at me scornfully because I partake in a lifestyle that supports the concept of consensual violence towards women?
3.) Am I being honest and real about my approach to this concept or am I trying to live vicariously through my dark fantasies?

The simple reality is that abuse towards women exists.  Harmful, non-consensual abuse happens.  The lifestyle can’t turn a blind eye towards abuse, but it also means that we really have to examine the overall culture and how it applies to each one of us.  To do so, we need to agree on the vernacular and source of terminology we’re going to use.

About those definitions:  The abuse discussions generally center around the concepts of “rape culture” and “victim blaming.”  Therein is a problem.  These terms have roots in the feminist movement that openly describe how our current society has become numb and desensitized to sexually violent occurrences.  The original feminist movement has come out against many of the things we do in the lifestyle.  Those terms (rape culture and victim blaming) speak of and in opposition to sexual violence against women.  They come out against sexual objectification.  They come out against rape of any kind.  They come out against violent masculinity.  They come out against “gray rape,” which walks a fine line when it comes to consent.

And collectively, we normally say: “Okay, so what’s the problem?”

We are the problem.

“I’m sorry, what?”

When we employ the terms, rape culture and victim blaming, at their most basic root definitions, they make clear and concise references that land squarely on the lifestyle. Then the folks that coined the terms originally are looking at us (in the lifestyle) as part of the problem.  In their eyes, the lifestyle partly enables the current rape culture issue.  We enable the problem because we accept the belief that “it’s okay to do some of this stuff,”  (i.e., violence, spankings, whippings, forced-hair-pulling, and other such sexual yumminess) as long as we’re consenting.

Please note that nowhere in the inordinate amount of articles on rape culture does it condone anything regarding consensual BDSM or the lifestyle.

But, but, but …  I know.  I know.  We pride ourselves on being on the consensual side of this process and, yet, how can we have the conversation using the terms that (by definition) make us guilty by association?

Okay.  Let’s address a few things first:

* Rape exists.  It’s apparent.  It’s obvious.  No amount of discussion can dismiss the fact that unwanted sexual, over-the-negotiated-line conduct happens.  It does happen.  It is unfortunate that it happens.

* We all bear some responsibility, whether we sit at home and do nothing, or we don’t come out and speak against non-consent.  We are enabling the problem, even if we aren’t a perpetrator doing so.

* Rape and ignoring limits will continue.  Yes, this, too, is a somber fact.  We are not going to stop rape and hard-limit bashing, but we can improve things by reaching out to newcomers, educating everyone, and continuing the discussion with everyone involved.  The more educated we all can become, the better we can prepare the next person, especially those new to the lifestyle.

* We, as a community, usually have a very overzealous knee-jerk reaction when we start policing ourselves.  Context matters.  Shared responsibilities matter.  Allegations are to be treated very serious and they need to be treated fairly.  If we are going to make accusations about each other, then we (both those involved and those hearing the claims) absolutely need to make certain that we’re approaching the charges objectively.

Please also keep in mind, that if we’re going to start going through Cosmopolitan’s or BuzzFeed’s open list of defining rape culture, we will be looking into the mirror on a lot of it.

Definition problems:  Do a Google search for Buzzfeed’s “what is rape culture?” to understand the problem we’re facing.

*Anyone can be a rapist.  Yes, everyone can be a rapist.
*The Idea of Gray Rape.  This is where we live in the lifestyle: consent.  If you’re in the lifestyle – apologies, but you’re playing in the gray area.  It’s time to accept that fact.
*No means yes.  Remember, we live in the gray area, right?  Also keep in mind, I have yet to raise anything related to consensual non-consent, yet.
*Victim blaming.  Society believes that you can’t be a victim if you consent to a lifestyle that promotes sexual violence.  (A’hem, bullshit!)
*Slut shaming (and sexual objectification):  This is society looking straight at us and what we do.  Fetishes and the like are right in the thick of it, as well.
*Street harassment. This, in our circles, is similar to going to a munch and be preyed upon because you’re new and don’t know any different.  The unfortunate perception is that if you’re in the lifestyle, then you must be a slut or some sort of sexual deviant…because that’s just how we are.

Accept the reality:  We all play in the gray area.  If we’re going to want our bottoms smacked; if we want our hair pulled when we’re having rough sex; if we want to be little bondage puppets because of what it does to us; then we’re dancing and high-five’g our way into the gray area.  We are enabling the rape culture problem in the way society defines it – as Cosmopolitan defines it – as feminist groups define it.  We may try to re-tool the definition and how it applies to us internally (within the lifestyle), but if we’re going to have an open, honest discussion on rape culture in society, then we all need to confess that we are all part of the problem.

Great, now what am I going to do with all my toys!?!  Well, we can all quietly leave – one at a time, or we can accept the notion that we’re part of the problem and move forward.  If we are going to be moving forward, then maybe we can start addressing a few things internally (within the lifestyle):

* Stop using the term “rape culture,” or, at the very least, call it something else so that we stop sounding like hypocrites.
* Start re-defining terms like David Stein did for S.S.C. and those that followed coining R.A.C.K. and P.R.I.C.K.  We need to stop using vanilla-related terminology that openly contradicts our lifestyle.
* Continue the advocacy for personal responsibility and how to teach proper personal responsibility to s-types…and ESPECIALLY for d-types.  One thing I have read before is that “we teach our daughters how to be safe, but we don’t teach our sons how not to rape.”  It’s true.  We don’t do enough.
* Community leaders need to improve their outreach and education programs.
* Continue listening to those victims who have gone through abuse, non-consent, and rape and take their allegations seriously.
* Continue to learn from these victims on how perpetrators are doing it, so that we can better use that information when we conduct outreach to the next newbie who comes into the lifestyle.
* The community needs to continue to freely meet, to discuss, and to be open to change as perpetrators change their habits.
* Accept the notion that if we’re going to police ourselves, it really begins with ourselves – stop pointing fingers at everybody else.  If you’re going to bitch, moan, or complain, then you’re not furthering the discussion.
* Understand the totality of the problem, instead of just honing in on the parts that seem relevant for you, personally.

At the heart of what we do lies consent.  Without it, we are abusers.  Without it, we are everything those articles in Cosmo and Buzzfeed talk about.  When we partake in the lifestyle – doing the things we love to do – and it goes well, we don’t see ourselves as abusers, we don’t see ourselves as victims.  That’s why we have to redefine the language we use, so that we can address the problem as it exists in our own realm.  The various movements outside of the lifestyle won’t understand why we do what we do, and that’s okay, because we can all think and believe as we choose to.  That doesn’t mean we sit idly by and hope that the problem goes away.  It certainly makes the arguments quickly deflate when we can’t even agree on exactly what it is we’re fighting against.

We won’t change their minds, but we can be solid in ours.  Having clear consent standards is the first vital step forward. There are problems in engineering, though, because consent is such a huge component. I’ve even had to re-think how to blog about it.  To touch on all that I want to, I’m breaking this idea into the following parts/blogs:

Consensual Issues (part 1): Rape culture & the Lifestyle
Consensual Issues (part 2): The Problem is in the Definition
Consensual Issues (part 3): Separating Facts from Projections

Consensual Issues (part 4): The Unfortunate Death of Communication

Consensual Issues (part 5): Scolding the Dominant
Consensual Issues (part 6): Personal Responsibility
Consensual Issues (part 7): Community Responsibility

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