Consensual Issues (part 6): Personal Responsbility

Be responsible.

Everyone should take ownership of the choices each one of us makes.  It shouldn’t matter who else was involved or what was decided or agreed upon.  Take skydiving as an example: Most folks just don’t drive out to the airplane, grab a chute and say: “okay, let’s go!” No.  There’s a process involved.  There’s also risk involved.  Just like the skydiver who has an equipment malfunction, they accept the fact that any number of things can happen.  Some of it they’re in control of, but there’s a lot of things outside their control as well.  That’s why one of the first things they teach you in skydiving class is to get into the habit of looking at the parachute and examine it for yourself, double and triple check the entire process to make sure all of the risks that we can control are mitigated.  If something isn’t right, fix it, get it replaced or don’t go.

Life is like that as well.  We’re responsible for what we spend, what we eat, what we smoke, what we ingest, how fast we drive, whether we see the doctor or not.  We’re responsible for the career choice we make, the schooling we opt for and whether or not to have children.

Our lives are designed around the choices we make, so why should the lifestyle be any different?

We’re adults.

A lot of times we need to make decisions while being risk aware and personally responsible for those decisions.  If something goes amiss in a scene or a relationship, then it’s rational to deduce that at least in part, our choices and decisions figured into the problem to begin with.

No, I’m not blaming the victim.  When we’re risk aware – going into a situation that may or may not end up going exactly like we planned … then we can also accept that some of the things that may happen during the scene or whatever can sometimes go awry.  This can be as minor as a misplaced single-tail stroke … or a cuff that is on too tight and cutting off circulation.Everyone has to accept that things can go awry.  Period.

When it’s an overt, blatant violation of trust where there was never an intent to stay within the confines of what was negotiated, then we’re talking about a perpetrator that clearly stepped over the line and for those folks, there is no recourse. These are the liars, the predators, the scammers among us. For these folks, nothing can be believed or trusted because they really don’t care about anything but themselves and what they’re after. If you come across one of these fine folks – don’t engage them. You can exercise your choice to say: “no thanks.”

Now for the somewhat controversial part of the post …  I am saying that there’s some responsibility if the s-type goes into a situation knowingly or if they simply didn’t grasp the entirety of what they were walking into.  Being lied to is one thing, going to the Motel 6 for a “beat and greet” without knowing the person you’re going to be with – then I do hold the s-type at least partly responsible for not checking the parachute before they got in the plane or at least figuring out what’s involved with sky-diving.

When we don’t use our sensibilities, we can sometimes make bad choices.

Same thing holds true if that s-type meets up with someone who has a history for playing hard.  If the s-type and the d-type don’t come to a rock solid understanding before hand, then there’s a strong likelihood that there’s going to be some shared responsibility across the spectrum.

s-types need to be strong here. They need to have resolve and that flirting fear of self-preservation working. If they don’t investigate, ask, get to know, negotiate, inform, educate and discuss … then they’re running the risk of not being appropriately prepared.

d-types need to listen, observe and respond truthfully at all times. If they’re involving themselves with an s-type that isn’t asking questions or contributing to the overall negotiation of the situation then that’s a concern. I’m not sure I’d scene with someone who didn’t at least ask what the ground rules and lines were going to be. It’s a classic case of setting up the scene to end badly. I find it also my responsibility to take charge by informing them, educating them, negotiating with them, and LISTENING to them. Just because it wasn’t discussed while negotiating it out, does NOT mean that it’s fair and open to do.

Never, EVER assume.

Communicate!  A lot goes a long way from when we’re all on the same wavelength. We can talk things through the onset and can convey our likes, wants, desires and expectations from the situation.  If we’re not informed, well communicated and otherwise completely honest with ourselves then all parties are setting themselves up for the potential for a less than desirable experience.

Being responsible means being honest. A common theme throughout this series is that it starts with us, individually, knowing ourselves as much as we can. Once we achieve that level of understanding about ourselves, then we can be honest with those we want to play with. Good scenes, relationships and situations require that we can be honest with one another from the very onset and be consistent through the entire experience.  That’s when things should go pretty much according to plan. Lying and dishonest types are ultimately going to lead to some really bad conclusions. If you’re lying or misleading someone – and you do this willfully (as opposed to both sides never asking or addressing the issue) then you deserve the additional scrutiny being brought upon you.

Being responsible means we know the expectations. Not just know the expectations but both parties know what the expectations are going to be. We all imagine “this is how I think things are going to go.” Only problem, we don’t articulate that enough. Hence when our expectations are “eh” or fall down horribly, we walk away dissatisfied, upset or hurt. We sometimes set ourselves up for that fall, but if we don’t communicate to one another what we expect to have happen, then it can be a disappointing experience.

Being responsible means having respect. It’s incredibly hot having those scenes where the s-type is debased, head pressed down by a black leather boot and the thrill of being “taken” is well at hand. Deep down, this kind of exchange happens because a level of respect had been already been conveyed that allowed such an activity to happen. If this happened on Main Street, USA, there would be those calling 911, it would be frightening, less than happy or thrilling ….

So, a level of respect is established in one form or another. It means that the s-type has bestowed a level of trust with the d-type they’re with. It’s not automatically assumed or presumed. Merely saying “I’m a dominant” or “I’m a master” doesn’t mean anything. It’s how we carry ourselves, how open we are, how much we respect the people we’re with and the situations we’re involved in.

Being responsible means there’s a shared involvement. It seems pretty obvious, but if we’re all consenting adults to something, then there’s shared involvement. If there’s deceit by either side, then that’s clearly not cool and the accountability in that situation will be clear and evident. Anything beyond willful deceit, there’s a strong possibility that both sides could have some responsibility to what happened.

I’m also not talking about liars or cheaters either. Folks who haven’t been honest in their respective situations are simply not responsible enough to engage with another person. Be honest and forthcoming about things folks.

However if folks have been open and sharing, then other explanations can be derived. If there’s a knowing component, then I’m sorry – you should’ve known. If there’s an experience or knowledge component, then I’m sorry – you should’ve read up on it, sought advice or otherwise

Being responsible means being accountable. It starts with us being brutally honest with what happened. While there might be degrees and percentages of shared responsibility, we each have to own up to what happened and transpired. Put away the finger pointing and assess what you personally did that contributed to the situation. It’s about taking personal accountability for your part. If there was a lying deceitful partner, we also have to accept that this happens too.

But d-types who think they can do no wrong have to wake up to realize that their decisions and conduct are pretty damn important in what happened.  Drop the egos, drop the bravados, drop the personas.  Folks need to own up, quit the lying, quit the denying and be openly honest with what happened and why.

If we’re not accountable for the actions we do, then our integrity suffers.  When we’re stuck in blaming or defensive mode, we no longer are no longer someone that can be trusted.  Accepting responsibility means that we account for our part to the situation.  It means you’re approaching it realistically instead of continually finger pointing or trying to maintain some fantasy driven fodder that exists in your mind.

Being responsible means you accept that accidents can still happen:  No one plans on accidents – hence the reason why the term invokes surprise or unexpected results.   Mindfully invoke the honest and accountability clauses up above and if it’s truly an accident – then we should accept it as such.  Can accidents be avoided?  Some, but not all.  Remember, sometimes “shit happens.”  But if we’re fully planned, all things double and triple checked – accidents can still happen, right?

It comes down to intent.
If it was a deliberate thing – then that’s a different story.
If it was a miscommunication – then there’s likely shared blame.
If it was an accident – then the reality is that “accidents happen.”

It comes down to how well did the parties work through all the details and ways to safeguard from having a bad experience.  If the s-type forgets their inhaler and goes into an asthma attack, then it’s both parties responsibility – not just the s-type.  The d-type needs to ask these questions long before the first rope is applied or the scene gets underway.  If we don’t exercise degrees of preparedness then we are opening ourselves up to more accidents and miscommunication opportunities.

Being responsible means being educated.  Imagine if you will, hiring someone who will take you up in a plane and let you jump out using a parachute you learned how to make and pack using YouTube.  You received no other training but you’ve seen everyone else do it on TV: “how hard can this be?”  Now should we then be in complete amazement when something goes wrong and the parachute doesn’t open?  Not really.

That’s why I turn back to the education and outreach outlets as being viable and important information resources for newcomers to learn how to do things.  How to approach potential scene partners and what to realistically expect.  It’s absolutely not surprising when we hear about folks who thought the lifestyle was a harlequin romance novel only to be sadly disappointed when it doesn’t meet the bodice ripper expectations going in.

Being responsible means we stay within the boundaries and lines established: I’ve already established that we ALL need to work to stay within the boundaries and lines established.  Merely claiming you’re a d-type and believing you have the authority to cross those lines doesn’t mean you actually DO have that authority.  It’s basic respect and if that can’t be established then you really shouldn’t be playing with others.

DO NOT GO BEYOND THE ESTABLISHED LINE.  If a line and boundary are established, then stay within the bounds of those lines.

DO NOT ASSUME YOU CAN GO BEYOND THE LINE.  Just because things get hot and bothered, there is no basis to use someone’s floaty space against them so that you can move directly to sexual intercourse. (or some other avenue)  Even if the s-type is begging for it … don’t.  DON’T.  Their mindset and head space is not the same as it was at the beginning when things were negotiated.  You have got to assume that their ability to rationalize the situation has been compromised – and therefore there’s a trust built that you’ll stay within the lines and limits already established.

DO NOT SURPRISE. Waiting to spring that “aha” scene component that wasn’t discussed is very likely breaking one’s consent. Just because you think “oh she’ll love this” doesn’t mean she will. Remember, you’ve just spent a lot of time working out a negotiated scene or event, why fuck that up with a “gotcha stun gun” when that wasn’t on the radar at all? You’ve gone from having a potentially great experience and turned it into a steaming pile of crap all because you wanted to throw that last curveball – thinking it’ll be fun.

Being responsible means we need to LISTEN:  It seems rudimentary.  It’s so common and basic, yet so few do this because they’re caught up in the moment.

“Yes, reds are scat, blood and anal. (yada yada yada) Yes we are not going to have intercourse afterwards. (boring, yada yada yada)   Safecall protocols are in place, (god she has a magnificent body, damn!).  There will be no aftercare, just provide a blanket and a safe place.  (I can’t believe I talked her into being here.  I’m so going to photograph this – yippee!)  There will be no photography.  (I’m going to mark every inch of her life like I saw in that video  … oh wait, nod – she’s talking.)  If I have an asthma attack, I need my inhaler.  (When is she going to stop talking, my cock is rock hard now … nod faster, let’s get this show on the road!)”

Don’t think this happens?  When D-types get a one-track mindset going on … the crowning ship of the fleet can steer into the iceberg and we would still be oblivious to what’s going on.  (note to s-types, D-types have their own head space and focus, you’re not the only ones.  Ours sometimes talks at the belt line when we’re distracted by what’s going on …)

Remember folks, as the scene develops, our focus shifts.  It’s natural and expected, but please please please be mindful of boundaries, lines and other negotiated limits at all times.  Just because one or both of you go floaty, shouldn’t mean that either one of you can’t say: “hey, let’s dial that back a bit …”  It’s the responsibility of the D, as well as the s if things are slipping to communicate it to the other.

Being responsible means we need to communicate MORE:  It’s not just communicating more, but it’s about functional communication.  That’s why it’s important to not just negotiate out a scene, but what does “hard” mean to you?  What does “hard” mean to me?  We lack reference points and as a result, a lot of things don’t get addressed.  Moreover, we have folks around us that hide behind the anonymity of the internet.  These folks find it easy to create personas that they can emulate, tease and dangle in front of others.  We have even gotten to accept degrees of little white lies, “innocent silence” and other counterproductive communication pitfalls are to be accepted.

When it comes to consent, it has to be as perfectly clear as possible from point A to point B.  If there are dangling threads, be sure that they aren’t going to interfere with what’s going to happen.  It’s not essential to have someone’s biography before doing a scene with them.  The fact that they ran track in high school or played the banjo for 7th grade summer camp might be interesting factoids, but hardly relevant in the scope of the situation.  Finding out about injuries, conditions, past traumas … mindsets, expectations and past experience is much more intuitive for what you’re about to do.  Once we have solid communication, the better we can articulate what we want, the better the outcome is in the end. We do better with more information as our disposal.  It’s our responsibility to make sure we talk more and can convey things openly and honestly.

Being responsible means keeping it real:  Reality happens.  Work, health, family, kids, school, bills, repairs – all happen.  While there’s nothing wrong with making the lifestyle to be your escape please be aware and conscious of the fact that the people you are with may be taking it a bit more seriously.  There’s no “right way” – just LISTEN, be honest, be forthright and be communicative about it.

 

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

Consensual issues (part 3): Separating facts from projections

Bob is a bad man.
Bob did very cruel and inhuman things.
Bob is dangerous.
Bob pushes lines and does mean things.

We don’t like Bob.

Bob has been banished from our land.

Except…

Did we really glean anything about Bob?  Do we know what Bob did?  No.  But someone out there made an accusation … and all things we knew about Bob are immediately slanted to whatever the accusation is.  “Bob is bad.”

There’s a climate in local communities at the moment that are approaching abuse and consensual non-consent (CNC) issues with a very zealous blinding attack cycle.  I appreciate and support the awareness lessons that are currently being advocated.  However I’m a bit concerned that some folks are projecting more of their own issues towards this crusade and not keeping a balanced check of their emotions and past.

Being blinded by such projections do not allow us to objectively look at the problem and make sound, rational and sane decisions about Bob.  Yet there are those that instinctively have figured out Bob without gathering any other facts beyond that which was said up above.  “Oh I knew he was a bad person.  I heard … I heard … then I heard ….”

I’m not very intrigued at the what and how Bob did things … I’m more interested in the why things happened the way they did.

I am very much opposed of the overzealous nature by which Bob gets skewered for whatever Bob apparently did.  Communities instinctively have knee-jerk reactions as they seek to ban, flog, and stone Bob to death for whatever atrocities he is believed to have done.  I know you may be reading this going: “yeah, he’s going to blame the victim,” when simply I’m imploring people to reflect on the totality of what happened instead of making erroneous rashes to judgment.

If Bob did bad bad things, then Bob deserves to be punished for those things.

It’s plain and simple.

But if Bob engaged into a situation with Sally – then in the interest of fairness, we need to examine the totality of what happened and why it happened.  That’s not a lobbied support to accept Bob as an innocent as much as it’s important to examine Sally’s role in what happened.  That’s because when folks partake in a consensual environment, in a consensual kink dynamic, there’s a mutual engagement between people. Someone becomes the dominant, someone becomes the submissive.  A scene, play weekend or dynamic then evolves from that.  Hence the reason that there’s a shared responsibility between Bob and Sally that most advocates seem to casually omit when banging their war drums loudly.

By examining what Sally did on her part also enables us to learn how to better teach s-types to avoid the peril Sally faced.  If at the very least, offering a fair warning, educating her more extensively in the negotiation phase or better yet – how to teach her to better listen to her instincts.  We stand to gain a lot of information as to why things happened as they did.

Yes, we can put all the onus and burden on Bob since he’s the d-type.  I can understand that perspective.  But the majority of the situations out there come from an agreement being reached between two like minded people to engage in … something.  If Bob kidnapped Sally.  If he broke into her house.  If he did anything where Sally could not negotiate and be in agreement with, then that’s wrong.  Bob deserves the criticism.  Bob deserves the punishment.  Bob deserves the scrutiny.

If Sally agrees and consents, then that little play on words is how we try to explain to vanillas that makes it okay when Bob spanks, whips, binds, bites and otherwise has his way with her.  Consent is at the heart of our dynamics and interactions no matter how intense or vicious the scene might become.

The integral part of consent is that it’s reached by both parties to engaged in … this or that or the other.  If Sally agreed to engage with Bob to do … things … then we need to take that into consideration.  It’s not an automatic thing, more information is needed.

Onward.

“But Sally had that one scene with him where he beat her with a dog toy and touched her inappropriately.”

Do we know what was negotiated?
Have they played together before?
Do we know what Sally and Bob talked about prior to the scene?
Do we know how much Sally knew about Bob?
Do we know how much Bob knew about Sally?
Did Sally check out Bob’s other play partners to see what kind of play he engages in?
Do we know how much she tried to know what Bob’s style was like?
Do we know if Sally knew that Bob was a dark sadist?  Is he?
Do we know if Bob knew that Sally is quite a masochist?  Is she?
Do we know what kind of masochist Sally is?
Do we know what kind of play Sally enjoys?
Do we know how much Bob conveyed to Sally?
Has Sally ever safe worded to anyone before?
Has Bob ever had anyone safe word during a scene?
Has Sally conveyed what she’s like when she goes into floaty space?
Has Sally conveyed what she’s like what she drops out of floaty space?
Does Bob really understand Sally’s floaty space and does he know what to do when the space happens?
Did they ever discuss their previous experiences so as to get a basis of what happened before?
Do we know if Bob thoroughly outlined what he planned on doing to her?
Do we know if Bob was completely honest and forthright with Sally?
Do we know if Sally was completely honest and forthright with Bob?
Did Bob outlines places he was NOT going to go with Sally?
Do we know if Sally outlined places she did NOT want to go with Bob?
Did Sally ever tell him “do what you want to do” at any point they were together?
Did Sally say anything that Bob could have possibly misconstrued as a green light into the wrong place?
Did Sally convey what triggers she has? Did she say where they come from?
Did Bob know that the play he wanted to do with Sally were going to trip triggers?
Did Bob ask Sally if she wanted to be touched sexually as the scene was going on?
Does Sally remember Bob asking her? Does Bob remember her answer?
Did Sally ever convey to him that sexual touching was a hard limit?
Did Bob ever convey to her that sexual touching was something he was going to do?
If Bob nor Sally didn’t discuss sexual touching – why didn’t they?
During their scene, did Sally safe word?
Did they discuss what safe words were going to be employed?
If Sally safe worded, did Bob know?  What did Bob do?
If he didn’t stop – why didn’t he?
If he knew it was a limit and didn’t stop, why didn’t he?
If she didn’t safe word, why didn’t she?
If she couldn’t safe word because she was frozen and unresponsive, then why didn’t Bob or Sally end the scene before she entered that state?
Did Bob know that Sally has a tendency of freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
What exactly do we know and why aren’t we then brutally honest with what we don’t know?

(The above list of questions are only good if everyone is blatantly honest and forthcoming with the information they’re providing. Folks that deceive their way to the “truth” – are an entirely different matter and it’s pointless attempting to get information out of them.)

I’m not blaming Sally, nor am I blaming Bob either.

“Why aren’t you blaming Bob?”

Because we lack context. We lack information. We lack perspective that can objectively review things.  We don’t know what transpired between Bob and Sally beforehand, during and after.  We don’t know what steps Sally took to protect herself nor do we know how much Bob communicated exactly what he was going to do.

“But Sally fully negotiated out what was to happen.”

I doubt it very seriously she followed the line of questioning up above.

We don’t know how clearly things were conveyed or not. We don’t know if it was a misinterpretation or a deliberate plot to cross any line that Sally puts up.  We don’t know if Bob just took advantage of the situation or if he believed he had the right to do things because of what he interpreted from Sally.  We don’t know a lot of information – and we haven’t even begun to look at the scene yet.

We don’t know if she safe worded.  We don’t know if Sally was triggered nor do we know if Bob knew about the triggers in advance.  We don’t know if she went into subspace or subdrop or what her capacity was like during the scene.  We don’t know what was conveyed during the scene or what transpired after the scene.  We don’t know what the agreed upon expectation for the scene was going to be.  Was she going to get floaty?  Was that the agreed plan and idea?  Did they walk through every step of floaty and aftercare?  We can all go blame Bob for what he’s being accused of, but as you can see much investigation still needs to be done.  Instead of instinctively picking up our pitchforks, torches and shovels we need some patience to understand what happened.

This isn’t to say that Bob did bad things, he very well could’ve and did.  It’s also equally important to look at what Sally did too.

“Aha!  Here he’s finally blaming the victim.”  No.  I’m not.

At the core of our scenes and dynamics, they are generally fostered in two (or more) folks seeking something from one another.  There’s consent, a shared responsibility, a shared level of “hey, things are going to be done to you.”  “Ok, I want things done to me.”   There’s also a shared responsibility to make sure that there’s an understanding of what’s to be expected.  If it’s going to be a no-sex scene, then changing it mid-stream is a PRETTY BIG F***** DEAL.  D-types that brush that off as something minimal truly doesn’t understand what kind of game changer something like that can be.  Conversely, if an s-type teasingly says she wants to be fucked while she’s already spacing out in their own little universe – then d-types might take that to be an invitation or a game changing deal that they are interpreting. Whether or not the s-type wanted the game changing event to happen, D-types should always stay within the agreed upon terms UNLESS the dynamic has evolved in a way that ALLOWS for those terms to change.

Even when there’s shared responsibility, it doesn’t mean d-type is automatically innocent.  If Sally did everything she could to find out about Bob’s history, she negotiated things to the T, she ensured that there was definite boundaries involved – then she’s done her part.  It’s up to Bob to ensure that he lives up to all the things that was agreed to.

If there’s dangling threads and if Sally didn’t go through all of the things she should’ve when playing with Bob – then that doesn’t excuse what Bob did either.  But it doesn’t mean that Sally’s responsibility in her part shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Not unlike any potentially harmful situations, if we don’t educate ourselves and practice some diligence in our processes we run the risk of a lot of things that could go very badly.  That’s why we have to fill out waivers about implied responsibilities when we sky dive, or take a rock climbing course, or even going to the gym.

We ultimately accept the responsibility of what happens to us.

That’s no different here – except we do enter into an agreement, arrangement, or an understanding of what can, will, potentially could happen in a scene or dynamic.

Yes, Bob needs to do what he can to uphold what is expected of him.
Yes, Sally needs to do what she can to uphold what is expected of her.

It’s entirely possible that Sally herself violated the established consent with Bob.

GULPS – WHAT THE FUCK?

If an s-type was physically, mentally and emotionally able to articulate a line or limit and they do not … then the s-type has violated consent in that situation.  It’s not “mental” to hold s-types responsible for being able to be as communicative as they can be.

To clarify: an s-type who can’t articulate a line or limit because they are experiencing mental trauma in the form of a trigger or landmine is not included in that statement.  One cannot expect an s-type to effectively communicate when their emotional and mental state are chaotically attacking everything internally.

However.

Responsible s-types will articulate their triggers and landmines well in advance so that they can be best avoided.  D-types are not mind readers. Some of us can’t read a book much less read someone’s body language.  The best way to avoid a potentially traumatic scene is to communicate everything out in the open so that things can be steered around or avoided.  s-types that don’t seek to inform d-types of the lines, limits and triggers have failed in providing a consensual situation from forming because they have held back critical information from the onset.

“Wait, so can an s-type change their mind in the middle of a scene if they need the D-type to change things up?  Or do they just have to suffer through it because ‘that’s what was agreed upon?'”

Yes.  Situations change all the time – even within the confines of a scene.  Parties should negotiate and more importantly, have the ability to rationally process and negotiate so as to avoid the “in the heat of the moment” mistakes that can happen.  If a s-type promises sex and later says they don’t want to, then the D-type has to respect that change.  Let downs happen bub – sorry.

The important thing is to find the best way to communicate all sides before, during and after the situation.  It’s not just a matter of “red, yellow, green, purple alligator, or brussel sprouts” as your safeword.  It’s about being completely open and honest through every step of the process.  It’s about establishing and maintaining that respect through every part of the situation.  If communication isn’t happening, then there’s going to be a whole lot of problems.

Communication problems are not a D-only issue.  s-types are also very good at miscommunicating or confusing things because it’s not completely clear when things are going on.  All sides need to stop and ensure that everyone knows what’s to be expected and where the comfort level lies.

“Gee, that’s a lot of stuff to do if I just want my ass flogged.”

Yes.  That’s true.  But what’s the alternative?  Having traps and triggers sprung up because all this negotiation work is seriously affecting your hard on or insatiable need to orgasm? If you’re not willing to stave off your loin lust for 30 minutes so that you can talk to Bob about the flogging scene, then I question the sanity of the situation.

What is completely lost in the entire abuse debate is that the d and s form a close mutualistic dynamic – whether it’s just for a scene or longer.  They both seek something from the other.  Hence they ultimately share in the responsibility before, during and after.

Both Bob and Sally could’ve used some outreach, education, communication and respect before they started talking about meeting up at the Motel 6 for a beat and greet.  They both get red marks for not getting to know each other when they should’ve.  They should’ve been more communicative. However, If Bob is a serial perpetrator then there should be consequences for him.  Society, not just our lifestyle, can do away with the likes of the serial abusers … but in your average situation where things can and likely can become miscommunicated, misinterpreted or misunderstood – the “blame” is mitigated and distributed accordingly.  There has to be a willingness to share the responsibility in most cases.

While I openly admit that there are predators out there – the reality is that the real world is full of them.  If there’s the perception that the lifestyle can somehow protect and guard against such horrific conduct …  then I do have some swamp land for you to see that guarantees gold.  Predators are going to find their way wherever they can.  No amount of policing or pitch-forking is going to stop that.  The best what we can do to counter that is to educate, improving our outreach and be there for those that find themselves in such situations.

As community, we need to apply some patience when fact gathering so that we don’t admonish someone out of the gates when there was a misunderstanding.  Sally’s plight is very serious and needs to be heard.  Bob is going to have some explaining to do, but both entered into a situation where outside the line behavior did not happen.  How things got awry becomes a two-person operation unless it can be well established that Bob is a serial abuser and bad person.  Before that conclusion can be reached, we all need to exercise a bit of patience and absorb the factual components of what’s known about the situation before making the leap across the dangerous abyss.

We need to accept the reality that misinterpretations can happen just as much as we have to accept the reality that there will be those that push past lines and limits to achieve whatever they wanted.

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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


Consensual Issues (part 2): The Problem is in the Definition

It’s amazing how so much of what we do in the lifestyle turns on a single word:

CONSENT

It seems simple.

I consent to a surgical procedure.
I consent to you preparing a meal as I selected from the menu.
I consent to kiss you.
I consent to giving you a hug.
I consent to you leaving my ass to be a bloody mess.

Ah, consent.

It’s an extremely powerful, seven-letter word.  In lifestyle terms, it is the most sacred word we use. It establishes an agreement – an understanding – and gives permission for us to move forward in doing something.  It’s the green light and the antithesis to “Red!,” “Stop!” and “Quit using that &#$@% thing, dammit!”

Consent is at the heart of the things we do to one another.

In the outside world, we keep assuring the vanillas that, because there’s consent, there’s nothing else to worry about.  “I know what I’m doing; it’s okay.”  Even if it seems to them that we’re completely insane for doing something, if we’re consenting to it, it’s okay.  We sometimes compare ourselves to the likes of those that partake in extreme sports (e.g., skydiving, climbing tall buildings or radio towers, motorcycle jumping and other daredevil antics).  “We are doing the same thing. We know what we’re getting into, therefore, my vanilla worriers, it’s okay.  I know what I’m doing.  I’m a trained professional.”  🙂

Definition problems:  I’m not a boxing or ultimate fighter championship fan.  I don’t see how the goal of beating your opponent into submission (or death) is an adequate sport, and this would be why I wouldn’t last very long in a gladiator ring.  The opponents agree to, and consent to, engage each other to the brink of brutality.  No problem, right?  As long as boxer A and boxer B consent, we should get our rumble on and let them duke it out, right?

That’s when some folks start to question the sanity of the decision to consent.  That’s where folks start questioning whether or not we’re capable of deciding – if we’re sane enough to consent.  It goes back to “no self-respecting person would allow themselves to be beaten by another.”  Yet, here we are – here the community is.  That’s also usually when they start commenting how “crazy” that is and quickly pigeon-holing us into the “special needs” folder.

That’s the problem with consent: others are trying to make the determination for us.

Folks tend to invoke their own thoughts and prejudices, without considering that it is not their place to judge, scorn, or shun.  If folks say they consent, then we need to take them at their word that they rationally arrived at that decision, even if we have severe misgivings, suspicions, or hunches to the contrary.  In another words:

It’s not their place.
It’s our decision.
It’s our consent.

Normally, once consent is agreed upon and the scene played out, there are no issues.  Folks consenting to an established parameter of things, who then play within that established sandbox, reach its conclusion amicably.

But the predators and dangerous folks out there use the lifestyle’s consent paradigm against us.  They use consent like toilet paper – before discarding and flushing it away.  They misuse consent, disrespect it, and ultimately damage those around them, who come away wounded, hurt, and otherwise scarred.  That’s the origin for the the discussions happening out there.

Folks who habitually violate consent, whether in the lifestyle or not, have no place in society.  It’s really straight forward.  Either they get help and see why they did what they did or they face the ramifications for not owning up to it.  If someone repeatedly violates the consent derived between two people, it becomes a non-consensual situation.  Period.

Know what you’re consenting to:  If we went into a restaurant and ordered steak, we would be pretty upset if what we got was a veggie omelet.

“But I ordered steak?”

“I know, but veggie omelet was also on the menu and that’s what the cook decided to make you.”

We would leave in a huff and probably wouldn’t be back.

If that happened in a scene, it would be pretty easy to see that what was anticipated to occur, didn’t happen at all.  “All I wanted was a flogging; I didn’t expect to hug, kiss, and cuddle afterwards!”

Here enters the problem with consensual negotiations:  Know what you’re consenting to.

How does the d-type you’re considering having a scene with, handle their menu selection of things to do?  Are they going to expect you to endure a veggie omelet or are they going to give you what was consented to?  If you can’t answer either question, then you’re going into that situation knowingly blind.  You’re risking that things might fall outside the parameters that were negotiated.

Don’t assume:  One thing that drives me crazy at restaurants is when the server automatically assumes that I want lemon in my water.  Even if everyone else around me orders lemon and I say no, there are times the assumption (i.e., mistake) is made that I, too, wanted lemon.

It may seem like a small and trivial bit, but it’s also the exact same reason why some folks believe that it’s perfectly okay for “touchy-feely, huggy groping and kisses on the cheek” are acceptable.  Ask before doing that.  Get the other person’s consent and don’t assume  that just because you got permission to spank, flog, or whatever, that it’s opening the door for other things to happen.  Going back to the restaurant analogy:  just because you ordered the steak doesn’t automatically mean you wanted the appetizer, dessert, and happy hour drinks added to your bill without your authorization or consent.

Ask, don’t assume.

Consensual expiration dates:  Believe it or not, consent can expire.  Just because we had a great time doing that intense scene last month does not automatically mean I have received permission, or consent, today to do anything.  Look above:  don’t assume; ask before doing anything.  We are organic folks that change constantly.  How we react to a hug, spank, or grope may also change.  What conduct was okay before, may not be okay today or tomorrow.

Consensual relationships: If you partake in a relationship which may involve an ongoing dynamic, your consent is going to be radically different.  Yes, you’re going to agree on stuff “happening,” but, how the parties arrange it and forge it from the smelter, ultimately determines the scope of what happens, when, and how.  It’s much more complicated, as we tend to think of consensual relationships as being the sandbox of doing whatever we want.

It’s complicated because it’s not scene-dependent.
It’s ongoing.
It’s evolving.

Your relationship might just be that menu selection or your relationship can be any shade therein.  There’s no right way or wrong way for relationships except whatever works best in your situation and/or dynamic.

To summarize the core principles of consent:

* It always begins between two or more people
* It is negotiated
* It is discussed
* It defines the things we do
* It can be finite
* It can expire
* It should be absolute
* It is not an automatic hug, kiss, grope, fondle or touch card
* It can be revoked
* It must be respected
* It mustn’t be assumed
* It is at the core of how most of us define the thing we do
* Is mutual
* Is not a one-way street
* It can be scary
* It can be freeing
* It can be damaging
* It could be “awesome! Out of this world!”
* It could go down in smoldering flames of defeat

Consent is not abuse when the parties involved maintain their conduct within the parameters that they agreed to.  When either side (yes, either side) violates the conditions they agreed to.  Consent has been violated  (More on this in later chapters.)

Consensual non-consent: The other raging debate is the concept of CNC or  affectionately (sarcasm) referred to as: “the acceptance of abuse or abusive relationships because the d-type has taken the s-type’s right to say “no.”

That just sounds harsh.

Reality:  consensual non-consent starts with consent.  It’s the agreement to come into the restaurant and watch the doors lock behind you.  It’s the agreement that you’re going to accept anything, everything, and nothing that happens to you after the doors slam shut.  It’s the agreement that such an arrangement was sought out and rationally arrived at.  It’s the agreement that you choose to be there.

Consensual non-consent is not for everyone.
Consensual non-consent can be freeing.
Consensual non-consent can be horrifying.
Consensual non-consent can be empowering.
Consensual non-consent is not founded on the principles of abuse.
Consensual non-consent does not dismiss responsibilities from the parties involved.
Consensual non-consent can remove choices from the menu selection.
Consensual non-consent can activate internal triggers and other landmines.
Consensual non-consent should not be looked upon as something one aspires to become.
Consensual non-consent does not come with guarantees, waivers, or warranties.  Consensual non-consent is largely linked to those that believe in the concept of a surrendering dynamic. 
While consensual non-consent can be a horrifying prospect to most anyone, there’s also a foundation of trust and respect that is always there .(At least, that’s how it works for us.)  I’m not about to ink out a blueprint for everyone to follow, because I don’t have any idea how something like that would work in YOUR situation, YOUR scene, or YOUR dynamic. 
Also, there’s nothing that says trust or respect must be a component for a consensual non-consensual dynamic to work – there are some CNC dynamics where it was agreed from the onset of the conditions that were going to happen.  Parties agree and the dynamic was filled out without trust or respect.  It may not be the cup of tea I want, but it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with CNC with the absent trust and respect … it just means that in those dynamics, it works by not having those components installed.
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

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