Month: March 2017

Of Kink Culture and Consent

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Content warning: discussion of abuse in online and kink communities

Lately, the shift in online discourse on Twitter, due primarily to goings-on in America, has made it much easier to talk about and share cautionary stories of abuse. While these goings-on in Washington D.C. remain and continue to be abjectly horrible, a side effect of this is lots, and lots, and lots of very useful resources that have been published about how to identify, mitigate, and dismantle the mechanics of abuse, particularly by those that hold power.

One such article was recently shared by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux about abuse in the BDSM and poly communities. While this post is by no means political, it resounds with my own experiences — primarily in kink and kink-adjacent communities in the furry fandom over the past 10 years. Having been party to or adjacent to my own share of fallings-out in these communities, when I see a post like this one cross my feed about abuse in the TF (transformation roleplay) community, it feels all too familiar.

The very concept of entitlement to another person, as Franklin puts it, seems incredibly strange when put in black and white. And yet, this is exactly what happens. It can be seen in toxic male culture, in toxic political culture, and in many many many retellings of abusive relationships. And, when this entitlement meets kink or kink-adjacent communities, especially ones with implied or undefined models of consent, it’s a recipe for major consent violations and abuse that follows, both online and off.

Let’s talk about Rainfurrest for a moment.

Rainfurrest was, and possibly historically remains, one of the most open furry conventions to kink communities. This was, to many, one of its greatest strengths. From the perspective of inclusiveness, of these communities and many, many others, RF was fantastic.

However, RF paired this inclusiveness with not paying attention to abuse within its communities. Without direction, this vacuum was slowly filled by increasingly destructive and entitled individuals year over year — not just destructive towards other con goers, but also to the physical property of the convention space. This lack of enforcement against openly destructive behavior ultimately helped shutter the convention.

I’ve seen this pattern in other communities, both in reinterpreting why they failed to identify and adequately handle abuse, and in why these communities ultimately split based on willingness to tolerate entitlement. Each story has eerie similarity in how a pattern of consent violations belies entitlement by individuals. groups, or even entire communities, and how this contributes to abuse that follows.

This post is not meant to resolve or air grievances about particular communities. Rather, I will stop here and say to survivors and to those experiencing this daily: this situation is common. You are not alone if you have experienced the gaslighting and bystander effect of a community built on a sense of entitlement, especially if you are a woman and/or part of the LGBTQIPA+ or kink communities.

Here’s a summary of links interwoven into the document above that might be helpful in identifying, understanding, and making a safe exit from communities that grow too toxic. I wish I’d had many of these articles years ago:

  • Understanding and handling abuse (1, 2)
  • Definitions (gaslighting, bystander effect)
  • Supporting articles, sexism (1, 2)
  • Supporting articles, politics (1)
  • Supporting articles, kink and kink adjacent (1, 2, 3)

With unending gratitude to the many, many people whom have shared these articles over the past several months. Thank you for continuing to be awesome.

(My thoughts on what to actually do about this, in re, how to build communities that are resilient to these issues, are not yet defined. Hopefully, these articles also provide some insights towards that end.)