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.)
2016 has not been a fantastic year for me. I’m going to do my best to bounce back — by reviving my projects that brought people joy in 2014 and 2015, and by adding a few new ones that I’ve not yet announced here.
I’ve bounced back from severely discouraging times before, and I’m hopeful now. Please continue to check this space and my public Twitter for more.
(Content warning: vehicular injury, Trump)
On October 26th, my father was non-fatally run over by a car. He was biking home after work when a vehicle made a blind turn, running over both of his legs. Miraculously, he is expected to make a full recovery, including his abilities to walk.
I chose not share this story with social media then, because it was (and remains) deeply personal. However, in light of this recent US election and the distress so many of my followers now feel, I feel it serves a useful parable.
A good Samaritan stood by him the entire time, and may very well have saved his life. Not out of desire for compensation or some other form of greed, but due to human compassion and the desire to do the right thing.
As best as I understand events, the driver, having recognized that any action could cause further harm, kept the car halted until help could arrive. Had they attempted to flee or been scared into moving the car further, my father would have been killed. Instead, they remained calm in the face of potential tragedy, and only moved when my father, still alert and pinned by the hip under the front wheel of the car, directed them to do so.
Had anyone in this situation given into anxiety or fear, my father would not be here with us today. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
Since the incident, my family and I have been closer than ever. We recognized that we had narrowly headed off disaster, and that in our personal darkest time, we all came together for each other. We fought the darkness in our world through calm vigilance, compassionate and decisive action, and through reminding each and every one of us how much we love them.
A scant two weeks later, Donald Trump was named President-Elect of the United States. My entire immediate family voted Hillary, myself included, staving off the awkward division many families now feel for those who voted for the hateful rhetoric of his political platform. Many of my friends are not as lucky.
I feel the same sense of distress from two weeks ago echoed by my friends and family now. But instead of fighting for a single life, we now fight for the unity and well-being of us all.
I do not know how things will play out. But what I do know is this: seeing my friends come together to protect their own has been one of my most heartening experiences. Seeing the people I care about stand up for love instead of hate, and for the right for themselves and loved ones to exist, fills me with hope.
It is this profound sense of unity, compassion, introspection, and determination, that brings us closer together in our darkest of times. It is these human characteristics that keep us together and allow us to deny the darkness within ourselves.
Let this be a year of almost-tragedy, one in which we stood up against the darkness of hatred, division, and oppression, and won. Let this be another historic time, in the long litany of historic times, in which we vehemently stood up to those that would see us destroyed for their own comforts and fears.
And, most important of all, let this be a year in which we come together for those that need us the most.
Other than posting my own art, I’ve been fairly silent the past two months. This was, I think, necessary — after having a public emotional breakdown on Twitter, I backed off and took time to focus on my physical and emotional health.
I think this was the right decision. Especially with politics being inescapable on Twitter right now, backing off to recover sanity and emotional balance is probably the best thing I could do.
Given my usually candid and good-natured humor, which contrasted heavily with my awkward-to-gut-wrenchingly-painful posts prior to my departure, I’ve felt awkward, estranged, and extremely ashamed of how I’ve treated people publicly. I was too candid about raw and emotionally-charged problems in a public forum — which I hadn’t realized was happening. I realized way too late that public Twitter was no longer the analog to private conversations on LiveJournal that it had once been to me, much to my horror when once very good friends of mine (reasonably!) stood up to my behavior. I erred, I hurt and estranged several people I deeply care about unexpectedly, and I am infinitely sorry for having done so.
“But how could you possibly think that,” someone in the back of the room shouts, “you have over a thousand people following you on Twitter. How could you possibly think this is a small audience?”
They have a point. When I approach Twitter and social media, I assume that the vast majority of readership is passive. While my profile lists 1,329 people (at this writing), only about 15-20 people comment or acknowledge what I write regularly. This causes me to substantially undervalue passive readership, which over time, caused me to be as candid as I would with close friends. Candor which, lacking the benefit of context, can be awkward or even dangerous to other people.
And so, when I tried using my public Twitter to discuss difficult social problems in my life, shit hit the proverbial fan. Ohhhh. Awkward.
Regardless of the content of my message, I screwed up. I brought drama unwittingly to over a thousand people when it’s not my normal modus operandi. And I legitimately had no idea until way too late. This post cannot contain enough instances of “sorry” for how I feel about that.
“Hang on,” the same person shouts from the back of the room. “You’re telling us you have over a thousand followers and a multi-year Twitter and forum history, and you don’t understand how drama works?” As hard as that is to swallow — yes. I am practiced at avoiding and diffusing drama, because that’s my nature. I try to be careful, methodical, insightful, and productive — even in the face of extreme abuse and antipathy. Forum trolls suck, yo.
But the flipside is I have absolutely zero experience at handling situations when drama is unavoidable. This usually leaves me hiding under my pillow fortress of choice, cowering in fear, rocking back and forth trying to convince myself that things will be okay. Give me a cell phone at the wrong time during that process, and…
“So what you’re saying is you have this stoic and calming public image, and you had an emotional tirade on Twitter?”
“And that caused people to lose trust in you?”
“Dude, we all have those. It’s okay.”
Even so, I’m still very sorry that I hurt people. I’d really like to reach out to people and reconnect, but I’ve been feeling scared to do so for months due to feeling extremely awkward and scared that people will keep bringing this up. Shutting myself in and isolating myself from people I care about for that long has been one of the emotionally hardest things I’ve ever done to myself.
Help me help you. If you’d like to reconnect, drop me a line? The usual channels, including Twitter, work. If you have no other way to reach me, send a quick email to goldkin.drake at that Gmail thingy, and I’ll get you set up.
And again: sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry (ow, said it too much). If you choose to reach out, do be gentle and patient with me. Even after months of self-care and therapy, I’m still emotionally raw, and I’ll freely admit that I’m still not back at 100%. But, I’m trying my very best.
During three wee hours of the morning, I set up OpenVPN at home. This would have been simpler had I actually been at home.
Instead, I did this from two states away: a digital moon shot in which I remotely reconfigured my home server, router, and modem to create a new connection. While mundane by sysadmin standards (I do this all the time for work), the fact I did this entirely from a Chromebook and a Linux box at home is an accessible tale of late night ninjitsu that made me feel quite clever.
My kit for this setup:
- One SSH connection, previously set up on a box at home
- One Chromebook
- One iPhone with wireless tether
The recipe was something like this:
- Use ChromeOS’ Secure Shell plugin to connect remotely to my box at home.
- Set up a SOCKS proxy, which is now supported by the SSH plugin.
- Remotely touch my router’s and modem’s web interfaces to punch a new forwarding port.
- Set up OpenVPN server and its PKI on my home box.
- Set up OpenVPN Connect on my phone.
- Gmail myself my client configuration and certs (!), because this is one of the few ways OpenVPN Connect can configure itself.
- Fail to connect a dozen times because OpenVPN server has a zillion bugs in its certificate parser.
- Curse loudly.
- Enable OpenVPN server logging.
- Fix my client certificates to not break the parser (eg, specify an actual email address instead of “Rawr”).
- Send my key again.
- Bounce the server.
- Connect my shiny new OpenVPN client to my home server.
- Get the [VPN] indicator on my iPhone.
- Cheer loudly, because it finally fscking works.
Any of these steps could have failed, ending my run. This would have been bad, because most VPN service providers are dangerously terrible: I much prefer a connection with Comcast to any of the free VPN startups that do unspecified things with customer data. When any of these connections is “free”, chances are you are the product being sold.
It is incredible that we live in a world in which these shenanigans are not just possible, but commonplace. I’m especially pleased this worked, because it means I can connect to wifi at a convention I’ll be visiting without compromising my security.
Never doubt the tenacity of a network engineer with SSH and a singular need. We will surprise you, and I find that glorious.
I’ve often said that the reason I don’t engage in politics on my personal blogs is I intend to create a safe space for my readers. This is true. However, it doesn’t cover my motivations especially well.
I’ve been thinking about how to explain this better lately. I wanted to further describe how I use my personal spaces, including why I try to make my art and writing a relaxing place for all of you.
I was once a very engaged activist on a few topics that greatly interested me. I discovered during this activism phase that voicing strong opinions and loud opposition were counterproductive to my life’s goals. Specifically, it created a tone of dissatisfaction and general negativity in both myself and my audience that fed upon itself, creating an echo chamber that made me feel increasingly miserable.
I’ve noticed this about many communities on social media, especially certain technical communities and militant blogs. While many of them make good points and channel this negativity to productive ends, their methods of presentation — often damning, insulting, or deeply shaming — leave the reader with an overwhelming sense of despair.
Instead of engaging in the negative feedback loops these create, I’ve decided to make my audience feel good about themselves through what I share and post here. This creates a positive feedback loop that leaves me with emotional energy to explore and read from a distance, and provides a much needed beacon of positivity amidst the frustration and anger.
My life isn’t perfect, and I have many of my own problems. But these are matters I prefer to keep personal or to a very small set of people, instead of reflecting them back at all of you. I have the luxury of being able to live quietly in this way, and I try to use it to the very best of my abilities.
In short: my voice to you is one that I try to keep positive. I like to think that it helps people emotionally recover and get that much further through their day, or to crack a smile when it’s most needed. This is what I enjoy, not because I’m trying to extract anything out of goodwill, but because it makes me feel good too.
March Patreon image for @tyshadragon! With lots of bonus chatter about the state of my art behind the link.
Progress video: http://colorslive.com/details/2762032
Even though Patreon didn’t process her payment this month, I opted to draw this anyway. After all, I try to be consistent!
To those wondering what’s become of my daily art posts: don’t worry. These past three months, I’ve been going through a period of soul searching on where I want to take this art.
I’ve found that when it comes to illustration, I prefer simple, expressive cartoon doodles. I actually leave the more detailed and realistic works to what I do with 3D, since I can defer the mechanics of lighting, articulation, and animation to tools like Sculptris and Blender. This also works better with how my mind understands art, because I have a very good knack for spatial awareness in 3D that works best with long periods of focused attention.
As to where I want to go with my illustrations: this past year, I’ve been developing my abilities to understand and develop characters quickly. My core direction — developing avatars and illustrations for others, to help them better realize the forms they wish to be — hasn’t changed. And over the next few years, I hope to focus this back into developing virtual avatars for people to help them express themselves better, targeting all of this new VR technology built in the wake of the Oculus Rift.
The reason this has been and remains an interest for me is simple: I am a vain. Specifically, I am one of those animal people on the Internet to whom self-actualization means having a form other than human. I am very compelled by the idea of having this form in virtual spaces — for example, I nearly cried when I donned the Oculus for a brief flight last year — and being able to use my skills to bring this experience to more people is something I really want to do with my life.
I’ve wanted to make this my full time career since just before college, but I haven’t been able to yet. Indeed, I still actively work as a software engineer for a Megacorp™ to pay the bills. But if the opportunity begins to present itself as this technology becomes more mature, I will very seriously consider making it my primary focus.
How do all of these doodles factor in? In addition to being incredibly fun and very good for my mental health — as each of these illustrations leaves me feeling incredibly happy! — I want to be able to mock out larger works quickly before I commit them to 3D or other forms of digitization. This means that form, pose, and character are all things I am actively building skill in as I doodle for an hour most evenings. And I’ve only just now realized that this is where I want to take things from here.
The result of this is: I intend to keep taking requests from people, but I’m going to be keeping them simple. Specifically, I want to continue to refine my abilities to work and draw quickly.
So, that is where I will be taking things. I have a few specific ideas in mind that I’ll want to share on their own, once I’ve had a bit more time to mock them up.