Anti-harassment Policies at Kink Events?

You would think that suggesting a local kink organization have an official anti-harassment policy/code of conduct as a friend of mine did would be uncontroversial, but sadly you’d be wrong. What I just don’t understand is how trying to stamp out harassment in the local community could be a bad thing.

Unless I’m wildly deluded, the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen if any kink group implements an official policy and gathers volunteers for their anti-harassment groups is that they would receive no complaints at all and would have wasted a few hours of their time. I realize everyone is busy, but wasting a few hours isn’t exactly going to ruin anyone’s life.

Also, harassment policies really are extremely helpful in persuading people to speak up about problems. Just knowing that a group took the time to put together a policy helps convince people that the organizers actually do care about harassment, have thought about how to prevent it, and have thought about what they would do if someone was harassed at one of their events.

Not having a policy, on the other hand, leaves people wondering whether anyone in charge cares about preventing harassment. New people are stuck thinking that maybe they should accept harassment as the price of being involved in the group, or asking themselves if they should bother reporting it when the organizers might decide it’s easier to sweep it under the rug than to come up with a plan, carry it out, and deal with the inevitable whining from people who think they should be allowed to hassle whoever they want.

When you don’t have a plan to deal with harassment, people quite reasonably assume that your plan is to hope it never comes up. Hoping that it never comes up leads naturally into ignoring and/or minimizing any problems that do come up because that’s much easier than figuring out what to do about harassment when you’re already extremely busy running events/planning future events/having a life with work/hobbies/family/friends.

Having a list of unacceptable behaviors and consequences laid out ahead of time takes a huge portion of that burden off the shoulders of the person dealing with a harassment complaint. They can just refer to the document that everyone has already agreed on instead of trying desperately to make a very important decision under pressure. That list is also extremely useful when it comes to meting out consequences for harassment. Good people have a very hard time simply kicking harassers out of a group, no matter how richly they deserve it. Having an official harassment policy makes it far easier to kick people out if it comes to that. They read the rules, after all. No one held a gun to their head and made them stalk someone all around the party and refuse to take no for an answer.

When it comes to opposition to a kink group implementing an official harassment policy, I can understand worries about how much work it might be to implement one, I can understand worries that people might make malicious and untrue claims of harassment, I can even understand fear of change, but if all you have to say is that anti-harassment policies are dumb and icky, I have to wonder what you’re scared people might tell a harassment committee about you.

That may sound a little like the argument that a person would only be opposed to privacy-invading laws if they have something to hide, but is in fact entirely different. Privacy is a basic human right. Getting to harass people without fear of consequences is not. Wide-spread surveillance, for example, invades everyone’s privacy whether they’ve done something questionable or not. People only get reported for harassment when they do something that looks like harassment. If you’re that worried about someone filing a harassment complaint, YOU are the problem, not the harassment policy. Try not being an asshole and see how that works out for you.

I’ve also heard no small amount of whining along the lines of ‘why can’t we all just act like grownups and handle problems without an official policy?’ You’ll have to tell me, I’m not the one who’s too childish to admit that my preferred method of problem solving isn’t working. I don’t like the fact that we need official harassment policies. It would be awesome if we could all just not be dicks to people. There’s no good reason it should be that hard for people to just not be total assholes. But if ‘just act like a grownup’ worked, no one would be asking for an official policy now would they.

In all the time I’ve spent thinking about harassment policies and kink groups, I’ve only been able to come up with one idea that even vaguely resembles a down side. If you’re extremely attached to the illusion that your local kink group is one big happy pervy family, it would be painful to have that illusion shattered by the introduction of an official policy. However, if your illusion is more important to you than the well-being of the actual people around you, then you can fuck right off.

One thought on “Anti-harassment Policies at Kink Events?

  1. I don’t see anything wrong with one, either. If anything, clear and explicit boundaries of acceptable behavior make it more likely that newbies and the curious will be more comfortable attending munches and play events because they’ll explicitly know what is acceptable and what is not at events as a social rule, instead of having to guess it, and even if and when they don’t know or haven’t articulated what is acceptable behavior for themselves yet.

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