It’s annoying enough when non-kinky people try to pretend power dynamics don’t exist (sticking your fingers in your ears and hollering ‘I don’t see colour’ does not stop Black people from getting arrested/beaten up/murdered, and acting like it will just makes you look like an idiot), but it’s so much more aggravating when kinky people, who are supposedly all about power dynamics try to pretend there is no difference between an older, male, famous photographer and a very young, female, unknown model.
For those who don’t do Fetlife, the gist of that link is that a 19 female model arranged a photo shoot with a very well known fetish photographer (who of course she can’t name publicly thanks to Fetlife’s terms of service and (I’m assuming) a rational interest in avoiding being accused of trying to stir up drama), who then flipped his shit when she tried to bring a friend to keep an eye on her.
The really irritating part for me is that Mr Big Shot photographer and a number of the commentors on that writing all acted like the photographer was at just as much risk as the model and therefore it was completely unreasonable for her to have a spotter but not him (she decided to bring a spotter at the last minute and he didn’t have time to arrange one of his own). Honestly, it’s like they’ve spent their entire lives in a cave on Mars.
First of all, we live in a misogynistic society. This should not be any sort of news if you have ever read a book, watched a tv show, browsed the internet, or gone outside. Thanks to the misogyny we’re all steeped in it would be terrifyingly easy for even an unknown male photographer to dismiss a female model’s claims of inappropriate behaviour by saying it was a misunderstanding, she’s just overreacting/too sensitive/not cut out to be a model/unprofessional/has some mysterious grudge. On the other hand, if he were to accuse her or her spotter of stealing his equipment, he would most likely be believed without question.
We also live in a rape culture. If a male photographer sexually assaulted a female model, many people would fall all over themselves to blame her for her own assault. She certainly wouldn’t be able to go to the police if she were the kind of dirty slut who would would let a stranger tie her up and take pictures of her. If she doesn’t bring three bodyguards, perform an in-depth background check, and interview every model who has ever worked with that photographer, it must be her own fault if he decides to assault her. But if she wants to bring a friend she’s overreacting and as good as taking out full page ads accusing the photographer of being a rapist.
We’re also bad at dealing with the idea that people are not simply all good, or all bad. A brilliant photographer who creates beautiful art can also be an asshole who ignores his model’s boundaries any time he thinks he can get away with it. An activist trying to hold governments accountable for their actions can commit sexual assault. Once someone has done something good, we don’t want to believe they’ve also done anything awful. We don’t want to believe we were such bad judges of character, we don’t want to stop enjoying their art, we don’t want our view of the world to be upended, so we just quietly sweep it under the rug when someone we think is good does something terrible.
Finally, let’s not pretend age doesn’t matter. We all spend our whole childhoods being told to listen to people who are older than we are, but we’re supposed to magically throw all that conditioning off when we hit 19/21/whatever the age of majority is in your country? No, that’s not how people work. It’s hard to tell an authority figure to back the fuck up. That’s exactly why so many predators go after people who are much younger than they are – people their own age won’t take their shit.
So with all those power dynamics in play, where the fuck do you get off saying that both photographer and model are at equal risk? We of all people should understand that power dynamics do exist, that they do put some people at much greater risk than others, and that we need to pay attention to them if we’re going to treat people fairly. Come on everyone, this isn’t fucking rocket science.