At this point, it shouldn’t be any sort of surprise that the kink scene has a serious problem with abuse. Sometimes I really understand why maymay is so enraged by the clusterfuck that is the organized scene that he wants to burn it down.
As fucked up as the scene is, though, I don’t think there’s much point in burning it down. People are always going to want to gather together with other people who share their interests, they’re always going to end up organizing those gatherings once they get big enough, and they’re always going to have to deal with a certain amount of politics and asshattery. I believe if every kink organization shut its doors today, all that would happen is tomorrow people would start building new organizations and run into much the same problems the old ones already have.
What I would like to see is new organizations started and existing ones infiltrated and taken over by people who have a vision of a scene that’s safe for everyone and a plan to work toward it. What I’m curious about is what that ideal kink scene would look like.
For starters, my ideal scene would not be solely white, middle-class, and able-bodied. As a white woman I have no business issuing pronouncements about how make people of colour feel welcome, but I can certainly say that it’s ridiculous to assume that only white people are kinky. The middle-class bias of the scene is at least theoretically easier to fix – we need events that are free or barterable, events at different times of day so that people who don’t work 9-5 Monday – Friday can come, and classes that are relevant to people who can’t drop $100 dollars on a flogger. Oh, and while we’re talking about an ideal world, free or very cheap childcare and help with transportation would be great too. My city has pretty decent public transportation, but if you live in the wrong place you’re going to have a hell of a time getting to any events. Finally, the ideal scene would not have every bloody event up a flight of stairs! I know it’s tough to find venues that will accept kinky people at all, but either we care about our events being accessible or we don’t.
Also, my ideal scene would welcome everyone equally, not greet young, attractive, submissive women with open claws and submissive men with utter disdain. Instead of this bullshit about how doms and subs are ‘supposed’ to act, everyone would treat each other strictly as equals outside of any power dynamics they’ve specifically negotiated. Anyone who so much as implied that doms are due any special deference or that submissive people should know their place would be laughed out of the room.
Along with that, any art used to decorate kinky events would not focus on submissive women! In a perfect world, we’d be able to handle the bizarre and apparently terrifying idea that there are straight women in the scene who might enjoy looking at pictures of men.
Speaking of kinky events, in my ideal scene women would feel just as comfortable coming to a party in basic black as men do. Fuck the idea that women owe the scene (and the world) a sexy display for daring to take up space. There wouldn’t be any pressure to play in public, either. People who’ve never played at a party would be taken just a seriously as people who play in public every chance they get.
And finally, the big one. The ideal scene would be free of systemic abuse. I know that a certain number of assholes are always going to find their way into the scene, but an ideal scene would root them out quickly and actually support their victims. This, I’m sad to say, is the hardest one for me to envision. Between the idea that the scene is the only place to meet other kinky people, our natural attachment to social status and fear of rocking the boat, and our whole society’s massively fucked up ideas about abuse, a scene that doesn’t tolerate abuse is tough to even imagine.
But to take a stab at it, I think a safe scene would take everyone’s stories seriously. Even if it’s uncomfortable, even if the accused is a friend, we would listen when someone says that they didn’t feel good about what happened. We would have official anti-harassment policies to take away the excuse that ‘I didn’t know’ and to show people that abuse is taken seriously. We would strictly enforce respect for social consent at absolutely all of our events, no matter how casual. By social consent I mean that it should not be necessary to tell a person “No” more than once, whether that no is “No, I don’t want to do a take-down scene with you” or “No, I don’t want to sit beside you.”
Once we hear about anyone’s boundaries being disrespected, we would fucking well act on it. No, I’m not saying we should go on a witch hunt every time we hear about a scene not going perfectly, but when we do hear about something, we react appropriately. If that’s just a jerk who had to be told no twice before he respected it, we have a talk with him about how he can push people’s boundaries or he can continue to be welcome in the scene, but not both. If that’s a case of rape or assault, we ban the abuser until they turn themselves in to the police, do their time, confess fully to everything they’ve done wrong, and show a thorough understanding of why it was wrong. Even then, we would only tolerate the presence of a thoroughly reformed abuser if their victim/s were completely comfortable with them being back in the scene.
While I do think it’s important for people who fuck up to be able to redeem themselves, that redemption can never be more important than the people who have been hurt. We should never let geek social fallacies be more important than the well being of people in the scene, either. Even if someone hasn’t actually touched anyone inappropriately or pressured them to play, we really do need to exclude people for being assholes. Like Naamah said in a comment:
Why the FUCK should I feel safe in a group that allows people like that to remain?!
Whether it’s sexism, racism, ableism, or just general douchebaggery, by letting assholes roam freely we’re telling people that they should not feel safe here. Fuck that noise.
What about you, readers? What would your ideal scene look like?