Just in case I was feeling overly confident about where I stand in the BDSM "community", I found myself on the receiving end of event expulsion thanks to an ex of mine. It's a pretty common story- you break up and your spaces are divided amongst each other, except we never had a conversation about it and didn't agree to terms. I spent some time ensuring that I was avoiding our mutual spaces, and even tried reaching out to her on multiple occasions only to get the cold shoulder. A year and a half later, and I guess I thought we could be civil. As I was informed I was no longer welcome because some people (certainly informed by her, as none of them spoke to me about it) now felt "uncomfortable", I guess I have my answer- that rather than be adults, it's easier to see who has enforceable power and more social currency.
All that's shitty, for sure, but what really irritated me was the attempts to avoid informing me of this until the last minute and then silence my anger at this decision. I was of course rather frustrated as I had been attempting to find out what I needed to know in order to be a good performer for almost a year, and a week before the event I'm told I'm not longer needed after *I* contacted *them* for information? It seems pretty shady to me. When I expressed my annoyance that my ex could throw her weight around in this fashion, I was told that my anger proved people right that I was difficult to work with. That if I wanted to be involved in the future and not hurt the event I should keep my mouth shut.
This is indicative of the same issues I lecture about all over the US and UK, though, and therefore is not something I'll stay quiet about. The way community members (and worse, their leaders) tend to prefer issues be brushed under the carpet and hushed up rather than dealing with them with transparency, honesty and accountability is incredibly concerning. Even more concerning is the attempt to wave acceptability as a carrot- "if you don't make a fuss, maybe you can be involved next time" rather than "we will instigate and mediate a discussion about this".
I'm not altogether surprised, mind. The construct of "community" is one I question a lot being placed on BDSM groupings, because I don't believe we are one simply because we like the same toys. To me, community indicates some agreements to a standard of behaviour, and accountability/responsibility to each other for following that code of conduct. If those things are not in place, actively and, again, transparently, I question how much of a community it is.
Granted, I not only question the use of the word "community", I also question our leadership- who becomes a leader and why. I find over and over again that it's the (often self appointed) "community leaders" who I get the most reports about when it comes to overstepping boundaries. It's the "popular kids" who seemingly feel entitled to be abusive, and are often saved from consequences by the merit of their popularity.
Mollena Williams discusses this really well in her blog post "On Blind Trust & Gut Instinct":
People rise to prominence. Via effort. Via time, via rude persistence. Via duplicity, lies, deceit, bullshit, fuckery and the laziness and sycophancy of those around them. Via honesty and transparency and love for their “community.” And those around them take the passive word of those who have gone before as testament to their honesty, their viability, their worthiness.
And that’s a problem.
I have seen, over the years, people take “reputation” and “community standing” as carte blanche to entrust themselves into the hands of those who are not worthy of trust.
I have questioned friends who work with those who have questionable histories, who have shadowy pasts, who have seen others stand up to say “That person violated me and my trust.” and had those friends shrug and say “Well, it isn’t my job to police the community.”
I have seen people endorse, by word and deed, people they KNOW to have problematic histories and shrug it off with “Well, I have never had a problem with them, so it isn’t my problem.”
I have seen people who are “leaders” in the community duped, swindled, ripped-off by people who, after the shallowest of digging, were revealed to be liars and thieves.
I have been sexually harassed and treated dismissively by men entrusted with instructing people about BDSM.
I’ve watched people who are bullies and liars intimidate and swindle their way into positions of (relative) power and trust, and surround themselves with the weak-minded who thoughtlessly protect and bleat the chant they’ve been taught in order to support those unworthy of their trust.
I have had handshake promises breached by people who will then turn around and evoke “Leather Values” and “community pride.”
I have been lied to by people who smile in my face and in the same breath trash talk and belittle me to others.
I have had people to whom I appealed for help in taking a public stand against injustices instead opt to remain silent against racism, against rape, against consent violations.
And ALL of these examples involve The People You…We…embrace as “Leaders.”
I mean, that's it exactly. That's a huge part of the problem. And because we lack any policing body (I don't even know if I'd recommend we have one, mind, I'm just saying we don't) there's no one to go to for registering a grievance or to make people aware of a bad situation. All we have are whispers and rumours, which just add to the victim blaming, silencing, and general ineffectiveness when it comes to dealing with abusive behaviour and the repercussions of such. And whispers don't really add to a culture of transparency.
Unfortunately, this experience feels in many ways like the final straw for me with the SF BDSM "community". Ironic as I'm about to go for an entire kinky weekend with them for Dark Odyssey: Surrender! It's just been made very clear that the more someone says they hate "drama", the more they like stirring shit up so they can dismiss other people's feelings with that term. I don't need a community like that... after all, I've moved on from high school.