Safe/Ward: Boston notes

So while I was ramping up to visit my parents and boy in Massachusetts, I got an email from a member of the Boston kink community, asking me to please come and do the Safe/Ward workshop. They were really struggling with figuring out how they could promote consent culture and squash entitlement culture within their munches and parties.

How could I not?

I ended up feeling invigorated and inspired after workshopping with Boston. People were very actively involved in making their community a better, safer place, and no one sat there scared that giving survivors a voice would lead to "drama". If anything, I left Boston disappointed in the Bay Area, where "community leaders" are mostly (seemingly) uninterested in engaging Maggie and I on these topics, where people keep quiet because some of the worst predators are community pillars, and toppling them may mean social death.

I'm posting their notes from their Fetlife group, Boston Consent Working Group, with permission, because I think they're interesting and give insight. I hope other Safe/ward events pop up- and yes, our outline and resource list are available to anyone wishing to run one locally, and we're available to teach it!

Without further ado...

Why are we here?
• To lead our communities well
• Because we have had bad experiences
• Because it’s hard to say no
• Everyone should talk about consent
• Education
• To find out what can be done when something bad happens

What is abuse, assault, coercion?
• Things done without consent
• Bad intention
• Harms self/relationship
• Acts which put the fear of harm in another
• Taking advantage
• Verbal, physical
• Implying a negative outcome
• Involuntary sexual relations
• Changing limits mid-scene
• Playing to try to get the safeword
• Ignoring safeword/limits
• Isolation
• Humiliation
• Discouraging safewords
• Trivial demands

Many of these things (ex. Fear of harm, humiliation, trivial demands) are parts of scenes, or can be played with CONSENSUALLY in scenes, so it can be hard to tell the difference in BDSM scenes/relationships

What’s the difference? CONSENT!
• Talk beforehand – negotiation – even if an established partner
• Double check consent even when it’s not the first time you’re doing something
• Safe words
• Consider using checklists, a scale of 1-10 vs. yes/no, ball/keys in hand if can’t speak
• As an outsider you could make eye contact with a top to see how things are going, but you can’t really SEE consent

Barriers to a consent culture
• Can’t name abusers on Fetlife
• Ignore emotions of survivors
• “But I know them & they’re good”
• Punishing “snitches” with isolation and judgment
• Silence between abuser/abused
• Ignore vs. deal with ‘drama’
• Not excluding dangerous persons
• Blame on survivor/drama maker
• Anti-police
• Community > individual
• No action when a line is crossed
• Danger is sexy

So… what can we do?
• Only do things with complete agreement from all parties
• Bright light in play spaces
• Quiet or no music in play spaces
• More diversity in images
• Make sure community leaders/hosts are focusing on these issues
• Call out transgressors even when a community leader
• Verbalize and visualize guidelines at parties
• Community-generated party rules
• Empower not only Dungeon Monitors to speak up
• “Playroom sweetie” class to come back after asked to leave party/event
• Give space to learn from mistakes
• PAL system (if your Pal gets kicked out, you get a warning)
• Visible leaders at events to tell if something is going on

What to do about: Fetlife
• Current situation
o Unsolicited sex messages
o Trolling
o Anything goes – it’s the internet!
o Anonymous – ‘cock pics 4 u’
o Racism, transphophia, silencing, sexism
o Problematic fetish phrasing

• Ideal situation
o Not that!
o Greater Boston Trauma Survivors and Supporters on Fetlife
o Boston’s Women Supporting Women on Fetlife

• Actions to get there
o Today:
• Spread work about GBTSS and BWSW on fetlife
• Call out people when saying inappropriate things – ‘derailing for dummies’
o This month:
• Workshop/discussion on social skills/flirting/etc.
o This year:
• Hold Fetlife/community leaders accountable to the ideals they hold space for
• ‘Hold Fetlife accountable’ FL group

What to do about: Parties
• Current situation
o Nonconsensual touch
o Feeling pressured
o Challenges of saying “no”
o Atmosphere (dark, loud)

• Ideal situation
o “It’s OK to say: No, safe, …!!”
o Rules on the wall
o No means NO

• Actions to get there
o Today:
• Write down and respect your own limits
o This month:
• Talk to a group leader or party organizers about rules & atmospheres
o This year:
• Do a check-in to evaluate success and continue improvement →feedback loop

What to do about: Munches
• Current situation
o Griefers
o Expectation management
o Inappropriate/non-consensual touching
o Invasiveness

• Ideal situation
o Responsible folks
o Guidelines
o Boundaries – stated for everyone
o Getting to know someone as a person

• Actions to get there
o Today:
• Suggest ideas about consent culture to munch organizers
o This month:
• Suggest things about consent culture at munches
o This year:
• Communication between different munch leaders about consent culture/guidelines

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