Yesterday evening, following yet another series of unfortunate disagreements-turned-terminated-relationships this week on Facebook, I logged into an alternate social networking website I’m going to refer to as FetishBook. I first joined there nearly four years ago to the best of my recollection, making it the second-longest stay I’ve maintained on a website designed to promote alternative sexuality. But when I logged in yesterday, I saw a new thread on a discussion forum about body modification, in which a man described consensual non-consent as getting knocked out with a voluntary Ambien overdose so that he could be filmed being gang-raped without the capacity to either offer or withdraw his consent. And I lost it. Full stop.
The racism, sexism, and ableism that is all over the website hadn’t yet been enough to convince me that I should just post a note about why I’m leaving and delete the contents of my profile. I don’t know why this is the case, considering that I have even had to ban people from my discussion forums for attempting to discuss in graphic terms, the mutilating and maiming of underage women (in ways they could not possibly survive even on life support), under a gross misconception about consent. I repeatedly wound up in heated arguments with participants who felt entitled to police other people’s bodies (or their journeys through body modification) on the basis of ableism, sexism, or both. I sincerely believe that other people are not my property, so while I might not elect to have structures between my legs permanently reconfigured or removed, it is not my right to tell someone else not to have it done to their own body. The same goes for tattoos, piercings (even high-risk piercings), cutting and scarification, and even elective amputation.
This is not to suggest that I don’t believe in the merit of sharing valuable experience, insight, or information about safety. I just don’t think it’s particularly productive, no matter how well-meaning, to instinctively jump into an essay-length treatment of all the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a proposed body modification plan. And as such, I made a point of creating a rule against unsolicited safety advice in all my discussion forums — that it’s ok to ask “Have you considered the safety of what you’re proposing?” but it’s not ok to come off as a condescending know-it-all. Because more often than not, by the time a person has expressed their interest in amputating a foot, putting an implant under the bulbar conjunctiva of their left eye, splitting their tongue in half, or getting a facial piercing, they’ve made some effort to research the possible complications and social consequences of doing so (even if that is limited to reading about other peoples’ experiences). Unsolicited safety advice implies profound ignorance on the part of the person being ‘splained to, and is often coupled with calling their agency into question as well, just to get the point across in even more condescending terms.
I also resorted to banning the discussion of “female genital mutilation” and similarly conceived, emotionally charged, Othering, and racist conceptions of body modification in tribal cultures across the world. My reason for this is that while individual people have the language promoted by the World Health Organization, they don’t take the time to critically question what cultural anthropologists have been articulating for decades–the validity of the all-too-broadly defined criteria of “female genital mutilation”, which theoretically includes Western cultural constructs such as “vaginal rejuvenation” surgery, female genital body piercing/tattooing, and consensual “genital torture” (which is a more frequent practice in the BDSM subculture than it is not).
Update: See a better articulated blog post I wrote about this issue here.
Ultimately, it wasn’t just the body modification forum, which had three times as many members sharing conversations as a local forum that serves my city (which is literally famous across the website for how ridiculous, inflammatory, belligerent, and out-of-control the interactions got on a weekly basis). The astronomical majority of participants on the body modification forum were a delight to interact with, and it was truly a minority who were causing a problem. I cannot stress enough, how much valuable insight I learned about myself, by learning new ways of engaging with people despite where we may hold different opinions. If anything was keeping me on this website at all for the last year and a half (when I started to withdraw from both the website and face-to-face interactions with my local communities), it was that diverse group of over 4,500 individuals from all walks of life.
It’s unfortunate to leave such a huge community of people, but I’ve been threatening myself with it for nearly a year anyways. That’s about the time around when I discovered a group designed to promote and celebrate acts of incest (which, through exchanging emails with one of the website volunteers, I determined is a safe place for pedophiles who have yet to be convicted, to brag about raping children). Or maybe it was the first time someone joined a group that was created to give people ideas about how to incorporate racism into their roleplay. Or maybe it was the first time I read someone I thought I could trust, using gang rape as a punch line in a group for offensive jokes. I don’t know anymore what first precipitated this decision. In the end, I finally collected my thoughts and posted the following note to my now very-sparse profile:
For longer than the last year, the only things I’ve had to say anywhere has been on my body modification forum. For about a year already, I’ve been waiting for even one more reason to stay here, and once in a while, someone very affectionately reaches out to keep me here.
But the fact is that I’ve become miserable about this website. I’ve made new friends, and they’re really great people. I continue to share my experiences with those who have earned the privilege of knowing me on a deeper level, and I truly appreciate the sense of community I’m able to build — through Facebook.
I’ve also tried to tell someone, in a group of 4,000 individuals of varied backgrounds, ethnicities, and locations in the world, to keep their irrelevant anti-theist sentiments to themselves — a move that rather astoundingly, resulted in an unsolicited, essay-length justification for genocide against religious groups. Apparently someone hadn’t heard of the Holocaust.
I’ve also made great new friends who revealed to me their true colours: people who are willing to defend the right to tell rape “jokes” to the death; and people who defend someone else’s ableism with tone-policiing (see: sexism), gas-lighting (see: sexism), or flat-out silencing. I’ve had to call the police over multiple threats (face-to-face and over the phone) from my local community members, often rooted in ableism, sexism, or both.
I’ve been bullied, stalked, badgered, harassed, and threatened by people I know in-person from initial contact through this website or through the kink community. I’ve been backed into a corner and badgered to tears when what I most needed was a safe place to be heard, and I’ve had entire corners of the community gang up and bully me for days at a time over decisions I have made to myself that don’t influence a single other person.
I’ve had rumours spread about me being fired from a volunteer team because I wouldn’t fuck the person who started spreading that bullshit lie around (nor would I interact with them again after they violated both of my only two known hard limits at the time within the same 60 seconds, followed by ignoring my safeword). They also apparently started telling people my presence in the community was a mere phase (that was 7 or 8 years ago now). [sarcasm] Guess they were right. [/sarcasm]
And that’s not the only person to spread completely fallacious rumours about me, but that was by far the most fucking pathetic.
There’s something fucking wrong here, and I’ve done all I can to contribute to promoting a more equitable political environment in my communities. I’m sick and tired of the fighting, of people whose entire relationship to me is limited to a fundamental misunderstanding of the tenets of BDSM, and of standing alone against an ocean of oppressive ideas floating around this website. I can’t emphasize enough that there’s something completely fucked up with the dynamics in this community, that I not only stand alone, but am held single-handedly responsible for everything I think is going wrong (whether by accident or on purpose) by the very people who are generating and disseminating oppressive bullshit.
The only reason I’ve lasted this long is because of the many people on this website who I can count on as my friends. You can see this on your newsfeed because you are my friend. I love you for everything that you are, and want to know more about you than you can ever share on this black hole of a website alone.
Let’s foster our existing relationship, away from this website. Let’s share our full depth as people, where we don’t have to pretend to be a 2-dimensional sex object just to fit in with the crowd that fails to understand the meaning of the word consent.
My facebook page is here.* That’s where you can find me, and where we can exchange pictures like this so we can titter like 12-year-old school boys looking at a Playboy magazine. Except that, unlike here, it won’t end with slicing and stabbing the pictures.
* link removed here for privacy reasons — too many spam-bots, too many concerns about my privacy with respect to people I’ve cut all ties to.
After reading and responding to a few loving replies (both public and private) and a handful of new Facebook contacts, I tried to retire for the evening. But one thought persisted in my head all night.
I just can’t get past how many people I’ve had and lost a relationship with, in part because of FetishBook, who argued that I either just won’t accept when someone disagrees with me or that I’m relentless until everyone else’s opinions conform to mine. This simply isn’t true, and makes me as angry and defensive as unsolicited advice does.
This comes down to “I can challenge your ideas but I can’t take it if you challenge mine.” It comes down to “I respect your ideas but only if you don’t confront my personal prejudices, even if they are against you or the people you love.” It comes down to looking for reasons to defend whichever form of bigotry, in their infinite wisdom, they’ve chosen to tolerate. And it has to stop. But I’m not making a difference on FetishBook any more — I’m just getting and staying angry, and it’s hurting me and the people I care about.