[WARNING: This post regards some things which should be disturbing to many readers. Please proceed at your discretion.]
If you’re involved in this community for long enough, whether as a creator, a participant, or even just a simple voyeur, you will invariably come across some things that will shock you, and some that will even trouble and disturb you in a real and serious way. Things that challenge and things that truly offend. Or, as such things are known more popularly, “some real fucked up shit.”
It’s simply a function of how lumped together people of all tastes and persuasions are under the umbrella terms of “kink” and “BDSM”; there may be real distinctions between people and groups within those categories, but in a lot of ways we weirdos are stuck having to associate with each other, with even the ones to whose beliefs and behaviors we object. It’s a lot like being American, actually. A New York liberal and an Alabama good ole boy may repulse each other but they are, at least in one sense, countrymen. And believe me, the commonality is often a good deal less comfortable, and less familiar, than that.
In many cases, it’s a question of what else there is to call one thing or the other when they are most overtly joined in not being “vanilla”, which is to say, not being what can safely be called normal or usual for the majority. What do a foot fetishist and a furry have in common? Not a great deal in substance I should imagine, but they both can freak out the squares.
So unique to this “community”, to this landscape of strange and unusual sexualities, is the need to negotiate the territory with a little functional pluralism. There’s a bit of the Golden Rule in this, in a form that asserts, “Judge not the persuasions of others in the way that you would like not to be judged for your own.” I’ll return to this point in a minute, but for now it is enough to say that this sentiment is widely held among those who, by one standard or other, either are weird themselves or participate in the weirdness of others. It’s a good deal of “live and let live” with a dash of “hey, I don’t get it but good on you for being yourself.”
It’s a somewhat noble sentiment, laudable at least for its friendliness and its affability, and there’s a measure of solidarity in it too. It’s a reasonably good attitude to have, and it functions well enough in terms of preserving the dignity and humanity of our fellow human beings, at least for most of the time. Unfortunately, however, there are occasions when this sentiment is applied to a fault, and it is that which I intend to explore today.
As a kinky person you are uniquely challenged by the question of where you “draw the line”, both for yourself, in terms of what you are willing to welcome into your own sexual experience and fantasies, and, yes, though some would balk heartily at the notion, for others. What is good for people? What is safe? What is healthy? These are moral considerations, and ones which I think a great many people, despite their compassion and their sympathy, think very seriously about.
And before I get too much further into the exploration of these questions and these ideas, I should state very clearly that I believe that this moral calculus is indeed the sacred right and province of every thinking person. While I don’t believe in judgment for judgment’s sake, or in judging unfairly or unsympathetically, I do think it is important that we are willing to call some things wrong, when we are able to see true harm and exploitation. Without that, I feel that we would be every bit as lost and debauched as they say we are.
I have written before about the need to separate, in the popular imagination, what is kinky from what is pathological (such as authentic sexual sadism that conscripts the unwilling and the ineligible), but as I reflect on what I have seen this week, and what I have encountered not altogether rarely in the past, I feel compelled to illustrate this same need for those within the community to do likewise.
The case in point involves a young man [for discretion’s sake, all parties involved will be kept anonymous] whose kink seems to revolve around being a “homework slave” for young women in college; he writes their essays, does their assignments, and so on, for which he asks nothing in return.
The academic dishonesty of it aside, let’s suppose that this much is reasonably harmless, at least as affects himself. Let’s say he feels good about this role and enjoys seeking out the means to fulfill it, and in so doing he provides some measure of benefit to the “partner” with whom he engages. Even this much is certainly more complicated than that, but the purpose of bringing up this young man is not to analyze him or to put him and his desires under the microscope. What matters, is to look at what happened next.
[NOTE: The details here are a little fuzzy, due to their discovery revolving around an exchange of messages and Tweets on Twitter, some of which were deleted. The parties involved either could not be reached or declined to clarify.]
Apparently, the young man was unable to complete a particular assignment for a particular young woman and, overcome by shame at this, he decided he was deserving of some form of punishment. For a BDSM submissive, this in itself is not particularly unusual; punishment and so-called “funishment” often play a significant role in a healthy D/s relationship.
However, in his desire to correct the balance of his transgression, he elected a very extreme behavior which he wanted to be induced to perform: his suggestion was to boil a portion of oatmeal and pour the mixture over his face.
Now, I am not a squeamish man. But it seems it should be apparent to anyone that this is something which any person who wants to should in all attempts be prevented from doing, and that the motives to do so must be investigated because they imply a serious degree of mental pathology. If you yourself are unconvinced, let’s take another moment with it shall we?
Boiling water, so employed, would be bad enough, and certain to cause burns. The mixture, however, would render the substance not only gooey, but sticky, and this means that instead of the majority of it mercifully splashing away it would cling, almost certainly causing serious and permanent damage. This, again, could be bad enough if it were done to an appendage or some less fragile part of the body, but applied to the face we are now talking about disfigurement, and if it were to affect the eyes could potentially cause blindness. [TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR, this is highly extreme behavior which would fail to dismay only a small proportion of those who practice kink and D/s.]
So we must, to begin with, try to see his perspective, and ask ourselves what it would take in order for that punishment to fit the crime. In any case, no matter what we might think of that would cause us to think of this as appropriate for anything, the things that would, in any world, balance that scale are orders of magnitude more grave than failing to give a coed the means to skate through her education. In short, this person’s means to evaluate these things were so distorted that they contributed the worst thing they could think of in order to square what they could only have imagined to be the worst possible thing they could have done.
It certainly qualifies as cruel and unusual, and if it had been at someone else’s behest we could safely consider them a psychopath. To go so far beyond the pale, to so exceed any reasonable boundaries with regard for safety and wellbeing, and to inflict such a terrible degree of harm is self-evidently pathological, and if it were done to someone else it would be abhorrent. But sadly, the tale of a dangerous desire is not where this story ends.
Apparently, out of contact with and unable to receive the reprisal of his choice from the young woman to whom he had given this perceived injustice, he went in search of someone willing to administer the same. Imagine it; again, so out of whack and so distorted was this person’s reality that he was approaching strangers (online) in order to get them to induce him to commit this grievous act of harm against himself. And, I am sorry to say, he found one, who reportedly was willing to pocket $100 of his money for her troubles.
Now, personally, I am deeply dismayed and disheartened by this. It reflects poorly on sex workers and their clients, it reflects poorly on the kinky, it reflects poorly on young women… It troubles and sickens me that such a thing would take place, that this person would be unable to get the psychiatric help that they need and would find not only a venue for a terrible extension of their illness but would be indulged in it by someone who took time enough to profit from it before laughing all the way to the bank. It is nasty, it is twisted, it is wicked, it is evil. But I’m sorry to say, ladies and gentlemen, it does get worse from there.
What is supposed to have happened next is that, among those in this woman’s circle, another young woman in the community objected to this, it made the rounds with many who felt likewise, a backlash ensued from friends and supporters of the first one and then…?
We don’t know. At the time of this writing the young man’s account has been silent since before the incident. We have backtracking and apologies from the whistleblower to the profiteer, and after a bit of gloating from the latter party both of their feeds have gone back to normal. And now what? Now I sit, writing this article.
Barring the even more twisted possibility that all of this is an elaborate “mindfuck” on us all, a hoax of some kind, presumably the young man is in a burn ward or (hopefully, at least) a psych ward right now, having to explain how he got this way, as he probably will have to for the rest of his life. The profiteer is back to being her usual self and not only feeling good but smug about it. The whistleblower has been embarassed into silence. And the catalyzing tweets were deleted, sweeping the whole thing under the rug.
So, supposing that nothing new comes to light, where does that leave us? What do we make of all this? What can we learn?
The first thing that must be said in response is that, as in the rest of society, mental illness, and in particular untreated or extreme mental illness, has to be addressed more clearly in the kink community. For all the dreck that you hear about kink being like or better than therapy, and for all that it is authentically therapeutic for the right people, the entire world of BDSM is not a substitute for mental health treatment and care. If anything, this example illustrates clearly how dangerous these things can be in the wrong hands, and when explored without conscious care and support, in isolation, without the connection to and engagement with loving and protective partners, all of which are conditions that apply in spades to those who are profoundly mentally ill. They are uniquely subject and vulnerable to versions of these things which are not just unhealthy or strange but which will cause them serious harm. You may as well send someone who is crippled and drunk to run with the bulls.
And those of us who struggle with mental health issues as a disability, who have the upper hand when it comes to managing it, we need to call it like we see it and encourage others into care when we see someone who is unwell, who is hurting themselves. We can’t let these social media tools become just television, with nothing but advertising, programming, and self-congratulation. Imagine the kinky social media universe being your only point of connection to other people and ask yourself what it would be like if no one just treated you like a real human being, and looked out for you when you were ill and confused.
The second thing to say is that we have to stop perpetuating the idea that this is all just a game, by which I mean that’s it’s just amoral playtime that exists in a vacuum. Kink affects people very deeply and very seriously at all kinds of levels and in all different ways, and you are playing with fire if you don’t have respect for that. We have to start saying that, along with consent and aftercare and all the other things we preach about so endlessly, what is inherent and indispensable in kink is at the very least a decent human respect and care for those with whom you engage.
And the third is to recognize that the InstaDomme mentality, which neglects in its entirety the whole of what I’ve just said, is more than just the offensive nuisance we’ve all come to live with it as. It used to be that a prostitute (because that used to be the only kind of sex worker there was) had to live in a town or a city and had to cultivate relationships with the people she worked with and with the environment in which she lived. It used to be we had to live with each other, and those who provided a service had to see and interact with their clients as human beings.
The good ones still do this today– they provide their services, they build a reputation, they participate in the community, they contribute to the welfare and the ecology of their worlds; they are upstanding people who care about what they do and what they put out there, and about how that reflects and feeds back on them as professionals and as people. But this modern incarnation, which is only achievable through the distance and disposability made possible by the Internet, is opportunistic, it’s shallow, and it treats the world like fast food customers; like hunger, that is just waiting to be turned into dollars.
And by the way, if you’re thinking that what they do doesn’t really have anything to do with the so-called “Real Thing” and that it’s not important enough for you to worry about, you’re wrong. Content creators and sex workers, whether you like it or employ them or not, are at the center of kinky identity and culture, and if you don’t think that feeds back on real people and especially the younger generation, you’re wrong.
What’s at stake isn’t just the fate of the lost ones, like the young man in this story. It isn’t just the “paypigs” and their money. The risk is that kink moves from this generation into the next as nothing more than another way to make a quick and dirty buck, that people use like a bad drug, with an attitude that makes it all just masturbation.
Please, whether you’re a creator, a provider, a consumer, or just a participant, please take kink and your kinky practice seriously. Don’t take it as a license to stop asking yourself if what you’re doing is good, or ethical, or real. Don’t use it as an excuse to stop being human, and to stop letting others be it too. If we don’t remember that what we do as kinky people matters, and if we don’t remind each other, then we’ll never be able to reconcile what we do with who we are, and we’ll never become what we’re truly meant to be.
[UPDATE: Apparently a third domme has been implicated and much of the confusion has revolved around the involvement of the domme who was originally blamed. Further bulletins as events warrant.]
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