On Wednesday night, I went to a play party. Consent was given. The right to “yes” was heeded, and we all lived happily ever after. The most dramatic thing that happened was that I decided not to have a cupcake. The vast majority of our events follow the same stellar mould. Spend 10 minutes on Fetlife, though, and you’ll think every event comes with three non-consensual gropings, two stolen floggers, and a bottom in the ER. I read so many posts about consent violations that I forget our consent tools actually work if we bother to use them.
The collateral damage of this situation is significant: BDSM horror stories are one of the most common reasons people don’t go to events. If the community is so rife with predators, surely it’s better to meet stranger-doms in coffee shops instead?
Yeah. About that… Last month, an Australian named Nicole Cartwright was found murdered in a playground. Her Fetlife history is being investigated to find out if she met her killer online. This is not an unusual scenario. Rapists and murderers are linked to this site every year. The real world kink community isn’t entirely free of horror, but we certainly offer more vetting and safety than cyberspace can.
Do we create a false sense of safety? Definitely. Many a bottom has had their consent violated by a predator that we, as a community, have chosen to allow at our events. Still, it’s safer to pick victims from the outskirts of the scene where nobody’s watching.
When I took a trip to the USA this year, I changed my Fetlife location with every state I visited. I was contacted by no fewer than two tops who’d been perma-banned from their communities. Know why I didn’t write back? Because my friends warned me before I put myself at risk. I went to events, got to know a few good people, played some, and came back unharmed.
And the most important reason for that is that I’ve learned a hundred things about consent in the scene. For years, I combed through threads about consent violations. I read any sensible post I could find about safety. I went to parties, where I saw what consent looked like in real-world play. In short, I treated my safety with all the seriousness it deserved, and the vast majority of the tops I know in the real world feel just as committed to enthusiastic yesses. That is just not true of internet insta-doms.
Compared to your average Tinder date, our men are positively saintly, but we will allrun into a predator while we traverse this planet called “Kink.” We will all fail to use our tools, forget our safe words, or not speak up when things have gone too far. We’re all at risk, and the best way I know to minimise that is by integrating with the community and using the lessons it has to teach.