Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insular Communities & Relations in Our Local BDSM Scenes

Insular Communities & Relations in Our Local BDSM Scenes

Thought of the day: Insular Communities, barriers to care, comparisons to BDSM and whether the advent of social networking can precipitate change

Greetings friends, be warned this is going to be one of My overly long blog entries that you may wish to leave until you have time to read at length. In the past year I have paid attention to more and more pieces of writing, which have featured on kinky and popular. As that feature was updated I was exposed to more and more writing displaying issues of all sorts in local BDSM communities. I spent time reading about issues with practicalities such as planning, work shops, munches, and the such. What was more highlighted was most recently were the issues in a Philadelphia scene which remain clear in My mind. I remember over a couple of weeks seeing posts from various members of their scene and some rather disturbing tales. This followed on from other “breaking stories” from members of other communities. Sadly this seemed to be a common patten. The posts I read not only covered dysfunctional relationships in  these small groups, but exposed views of person's who had been subject to abuse, non consensual sexual acts and so forth. I spent many an hour reading the hundreds and hundreds of comments and responses to these posts. I noticed the support from outsiders who had shared similar stories and held sympathy for the writer. I paid attention to the back lash from others who felt it should not be discussed. In the end things were split down the middle people asking for more transparency and supporting the people claiming to have suffered in some way. The moderates saying a crime is a crime and must be reported, and to those disparaging the writer as a liar or someone “confused with the events”, to others drawing away and supporting the others involved as pillars of the community.

My overall understanding seemed to be that people can be allowed to participate in a community for many years and others will protect and keep secrets. I have read of new persons upset with the morality of not been told at a first play event that someone they went away with had a background of “problems with consent”, and of people furious that any would dare suggest the possibility that a person in a community could be anything less than upstanding. Where does this leave us though, simple: There is 2 possibilities that a scene to people either is one where every member of any long standing could not possibly have faults or have committed a crime; the second that every community is going to have persons who have or have the ability to be damaging to others. Online We can be more open and critical of others communities. The criticism seems to come from those who have suffered at the hands of others in their Own scenes, but who are either no longer active in theirs or feel far enough removed to safely comment. Does a larger Fetish community allow for these issues to be better addressed or does in the end the “old boys club” to use a political metaphor trump even the power of a social networking site bringing together communities.

So where am I going with all of this? Not really any where besides My usual thought process when something of interest comes to mind. I awoke with thoughts on the medias recent coverage of insular communities and crimes, this went on to the insular communities I had been exposed to and in some cases grown up in, and finally the wider impacts of such situations on the people living in them, and those coming into them. I have an interest in the general health of such situations and the barriers that are in place for those who enter into them. I would like to consider the similarities in crime, health and access in these communities and see if there is comparable information in BDSM. Some further interest coming from past blogs I have written, such as “The Potential For Violent Response in Intense Scenes” and “Submissive Needs, Slave Training and Abuse”. Some of the people I mentioned in those blog's certainly having experienced living in an insular community and suffered abuse, while others continue happily in healthy situations which still fit the criteria of insular. Is there a way to differentiate between what maintains one healthy and the other not? I hope to discover more and get feedback from My many and varied friends here on FetLife. I know among you there is many very intelligent brains who may be able to add to My considerations and add more thought and ideas I had not touched on. I also wish to explore My own complicity in knowing of issues, and not speaking out. When you have information that is known to you but is passed on through a client or a person who has experienced a criminal event, what barriers are stopping the open communication of this. It is certainly a moral issue, We may have morals and ethics, but there is certainly a barrier to be able to share and make others aware. I hope to also look at the dealings with law enforcement, and the struggle to find validation from a society that is not well equipped to understand the complexities of the community. Where do We begin? And does the growth of social networking in BDSM mean that in future this will be a precursor to change and if so how will that change occur and what will it require from a community that is decidedly one with a lifestyle that is not understood, to be just that understood.

So let us get started and explore “Insular Communities, barriers to care, comparisons to BDSM and whether the advent of social networking can precipitate change” I must thank librarydog who is right now doing My pedicure as I type for listening and helping to formulate a structured way of approaching what is a very complex topic. I have no clear reason for wanting to approach this in a blog beyond spending so much time reading about related issues which has led Me to wishing to further explore this area of thought.

To start with We are going to need a very clear idea of what defines insular. From the websters dictionary We see they state:
Definition of INSULAR
a : of, relating to, or constituting an islandb : dwelling or situated on an island
: characteristic of an isolated people; especially : being, having, or reflecting a narrow provincial viewpoint
Examples of INSULAR

Origin of INSULAR
Late Latin insularis, from Latin insula island
First Known Use: 1611
and insularity:
It may also mean a person, group of people, or a community that is only concerned with their limited way of life and not at all interested in new ideas or other cultures.

When We look at insularity or an insular community We tend to look at areas of religious and cultural difference and not just areas which are cut off in the most part from tourism and modern day interactions. In the areas of religion and culture, entire religions or even countries could be considered insular. One of the most common modern insular communities that spring into most people minds would be the Amish communities or even the fundamentalist church of latter day saints in the USA. Popular culture has exposed us through books, television and documentaries as to the on going lives of people living in their faiths. Still just as much we can look at tiny communities; such as small coastal islands, where generations of people have lived and even after decades one is still considered an outsider. I can think of the original movie the wicker man not the recent Nicolas Cage version of an example of how distant and separate a group of people can be from the rest of society, while still been expected to abide by the rules of society. Jodi Picoult also was another modern novelist to draw attention to the Amish way of life and their very insular community. I Myself lived in such a community twice one in the far east and another in the deep south, in South Carolina. There was very closed ways to protect each other in the community and people who had lived their for decades were still the outsiders. Those of prominence and popularity would always be given a way out for any misdemeanor, due to family connections, money or power.  I remember in particular in the far east, how it must have been for My mother who had just a small chance to make her way into the circle of ex pats living there and to befriend OR to be befriended by the women who would make up her social circle. If she did not pass the standards it would have been a most depressing and sad life trapped in a tiny out of the way country with no friends or ability to socialize.

While from a modern media stand point We can enjoy taking in learning and reading about these different cultures, there is a darker undercurrent. I think the most infamous example for people is looking at what the media likes to call cults, now before We begin a debate in that area. Let us look at exactly how people who classify religions as cults could also see BDSM groups, poly families, and Gorean homes as exactly the same. From the outsider looking in, there is not the understanding to see or understand the complexities of the relationships; and perhaps like those groups the media can focus on BDSM groups and perceive in the same way. I am not stating this as a fact, as I wish to read further and delve into legal cases and situations where society has become involved into lifestyle groups of any sort.

I remembered quite clearly a documentary “Sons of Perdition”  which was a look at the young teenage boys who were pushed out of their families in Utah, so that older men in the families could have more wives. There is a charity set up in a near by city where many of these young boys end up. I recommend watching it, a very interesting look at a closed community. So why is all of this worth posting on Fetlife and of any reference? For many BDSM is a lifestyle and in a way their religion whether they consider themselves Atheist's or not.  Many are just kinkster's who like to play and have some fun but others chose it as a way of life and live in families, groups and have lives which revolve around their local scene, contacts, peers and events.  To return to where I started, which is what happens when a person runs into an issue in their community and or experiences crime, abuse or simply rejection. I want to specify the rejection issue as for a submissive or slave who has been a part of a group or scene for a long time, a falling out can mean the loss of their friends and social circle and a black listing almost of them from those they are close too. Often those they are close too may not wish to communicate with them further or risk the same occurrence. This is where power exchange becomes an issue as those who may be a support system can be prevented from giving that support, due to orders or their loyalties. This is where BDSM differs but is also similar to insular communities. There is certainly leaders and Dominants who have the ability to chose what the people under them do and how they act or live and with whom they communicate. This is not always the case, obviously especially as internet communication and social networking has given way to people having far wider support systems and also Dominants and leaders been held to higher standards by their peers around the world. This still does not mean that every relationship is ethical, moral, and maintaining agreed upon or implied consent. Consent becomes one of the most relevant issues as the longer a relationship continues the more blurred lines can become as to a persons human rights. We must look at understanding how We define consent and how the vanilla world can comprehend and accept it. Should consent be something that is readdressed once a period of contracts are finished and someone is Owned? Or is slavery at that point no longer having a choice and simply the giving up of rights to a complete TPE (Total Power Exchange). The victims or people who run into issues in BDSM are often new to a scene, but can just as equally have been involved for a number of years. To speak out brings many issues; there is the risk not just of fall out with in the community of people not taking an accusation seriously, or turning a blind eye to the actions because of their own connections to a group or persons. I know others have brought up the policing of the BDSM community and I have seen arguments for and against self policing. Is it working though? How can a community, especially a local one be impartial when they have multiple relationships to maintain with others? In the end it seems often the community protects it's own to the loss of those who have suffered abuse. Does that not make us all complicit in allowing abuse? To look at an outside example this article is of interest “Policing Insular Communities”

I am sure people are reading this and finding it amusing that I could compare a local scene or group to a cult or small community where abuse and cover ups are the norm. I am sure others have crossed the same thought processes and had concerns with how their Own involvement with such a community impacts their ethics and morality. I do not want to go to far into cases of cults and small communities shutting down in the case of a prominent member been accused of a crime. I am sure of the top of your head you can think of multiple examples, in churches, in cults, in small towns, etc. You will also be aware of how often police cases and the crimes are often not for decades if ever treated with the seriousness they should be. If the victims do ever get the validity for the crimes committed against them, or if in the end they are left damaged they may end up doing a couple of rounds on talk shows and are then left to finding a new life with no support from what was their entire life and family. In BDSM this does not occur in general and a person ostracised will no longer have a place to be part of what is for many a huge area of their life.

How many people here reading this while not on such a serious scale, have found their place in the BDSM community, and found a connection or family, or scene. They have found happiness and joy, finally a place they fit in, many live happily. How many though have run into issues with others, or had those fall apart and found themselves on the outskirts no longer having the needed support or love, and alone, cast as an outsider, or trouble maker. In the case of having to report an issue people are encouraged to talk to their mentors, to a community leader, and to deal with it in the community. Why is this? This is because We wish to help maintain an image of high standards and keep the image of perversion a cleaned up version of it not one tainted by the possibility that there is those among Us who are abusers or criminals. So that We are not one and all tarred with the same brush. We are trying to promote safety and that the life We live is a good healthy one, yet We will often not deal with or allow for talk about those who have done wrong. Instead it seems to become a pervasive issue of sweeping away issues to protect an image, perhaps forgetting that the image We are protecting is one of perverse, strange people who have separated themselves from society already.

The more that We continue to protect, and hide problems or faults in Our community the more insular We become, instead of trying to promote that We are just as normal as vanilla people with the same values as them. So let Me ask this.. If you discovered a family member in a vanilla world or a co worker committed a crime or had done something suspicious how much would you protect them, would you second guess a child who claims abuse, a friend who claims rape, would you encourage them to go to the police or would you hush it up and tell them they must have imagined it or it is best dealt with in the family.

Obviously the duality of these issues cross over and the main issue I see is that many do not even want their connection to BDSM to be known. Many are threatened with outing, to tell family members or work mates.. there is so much to be lost. Still in saying that if We chose to take part in a certain lifestyle, what is more important protecting Our privacy or standing up for morals and ethics We would apply in the vanilla sides of Our lives. IF we can consider a BDSM local scene an insular community. People have to protect their families, jobs, representation in society, fear of authorities understand or judging due to perversions and having to clarify consent to the vanilla world. So if that is the case and BDSM is an insular community. Then how do the issues that are widely documented in closed communities around the world apply? And how can We find a way to change so that we can be safer, people can speak out, and perhaps through wider understanding as an international group make changes that can occur.

That was a lot to take in and I am not happy with the cohesive nature of what I am trying to get across. I will come back at a later point when I have had some time to go over it all after more reading and taking in peoples responses and input on such issues, and hopefully post a better framed direction on this discussion. Either way I find the issues important and wish to think more on the community, the issue of consent in and out of the community and how the community deals with internal conflict and fits in with external authorities. I am will share some links for your further reading and look forward to any response. Please be aware that I am posting this in an unfinished format, and it is not up to My usual standard but I did not realise when I began writing, just how complicated the issues are. I will return once I have read up on more relevant cases and law. In the meantime hopefully there will be some interesting discussion from My friends around the world. I am sure many of you will have stories to share of how your local community functions, and if you have ever had concerns or have found ways to improve on its functioning. I hope you will take the time to share.

Mistress Venom

Here are some links I was reading:


  1. A great post and one that gets to the heart of the matter and that is, when in a small community what constitutes a crime. Obviously what the state considers a crime must ultimately hold as criminal, but from a community perspective one has to consider actions that threaten the existence of that community a crime too.

    If one considers the hiding by the Catholic church of the paedophilia of its priests as a case in point, one can easily see how the protection of members of a small group (the community of priests) of one of their own ultimately undermines and threatens the existence of the group.

    Can the BDSM community be any different? Arguably not. BDSM as you point out is a kind of religion to a lot of kinksters. It is certainly something that takes over the individual's life and being part of an understanding community has to be good for us if we see ourselves as what we are, viz. a community of gregarious great apes.

    The BDSM community has a belief system that is different to, but no less valid, than any other small group. If that community is threatened by the bad behaviour of a single individual or small rogue element who follow such an individual, then they need to be expelled and shown publically to have breeched the standards of that community. Even if the vanilla world does not understand those values.

    Because if one doesn't do this, then one risks being labelled as being complicit in the criminally bad behaviour. You become no better than a bishop hiding his paedophile priest for the "good" of the church.

  2. Further to my previous comment I must qualify a very important aspect of the nature of consent. At the heart of granting consent to another person is the issue of Trust. One must be able, after giving up one's right to one's personal integrity to another (Total Power Exchange), be able to trust that the consent is not simply a license to abuse.

    Consider my own kink, I am a Masochist pure and simple, and am not submissive in the normal sense. My thrill is the adrenaline rush. So when I approach a Dominant for extreme Edge Play I am placing my life in His/Her hands.

    In my previous post I referred to us as great apes. Were I part of a chimpanzee troup, then I would be the one who approaches the Alpha individual to have his fur pulled out in painful clumps. A Dominatrix would be that Alpha individual who does that to me. Now why would I consent to let Her do that to me? Her approval of course.

    Now I don't expect the vanilla world to understand that need, because BDSM is as powerful as any habit-forming drug.

    So now I, a compulsive Masochist, approaches one whose attention and approval I either consciously or subconsciously seek, and I do this by placing my life in Her hands.

    Do I have to trust that the only reason why I can trust her is that She has a financial interest as a BDSM professional in keeping me alive? I certainly hope not. I would hope that Her ethics run deeper than the few dollars that I have paid.

    And I am absolutely certain that in Mistress Venom's case they do!

    But this lifestyle is inherently hazardous. And one has to be able to Trust that once Consent has been given, that the Consent will not be abused.

    And I must trust that my community will not let a predator masquerade as a Dominant, because if this happens then I cease to be part of a community - Because without communal support, then there is no community, only a bunch of self-serving individuals.

    Community is how we define ourselves in terms of the approval and security that we get from our fellow members.

    So now we come back to the issue of what constitutes abuse of the Trust relationship in insular communities. Consider the Pitcairn Islanders where adult males considered it within the culture of their community to have sex with pre-pubescent girls.

    Ask yourself this question: Does a pre-pubescent girl in an insular community, who is in the same power relationship with the adults of that community as a slave is with a Master or Mistress, have a right to be able to trust her adult minders? Does a slave have the same right to Trust? Or does Consent mean giving up the right to Trust?

    And lastly, in giving Consent to what the vanilla world views as abuse, does it mean that you no longer have the right to expect your Community to protect you?

    If my Community won't protect my right to Trust, then I have no community and instead I have to rely exclusively on the fact that in Pay for Play relationships, the pro-Dominant will only look after me because He/She wants another pay day.

    And how sad is that?

  3. For those readers who are not familiar with the Pitcairn Island sex abuse trial, please go to Wikipedia and look up "Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004"

    "On 30 September 2004, seven men living on Pitcairn Island (including Steve Christian, the Mayor), went on trial facing 55 charges relating to sexual offences. On 24 October, all but one of the defendants were found guilty on at least some of the charges they faced.[1][2][3] Another six living abroad were tried on 41 further charges in a separate trial in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2005."

    The insular community that had harboured these illegal and immoral practices was torn apart.

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  5. Good evening Mistress Venom, I hope you don't mind that after trying to respond to our discussion over dinner there were too many words for a simple reply plus the thoughts generated this blog post of its own.

    I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to continue the discussion.