Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Photo Consent

I wrote this post a while ago, but I kept it stored away in my draft folder, for the simple reason that I kept worrying someone in my local community would think I'm talking about them. Because this issue comes up often enough
(this tenet of privacy is broken often enough)
that I didn't want anyone to think I had them specifically in mind when I wrote it.
But given the posts that've been coming out the past couple days, I thought I'd share my personal opinion on this topic.
Often at kinky events, organizers will ask a photographer to offer his or her services to their guests. The photographer will take photos—with the consent of the individuals in the photo, of course—and in return, they ask for a small gratuity for their services.
The rights to the photos always go back to the people in the picture, because the photographer knows the importance of confidentiality, especially in our community. They bank their reputations on their skills of discretion.
(At least, if they're smart.)
But you'll also often have people—not professional photographers, just common laypeople with cameras on their phones—take photos of their friends and scenes. And the question becomes, who owns the rights to the pictures?
My answer is actually very short, because it's very simple: everyone in the photograph. Everyone in that picture has equal rights to the picture itself.
Which means, if you are the photo "holder," and you want to show that photo to anyone else? Everyone in the picture must consent.
I realize this gets frustrating for some. They take (or have someone else take) awesome photos of themselves Topping or bottoming, looking ravishing, feeling gorgeous. The scene is very hot—like, boner-inducing hot—and they just want to show it off to the whole damn world.
Can't do it. Not unless everyone in the photo consents.
It doesn't matter to me either how many identifiable parts are displayed in that photo. As long as any part of a person can be determined to be them personally—them, and nobody else—then they get a say in what happens to that photo.
This is often not an issue for couples in a D/s dynamic. They decide far in advance if they want their photos blasted out to the world—or not. If one of them does but one of them doesn't, it's usually pretty clear which one of them is going to get their wishes granted. Consensual non-consent, it works for photos, too.
But when a couple breaks up?
Now they both have equal rights to the photos. It doesn't matter to me if the couple was together for ten years, and every single kinky photo they own is of both of them together. If one of them does not want the other passing around those pictures, the photos should not be passed around. Period. End of story.
"But they gave me consent while we were together," someone will say.
Too bad. Consent has been revoked. You do not have the right to show off those pictures.
"But this picture does not show their face," someone will say.
Does it show their hair? Their tattoo? That cute little necklace they had made especially for them at that boutique shop that closed down two years ago?
If they can be identified in that photo in any way, then they have the rights to that photo just as much as you do, and once again: You do not get to show it off to whomever you please.
"I'm only showing it our mutual friends, not blasting it all over Fetlife," someone will say.
So what? What makes you think you get to decide who sees that photo and who doesn't?
The bottom line is, photos have a nasty way of becoming a weapon in the wrong person's hands.
They are a way to out someone as kinky; that much is obvious.
They also become a way to prove someone was at a particular kink event. Well, guess what—not everyone wants everyone else to know where they've been and what they've been up to.
The worst I've seen is when vindictive exes use old photos to try to maintain a measure of control over their previous lover. Even after they've been asked to take photos down from their profiles and websites, they still keep them up…specifically because they know their exes hate it.
This, in my opinion, is a clear consent violation.
Look, if you did a scene with your partner that was so hot and sexy you just haveto show it off to the whole world, just make sure you have their consent to show it off first. Maintain a good relationship with them—even after you break up—so you can continue to have their consent to show off those pictures.
If they revoke consent, it's not the end of the world.
If the photos highlighted your skill with a certain tool—whips or rope or whatnot—take new pictures, but with a different partner. Recreate the scene, or create a brand new one. You don't have to see the need to hide the old photos as a loss; you can see it as a way to improve on your photo-taking skills.
But don't continue to show those old pictures when you know you don't have consent. The pictures may be beautiful, but guess what: YOU end up looking like a douchebag.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

If You're Going to Pull Rank, You Better Pick Your Battles

Let me give you the TL;DR version of this post:
If you think being the Dom or Master in a relationship means getting to do whatever the fuck you want, you're wrong.
The end.

Too often now I'm encountering men who label themselves Doms or Masters looking for a sub or slave to start a D/s dynamic with, walking around thinking being the person on the "left side of the slash" means they are The King, they give the orders, and whoever is on the "right side of the slash" has to shut up and obey, because that's what D/s is all about.
Shut up and obey—or leave. Them's the breaks, toots.

You know what I tend to call these Domly types? Single.

I understand the desire to want that kind of relationship. I mean, this sounds awesome for the Doms, doesn't it? They get to do whatever they want—order around that sub of theirs however they want—and they don't have to worry a damn bit about her feelings or opinions.
She's a sub, man. She takes orders, she doesn't give 'em. No topping from the bottom around here; nope.

The truth is, being a Dom is hard fucking work.
(I'm not talking here about the Bedroom Dom. I'm talking about the 24/7 "let me into your heart so I can clean shit up in there" Dom. The Dom who makes plans called Sticking Around and Making Changes.)
It takes stamina. It takes tenacity. It takes self-control.
And it takes a lot of self-sacrifice.

Being a Dom means taking time to see to the needs of your sub when you'd rather be off doing other things. She may not know exactly what you meant when you gave her those orders; you'll need to show her. She may not understand what you're trying to say the first time you say it; you'll need to tell her again, and again, until she gets it. She may not always be able to handle things on her own; you'll need to be there for her.
And she will definitely not always do what's right. You'll need to correct her.

Correcting her is not going to be easy, and it sure as hell isn't going to be fun for you. (Let me be clear here: I'm not talking about "funishment." Funishment is fun. Punishment is not. Punishment is reserved for when you're disappointed in her behavior and want it to stop.)
A punishment you make her suffer through will mean suffering for you, too—or it should. It will not be as bad as what she's going through, but it will not fill you with pride or joy.

If you've spent time around kids, you'll know what I'm talking about here. Take a privilege away, like the T.V. or a trip to their favorite ice cream shop...and you're stuck listening to them whine and complain about it for hours on end (plus maybe you wanted to get some of that ice cream, too). Put them in time out? You have to sit there and make sure they fucking stay in time out.
They're crying. They feel awful. You feel awful, too.
Plus you have to deal with the guilt and the frustration and the underlying thoughts of Why do they have to keep doing this? Why can't they just GET it; why can't they just do what I say? What the hell am I doing wrong?

As a Dom, you have to take steps to provide for your sub's needs, and protect her against the things she can't handle—even when that might mean protecting her from herself.
You have to be in charge of the relationship. You have to set goals, and do your best to stick to them—even when things get rough. Even when you don't think she's giving 100% of herself.
You have to live by example, and stand by your word—even if the trust has already started to fade.

There have been times my husband has pulled rank on me, and "played the Dom card." Not often, but during some of the most stressful and life-changing times in our relationship.
Never once did I think he pulled rank for the benefit of his own needs. Every single time he pulled rank and laid down the law, it was because he thought it was for the good of the family, our relationship, or my wellbeing.
It was NEVER done for the benefit of his own selfish desires.

He has asked me to do some pretty major things—make some big fucking sacrifices. They were hard. They were painful; mentally, and sometimes physically.
He didn't feel good about asking me to make these sacrifices. It didn't make him happy. In fact, he felt pretty awful about it.
But he asked me, clarified things to me, and then finally commanded me to do these things because he had decided that's what would be best for us. Not him. Us. Our little nuclear group we call a family.

When he asked me to do these things, could I have said no? Sure. I'm an autonomous person; I always have the choice to say no, to say 'my line is drawn here.' But I knew the consequences of doing that, and the consequences were never worth it.
Saying no was not the right thing to do when, in the back of my mind, I always knew what Husband was trying to make me do was really for the best.

THAT is the hardest part of being a Dom, I think. To make your sub truly believe that what you want from her is actually the best course of action for you all.

I know some Doms and Masters out there make it look easy—and their subs make it look effortless, too. I've seen plenty of slaves gush on and on, in online groups and in person, about how obedient they are, how *slavey* they are, how they would *never* go against their Doms' wishes.

First of all, if it's true, great. But I have a hard time believing they never question or argue with their Doms.
And second of all, of all these slaves who blindly follow their Masters? I have a feeling it took a lot of time and hard work to get there.

It's kind of like looking at a sexy rope bondage photo. Those things are so fucking hot—I mean, I don't enjoy rope, I'm fucking terrified of it in fact, but those photos, man, they are hot—and it looks so easy, doesn't it? Just get a bendy woman, contort her into some weird shape, tie up some rope around her, and voila, you've got yourself a good photo subject. Any old camera will do, right? Who needs to worry about good lighting.
You don't see how many hours upon hours of hard work went into that photo. You don't see the time spent exercising to get that bendy body; the blood and blisters spilled learning the rope skills; the patience and perseverance it took to make the rope itself. You don't know what it took for the people to recover from that photo, either; the aftercare involved.

24/7 D/s relationships, the ones that endure, work the same way. You might see a couple for a few hours at a munch or party: happy, intimate, sharing private energy that's pure, beautiful, and powerful.
You want some of that. You want to share that kind of energy with someone, too.

What you don't see is all the work that went into making that energy, the time it took to create that dynamic. You don't see the sacrifices they both had to make to make that relationship work.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: being a Dom or a Master isn't easy. It's more of a calling, I think. It's a choice for some, but a choice not so easily turned away from. Are there benefits? Sure. Is it often fun, and sexy, and hot as hell? Absolutely.

But if you think being a Dom or a Master in a relationship means getting to do whatever the fuck you want, you're wrong.
The end.

Monday, November 30, 2015

It's My Responsibility to Accept My Sluthood. Got It; Check

Happy Days - "All the Way" (Rare Pilot Version) by thelostreasures
Skip to 24:25

"Hey Fonzie, can I talk to you for a minute? Remember the other day I was talking to you about me and Mary Lou Milligan? Well, the fact is...we didn't do anything. I lied."
"You know, that makes me mad...seeing how you said you did, I figured you did, and she did, so I got a date with her myself this afternoon. I gotta waste a whole day...and gas..."
"She kisses real good."
"I polished my bike for a kiss?"
"I'm really sorry."

"Can I ask you a question?"
"Go ahead. I know everything."
"Okay, if you know so much, tell me: can you fall in love with a girl who has a reputation?"
"Write this down, Rich: there's two kinds of girls. Those you marry, and those that got a reputation."
"What about the ones who give hickies?"
"Oh well they're okay if, uh, if you marry them before they get reputations."

Classic American culture used to teach our kids a very simple lesson. There were two types of girls: those who kept their legs shut, and those who didn't. The girls who 'put out' were fun, and inevitably popular with the boys, but they weren't the girls the boys looked at when it was time to start a serious relationship.
To put it simply, girls who put out were sluts, and sluts didn't deserve respect. They were cheap goods used for sex.

It wasn't that long ago we, as a society, were teaching this to kids...and by not long ago, I mean in many places, we never stopped. Sure, we try to empower women with their own sexuality, and try to make them understand they have choices, same as men. Certainly in the kink community, we're doing our best to 'take back the word' SLUT, and give women a place to feel comfortable in their own desires. We want women to be stripped of their inhibitions, free of guilt...but free of guilt does not mean free of consequences.

There are still plenty of men out there who think a woman who 'puts out' isasking for whatever she gets. That by consenting to one thing, she's consenting to everything the guy wants from her.
Things went further than she wanted? She was asking for it.
Boundaries were crossed? She was asking for it.
Guy didn't stop when he was asked to? What can she expect, that he can just turn off like a switch? She was asking for trouble by leading him on.
She was asking for all of it by agreeing to start anything at all.

So when I see posts talking about "personal responsibility" and how these Boo-Hoo Victims are nothing but a bunch of whining crybaby females who got themselves into their own messes, what I end up reading between the lines is the old favorite standby of men everywhere:
She was asking for it.

Look, I know what some of these posts are trying to say. They're trying to say Ladies, the world is far from a perfect place—learn the dangers, so you can better assess your risks. And that is a great lesson to learn.

But when I see posts that do nothing but rant about how women everywhere are crying VICTIMHOOD as a way to deflect Regret Sex, I know what some of these authors are harboring in their heads. Those sluts knew what they were doing. They had the REP-U-TAYSHUNS. It's the poor guys are the real victims here, cause all they did was take what those sluts were offering.

And I know this is not true in all cases. I know some men like to come out of the woodwork with the hashtag cries of #NotALLMen and #MenAreVictimsToo. Andthis is all true.

But take a look around. Look how often women get the unsolicited demands for sex—not the requests, not the would you like to fuck me?messages, but the I am your master now, and you will do everything I say, bitch demands. Look how often these women are slandered when they refuse those demands.

Look how often posts come out from fed-up women trying to just remind everyone that being a sub-type does not make them public property. Look how often those posts make Fetlife's K&P. They make K&P because they resonate with so many.

Look how many women are talking about rape. Sexual assault. Physical assault. Physical abuse.
Look how many are afraid to talk about these things. Ask yourself why.

(Slut. Maybe try being the other type of woman. We all know you really wanted it.)

Too many still think "personal responsibility" refers only to women—and those pesky, complaining, passive-aggressive women need to own the fact that if they're into kink, they should expect to be treated a certain way. If that certain way will sometimes mean getting their boundaries crossed? Too bad. Life is full of hard lessons.

But "Personal responsibility" is not supposed to be about deflecting blame onto others, or looking for excuses. It's supposed to be about taking ownership of one's own actions.

So stop treating the issue of women's consent as some kind of joke. Stop alluding to it with a wink and a snigger. Stop pretending like there are two types of women—those who take personal responsibility for all the assholes of the world, and those who don't.

"Personal Responsibility" doesn't mean she needs to take responsibility for youbeing a dick. So stop being one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Submission IS a Gift! On Condition

I'm going to start by saying right off the bat that you can call your submission—or by extension, your submissive's submission—anything you damn well want. You want to call it a gift, fine. You want to call it a loan, also fine. You want to call it the cherry on top of your vanilla ice cream cock, have it at; it really makes no difference in my life.
Ok? Good.
It seems to me lately there is a strong and vocal group on Fetlife who believe that submission is "not a gift." These anti-gifters get very intent on informing people of that so-called fact; especially people—especially subs—who state the opposing view.
The thing is, most of the time they're not arguing philosophy, or sharing ideas. They're mocking and deriding anyone who calls their submission a gift. They hurl insults at these people like they're uneducated rookies—

Let's not even talk about how we treat rookies. Or, let's, but in another post—
and end up in this little circle-jerk of snide contempt. They claim submission is not a gift because gifts are supposed to be given freely, with no expectation of exchange or return...didn't we all know that? If a sub is handing out their submission like candy to a baby, they're doing it wrong. They need to get a clue; go back to the basics.

Well, hate to break it to you guys, but not all gifts come duty-free. There is indeed such a thing as a "gift with strings attached." There is actually a legal term for this: it's called the Conditional Gift.

Conditional Gift: a gift of property which is revocable if the recipient does not fulfill conditions attached to the gift.

The most common example of a Conditional Gift is an engagement ring. In all but a few states, if a man gives his partner an engagement ring but the wedding doesn't happen, his partner is legally obligated to return the ring. It was not given unconditionally, "no strings attached"; it was given on the condition that a marriage takes place.
Another type of Conditional Gift is what often happens in people's wills. They bequeath money to friends or family, but with conditions how the money must be used. It may have to go toward a child attending college, for example, or the purchase of a house. If the money isn't used the way the giver intended, the funds must be returned.
This, my friends, is often what submission is in a D/s dynamic: a Conditional Gift. It is given with the assumption that it will never be long as the submission is treated the way the submissive needs and desires. In most cases I know of, the submissive wants to be made to feel like their submission is appreciated, respected, and cherished. As long as that happens, it need never end.

The submission need never be "returned" to the submissive.

(And yes, before any of you jump on me, Domination works the same way. No Dom I know is willing to dominate a sub who does not appreciate—or get turned on by—their style of dominance. It's just not fun that way.)
Submission is not a loan, because the truth is, it can never be returned—once given, the time and service spent in submission cannot be taken back. And really, who would want it to work that way? When care and thought is put into submission, it is personalized to the receiver. It cannot be simply handed over to someone else, traded in like a used car.

I have more than one person I submit to in my life—and I do mean in a kinky, D/s way—and they all get different styles, different displays, of my submission. The way I submit to one is not the same way I submit to another; they would not want me to submit to each one of them the exact same way.
And frankly, I wouldn't be able to, even if I tried. My submission is not generic. It changes, depending upon the person.
It is my gift given...conditionally.

I think it's funny how so many people here will jump on dictionary definitions to stand higher atop their soapboxes and claim submission is not a gift. These are often the same people who are sticklers for rules, protocols, and contracts in the D/s dynamic.

Yet if one wants to get all formal and legal, there is a term for what we do, what we submissives give...and the word "loan" isn't in it.

Or it doesn't have to be. If you want to call it a loan, fine. Like I said in the beginning, whatever makes you happy. Just don't try to serve me up a helping of sneers and jeers next time I call my submission a gift. I think this time contract law is on my side.

Here is a gratuitous Big Bang Theory clip, simply because it's so timely and funny:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Was A Rape Victim, and I Didn't Know It. This Is My Story.

I've been debating writing this post for a while. I think the why of it will become clear as you read on. But a couple of posts that have recently made K&P made me think that maybe my experience could help someone else.
I was raped in college.
This is what happened:
I had a boyfriend whom I will now refer to as Slink. Slink was a rather shady character: charming, beguiling, but deep-down dangerous. He would manipulate me, control me in ways that rang my WARNING bells from the beginning…but that was part of the excitement. He liked to control me, but I needed the control.
I had not yet learned how to differentiate between "good" control and "bad" control.
He was a Bad Boy, and I was the girl who liked the danger. As many young women do, I romanticized it. (I stopped doing that shit a long time ago…but I understand why so many women do that. The danger is what's so fucking enticing and addictive.)
Slink and I were already having sex, but we had to be sneaky about it—quick fucks in dark corners and secret rendezvous, like a scandalous game of cloak-and-daggers. He was rough and forceful, always just on the cusp of turning violent. His aggression only added to my captivation. I was a little bit afraid of him, but I needed that fear, and he never went over the edge.
He never did, until he did.
He brought up the subject of anal sex. I was too embarrassed to tell him I was already well familiar having fun with that area of my body, but I replied with an enthusiastic yes: I was willing to try it, absolutely.
We met in his dorm room. I stayed after curfew started.
This becomes important later.
We got naked; did all the foreplay stuff. It was actually sweet for a while, because he didn't usually do all the lovey-dovey things I thought of as foreplay. He kissed me, caressed my body, and I felt good; I felt special that a Bad Boy like him would show me this side of him.
Then he flipped me over on my hands and knees and started pushing himself into my ass.
There was no pre-stretching, no lube, no preparation of any kind. It hurt like hell. I wanted him to stop, and I told him so.
He didn't stop.
I tried to maneuver myself over so I could look him in the face as I told him to stop; then he would have to stop. He grabbed onto me, onto my hips.
I started to struggle and yell. He didn't stop.
I started to scream and cry; scream because I couldn't believe this was happening, and cry because it hurt so fucking much. He still didn't stop.
Finally I was screaming so loudly, I got the attention of some guys outside in the hall. They started knocking on the door, asking why they could hear female-sounding screaming within—curfew was over, didn't he know?
The knocking distracted Slink just enough that he loosened his grip on my body, and I quickly wrangled myself away. In the time it took Slink to offer some kind of response to the guys outside, I put on my shirt and skirt—my bra was left behind, I never saw it again—grabbed my shoes, and swung open the door.
There was a small group standing there. They paused, and stared down at me in surprise. I bowed my head low, and kept it there as best I could so they wouldn't see my face.
I ran out of the building barefoot. I put my shoes on only when I was halfway to my own dorm building, and I could feel the gravel cutting into my feet.
I was afraid to tell anyone what had happened, because I didn't want to get into trouble: I was not supposed to have been in Slink's room after curfew. I was afraid if I told anyone at the school what had happened—what he had done to me—they might punish Slink, but they would punish me, too.
My fear was not unwarranted.
The next day, I did tell a counselor. In a very kind and motherly way, she told me that I didn't have to worry, that she would take care of things from there on out. She told me she would make sure I would not be punished for being in Slink's room after curfew—a favor she was doing me, she called this—even though that had been very wrong of me.
She made sure to remind me that this was why they had rules like curfew...that if I had just followed the rules, I could have prevented all this from happening. Prevented myself from getting hurt.
I could not argue with her.
Now, here's where we get back to the subject of this post. For many years, I never thought of myself as a "rape victim." I knew something bad had happened to me, yes; something terrible and wrong. But I never, not once, thought of it as rape.
I didn't think of it as rape because—and please, don't roll your eyes at me, okay?—since Slink never actually finished doing the deed, since he didn't get to come inside me, then it wasn't actually a case of rape. It was...something else. Something horrible, yes, but not rape.
The word "rape" never entered my mind.
It wasn't until a whole lot of years later, reading some article in a news magazine about another rape case, that I realized what Slink had done to me was rape, that he didn't have to finish inside me for it to still be rape—the fact that he entered my body under those conditions, knowing full well he did not have my consent, made it rape.
Suddenly realizing it was rape did not change anything. Or maybe it did, a little; putting memories in different contexts always changes them to some extent. But it didn't change the effect of what that night had on me.
That was done.
You might think I was stupid for thinking if a guy doesn't actually finish, orgasm, inside a woman's body, that it's not really rape.
I probably was. But there are a lot of reasons why women might not think what was done to them was rape:
  • Maybe the guy was really a nice person who would never do that, so it's not really rape.
  • Maybe they had sex with the guy before, so clearly the guy had carte blanche right to have sex with them again, so it's not really rape.
  • Maybe they were giving mixed-signals, so it's not really rape.
  • Maybe the guy was their boyfriend, lover, or spouse, so it's not really rape.
  • Maybe there was something else they could've done, some way they could have made their objections clearer, so it's not really rape.

•Maybe the rape was partly their fault, so it was not really rape.

So. Hi. I'm Shelby, and I was, once upon a time, a rape victim who didn't know she was raped.
One of the big reasons why I was loathe to post about this is because I don't want this to change the way people think of me. I don't want pity, and I certainly don't want this to be the thing that somehow humanizes me in anyone's eyes. I was not the proverbial Rape Victim; I wasn't then, and I'm not going to become one now. I went through a lot worse than what that rape did to me, believe me; both before that night, and after. Take that as you will.
But I will say this: I did not deserve to be raped.
I liked going out with the Bad Boys. That does not mean I deserved to be raped.
I was in his room after curfew. That does not mean I deserved to be raped.
I made stupid decisions. That does not mean I deserved to be raped.
I learned from my bad decisions. I learned the hard way.
Maybe some people out there who read this post will learn from my mistakes, and save themselves from making a few of their own. "A smart person learns from their mistakes; a wise person learns from other people's mistakes."
I can hope so.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tools Are Good. Temperament Is Better.

I'll tell you Cats and Roosters a little secret:
As far as "Domly tools" skills go?
Husband has practically none.

He does not know how to throw a whip fluidly. He does not know how to throw a flogger with mastery. He does not know how to handle rope with the dexterity of an artist.
He knows how to handle a hairbrush, but that's about it.

He uses floggers to make me hurt. He uses rope to tie me down. He doesn't bother with whips at all—why spend the money on a whip, when there's a power cord right fucking there? 

He has a collection of canes, rulers, and sticks he loves to use on me. They are rather simple tools in that they are easy to use, and have a really good Effort:Reaction ratio.
You aim, lift, swing, drop...and the body beneath you is suddenly wailing in agony. Not bad, when you consider all the trouble you can get into with a whip; I don't know a single whip enthusiast alive who's never hit themselves with a whip. Whips are wily toys, and like snakes, they can sometimes bite their charmers.

Husband feels no great urge to learn how to use those toys, because the passion for him is not in the skill. It is in the results.
Is the wife contained? Is she subdued? Is she terrorized? Yes to all three? Then mission accomplished.

He will sometimes cuff me down to the bedpost when he knows he's embarking on a particularly difficult scene with me. I do my best to follow orders, but I'm still human, and when I'm reduced to the mindset of PREY, my instincts usually take over; and those instincts boil down to FIGHT and RUN.
Make no mistake, though, when he cuffs me down, he is doing me a favor. He is being nice, allowing me the freedom within those restraints, because it is ten times harder to control the PREY urges when I'm acting on his voice, and his orders alone.
It is hard. On the other hand, I am well trained.

But GOD there are times when I just want to beg him to put the cuffs on me.

You don't have to be proficient at this-or-that tool in order to be a Dom.
You just have to know how to dominate.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Failure to Protect

When I was in college living abroad, I took some self-defense classes by a short little harmless-looking man I'll call The New Yorker. He had grown up in America, but had spent many years in the IDF, training soldiers in one-on-one combat. I don't know exactly how many years, or precisely what his job title was; he was the kind of man who kept many secrets...the kind of secrets I was safer off not knowing.
It was an honor to be trained at all by him. Those few lessons he gave me were a precious gift.
I don't remember anymore most of the maneuvers he taught me. But I do remember one moment quite well:
He asked me to punch him. I could not. He asked again; I hit, feebly.
"Don't hit me like I'm attacking you," he said. "Hit me like I'm attacking your kid."
The ploy worked. I hit much harder. Not hard enough to do him any damage whatsoever, of course...but he smiled at my efforts, which meant a lot.
Years later, back in the States, I was helping a friend shape up for a karate class. She tried to swipe a kick at the sandbag I was steadying for her, but I could tell she was holding back.
"Don't think of it like you're defending yourself," I said. "Think of it like you're defending your kid."
"But I don't have any kids," she said.
"Then your best friend," I said.
The ploy worked, and she kicked the bag much harder.
We are often able to let go of things done to us. When someone says nasty shit to us or about us, we're able to put it into perspective, realize the jerk is just being, well, a jerk, and move on.
It's harder to move on so quickly when the shit being stirred about surrounds a friend. Our urge is often to protect; we go all MamaBear on the asshole who dares to harm our loved one. We say things, and do things, we would never do to defend ourselves.
The problem is that by giving into this need to protect our friends—whom we often think of as family—we take away their ability to protect themselves. We scream on their behalf, and take away their voice. We choose who should know their story, and take away their choice. We guard them against further harm, and in so doing, trap them in place...making it impossible for them to move on.
When a friend is hurt, the thing to do is to listen to what they need. Sometimes they don't need anything else but for someone to listen.
And sometimes, yes, they will ask you for your support as they speak out. Sometimes this support is not so easy to give; sometimes it may cost you dearly. It is a choice whether you can emotionally, and psychologically, afford it.
I once failed to support a friend when she spoke out against her abuser. I regret that decision to this day; it still haunts me. I have long since forgiven any person who ever violated my consent in the kink community, but I cannot forgive this man who harmed her.
She, meanwhile, has moved on completely from this man. He no longer has any sort of hold on her life.
This is the way of it sometimes. We can forgive those who try to harm us, but we cannot forgive those who harm the people we love.
The people we often need to forgive are not those who would do our friends and family harm. It is ourselves we need to forgive, for failing to protect them.