Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Newbies, Don't Update That Relationship Status Too Quickly

Cats and Roosters, let's talk about consent violations in relationships. Why? Because when we're talking about consent violations, inevitably, we start talking about the relationship the accuser and the accused shared before the (alleged) violation took place.

On the one hand, we have what I call the "single-scene" relationship violation scenario.
Typically, a couple starts negotiating for a scene; they may be strangers, but they also may be casual acquaintances. Boundaries are laid out, tools and toys are agreed upon, aftercare is discussed, etc.
Once the scene begins, and the bottom enters subspace, play can be negotiated down, but never up: the bottom may decide s/he can't take as much as they thought, and that's okay, but the Top cannot take liberty to do anything not previously agreed upon, because the bottom is not in a headspace to consent.
Anything not included in the original, agreed-upon negotiations is a consent violation.
I think
(I would like to hope)
most people agree with me on this.

But once a couple enters a relationship...ah, now everything is much murkier.
The kink community is very sensitive about people crying "abuse" on relationships, because let's face it, most of our relationships look abusive from the outside. Nobody wants their own relationship protocols and dynamics lampooned by those who don't understand; nobody wants their own relationships openly ridiculed or disparaged.
Nobody wants to feel like their private business is now suddenly everybody's business.
So the community as a whole shies away from judging other people's relationships, at least publicly. The belief is that what happens in a kinky relationship, stays in a kinky relationship.

The thing is this: predators know how much the community reviles the concept of labeling any BDSM relationship "abusive". It is a scary, scary thing for outsiders to do; it pulls into question everything the rest of us do.
Which is precisely why they want to get into a relationship with you as fast as possible.
Once they can claim everything you did, and they did, was in the boundary of the "relationship dynamics," they have now added a layer of protection to themselves and what they've done.

A scene went farther than negotiated? That was okay under the relationship dynamics. Someone failed to give informed consent? That was included in the relationship dynamics. Someone ended up not just hurt, but harmed? Hey, these things happen with these kinds of relationship dynamics.

Prior consent is no longer necessary, because in a relationship, ongoing consent is assumed.

And if things go wrong...if someone feels abused...that should be dealt with between the individuals themselves, those who were involved in the relationship. And we should never jump to assume abuse, because BDSM is often labeled abuse by outsiders, but we know better.

I often see and hear about those who've been in the scene for years and years, those who know the ins and outs of their local community, try to compel newbies into listing themselves as being in a "relationship" with them after a very short amount of time—sometimes after only days. And the thing is, many times the newbies are very happy to do this: it makes them feel like they are being included, like they belong. It's part of "community frenzy" process: they want to get inside, get to be belonging, as fast as possible. Being able to list someone on your profile, and tell other people you're "with" that person, goes a long way towards feeling like you're forming your own little circle among many other small circles that widen out into our big huge kinky circle jerk.

What I also see happening are consent violators later using that relationship status against the person accusing them.
"It's just a vengeful ex," they'll say.
"They wanted more from me than I was willing to give, so they decided to retaliate."
"They gave ongoing consent."
"It was all negotiated beforehand."

And what they will all fail to point out is that being in a relationship with someone does not mean you get to automatically treat them like dirt. Even in a relationship, negotiations have to take place, agreements have to be made—and I'm sorry to say it, but even in BDSM relationships, abuse can happen.
It's a concept we all must stop denying.

My advice to newbies out there:
Don't enter into a relationship with anyone too quickly.
Stop. Think about what the other person wants from you, what a "relationship" means to them, what they are willing to give in return. Think about what the bare minimum should include in any relationship you want to have.
Do you know this person's last name? Where they live? What they do for a living? Any allergies? Medical conditions? Do they have an emergency number to call if a scene with you goes wrong?

If you're too afraid to give this person your address? It might be a good idea to hold off on the "relationship" status.

And to those who are saying, "Some people who've been around for a while really do fall in love with newbies, not every fast relationship is a case study of abuse, love knows no bounds, hashtag-not-all-quick-relationships, hashtag-love-at-first-sight," blah blah blah....I KNOW.
I know, okay?

But too often now I've seen consent violators use RELATIONSHIP!!1! as armor and weapon against those accusing them of consent violation. And I'm sick of it.
So to those who prey on newbies in this way, who taint our community by hiding behind a sinister relationship status, I say to you: knock it off.
Your armor is cracking.

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