Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Personal Views on Presenting and Expectations of Confidentiality

So, what did you do last weekend?

I broke my toe!

I also presented a class at a kink conference. The class was titled The Art of Begging; I'll let you figure out that one.
A demo was incorporated into the class. I was, of course, the bottom.
I had to fix my tear-stained makeup afterwards. I'll let you figure out that one, too.

Presenting a class is sometimes a delicate thing. You want your audience to learn something; you want them to walk away feeling like their time was well spent; but mainly, you don't want to embarrass yourself.
(At least not in a bad way. I embarrassed myself plenty at the last class I presented, and got resounding applause for it.)

You don't want your listeners to misinterpret or misunderstand what you're trying to say. You don't want to flub and say the wrong thing entirely.
Giving a class is often giving a first impression of yourself to a lot of people. You don't want to fuck that up.
But since it's a kink event, confidentiality also comes into play.

Class presentations are a different breed entirely from discussion groups, at least in my opinion.
Discussion groups typically have a moderator: someone who makes sure the meeting stays civil, on topic, and that everyone a chance to talk.
But the moderator is not there to impart their trained knowledge, or even speak more than anyone else; in fact, moderators often say the least of all. In a discussion group, everyone has equal right to speak, and nobody's opinion is held to higher regard than anyone else's.
We all have our own truth, and as long as we are speaking from our own truth, our words are well received.

But since we're all there on a level playing field, welcome to share our own truth, then holding those words confidential becomes vital. Nobody feels safe to speak when they have to worry later about their words being used against them—which is why discussion groups have rules about confidentiality.
I've discovered that the well-run groups have very strict rules...and very good enforcement.

But in class presentations, there is one teacher, one authority figure, imparting information to an audience. The audience may have the chance to ask questions, and offer up their own knowledge, but for the most part, the person talking is the one people came to see, and they expect to get some value for it.

At a kinky class, confidentiality rules still come into play. People expect that
1. No one who comes to the class will divulge to others whom they saw there
2. No one will share private information that they heard from another audience member

Of course these rules are often only loosely followed. In tight-knit kink communities where everyone knows each other, familiarity induces transgressions, some major, some minor. Breaches of confidentiality occur. When everyone is friends with each other by six degrees of separation or less, it's easy to forget that the rule of Keep Your Mouth Shut still applies.
Unfortunately, you never know when the information you share will end up in the wrong ears.

Many of us have horror stories. I know I have one. I shared information about someone's predatory behavior in a discussion group; I later found out a person in the group repeated everything I had said to the very wrong person.
It was messy, unnecessary...and said a lot about that person, frankly.
If you can't abide by the rules of confidentiality, don't go.

But in my opinion, the rules of confidentiality have nuance of exception when it comes to class presenters.

Class presenters are not just offering up their own truth; they're offering up a belief that they want you to incorporate into your own set a beliefs, to change your actions somehow, no matter how slight that change may be.
Class presenters are in a position of authority. When the audience enters that class, they walk in with the assumption the class presenter will present reliable information with credible knowledge—otherwise they never would have been allowed by the organizers to give the class in the first place. 
Again, this is my opinion: but I think this should hold them to a higher standard.

I think their words should be shared outside of the class. I think what they say through their place of privilege—because giving a class is a privilege—should be scrutinized and questioned. I do not think they should be able to hide behind the rules of confidentiality to conceal and belie their own words.

But I can't speak for other presenters, I can only speak for me.
So this is my rule as a presenter, clearly spelled out:

I expect everyone who attends one of my classes to keep confidential the identities of those who are there, the faces they see in the crowd. I expect everyone to keep confidential things that other audience members share.

I do not expect anyone to keep confidential the things I say as the class presenter. 

You don't like something I said, say so. You want to write a public review, write it. You want to drag me on the carpet for a statement I made, drag away.
As a class presenter, I am willing to take that on. I want it. I think it's one of the inherent responsibilities of any presenter, to be able to stand by their words—or apologize for them. If I can't do that, I shouldn't be presenting in the first place.

Like I said, giving classes is an honor and a privilege. It's a sign of the trust my community has in me, and I want to maintain that trust.
So if you ever hear me say something in one of my classes you think is wrong, or just somehow doesn't sit well with you? Ask me about it; disagree with me in the strongest terms you think are necessary. Public, private, I don't care. It would be nice if tell me when you've hit publish on something somewhere, so I have a chance to respond; but I'm not going to get mad if you don't.
For me, personally, there is no expectation of secrecy when it comes to what I say while presenting.

I just wanted to make that clear.

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