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.