Report on RACK Panel

On March 22, SF Citadel hosted a RACK panel of leaders and educators from the BDSM community dedicated to discussing this question, including its relationship to abuse.

The evening’s discussion was terrific.  Panelists included Levi (who was previously employed by NCSF), Queen Cougar, Disciple, Asher Bauer (Gaystapo on Fetlife, and author of “A Field Guide to Creepy Dom”, which I reposted here), and Chey, who together represented an excellent cross section of various branches of the kink and leather communities, which tend to have some different opinions on a number of issues.  Thorne did a masterful job of moderating, and asked some very important questions.

In the first half of the program, issues such as participants’ preferences for RACK vs SSC, attitudes towards breath play, and a couple of other matters were discussed, with a pretty predictable range of thoughts and opinions, with no two people seeing any of it quite the same way.

Asher felt that RACK is an edgier concept than SSC, because it implies more edge play and Disciple sees the two as falling along a spectrum.  Queen Cougar gave a history of the evolution of both concepts, and pointed out that the entire goal is to keep people safe, which is best accomplished, in her estimation, by just using plain old common sense, and not by mindless adherence to any particular acronym.  Levi spoke eloquently about how both are about safety in overall communications, the value of safety education, etc., distinguishing WIITWD from abuse, both being a “social expression of unified purpose” – and how NCSF feels that identifying with and playing as RACK actually increases players’ legal liability vs SSC.

Someone described RACK as often being used as “a coverup and club” for abusers, which everyone else nodded in agreement with.  My personal feeling is that they are both used that way.

The second half, however, was fully devoted to the question of consent, what it means, and whether or not violations of it should be reported to the police and/or made known to the community at large.  Thorne and I have been discussing these issues together for a while, and a number of the questions she asked were born out of issues I raised and my thinking on the subject.

Levi commented that he felt that consent is a construct, and fantasy container, that responsible masters hold the container for it, and must also take legal, emotional, and physical responsibility for their actions, as well as for their limitations.  He commented about the frequent involvement of coercion in obtaining “consent”, and how consent is sometimes used as justification for abuse, which brought murmurs of agreement from all of the participants.

Queen Cougar spoke eloquently and powerfully about how you “retain your personhood” even in the most intense relationships, and have the right to step out of it and protect yourself no matter what, despite any peer pressure to retain the M/s kind of dynamic and the twisted thinking that comes out of all of that.  Thorne added that that self protection includes emotional safety, as well as physical.

Disciple said that there are many savvy predators out there for whom consent really means nothing and are able to hide behind all the right language, and when he said straight out that they need to be “brought to light”, it drew a gasp of shock from the audience – and vigorous assent from the other panelists.  It was almost like someone had finally given everyone else permission to say out loud, and in so many words, what they had all been thinking, but hadn’t quite had the guts to say in so many words, and a virtual torrent of agreement came out.  He recommended setting aside your pride for the sake of the relationship, and not to rush into anything, taking your time to learn how that prospective partner reacts and treats others when he is under duress before you get involved, because that is highly predictive of how he will treat you.

We often speak about red flags that may clue one in that a particular person is a predator and likely to be dangerous.  Chey mentioned out that it’s a red flag if they’re not willing to come out of role and speak with the sub as equals, and Asher pointed out that sometimes there really aren’t any red flags at all, and that it’s “important not to victim blame”, no matter what.

What really stood out in this portion was that without exception, every single one of these community leaders and educators all agreed as the discussion ensued, particularly once Disciple came out and stated it so clearly, was that not only are violations of consent completely unacceptable, but that they should be reported to the police, as well as publicized widely throughout the community – and with names named.

What’s more, they all agreed that this should apply to all violations, that it is no longer acceptable to sweep so much under the rug as we have been doing for so long.

When I came into the scene a decade ago, this sort of scenario would have been absolutely unimaginable. I can’t think of anyone back then who I ever heard say such a thing, and to even bring the idea up would get one looked at with all kinds of suspicion, and generate a lecture on the importance of confidentiality, policing our own ranks, not involving the police because it would only serve to prove to the vanillas that we were indeed abusers and undermine our attempts to communicate just the opposite, and more – all of which would generally ultimately serve to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the victim.

No one would have said that abuse or violations of consent were OK, but no one would have been willing to actually advocate taking this kind of action.

And a lot more protection was given to D-types who were in M/s relationships in particular, and blame heaped on the S-type, with the admonition that she had entered into this arrangement voluntarily, and that it was all about the dom so he could do no wrong and she had to obey, etc., etc.  Sadly, we still hear some of this claptrap, but on the whole, it thankfully seems to be diminishing.

I’ve written and spoken a lot about what I see as the issues with abuse of various sorts in our circles, and while virtually every individual I can think of with whom I’ve spoken privately has also expressed similar sentiments, there is something about it being said out loud by five separate people who are respected in the community, in front of an audience of probably somewhere around 50 people, that to me, really brings home what I’ve been saying all along for several years, that abuse and violations of consent are huge and growing problems in our ranks, that we absolutely must deal with very differently than we’ve been handling it in the past.

In the “old days”, when the scene was much smaller and more underground, self-policing was much more feasible, and much more essential.  Nowadays, though, attitudes are changing, the police and the rest of the vanilla world are increasingly aware of WIITWD as a fundamentally consensual activity, and as a result, it is less taboo to discuss openly, and in a number of jurisdictions, local law enforcement is actually quite enlightened, so reporting abuses to them, when indicated, is far less likely to have negative repercussions for others than it probably was in the past.  We still have a long ways to go to achieve full understanding and cooperation from law enforcement, but the road is better paved than it was before – and just by virtue of our sheer huge increase in numbers and accessibility, self-policing the way it was back then, especially as a sole solution, is truly no longer a viable solution to these problems.

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6 Responses to Report on RACK Panel

  1. Pingback: Awareness of BDSM Related Abuse Is Growing « KinkyLittleGirl – On Abuse and BDSM

  2. Regyna Longlank says:

    I really appreciate the work you have done bringing this information together. Thank you for sharing your analysis.

  3. My pleasure. I think it was such an important event that I wanted to be sure the content was preserved. I also posted in on Fetlife in the Citadel group, but I see that it was deleted for some reason (God, I *hate* the censorship!), so I’m doubly glad I posted it here as well.

    I hope that we will one day be able to look back on this and wonder why anyone thought it was a problem to expose these issues, or debate the existence of the problems.

    • Regyna Longlank says:

      There used to be a similar issue at Burning Man. People who had been assaulted didn’t want to give the scene a bad name, everyone wanted to believe it wasn’t happening, but it is always happening. Anywhere you have people you will have predators. It is hard for people to admit that it can happen to them, in their group, in a community of choice. If people speak up about what has happened to them, and the community moves against it, it will stop. Denying that it’s there changes nothing, and it’s dangerous.

      Like Burning Man this group will probably realize it’s in their own best interest to self-police rather than wait for the legal authorities to come in and make a bunch of new rules for them to deal with, which is what will happen eventually if it’s not addressed. Having someone from within the group step up and show a willingness to address these things at a grass roots level is incredibly valuable. If they have any sense at all they will offer you support, give you access to any resources you might need, and get behind your efforts 100% because you can’t buy enthusiasm, and the only effective change will come from within. If this group chooses to tolerate abuse it will be their demise. It’s just common sense.

      • It is indeed hard for people to admit it can happen to them, particularly in a community of this sort that prides itself on negotiation, safety, and consensuality. I totally agree that denying it happens is dangerous. It’s also incredibly cruel to the victims.

        Part of the current problem, IMO, is that we have historically self-policed. It may be that in the old days, when things were more underground, and one had to be invited in, that it was more controllable. I don’t know. What I do know for sure is that nowadays, self-policing to the level that may have happened in the past is not going to be possible, at least not in the sense of the community sitting judgment on people on a one-to-one basis. What is required now is a culture change away from protecting predators and others who abuse their partners – and a greater willingness to involve the police when appropriate, as in whenever one might reasonably do so even in a vanilla relationship.

        What this requires, too, is a greater understanding of the parameters of consent, and the contexts in which it and play happen, and how all of that in play is differentiated from what happens in abusive relationships and interactions.

        I’m actually very please that more and more people are starting to see these things for themselves, and a consensus is growing. I am absolutely delighted that the NLA Domestic Violence Project has contacted me and asked to link to my blog, and asked me to participate in some studies of what is actually happening in our community.

  4. Regyna Longlank says:

    That is excellent. I look forward to the findings.

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