Salvation Army attacks sex-positive activist through its human trafficking email list

Sometimes people try to tell me that no one has a problem with S&M; that all stigma against S&M is in our heads and that if we BDSMers would just get over our victim complex, we’d discover that society has no real problem with us. I’ve got tons of counterexamples, but today I’m only going to talk about one: my friend maymay, a sex-positive activist and kinkster who has now been painted as a child molester, starting with an attack from the Salvation Army (specifically, two women named Margaret Brooks and Donna M. Hughes).

I admire maymay; he’s done some incredible sex-positive activism. He created the sex-positive unconference model KinkForAll, which swiftly went viral, and co-created Kink On Tap, a smart sexuality netcast with tons of audience participation. Maymay is also out of the closet under his real name, which is an incredibly ballsy and badass move on his part, but one that puts him in all the more danger when absurd and libelous personal attacks like these are launched.

What I find most notable about the Salvation Army attack is that — although maymay’s events and activism focus on general sex-positivity more than BDSM in particular — it’s BDSM that got up their noses. When the Salvation Army’s Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking jumped on maymay, they implied that the “The specific goal of the event [KinkForAll] was to foster an acceptance of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism.” Well, I attended and presented at the first KinkForAll in New York City, and while a lot of BDSM information was shared, the specific goal of the event was definitely to be generally sex-positive.

So why is BDSM the centerpiece of Salvation Army’s little freakout? One might say that it’s because maymay identifies as a submissive, and frequently blogs about BDSM; or perhaps it’s because KinkForAll attracted a large BDSM community contingent, probably because we’re very accustomed to talking and trading information about sex in a KinkForAll-compatible style. BDSM thus becomes the lightning rod. But it couldn’t function as such if BDSM weren’t seen as deviant, sick, unacceptable, and disgusting. If society really had no problem with BDSM, then why would the Salvation Army be sending messages to a sex trafficking listhost attacking a BDSM-associated event?

(Tangentially, it’s worth noting that talking about sex trafficking — which is a genuine and serious problem in many places — has been used throughout history as a tactic to attack, shut down, criminalize or control various forms of consensual sexuality. If you’d like to learn more about this, I strongly recommend the brilliant blog Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex by Laura Agustín. Start with “What’s Wrong With the Trafficking Crusade“. If you don’t mind academic writing, Agustín’s paper on the history of sex worker “rescue” initiatives is also particularly good.)

The other thing that really gets me about maymay’s attackers — in his post, he engages one one blogger in particular — is the assertion that sex-positive activism leads to “doing whatever” with no regard to the emotional consequences. In her argument with maymay, the blogger states that:

all the things I’d been told about sex – again, on whatever end of the spectrum – had quite clearly missed the point. “Don’t do it” with not explanation leads to rebellion or shaming. “Do whatever” leads to heartbreak. That has been my experience.

I think that we are sexual beings, yes. This means that our sexuality is part of everything – body, mind, heart, soul. I don’t think we can separate, hard as we might try, the one from the other.

Wow, hey, that sounds just like what I’ve been saying for years! In fact, it almost exactly mirrors some things I said in my landmark post Liberal, Sex-Positive Sex Education: What’s Missing. I wrote:

I think that there are lots of people out there who feel as though the sexual liberation movement “failed” or “betrayed them”, because they convinced themselves that sex is value-neutral and then got hurt. … We need to start talking about sex as something that is not mostly mechanical — as something that, yes, can be “a private sphere for the creation of human meaning”.

So what’s with this assumption that sex-positive activists have no clue about social issues of sexuality, or matters of the heart? Working to destigmatize sexuality is in no way incompatible with working towards better, more consensual, more meaningful relationships; in fact, I’ll be bound that sex-positive activists do a much better job of this than these “anti-trafficking” folks do. As maymay wrote in a recent email:

Protecting people of every gender and age from falling victim to sexual abuse requires that each person — including every man, woman, and child on Earth — has the right and freedom to learn about sexuality in a non-judgmental environment.

Predictably, Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks are refusing to engage maymay directly. (That’s a typical sex-negative tactic; as I recall, the makers of the appallingly biased anti-porn documentary “The Price of Pleasure” have refused to publicly engage with actual porn actresses as well. Funny how most sex-negative arguments collapse when faced with those of us who freely and consensually choose to do Whatever It Is That We Do.) That leaves the sex-positive community to back up maymay on our blogs, podcasts, and Twitter accounts; and from what I’ve been seeing, we’re doing a good job. We can’t erase Hughes’ and Brooks’ harmful accusations, but we can damn well expose them for the absurdities they are.

Cross-posted at Clarisse Thorn

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60 Responses to Salvation Army attacks sex-positive activist through its human trafficking email list

  1. 1
    Felix says:

    I was talking about casual sex – no kinks, just no commitment – with a class recently. They had a similar reaction: you can’t possibly have casual sex without people getting hurt; it always leads to heartbreak. But they went on with all this talk about women needing to respect themselves and – WTF – “be clean.” What year is this? We tried to deconstruct these concepts, but they’re having a hard time thinking from the outside of them. I’m a bit baffled. This isn’t a particularly religious group of kids. What part of our culture is perpetuating these norms to this extent?

    I mentioned some media with the opposite view – Sex in the City for instance. Their response: “Those women are all whores.”

    This is the first time I’ve had a class so opposed to casual sex, so strongly unified on one side of the fence. I hope they’re just an anomaly.

  2. 2
    asp says:

    What part of our culture is perpetuating these norms to this extent?

    Well, I’d say most of it. Women are still very much objectified in much of the culture and the media. As objects they are endowed with a certain value (one that does not stem from their individual personality, but one that is akin to the value that the capitalist society gives to a commodity), but that value diminishes the more the object is used – like any other thing that you buy at the store and which is more valuable when you get it at first, than later after you’ve used that thing hundreds or thousands of times.

  3. 3
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Felix — What kind of class was it? Where do you teach?

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    That’s not a perpetuation of a no-casual-sex norm, Felix; that norm died 40 years ago. Your class is in youthful rebellion against the new norms of normative promiscuity, “hookup culture”, etc.

  5. 5
    ElleDee says:

    Robert, it’s been my experience that even if someone participates in this “hookup culture”, that doesn’t mean that they identify as pro-casual sex. They may be hypocrites, or they may have some rationalization for why their actions are not a violation of their morals, but when other people do it it’s promiscuous, like that old saying that a slut is someone has slept with more people than I have +2.

  6. 6
    Katie says:

    @Felix – Probably, too, anyone who disagrees with the more vocal elements in the class doesn’t feel safe saying so.

  7. 7
    Silenced is Foo says:

    It’s been decades, and yet the concept that “other people are allowed to believe that sex is good clean fun and nothing special” is still controversial, because certain folks have trouble grasping that defending somebody isn’t the same as agreeing with them.

    @Felix

    I’ve come to realize that commenting on a woman’s “self-respect” and “self-worth” has become slut-shaming for those who wear progressive clothing. “Self-worth” is the term that bothers me the worst, because it implies economics… that she’s not extracting enough return from her sexuality.

    @ElleDee

    I’ve heard some incredibly spectacular mental gymnastics from people into the “hookup culture” to mask their hypocrisy. Usually it’s just some sort of “that’s just how I’m wired” defense for the guys, and the ladies have elaborate excuses why each one of their dalliances were special cases… and every other person in the hook-up culture is a filthy whore. Basically, a sort of seething disgust for everyone involved (particularly the women) except themselves. The ones I always laugh at are the guys who insist that when they’re done playing the field they’ll settle down with the nice, virginal, marrying type… and then wonder why their sex life goes down the tubes post-nuptials.

  8. 8
    Lisette says:

    It’s so hard for me to understand how BDSM can seriously be equated to human trafficking by anyone who actually understands what it is. Consensual nonconsent is not human trafficking. A close friend of mine is friends with Maymay, and recently introduced me to his blog; I’m so impressed with how he’s handled this whole situation, and horrified that anyone within academia so irresponsibly throws around accusations of human trafficking and pedophilia. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. 9
    Felix says:

    @ asp – This might open a can of worms, but can you give me a few examples of mainstream media objectification of women. When we brainstormed, it appears that women in media are represented about as well as men.

    @ Clarisse – It’s a grade 12 philosophy class.

    @ Robert – I think you’re right. This is a big swing away from attitudes of previous years.

    @ Katie – We started with an anonymous ethics survey – something I’ve done and kept track of for about ten years. This is the most conservative group by far. But you’re right, during debates the opposition isn’t surfacing because the dominant position is too numerous and loud.

    @ Silenced – I was particularly offended by the idea that women need to keep clean. There’s still an attitude that sex will sully young women, taint them, and, yes, decrease their value.

    We came up with a few reasons the stereotypes might prevail – a way for guys to keep their women from screwing around on them, and a way for girls to keep other girls away from their guys. But I suggested that it’s not a stereotype that’s really in their best interest. They could be enjoying life more if they didn’t buy into the virgin/whore dichotomy, if they weren’t so fearful and protective over their “property.” And all they have to do is stop talking and thinking this way. Be honest about sex – whether it’s immensely enjoyable or not so much, and social dynamics might shift some. But it’s a huge risk if others don’t go along with them and they’re labeled slut or prude and ousted from their social circle.

    At times like this I’m happy to be middle aged.

  10. 10
    Elusis says:

    I thought that the Salvation Army’s objection was that underage participants were allowed to attend the Unconferences (albeit only with a parent or guardian according to the rules) and the SA was intimating that OMG what if a sex offender attended tooooooooo eleventy, so the reason the human trafficking people got involved was their perception of the threat of a perp using the Unconferences as a recruiting grounds for… something? Not a sex slavery ring, surely… so it’s still a weird association, but it makes vaguely more sense?

  11. 11
    piny says:

    @Felix – Probably, too, anyone who disagrees with the more vocal elements in the class doesn’t feel safe saying so.

    I understand what Felix is saying about the general shift, but I think this is a really good point. I have felt extremely uncomfortable, as a pseudonymous adult talking to strangers on the internet, saying things like, “But I love that [filthy, nasty, degrading, pathological, degenerate sexual activity]!”

    It’s why I don’t participate in discussions like this on this blog. Once one side frames an aspect of sexuality as disgusting, it’s really difficult to counter with, “…Actually, I do that sometimes.” Even if you know that you enjoy it and have not been hurt by it, and even if you don’t value your interlocutor’s good opinion on an intellectual level. There’s still too much shame around being that slut.

    And while we’ve enjoyed (or in Robert’s case, suffered from) changing attitudes towards sexuality, this is also the era of sex-offender status for teenage girls who send naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends. The more sexually active or kinky students might be feeling that backlash, and may be more reserved as a result.

  12. 12
    piny says:

    Elusis, I understand what you’re saying, and that does make more sense than, “OMG BDSM CHILD SLAVERY RING!!!!!” But I don’t think I buy it.

    I’m all for making sure that no fifteen-year-old wanders into the spanking booth, but the way this was handled says smear to me, not concern for the children. There are a lot of ways to make sure that underage audience members are not exposed to the wrong things–and to make sure that predators are not welcome at your event. There are also a lot of ways to strongly object to a policy that seems lax or misconceived. This seems different.

  13. 13
    Elusis says:

    piny – I agree with you; I just thought it was strange that the OP’s post didn’t include that information anywhere, since it was central to the discussion other places I saw the topic come up. It’s just a little less weird to see “ZOMG THE CHILDREN” as opposed to “ZOMG BDSM” and also has the effect of making the SA’s vague charges both more menacing and more “sticky” (once you’ve been acused of child sexual abuse, having the allegation turn out to be unfounded does little to repair the damage to your reputation.)

  14. 14
    asp says:

    @ asp – This might open a can of worms, but can you give me a few examples of mainstream media objectification of women. When we brainstormed, it appears that women in media are represented about as well as men.

    A large part of the marketing revolves around displaying the woman’s body for the purpose of advertising a product. When she is compared or equated to an object that she sells she is also reduced to an object. It is hard to look at those messages and not to percieve the women merely as bodies, as objects, and not as persons, because they usually aren’t. For example, there’s this beer ad where a woman is equated with beer, a thing that is consumed. The shaping of the ‘object’, her washing, dressing, putting on make up, is there to produce the most appealing female object, much like the production of beer wants to produce the most appealing beer. And the point is driven home at the end when the ad says “She is a thing of beauty”. The strong association between her and the beer suggests that she, also, is something that is consumed, her body a commodity. Here’s another ad where the woman is reduced to her body and equated with something that is consumed, and this ad where the woman is replaced with another object that a man craves. Here’s a Reebok ad where the woman is just a collection of body parts that are meant to give you a boner while promoting sneakers. And this cover for Vogue is a nice example of how the woman is merely an object that serves to symbolize a man’s power. Etc, etc.

    Also, what does it mean that women in the media are represented as well as men? How often, for example, is the media focused on men’s fashion faux pas and how often it focuses on women’s? How often are famous women expected to satisfy high standards of appearance, as opposed to men, even when they only go out shopping or to the gym? Isn’t it indicative of our culture that the day after the Oscar awards, the media is just as interested in who won which award as in which actress looked best or worst on the red carpet? Our whole culture is saturated with the idea that a woman must not be judged based only on her achievements, her art, her acting, music or writing, but always on her appearance as well. And similar standards are not applied to men in that respect.

  15. 15
    firefey says:

    @Elusis: i agree, i found it odd that the regulations in question were left out of the OP.

    @piny: actually, there would be no spanking in booth or otherwise at a KFA unconference. no sexual play is allowed during the event as the focus is on discussions and not “hooking up.” which is what makes this even more troubleing.

    not all of the venues have required parents be present, but the Brown Uni event (overwhich the SA’s knickers are all twisted) had that requirement. Other events have had strict policies in place stating that anyone with a record of arest for sexual misconduct, whether convicted or not, was bared from participation. but other events have had no such restrictions, and many have had highschool aged participants. and what seems to be so appaling to the handringers is that maymay was not in any way upset that it happened. he was happy in fact, because it means that someone was able to get important information about safety in a place that was accepting to them. take BDSM out of the equation and pretend this was about being homosexual. wouldn’t you (figurative) want there to be a place where open and honest communication was available for people exploring their sexuality to go and learn? i know i would, and do.

    the thing that makes me so upset by this is not that BDSM is yet again being painted as a bunch of perverts. it’s not even the fact that we’re being pointed at as dangerous, becuase i’m honestly used to being a participant in this “crutch of the patriarchy”-”super damaging to everybody”-”totally wrong and deviant” mud slinging crap. what upsets me is the wanton cruelty and very obviously targeted slander and defimation. people who think that the way i have sex is damaging to me are welcomed to hold that oppinion. the ones who think my SO is damaged because of his desires are welcomed to that too. i work to change that and to have conversations where appropriate in my own life. but this kind of crap belongs with the Westborough crazies and their ilk. i expect more, much more, from the SA.

  16. 16
    Sailorman says:

    take BDSM out of the equation and pretend this was about being homosexual.

    That assumes that BDSM and homosexuality are equivalent. They may be to you; they’re not to many other people including me. BDSM is a particular sexual practice; homosexuality (or hetero-, or bi-, etc.) merely defines a category of people to whom you are theoretically likely to be attracted.

    Practice /= preference. Generally speaking, I would not presume to make a moral judgment about someone’s preferences. I am perfectly happy to make a moral judgment about someone’s practices.

    wouldn’t you (figurative) want there to be a place where open and honest communication was available for people exploring their sexuality to go and learn? i know i would, and do.

    [shrug] Not necessarily. Exploring sexuality can be fine (consenting adults,) but still inappropriate based on the setting. And exploring sexuality can be expected (12 year olds) but still not necessarily a good idea for other reasons.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with making a moral judgment that the practice of BDSM is inappropriate for minors.

  17. 17
    firefey says:

    and yet minors are going to explore their sexuality. i think that they deserve a place that will not shame them for that exploration, will not tell them that their desires are wrong. sure, i think it’s very helpful to ask pointed questions and ask for evaluation of desires. but overall, i think it’s MORE important to respect and acknowledge those desires in a way that doesn’t promote shame.

    as to the practice v/s preference thing… i actually don’t know that you can make that claim. do i think BDSM is genetic or inate? not really, but there does seem to be a fairly strong nature componant to that particular form of sexual expression. and given the kind of press both BDSM and homosexuality get, yes i absolutly feel comfortable making the comparison. it’s deviant, and unnatural, and harmful to children, and those who participate are constantly trying to recruit others, it’s a choice, and a sickness, and leads to moral depravity. these things get said about the LGBTQI community and the BDSM community.

    given that people are exposed to non-heteronormative sexual expression earlier these days, and that young people are making more informed decisions regarding their desired experiences i think it’s highly problematic to say to a highschool aged person “you cannot know this information.” problematic because it assumes they can’t have enough agency to make the decision to learn, and problematic because they’re gonna do it anyway and knowing about safety and consent is MANDATORY for heathy sexuality.

  18. 18
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Elusis — Not a sex slavery ring, surely… so it’s still a weird association, but it makes vaguely more sense?

    I suppose, arguably, it does make vaguely more sense. But I think the core point I was making still stands — that one of the big reasons, if not the main reason, SA freaked out was over the BDSM thing (plus related points about trafficking concerns being used to shut down consensual sexuality, sex-positive people being perceived as failing to respect the spiritual dimensions of sexuality, etc).

    Maybe it was remiss of me not to note the age standards, though. Not sure. I figured that people who are very interested in the original “facts” would click through to maymay’s own post.

    @Sailorman — A fair number of BDSMers (including me) argue that our sexuality is innate. See:

    http://kinkresearch.blogspot.com/2009/12/innateness.html

    and also:

    http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/bdsm-as-a-sexual-orientation-and-complications-of-the-orientation-model/

    Hence,

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with making a moral judgment that the practice of BDSM is inappropriate for minors.

    I do. I think that if I’d been exposed to reasonable (non-stereotypical, straightforward) information about BDSM sooner, I would have been better off. I started having sex when I was 16. Is it really such an awesome thing that I failed to have satisfying sex until I was over 20?

  19. 19
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    As it happens, one of my favoritest bloggers ever just posted very relevantly:
    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/keeping-americas-children-safe/

    Excerpt:
    Patrick Califia and I have a few things in common. Among them, we knew we were kinky before we turned 18. But the world was set up to make sure that we didn’t have access to information about how to be who we were in safe and sane ways, with age-appropriate partners, at that age.

    At least part of the focus of the personal attacks on MayMay has been the all-ages availability of the information at the KinkForAll conferences. It sounds to me like a flag of convenience, flown by people who would have a problem with the content no matter who it was presented to.

    As I look back on my teen years, the least dangerous information anyone could have given me was accurate safety information about how to do what I was starting to learn to do anyway; and social and political discourse about what it meant to do what it is that we do.

  20. 20
    firefey says:

    @Clarisse Thorn : one of the reasons i think the age restriction thing is so integral to the whole issue is because it was the main thread through the entire post at the heretofore unnamed (and for damn good reason imo) anti traficking site. everything they wrung their hands and clutched their pearls over was because of the children who might show up. who might be exposed. who might be corrupted and turned into kinky sex slaves. and maybe it’s the slave archtype that they were responding to, the one smart BDSMers are constantly defining and redefining. if you’re not privy to the conversations, i can kinda see how that might freak a person out.

    i no way do i think it excuses ANY of what they did. and i think the cowardice they’ve thus far shown speaks vloumes. and that makes me sad, because every slave i know that search their souls and came out the other side would willingly join the fight to end human trafficking if they were sure they wouldn’t be (figurativly or not so) spit on and told their kind weren’t wanted. seems a bit like shooting one’s self in the foot.

  21. 21
    piny says:

    That assumes that BDSM and homosexuality are equivalent. They may be to you; they’re not to many other people including me. BDSM is a particular sexual practice; homosexuality (or hetero-, or bi-, etc.) merely defines a category of people to whom you are theoretically likely to be attracted.

    Sure, the terms aren’t equivalent. But how much useful information can you impart if you don’t talk about anything but theoretical likelihood of attraction? A teenage gay kid should learn about things like safer sex and intimate abuse. A teenage kinky kid deserves that information as well. Practical information is important. This doesn’t mean that minors should be encouraged to have kinky sex, or kinky sex as minors, but they need to know the difference between (for example) a caring partner and a rapist.

    There are a lot of predators out there, and adolescents who feel isolated or misunderstood or lost are much more vulnerable to them. Heterosexism in practice already showed us that much.

  22. 22
    Felix says:

    @ asp – Thanks for the list. I need lots of specific examples to take to class. My students are firmly entrenched in the notion that men are treated as badly as women in media and, being much more immersed in pop culture than I am, they can come up with many examples to my few. We focused mainly on sitcoms though where many men are portrayed as idiots, therefore, they conclude, it’s acceptable to portray women as nags. They’re both reinforcing stereotypes which is a problem, but no more for women than men.

    I’m not sure how well they’ll be persuaded by examples of objectification, but it will be interesting.

  23. Pingback: Freedom of information, kinky and otherwise « Topologies

  24. 23
    Random Observer says:

    Lisette Writes:


    “Itâ��s so hard for me to understand how BDSM can seriously be equated to human trafficking by anyone who actually understands what it is. Consensual nonconsent is not human trafficking. A close friend of mine is friends with Maymay, and recently introduced me to his blog; Iâ��m so impressed with how heâ��s handled this whole situation, and horrified that anyone within academia so irresponsibly throws around accusations of human trafficking and pedophilia. These people should be ashamed of themselves.”

    Well, for a lot of people, any kind of non-normative or too-open sexuality is part of one big bad cultural package, with BDSM, porn, “sexualization”, sex work, and human trafficking being part of one big undifferentiated package. I will also note that this kind of lumping is far from the sole province of right-wingers; many hard-line anti-porn feminists have a very similar mentality. In fact, I note a certain irony in that regard â�� many people who are just *shocked* about Donna Hughes attacks on Maymay and, earlier, on Megan Andelloux seem to have a very soft spot for bloggers like Twisty Faster or Nine Deuce. Those who don’t think that post-Third Wave pop radfems like Twisty aren’t very much part of the same messed-up moral panic movement that more explicitly right-wing feminists like Donna Hughes represent are kidding themselves, in my estimation.

  25. 24
    hDcands says:

    Lisette:

    It’s so hard for me to understand how BDSM can seriously be equated to human trafficking by anyone who actually understands what it is.

    i think that’s the point. They don’t understand it.

  26. 25
    hDcands says:

    Sailorman:

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with making a moral judgment that the practice of BDSM is inappropriate for minors.

    The devil is in the details. Different places define “minor” differently. In some states you can have sex legally at 16. Others say higher or lower.

    Sex has dangers. BDSM has dangers. Sex+BDSM has all the dangers of both.

    You could make a case that we should set a lower age threshold for some things than for others. Societies already do that. Sometimes kissing is okay but penetrative sex is not.

    But the foundations of BDSM should be safety, consent, and explicit boundary management. Kids are going to find ways to do it whether we like it or not. If we deny them easy access to safety guidelines, don’t we set them up to get hurt?

  27. 26
    allburningup says:

    Check out maymay’s article: Young people into BDSM are not exceptional. The comment on that post by alterisego is especially pertinent.

  28. Pingback: strange bedfellows « sights and sounds

  29. Sailorman

    That assumes that BDSM and homosexuality are equivalent. They may be to you; they’re not to many other people including me. BDSM is a particular sexual practice; homosexuality (or hetero-, or bi-, etc.) merely defines a category of people to whom you are theoretically likely to be attracted.

    Depends on what aspects we’re talking about. They share that they’re personal rather than public on the whole; they share that I think, and I assume firefey thinks, that neither isharmful or wrong or something we need to steer even kids away from lest they take it up (for slightly different but overlapping reasons, to be sure).

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with making a moral judgment that the practice of BDSM is inappropriate for minors.

    Do you feel sex is inappropriate for minors? Bear in mind the category of “minor” is culturally determined. Is sex inappropriate for all minors? If not, do you feel BDSM is advanced-level sex, that people should have the basic mechanics down before fantasizing? A purpose of youthful explorations is to determine empirically what you like and don’t like.

  30. 28
    Maco says:

    Hersh, for as long as I have been aware of BDSM as a sub-culture I have believed that BDSM and minors do not mix, and I’ve always been resolute about that. When you posted your thoughts about youthful explorations and empirical knowledge it sounds very clinical and objective. I decided I should try to do some reading about children who grew up in homes where their parents practiced BDSM. I wanted to see what kinds of problems developed, and how they were dealt with.

    I found a blog where BDSM practitioners with children discussed how to deal with their questions and anxieties. People speak very moderately when they are trying to gain ground with a skeptical public, but when they think everyone in the room is on their side, you hear something different. What a minor is, what they’re confused about, what the right answer is and how to educate them, are all very fluid concepts.

    I don’t even want to repeat their questions let alone their answers. It has taken me two days to calm down enough to say I want them all to die in a fire, and I don’t ever want to hear of anyone educating a minor about BDSM again.

  31. 29
    Myca says:

    Heya Maco.

    1) If you have horrible, horrible, scary, no good, very bad examples of things that have been said on these awful, awful blogs, you should post them, rather than just saying that the people who want to educate minors about BDSM should die in a fire.

    2) Don’t say that people who want to educate minors about BDSM should die in a fire.

    3) Don’t do either of the above here, because, since December 16th of last year, you have been banned.

    —Myca

  32. 30
    hDcands says:

    i hear people expressing discomfort about the intersection of minors and BDSM. i have some discomfort there, too. Ethical BDSM depends upon safety and good management of boundaries. Ethical BDSM relies upon good impulse control. We all know that teenagers and minors often have trouble with safety, appropriate boundaries, and impulse control. Recent research suggests that good impulse control depends heavily on physical structures in the brain which don’t develop completely until the early-to-mid twenties.

    So if the phrase “minors and BDSM” raises some alert flags in people, good. There is cause for reasonable people to be concerned about that intersection.

    But let’s not be seduced by a false dichotomy. The choice is not between

    1. parents discuss BDSM with their children, under at least some circumstances,

    and

    2. children never encounter BDSM and lead long, happy, fulfilling lives.

    Children are going to be exposed, at least a bit, to some BDSM concepts. The sitcom jokes. “Oooh, kinky!” News reports about the Dom in London who took his sub on public transport on a leash, which got covered in mainstream print, with pictures. The scene in Little Shop of Horrors. (If you can’t think of the one and you’ve seen the movie, it’s where the Bill Murray character goes to see the dentist. On the basis of that scene alone, i wouldn’t let children see that show until they’re at least around 14 years old.)

    So children are going to be exposed, and they’re going to have questions. If their parents have done a good job, the children will feel free to ask the parents about their questions. Good parents will answer the questions. Age-appropriately. With appropriate boundaries.

    Bad parents will freak out, shut the conversation down, and turn the education of their kids back over to Popular Culture. After all Hollywood has done such an outstanding job with issues like gun safety, good driving and sexual education. They’ll probably do just as good a job with BDSM, right?

    So children SHOULD be dissuaded from ENGAGING in BDSM until they’re able to handle it responsibly. Same thing goes for vanilla sex, or snowmobiling without a helmet. But to accomplish that, restricting their ACCESS to age-appropriate, accurate information about ethical BDSM probably isn’t a winning strategy. They’ll still get information. It’s just a lot more likely to be the wrong information. And it’s more likely to be unconscious, and thus unexamined. Like the fact that gunshot wounds which don’t kill you in this scene just mean that your arm will be in a sling in the next scene, and forgettable after that. That’s a Pop Culture fave.

    So before we build a pyre for parents who talk to children about BDSM, let’s examine our real, actual parenting options. We have less control over our children than we might like. We should base our parenting on our real options, not the options we’d like to have.

  33. 31
    Maco says:

    I’m letting this through, as it’s an apology. — Myca

    Myca, if you’d be so kind, please permit me to apologize to the readership for my words in #30.

    Child molesters cause me to see red and still do, but regardless of my state of mind my choice of words was inexcusable. In a calmer state I can see you were right to object so strenuously. It was a comment worthy of a banning.

    I withdraw my remark, and to anyone hurt by my rash words, I am truly sorry.

  34. 32
    Jadey says:

    I want to make it clear that BDSM (or, rather, the sexuality and sexual identity/ies associated with BDSM practices) is not something that is taught (at least not to me). I have been kinky for as long as I have been queer, which is since I can remember. Children explore their bodies, others’ bodies, as well as ideas about sex, gender, sexuality, and intimacy from a very young age with an increasing level of sophistication and self-awareness as they grow. I was already kinky when I was three years old. I was not ready to have sex with another person, I was not capable of consenting to sex or kink in an aware and informed fashion, I did not know what BDSM was called or what sex was called or where babies came from, but I was already a sexual person in a very young stage of development, and already a kinky person in a very young stage of development (and, incidentally, already a queer person in a very young stage of development).

    I was helped by not being policed and pathologized and “protected” from myself (at least as much as was possible in a society that routinely does all three things to queer, kinky, female people, as well as to others). I did not need to be taught to be kinky; I needed to be taught how to look after myself and look after my partners. And that can start at any age.

  35. 33
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Maco — I withdraw my remark, and to anyone hurt by my rash words, I am truly sorry.

    Actually, it’s refreshing to find someone who’s willing to state those beliefs so bluntly. Usually when anti-BDSM people are ranting about kink and related topics, they shy away from outright saying things like “you people should die in a fire”, and limit themselves to more socially acceptable words. So when you tell BDSM educators we ought to die in a fire, you do an excellent job of revealing that BDSM stigma is alive and well … which is nice, given that I have to spend a surprising amount of time merely demonstrating that stigma and stereotypes exist and BDSM is not “mainstream”.

    I’m sure this is coming across as snarky, but I don’t get the impression that you’re apologizing for thinking that BDSMers are doing Sick Wrong Awful Things And Children Must Be Protected At All Costs Including Killing Their Parents In Fires — you’re just apologizing for saying so. So I’m still kind of annoyed, you know?

    Also, it’s a shame that in your apology you still didn’t see fit to link to whatever it is that made you “see red”, because I’m honestly curious. Since you can’t link it here, perhaps you’d be willing to email it to me or comment at my own blog, clarissethorn.wordpress.com.

  36. 34
    Myca says:

    Also, it’s a shame that in your apology you still didn’t see fit to link to whatever it is that made you “see red”, because I’m honestly curious.

    I’m curious as well. After I posted #31, Maco sent me something about … well, I’ll just quote him:

    What about hanging kids from their ankles and whipping them? What about a dominant parent teaching a kid to whip the submissive parent? What mood would that put you in? Would it help if they assured you that tears are a transitional state, an inevitable part of the un-learning of society’s arbitrary social conventions? I can tell you, it didn’t help me.

    Which yeah, that’s bad, but it also sounds awfully fictional to me, or maybe like he stumbled across a sex story and mistook it for a serious discussion or something. Anyhow, it would be good to know the source.

    —Myca

  37. 35
    Elusis says:

    What about a dominant parent teaching a kid to whip the submissive parent? What mood would that put you in? Would it help if they assured you that tears are a transitional state, an inevitable part of the un-learning of society’s arbitrary social conventions? I can tell you, it didn’t help me.

    I will say that this is not dissimilar to narratives I’ve heard from a couple of clients who were raised in homes with parents in an open D/s relationship. And as a family therapist, even a kink-friendly one, my eyebrows went up to the point that, were the clients not adults, I would probably have felt I had to pick up the phone and make an anonymous inquiry to CPS about whether it created a reportable situation. This was a far from common family background but I heard something similar from more than one adult. The majority of BDSM practitioners may have good boundaries between that part of their lives and their lives as parents, but it seems possible that a minority do not (and I have the same kind of trouble with that as I do with any kind of boundary violation between the couple relationship and the children.)

  38. 36
    Myca says:

    I will say that this is not dissimilar to narratives I’ve heard from a couple of clients who were raised in homes with parents in an open D/s relationship.

    1) I will totally take your word for that, but I am shocked and amazed if “hanging a child by the wrists and whipping them” or “training them to whip the submissive parent” is even a measurable minority of BDSM parenting.

    2) Involving kids in your sex life is sexual abuse, period. This goes whether it’s blowjobs or flogging. BDSM is a sexual activity.

    3) That being said, is this ‘about’ BDSM, though? I mean, if there’s vanilla child molestation, does that implicate vanilla sex ed? What if the adult says that he’s ‘teaching’ the child what to do? Which they do.

    —Myca

  39. 37
    Elusis says:

    The hanging/whipping is not something ever told to me (hence why I edited it out of what I quoted) and would be flat-out child abuse without a doubt. But children witnessing or being asked to participate in spanking their mother, or being aware that the reason Mom was crying was that she had been punished by Dad and being told this was nothing to be afraid of, because it was good for Mom – that, I’ve heard about from people who grew up with it.

    I would be hard pressed to call that “sexual abuse” because it doesn’t necessarily involve sexual activity. D/s may be a part of some people’s sexual relationship but in a 24/7 lifestyle, it seems plausible that a lot goes on that is non-sexual (example: dominant partner expresses a preference for dinner; submissive partner objects or argues, dominant partner gives a verbal correction or reminder). Physical punishment takes it to another level of course, as would explicitly referencing the D/s relationship, using non-physical punishments like humiliation or extra chores, etc. And that’s the kind of thing in these narratives I’ve heard from (again, a very few) clients: knowing Mom and Dad had a D/s relationship, knowing Dad sometimes punished Mom, having some level of exposure to that punishment or its aftereffects.

    Now, one could well ask, how is the day to day routine of life in a home with a 24/7 couple noticeably different to children from life with an extremely traditional male-dominated household with a fairly authoritarian father? An interesting debate could be had here, but I’m not inclined to carry it on (though when you throw in the ultra fringe movement of “wife chastisement,” it gets really murky).

    And I would never suggest that it represents anything like some kind of “norm” among kinky people to act this way around their children. In no way do I think it’s at all typical, or even a common variation. But it’s out there. And I would guess that it’s shocking, but not impossible, to imagine that some fool, somewhere, has actually publically advocated for it because god knows for every stunningly bad idea, there is some jackass somewhere who will sing its praises, and thanks to the Internet, we can find them.

    I will say I have seen a few otherwise sensible kinky people do things on occasion with children present (often other people’s children) that I found uncomfortably inappropriate, and have been told rather sharpishly that objecting to it is just like objecting to a same-sex kiss, which is a position I disagree with rather strongly. I once objected to some rather loud and public talk about BDSM activities in the middle of a family-oriented picnic, which was spun into a whole tale about how I secretly hate on kink thanks to some difficult interpersonal relationships but it effectively ended my participation in the area women’s scene as I didn’t want to deal with the drama. Again, not the norm, but I’ve seen it more often than I’m comfortable with. Still worlds different from advocating that children should be initiated into BDSM somehow, thank goodness.

    I can only say, regarding Maco’s post, that I personally found it fairly alarming to know that some folks grew up knowing that their parents had a BDSM relationship, particularly when that knowledge came while they were still young or even living in the home. Maybe it’s my issue, but it feels very not OK on a fairly deep level. I suppose I feel like the right level of information about parents’ sex lives stops fairly short past “we have sex with one another to express love, to enjoy ourselves, and because it feels good,” with specific questions on the order of “have you and Mom ever…” answered on a case-by-case basis only at the kid’s prompting and with thought to age-appropriateness. Parents’ preferences for lingerie, porn movies, sex in the shower, missionary position, spankings, B&D, edge play, whatever, seem to me better kept private.

    So I guess I have an issue with kinky parents sharing sexual information with their kids in exactly the same way I would with vanilla parents, but because there is this grey area of “activity that is non-sexual but still related to power exchange,” there’s an additional line of demarcation that feels right to me and “knowing that daddy spanks mommy until she cries and they believe that’s good for her” is on the opposite side of it in my book. And I have heard first-hand accounts of that which I found credible.

  40. 38
    Sailorman says:

    Hershele Ostropoler Writes:
    Depends on what aspects we’re talking about. They share that they’re personal rather than public on the whole; they share that I think, and I assume firefey thinks, that neither is harmful or wrong or something we need to steer even kids away from lest they take it up (for slightly different but overlapping reasons, to be sure).

    I disagree. Generally speaking, I believe BSDM to be in the more… “advanced” category of sexual relations, and that because it is in that category it is less appropriate for children. I’ll elaborate on that below.

    Do you feel sex is inappropriate for minors? Bear in mind the category of “minor” is culturally determined. Is sex inappropriate for all minors? If not, do you feel BDSM is advanced-level sex, that people should have the basic mechanics down before fantasizing?

    Fantasizing? Go nuts.

    But yes, I’d put it in an advanced category. The tools and methods of BDSM can be used for good purposes as well as bad. But they are designed to increase the extremes, and young children aren’t as good as managing the extremes.

    I’m trying to think of analogies which nobody will take offense to, and failing, so I’ll just use the ones I’ve got: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But the presence of guns means that stupid decisions by people have an opportunity to be magnified in effect. Similarly, BSDM isn’t responsible for poor behavior; that’s internal. But the methods of BSDM can mean that poor behavior is magnified in effect.

    I believe–and research supports–that younger people are not as good at making decisions. I’d rather limit the tools by which their bad decisions can result in bigger problems.

    There is also a level of personal trust based on the conversation. I have no problem inherently with people who take an opposing view to mine. But there are a discernable fraction of BSDM practitioners who not only disagree with my ultimate conclusion, but disagree that there is even anything worth arguing about at all. I frankly don’t trust the people in that category to be making good decisions regarding anyone, children included.

  41. 39
    Jake Squid says:

    I’d rather limit the tools by which their bad decisions can result in bigger problems.

    It would help me to understand your position if you could be specific in the tools that you think increase the risk and whether or not you imagine that is something that the vast majority of practitioners of BDSM think is appropriate for young children. Can you also define “young children?”

    Generally speaking, I believe BSDM to be in the more… “advanced” category of sexual relations…

    What do you mean by “advanced?”

  42. 40
    Sailorman says:

    Jake,

    Let me get this part of my point clear, first: Age is roughly correlated with maturity, and appropriateness is roughly correlated to maturity, and therefore appropriateness is roughly correlated to age.

    There are things which would be entirely inappropriate for anyone other than a consenting adult (and arguably would still be inappropriate for 18 year olds, who are still relatively immature) such as branding or perhaps certain types of breath play. There are things which are technically within BDSM umbrella which aren’t especially inappropriate for a 13 year old, such as, say, orgasm denial.

    Or, say, take bondage. Light bondage play is less dangerous than full on lockdown, where you’re depending on a safe word and trust to make sure nothing bad happens. Because kids do stupid shit, and aren’t especially reliable, I’d say that the degree of bondage (like all other BDSM) should correlate with age.

    What do you mean by “advanced?”

    Did you read the whole post? My feeling is that people will always experience a certain range of experiences. When you add tools or techniques which are designed to heighten the pleasurable experiences, the tools or techniques generally also provide the opportunity to worsen the bad experiences.

    In other words, you need to be more careful as you’re using more powerful techniques. Kids aren’t careful, and younger kids are even less so. Therefore, techniques should be age-restricted when possible.

    Advanced techniques are those techniques which, when used in reasonably predictable but inappropriate ways, are likely to cause more harm than less advanced techniques.

    Telling someone “hold still and don’t move” is a less advanced technique than handcuffing them, for example.

    the vast majority of practitioners of BDSM think is appropriate for young children.

    I don’t really assume that the “vast majority” of BDSM practitioners agree on anything much; they’re like any other group. I will say that based on my experience and conversations with BDSM folks, enough of them fail to even acknowledge these concerns that I am deeply uncomfortable relying on the movement to self police.

  43. 41
    Jake Squid says:

    Sailorman,

    Your position isn’t clear to me. That’s why I’m asking these questions. Your comments so far, including your response to my questions, don’t make your position clear to me. I’m not trying to bait you or trap you. I am trying to understand what it is that you’re saying. I mean to say that I understand that you think that BDSM is different than homo/hetero/bi-sexuality and that it is okay to make moral judgments for or against it, I just don’t understand where you’re going with your subsequent comments nor what you’re trying to tell us in your last couple of comments. With that said…

    What do you mean by “advanced?” I don’t believe the OP or any of your comments have defined what you mean by “advanced”. If it’s already there & I missed it, can you direct me to where you defined “advanced?”

    If I understand you correctly, when you refer to tools you mean branding irons, rope, chain, handcuffs, stocks, etc. I’m not sure that that’s a big problem. Are these the tools to which you refer in comment 40? If so:

    I haven’t seen any complaints about people giving children these things. Well, except for rope. Rope is all around us. Do you object to children who ask being given information on how to safely use those tools? If so, what do you think the proper response is?

    If not:
    Ignore that last paragraph and tell me the tools that you’re talking about.

    Can you please clearly define “young children” as you used it in comment 40? I don’t know if you mean 18 year olds, 14 year olds, 10 year olds or 6 year olds. As a result I have no idea how to interpret what you are saying.

    In other words, you need to be more careful as you’re using more powerful techniques. Kids aren’t careful, and younger kids are even less so. Therefore, techniques should be age-restricted when possible.

    Kids are how old? How old are younger kids? I honestly don’t know whether you are referring to 17 year olds or 11 year olds with the former and so I can’t tell what you mean by the latter.

    I would also like to refer to what hDcands wrote in comment #26:

    But the foundations of BDSM should be safety, consent, and explicit boundary management. Kids are going to find ways to do it whether we like it or not. If we deny them easy access to safety guidelines, don’t we set them up to get hurt?

    I’m interested in your response to that because I suspect that it may make your position clearer to me.

    No matter what your position is, I’m not going to take you to task for it in this thread. I really do want to understand what you are trying to say.

  44. 42
    Sailorman says:

    i’ll be too busy to get into this for a bit, but will reply later.

  45. 43
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Sailorman — Age is roughly correlated with maturity, and appropriateness is roughly correlated to maturity, and therefore appropriateness is roughly correlated to age.

    Who should enforce this? You seem to be very convinced that teenagers “should not” practice BDSM, but who’s going to stop them? And, given that historical efforts to prevent teenagers from having sex the way they want to have sex have completely failed (see: the entire abstinence-only sex ed movement), how do you respond to the argument that some of us are going to want to have BDSM sex in our teens, and will therefore do it, and therefore ought to be educated on how to do it safely?

    Telling someone “hold still and don’t move” is a less advanced technique than handcuffing them, for example.

    Again: How are we going to force teenagers to not use handcuffs if they want to use handcuffs?

    This reminds me of the argument that we shouldn’t tell kids where to get condoms because then they’ll be encouraged to have sex. I hear that argument even here in Africa in areas where 40% of the population tests HIV-positive. It’s as if it’s actually more important to these people that their kids be at a higher risk of HIV, than that their kids think sex might be okay.

    I will say that based on my experience and conversations with BDSM folks, enough of them fail to even acknowledge these concerns that I am deeply uncomfortable relying on the movement to self police.

    It’s always dangerous to say that the BDSM community is capable of very effectively self-policing. What I usually say is that in our current screwed up world, we’re the best available. In my experience it seems better for kinksters to rely on the self-policing community (with all its flaws) than for us to attempt to work with the law that stigmatizes us (though this is changing) or use non-BDSM social processes that stigmatize us (again, changing).

    But in terms of BDSMers not acknowledging your concerns … honestly, it kind of sounds like you’re making an argument that would talk right past most BDSMers. Our community focuses on educating people whom we know are probably going to do this stuff anyway; can you see how the argument that people “ought not to be doing certain things” would seem beside the point in that context?

  46. Here’s what I took issue with, an eternity ago in Internet years: the notion that BDSM is advanced, professional-level sex strikes me as of a piece with the idea that BDSM practitioners are too decadent and jaded for “normal” sex (or that the only legitimate use of kink is to “spice up” a boring relationship, and people who incorporate it from the first are incapable of forming relationships and/or are having more fun than they’re entitled to). So to suggest that 16-year-olds, say, are not ready for BDSM — and that’s the age of consent in New Jersey* — sounds to me like saying “well, they should have a chance to have real sex first,” which further comes across as “the 16-year-olds who have BDSM fantasies should suppress that part of themselves until they earn it,” like kink isn’t a legitimate part of sexuality.

    While we’re busting out offensive analogies, you wouldn’t tell a gay teen “maybe you should have sex with people of the opposite sex for a few years first, just to make sure/get the basics down.”

    I mean, lots of people would say that, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t.

    *It’s 17 in New York, but I have trouble even thinking of a 17-year-old as still a kid, since I was a high-school graduate at 17 and could have gotten a job and lived on my own and all.

    Elusis:

    Parents’ preferences for lingerie, porn movies, sex in the shower, missionary position, spankings, B&D, edge play, whatever, seem to me better kept private.

    So I guess I have an issue with kinky parents sharing sexual information with their kids in exactly the same way I would with vanilla parents

    I quite agree; that’s not the same as neutrally explaining these aspects of human sexuality to teenagers as one would any other, or pointing them towards resources if one or both parites are (understandably) uncomfortable having actual conversations about it. I mean, I wouldn’t really encourage people to have vanilla sex in front of their children either.

  47. 45
    Sailorman says:

    Clarisse Thorn Writes:
    April 28th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Who should enforce this? You seem to be very convinced that teenagers “should not” practice BDSM, but who’s going to stop them? And, given that historical efforts to prevent teenagers from having sex the way they want to have sex have completely failed (see: the entire abstinence-only sex ed movement), how do you respond to the argument that some of us are going to want to have BDSM sex in our teens, and will therefore do it, and therefore ought to be educated on how to do it safely?

    [shrug] You seem to be saying they’ll do it anyway, and that education won’t change the frequency (or that if it does increase the frequency, it’s “worth it.”)

    I think that some of them may do it anyway, but that making BSDM more mainstream by training will increase the frequency of those that do. Which I think is a bad thing, as I’ve discussed.

    Different viewpoints, different value structures, different conclusions. I don’t think we’re going to agree on this, to be honest: I don’t see how you could agree with me since you differ on the underlying question of appropriateness.

    Again: How are we going to force teenagers to not use handcuffs if they want to use handcuffs?

    Who said anything about “forcing” someone to do anything? It’s a question of promotion, deterrence, changing the window of acceptance and opportunity.

    And the answer is: the same way that we encourage teens not to do ANYTHING. Handcuffs aren’t a special case. Sometimes ir works well, sometimes it works less well. But it doesn’t need to be perfect to be supportable.

    It’s always dangerous to say that the BDSM community is capable of very effectively self-policing. What I usually say is that in our current screwed up world, we’re the best available.

    I disagree. I think that the underlying values of the BSDM community are sufficiently skewed away from the norm that they are poor self policers with respect to the “entry” question. It’s not that their values are bad, just different. There are questions where that internal bias wouldn’t matter at all, where it would make sense to defer to the BSDM community. And there are questions where the bias would affect the outcome.

    It’s like the difference between asking commercial fishermen “how should we best define net size?” and asking them “should we tax fish or shorten the season?” The first relies on their expertise; the second introduces serious bias.

    In my experience it seems better for kinksters to rely on the self-policing community (with all its flaws) than for us to attempt to work with the law that stigmatizes us (though this is changing) or use non-BDSM social processes that stigmatize us (again, changing).
    But in terms of BDSMers not acknowledging your concerns … honestly, it kind of sounds like you’re making an argument that would talk right past most BDSMers. Our community focuses on educating people whom we know are probably going to do this stuff anyway; can you see how the argument that people “ought not to be doing certain things” would seem beside the point in that context?

    Yes, which is precisely why I don’t think the community makes good self-policers regarding that particular question. On the other hand, there are certainly questions for which it would be ludicrous not to rely heavily on BSDM expertise. For example, “how do we criminalize hurting someone or raping someone against their consent, in a scenario which deliberately messes around with consent?”

  48. 46
    Jake Squid says:

    Sailorman,

    I think that comment #47 has made your position clear. Thanks.

  49. 47
    Bond says:

    I think there is confusion going on here between education and practice…

    I’m very grateful to the adults who reached out to me when I was a sexual-orientation-questioning youngster of 12, 13, 14, 15. Gay & lesbian adults created spaces where I could be told my desires were totally normal, receive safer sex info actually relevant to my (at the time totally hypothetical) sex life, discuss my feelings, and meet other LGBT teenagers. That kind of thing is, of course, worlds and worlds different from an adult “recruiting” or “initiating” a young gay kid into her sexuality by actually having sex with her.

    I think some people in this thread are clearly talking about the former — safe, appropriate outreach to kids who have already self-selected as interested in BDSM — while others are worried about the latter.

  50. 48
    Sailorman says:

    I think some people in this thread are clearly talking about the former — safe, appropriate outreach to kids who have already self-selected as interested in BDSM — while others are worried about [an adult “recruiting” or “initiating” a young gay kid into her sexuality by actually having sex with her]

    I think we’re all talking about the former. I don’t think there’s anyone in this thread who believes that the latter example is appropriate.

  51. 49
    Bond says:

    SM: Really? Because when you say things like:

    You seem to be saying they’ll do it anyway, and that education won’t change the frequency (or that if it does increase the frequency, it’s “worth it.”)

    I think that some of them may do it anyway, but that making BSDM more mainstream by training will increase the frequency of those that do. Which I think is a bad thing, as I’ve discussed.

    It sounds to me like you’re talking about, if not actual BDSM practice with minors (as distinct from exposing them to requested information), at least a kind of active recruitment/initiation of the unsuspecting — which I consider very different from offering information to young people who independently express interest. One might somehow increase the frequency of BDSM; the other makes sure that those people who are already, independently interested get the information they need.

  52. 50
    Sailorman says:

    One might somehow increase the frequency of BDSM; the other makes sure that those people who are already, independently interested get the information they need.

    But that’s a false dichotomy.

    Let’s take the most inoffensive example I can think of.

    “I think I might like to read,” thinks Bob. “Maybe I’m going to become an avid reader. Perhaps I might even become a writer!” “Then again,” thinks Bob, “maybe not. Maybe it’s really not for me.”

    Is Bob “already, independently, interested?” Yes, he is.

    But is that influence fixed in his mind? No, of course it isn’t. Bob may have a bias for or against reading, but the expression of that bias has a lot to do with circumstance.

    You could make it more likely that Bob will become an avid reader by choosing the right books for him, or providing him with good reading instruction, or building lots of libraries. You can make it less likely by restricting access to books, or reading Steven King to him when he’s 5 years old.

  53. 51
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Sailorman — I am not trying to be snarky, just trying to understand your position. That said, would it be fair to summarize your position as:

    Restricting young people’s access to knowledge of BDSM is worth the potential cost to particularly BDSM-oriented (or particularly unusual) young people (in internalized stigma and lack of safer sex knowledge), because it prevents many other young people from practicing BDSM until they are older.

    @Hershele, Bond — Thanks for your arguments. I had been thinking about both of them, but was afraid of writing a Huge Long Comment of Doom! and also you were both very eloquent whereas I might not be just now.

  54. 52
    Sailorman says:

    I’ve modified your summary a bit to make the point more accurately:

    Restricting young people’s access to knowledge of BDSM is worth the potential cost to particularly BDSM-oriented (or particularly unusual) young people, because it prevents the potential cost of (1) exposing people* to information which may be beyond that appropriate for their stage of development and (2) teaching as-yet-unknown BDSM techniques to people* who are, based on their stage of development, more likely to use them in an inappropriate fashion.

    *by which I mean all people across the entire spectrum of BSDM preference, and also those who have not yet formed a preference at all.

    You think the benefits outweigh the costs (or perhaps you think there are no costs at all…?) I think the costs outweigh the benefits. As I said earlier, I doubt we’re going to agree on this one.

    I am curious, though, whether you also use that weighting, or whether you take the position that my risks simply don’t exist at all.

  55. 53
    Charles S says:

    Sailorman,

    I think you have the risks to teen-agers who are interested in BDSM exactly backwards.

    It doesn’t take a BDSM information course to teach a teenager that people can be tied up in tight bondage and that that is sexy. The scifi television show Farscape (or a million other tv shows and movies and books) is sufficient to do that.

    It does take a BDSM information course to teach an interested teenager that orders can be as exciting as tight bondage, or that if you are going to do bondage, DON’T use silk (even old copies of Joy of Sex get this one wrong) because it cuts and because the knots squinch down til you’ll need scissors to get out of it, or to not do breath play that involves any force at all, or that you can safely beat buttocks much harder than you can beat breasts, or that you should never ever hit anyone in the lower back, etc.

    It is easy to invent dangerous bondage techniques on your own (you only need to watch a recent James Bond movie to decide that beating someone’s testicles with a knotted rope is hot), what requires information is learning what techniques are not dangerous.

    So if you try to keep kids from learning advanced techniques by denying them access to good information, all you are doing is guaranteeing that some of them will end up getting hurt badly.

    Additionally, if the BDSM community develops an ethic of not giving good information to teenagers, then the only adults who will give teenagers information and instruction on BDSM practice are predatory creeps (and there are plenty of predatory creep sadists and dominants).

    Obviously there is a balancing act, but I think most of your concern that tolerating providing good information to teenagers will lead to teenagers discovering advanced BDSM techniques is misplaced. The popular culture already does a good job of making the general idea of advanced BDSM techniques available, it just neglects to provide any information about safety or about the importance of consensuality or about how to tell the difference between what is exciting and what is abuse.

    It’s sort of like guns or bomb making. Most teens probably would be better off if they never got involved in shooting guns or making bombs, but if a teenager is interested in shooting guns or making bombs, they are much better off if they can get accurate information and instruction into how to safely handle and fire a gun, or even how to safely make and handle and detonate explosives. Any kid can blow their fingers off with an m-80 without much information at all.

  56. Sailorman

    Restricting young people’s access to knowledge of BDSM is worth the potential cost to particularly BDSM-oriented (or particularly unusual) young people, because it prevents the potential cost of (1) exposing people to information which may be beyond that appropriate for their stage of development and (2) teaching as-yet-unknown BDSM techniques to people who are, based on their stage of development, more likely to use them in an inappropriate fashion.

    But as Charles S. points out, a lot of this stuff is in the culture already, and I don’t think it takes more imagination than the average teenager is equipped with, particularly in the realm of sex, to come up with the idea of tying someone up on your own, particularly if you’ve seen ostensibly nonsexual restraint ever. So I don’t think very many nondangerous people will become dangerous upon reading Screw the Roses. However, it’s highly likely that (inadvertantly) dangerous people will become nondangerous from that.

    Ok, so hypothetically, we use the educational technology from The Matrix to make a kinky 15-year-old Costa Rican or Honduran or Dane or someplace else where that’s legal an expert. Should this person be doing BDSM? Their intentions are benign, their knowledge is complete, and they are considered physically and emotionally mature enough for sex in their society. If your quarrel is with the age of consent being less than 23, that’s not a BDSM issue.

    I wonder if you may have a different hypothesis about where BDSM desires come from than Clarisse or Bond or I or other people here do.

  57. I’ve actually read several of maymay’s posts on this and another, perhaps better, analogy comes to mind: in a typical high-school shop class, teenagers are taught how to use hammers and saws (I guess; I did ceramics).

    Some of them may grow up to create basement workshops where they will indulge in the practice of carpentry. Some will decide they’re not interested. I doubt anyone will be learning for the first time that there are such things as hammers and saws.

  58. 56
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Sailorman — I am curious, though, whether you also use that weighting, or whether you take the position that my risks simply don’t exist at all.

    I think there are risks to doing BDSM (or doing pretty much anything, like getting in a car), but that strikes me as kind of beside the point. Life is risky. We don’t eliminate risk by refusing to talk about life.

    For myself, I don’t actually know whether I would have been better off if I’d found BDSM sooner. I do know that I had not-awesome relationships for years, and was in particular relatively unfulfilled sexually, until I finally managed to accept and deal with my BDSM leanings. I didn’t have an orgasm for eight years after I started having penetrative sex. Would feeling less stigma against BDSM, or practicing hardcore BDSM sooner, have fixed that? Maybe not. But it might have, too, because BDSM is a pretty core part of my sexuality as near as I can tell, and my orgasms seem pretty closely tied to BDSM fantasies. So when I hear you saying that youngsters shouldn’t be educated about this stuff until they’re “ready”, I hear you saying, “Sorry, I know you need this to be sexually fulfilled, but unlike your vanilla counterparts, you just don’t deserve that until you’re above the proper age.”

    So … I guess you could say that I don’t see the risks you’re concerned about, yeah. I don’t tend to think that young people are as stupid or untrustworthy as many adults seem to believe (though some young people may capitalize on those stereotypes if given the space to do so). I don’t tend to think that young people are unready for consensual sex, either. Whatever that sex might look like.

    And sorry for getting back to this so late.

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