I wonder if conversations about consent might go better if rather than talking about ‘consent violations’ we talked about ‘consent injuries’.
In most cases I’m aware of, there’s some ambiguity. The bottom thought things not discussed were off the table, the top thought anything was good so long as they stayed well clear of the ‘hard limits’ list. The top misread what kind of “no” that was and kept talking sexy about the hot-button idea. The bottom thinks his top should have noticed he’d reached a headspace where he couldn’t say no. The new person gave a clear yes, but only because she wanted to fit into the group.
While clear cases of deliberate consent injury certainly exist, the lack of simplicity above is actually more representative in my experience. In all of those cases someone’s consent was injured, but intent and responsibility were complicated. ‘Consent violation’ to me implies a willful act, a violator and a victim. Using that last example, arguing whether the group did or didn’t violate her consent is unproductive. She feels like she was pressured, they don’t know what she’s talking about, around we go. I’ve heard people say “if someone feels like their consent was violated, it was”, and endless debate following. Saying instead “her consent was injured (period, because she feels like it was)” makes for a useful diagnosis, not subject to debate, and separates the injury from the intent.
We have language for talking about other kinds of damage that separates injury from intent: “he broke his wrist in that scene falling over”, “his wrist was broken because they didn’t notice the obstacle on the ground”, “his wrist was broken because he was blindfolded and she wasn’t paying enough attention to their surroundings”, “he really should have said something earlier about the inner-ear infection making him dizzy”, “he’s her fourth bottom to require hospitalization in the last six months”. Splinting his wrist doesn’t require a discussion of whether someone was at fault. Processing and acting on the information in those later statements is much easier if we’re not still arguing over whether his wrist was broken or not. Both need to happen.
If we can agree that an injury did happen, we can have discussions about intent, responsibility, patterns, and risk. If we debate whether it did or didn’t, we’re stuck with The Consent Wars.
This idea came out of a conversation @ProfessorFeynman, @MissAmyRed, and I were having a few months ago. I can’t claim credit for it, but I do want to start getting it out there.
(originally published on FetLife a couple years ago, reposting here so I can more easily link to it)
I want to see porn that shows how great BDSM can be with people playing hard to get closer to each other. I want to see porn that matches my experiences of play, and models values that are important to me. So, I’m being the change I want to see in the world, and I’d love to inspire other people to do the same thing. I’ve made quite a few videos that demonstrate it’s possible to both hit scary intensity and also show joy and intimacy.
I can’t fault big studios for not showing much intimacy. They’re trying to maintain professionalism, and come up with something newer and bigger and more creative under deadline, over and over and over. The performers are working with relative strangers and a crew of people in the room. They have to do all this in order to be large and commercially successful. They are enabling a lot of people to put food on the table, and I’d like to be clear that I think that’s *really* valuable. I’ve stayed small on purpose because I think this may be the only way to create what I want, but there are tradeoffs.
The other thing I do is try to show more happiness- I think we lift each other up when we play and don’t take ourselves too seriously. ‘Bad’ is sexy, but we’re doing this because we like it. Posturing about how eeeeeevil we are sells, both at play parties and in porn, but I think there’s both need and demand for a wider range of depictions. Enjoyment can have a lot of forms, both for tops and for bottoms, but I’d like to see more of what my play actually looks like in our media.
The ‘evil’ tone to BDSM has been around forever- de Sade’s dribblings about how awful the world is, the first 80’s SM porn I saw with its overblown scoring of oh-so-ominous organ music, InSex’s ‘horror’ self-labeling. I did a lot of my early exploring in the gothic/industrial club scene, and ran a party for fifteen years that was all about dark atmosphere. I’ve done some really scary scenes. As much as I enjoy playing with that shadow though, I also want to be a counterweight to it. I want to show the alchemy of a person giving themselves joyously to an experience that they’re struggling with, accompanied by someone they care about, and clearly enjoying the fuck out of it.
I had the chance to bottom to a big guy specialized in what I like best recently, and posted a tweet saying “Most people think of me just as Scary Top, but for a long time I was a lot more Badass Bottom. I miss that.” A couple different women I like responded with ‘ooh, I’ll top you!’-type comments. I was commenting on how weird that felt to one of my partners, and she said “Well, most people think of you as het.” I’m not heterosexual, but I have very different play relationships with women versus men.
I grew up thinking of myself as more or less het. All but one of my long-term sexual relationships have been with women. For the first couple years when I started doing SM though, mostly I played with men as a bottom. I eventually started topping, both men and women, and have shifted mostly into that role instead and am not entirely satisfied with it.
What I mostly do right now is top women. I get a lot of sexual gratification out of that, and I’m really good at it. I sometimes top men, and I’m pretty good at that too. I’m not as in touch with how it feeds me sexually, but I get other things out of it. There’s an expression I’ve heard that ‘we top the scene we’d like to bottom to’. I don’t think that’s strictly true, but it’s very true for me when I’m topping men. I provide an experience that I can really get into their head for, giving both catharsis and nuturing in a particularly male way, and doing that supports me.
Bottoming to men feels emotionaly safer to me than bottoming to women. Girls are mean- “hit like a girl” is not a diminutive. My experience differs in a more important way, though. When I’m bottoming, I want someone who will push me hard, and be right there with me every step of the way. I want someone that hurts me in a way that says they like me. I think guys somehow learn the trick of that, communicating affection through violence. My experience of bottoming to women is more (but not entirely) of moving back and forth between the two, not using the one to directly communicate the other. I want the vibration moving through my bones with each strike or each piece of fear to say “you’re awesome.” I try to give that when I play with any gender, but I seem to be better at receiving it from men.
tl;dr: girls are scary.
(I’ve played with plenty of folks who are nonbinary on the gender spectrum, but writing about that would make this post even longer and lose the point. Sorry!)
Right now I’m choosing keywords to use on Lovingly Handmade Pornography, and it’s surprisingly tough. I’m using a tag cloud in the main nav area that looks something like this:
Let’s take bad-things-happening-to-girls-private-parts, something near and dear to my heart. Narrow that down further to impact-related bad things. If I were aiming for sheer correctness, I’d build a hierarchical system starting with ‘genital impact’, then ‘cunt’ and ‘asshole’ under ‘where’, ‘stingy’ and ‘thuddy’ for ‘type of sensation’, then maybe ‘hand’ vs ‘implement’ (possibly subdividing further into types of implement). Unfortunately, that is *so* much more detail than anybody wants, and really doesn’t communicate well at a glance.
So what I’ve ended up doing is using ‘cunt spanking’ (for open hand), and ‘cunt beating’ (for closed hand, implements, etc). That’s nice and simple, does a great job for most of what I need. Except… I’m not sure how immediately obvious it’s going to be to anyone else what the distinction between those two is. More importantly, it completely fails to address alternate terms for search engines. The site will probably not rank for ‘pussy whipping,’ even though oh boy is there a lot. A person visiting will see ‘cunt beating’ and know they’ve found what they wanted, but a search engine isn’t going to bring them.
I almost used ‘asshole beating’ for consistency, but there were two problems there. One, I did a quick Google search, and came up with a whole bunch of stuff involving people-who-act-like-jerks and violence. Okay, let’s try ‘anus beating’, or ‘anus spanking’- that’s got clearer meaning. That’s when I ran into the second problem- my tag cloud is alphabetical, and ‘anus’ sorts even before ‘assfucking’. Thus, that’s the first thing someone sees, and it requires enough thought to interpret that they don’t read down any further.
I went with ‘rosebud beating’, but that sounds sort of silly and new-agey and isn’t going to get me much search traffic. Maybe I’ll change it to ‘spanking anuses’.
You laugh, but I agonize about this stuff.
I’ve actually put quite a bit of thought (and coding) into this over the last few years. I wrote what I think is the best implementation of faceted browsing on any porn site anywhere for the House of Gord sites, bringing in a library science geek with a masters degree to help design the taxonomy. I think that keywords on a porn site serve four distinct purposes:
a) navigability; make it so people can find the stuff they’re interested in (“Oooh, cunt spanking! Show me those.”)
b) filtering; make it so people can look at a specific update/picture set/video/whatever and quickly decide whether they want it (“This one says crying, that’s scary. Here’s one with assfucking, yay!”)
c) summarizing; make it so people can tell at a glance what the site’s about (“I never knew there were so many ways to describe spanking…”)
d) structuring; make it so search engines can spot the keywords and list the site in relevant searches.
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