Outing is the second worst thing you can do to a person as a kinky individual. The first is consent violation.
Outing someone is a consent violation in its own right.
What dragged this to the forefront of my mind and put a big spotlight on it was someone who knew of the show invited me to join a private Facebook group for people into BDSM. They were enthusiastic about my sharing posts from the site and links to episodes—I didn’t ask—they said I should feel free to do so. Excellent.
The invite arrives and I accept and then find I can’t post as The Pageist. I can only post as myself—under my actual name with my face right there. Usually, Facebook allows people to post as their page or themselves—I suppose that because this was a closed group that wasn’t an option? I was invited as my page—not my actual self.
If I had known that as soon as I accepted the invitation the owner of the group, if no one else, would know my legal identity I wouldn’t have joined the group.
So of course I’m not going to post anything to do with the show or site, as I’m not at the place where I’m ready to be completely out. Not for me so much, but I don’t know how it would affect my husband’s career. Do people care what someone’s spouse does? I don’t want to find out in a foreign country where we have literally no savings and no way of moving back to the States.
I want to be out. I want to be able to post selfies at events or doing fun things. I don’t want to worry about what would happen if someone knew about this part of myself because I’m certainly not ashamed of it. Some of my favourite people in the kink world are completely out and I’m envious.
Sinclair Sexsmith has an excellent writing on the various ways of being out—there was everything from the not-even-remotely-out option to the completely-and-entirely-out option. Pros and cons were identified for each choice.
I was the middle one—where you have an alter-ego. I call it being a super hero. You have a different name, implausible clothing, lots of gadgets and toys most people don’t and you probably know how to do a few cool tricks that could be dangerous if done improperly. Or properly, come to think of it.
Why I Want to Be Out
Not being out is weird, because right now I’m ‘unemployed’, right? Never mind that I’m working on film/app/site reviews, reading books, writing podcast episodes and essays, listening to other podcasts to review, doing social media stuff every day and more. I work seven days a week and many more than eight hours a day (and love every second of it).
But to many people I not only don’t have a job—I’m also not looking for one. They must think I’m the laziest person ever, which I hate. I hate people thinking I’m lying around doing nothing, particularly when I feel like I’m doing something important and useful.
My goal with my job is to let people know they’re not alone, they are perfectly healthy being who they are while also helping them learn how to do the things that speak to them safely. This sort of thing saves lives. I wish I had the kink community when I was a teenager. I am incredibly proud of what I do and would love to be able to tell people.
When we were preparing to move to England my doctor asked, ‘So what are you going to do when you get there? Find a job or just enjoy being in England?’
The words, ‘I’m going to be a professional kinky word person!’ nearly burst from my throat without bothering to pass my lips.
I want to be out is what I’m saying.
However, I do not want someone to out me. It’s a consent thing—a control thing.
Outing someone as an act of vengeance is the nuclear option. You cannot un-press that button.
There’s a Chasidic tale about a man who was spreading gossip about a rabbi—he eventually realised what he had done was wrong and went to apologise and attempt to make amends. The rabbi told the man to cut a pillow open and scatter the feathers to the wind.
The man thought this was odd, but complied. Then he returned and the rabbi told him to go gather the feathers saying that he couldn’t fix what he’d done any more than he could find all the feathers from that pillow.
The damage done from opening your big yap is unforgiveable, as the damage is too far-reaching.
Considering Outing Someone?
Outing a person can literally ruin the rest of their life. Or their current life, housing situation, custody of their children, educational opportunities, career, marriage—everything.
If you think pushing the big, red, glowing button is good because that person did something to upset you—you’re the one who’s going to look like a lunatic. It’s called a proportional response. Is it ever okay to rape a person? (If you said yes, go straight to therapy.)
Because outing someone can have a devastating effect on the outed person’s life, as well as their family. People will find out you’re the one who outed that individual and even if they didn’t like that person no one will forget that it didn’t take anything to push you to that point. You will be persona non grata. No matter how much someone hates another person—no one loves the person who violated their consent. Even if they enjoy that person’s discomfort for a split second—they’re not going to be friends with you because what if you suddenly turn on them? You clearly can’t be trusted.
You’ve played yourself, as the kids say—you’ve messed up both your lives.
Think it Can’t Happen to You?
There are some petty, insane people out there who will push the nuclear button for the tiniest of reasons. And a person doesn’t have to see you for you to see them. It’s possible for someone to know who you are without you knowing them so the argument of ‘Well, if they know I’m at the dungeon then I’ve seen them, too,’ does not fly. Some screenshots to HR or your mom or your ex and his or her lawyer is all it takes.
I’ve also heard: ‘I’ll just sue them.’ That’s not going to put your life back together and I’m glad you have disposable income on-hand just for that occasion.
Ways to Avoid Being Outed:
Not having your face connected to your kink profiles is the big one.
Not showing your tattoos (I don’t adhere to that one very well so oh well.)
Don’t post the same photo on your vanilla accounts as your kink accounts—a person can do an image search and find all the places it’s posted. ‘Oh look, Carrie Vanilla-Girl has the same photos as Kitty SluttyPants. What a coincidence.’
If someone has your phone number in their contacts on an iPhone you will be recommended as a ‘friend’ on Facebook. With your actual face and name right there. I learned the real names of several people in my local munch back in North Carolina that way. Which means they learned mine. Luckily I trust those people and I wouldn’t out a person, so they’re safe. But if I’m outed in the future, that’s five or six people I can’t account for. All it takes is some random, insane girlfriend/boyfriend: ‘Who’s THIS?!’
You can say, ‘Facebook is just recommending them as a friend. I didn’t friend them.’ But crazy gf/bf is crazy and you know how that conversation is going to go. They look at your profile then they have all sorts of personal information about you. And you just know that happens. Just be careful who you give your number to if you have your face on your FB account and make your account private. Lock it down.
If You are Outed:
You have all of my sympathies. You did nothing wrong. You wanted to post your face and tattoos? That was your choice and you should be able to do that. Victim-blaming is utter bullshit. It’s like blaming a rape victim. Nagasaki was not to blame, okay? The up-side is you’ll find out who your friends really are. The down-side is everything else. And holy hell, am I sorry.
I can give no advice on how to handle specific situations, as each one will vary so greatly depending on where you are in the world (or even in your specific country), if you have children, your position in the community and other factors.
People will surprise you—for the better and the worst. I haven’t been outed, but I’ve read a lot of outing stories and that is the one thing they have in common.
Though I can’t advise on every situation, if you’re in the U.S. and you need legal help, contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCFS)—they advocate on behalf of people having difficulties due to their non-traditional sexualities or romantic relationships. (If you can, support them financially–you never know when you or someone you care about will need their help and everything they do is volunteer-based.)
In general, people will treat you the way you behave—if you act ashamed they will feel it’s something to be ashamed of and will gloat and be even more insufferable (this comes from dealing with homophobes—I know about this). If you behave with dignity and explain whatever you need to with grace, they’re the ones who will look like the bad guy they are.
‘I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate having your private life dragged out into public view, either. All I’m asking for is civility.’ Summon your inner Michelle Obama.
What All of Us Can Do:
It’s important to make sure everyone in the community knows outing is never an option. If you hear someone talking about outing someone—explain why that’s unacceptable. If someone you hate with every cell of your hate bone is outed—don’t laugh—because it could happen to you. And it’s never funny—it’s a consent violation.
Actually. I take that back. It’s funny if it’s a homophobic Senator from Nebrahoma who turns out to like taking it up the back passage from male escorts. Those guys—after passing anti-gay laws and ruining people’s lives for years—when they get outed—that’s fucking funny. That will never not be fucking funny.
I feel sorry for them for hating themselves so much they have to hide who they are, but get some therapy and learn to love yourself. Once you start taking it out on everyone else I lose sympathy for you pronto, broheim. Just because you had a shitty childhood doesn’t mean you get to be a serial killer, m’kay?
[This is an updated, expanded version of a piece that originally appeared on episode 30 of The Pageist podcast.]