Outing: The Nuclear Option

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.

Seriously. It’s NEVER a good idea. (source)

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).

I may look very serious here, but I’m loving life, promise. (source)

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.)

Go to therapy & out yourself. (source)

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.

Secure as in ‘old timey’ bank vault locked down. (source)

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.]

Consent Accidents and Violations with Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is a sex educator and all round awesome guy.

This is a longer post, but it’s full of valuable information about consent.

Consent Accidents and Consent Violations

I was at a discussion group recently and someone shared a term that I hadn’t heard before: consent accidents. This is a really valuable nuance in the ongoing conversations about consent and nurturance culture because it recognizes that there’s a difference between a consent violation and a consent accident.

A consent violation happens when someone chooses to ignore or cross someone’s boundaries. People do that for a lot of reasons, including selfishness, arrogance, not caring about their partner, getting off on harming someone (which is distinct from the consensual experience of BDSM), or being somewhere else on the douchebag-rapist spectrum.

Consent accidents, however, are different because they happen because of error, miscommunication, misunderstanding, or not having all the information. That doesn’t make it less painful. If you step on my toes, it hurts whether it was an accident or on purpose. But how I approach the situation and what we do to resolve it might look very different.

There are some really big challenges for navigating this. First, if something happens that leaves you feeling hurt, it can really difficult to know the difference between accident and violation. That might be because of past experiences, wounds, triggers, or trauma which can amplify the hurt. It might be because it’s often difficult to know what someone’s intentions and motivations are. And in a world that excuses perpetrator’s actions and blames victims by saying things like “they didn’t mean to do it,” it can be incredibly hard to stand up for yourself.

Another difficulty is that identifying where things went awry is really hard when you’re feeling hurt. Pain, fear, anger, shame, sadness, and grief are all ways that you might feel when your consent isn’t attended to, whether it’s an accident or a violation. Any of those emotions, individually or in combination, can make it hard to see the situation with clarity, to talk about it with compassion for yourself and your partner, and to hold each of yourselves accountable for your choices and actions.

On the flip side, if you tell the other person what happened, they’ll also have their emotional reactions. Shame, in particular, tends to make us either attack the other person by blaming them or attack ourselves by giving up our right to our feelings and needs. If your partner gets defensive, they might try to dodge responsibility, take on all the blame, or attack you. Those are pretty common ways of reacting to shame, and most of us have done them at one point or another. Unfortunately, they also dovetail with victim-blaming, gaslighting, and the many other ways in which people who have been assaulted or abused get silenced.

Since it can be really difficult to identify what happened and know whether an event was a consent accident or violation, I’m really happy to have discovered this flow chart that Josh Weaver developed (used with permission).

Update: I dislike the top right diamond that says “They’re a dick” for three reasons. First, using sexual anatomy a a pejorative reinforces sex-negativity. After all, we wouldn’t call someone an elbow or a knee because we don’t see those body parts as bad. (Here’s an old article of mine on the topic.) Second, I think that using the word “dick” implies that the person being evaluated is male since we rarely use that word to describe non-masculine folks. People of all genders can violate consent and I see no reason to reinforce that gendered stereotype. And third, I think this flowchart creates a false dichotomy of “good people who don’t cross boundaries” and “bad people who do.” This kind of thinking actually makes it easier for perpetrators to get away with it since it generally takes a lot to convince people to see someone they care for or were conned by as a bad person.

I think if we took that top right diamond out and edited the chart, it would be amazing. But I still think it’s worth using since the decision-making process it guides you through is important. If you want to edit Weaver’s flowchart, I suggest you either do it (and feel free to send me a link) or contact him about it.

This is an great tool for making decisions about our experiences, but there’s one piece that I think needs to be unpacked. The box labeled “was it intentional?” doesn’t offer much guidance for how to know. Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all be able to trust our partners when they say that it wasn’t. And I also know that some folks avoid responsibility for their actions by saying they were accidental when they really weren’t. Plus, when we get called in or called out, it’s easy to slide into a shame reaction and try to avoid, rather than leaning into the discomfort and moving forward.

The tricky thing is that while it would be lovely to assume good intentions, we sometimes need evidence. It’s on the person whose behavior crossed the line to demonstrate where their intentions were coming from, and the way you do that is by taking responsibility for the effects of your actions, regardless of what you intended. When someone tells you that they’ve been hurt by something you did despite your intentions, here are some good things to say to help the situation move forward.

Resolving a Consent Accident

The key to effectively addressing a consent accident is being able to bring in all of the pieces. Most people are more practiced or skilled at some of these than others, and they’re all important. There are a lot of ways to phrase each one, so take these as general suggestions and tailor them to fit your language, your relationship, and your situation.

Thank you for telling me. It’s really difficult to call someone in. It’s hard to take the risk of vulnerability when there’s already pain. It’s a brave thing to share that with a partner, especially in a world that blames, shames, and attacks people who speak up about sexual assault. So if someone tells you that they feel hurt by something you did or something that happened, one of the best things you can do in those situations is honor their courage. Express your gratitude that they told you what happened, even if your perspective on the experience is very different.

I’m sorry that you had that experience. If you can empathize with them, it will start to build a bridge between the two of you and heal the disconnection that happened. Let them know that you understand that they didn’t have the experience they wanted and offer some sympathy. This doesn’t mean that you’re taking the blame for things. It’s simply telling them that you understand that they didn’t have the experience they wanted. Some ways to say this:

  • I’m sorry that you didn’t have as good a time as we both wanted.
  • I’m sorry that you were hurt and didn’t feel comfortable telling me at the time.
  • I’m sorry that we did something that you weren’t a full yes to.

Note: this is not the time to problem solve or assign responsibility. That will come later.

I had no intention of hurting you, and I see that it happened. This is where you start to bring in the both/and. You didn’t mean to injure them, and it still happened. Maybe there was a miscommunication. Maybe you genuinely thought that what you were doing was what they wanted. Maybe you didn’t pick up on their nonverbal cues. Maybe they were saying their safeword but the music was too loud and you couldn’t hear it. While it might be true that you didn’t realize what was happening (and I hope that if you had, you would have stopped), that doesn’t change the fact that an injury happened. Whether it was a physical or emotional hurt, it still happened.

There needs to be room for acknowledging both of these pieces because, by definition, this is the crux of the accident. The way you show that you recognize that it took place is by holding these two elements. It’s important to weigh them both equally because they’re equally true. If you overemphasize to the fact that you didn’t mean it, you’re trying to dodge your responsibility to work towards healing and resolution. While that might be an understandable defense mechanism against feeling shame, it’s going to accelerate the situation. And if you under emphasize the fact that you didn’t mean it, you run the risk of taking on too much responsibility and sliding into self-blame. Aim for the middle zone, where both of these pieces are important, and neither is more important than the other.

I’m sorry I did that thing I did. This one isn’t always relevant since consent accidents can happen even when you’ve done everything you could reasonably be expected to do. Consent is about due diligence rather than absolute safety. But when there is something you could have done differently, you need to genuinely apologize for it.

It might not be enough to say “I’m sorry.” You’ll improve your odds if you say, “I’m sorry I didn’t ask if you wanted me to touch you there/use those words/spank your butt/etc.” If you name the thing, you show that you truly understand where the accident happened. That’s a lot more effective because it shows that you understand what happened. You don’t need to go into every single detail, but you do need to show that you get it.

If you’re genuinely confident that you performed due diligence, you can say something like, “I really regret that this happened.” That’s a good way to acknowledge that there was an unfortunate event without taking on responsibility beyond what you could reasonably be expected to take. But be careful with this one. You need to make sure that you truly performed due diligence, and if you’re feeling defensive or reactive, you might be dodging responsibility instead.

What could I have done differently? There are actually two questions here: What could I have done that I didn’t do? What did I do that I shouldn’t have done? These are both super challenging things to ask because it puts us in the vulnerable position of looking at any missteps we might have made. One reason it’s helpful to start off with thanking your partner for coming to you is that it reminds you that they took a big risk in initiating the conversation. That makes it easier to take the big risk of asking them where things went awry.

There are two things that are important to hold onto. First, your partner might not know how to put into words what you could have done differently. If that happens, you might need to explore that. What was the moment when things shifted for you? When did you first notice that it didn’t feel right to you? What was I doing? And what could I have done that would have kept it from happening? These questions can be really hard to ask, especially since you need to do your best to set your defensiveness aside and approach them from a place of genuine curiosity. You might find it easier if you have a coach or therapist to help with that.

The other important piece is that if your partner is in a place of pain or shame, they might not have an answer to this question yet. Or they might be speaking from that hurt, which can lead them to make unreasonable demands. I find that before you get into the problem-solving, you need to turn towards the feelings and give them their room. It might take some time for them to move through their trajectory. And your partner might need to get support for their feelings from someone else first. It’s hard to hold space for painful emotions that are the result of your own actions. But until the feelings have had a chance to do their thing, it’s difficult to come up with good answers to the question of what you could have done differently.

It might take some time to find those answers, or they might come in stages. One of you might wake up the next morning and realize there’s something to add. If it’s something you’re available for, tell them that this is an open conversation and that if something else occurs to them, they’re welcome to come tell you. Even if there isn’t anything to add, knowing that you’re open to that goes a long way towards demonstrating that this was an accident because you’re showing that you’re taking responsibility for what happened.

This is what I’ll do to keep this from happening again. If there’s something you can do to learn from the experience and expand your skill set to reduce the chances of a repetition, commit to it. You might need to do some reading about how to do that sex act safely. You might need to talk with a coach or a friend to figure out what was going on for you. You might need to change your habits around alcohol and sex, or learn to have a safer sex conversation, or figure out how to talk about what a potential sexual experience means to you. Whatever you need to do, make it happen. Get the support and the learning you need to avoid this accident in the future.

Depending on the connection you have with the other person, you can ask them if they want you to let them know how that goes. In an ongoing relationship, they might want to hear about your progress. Someone you have a fling with might not. The important thing here is that you need to not ask them to perform emotional labor for you. Get your support elsewhere and offer them accountability.

Do you need anything else from me? Does this give you what you need? It’s easy to think that you’ve taken care of things, only to find that the situation feels unresolved to the person who felt hurt. If they answer with anything other than a clear yes, go back and ask them what else would help them feel complete with this. Maybe they need a more specific apology. Maybe they need to hear that you aren’t angry. Maybe they need a specific timeline for your next steps. Maybe they need some time apart to take care of their feelings.

If they don’t feel like the situation is complete but they don’t know what they need, offer them some space to figure it out. Let them know that they’re welcome to take the time they need and come back to you later. They might need to do this in stages, especially if there’s some old relationship patterns at play or if they have a history of sexual trauma. It can be hard to not have all the answers right away, but if you can sit with that discomfort, you’ll probably get much better results than if you push for an immediate resolution.

Moving Forward From A Consent Accident

The value in taking these steps is that they help heal the hurt and make it much easier to keep the pain and anger from crystallizing into resentment. Resentment is the biggest relationship killer and once it becomes habitual, it’s difficult to shift out of it. As John Gottman points out, in happy relationships, we’re good friends who sometimes annoy each other. In unhappy relationships, we become enemies. Resentment is one of the main ways we slide into enemy territory. That’s true for flings and casual partners, just as it is for ongoing relationships.

Consent accidents are going to happen. We make mistakes. We get distracted by our arousal or intoxication. We misremember or misunderstand where someone’s comfort zone is. Our preferences and desires change (and we sometimes don’t realize it until afterward). There are a lot of reasons we accidentally hurt someone. The best way to be prepared for it is to know what to do when (not if) it happens. The time to learn first aid is before someone gets hurt.

You can also reduce the odds of consent accidents happening if you use this simple framework for creating room for consent. If you start off with a solid foundation, you make it easier for your partner to tell you in the moment if something isn’t working. That gives you more room to recalibrate and reduces the chances of things going wrong. An ounce of prevention, and all that.

Sometimes, it’s hard to sort out what to do in these situations. If you don’t know where to look for information, support, or guidance, it can feel like a lot to figure out what to do on your own. As a sex and relationship coach, I work with individuals, couples, and poly groups of all genders and sexual orientations, and I’d be happy to help you find your way. I offer a free 30 minute Get Acquainted call (phone or skype), which gives us an opportunity to talk about your situation and how I can support you. I work with people from all over the world, so get in touch with me and let’s figure out how to get things moving in the right direction.

Here is a link to the original post.

You can follow Mr Glickman on twitter here: @charlieglickman

His website is his linked name at the top of the page.

Women Can Violate Consent Too

This week’s mentor post comes from LunaLux and addresses the fact that yes, women can violate consent, too.

Having been on the receiving end of consent violations from women and having it disregarded by others as ‘no big deal’ because, as we all know, women aren’t real people and, therefore, aren’t anything to be afraid of, I appreciate this post.

Pay attention, ladies, and I use the term loosely.

Ladies, we need to talk…

Last night, I went to a themed kinky event. My shiny Switch and I decided to go with rubber leggings on and not much else up the top. My entire back was bare, my nipples covered with the obligatory BDSM black cross and not much else stood between my skin and the air.
I was really nervous about going dressed like that. My concern was not around body image, but around the fact that I was going to be inviting a bunch of sleazy men my way, touching me without my consent and acting in all the ways women warn each other about and berate men about. I was part dreading the night because I have had men act in that way to me before in a very vanilla and fully clothed setting, never mind one where I was dressed in a very revealing way. This is what happened:

Not one man touched me inappropriately or approached me with sexy suggestive language. Yes, a few perved at my boobs from a distance, but we all go to these things to perv.
In fact, even all of my male friends were a little wary of even hugging me hello. A few didn’t know where to put their hands and I ended up having a few floaty hand hug moments, with hands hovering a little away from me. Well done boys, you understand consent.

But I was touched up, grabbed, slapped and groped all night.

Not by men, but by women.

Here’s the count.

All of my close lady friends that I have had in my home to both play and share meals with me- they all touched me or my boobs or my arse in some way last night. All of them have previously requested my consent. But each one still checked in with me last night. One slapped me on the butt in a cheeky way when I offered it to her to touch it, but she had my permission to touch me and has had my consent before. She still looked at me afterwards in a way that suggested “Are you still ok with this?” Well done ladies, you understand consent.

One of my lady acquaintances (whom I have only met once) ran her hand down my back which made squirm. She quickly said “I’m sorry, am I allowed?”. I said “Sure”. She did it again, which made me squirm more. She again said “Am I still allowed”. I wasn’t enjoying the sensation but it wasn’t bothering me, so my yes sounded uncertain. She stopped. Well done lady, you understand consent.

Then came all the ladies whom I have met before but have never asked for my consent in any conversation with them:

  • 1 grabbed my arse
  • 1 slapped my arse
  • 1 scratched me

Then, there were the countless women I have never met before who never asked for my consent to touch me even though they have never met me before:

  • 2 ran their hands up my leg in the bathroom to touch my rubber. One suggestively right up to my crotch. Neither asked first.
  • 1 grabbed my boobs. She did not ask.
  • 4 ran their hands down my back
  • 1 rubbed my arse

On top of that- one woman repeatedly came over to touch my shiny switch on the arse and back. Every time she walked past she grabbed him. He did not give his consent.

That’s ELEVEN consent violations for my personal body last night and more on the switch. All from women. Let’s roll in the arguments in defence of women I know I am going to get as comments:

  • Women aren’t rapey- you can’t feel threatened by women because you aren’t afraid they will rape you. Actually, no. I don’t care that women don’t have cocks. When you enter my personal space with sexual innuendo or kinky intent- you are violating consent. End of story. Also, last year, a young male friend of mine met with a woman for play. He told her he didn’t want to have sex. She had sex with him anyway. Ladies- NO. That IS rape. Women can be rapey.
  • Women think it’s ok because they aren’t attracted to you in a sexual way so touching your body is ok because they don’t think of you in that way. Actually, no. I think of women in that way, so when they touch me, it is the same for me as if it were a man touching me.
  • Women have their own boobs so it’s ok for them to touch your boobs. Actually no, personal space is still personal space. I don’t see men walking around touching each other’s cocks for fun.
  • The women you know were just being playful. Lighten up. Actually, no. Not one of my male friends would think it was just being playful if they touched me, groped me or tried to hurt me without my permission. Not one. And if any did, I am sure all of us would tell him off for it.

Imagine that all of the above incidents happened with men against me last night. Imagine. Just for a second. Yeah, are you imaging the lynch mob yet?

Ladies, I am a feminist. I fight for equality and fairness. Every day. And I am fighting now. For ALL women to obey the rules of consent as equally as we fight for men to obey them. THAT is equality. Same rules, same expectations. How can we create a culture of consent with men if we do not model it for them?

If a man cannot touch me in any of those ways without my permission, then neither should women. THAT is fairness.

Sorry for any typos. I am rushing off to uni with a slight hangover and on 4 hours sleep. Joy to the world. All the boys and girls.