So you know how the last post was about how the kink community is actually kinda awesome? Well it still is. But it sure as hell ain’t perfect.
I am on FetLife, ‘the Facebook for kinksters’. If you don’t know it, it’s exactly what the tagline says, a social networking site for kinky people. It’s pretty cool, and if you’re at all curious about the community, I would really recommend checking it out. It is definitely not a dating website. You can’t search for matches like you would on a site where the aim is to find people to hook up with. Rather it’s for keeping track of your kinky friends in a way that’s separate from the rest of your life. (And for finding local events. Seriously, the events thing is awesome.)
I am stressing this point to give an idea of how not okay what just happened to me is. You can send messages on FetLife, and it’s usually a good idea to message someone before adding them as a friend, mainly because, unlike Facebook, it’s a site where most people use online pseudonyms. This is pretty obvious, since people upload some very intimate material, which they might want to be discreet about in their everyday vanilla lives. Some people use this online name on the scene, but others use their ‘real’ name when you meet them in person. As such, it’s sometimes really difficult to remember who is who at first, so a quick message saying ‘Hi, it was lovely to meet you last night, hope to see you soon – Phoebe’ goes along way when you get a friend request from mystic_domme777. (I just made that username up, but I swear, it probably exists.)
At the moment, since I’m relatively new to all of this, I’m only adding people I have actually met face to face, or have been introduced to through a mutual friend and had interesting conversations with. Lots of people on FetLife have this rule, it’s a common line on profiles. It is listed on mine.
Here is the following message conversation I had with a certain anonymous FetLifer. My analysis is in italics.
Him: How exactly does one make amazing coffee? [This refers to a line on my profile when I say I’m good at making coffee. It proves he read it. Good for him! On OkCupid, that might be a good opener, but this is not a dating website. It also means he read the bit about me not friending strangers.]
Me: Strong. Also, do I know you? I’m not sure I remember your name from last night. [At this stage, I have checked his profile, seen he’s from the same area as me, and assumed I met him at the munch. Like I said, it’s hard to remember usernames. I was also (I thought) making it clear that I like to know people before I add them, and subtly giving him the chance to acknowledge that and offer a reason why I should make an exception for him.]
Him: Probably not, I’m not in [certain place] at the moment. =) I’m Ceyx. Let’s Skype and explore you a bit more. [Okay, so his name wasn’t actually Ceyx, but that’s less random than his actual username, and also classical! More seriously, note how he deliberately ignores my not-so-subtle hint that I don’t talk to people I don’t know personally. Complete lack of interest. He’s also immediately gone from sending harmless messages to wanting to Skype. Skype means talking by phone, probably video-chatting. I definitely do not do that with people I don’t know well. I certainly wouldn’t do it with someone I’d messaged once on a website. Am I overthinking things to sense sexual undertones? We are on a kink site after all. The jump between Skyping and webcam sex isn’t that huge. The word ‘explore’ makes me feel kinda uncomfortable – I often find it creepy when people say that to me in real life, let alone in a message. From a guy who’s just admitted he’s never met me. Right.]
Me: Um, no thank you. I don’t really talk to people I don’t know in real life, and I get kinda freaked out when people message me for no reason. Sorry. [I debated long and hard about the ‘sorry’. In the end I decided that the message sounded too cold and harsh otherwise. After all, maybe he was just trying to be friendly? At any rate, I wanted to reiterate how I felt, and make it clear I wouldn’t be talking to him on Skype anytime soon.]
Him: Wow. Ok. Enjoy your exploring curiosity goals of 2013.
If I’d been concerned about pre-judging him, the last message removes all doubt. The ‘Wow. Ok’ suggests there is something completely shocking and unexpected about my response, despite the fact that this information was on my profile, and implied again with the first message I sent him. It also makes it look as though this is an entirely unreasonable policy to have, despite the fact that at least half the people I know on FetLife do the same. The second bit is just downright bitchy sarcasm. Had I mentioned anywhere about wanting to explore curiosity goals? No. And even if I had, it would be perfectly within my rights not to want to explore them with him, someone who’d violated my stated boundaries pretty obviously. The snide undertone there is that I’m boring, no fun, maybe even a hypocrite for replying as I did.
Any of this sound familiar, all you non-kinky feminists? This is standard rape culture (no, I’m not for a moment equating this with rape, read the rest of the sentence), where a man feel entitled to a woman’s time and attention, for whatever reason. It is online cat-calling. It’s getting angry when the girl you cat-call ignores you, and shouting after her that she’s a stuck-up bitch for refusing to respond. (Yes, this has happened to me. Several times.) It’s implying that, by being in a certain place or dressing in a certain way or saying certain things, a woman somehow owes you something. And yes, it’s on a kink site, where the atmosphere is generally more sexual, but you know how that atmosphere is maintained safely? Through the respect of limits and boundaries and clear communication.
This is exactly what the kink community would like to believe never happens. It does. I admit that this is a tiny, harmless example, but it stung enough for me to be writing a pissed off blog post about it hours later. This stuff hurts. It erodes confidence and embitters attitudes and generally spoils it for everyone.