Tag Archives: abuse

My Personal Journey : Part 3

Part 3:  Power corrupts

I am going to stop making promises about how far I will get with this story in each installment – since I quite obviously have more to say on some of these topics as I commit them to the page than I initially thought.  So – from now on, I’ll just keep adding parts of my story to the journey as it unfolds.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that this post took me awhile to get up because of the effects that writing it had on me.  I began by writing about the change of power dynamics in the Lodge, and how that affected me both then and now, but as part of writing that, I began to relate in some detail one of the rituals that I was always the center of attention for, and as I was writing it, I started to re-experience the feelings that I had, and I had to stop.  I have cut most of that, but I’ve left what I can, for now.

One could be excused for thinking that the feelings that bothered me so much were feelings of victimization or exploitation, but that’s not what really bothered me.  I felt megalomaniacal, with delusions of grandeur.  I’ve been having some small amount of difficulty in keeping these feelings from bleeding over into my day-to-day life. , but I think I’ve managed to normalize things at this point.  I am somewhere in the middle of where I want to be: warm and open, honest and bold – and where I was: cold and closed, aloof and narcissistic.  I’m not as open and warm as I was just a few weeks ago, but neither am I as aloof and unconcerned as I was twenty years ago.

But to get back to the story…

My interactions with Joe’s extended family and a few others from the neighboring communities started to have a profound effect on my view of myself as a man over the next couple of years.  I will refer to this extended group of followers from now on as the Lodge (since that was how we referred to ourselves).

My interactions with the Lodge began to take on more and more ritually significant roles, and either by fate or happenstance, this coincided with my own realizations concerning my atypical neurology and how I interacted with the world.  This would prove to have a profound effect on who I became and the decisions that I would make for the next decade.

However, in order to understand how this happened, it is first necessary to explain something about the central concept at the core of our beliefs – the Thelemic concept of True Will.

I could probably write a book on that subject alone, but to provide just a small bit of context so that this makes sense, I will relate the two meanings that the concept of True Will carries.

Firstly, the meaning given to the outer order and the world at large – and the only official definition – is basically this: every person has a ‘best path’ – or True Will – for them to live in this life, and as long as you stay on that path, you will be happy and things will be easy for you.  All of the things that are stressing you out now are things that are happening because you are not aligned with your True Will.  This concept goes a bit further and early induction rituals involve contacting your own personal Holy Guardian Angel to help reveal your True Will, but basically you are told that there are different voices within that speak to you about what you should do, representing different facets of a cognitive being that connects us all, and you need to be able to filter out the voices that do not belong to you and that once you do that, everything will be perfect for you.

Secondarily, there was the meaning given to the inner circle.  This may have been unique to our Lodge and my future interactions with members of the more official Ordo Templi Orientis would indicate that they do not generally acknowledge any other interpretation of True Will.  Whether this facet was a perversion unique to Frater Jubal (for he did claim to have secrets) or a more widespread ‘inner doctrine’ I do not know, but the gist of this facet of True Will is this:  as long as you are aligned with your True Will, you can do no wrong.

That is a very simple statement to encompass a much broader range of things, but that was the justification for every evil thing done by Joe or myself or any other member of the inner circle of the Lodge.  If I am acting on my Will, what I am doing is absolutely – even Divinely – right.

Tying destiny and will together like this is insidious.

And then Joe did something that I’m certain every other Thelemite would balk at – he told me that I had the power to read others’ True Will.

According to everything that I had read, this should not be possible.  One’s own True Will should only be revealed through a few specific rituals or ordeals.  But Joe called me an Ascendant Being and told everyone that I had the ability to read their True Will, putting me in the position of being the Lodge fortune teller, for the most part.

In retrospect, I see it as a cunning move on his part.  He thought he could control me, and he saw the opportunity to use a smart, observant kid to gain even more control over his flock.

I actually have no idea if this was his true motive or not, but it certainly makes a great deal of sense.  By not claiming the power for himself, Joe was being falsely humble, and by telling the members of the Lodge that I had the ability to read their True Will, and then ‘guiding’ me to do so in such a way as to get everyone to do what he wanted them to, Joe was able to elevate himself – and me – from teacher/priest to demigod.  Suddenly, if you had too much difficulty with the initiation rites (which was a very common problem for new acolytes), you had another option – you could just ask me.

This made me indispensable,  and Joe continued to groom me to ascend to leadership positions within the Lodge.

This break from previous teachings actually caused a few people to leave, but those who remained were even more loyal and bound to us.

Ultimately though, this would prove to be the linchpin that gave way and allowed me to escape the Lodge.

As I grew older and more confident in my abilities (and while there was always a part of me that knew that something wasn’t quite right, I was, for the most part, a believer at this point) I began to disagree with Joe.

I can still vividly remember the argument that he and I had after I had read someone’s Will and gave a different pronouncement than Joe had pre-suggested to me that I should tell her.

It was a direct challenge to his authority, and he began as you might expect, by distancing himself from me and pronouncing that I had strayed from the path, appealing to the Lodge to oust me, for the most part.

It worked too – but only because I let it, and realizing that has been one of the biggest events of my life.

He made certain that our argument was very public, and while Joe was a very smart man, he was outclassed in this fight.  He said that I had lost my way and that I would need to do penance to find my way again.  This was not the first time that he suggested that I would need to do penance, but it is the first time that I disagreed.  I took Joe’s own words that he had previously lavished upon me when I was a more timid, more compliant acolyte.  I stopped speaking to Joe, even though he was the one in front of me – I started speaking to be heard – and I said that as an Ascendant Being, my mastery of Will was complete, and that as an avatar of the Lightbringer, I was the only being capable of discerning the Truth, and that, indeed, Joe had lost his way.

The last part is almost certainly actually true, but I no longer cared.  I was about to leave for college and I was beginning to see things for what they truly were – a dangerous cult built around some stolen ideas and a charismatic personality.  I was happy to let that argument be the last interaction that we had before I moved hundreds of miles away.

It wasn’t until much later that I would begin to understand the actual value of the things that I was taught and to use the gifts that Joe had helped me to hone in reading people as a way to gain personal power, and even later than that before I realized that to be such a creature would be to lose myself completely.

When I was 18, I graduated from high school as Salutatorian and left behind my small rural home town.  I would spend a few days back in my parent’s home during that first year away, but after that, I would limit the amount of time that I spent in the area, even to the point of seeking poorly thought-out plans to ensure that I wouldn’t have to return.

One of those would result in an early and inappropriate marriage – and the other would result in sex work and my first introduction to BDSM.

I’m nowhere near done yet…

  • Rant

backlash and progress

Combatting misogyny could be my full time job, but I am glad that it is not.

The United States are currently going through a bit of a re-shuffle with regards to national identity, which is pretty obvious to everyone on the world stage.  We’re kind of like your neighbors who are constantly fighting with each other and you’re never quite sure whether or not to call the cops and report potential domestic abuse.

Just to be clear – if you hear something that you think might be domestic abuse, you should call it in.

I kind of wish someone could call the cops to get us out of our current set of problems.

Anyway – the issue that I want to talk about is the spate of recent revelations in the media about men in positions of power acting badly towards women.

The list of influential men being accused of sexual misconduct seems to grow every day, and my suspicion is that it will continue to do so for some time – at least until the backlash comes.

It seems like every politicized event in US current events eventually results in a backlash.  We’re already seeing some of it with these sexual misconduct allegations – a lot of powerful men who fear reprisals of their own are being silent for the moment, but I predict that they’ll gather around whoever has the audacity to stand up and make the claim that this is reverse discrimination or something else just as silly.

Firstly – this is not an example of reverse discrimination.  Women are not forming mobs and lynching men.  In fact, they’re not even really calling for the lynching of the men who are actually responsible for acting like perverts, which would be mob justice, but still not discrimination.  In most cases, they’re merely coming forward to tell their stories and not calling for any action at all.

Now, I do think that actions should be taken in most of these cases.  However, we’re losing sight of the most important part of what is happening.

In case you missed it – my opinion is that the most important part of this is that women are beginning to come forward and tell their stories.

This is important, because until recently they haven’t felt safe enough to do so, and that represents a huge failure on our part as men who care for women and as a society in general.  We must capitalize on the opportunity that this is affording us.  We must do what we can to prevent the backlash and keep this forward progress.  We must empower every person to tell their story so that we can all learn and grow – together.

Some of these stories are horrible to listen to.  Some of them are just plain weird, and as a self-proclaimed pervert of the highest order, for me to say that is … something.  But no matter whether they are hard to hear or weird or even just ordinary (I’ll leave that word there for a moment…) the fact is that women are finally feeling like the social narrative will permit them to come forward and speak about the things that they have had to endure.  It is long past time that we take such things seriously.

Do I think that every man who has had allegations of sexual misconduct come out is guilty of those things?  No, I do not.  I think that a small percentage of the stories that are coming out are falsified, but I think that is a rare exception rather than the rule as many of these men would like you to believe and as men have insisted is the case since society began to view women as people.

Despite a more receptive climate than in the past, I think it would be a massive stretch of the truth to say that society is open to such things yet.  There is still a strong stigma associated with coming forward with allegations of this type, and the women who do so are courageous and in many cases, desperate.

Part of the blacklash story is that these things happened decades ago and it is not fair to the accused to have to defend their actions from such a long time ago.  There is some small amount of merit to that argument – but only because human memory is fallible.  It is very likely that the facts of an event that happened years or decades ago will become distorted in the memory of those who were involved over time.  This is a proven concept in modern psychology practice – human perception is fallible, and it changes over time.  This is one of the reasons why crimes often have statutes of limitations.

That being said, I think every single case should be investigated – even those that happened 40 years ago.  I think where there is sufficient proof of misconduct that there need to be serious consequences for those involved.  This is how progress is made.  These consequences may only be a loss of social capital in some cases, but in some cases, that may be sufficient.  If you take a man who abuses his power and remove that power from him, he may not be able to continue his abusive practices, or he may learn that his actions – while tolerated in the time when he committed them – were never really acceptable and will be tolerated no longer.

Ignorance of the law is not seen as an excuse for committing a crime, and while I look at the things that some of these men are accused of and wonder how it is possible that they ever felt justified in some of these things, I can kind of see the argument that opinions on what is acceptable have changed over time.  I can maybe see where posing for a photo with your hands someplace they ought not be without consent could be mistaken for humor – because much of the purpose of humor is to make the unbearable, bearable – but I don’t know how anyone ever felt like nonconsensually locking a woman in your office while you jack off is anything but creepy and sad.

Empathy is the thing that would have prevented all of these problems.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are interacting with.  Try to understand her motives and fears and then think about what you are about to do.  Just because you might think it would be awesome for a woman to lock you in her office and masturbate while you sit there trapped does not mean that she will feel the same way.   You have to not only put yourself in her place, but you have to put yourself in her mind.

The fact that she is on the other side of the desk means that the right thing for you to do is to go out of your way to be respectful, honest, and engaged.  You have all of the power – don’t abuse it.

Doms are people too

I have been putting this post off for a very long time.  Over the course of the couple years that I’ve had this blog, I have received a number of emails from submissives who want to know if a particular pattern of behavior on the part of their chosen Dominants is abusive or if they have done something wrong or something similar to those lines.  I’ve seen it several times, in slightly different permutations, from several different sources, so I want to make it clear that I’m not singling out any particular email that I may have received recently as the source of this piece.

The question is usually of this form:

“I <used my safeword / cried / didn’t want to do something> and now my Dom is acting cold and distant with me.  Did I do something wrong, or is he being abusive?”

The last portion of the question there is sometimes missing, or slightly perturbed, as in “was he abusing me all along and I just now realize it?” etc…

I almost never have enough information from the email that poses this question to make any sort of determination along those lines, but I do always try to be helpful.

One thing that I think a lot of people miss is that D/s relationships are still relationships and relationships are hard.  Dominants are people too, with our own problems, emotional baggage, and deep histories which sometimes include shame and remorse or things that we just wish we’d had the presence of mind to handle differently at the time.

I don’t have a panacea here.  Some of these situations may be actual abuse.  There is certainly a period of NRE that can mask things that are truly bad, but aside from that, if you normally have a communicative relationship where you can talk about things and express your desire to each other, then incidents like this may just be part and parcel of relationships, though they manifest themselves in strange ways in this particular context.

To offer any advice in this context is a bit controversial, if not entirely ill advised… but this is a persistent question I get, so there is clearly a need for information that is not otherwise being met and I will do my best to address the issue.

The key thing to remember here is that a D/s relationship is still a relationship, and as with all relationships, be they romantic, professional, familial, or something that falls outside of all of those buckets, communication is the most important thing into which you can invest time and energy.

How can you tell if it’s really abuse?  That’s not really an easy thing, but generally if you’re talking about a single incident in what is otherwise a good relationship, I would give your partner the benefit of the doubt – he may just be having a bad day, or you may have hit one of his triggers.  However, if something that makes you uncomfortable repeats, there may be an issue, and this is where you may have to force the point and really talk about it.  Even if it is just a single incident, you need to talk about it, but a pattern of behavior is almost always a deeper issue than a single incident.

If you don’t have the sort of relationship where you can talk about these things, then you have deeper problems.  Aftercare is typically the place where you would talk about these things.  Don’t wait weeks or even days to talk about something that went wrong – talk about it right after it happens, find out where the problem came from, let him know that there is a problem (because he might not even realize it,) and do something to either correct or avoid it for the next time.

I fear that I’ve rambled a bit in this post… the point that I’m trying to get across is that Doms are people too – we have bad days, we have emotional triggers, and sometimes something will happen that causes us to have an abnormal reaction.  There have been times when I’ve hit a trigger of my own that causes me to emotionally retreat without even realizing it.  Usually I can come back around and see things for what they are if I’m given enough time, but in almost all of those cases, a few words or questions from my sub would have brought me there a lot more quickly.

A single bad experience may be bad enough to chuck out the whole affair, but probably isn’t unless things aren’t that good to begin with.  A pattern of bad behavior though – that’s something else, and that’s something that you should not continually put up with.

 

Trust, But Verify

A friend of mine was recently interviewed by The Atlantic for an article about this thing that we do.

They used very little of what she actually said, which was somewhat disappointing to me,  but if you’d like to read the article, you can find it here and while most of my readers are already well aware of her blog, just in case you are not one of those, you can find it here.

The article was supposed to be about the impact of the 50 Shades movie on the BDSM community, or so I was led to believe, but it turned into a condemnation of Fetlife instead.

I don’t think that the author of The Atlantic piece did a poor job, but I think that perhaps his lack of personal experience in the arena may have made him somewhat blind to the nuance involved.

By way of disclaimer, I should point out that I’m a lifetime supporter and member of Fetlife – in fact, it is the only social networking site of which I am a member, and I have had many good experiences facilitated by that site, but I’m neither a predator nor a potential victim, so much of what they speak about in the article is outside of my experience.  However, there is still the core of the message, which I still support entirely.

BDSM is not a license to be stupid.

There are people who use BDSM as an excuse to commit abuse.  These are not all outliers of the community.  Some of the core people who make up my own local community have engaged in practices that I find somewhat questionable, and I’ve heard accusations about others that I have not personally witnessed.  A person’s standing in the community is not a blanket endorsement by the members of the community and cannot substitute for caution on the part of newbies.  Even if they are wonderful, it is still very possible that your experience with them might not be satisfactory, and if you are not careful, possibly even dangerous.

It’s possible that Autumn will condemn me for what I am about to write, but I doubt it – I know her to be a rational and intelligent woman, and while she may not agree with what I am about to say, I doubt that it will lessen her opinion of me.

I have no doubt whatsoever that abuse does occur within the auspices of BDSM.  However, I understand and actually commend the people at Fetlife for the way that they have handled things – primarily by staying out of the conflicts.

Fetlife is a corporate entity and therefore is legally obligated to be largely blind to anything that is not provable, so they maintain a practice that is not unlike my own faith – in the absence of the provable, I choose to believe nothing – but they differ on some very important points that I will get to after an illustrative example to follow.

Add to this the fact that personal preferences and even the individual desires of a single person can vary greatly for a given time span, and you run into the fact that some interactions between some people are simply always going to be bad and there is very little that can be done to avoid this other than to communicate and negotiate.

For instance, as a completely hypothetical exercise, let us evaluate the following scenario:

 

A Top in the local community is well known to a lot of people, has many friends, is known to be particularly skilled at flogging, is well known for being patient and kind, especially with newbies, and he has had strong D/s relationships with multiple partners over the years, including a few that are currently going on.

Less well known are the personal proclivities of this person – things not shared except in intimate settings: he has a deep desire for anal penetrative intercourse, he likes asphyxiation, he thinks of himself as being able to read emotional and physical cues well and so he doesn’t place a great deal of emphasis on safewords, and he always has sex as part of a scene.

Now we introduce two newbie female bottoms to the mix.

Newbie bottom A becomes involved with the community and learns that our Top might be a good play partner for her first scene.  She has never been flogged, but thinks she might like it, she loves sex, including anal sex.  She has a deep desire to submit and to be used as an instrument of pleasure for her partner, and this, coupled with a desire to experience the sensation-heightening aspects of light pain lead her to believe that she wants an encounter with our Top.

She seeks him out at an event, they talk briefly, and with very little negotiation, agree to a private scene.  She meets him at his home, he takes her to his playroom, they engage in some petting, he binds her and flogs her, getting her into subspace for the first time in her life.  She is euphoric and he decides to extend things by gagging and blindfolding her to which she does not object.  He continues to flog her and she fights against her bindings, moaning and crying as she does so.  He interprets this as a good sign and then proceeds to take things further, having anal and vaginal intercourse with her while she is bound and gagged, sending her into even higher and tighter spirals of ecstasy.  When her thrashing becomes particularly passionate, he chokes her with his hands until she starts to lose consciousness and she immediately calms down as she surrenders and floats in subspace and then he lets go and she lies limp, savoring the experience.

When he is done, he un-gags and unbinds her while she is still floating.  She is euphoric and so is he.  She can barely move with the intensity of the experience that she has just had.  They share some quiet time together after the scene without speaking and then she leaves, believing that she has just undergone a transformative experience and is ecstatic.

 

Newbie bottom B becomes involved with the community and learns that our Top might be a good play partner for her first scene.  She has never been flogged, but thinks she might like it, she loves sex, but has some very deep personal aversions to anal sex.  She has a deep desire to submit and to be used as an instrument of pleasure for her partner, and this, coupled with a desire to experience the sensation-heightening aspects of light pain lead her to believe that she wants an encounter with our Top.

She seeks him out at an event, they talk briefly, and with very little negotiation, agree to a private scene.  She meets him at his home, he takes her to his playroom, they engage in some petting, he binds her and flogs her, getting her into subspace for the first time in her life.  She is euphoric and he decides to extend things by gagging and blindfolding her.  He continues to flog her and she fights against her bindings, moaning and crying as she does so.  He interprets this as a good sign and then proceeds to take things further, having anal and vaginal intercourse with her while she is bound and gagged, causing her to panic and fight against him.  He mistakes this as more of the same sort of euphoric passion and continues to have sex with her.  When her thrashing becomes particularly violent, he chokes her with his hands and she, unable to take any more abuse, begins to withdraw as the violation completely overwhelms her.

When he is done, he un-gags and unbinds her while she is still floating.  She is in shock and nearly catatonic and he is deeply euphoric.  He lies back to savor the experience and she lies there, unable to respond for some time until finally she wordlessly leaves, believing that she has just been raped and abused, while he thinks that things went extremely well.

 

Now – in this scenario, who is right?

You probably have your own opinion, but in my opinion, they are all wrong.

I’m going to momentarily overlook the complete lack of aftercare in this scenario (which is all too common in my opinion) and just talk about the interpretations of the scene itself.

It is convenient to assign blame for the bad experiences to either our Top or even to bottom B here, but in my own personal opinion the issue is not that simple, and turning Fetlife into a yelp-like rating system for Tops (or bottoms) is not going to help because the problem comes down to one of communication and personal preferences.

If you take the prevailing wisdom of the common culture from a few decades ago and apply it to these scenarios, it would tell you that our Top had no ill intent in either case and that the ideal scenario as presented with bottom A is wonderful and that the worst case scenario as presented with bottom B is the bottom’s fault.  She should have understood what she was getting herself into better and the fact that she didn’t object at a time where she could have objected is her own fault.

If we instead take the prevailing wisdom of today’s post-Feminist-revolution society and apply it we see the polar opposite.  The Top is entirely at fault for not explicitly getting permission for his actions at every step with bottom B and is even guilty of abuse in the case of bottom A, because while she enjoyed the experience, he did not fulfill his duty and it was mere happenstance that she felt good about things instead of bad.

Personally, I believe something different.  They’re all at fault for failing to properly communicate and negotiate.

Our Top did not do his duty in communicating up front, and as the more experienced partner, he bears the majority of the burden here.  He should have known better, but he did not intend to hurt anyone and felt that he was in the right all along.  That does not make him right.  He screwed up, to the point of breaking the law and deserves whatever consequences befall him, but if our bottom had been better informed, this scenario would never have occurred.  Our Top is not a predator, he was just criminally negligent.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it until I can’t speak any longer.  The heart of what it is that we do is negotiation and unfortunately people just don’t do enough of it.

The reason that we have contracts and safewords (or other signals when gagged, etc.) is to help ameliorate situations like these.  If you are in scene with me and we didn’t negotiate something in advance, I’m unlikely to try it, but if I do and you don’t like it, I’m counting on you to use your safeword or other signal to cue me to stop.  If you fail to do that and I fail to stop, we are both at fault.  I misread your cues and you didn’t explicitly signal me.  Our lack of pre-negotiation creates a bad experience for us both.

I think I’m an anomaly though and that most people don’t see things the way I do.  People like black and white outcomes.  They like to feel that they are right, and sometimes that has to mean that the other person is wrong.

Fetlife does not have the resources to adjudicate these cases, and therefore they simply refuse to allow their platform to be the battleground, and I believe that is the only viable course of action they have.  That’s what we need to remember.  Yes, there are people at Fetlife.  Yes, there is the Fetlife community itself, and communities are often capable of policing themselves – as they should – but Fetlife is not a community itself, it is a platform that hosts many distinct communities, and unless we want that platform to fail (which I don’t think anyone is suggesting) we have to view it as a what it is.

Fetlife has not failed its users, because Fetlife has no stake in these arguments and they are right to try to remove them from the platform completely.

If you have been abused, you have every right to seek restitution, and you should do that through the channels available to you.  Your own local meatspace community is a good place to start.  Most real-world communities are generally self-policing, and word of mouth can get you ostracized.  You may be the Top in this scenario and may have an encounter turn bad on you despite your intentions, and if that’s the case, you screwed up by not negotiating properly and you deserve the consequences that you receive.  The police might be another good place to go.  Only you can determine whether or not what you experienced is actually abuse, and only you can determine what the proper course of action should be, but Fetlife is a platform for people to engage with each other and is not itself a policing force, nor should it be.

This is all, of course, very complicated, and I’m not a lawyer.

But if I can get one message through to my readers, it is this:  think before you act.

Have an exfiltration plan.

Have a check-in person.

Have a safeword

Negotiate in advance.  Contracts and limits lists are a great way to do this.  Check my earlier posts if you need some examples of these.

This thing that we do is extremely risky – for Tops as well.  Protect yourself.

Trust, but verify.

Distrust gets you nowhere, but misplaced trust can get you hurt, badly.

And the last thing I ever want is for anyone to get hurt.

Fetlife is a tool, and use it for what you will, but remember, no tool, no database of players, no word of mouth reputation, nothing whatsoever can take the place of mindfulness, caution, and good sense.  There is always a first person to be abused – make sure that it isn’t you.