Recently on Fetlife someone emailed me to let me know there was some tempest brewing about the recent TES Fest (09). You know the drill by now if you are involved in any community organization. Someone got the bad touch and is all huffy, someone else took of their cause and a sort of self styled hard ass Al Sharpton is now in town whipping up the mobs and calling for a lynching.
Imagine my shock. Imagine my surprise.
Imagine my apathy.
Let’s set out a few things before I get to the meat of my post.
- I am not now, and never have been, a TES Board member though I have in the past been on a number of committees within that organization.
- I was also not on the staff for TES Fest ‘09 but I was for the previous events, including running security. So I’ll comment on a few things here.
- I do not speak for TES
All that said, I got this link in a message and then went off and read the wall discussion (though the term “mob” may be more appropriate) and my conclusion is this…
There is an awful lot of heat being generated here – and a whole lot of people demanding this and demanding that all the while making a big racket but I haven’t seen any reason at all why I, as a member of the lay public, am supposed to be outraged. Not only am I supposed to be outraged some how, but I am supposed to see in these vaguely discussed incidents behavior so heinous that TES should be dismantled (along with all other organizations, apparently). That’s before we get to the notions of a cover up I am supposed to be all pissed about.
In short, it’s another round of Big Drama(tm) – everyone’s favorite community politics reality show. Frankly, I am not sure that this season will be any more interesting than last years, or the year before.
Let’s unpack a few of the things at play here.
Someone (or some people) have a big axe to grind with public BDSM organizations, including TES
This is useful information – it underlies all that follows. This outrage is to some degree being inflated and whipped up not as much because of genuine upset at the situation, but because in addition someone sees a chance to make a political point and push an agenda. In this particular case the conceit seems to be that somehow the large BDSM organizations are keeping us Real Sadists(tm) down. Or something. Frankly it all gets a little hazy when the ranting gets going. There is foam. Lots of fist pounding no doubt.
Now, I can rant along with the best of them about how annoyingly touchy feely the world of public BDSM is. Hell, our podcast is frequently discussing that very topic (Power In Practice). The thing is – this isn’t because organizations like TES are fluffy bunny pushers – it is because large organizations with elected officials are ALWAYS going to gravitate to policies that are geared for the lowest end of the risk-o-meter. That doesn’t mean these organizations are useless or evil, it just means they are not now _and never will be_ the perfect representation of everyone on the planet.
So don’t join. Or start your own. Or join and get elected and work to change it. Or whatever. Hell, join and complain, its a completely valid form of activism. You’re welcome to do all of that. However if you want me to take you seriously the thing you probably should avoid is telling me what a big, strong, hard assed individual you are then claim that TES is somehow keeping you down.
I will laugh at you.
I am frankly also not sure about how this is all supposed to be connected anyway. A board member gets out of hand, a security person gets rowdy and somehow this all connects to The vast SSC Conspiracy(tm) and a long winded rant about there being no home for hard asses or something.
Hint: Your supposed outrage about this “crime” would be more convincing if you didn’t mix it in with your political rantings
Anyway, keeping in mind that this incident is now doubt being seen and used as a political opportunity… let’s move on.
Someone (possibly a board member) may have done something inappropriate with someone’s submissive.
Why “possibly”? Because I didn’t see it, and I don’t have any reason to consider overly credible the recounting of a situation by people on a message forum. You’re welcome to be offended by that if you choose… but it’s just common sense.
For the sake of argument, let’s allow that the story as presented is true and complete. Let us grant that a TES board member got out of hand. Let’s accept that we live in a society where such behavior is somehow conflated with raping someone at gunpoint (we do). Granting all of that…
I still don’t see why people feel they have the right to demand public disclosures, instantaneous removal and all the rest of this stuff. I also fail to see how this incident is supposed to show that TES as an organization is somehow corrupt and evil.
Here is the reality of organizations – accusations are used as political weapons _all the time_. Folks bring complaints against people they don’t like alleging all sorts of things. People try and get other members thrown out of organizations in the aftermath of a break up. Everyone and their brother feels compelled to “tell the teacher” about every sleight – real, imagined or fabricated.
So while it is possible that this incident happened ( as an organization of humans, TES will get board members who are either bad people or make mistakes or both, it is inevitable ) my point is that simply because there is an accusation would be no excuse for the organization to publically draw and quarter the person accused until it was satisfied about the veracity and circumstances.
This is a good thing.
Why would anyone want to be part of an organization where all someone had to do was accuse you of a crime before your name and the allegations were plastered all over the website?
Do you have any idea how abused and misused such a policy would be? Is that _really_ a good idea? Of course not.
* I want something as potentially damaging as public censure on a website with national and international reach to be a process that grinds slowly.
* I want the presumption of innocence.
* I want a BDSM organization to err on the side of maintaining privacy of it’s members.
* I want there to need to be more than an angry accusation before board members are removed or members publically ousted.
Because if there is not that sort of inertia, if accusation leads instantly to censure, public accusation and open condemnation then it will be used even more freely as a hammer for political and personal in-fighting.
Now, none of this precludes the possibility that TES is engaged in some manner of cover up. My point is simply that these calls for the name of the board member to be posted on the website before an internal investigation into the incident are simply not ones I support.
Of course, I strongly suspect that many of the people doing the calling also know it would be a bad organizational policy to do so – but they see here an opportunity to advance their political agenda.
On a related note, the topic of TES and sadism
Having mentioned above that large BDSM organizations by their nature gravitate to fluffy bunny-ness. Let’s talk briefly about TES in specific. TES is certainly driven by the same forces to tend to the middl
the moderate and the safe. All of that is true.
TES is also home to some truly fucked up (in the best possible sense of the term) people, and TES has never shied away from granting us a voice.
- Flagg has spoken at TES in the past (and I am sure would be welcome in the future) about things that run so counter to the fluffy concepts of SSC that they can only be considered a deliberate repudiation of them.
- I have spoken at TES on a number of occasions on topics so counter to the BDSM mainstream that there are _still_ members of the organization who routinely accuse me of being a misogynist, rapist or worse. It is my understanding that on at least one occasion there have been organized attempts to have me removed from the organization as a result of classes or talks I have given. However not only were those attempts failures but I am clearly welcome to speak at TES in the future and have been warmly thanked for the talks in the past.
- Others – a relatively large number of others – have similar stories to tell. TES may be a organization of fluffy bunnies mostly catering to fluffy bunnies but it is one of the most tolerant groups I know of for those of us on the margins.
Hell, TES Fest ‘08 let Flagg run the dungeons. Flagg. Within the bounds of the local laws Flagg ran the most permissive dungeon spaces conceivable. Mistakes aside (and there always will be when you are coordinating a large number of volunteers) the odds that you’re scene was going to be stopped at TES Fest ‘08 simply because you are too much of a hard ass were less than your chances of getting hit by a meteor. And that wasn’t his first year being the final judge of all things “over the line”, either.
Now, I don’t know what happened in the dungeons at TES Fest ‘09 (other than Saturday, when I was there as a attendee) but I do know the person who as running safety… he was Flagg’s second in command in ‘08 and is someone I have respect for. He is about as far from an SSC “let’s only use suede floggers” zealot as anyone I know.
Hell, behind the scenes of the BDSM community TES Fest’s are routinely criticized as being permissive to the point of being dangerous. I have heard and read discussions in outside groups where people were warning novices not to go to TES meetings because TES let’s the “extreme” people talk.
All this is to say that while no large organization will ever be free of the SSC / Fuzzy Bunny mantra ( and the reasons for that are as much legal / survival as actual ethical motivations ) TES is among the most tolerant I know of in the nation.
By all means, rant away, and if you have been genuinely wronged of course you should press for ‘justice’. As an outsider looking in, however, don’t expect me to not notice how forced most of this outrage actually looks and how transparent your agenda is.