Today, about 25 of us got together at BiTastic! to discuss consent. I put together a sheet of prompts, which you can find here – but it wasn't really needed, as the discussion flowed for the full hour with virtually no prompting.
We started off talking about ways you can improve safety when playing, unrelated to the larger community. All the topics you might expect came up - safewords, negotiation, references - but it was pointed out that a lot of these things might not be common knowledge to people who are exploring kink for the first time and aren't part of a kink community. I reckon that this probably isn't an issue for most of the community, but it's something I'd want to take into account during future kinky activism.
I asked what people thought that the commonly used statement that "the scene is self-policing" actually means. The common view was that it actually means nothing, because, well, the scene doesn't manage to police itself very well at all.
We discussed why this was so. One of the points I found the most interesting was about the lack of clarity from people who run clubs or events as to their rules and policies. It was suggested that it would be good for clubs to have their rules in clear sight, and to be open about what sanctions they impose for different violations. We usually assume any sanction will be a warning or a ban, but people suggested that only allowing people to play under DM supervision, or only allowing people to play with a written negotiation displayed where a DM could read it, could also be interim measures used for those situations where abuse allegations are flying around.
Another question posed: why don't we, as a community, get involved in the setting of rules and boundaries at our events? Why do we leave it in the hands of event organisers? I mean, I don't suppose that anyone has been calling for a community discussion on rules, but it is a way that people could have more power to determine what they consider acceptable behaviour in their community. Forcing event leaders to be accountable to a set of rules determined by the group isn't easy and certainly isn't something I expect will happen – but in the event that I'm hosting future munches, I will create and openly post a policy surrounding consent violations, and invite people to question/amend it to what they think is fair.
Before we left, I put this question to the group:
If your consent was violated by someone on your local scene, where would you go to report? What do you think the outcome would be and would this be satisfactory for preventing further abuse? Police? Rape crisis/third party reporting? People who run local clubs/munches? Your peer group? Friends or partners of the abuser? FetLife?
And for the first time in an hour there was complete silence in the room. Nobody had a good answer as to what they would do to report an assault. Only one or two people said they would feel comfortable with going to the police, and nobody had a good answer as to how they would report within the community. Which leaves abusers with a terrifying lack of accountability for their actions.
Some other really interesting things came out of the day. Notably, I had a really good talk with people from sexual health charities HIV Scotland and SX, and they're interested in doing talks specific to the kink community. We had a good discussion about transmission of STIs and blood-borne infections via toys. Would anyone be interested in SX doing a talk for the community on sexual health and kink?