“A Fungus Among Us” is another post in Thomas’s series “There’s a War On.” In this post, Thomas talks about how serial abusers work their way into central community positions. They are often charming and popular and have a lot of supporters/fans/friends. They are often the most fun.
They are serial abusers. Through empirical research compiled under what is now known as The Predator Theory, we know that 90% of the assaults are committed by less than 10% of the population. Research shows around 4% and 8%. 4% is one out of 25 people, meaning someone we know.
(Side note. The number of sociopaths in society are also at 4%. One out of 25. You know a sociopath. You know a rapist. They might even be the same person, and they are likely your friend.) Again, Thomas speaks particularly about BDSM communities, but his words can be applied to any community.
Four out of a hundred, one out of twenty-five: someone we know. Someone we’re friends with. Someone we trust. Someone who is friends with our friends. It may be worse in BDSM communities, nobody has any numbers. Pedophiles try to become priests, teachers, coaches, run camps: places where their access to targets will be easy, where they can select and groom targets. Given the way BDSM communities offer access to targets and unwittingly or even recklessly provide cover for abusive conduct, why wouldn’t predators who want adult victims gravitate toward BDSM communities? Anyone who thinks that can’t be true is in denial.
He goes on to give an account of a woman who tried to warn others about her rapist, and they behaved in the exact same way. He doesn’t know the woman or the abuser, but he says it rings true because this is what he’s experienced and witnessed in his own community. All those who ask me again and again and again how I can “jump” on any accusation and believe it, and why I’m asking you to do the same (at least give the benefit of the doubt to the victim, not the accused) is because it’s the same. exact. thing. I’ve seen in countless communities. It rings true because there is a 98% chance it is true.
He also tells a story about a woman who was raped with a knife, something her dom was into and kept trying to talk her into it during their play sessions. She repeatedly said she wasn’t ready for penetration with a knife…well, he decided that it didn’t matter what she wanted. Boris, as he names the dom in his story, was very popular and central in their scene. “Boris cares more about consent than anyone, or that’s the impression he gives, and so say some of his friends.” Read the post to see just how much “Boris” cares about consent. Many, many abusers and rapists hide behind feminism and spirituality and in other places that cause you to doubt their true nature when it’s revealed through the trembling lips of one of their victims.
There’s a theme here: that silence and secrecy are the paramount values, and open discussion is to be avoided. It’s a basic function of institutions, but often of informal social networks as well, to protect the body from reputational damage. That’s what colleges do with rape: they use nondisclosure agreements so that whatever the result, nobody can talk about it. When I was in college and there was an accusation of a sexual assault on a woman I sort of knew, I got the account from her, and she said it happened and I believed her, so I told anyone who would listen about the perp. So the administration told me I’d be punished if I didn’t shut up. That’s how it happens. Not talking about it is rule #1.
I said before that even when “everybody knows,” everybody is really narrow. Even when there’s a paper trial, a police report, a restraining order, people who are new in the scene often don’t get told. When I was a teenager, I believed that reputation was the gold standard and that if there were stories about a top violating boundaries, that it would get around pretty quickly. It turns out that it doesn’t. People sit on what they hear. To tell you, the people who have heard need to trust you, and the people who nobody knows well enough to share the story with are those who are newest and least protected.
I titled this series, “There’s A War On.” There are two sides, and the two sides are Transparency and Secrecy. Justice Brandeis famously wrote that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” People who are against sunlight have arguments, some of them even sensible arguments. But when it comes down to it, either you think things have to change, or you don’t. For reasons that I’ll write about in greater depth in the sections to come, the only real way to make change is to let the sunlight in.
There’s a way I think I need to come at this. Some of the people on Team Secrecy are not evil, just misguided, and on my account they’re misguided because they’re not seeing the critical relationship between the predators, and the environment that allows them a social license to operate. So the rest of what I have to say is about those factors and that relationship. (read more)
I’m on Team Transparency, and I always have been. Many, many people are on Team Secrecy, and it’s through that team that abuse can continue to happen. We must shine a light on it. People must be willing to talk about it. It is happening, and it’s happening more than anyone wants to believe..
We have a problem. In BDSM communities. In sex-positive communities. In the Steampunk community. We have a problem. As Thomas says,The first step is admitting we have a problem. And we do have a problem. I’ll skip to the end: there’s no shortage of stories that start “I was abused” and end “when I tried to say something the community closed ranks around the abuser and I was frozen out.” It’s happened to friends of mine. It’s happened in communities where people insist that the community isn’t like that. And almost always, you have to actually know the participants to know what happened because nobody talks about it. It’s all secret, there’s no sunlight and no transparency. You, you out there on the internet, can search blogs until you’re blue in the face for a record of some of these stories, or some indication that you shouldn’t play with some of these people, and you’ll never find it. Even when “everybody knows,” the “everybody” is very narrow.
It’s happened in the Steampunk community, and the exact same thing happened. “The community closed ranks around the abuser.” Yes. It did. Silence, by the way, will be understood by the victim and everyone else as supporting the abuser.
This is what we’re trying to change through OWF. This is what you VOW not to do.
This is not a time to be silent. This is a time to shout and scream and make extremely clear that we will not allow abuse or sexualized violence in our community. It is time to make the abusers and rapists unwelcome. It’s time to revoke their social license to operate once and for all.
Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.
Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com