As you know, health issues have been a core part of the sporadic hiatus, and emotional well being is part of them. It’s something I am a bit sad and sheepish about. In my happiest D/s relationship, most uncomplicated or “yes, but” tainted, I am also at a point where I am not giving the content here that probably would have helped me equivalent back when I founded things 10 years ago. But, maybe I should talk about the pain of how trying to bring change hurt me, within the community, too?
Recently, after seven years in the role, I quit moderating r/femdom. I’d been basically checked out for more than a few years. This was, not in the least part, because ultimately the act of trying to curate porn that gives 0 space for my actual sexuality (while purporting to be about me) is about as inherently rewarding as watching the bailiffs auction your heirlooms to help settle the unpaid mortgage on the family farm they are also seizing. I had started, amusingly, because I got banned and publicly spoke out about how the environment was hostile to dommes, particularly lifestyle dommes and tried to seed a little foothold- not removing the fap but suggesting it could be otherwise. The trigger for quitting is betwixt the therapy I am faithfully doing and yet another DM attempting, in good faith on their part, to point out I was not doing enough.
This isn’t, by the way, an attack on this person. She pointed out, being trans, she was banned for content with her bio-dick, which the group gives a pass to with a strapon. Systemic unfairness is rampant- users flag trans people just for being trans, at the best of times. Since everyone is very, very off the rules, even if you could argue her post broke the letter of the law or spirit, she wasn’t without a solid point. But I was looking at her relatively polite appeal to me, pointing out the gatekeeping of the group, and something just came untied. It was that while someone COULD take on her crusade, I was so burned out and, tbh, socially burned by trying to help that I was the wrong person to do it. If I did, I would probably piss everyone else off, putting her hopes on me and then dashing them. This would also be no win for me, as excessive past experience shows that friendly fire is a pretty standard experience in progressive spaces, as well as fragging.
I wouldn’t be able to get the other moderators to be able to make a useful change, all they would be is more burned out and pissed off. I was the most approachable for her issue, but holy hell was I holding on by a thread. I knew that the team I worked with, however well meaning, were similarly ground down. Bot campaigns, hate mail, trashing and bad faith social justice flavoured appeals had all done a lot of damage, leaving a team that was doing the bare minimum to keep the lights on. Fragility, in its various forms has been called out as a barrier to change, but being what people call a “Geriatric Millennial”, I am old enough to see that while conflict might not be abuse, it is labour. It’s labour to sit with the discomfort of your own faults. The work doesn’t go away, even if it is important, no spoons magically materialize extra to make people more resilient because the work is important.
You can definitely power that gap on anger, or fear, but that is a quick way to cPTSD.
Oh, poor Pearl, making excuses! Nah, this is honesty, not an emotional appeal to you. The direct truth, here, is that me in the moderator role wasn’t going to help her with her problem. BUT. Me in the moderator role was probably standing in the way of someone who could. Not because I was actively blocking someone- like most load bearing, endless in scope volunteer roles, being present was leaving people comfortable enough not to do the work to fix things or let them fail.
I wanted to tell her that I already thought r/femdom being essentially r/grumpypegging and low effort spam killed my joy. I wanted to say that the standards we tried to determine who was/wasn’t a dom were nonesense, that they reflected a mindset that was fundamentally anti-sexworker, while still consuming almost exclusively commercial content. Femdom is subculture that, due to collective marginalization of lifestyle only and pro dommes alike, needed us to be allies. But the conceptual way reddit’s larger user base handles porn still has the pre-revenge porn laws mindeset. It’s a harassing, greedy and piracy first attitude that bred The Fappening. And, ultimately, it wasn’t my subreddit to decide to blow things up to turn into a feminist sex utopia. Nobody died and made me in change, and, nobody gave me a private army to accomplish some sort of coup-by-doing-the-work. But I didn’t, cuz she didn’t message me out of the blue to support me.
How about saying “I just work here, ma’am”?
I knew that wasn’t a good enough reply, either. Ultimately while the rewards of helping were minimal, a reputational boost translating to such a miniscule amount of privilege compared to say, working the same hours at McDonalds and using the money to self promote via ads- I was still there. Why was I doing this? Because I thought, in some small way I could push things to be a bit better for everyone.
I volunteer to feel safe, and foster a sense of belonging. I’m autistic, which doesn’t mean all autistics experience things this way, but like all humans I have people needs. My people needs were nurtured in socially abusive environments, while my head is full of boundless creative energy and vision. I unavoidably stand in the foreground, becoming a lead weight on a rubber sheet, warping the gravity of an environment I am in. Maybe this tendency to check out when I am not actively engaged is an ADHD thing too, but nevertheless, it is a thing. And this trying to be in motion, positively, has a history of harming me.
My therapist asked me something a few weeks back. Why do I mention taking on an “11 victim serial rapist”, a fair bit, as an anchor in my life narrative? He’s a good therapist, so we have the rapport where the pillars of my self can be poked without hurting me. It was a good question. Taking on a series of missing stairs, culminating with that last one, and trying to emphasize the shit I dealt with, with Dunter, to get people to listen, did me irreparable harm, and alienated me from the Montreal kink community. Oh, and my relationship with my partner at the time fell apart- it needed to evolve because of core incompatibilities, but holy fuck, the timing.
Losing your social group to ostracism sucks. It’s actually potentially spectacularly fatal. I wish it hadn’t taken Lindsey Ellis having a second breakdown due to extended social abuse by mob to trip over: “Hot Allostatic Load“, but it helped understand what was going on.
Trying to understand my mental health can be put through a few lenses. One perspective is that things have never been ok- I was an anxious child, to begin with, who experienced ongoing abuse trauma. Another is that my early twenties to thirties were cyclical disasters: boom and bust, functional to non. Or, a person with existing vulnerabilities moved from an abusive family; to an abusive relationship; to an abusive situation in her community… to another even more abusive community, outside of kink.
Being accurate, when I took on Kommandant and Dunter, both sought to destroy my reputation, the latter by implying that I was abusive as well to change the subject. Then, because I had a reputation as the only person with a spine, when I didn’t deliver the results that people wanted on yet one more of many issues, fairly unpleasant humans decided to dox me. They did so because in social justice, any damage for progress is and ends justifies the means. Nothing like deleting a post using your real name on fetlife, and then being told you were silencing them. Guess that’s tone policing now, isn’t it? >_>
I am not just bitter, I’m traumatized. Also bitter. But, mostly trauma.
At the same time, by the way, my online life was picking up stalkers. Pretty gnarly ones, the kind where yeah, there’s clearly some mental health issues going on, but also someone you have never met or interacted with is hell bent on personally punishing you for a relationship they imagined you had with them. Most crazy people don’t do that, this was more the celebrity dehumanization effect.
So I quit, running away into a LARP club, and into Vancouver. And on the way, the LARP club ripped my spine out through my ass. Because it turns out vampire LARP’s poisoned history makes the sexual abuses of the Montreal BDSM scene look like a walk in the park.
Bleeding out various metaphorical injuries got round 2 of disordered eating, followed by covid’s impact just kicking what little stamina I had left. I have been cooling my heels on about 1.5 years now of long term disability. What can I say about that?
I am getting better. I am anxious I will never be fully “ok” to function, of tackling permanent disability to work full time. I am filled with so much guilt and anxiety around the Patreon thing falling by the wayside, I can’t even bring myself to open the site, even though I probably would go back to it much sooner if I did. But a lot of where I got so far in my recovery is heralded by abrogation of responsibilities. Quitting things.
I first noticed that in the larp side. Like most creative hobbies, it’s notorious for volunteer labour making even “for profit” endeavors possible. The pocket I enjoyed is even more shoe string, nourishing a community where even minimal membership fees are a hardship. Leaving aside stumbling from sexual abuse in kink to sexual and other abuse in LARP, there’s very much an over reliance on “hero” volunteers, running unopposed for elected positions of implied sort of leadership, but largely admin. And the people in those roles are a smaller pool than the member base, doing it at the expense of personal life, reputation and health. It continues, because if they stopped the event would stop.
And at some point I sad down and did the math- if it wasn’t important enough to people to support it, then they didn’t deserve to have it. Would this event, this idea or project die but for one person or team? Then perish.
When I left Montreal, the munch I hosted vanished.
Inheritance, alone in an era of missing stairs and #MeToo, became a mess. Events that didn’t act to make themselves safer, ironically, faced less damage. Not because they were better off doing so, but because the 18-35 community didn’t have its shit together not to turn into a ridiculous mud sling if said can of worms were opened. They grew too dependent on Pearl spending $40 a month on a drink she wouldn’t otherwise consume, and a taxi home so she could host a gathering that was slightly safer and curated than others. The fight over the amorphous cluster of folks that became attached to this group overshadowed the labour of keeping things safe.
Cliff, of Pervocracy, talked about this as well. They have one of the most influential theories on moral and social behaviour of groups, but their Missing Stair essay came at a cost I became familiar with. I became, much as they described their own experience, the holding place for the trauma of others.
You don’t get to one and done, to pick up that sword becomes a lifelong commitment, in the eyes of others. Which sounds noble and ideal for everyone, because, like, shouldn’t we all be unstintingly fighting against abuse? Most of the space we call social media is that sort of participatory effort, a push in all directions, so you would think there would be more people doing the work that needs doing.
Only we clearly aren’t. Because the larger world is a hostile place, the burdens disproportionately fall on these load bearing actors. and then the price of failure or imperfection is “we trusted you, the status of being trusted should have been enough”.
Just purely hosting that Munch was, shocking to me, revolutionary to most folks. One evening a month, emailing a bar and making a fetlife event. It spawned two direct (welcomed) copycats that filled needs my event didn’t. And yet at the time it was a remarkable act of will and inclusion even before I started taking whisper network warnings and shouting them. Acting on them, banning people.
I sort of wondered about those legendary wise people and oracles, with people seeking out some poor bronze age bastard to judge their legal dispute or tell them how to plan their personal lives and granary systems. I think also about the shock people forever have when they discover someone popular isn’t rich, works a regular job.
To help others or to speak is to barter your participation in a group
A pithy bit of writing I stumbled over recently observed that in spiritualist societies, when you started having personal occult revelations, your existing group or church would typically exile you. They might have even be founded by another exile with a vision, but yours would become a bridge too far.
I feel a lot of kinship with Contrapoints, just a girl talking, who lucked into being better at talking and entertaining at the right time. Hers was a monkey paw, trying to protect her community and understand the human condition, which arguably made her inevitable transition a bit smoother, but I can’t help thinking that she was smart/positioned enough to make the same income in a short sleeve polo as a software engineer. Then she could still have spent, as she put it “luxury car money” on the medical side of alleviating some of her dysphoria. There sure are a lot of Tesla orbiting every FANG hub I have been around, and a lot of folks participating in the resulting countercultural communities that spring up in such cities.
Instead, the poor woman became a living goddess style avatar in the way we modern people do it. If you were fanciful and biblically raised you could say the Eden breaking nakedness Adam and Eve traded for was an awareness others could see them and care. Sort of like people suggest the god of foresight, Prometheus, isn’t being punished for stealing fire, but giving humans the anxiety of being able to live outside the now. The maker of the monkey with anxiety, if you will.
Other people have written on the toxicity of the traumatized trapped in a marginalized space, retraumatizing each other endlessly. But, with my double helping of the usual monkey anxiety and being a freak among the freaks, now what?
I guess I do what I always do: process my feelings messily and publicly in a long form essay. But I think I will also suggest that we need to do a way better job on foundational shit. Missing stairs exploit being more effort and social complexity to address than to leave as a shared hazard. Believe the victim was a nice start, but it’s not making a tangible structure of next steps or what to do when you “believe the victim” but all the doctors in the hospital are gunshot victims too.
I need there to be a community that supports me without eating me alive in the process. And I need there to be a community with diffused labour-of-justice that is not done from a place of constant high amp. I don’t know what that is, but right now I won’t be trying to found it, as I am a bit occupied with trying to smelt a few more spoons out of the pile of scraps, swords and old razor blades I have been given to work with.