Friday, 25 July 2008

Everything I've Learned about Spanking

When the Max Mosley "Nazi orgy with hookers" story first broke I scarcely noticed it. Lacking much interest in sadomasochistic orgies, Nazi or otherwise, never having heard of Max Mosley (or, come to that, the FIA: I imagined that motorsport was run entirely by Bernie Ecclestone), and not being a regular reader of the News of the World the fuss barely registered on my radar screen. But then, a few weeks later, came something that did interest me: the revelation that one of the women involved - the very one who sold the story to the Screws, moreover - was married to an MI5 officer. I wondered how much I could find out about her, and the circumstances involved. Was there a grand conspiracy? Who really set Mosley up? What kind of truths, all these weeks later, were still out there?

Cherchez les femmes quickly became my watchword. I searched - and found. No smoking gun, no conspiracies (I lacked Lord Stevens' resources or expertise), but I did discover fascinating details about the women involved in the case. What I found overturned completely all my preconceptions. It may also, in retrospect, have skewed my moral compass.

The process of tracking down the women, originally fuelled by pure, prurient curiosity, slowly changed into something else as I learned more about the world they inhabit and about the women themselves. I pursued them through a network of message-boards, blogs and obscure fetish sites. I learned a new vocabulary, of CP and BDSM, of pro-dommes and submissives, of munches, judicials and paddles. I hung out in deviant chatrooms. I have seen enough photographs of striped, enflamed, bruised and scarred backsides to last several lifetimes. I was never remotely turned on; yet bizarre, disturbing images, which must appear inherently abusive, began to appear normal, even banal. I found this disquieting. But whatever my final thoughts about their lifestyle I have over the past weeks developed a respect and, strange though it sounds, an affection for the women who, for whatever reason, choose it.

What at first seemed to be an undifferentiated group of "hookers" turned out to be anything but. There was the outwardly respectable middle-aged divorcee with a head for figures and an allegedly "dynamite" contacts book; the young glamour model struggling to raise her child alone; the ultra-bright graduate student who craved polyglot humiliation and the firm thwack of a hairbrush; the German with an enigmatic past and hair as dark and lustrous as polished obsidian; and, of course, the villainess, the arch-deceiver, spanking's own Mata Hari, who owned and ran a fully-equipped dungeon in old Milton Keynes. Far from obscure, they were stars in their limited firmament, with an adoring fanbase. Like proper celebrities, they even did their bit for charity.


The treacherous Mistress Abi, who can now be pictured. They're calling her "Michelle"

Whether or not one chooses to use the word "prostitute" of such women is a difficult question (even among themselves), and to some extent an artificial one. At one level, they are obviously providing "sexual services" in exchange for money, even though the services rarely include penetrative sex (and if sex does occur, it is a freely-given extra, on the woman's terms). But in other respects they are most unlike prostitutes, even highly-paid call girls, whose whole raison d'ĂȘtre is to earn money through sex. With the spankees and dominatrices of the corporal punishment (CP) scene, even if spanking is their career (and it usually isn't) it is above all a personal need, an outward expression of inner compulsion. And, indeed, it's hard to see how it could be otherwise. Being hurt for money sounds like the most abject degradation: yet these women are not degraded. They do it because that is who they are. If they aren't paid to be spanked, they offer themselves up for free. And if they can't find anyone willing to do if for free, they may even pay.

Another awkward question raised for some by the professional BDSM scene concerns the political (and, indeed, moral) ramifications of the infliction of pain in exchange for money. Whether or not it is "prostitution", whether or not it is consensual, is it inherently abusive? This is something that particularly troubles feminists. Kit Roskelly, herself an S&M Submissive and self-declared feminist, puts the problem this way in an article posted on The F Word:


While people of every orientation and gender are involved in BDSM, the scenes in which heterosexual couples interact, and particularly those in which a woman takes the submissive role, are of particular interest in the context of female sexuality. In taking on control of a female submissive during scenes, dominant men appear to be enacting all that is worst about male privilege and control. The use of tying and restraints, physical punishment and sexual domination, all ring alarm-bells for the feminist viewer.


Roskelly's own answer to this question stresses - as do all apologists for BDSM of any variety - the paramount importance of consent. But some feminists - sharing in this (and not for the only time) the views of the distinctly non-feminist journalists at the Mail - find this less than convincing. And where money changes hands, the "punishment" of a female submissive seems to go beyond the ritualisation of the assumed patriarchal dominance in wider society and to depend on it directly. After all, those paying, whether to spank or to be spanked, or merely to watch the spanking, are overwhelmingly men. They have the money - and therefore, if you accept the feminist analysis, they also have the power.

As "Prime Rib" put it in a comment on CIF, "He [MM] assaulted women (yes, they were prostitutes - so what?). Since when did handing money over excuse violence? What about their 'feelings?' What about their health and safety?... " When I put it to her that the women were consenting and in any case were doing it for their own enjoyment as much as Mosley's, she described my point of view as "bullcrap":

Personally, I find S&Mers largely comic, sad and only rarely disturbing. But that's because they're still a subset of oddballs. Normalise, and the 'boundaries' become far less defined. Too many men (and some women) have 'issues.' Licence to express them sexually, for money, is a recipe for abuse.


Such an argument seems to me to be based on dogma rather than experience, and strikingly similar to arguments made forty years ago against the legalisation of gay sex: that the young and vulnerable would be taken advantage of, or that normalising something deviant will damage society more widely. Yet I cannot dismiss it entirely, and - picking up hints here and there - it seems clear that despite a strongly expressed attachment to the principle of consent the potential for abuse remains. I found this blog comment, for example, by a professional spank model - one of the best in the business:

But when is play not so good for the sub? I guess when what he or she receives is not at all what she was expecting (and is not a slave and so has a right to complain about this) and is really rather damaged from the whole experience both physically and mentally. I have seen (and been subjected to once or twice) the result of bad play and it can really do bad things to both your psyche and your posterior!


What all this emphasises, of course, is the centrality of trust and personal relationships. In an interesting post, Adele Haze (another leading light of the Scene, who was not directly involved in the case) compared herself and her fellow spankees to geishas whose position is, perhaps, similarly anomalous. Among ten points she raised, she mentioned that "both a geisha and a spanking model compete for attention of a relatively small group of people". This, I think, is key. It's a small community of about 20-30 girls who know each other, go to the same parties, show up in the same films and on the same specialist websites, and who therefore put a high premium on trust. It seems far removed from the seedy, anonymous, soulless world of commercial sex. Eady J alluded to this element when he wrote in his judgement,

I was told that there is a fairly tight-knit community of S and M activists on what is known as “the scene” and that it is an unwritten rule that people are trusted not to reveal what has gone on. That is hardly surprising....It is alleged against the woman in question (known as “Woman E”) that she breached that trust and that the journalist concerned must have appreciated that she was doing so.


The judge further quotes a text message sent by Miss A to Max Mosley soon after the News of the World exposé

“ … our scene is based on complete trust and complete discretion. However one of my so called close friends dominatrix [Woman E] has betrayed that confidence by doing what she has done. I am devastated by this act of pure total selfish greed, she has no morals, no integrity, no loyalty, complete disregard to others, cruel, and she is a liar!!! No one … deserves this invasion of privacy.”


Everything that I have learned confirms this impression. Ethics matters to these people. Miss A spoke in court of the "family atmosphere" that bound the women together - and their clients, too, with whom they often come to form close relationships. Although, as in all extended families, there are also quarrels, rivalries and feuds. One important distinction would seem to be between "pro-dommes", mistresses doing it just for the money, and "genuine players", who do it for love. Identifying Mistress Abi as a purely mercenary dominatrix enabled some on the scene to put her betrayal into some kind of context. Yet other pro-dommes retort that confidentiality is just as important to them as to anyone else, and Abi's behaviour wasn't their fault. Who knows when, or whether, the breach will be healed?

The Scene is, as it is designed to be, a world of mirrors, in which real identities are submerged behind false names and, occasionally, fictitious details. This serves as a buffer between the scene and the mundane, or "vanilla" world, which is perceived as being potentially threatening. There is a fear that with exposure would come consequences, a sense that the world as a whole, or at least the powers that control it, represent a threat to their lifestyle, to their jobs and to their relationships. With that fear comes also solidarity, a desire to protect each other's security and, when need arises, to circle the wagons.

One important aspect of this security concerns names. "Scene names" are carefully chosen. Sometimes, they will have purely theatrical connotations - "Mistress Switch", for example - and will therefore give no indication as to the actual identity of the person behind the name. Others will resemble real names, but not be. Similarly, clients will tend to use pseudonyms - Max was "Mike", for example - even where their real names are known to their closest confederates. As far as I can tell, that element of confidentiality has so far been largely preserved. Certainly the "real" identities of the women are not easy (though not impossible) to uncover.

The need for trust - and the close personal relationships that this entails - thus exists in tension with circumspection. The girls on the Scene, and their largely male clientelle, are bound together not just by a shared enthusiasm for spanking but through fear of the consequences of exposure. It is this delicate balance that the Max Mosley case has upset. Above all, it was the action of "Woman E" - a professional dominatrix and a close friend of at least one of the four other women in the case - that has sent shockwaves through the community. The sense of betrayal is still raw. Adele Haze, for example, writes on her blog that the affair has left her "numb with anger". She had come to know the scene as a place of trust and safety, "a benevolent, friendly world of kinky humans". E's actions had destroyed all that:

This is why it was such a blow to me that the betrayal of my colleagues (and Max, their client) came not from a mustachioed spy creeping into a dodgy spanking party, but a woman they considered one of their own. This alone was hard to take in, and I still struggle to understand what has to go through the mind of a woman who throws away all relationships, connections and friendships in the scene, gleefully pushing five people off the cliff...

I couldn’t begin to equate my distress to the daily anguish suffered by the girls and Max. I’m safe and well here behind my computer screeen. And yet, the profound disappointment in my scene is looking to haunt me for a long time. I don’t see being able to walk into a spanking party without guessing who is going to betray everybody present.

Shortly after the MM affair went public, one of the leading organising figures on the British corporal punishment scene, Lucy McLean, sent a round-robin email urging her spank-buddies not to blog about the incident, to protect the women involved. She feared that they might lose their jobs or even the custody of their children if their true identities were exposed. The embargo was adhered to until the case concluded last week. By a bitter irony, however, it was McLean herself who was to suffer most.

Together with her husband Paul Kennedy, Lucy runs the Glasgow-based Northern Spanking site, where CP enthusiasts can pay to watch videos of their favourite models being spanked. Four of the five Mosley women were regular or occasional performers in NS productions - indeed, it was owing to a prior engagement shooting for them that Woman D was unable to take part in the first of Max's two parties in March. As a result of these connections, NS came to the attention of a reporter who, unable to find out much about the Mosley affair itself, decided to expose Lucy and Paul instead. The ensuing publicity cost Paul his job and the couple most of their income. There's not a great deal of money in online spanking, it would appear. "It has always been a labour of love for both of us," says Lucy.

In a comment which sums up a general feeling on the scene, Lucy proclaims, "The fact that these animals are allowed to completely ruin people's lives under the guise of "public interest" and "freedom of press" is abominable and must be stopped."

The moment the dangers of exposure really hit home to me, however, came when I discovered the identity of Miss D. Like the Mail a few months later, I had been fascinated to learn of her double life - research scientist by day, professional spank model by night. Her well-written and fascinating blog (now, for whatever reason, defunct) became, for me, a window into a world of which I had hitherto had no knowledge. She came across as open, candid, brave, likeable and popular, with many friends and a positive approach to life. So open was she, indeed, that I began to rue my earlier pursuit of her and (hypocritically, perhaps) became genuinely annoyed that the Mail had, if anything, gone further (and, of course, a national newspaper must be far more dangerous to her anonymity than a relatively obscure blog). And then I found out her real name, the names of her colleagues and supervisors, and the name of the institution to which she was attached. Suddenly it seemed a lot less funny. If anything I wrote contributed to her problems then I am truly sorry.

So what have I learned? Firstly, more than I ever wanted or needed to about the milieu in which Max Mosley moved undetected for more than 40 years. It's an intimate society with rules and conventions, and one that operates at several levels. There are basically three interconnecting circles: and the Mosley women operated in all three. There are the private appointments - "1-2-1" sessions and small, confidential parties, at which the first rule is absolute discretion. It was such a gathering that was successfully infiltrated by the News of the World back in March. But there are also larger, more public assemblies, which are all ticket affairs including fairly elaborate theatrical tableaux.

It emerged in court that Miss A used to arrange such events in Euston, with financial backing from Max Mosley himself. As described in the newspapers, these were orgies where "up to 30 men pay around £200 to have sex with ten women in a stage-like setting". This led the Telegraph's Kevin Garside to note that "having a financial interest in a tawdry sex den in Euston... is of a different order of perversion" which might have been even more damaging to Mosley's reputation that the goings-on in Chelsea. I've seen photos from similar parties, and they do indeed seem fairly uninhibited; but apart from the odd bit of fondling the only "sexual acts" were being performed on stage between the women. And this account of such a party by a regular participant makes it sound like an S&M version of speed dating:

there was not really enough time to enjoy the CP from all the guys as we had to rush to the next and the next (and so on)....and the implements and caning was particularly speedy (kinda like speed spanking). I felt a little rude asking the guys to come over quickly and do their stuff at speed, particularly as I did not feel I had spent enough time with some of them, however that is the nature of a large party and I have to hope that the guys there understood that.


(Bisexuality would seem to be a near-universal trait among spankees. As Eady J commented at para 121 (getting a little hot under his robes, or so it seems to me), "although the Claimant's sexual activity as revealed in the DVD material did not seem to amount to very much, some of the women stayed on after the party was over and indulged in same sex action purely for their own entertainment.")

The third level is that of the websites and specialist films. There's an obvious overlap here between BDSM and more "mainstream" varieties of porn, much of which features S&M scenarios. But the differences are equally striking, such as the fact that most spanking films do not feature explicit sex; or the fact that almost all the girls who appear in films or on websites are also available for private bookings and attend the above-mentioned parties. Or the fact, admitted by Adele Haze, that physical attractiveness is not always a prerequisite for the women in the films.

The second thing that became overwhelmingly apparent was the strong sense of community and fellow-feeling that exists in the spanking world, and BDSM generally. The Mosley affair threatened them, and they responded partly by closing ranks, and partly by standing firmly behind Max in his fight. He became an unlikely hero; and the women who gave evidence, braving exposure, had at least the consolation of strong support from their network of friends and colleagues. Whether the Scene will re-emerge unchanged, and whether the four women will continue to play their formerly prominent roles within it, it's probably too early to tell. In some ways, its denizens will be safer after the judge's explicit acknowledgement of people's right to conduct their personal sex lives in private. But the fear of exposure will remain; as the case of Paul and Lucy has confirmed, being outed as an S&M practitioner still puts your life and career at risk. And while many ordinary people may take a more tolerant line than the News of the World, or indeed the Daily Mail, the BDSM community remains one of the few against which explicit discrimination is still legal.

The other thing I learned was about myself. I'm not into spanking. Honestly.

© 2008 Heresy Corner, all rights reserved.

15 comments:

Charles said...

Many thanks for this excellent article. One think you didn't mention is that spanking model and actress Niki Flynn has written a book about this world and her life in it, called "Dances with Werewolves: Memoirs of a Spanking Model". It's a fascinating read, and has been getting excellent reviews on its page at amazon.co.uk

valdemar said...

A fine post. Perhaps the real problem some people have about paying for sex is that it 'gives the game away' about so-called normal relationships and exposes some awkward truths. We are supposed to fall in love with the one person in the whole, wide world who is meant for us. In fact we negotiate a deal that involves sexual services, financial security, moral support and a lot of other stuff. All a 'scene' does is cut to the chase and let people be honest about their needs, without hypocrisy of the sort traded in by (among others) our wonderful free press.

The Heresiarch said...

There's a lot of truth in that. But don't knock hypocrisy - it's what makes civilisation possible. I don't think the kind of trash journalism the Screws indulges in is really worthy of the term "hypocrisy" - "pandering" is more like it.

Anonymous said...

You apologize to the girls involved "And then I found out her real name, the names of her colleagues and supervisors, and the name of the institution to which she was attached. Suddenly it seemed a lot less funny. If anything I wrote contributed to her problems then I am truly sorry." but continue to pursue the other women involved and even those who were not. Does it matter to you at all that you may be helping to destroy the lives of those girls too? In particular Miss D whom you seem to be identifying rather well enough for her friends, co workers and family members to be able to identify her without actually printing her name. If these women choose to live their lives this way then I say leave them to it and mind your own business thank you very much. As far as I can tell it's all fun between consenting adults and if you truly feel an empathy with people in the spanking scene.... back off and let them get on with it.
Gill

Anonymous said...

Overall I think it's a great blog. The only thing that concerns me is that (to a small extent) it exaggerates the role of 'the scene'. If anything the BDSM scene is less representative than the gay scene was back in the 50’s and 60’s in that not only are the bulk of people who express this sexuality doing so in the relative privacy of their own homes, but that they also interact quite freely with that minority who are scene aficionados.

BDSMers, spankies etc are just ordinary people, and there are much more of them about than the few who go to parties.

- Chris

The Heresiarch said...

On Gill's point, I have been in contact with Woman D and offered to take down anything she objected to. She has no problem with what I wrote.

Anonymous said...

You say - As described in the newspapers, these were orgies where "up to 30 men pay around £200 to have sex with ten women in a stage-like setting".

The Euston parties are like being at the theatre. An audience of men watching cold canings dressed up in a scenario. Followed by a spanking party - ALL CP ONLY!

Delighted that with your investigations you have developed an appreciation of the Spanking Scene.

As for the treacherous bitch, she will rot in hell!

IC Memeber

The Heresiarch said...

Glad to see my interpretation of Euston was correct - from someone who was there?

Anonymous said...

Lol...anyone who really is interested in this whole fiasco will have read your article including those involved!

Ludwig said...

Being a "spanko" myself and a friend of several of the people mentioned here, I'd like to thank you for a fairly balanced and sympathetic article. Coming from someone who is not into spanking and not a member of the scene, that is the rare exception.

Maybe the one good thing that can come out of this whole sordid affair is that some people, who are intelligent and perceptive and read more than the tabloids, will understand our lifestyle a bit better. Maybe some of the usual prejudices will be eliminated, for them at least.

Yes, trust and solidarity are very important in the scene. Yes, there is a "family athmosphere" and there are many close friendships. Yes, the spiritual fulfillment and the self-exploration are far more important than the money, even for those who make videos or do 1-2-1 sessions. Yes, it is pretty idealistic (perhaps even naive) and far removed from the seedy, materialistic world of "vanilla" porn and prostitution.

And yes, we do care about ethics. Imagine that! I'd even say that, generally speaking, we care a lot more about ethics than the average tabloid journalist...

Unfortunately, every social group, including the BDSM community, also has a few greedy and unscrupulous individuals like Woman E. And even though they are the rare exception rather than the norm, they can do an incredible amount of damage. It's still hard to believe that one of our own could have done such a dastardly thing.

Then again, Woman E was never a genuine member of the scene from what I hear. She was a professional mistress whose interest in BDSM started and ended with paying clients, she didn't go to gatherings and didn't have any friendships (except with her professional colleague Mistress A), and it is doubtful that she was ever really kinky. She didn't get into BDSM until her 30s (very late) and married someone who isn't into BDSM at all - two good indications that she wasn't really into it herself and that it was always just a career.

Still, even among professional mistresses who are only in the scene for the money, such a lack of character is shocking and previously unheard of. My only consolation is that it came back to bite her. She didn't get the amount of money she had been promised (another splendid example of tabloid ethics) and her husband lost his job. Poetic justice.

On the other hand, the fact remains that the lives of innocent people have been ruined, and no privacy lawsuit in court will ever mend that. Mosley was set up for public ridicule and had his reputation smeared with trumped-up Nazi allegations. At least he has the money to defend himself. That is not the case for Women A, B, C and D, who were defamed as "hookers" and also found themselves dragged through the dirt by the hacks.

Then there are Lucy and Paul, two friends of mine who didn't even have anything to do with the Mosley case and, cruel irony, ended up suffering the most. But you won't ever read about their tragic story in the papers. What you'll probably read is more lies and defamation, because that sells.

For every fair and balanced article like this one here, you get ten which are uninformed, screechingly judgmental and do nothing but propagate the usual prejudices about BDSM being "violence", "abuse", "exploitation" and so forth. Those are the ones which get the bigger audience, too.

Moreover, you should keep in mind that even well-intentioned reporting can have catastrophic consequences. It was online articles like your original "Secrets of the Chelsea Basement" which first set the press on the trail of Lucy and Paul, for instance.

I'm not blaming you, because it clearly wasn't your intention to do any harm. I'm just pointing out that even innocent "pure, prurient curiosity" can set off a chain of events which ultimately costs people their jobs and their livelihood. Real people, like you or me.

I wrote above that maybe the one good thing which can come out of this is that some people outside of the scene understand us and our lifestyle better, and recognize that we are not cloven-hooved devils after all. But I am in two minds about this, because in practice, even well-intentioned articles are likely to do more harm than good.

So maybe, as Justice Eady pointed out, what consenting adults do sexually to each other is simply nobody else's business? Why should it be, when nobody is harmed and no laws are breached?

Is it really newsworthy that someone, be it a PhD student or an FIA President, is into "whips and chains" games? It isn't, and the NOTW apparently understood that, which is why they fabricated the Nazi charges in the first place. Simply to make the story more scandalous and to have a pseudo-justification of "public interest".

Again, I'd like to thank you for your article. It was a good read and a welcome break from the usual uninformed tripe. Of course, in an ideal world, you wouldn't need to write it, would you? Just like in an ideal world, we wouldn't have "Women's Day", because it would be self-evident and perfectly normal for all of us that we are equal as human beings and that women should have exactly the same rights, freedoms and opportunities as men. It wouldn't even be an issue.

But we don't live in such a world, and the last months have reminded me just how far from ideal it is. Mosley may have won his lawsuit, and we may have had some pro-BDSM articles in the mainstream press, but I could easily have done without the whole affair. It has ruined the lives of some of my friends and it has brought me nothing but anger, bitterness and cynicism.

Right now, my biggest wish is that the Mosley case would just end, that we would read no more articles about it - regardless of how sympathetic they are. Of course, that is not going to happen.

I'm a kinky person, a member of the spanking community, I have some great wonderful friends there and am very happy with my lifestyle. And I don't need to be understood by society. Honestly, I can do without that. What I really want, more than anything else, is simply to be left alone.

The Heresiarch said...

Thank you, Ludwig, for that insider's perspective. You may not be surprised to learn that your name is one of those I came across during my research!

However, on the Lucy and Paul question, I have reason to believe that the original tip that sent the press to their door was not from me (although I accept that a journalist reading my original - and several journalists did - would have been pointed there). From my reading of the story, I believe that the journalist who went after them was under a misapprehension that Woman A was, in fact, Woman E. I was careful to distinguish the two - but I subsequently read a blogpost, written at around the same time, which confused them. That may have been the main source used. But I don't know for sure.

Ludwig said...

As I said, Heresiarch, I am not blaming your for anything. I know you had no bad intentions, that you were sympathetic, actually, and that you were careful to distinguish Women A and E. But the point is, there are others out there who may have maclicious intentions or who may simply be too lazy to fact-check their findings. It's an open secret that the tabloid press trawls the internet for information.

I don't know where exactly the chain of events began. Your blog, someone else's... Does it really matter now? It won't get Paul his job back, that's for sure.

What we do know is that a couple of hobby cyber-detectives started doing research on the mysterious Mosley women, probably out of nothing but innocent curiosity, and started posting their discoveries on the internet.

The info spread, and somewhere along the way, Women A and E were mixed up. The wrong info landed on a Formula 1 blog somewhere, and next thing you know, Lucy and Paul were stalked by tabloid hacks who "had it on good authority" that they knew Woman E. When in fact they had never met her and had nothing to do with the Mosley case whatsover.

The ones responsible for ruining Lucy's and Paul's lives are the tabloid hacks, obviously. Neither the two of them nor I are blaming anyone else, and that is not my intention. I simply want to raise awareness.

You describe how the dangers of exposure hit home to you when you discovered the identity of one of the women, and how "suddenly it seemed a lot less funny". So it seems you are aware of the issues now. But others might not be, and I'm really writing here in an attempt to reach them. I think there are quite a few bloggers and hobby cyber-detectives out there who think that this is all a big game.

It is not a game. Whatever info you post on the internet, no matter what your intentions are, no matter how innocuous or "safe" the info may seem to you, it can have very bad consequences for real people. You may not intend these consequences and they might be a total unforseen surprise to you, but that doesn't help the unfortunate ones who are caught in the media tornado.

So please, be prudent and be responsible. Think carefully about what you are going to write and whether or not it is really of any public interest. Think also of what unintended consequences it might have. My entire life, I've been a glowing advocate of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But we should also bear in mind that with freedom comes responsibility.

When it comes to being naive about revealing personal data, we in the BDSM community are as guilty as anyone. Many of us simply underestimated the dangers, which is why you saw a lot of blog posts or even entire blogs deleted in the wake of the Mosley affair. I suspect that from now on, people in our scene will be a lot more paranoid, if that is at all possible - in regards to "the outside world", we were pretty paranoid to begin with.

The irony is that we're not even doing anything illegal. Actually, we're not doing anything that one would need to be ashamed of. The scene I know is the exact opposite of the soulless, exploitative cesspool the tabloids are describing. There is friendship, there is respect, there is humour, there are people who care deeply about each other, and for those of us who make videos or run websites, it is mostly a labour of love - we either don't make money from it at all, or we make barely enough to cover our expenses.

And still, we have to hide our identities like borderline criminals, because the dogma persists that BDSM is all about "violence" and "degradation of women" (What about the submissive men in the scene? Apparently no one cares about them!). Prejudice and discrimination are alive and well.

We all know this when we make the decision to live the lifestyle. You expect hostility and misunderstanding from the usual suspects (religious conservatives, radical anti-porn feminists, nanny state politicians etc.), and that's alright. But when people lose their jobs over a trashy newspaper story full of lies and half-truths, it is still a tragedy and you never get used to it.

With the Mosley scandal and the new law against so-called "extreme pornography", 2008 is becoming a very depressive year not only for us BDSM perverts, but for everyone who cares about individual freedom and the right for privacy. So, anyway, it was refreshing to read a sensible perspective like yours for a change. Unfortunately, not all writers are as interested in truthful reporting as you are.

The Heresiarch said...

You're right about lazy journalists - or perhaps they just have tight deadlines. I discovered nothing that wasn't available with just a few clicks of the mouse and a bit of lateral thought; so while journalists may have used this blog as a resource, they didn't actually need to.

When I alluded to the "danger of exposure" I was in fact referring to the amount of information that was "out there", and in particularly the fact that the wall between the two sides of this woman's life was not absolutely solid. I was actually contacted by a newspaper, which offered to pay me for any information I might have. I told them nothing - by that stage, I felt I owed her a duty of care (though I only attempted to contact her after it became clear that she had read this post). Then they wrote an article that nearly exposed her anyway; but I believe, and certainly hope, that they didn't track her down.

As for Paul and Lucy: I just hope it all works out for them. For him to have lost his job over this is a disgrace. I wish them, and everyone else involved, the very best as they try to rebuild their lives. Well, most people involved...

Ludwig said...

Yes, journalists are definitely lazy. And I think with many of them, there is also an attitude that "these women are only hookers, anyway". So therefore, you can do to them what you want, you can write about them whatever you want (regardless of how accurate it is), and you're not responsible for anything - after all, they are "only hookers" and brought all this on themselves!

This is the part that outrages me the most. Because, when you come to think of it, isn't that exactly the sort of condescending, degrading attitude the tabloid press pretend to be criticising? No one I know in the BDSM community would have such a lack of respect, I can tell you that much.

You're right about the information "out there". Like I wrote in the post above, we in the BDSM community are as guilty as anyone when it comes to being naive about revealing private data. Then again, who could have forseen a case like this one, which was frontpage news in tabloids not only in the UK, but all over Europe. It's just crazy.

I suppose it is a wake-up call for everyone. Hopefully not only for us in the scene, but for everyone who believes in privacy and the right of law-abiding, consenting adults to make their own decisions and to lead their lives without intrusion by junk food journalists or self-appointed moral guardians.

The Heresiarch said...

Of course, if they had merely been "hookers", they wouldn't have been so interesting to write about...

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