CN: Transphobia, HB2, politics, BDSM, kink. Text only, no images, nothing explicit at all.
Several years ago I called for kink events to start using harassment policies, much like conferences in the SF/F world, the skeptical community, and other communities were at the time. Those policies have become more common since then, and are expected by many to exist at the events they go to.
Unfortunately, the kink community has largely ignored calls for formal and enforceable harassment policies. Instead, many events and clubs have a “If you have a problem come talk to the organizers about it and we’ll maybe do something.” This process doesn’t work, has never worked, and isn’t going to start working any time soon.
However, there are a few events getting this right. For several years one of those events has been Debauchery in North Carolina. It is run by a couple named Sysiphe and Nullmoniker. Full disclosure: They are very good friends of mine, I have spoken at this event before, and I intend to again this year.
Debauchery has had a harassment policy, which they call their anti-douchebag procedures since their first event. Furthermore, they talk about these issues publicly online and at their events, educating a community that has often not been exposed to these kinds of policies before. They have had reason to use their anti-douchbag procedures, and from what I hear the outcomes have been good. These procedures are not only helping to keep their community safe, but they are also modeling a structure that could work well in other kink contexts if other events were willing to take them on.
That would mean removing actively abusive people from positions of power in other kink communities, so I’m not holding my breath.
Debauchery gets better. Notice how I mentioned that it takes place in North Carolina? When HB2 passed a month ago my friends were actively involved in activism against it. They care not only about the bathroom issue, but all of the really nasty stuff in that little law. They were busy, on the ground, organizing and helping the communities fighting this bigotry.
A few days after HB2 passed Debauchery received an email from a someone who had never attended their event, and did not have a ticket to the upcoming event, saying he was boycotting Debauchery due to HB2. That’s when Sysiphe and Nullmoniker realized that in addition to their own personal activism, Debauchery also needed to respond as an organization.
See, Debauchery has always been an aggressively inclusive space. They have had gender neutral bathrooms for every event they have thrown. They have trans and nonbinary staff members, and they have had multiple trans speakers. The organizers themselves are not straight (I’m 100% certain this is true). Sysiphe told me they consider Debauchery a to be a queer space, where cishet people are welcome, but not centered. This has also been my experience in that space.
So they crafted a response to HB2 that I think is absolutely beautiful. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but this part is my favorite, right after they say that fundraising at the event this year will go to groups fighting HB2:
We also know that, though we’ve always considered the creation of inclusive safe space to be explicitly political, that some of you may chafe at this more directly-political action. Traditionally we’ve donated to causes fairly noncontroversial within kink subculture – ScarletTeen, House of Mercy. But as we live with more & louder anti-trans* rhetoric (and a political climate with hate speech rising generally), we’re a little over that. We are unabashed that our founders’ organizing roots are in queer and class politics. We believe that trans* and queer bodies are inherently, nonconsensually, politicized. And we believe those of you who are straight and cis should stand in solidarity with us – not only because we are in your community (as you should stand with your fellow kinksters across the lines of race, class and ability) but also because you straight/cis with non-normative relationships & sexualities often get smeared with the side-swipe of rhetoric when hateful voices come after us.
I bought my plane tickets for Debauchery today. I can’t wait to go, even though I HATE flying (because TSA) and I’m a little nervous about being in a state that so clearly doesn’t want me there. This is the kind of kink community and event I believe in supporting, and I hope it is the future of the kink community. Promoting safe spaces for kinky sex and quality sexual education can be radical acts, and the community should embrace that like this event does.