By Alexa Day
Fifty Shades is back in the news again. It’s apparently coming out on Blu-ray soon, which means I’ll have to start avoiding the trailer again, and I heard that E.L. James is planning on publishing a writing guide, which promises to be very interesting indeed. But neither of those two things really bothered me last week.
Last week, I was pointed at a news story from New York City. I really hate to link to the story because I want it to keep going away. The lede, as it should, sets the tone for the rest of the article. It describes a “fetish party attendee … blowing the whistle” on activities that “would shock even the authors of Fifty Shades of Grey.”
That doesn’t really mean anything. I mean, my grocery list would shock the FSOG folks. (Who needs that many clothespins, ice trays, and latex gloves at the same time? I do. Back off.) I wondered what must have happened at this party. Thorough, thoughtful negotiation? Aftercare? And really, much is communicated by the fact that the reporters and their entire editorial chain evidently believe that Fifty Shades has more than one author. But I’m digressing.
According to the story, a medical doctor at a BDSM party, hosted by a well established group in the city, was engaged in blood play with his fellow partygoers. I’m not going to mention any names here, and my larger point doesn’t demand a deep focus on the type of blood play. (I will say that I wasn’t shocked by it, but hey, I didn’t write Fifty Shades, either.) What really distresses me about the story is that the “whistleblower” remained anonymous while the reporters named the doctor.
The reporters named the doctor, posted his picture, and excerpted a couple of clips from his YouTube channel.
Blood play doesn’t scare me. *That* scares me.
In my daytime life, I’m still keeping my bills paid with a conservative job in a conservative industry in a conservative part of the country. If you’re following me here or on social media, you know that I’m working in the legal industry. I have to keep my driver’s-license identity relatively secret because sadly, I know the sort of damage that judgmental, misinformed people can do to someone’s career. I also know that the BDSM community is careful about protecting folks’ identities for exactly this reason. Clubs have rules about taking pictures, making videos, and disclosing the identities of club members. “Whistleblowing” like this isn’t supposed to happen.
What else is the BDSM community really careful about? Safety and consent. Indeed, safety and consent are two of the three pillars upon which BDSM play rests; the community’s watchwords are “safe, sane, and consensual.” If people are engaged in blood play at a party hosted by a well established club, I’m comfortable with the presumption that the players fully understand the level of risk involved with what they’re doing, that the level of risk has been controlled to the fullest extent possible, and that they’ve chosen to move forward anyway. When that isn’t the case, the community is pretty efficient with regard to self-policing. Parties are hip deep in rules and monitors and any number of safety measures, and enforcement is swift and sure. I’m not worried about lack of consent and I’m not worried about unsafe play in large part because I know that a decent club makes safety everyone’s business. If I see something (and I haven’t yet), I say something. To them. Not to the news.
I’m not sure how a “whistleblower” made its way in. I’m also not sure why a “whistleblower” felt it was necessary to head to the local TV station, although I’ll concede that I don’t know who else was a party to that person’s grievances before the story was aired. What really worries me here is that some person, who doesn’t have all the facts but who might very well have an agenda, might now also have a way to do serious damage to others’ reputations and private lives. This doctor’s name is out there now. Even if the licensing board does nothing, there’s a huge possibility that gossip — sorry, “whistleblowing” — will do significant damage to his practice.
And for what? Because someone who somehow managed to get into that party couldn’t handle what was going on? Because that person wasn’t satisfied that everyone involved was okay with what they were doing? Because that person decided to superimpose his or her personal standards over those of her hosts and her fellow guests and a well established community with little meaningful relationship to Fifty Shades?
The story seems to be going away, and I’m immensely relieved to see only three comments attached to it. It sounds like this particular tree has fallen in the forest without making much of a sound.
But now I’m nervous. How can I be sure that there’s no “whistleblower” out there with my name and bar number? How can any of us be sure?
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