Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May is Inappropriate Behavior Awareness Month

...so I'll be posting on that topic on and off for a bit. In the meantime, I have permission to post this. This is a writing on Fetlife from a woman known as Mamacat, Who Knows Whereof She Speaks. Listen in, because the woman has smarts.

Following a general trend I am observing on Fetlife, I hereby declare May to be "Inappropriate Behavior Awareness Month." Lets make this official, shall we? :)
Here's the official event:
I know some of you are cringing at all this sharing and naming of names. I'm sorry that this process is so upsetting for you, but please understand that this is actually a very positive and healing thing. I come to this from the perspective of a PTSD trauma survivor (childhood abuse by mother, 12 year old molestation by stepfather, 3 more rapes since then) as well as a Trauma Therapist in training. Please check your assumptions and biases at the door, pour yourself a cup of tea and really listen to what I have to say and then lets have a healthy respectful dialogue about these issues, no more howling across the intertubes, please.
Rape culture breeds on silence. Child abuse breeds on silence. The abusers of the world try to silence their victims, try to shame their victims, in order to keep their victims powerless. When we speak up about behavior that is not OK, we are empowering ourselves, we are taking this to a community level where we can all help not only the victim but the person who is being inappropriate.
There is a world of difference between inappropriate touching at a munch and actual rape, but they sometimes stem from the same place of confusion and entitlement on the part of the one doing the unwelcome touching. No one is entitled to another person's body. We can choose when and how we want to share our bodies with each other, but no one has the right to touch us in any way we don't want to be touched. Now, some people have brain stuff that makes them miss things that just seem wildly obvious to the rest of us, Asperger's and Autism spectrum disorders can make this challenging, as well as having had parents with lousy boundaries whose behavior you modeled. I personally had a long hard road to learning healthy boundaries thanks to my crazy bipolar Mommy and what she taught me about human interaction.
None of that excuses inappropriate behavior, especially when there is a long history of it where people have told the person to stop, have pointed it out, and the behavior has continued. But ultimately, lets focus on the goal here: Getting the person to stop making other people uncomfortable. I truly recommend therapy. I think DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is probably the way to go, but hey, call a few therapists, be brutally honest about why you need therapy and let them give your their professional opinions.
Actual cases of rape are trickier. I absolutely believe that a rapist can get the right therapy (I think DBT would probably be helpful) and learn how very awful and wrong what they did was and change their way of thinking so that they do not rape any more. I think it's possible but you know what? I personally, due to my history, would probably not want to trust myself or anyone I care about alone with someone that I know for a fact has raped in the past. I would never let someone who had raped in the past be in the same room with my daughter, babysit for her, etc. I do think that our greatest chances of success in stopping someone from raping again is in making sure that they get therapy; when we focus merely on the punitive aspects of crime rather than the rehabilitation aspects, then criminals remain criminals and continue to do harm rather than finding a way to be productive members of society. Sure, the angry rape survivor part of me has "off with their balls" moments, that's a normal response. But ultimately, what I am most concerned with is seeing that people who do harm be given the support and encouragement they need to stop doing harm.
That might not be a popular opinion in all this. I completely understand that victims of rape or even inappropriate touch are often just angry, and that's completely understandable. If you are angry and feel helpless and want the touch to stop, if you have already talked to the toucher multiple times and he/she (yes, women do this too!) is still doing this to you, to other people, then follow the trend, write a post, talk to mutual friends in person, go get help. And then let the rest of us deal with it, lets us try to stop what's going on.
Now, here's the next bit: Speak up to the person who touched you before posting to the internet. If you do not speak clearly to tell someone to stop, then some people really won't know that they crossed your boundaries. Even if it seems obvious to you, some people have some thick skulls on this sort of thing, so speak to the person very clearly, try not to snarl, try to speak calmly and rationally, "What you did is not OK. Here is exactly what you did that made me uncomfortable, here is why it made me uncomfortable, please stop." In most of the cases I've seen of late, people have spoken the touchers and the behavior has not stopped. But I include this just to make sure it's covered because sometimes people do have a hard time saying "no" clearly, this can be especially hard for some submissives. No, you should not have to make an issue of it, yes, people should just ask first rather than putting their hands all over you. But unfortunately, some people have some broken brain code in this area, and if you want them to stop, your first step is to tell them explicitly and clearly what behavior you need them to stop.
And do speak to the person even if they are popular and beloved in the community. Scene Queens and Kings are not infallible, we can make mistakes like this, too. I know that I am a very physically affectionate person. I try to ask if people want hugs before giving them, but it's possible I've given unwanted hugs, touched people's hair or arm or shoulder without checking at times, if that ever happens with me, tell me! I had a moment of utter rude stupidity at a play party a couple months ago, where I was flirting with someone and asked her to play before I'd even asked her name. facepalm That was rude, that was objectifying her in a bad way, and you know what? She called me on it, right then and there, gracefully and with humor, and I turned red and apologized right away, because she was right.

We have an opportunity for healing and empowerment and education here, everyone. Please... lets make the most of this and move forward to a place of deeper respect for each other, deeper respect for each others needs and boundaries.
The fact is, all of us have the potential to act in this way. Later this month, I'm going to own some of my own behavior. For now, if you would crosspost this to your own blog with attribution to Mamacat at Fetlife, I would appreciate it greatly!

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