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The online diary of an ethical pervert.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Fear and loathing on the internet

A number of incidents have caused me to think about the way that we perverts interact with each other over the internet. Particularly in potentially hurtful and thoughtless ways, ways that are made possible and often exacerbated by the fact that we are all sitting behind glass screens. Put simply - I'm not sure that the following two situations, one personal, one a bit more public, would have occurred in the same fashion had they been done in meatspace.

The personal first. As some of you know, I use various internet sites for dating. With mixed results. Them's the breaks. However, I was recently contacted by someone (no image, barely any profile text - that should have alerted me right off) with the charming request "u come talk to me cunt". Now, text speak and profanity aside, it's hardly the most alluring offer I've ever had in my life and a quick glance at his total-lack-of-profile - which still managed to be sexist in only two sentences - confirmed that he was not my type. I wrote a brief reply stating that acts of gorilla-chest beating didn't really do it for me and that if he wanted respect he might want to show some. He replied, with more rudeness and accusations of my not being a "true submissive". Presumably because a "true submissive" would have come over all wet-of-cunt at such a provocative and manly display of "true dominance". The key thing here is the difference between my perceptions of what D/s is and his. Wildly varying, which is fine, but things become less fine when one person's perceptions of what is good and kinky are labelled as "wrong". In his eyes, I was not a submissive, and my refusal to accept his definitions (or his rudeness) resulted in more abuse and more anger.

Second example is taken from that great bastion of internet arguments, the online forum. Specifically Informed Consent. I'm not going to go into details because I wasn't part of the original thread and merely witnessed the fall out and some later comments from people I did know. Plus the whole thing really, really does not need to be re-hashed. However, some of the same effects were observable - differences of opinion on kink becoming "right" and "wrong" ways of being kinky. whereby one person's perceptions of something shift from being a point of view (often passionately held) and into facts that need supporting with endless credentials, themselves also points of view. People got very upset and the whole thing became a version of my own experience - more abuse, more anger.

Some of this links in quite closely with my thoughts on how there is no one, true scene. There are no rules written in stone tablets - no matter how strongly we hold to safe, sane and consensual we still need to define, often for ourselves, what we mean by those three words. Once we start to define them, we may then come into conflict with others who disagree with our choices - and because our sex lives are so personalised, especially in BDSM, we can find it hard to separate an attack on how we fuck with an attack on us. Certainly the two can become conflated - for example I read "you are not a true submissive" as "you are not worthwhile as a person" because being a good submissive is part of my identity. I'm not saying that I'm crying myself to sleep due to what a fool on the internet typed at me, but merely offering an example of how this operates.

I once argued (actually, at least several times) that the internet offers an immense additional playspace as well as opportunities to connect for kinksters. It is not without it's drawbacks. I am reasonably certain that both of those incidents would have played out very differently had we all been in the same room at the same time. Seeing each other as people, rather than blocks of angry text full of unpalatable button-pushing words and phrases. Red rags to each other's bulls.

Again, I'm left with the question - what to do? Is it time to all get in the same space and start to say what we mean to each other. Face to face. Whilst I accept that it may be practically difficult to do that for every kinky person in the UK (or the world, let's realise the spread of this) I'm up for attending if such a thing ever materialised. But until then, here's my offer. If you have a problem with anything I've said or done, or if you ever do in the future. If I make you angry, upset or if something I've said just sticks in your throat: send me a note, write me a comment, tweet at me. Then let's meet for coffee and take this whole thing offline.

It's a date.


M said...

Various postmodern thinkers have spoken of the 'liberation' and bricolage of the internet; the internet is the ultimate postmodern experience says one Christian theologian (I think its Lindbeck), and the ultimate way in which we can construct our appearance. In a sense, it is a way in which we can be most free.

The way that people interact with the internet is a very similar issue to how people conduct their sexual lives. There are a lot of ways in which we can be plastic about the 'rights and wrongs' of using the internet.

While there are many things we can be clearly judgmental about in internet usage, like the lecherous guys who predominantly message girls with one hand.

It is interesting that groups such as the sensory impaired, the physically disabled and the mentally ill can use the internet in positive ways. I've heard stories of second life working in a sociable and positive way for people who for various reasons cannot have such a life in the physical world. For those people the internet is a liberation.

I myself run a support group for the depressed, and I use my 'conatus' identity to express my mental health woes. Life is so complex especially with the internet eliminating various aspects of the private, that I have established various (and perhaps novel) ways to express myself. Conatus is but one pseudonym I use in my expression. Conatus is the emotional and human side of me, the side of me that looks like a pretty pathetic person (it's sort of a stigma to admit mental health issues, especially as a boy who used to be bulimic).

My other 'official' blog shows me to be a person with a bit more pride, it is a less human, more mental side of me. This is the person who wants to be taken seriously in intellectual matters and lives in the ivory tower of his own making.

I want to be the serious mind, cultural commentator, philosopher and visionary, but I do not use conatus for that.

Am I insincere for not showing my true face? Hell no. In social interaction we engage in a play, a dramaturgical analogy where which we have a front stage face that we perform in professional encounters; while we have a back stage face with whom we may choose to show to our close intimates.

As conatus, I can liberate myself by saying and thinking all the things that worry me, and by saying it, I engage in a unique form of therapy. In my serious blog, I refine my 'self-identifying' intellectual tendencies.

As for the kinky side of me. I compartmentalise that as well. Possibly something I'm least open about more because of my physical and social sense of inadequacy. There is also a sense in which I think its inappropriate for a man to be overtly kinky because it is threatening and puts out the wrong message about me as a person.

In my other blog, one of my regular commenters had invited me out for a drink, I felt really nervous so I decided to decline. I was too nervous to disappoint them.

When I talk about theories and state ideas and criticisms, I feel like a long haired macho hero with over the top wind blowing my stunning locks and long jacket to give some indulgent fantasy of heroism, destroying systems and pondering the great questions. In real life I'm jittery clumsy idiot who is still afraid of girls after years in an all male environment. How my ex saw anything in me is a wonder! There's a saying, never meet your heroes. Its liberating to pretend to be an intellectual, its also cathartic to be with one's emotional pants down (as I am with conatus)

M said...

I love posting here because you seem to love opening cans of worms, and I'm drawn to worms :)

Appendum: On disagreement

There is a philosophical issue with agreement that I should raise when it comes to matters of kink. It's also quite a difficult issue.

I recommend examining Kant's Critique of the power of judgment. with his notion of aesthetic matters. That's close to my preferred view on matters.

The ethics of kink is very interesting and something largely unexplored in the philosophical literature (but there are researchers on this issue).

Sexuality certainly should not be treated in the same way that say fixed moral rules may be, such as the wrongness of murder.

On the other hand, it is also bad to have a completely amoral perspective on kink. There is certainly a place for ethical discussion on sexual matters, but not in such a fixed way as conventional morality. Many more factors come into play (psychology, sociology and global justice, the role of the media, patriarchy, biology)

Some people speak of a middle way (so-called libertarianism) which is the view that goes something like: there are no rules except some unconditional ones (consent, respect, serious physical harm). This view has its own problems (cf Morgan 2003, 2006)


Martin Millar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
electronic doll said...

@M - thanks for that, I think that the philosophies of kink are out there but more on the BDSM shelves than in with Kant.

Ethical Slut springs to mind, for example. What's really interesting is that they tend to be very practical, mixingbthe how-to alongside the thinking. Might be why the sex books are forever stationned by the self-help books, a similar pattern, perhaps?

Mind you, I hardly think that kink is a good substitute for actual therapy.

electronic doll said...


Not really "worried" about it (though it wasn't nice) more interested in how and why it's happening and the way that different social contexts give rise to different ways of interacting.

Also interested in how passionately people protect their own rights and wrongs - even to illogical extremes.