Monday, 25 August 2008

BDSM and age

A link to which I can only say "Yeah, exactly":

An addendum to yesterday's blog...

Another issue I would like to cover in relation to what I posted yesterday, is BDSM groups and communities that restrict membership to those aged 21 and up. Here are my personal opinions on that matter:

If you restrict your group membership to 21 and up, you are creating an unsafe environment for the 18-20 year olds you cast out. Speaking from personal experience, a good majority of those of us that have been curious since before we were 18 are so eager to finally get started now that we're old enough, that we cling to whatever we can. If a solid and safe BDSM group or community casts us out simply because of our age, we will turn elsewhere. Unfortunately, elsewhere usually ends up being the dangerous choice. Often, you will find guys (and occasionally girls as well) who basically go "Oh, you're 18? They don't want you? Well... I'll teach you how things work..." Situations like that, more often than not, are highly unsafe, with problems resulting ranging from emotional distress, to abuse, and sometimes, even worse. Those of us that are young often think we know what we're doing, or at least that we know better than to get into bad situations. But we really don't. If a group allows 18-20 year olds in, then they have a safe haven where they can learn quite a bit about the lifestyle, and meet good people who may even help keep an eye on them.

As for the arguments of 18-20 year olds not necessarily being serious about the lifestyle, or being immature... Well, I know plenty of older members of the community who are childish and act like this lifestyle is a game. I know 40+ year olds who gossip and spread rumours like they're in high school. I have seen 60+ year olds throw temper tantrums and start drama. In my opinion, age is only a number. The number of years we have been on this planet does not define who we are.

35 comments:

eboniorchid said...

I totally agree. I was one of the eager ones who actually started getting my foot in the door before I was legal. When I finally was legal (18), I ended up caught up in a really horrible situation where none of my boundaries were respected, all under the guise of teaching me "how to be good" even after consent was rescinded when the situation spiraled out of control. The truth is that even if the core of the Scene is fairly safe, likely due to some level of social pressure, the outskirts of the Scene can be incredibly dangerous for youth who don't necessarily know A) how to tell when someone doesn't actually adhere to notions of SSC or RACK, or B) how to get out of bad situations safely and without shame. It's far too easy for youth to fall prey to kink-masked predators, especially since youth are often already confused about what these kinds of desires mean and whether or not there's something "wrong" with them.

I can't imagine how awesome it would've been to have safe space to explore this stuff when I turned 18. My own circumstances were traumatizing enough for me to leave the Scene for half a decade before slowly beginning to explore this stuff again. If I'm ever in an organizational position, I would definitely want to help others skirt that kind of difficulty and lost time by making safe space for kinky youth a priority.

Gaina said...

'The number of years we have been on this planet does not define who we are.' So true! I also think you're right about facing up to the fact that young people are curious weather some people like it or not, so far better they get good information on how to be safe and have their curiosity addressed that way than driving them into secretive and possible dangerous behaviour.

Anyway I thought it was discrimination to refuse someone entry to a group if they were of the appropriate age for that activity in the eyes of the law?

Trinity said...

"The truth is that even if the core of the Scene is fairly safe, likely due to some level of social pressure, the outskirts of the Scene can be incredibly dangerous for youth who don't necessarily know A) how to tell when someone doesn't actually adhere to notions of SSC or RACK, or B) how to get out of bad situations safely and without shame."

Yes on all counts.

And it's also very stupid if the person in question is a top, too. I was very aware as a youngin' that I had no idea how to have safer SM, and figured that I'd just have to wing it or risk it. I was rather fortunate that I never found partners, as I just know something would've gone wrong. If not transmission of one of the Big Bugs, at least serious damage, injury, scarring, etc. I had all the fantasies of a heavy top (particularly blades and blood) and all the sense of, well, a teenager. I NEEDED help and info.

Fortunately the only person available to experiment on was myself, and my own lack of masochism meant I just ended up with a few barely-visible scars from using wildly inappropriate sharp things on myself as practice.

Trinity said...

"Anyway I thought it was discrimination to refuse someone entry to a group if they were of the appropriate age for that activity in the eyes of the law?"

IANAL, but I'd guess it is -- but also suspect that most 18-year-olds aren't going to sue a BDSM organization for right of entry. Most people wouldn't want to come out of the closet with THAT big a bang, at least not that I've known.

eboniorchid said...

*And it's also very stupid if the person in question is a top, too.*

Yeah, I didn't mean to leave the tops out. I actually remember trying my hand at topping even back then when I wasn't sure about how everything worked and I didn't injure anyone, but that was likely because I was at least vaguely aware enough of my own ignorance not to actually do some of the stuff I wanted to do. Also, though, I really had in my mind the old school notions about mentors and whatnot and knew that people didn't become skilled tops without a lot of help. I just didn't know where to go for that, though, so I sort of left it alone as somehow an unreachable goal.

Trinity said...

eboniorchid,

I didn't at the time know anything about Leather communities, so I didn't know anything about mentoring. All I knew anything about were goths, and so the only behavior I knew about to copy was sharing razors. I was sure this was a horribly BAD idea, but I was desperate for some sort of SM experience. I worried that I would just do it because I couldn't take it any more and had no idea where to turn for safety info.

eboniorchid said...

Trinity,

Ah, see, I had the internet, which you may not have had. I had lots of info, though I could never tell how accurate or up-to-date, but there was stuff to know. Problem is that kink, rather like surgery, isn't really something that most people can master through textbooks alone, ya know?

I'm glad you didn't go crazy and hurt anyone, though. It probably would have done more harm than good, both in the short term and in the long term.

Trinity said...

Yeah, I had the internet too, but I didn't really know where to go and was scared. I only discovered where to go because I ran into a message board where someone mocked a group of fundamentalist Christian D/sers... I followed the link and discovered middle-aged quiet people who had safety resources, and eagerly devoured everything. (And got cast out for being a top, but by then I knew where to go at least.)

eboniorchid said...

Christian fundamentalist D/sers, eh? How fascinating. It's good you finally got resources, though. Everyone's path to kink is so intriguing and unique. :)

Trinity said...

Yep.

The theory being that God wants men to have "headship" over women, and that if some people think that'd be more fun with whips and chains, rock on.

:)

Kind of a weird melange of open-mindedness and OMG WTF SEXISM

which is part of why the whole "BDSM is bad because it's all about male dominance of women" spiel some feminists never let go of is so amusing to me. I've SEEN BDSM communities that were like that. I found the ones that were not.

And the ones that were not are the majority, OMG.

(Though I will say I have seen a fair bit of kinky sexism in rural areas that are a bit more likely to be populated by people who are generally traditionalists.)

SnowdropExplodes said...

I know of one adult dating site that has a special section for 15-18 year olds who obviously can't do anything about their interests yet, but who want to learn more.

It seems to me that a healthier attitude all round would be to allow those adolescents who already have and recognise some BDSM urges, to learn in safer environments online, while obviously protecting them from predators (which might be problematic, but with good moderators should be achievable?) I think (within reason, of course!) the sooner teenagers learn about boundaries, negotiation and SSC, the better - and that goes for 'nillas as well as kinksters, really.

Trinity said...

"I know of one adult dating site that has a special section for 15-18 year olds who obviously can't do anything about their interests yet, but who want to learn more."

Yeah, that's what I really wish we COULD do. Have like a "youth resource center" type of webpage where we just come right out and say "Look, lots of people feel like you do. If you want to top, you're not a creep or Jeffrey Dahmer. If you want to bottom, you're not spineless, crazy, or self-hating. There are communities of people who do this sort of thing, and when you're 18, they will welcome you. Just hold on."

And then some links for the 18-year-olds on how to keep their eyes out for the sharks.

Hell, in my ideal world there'd be more. It'd give safety info straight up, like say Scarleteen does for vanillas (well, there was one article there on kink actually, but there's some anti-kink sentiment among staff there that I'm e-famous for not liking.)

But I'm sure in as anti-kink a world as this one, considering that info part of sex ed and thinking young folk should be able to get to it sounds like trying to ensnare impressionable youth/like pedophilia to SOMEBODY important, so forget I said it.

This tape will self-destruct in... ;)

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with you here. Disallowing 18-20 year olds may be lame, but if the 18-20 year old is going to immediately run off with a predator as a result, then she wasn't mature enough to be in the group in the first place.

A predator could just as easily say, "Oh, you're 16 (or 13)? They don't want you? I'll teach you..." But, it would be wrong for groups to let in 16 year olds or 13 year olds.

BDSM groups aren't responsible for the safety of young people. If groups want to be over 21 for any reason, that's their choice. It may be lame, but it doesn't make them responsible for sexual predators.

And, don't kid yourselves. There may be predators in BDSM groups who would just as easily prey on the naive. BDSM groups are NOT safe havens.

I'm a member of my local BDSM group, and I love many of the people there, but there have been questionable people who joined in the past, and there are likely to be predators who join in the future. There may even be people there now who seem normal but who are hiding something. You never know. Again, BDSM groups are NOT safe havens. They are as unsafe as any other place.

Harper Jean Tobin said...

I think the argument you make - that young adults with an interest in kink are better off in the organized BDSM community than out of it - is a plausible one. I also think that most of the reasons for excluding 18-20 year olds are weak - with the exception of state laws that forbid their attendance at any "adult" venue or event. Such a law was the reason the group I was involved in in Ohio was 21+; they had all their events at the dungeon. But even if a group is bound by such a law, I think it would be better for them to go out of their way to have social events that can be inclusive of the 18-20 crowd.

Trinity said...

Anony (how I love people who don't even have spine enough to choose a screen name over the internet):

If you really believe BDSM groups are not safe havens AND that 18 year olds are responsible for their own safety, why is that any reason against allowing 18 year olds in?

Because what you're saying if you don't think they need protection is "They're adults" which implies they should be able to do what they want anyway.

Also, can you actually point me to where anyone said that BDSM groups are safe havens? We said that we think they are safer than not being in the Scene. Eboniorchid's reason why had to do with not being taken advantage of; mine had far more to do with practicalities.

"This is where you find out how to hold a whip. Use a knife. Tie a knot."

I still say 18 year olds should have a right to find that stuff out from other living, breathing humans rather than from Google, darlin'.

katie_Sarahs_girl said...

i have to agree with many of You and as i was reading all the lovely comments i was agreeing.. especially with the resources for minors.. i know when i was merely 14, i had my nose pressed into everything i could find.. i was eager.. and i managed to get myself into some hairy situations.. i can certainly agree that being in a group is certainly much safer when starting out then it is out in the Scene

Trinity said...

katie,

Welcome!

I always really liked this and wished there were more articles like it out on the 'Net. It isn't preachy, it doesn't condemn anyone, and it lets young kinky folk know they're not crazy.

I'd also like it if it had some really basic how-to, but that may be too in the gray area for most of the wider culture :)

katie_Sarahs_girl said...

trinity,

that is totally awesome, i like that very much.. some how-tos would be good. i love how it doesnt condemn peolpe especially those young ones who have found that kink and are interested. i think there needs to be a site with just the basics. no big words. no nothing. just the basics.. like what SSC is and RACK. and safewords and that kind of thing.. so that young people will know..

hmmm yes.. i really do like that article *nods*

Trinity said...

Yeah. I've had some deep disagreements with the person who wrote that article, but I still think the article, and the willingness of the website to allow youth to talk about being curious or wanting to try SM without condemning them, is a wonderful, WONDERFUL thing.

Anonymous said...

does any1 kno a bdsm group or club that will let in 17+ yr olds?

Trinity said...

Anony -- No. I don't think they can if you're under the age of consent. As tough as it is, please just wait until you turn 18.

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Generic Viagra said...

That's just hypocrisy because I've been in many places where there are old women but they are admitted in there because they have a lot of money so it is unfair.

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Beni said...

I'm one of those young adults in the 15-18 age group, and i'm really confused and scared. I feel really alone and have no one to talk to about anything...

worse yet, my vanilla family found out, and the reaction was really damaging. It really screwed with my head.

I don't know what to do. I've read a lot of the online lit, thought about everything for a long time...is there anywhere I can/should go (online) for advice or guidance, or Hell, a place to talk and get help? :(

eboniorchid said...

Hey Beni,

I've been there. I remember more than one truly awful "talk" from family members. As for places to go to talk about things, I highly recommend Scarleteen. Regardless of what anyone says, there's nothing wrong with what you're feeling or with wanting to talk about it. If you're looking for some safer space, Scarleteen has moderated messageboards for youth who want to talk about some of these complex issues and there are tons of resources on that sight.

http://www.scarleteen.com/the_scarleteen_tour_bus_a_quick_how_to

Too, I really want to encourage you to think about any past relationships or current relationships to see if there might be ways for you to make space for you to be yourself a bit more. I totally know that the teen years are tough for a million reasons, but the things I regret most are the times I wasn't honest with myself, the times I let other people's prejudices change the path I was on, and the times I didn't protect myself from the bullshit and, let's face it, there's a lot of BS out there - whether it's rigid opinions or hurtful actions. You don't have to fly a flag or anything, but don't let yourself be pushed around in your own head and heart. Find people you can be yourself with (not *do* things with necessarily, but not feel judged by either), preferably people vaguely close to your own age (like maybe from Scarleteen) - as in not just some "compatible" person twice your age who just wants to get in your pants (I can tell you it's often a waste of time or downright dangerous, but you've got to decide for yourself if you want to be involved with someone who prefers the company of someone that young?).

I don't know if that helps much, but if nothign else, please know that you're not alone. Once you get to voting age there's a whole world of intriguing things to explore and thousands of fascinating people to talk to. I know it may feel like a long time to wait, to only have access to a small piece of things right now, but if this is a part of who you are then nourish it along with the rest of you by just bringing as much courage and strength and joy and compassion and open-mindedness that you can into your life. Prepare for the adventures of your future by learning how to love, respect, and care for yourself now. If you do that, you'll already be a step (or several) ahead of so many folks who come into the kink community, regardless of their age.

So, yeah ... keep doing what you're doing - reading, thinking - check out Scarleteen for its articles and message boards - and try to cultivate friendships and, if you want, respectful relationships where you feel safe from judgment and comfortable in your own skin.

Best of luck to you! I have faith that you're going to be just fine.

~D. Orchid

Beni said...

....Thank you. gosh, now i want to cry all of a sudden.

Beni said...

I......I just really need someone(s) to talk to about everything...I'm struggling with depression, bullying, PTSD and persecution from some of my family, and trying to handle it all alone is just really difficult, nay impossible right now.

I've been surrounded by adults my entire life pretty much due to the fact that i'm an only child. Now...when I wish I had an adult(s) who knows about bdsm...thats been through similar stuff and is part of the scene, to talk to and I don't. Talking to my own age-group scares me more then almost anything..........I don't get along with other teens very well.

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