Acting on what you believe in is an easy thing to do. At first.
But then mean, angry, or frightened people insinuate nasty behavior on your part, misquote you seemingly on purpose, and paint you out to be a nightmarish creature. A sex slaver. A child molester. They’ll call you or what you do
slimy, putrid, decaying, nasty, trash.
Or at least, they might if you were me, what you believed in was that everyone on Earth deserves the capability to access public discussions about the intersection of sexuality with the rest of life, and they were the (rather inappropriately named for this particular initiative of theirs) Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, a branch of the Salvation Army, or its mailing list subscribers.
Yesterday, I learned that the Salvation Army apparently sent out an email blast that, among other things, seems to have viscously attacked KinkForAll as an idea and, beyond inappropriate, attacked me personally. At a minimum, they evidently incited at least one blogger to name me a pedophile and to say things like the following:
Today I got a message from the chairperson of the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, an arm of the Salvation Army. […] As part of their mailing list, I receive information on legislation, programming, etc. as a way of becoming informed about the issue.
Well, I’d rather not have been informed about the following issue. I share it with you as a way of expressing deep sorrow.
KinkforAll, an “organization” begun by middle-school drop-out ["maymay"], recently sponsored an event on the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island.
["maymay"] is, quite simply, nothing short of a pedophile […] I really believe that this ["maymay"] character has one of the sickest, darkest minds that I’ve ever heard of. […] All that matters to him are his own dark kicks.
How dare he? More importantly, how dare we? Where is the rage for what this man is trying to do to our children? Where are the prosecutors, working to toss him behind bars?
It goes on quite a ways, and there’s no link love for obvious reasons. You can Google for the source if you’d like; it’s not hard. Obviously, I’d be very interested to read the email that incited this post, but I’m not subscribed to their mailing list and I can’t figure out how to get on the mailing list or view their archives from their web site. (I’d give them an F on their transparency report card if I were grading.)
To this particular blogger’s credit (her name is Marie, and she is “completely in love with Jesus,” according to her blog’s “about” page), she took a deep breath and, in a followup post earlier today, retracted her accusations. She writes:
it was wrong of me to liken ["maymay"] to a pedophile. I can’t say that. I don’t know that.
As I was writing the piece, it began, in my mind, as a factual presentation, and then devolved into an emotional scream. I had a name that I could latch on to, as way of being able to pin all the blame on someone for something that makes me hurt. See, it’s really easy to cross that line between judging an action and judging a person. The problem, to me, is a whole lot bigger than this one person or his personal opinions.
So, I’m not ashamed to say that that was wrong and that I’m sorry, both to you who might read this blog and to ["maymay"] himself. That wasn’t careful writing, nor was it me at my best. Actually, I was engaging in the kind of writing that I feel very strongly that I’m not supposed to do.
I’m impressed with the personal integrity Marie has shown in her second post. Sadly, that’s very often lacking in people and so it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that the hateful sentiments Marie expressed in her first post are not unique to her. That’s a frightening thought.
Let me be plain. It is fucking terrifying to be publicly slandered by people you don’t know, who fail to get their facts correct about you or your actions, who are incited by a faceless, nameless insinuator that refuses to engage with you. It’s enraging to be accused of doing the very things you want to prevent. These Salvation Army people scare me.
I am scared, and I am angry. But, y’know what?
Being scared and angry isn’t mutually exclusive with standing up for what you believe in. So I’m going to stand up and dare to say that access to education, including accurate, rational, and non-judgemental sexuality information, is a fundamental human right, that everyone on Earth deserves to have their human rights met from the moment they are born, and for that reason it is important that everyone’s right to access educational resources they’ve demonstrated intent to access is upheld. Period.
I think it’s tragic that people who ostensibly want to do such good in the world, like Marie and even more like the authors of that defaming email, end up doing such awful things. But nothing in our lives is forever changeless, so when I saw the second breath that Marie took, I risked a blog comment. Following, in case it doesn’t get approved on Marie’s blog, is the comment I submitted in full.
As you read it, regardless of who you are, please ask yourself this one simple question: What can I do in this situation that will enable other people to live, learn, and be joyous? The answer to your question is how you will empower others. Now your job is to find a way to keep that happening without you, because only when your presence is no longer required have you actually succeeded in self-empowering others.
In your comment above, you poignantly wrote some words I agree with. Specifically, you said:
I look around me, at women specifically, and I don’t see the promised liberation. I see girls getting pregnant at 14. I see women starving themselves or getting all sorts of surgery in order to be “beautiful.” I see wives reduced to playing porn in the bedroom, because their husbands aren’t aroused without it. That’s what makes me uncomfortable and sad. I believe that women are absolutely equal to men[…].
I still see a lot of this too, and it angers me, too. (Did you know that potentially unsafe labia dye products are on the market? Sigh.) It angers me because the reality you described with those words actively hurts me, just as much as it hurts millions of other men (although too few of my fellow men seem to understand this) and it hurts women, and it hurts children. I’m working very hard in the way I know best to eradicate sexual misinformation, shaming, and abuse. With respect to our goals as I understand yours from your quote, above, I don’t see a very big difference between us. :)
You mentioned that you’re going to keep your previous post up. If you’re going to do that, then I’d appreciate the opportunity to address some statements you wrote as “factual presentation” but are, in fact, incorrect.
First, you wrote:
KinkForAll […] recently sponsored an event on the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island.
To be precise, it was the Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council (SHEEC), a student group at Brown University, that sponsored the KinkForAll Providence unconference. Neither KinkForAll nor Brown University were sponsoring the event. You can learn more about SHEEC from their web site.
Second, you wrote:
The specific goal of the event was to foster an acceptance of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism – as well as promoting an “anything goes” attitude.
In reality, I have personally loudly spoken out that the goal of KinkForAll events should never be specific to an acceptance of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism. The true goal of KinkForAll unconferences are to inspire conversations about the intersection of sexuality with the rest of life. (Consider reading the short “KinkForAll” about page, if you haven’t yet.)
“The intersection of sexuality with the rest of life” covers a lot of ground, and has included things like healthy cooking and eating (at KinkForAll New York City 2), free speech and privacy technologies (at KinkForAll San Francisco), and a host of other topics, but for some reason people like the folks at the Salvation Army seem particularly excited to spotlight discussions about consensual sadomasochism. Moreover, they say those topics are my focus, when they have never been my focus at KinkForAll unconferences at all. That’s very misleading and I find it small of them to show such carelessness in misrepresenting me so blatantly.
Have you considered the possibility that some of these people are conjuring some demons from their own fears, rather than from reality?
Third, you wrote:
Each person attending the event was required to participate in the many discussion panels
That’s not true, either. Participation can include speaking up in discussion panels if one so chooses, but it can also mean helping put out chairs, bringing home cooked food (pot-luck lunch is yummier than catered food!), taking out the trash, or just sitting in and listening or taking notes or something. Really, we have a whole page with suggestions of how to participate; the unconferences are expressly designed as open to the public spaces where people can feel physically safe and free to abstain from anything they’re not up to doing. :)
Fourth, you wrote:
["maymay"] insisted to school officials – both at Brown and on other campuses where he has been allowed to hold events – that children be allowed to attend. [… He] claims to find it “heartwarming” that at least one minor has been officially recorded as having attended one of the events in New York. […] Responding to a hypothetical question about what he would do should a nine-year-old child show up at a KinkforAll, ["maymay"] wrote that he would hold this child to be “amazing” and would help him get connected with the group.
I’ve actually never spoken to school officials about KinkForAll so, again, I question the reliability of your source. Also, I think the minor you’re referring to who has been “officially recorded” was a local high school student in Washington, D.C., not New York City. I found it “heartwarming” that she chose to lead a discussion about being in high school and working with school administrators on sexuality issues at school. Again, you might do well to follow up with whatever your source is, since your information seems littered with errors.
As for the “amazing” quote—a quote of one word—you attribute to me, what you’re likely referring to were the conversations I had with fellow event planners where I insisted that an “open to the public” event, like KinkForAll unconferences are, should by definition not restrict the ability of anyone who shows an informed intent to participate from doing so, regardless of race, religious belief, or age. It would be amazing if young people were empowered to be free of coercion about what they should or should not do, want, or think. Perhaps that way, for instance, young girls won’t be swayed to purchase labia dye by the very industry that profits from inflicting them with a poor self-image, y’know?
By the way, all these conversations between KinkForAll participants (not “members,” since there is no such thing as KinkForAll membership), including the one you used a one-word quote of me in, are all publicly visible. Rather than get yourself worked up on factually questionable or severely sensationalistic material, I invite you to read the conversations I have about this yourself. I’m actually relatively boring if you’re willing to listen before you pass judgement. :)
On a personal note:
When you likened me to the things I revile, you hurt me deeply (wouldn’t that hurt you?), so I thank you for your apology, and I gratefully accept it. I urge you to consider the possibility that you were not the only person who was incited to an “emotional scream” from reading whatever it is you read about me, although perhaps you are one of a fewer number with enough integrity to retract a personal attack after making it.
With that in mind, I hope that when you see others so eager to cast blame and throw stones based on what they think they “know,” as you almost did, that you stand up with a calm, brilliant voice of reason and remind everyone involved to take a deep breath. That would be truly heroic.
Again, if you’re going to leave the previous post up, it would be heartwarming if you could at least include a link to the sources that incited your remarks as well as a link to this post (or even directly to this comment), so that you empower future readers of your blog to follow the trail themselves instead of taking solely my word or yours on the issue. Give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish, and all that; enabling your readers to make up their own minds about the issue by providing links to source material would be grand. :)
Anyway, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for considering me in a less furor-driven light this second time around. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d be interested in having a more in-depth dialogue. I’m very easy to find online, and I’d welcome your voice in whatever conversations I have in public spaces.
This morning I awoke to find that my comment on Marie’s post was published and a rather thoughtful reply was left. I think it’s so worthwhile that I’m going to republish it here, along with my as-yet-unapproved reply to her reply (which I’m thinking will be the last in the thread from me for now).
Thank you for your reply.
First, I would post a link to the source whence I garnered this information, but it came to me in an email format, which I have sense deleted. (I’m rather fanatical about clearing my inbox.) I have attempted to find the article online, but have been unsuccessful thus far.
I did actually read most of the information on the KinkforAll site. I can, in one sense, appreciate that you and others desire to see people educated on the topic of sex and sexuality. Realistically, I think that this is something that everyone, on all sides of the topic, can agree upon. I, for one, when I have children, would like to see them be comfortable with the fact that they are sexual beings.
However, I son’t think what we have deemed as “education,” on whatever end of the spectrum, really IS education. I don’t think it’s enough to tell someone, “Don’t have sex” without telling them why that’s a good idea, and nor do I think it’s enough to say, “Do what you want” without addressing the pitfalls.
As I said before, I’m not a perfect person, and I do realize that what I wrote was littered with ranting toward you, which I am sorry for. On my end, I just feel incredibly frustrated. After accepting the grace so freely offered my by Christ, I began to see very clearly that all the things I’d been told about sex – again, on whatever end of the spectrum – had quite clearly missed the point. “Don’t do it” with not explanation leads to rebellion or shaming. “Do whatever” leads to heartbreak. That has been my experience.
I think that we are sexual beings, yes. This means that our sexuality is part of everything – body, mind, heart, soul. I don’t think we can separate, hard as we might try, the one from the other. I think we have done ourselves a great disservice in trying, and in taking sex from the private sphere and injecting it into the public.
I don’t mean having honest discussions about sex and sexuality in a safe environment. Frankly, I also think this issue has a lot to with a lack of personal responsibility regarding parenting. Children shouldn’t be left to the devices of the world around them to learn about sex. What I do mean is the constant bombardment of images, messages, etc. about how to do it, when to do it, how to look when you do it, what’s good, what’s bad, and so on. I feel that KinkforAll has contributed to this barrage. That’s likely something that we’ll just have disagree on.
Again, sir, thank you for your comment.
My reply to Marie’s comment follows:
More briefly than my last comment, as I don’t want to overstay my welcome on your blog, let me just say that I can wholeheartedly understand the frustration you describe because I feel a lot of it, too. As an aside, one of the things that helped me start thinking about why everything I was told was so off-point was this essay by Dr. Marty Klein, called “Censorship and the Fear of Sexuality.” I highly recommend it.
I began to see very clearly that all the things I’d been told about sex – again, on whatever end of the spectrum – had quite clearly missed the point.
Exactly. EXACTLY. I’m so glad to hear you say that because I agree completely. As hard as it might be to believe, my involvement with the KinkForAll unconferences were born out of my desire to see my “end of the spectrum” do a better job of actually educating about sex and relationships.
I think we have done ourselves a great disservice in trying, and in taking sex from the private sphere and injecting it into the public.
I don’t mean having honest discussions about sex and sexuality in a safe environment.
May I ask, then, what do you mean? And also, what do you think “inspiring conversations about the intersection of sexuality with the rest of life” refers to at KinkForAll unconferences, which expressly and strictly disallow sexualized acts, if not, y’know, having honest discussions about sex and sexuality in a safe environment? Maybe what some people are imagining isn’t what happens there and maybe watching some of the many video recordings from KinkForAll unconferences would better arm you with knowledge than reading text on a web site, even the KinkForAll web site. (In light of our conversation about “what we’re told about sex,” I would recommend this talk: On Dichotomies That (No Longer) Jail Me.)
In other words, I am generally of the opinion that to think freely, we have to be able to speak freely. The solution to “bad speech” is never censorship, but rather more speech. That’s why I’m so frightened by the attacks the Salvation Army has made or incited from well-meaning people like you, and possibly others still to come; those sentiments don’t inspire conversation, they incite violence whether physical or emotional and they absolutely, definitely, shut down the opportunity for honest dialogue.
Anyway, yeah, that’s why I don’t understand the vitriol with which the Salvation Army has attacked me, and why I’m frightened that there are so many people less civilly mannered than you. I hope, of course, that you’ll help inspire conversation and civil behavior when you see the opposite happening.
Thanks also for trying to find the source you quoted. If you ever do find it, I’d be happy to see it linked on these blog posts. And of course, you know where to reach me; consider my door always open to you. Always.
Although Marie can’t find the source, I did learn that on March 20th, two people by the names of Margaret Brooks and Donna M. Hughes published a defaming bulletin about me that cites KinkForAll Providence heavily, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that these are the same alarmists I referred to before. The bulletin is on a web site misnamed Citizens Against Trafficking. It should, at least in this instance, be called “Citizens Against Sexuality Freedom and Discussion.” (I move to rename and will from here on out refer to the group as CASFD. Again, no link love. You can find it with Google.)
To Margaret Brooks and Donna M. Hughes: I personally invite you to speak with me by replying to this post or the Open Thread I posted a while back. That invitation stands at least until before you call me “dangerous to the community” or publish similar sentiments a second time.
To provide a bit of context for those that don’t know, these are the same people who barricaded Megan Andelloux, also named in the bulletin, from opening The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health a few months back. Megan presented a talk about the issues surrounding the opening for The Center at KinkForAll Providence, which I encourage everyone to watch, below.
When Megan Andelloux wanted to open the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, RI, “freaked out” residents barricaded her opening for 5 months and the local police threatened to arrest her. At KinkForAll Providence, 1 week after Megan’s education center opened, she gives a talk about the “sex panic” that swept the state and captured national headlines. Megan tells of a University of Rhode Island professor who waged a “war” to stop her from educating adults about sex, how locals demanded that “we should outlaw sex!” and how she fought for your sexual freedoms—and won! Learn more about Megan Andelloux at http://OhMegan.com and about the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health at http://TheCSPH.org
Marie took down her original post today. To wit, she wrote:
I have decided to remove the original piece that I posted here, and encourage those of you who may read this blog to peruse the above listed article for yourselves, as well as doing other research.
The “above listed article” Marie linked to is the bulletin published by the Citizens Against Sexuality Freedom and Discussion (CASFD), that I mentioned earlier. This confirms my suspicions about the sources of these attacks. Again, I challenge Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks (shown below) to actually reply to this Open Thread.
As an aside, I do wonder why “Margaret Brooks” is much more easily findable on Google as “Margaret Landman.” Perhaps ‘Landman’ is a maiden name. Or a pseudonym. You can Google for these people as well; that’s how I found the pictures.