So I wrote this thing pushing back against continual attempts by the rape-supporting scum that is the BDSM and Internet social justice warrior cliques to redefine rolequeer as a subset of traditional BDSM practice, and then idlnmclean used it as a jumping off point to describe rolequeerness using a complex of mathematical and sociological language. And at first blush, I think it’s pretty good. It’s dense, so I’ve snipped it down to what struck me most as the strongest parts, but consider reading the whole post if formal mathematical descriptions of intricate topics interest you.

After excerpting their definitions, I want to highlight just a few of the applications of what those definitions mean. That is, I want to highlight how to take these formal definitions out of the realm of theory and apply them to the realm of action (and activism). I’ll be using Predator Alert Tool as a case study, since it’s the most relevant topic du jour.



[…snipped for length…]

I’d like to make a formal contribution to this discourse in philosophy of queer relationship methods, sociological methods, anthropological participatory methods, and formal and applied mathematical theory.


Choice defined as the ability to realize contradictions within a theory. It is a non-classical in behavior and description. Non-contradictory theories have access only to formal decisions as choice becomes a trivial notion within those formal systems. Refer to deterministic and non-deterministic consistent decision theories and classical computing theory for explicit descriptions; refer to Paola Zizzi’s Lq and Lnq for implicit descriptions of weak choice or non-deterministic decision theory using quantum mechanical interpretations of logical multivalued propositions. Non-weak choice theory is either logically inconsistent or does not have a non-contradictory metasystem; if the metasystem is contradiction tolerant and non-axiomatic then the metasystem has both non-weak choice and non-deterministic decision theories inclusive of non-contradictory decision theories. Equivalent models for non-deterministic non-contradictory descision theories can be formulated in terms of category theory, recursive function theory, and algebraic geometry.

So I am going to repeat myself again in yet more new words. “Rolequeer” describes the way in which some people orient themselves towards the influences of power in their relationships. It is not a kink. It is not a way of doing BDSM. It is not an identity. It is not limited to the bedroom. It is a method of approaching, understanding, and relating to power equity and disparity.

Provides an adequate informal statement to formalize at least one of the assumptions or axioms of the rolequeer game theory. It can be interpreted as the existential instantiation of rolequeer games. See formal game theory for deterministic and non-deterministic, non-contradictory desicison theories. Abe has a complex of relationships with themselves; Bob has a complex of relationships with themselves; Abe and Bob jointly have a complex of relationships with themselves categorically composed from relationships of themselves to each other’s relationship with themselves. This is in general a many to many mapping, but it can reduce to one to one mappings for at least deterministic non-contradictory decision theories. Rolequeer games are at least generally describable as binary relationships of A to B and B to A though rolequeer theory itself rejects binaries in practice, so rolequeer theory is a non-binary theory.

What rolequeerness and BDSM have an in common is that both ideas describe ways some people approach the eroticization of power disparity. Rolequeer sex involves eroticizing disobedience, a rejection of authority, while BDSM is entirely about fetishizing dominance, sexualizing obedience to authoritarian control. That is literally the only thing BDSM and rolequeerness have in common and, as you can see, not only is it a tiny subsection of what rolequeerness describes, it is wholly antithetical to what BDSM describes.

BDSM as it exists is either a strict subtheory or independent of rolequeer theory. As they are antithetical in a non-contradictory sense, they are necessarily independent of each other if they are classically consistent. Rolequeer theory then rejects explicitly classism, so rolequeer theory is at least non-classist and may be both classist and non-classist. IE dialectical. Rolequeer games are at least non-deterministic games and satisfy non-contradictory valid condition for weak choice games between one or more player. A contradiction tolerant rolequeer theory will include both or neither rolequeer theory or BDSM theory.

Power disparities can be formalized by formal notions of class. Rolequeer theory then operates on classes as the domain of discourse, and posits a formally negative method with respect to classes. Intersectional methods of forming and enforcing personal and interpersonal relationships at and beyond class relationships. Rolequeer theory is a second order class game about classes or a non-classic game. As it is specified, rolequeer theory is a method antithetical to class games, so the formal consequence and prediction of rolequeer theory is that joining inequalities with opposition will produce equivalency relationships between the rolequeer players. Principally, this is achieved by using an open property of negation which allows the expression and interaction of rejecting the game to be played or strategies of playing to quit or end the game. In some cases possibly irregardless of the specific consequences of the game ending.

This formally amounts to responding to zero-sum games with a rejection of the offer to be determined in a finite game. This either redefines the proposed game in terms of a non-zero sum game or allows a localized contradiction within the finite system itself. Rolequeering strategies played with binary responses would result in mutually assured destructive strategies in games of competition; e.g. Cat’s game in Tic-tac-toe. Either wins and loses come in strict binary relationships or no one wins. However, in that rolequeer games are fundamentally about what classic games you do not play, reluctantly play, or defiantly play, the strategies and games which the rolequeers play implicitly are necessarily non-zero sum allowing many winners to one loser, many losers to one winner, many losers to many winners, many winners to no losers, no winners to many losers, and non-binary games of non-winners and non-losers.

Valid responses to this will only be responded to if and only if they are critical or negative in a logically analytical or empirically motivated sense.

Okay, so, one of the most obvious applications of this kind of thinking is in the sociocultural design of Predator Alert Tool. In a post I published on my more tech-focused blog, titled “Predator Alert Tool as a game theoretic simulation of countermeasures to rape culture,” I wrote:

In “Strategies Without Frontiers,” one of this week’s BSides LV information/security conference talks, software engineer and co-originator of the language-theoretic approach to computer security Meredith L. Patterson used Predator Alert Tool as an example of “an organic response against predatory [societal] games.” Or, in simpler words, Predator Alert Tool was cited as an example of how we can change our cultural environment from a relatively safe place for (sexual) predation into one that’s actively hostile to sexually predatory behaviors. And we can talk about that process using math, like this:

Normal form of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma game theory problem displays a matrix of outcomes for a given combination of player strategies ("cooperate" or "defect").

That’s why myself and a group of volunteer culture hackers have been blanketing the Internet’s social media websites with numerous different variations of Predator Alert Tool prototypes. We’re dissecting rape culture and using what we learn to devise game theoretic counter-strategies encoded as software tools that help people avoid undesirable outcomes.

That sounds complicated, but it has very humble origins: scale protective mechanisms that already work.


For the more mathematically minded, Predator Alert Tool can be approached as a reputation system coupled with a societally iterated prisoner’s dilemma. That is to say, it’s a tool designed to help you make dating choices that take into account all the past interactions a given person (like, say, the cutie you’re scoping out on OkCupid) has had. As one oft-targeted woman put it, “PEOPLE CAN SEE WHAT YOU TWEET AROUND HERE and some of us can’t afford to have short memories.”

One of the things that makes Predator Alert Tool so unique is that, contrary to its name, it does not presume to judge the “predatory-ness” of any given person. It simply takes information about the person in question or about other people who have spoken about the first person and presents that information to the user. We have repeated time and again that our intention is not to “think” for you, but rather to “help you make more informed choices about what you feel you need to do to remain safe while using [a given] service.”

This approach is meaningfully divergent from the approach of, say, a national sex offenders registry or a “Match Percentage,” both of which are presentations that presume to calculate information opaquely and then present the result to the user. These aren’t systems that offer much if any transparency to how those results were arrived at. That opaqueness itself communicates a kind of surety to the user: “don’t worry, you can trust us.” In the case of a sex offender’s registry, the presumption is that anyone on the list is dangerous (an “offender”). With a Match Percentage, the presumption is that a high score is a compatible match.

Nevertheless, anyone with even a shred of perspective on the absurd farce of a “justice” system that the legal system is or anyone who has ever gone out on what ended up being a bad date with one of their suggested “great matches” has an intuitive sense that something is wrong with these systems. What I assert is that these failures are not design flaws, but intentionally crafted lies. They are carefully engineered sociopolitical manipulations that promise convenience and safety, but actually provide neither. They intentionally communicate a “don’t worry, you can trust us,” message, but leave the question of “trust who to do what?” unanswered by virtue of remaining unasked.

So one of the very first decisions my collaborators and I made when we began coding the various Predator Alert Tools was that we would create interfaces that explicitly challenge this mechanism of information presentation. Rather than, for example, create color-coded threat levels (blue for one concerning answer in the Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid red flag set, for example, yellow for two, and red for three or more), we would simply surface all concerns immediately in the same way and force the user to make a judgement for themselves.

One intentional side effect of this approach is the implicit rejection of the binary of abuser versus abused. Instead of opaquely calculating inputs and then producing an output that judges some people as “predators,” we treat everyone as having the capability to behave in “predatory” ways against everyone else—regardless of past input. Naturally, this makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That, of course, is the point: bluntly, “you might be a rapist if it never occurs to you that rape is something you’re capable of.”

In practical logic, this means that “the class of people who might be rapists” is everyone. Likewise, we maintain that “the class of people who might be rape survivors” is also everyone.

To use the language from above, “This formally amounts to responding to zero-sum games with a rejection of the offer to be determined in a finite game.” Or in other words, by rejecting the idea that we can pre-calculate perceptions of dangerousness into a binary distinction between “we should warn at this danger level but no need to warn at this other danger level,” we purposefully break the consistency of user interfaces that were originally designed to lull people into thoughtlessness.

When OkCupid suggests a user with a 90%+ match to someone, and then Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid red-flags them, suddenly OkCupid’s idea of “a 90% match” becomes meaningless. And that’s the entire point. It is meaningless, but it’s trying to convince you it’s a super clever algorithm infinitely more competent in determining your “compatibility” with other people than you are, whatever the fuck that means.

The reason Predator Alert Tool is a volunteer project whose budget is now and has always been $0 is because it is entirely antithetical not just to a given business model, but to the very idea of “business models.” Every company selling anti-rape gimmicks is exploiting and profiting off rape culture. That’s why they’ve been resoundingly ineffective at combating it; despite what they say about combating rape culture, what they are actually doing supports it.

For these reasons, I have always conceived of Predator Alert Tool as a rolequeer project; it takes a rolequeer approach to the question of “who’s a rapist?” Its answer is both classless and creates an intersectional class: “anyone who commits rape.” This is not actually different from a lot of feminist discourse. But to the best of my knowledge, its implementation, that is the impact of its choices, are still, sadly, unique.

Donate Bitcoin

Flattr this!