An Open Response to Emer O'Toole's Guardian Article
O'Toole and kinksters in general know that proper kink is safe, sane and consensual, else it's not kink. We all know Fifty Shades is suspect (and debatable!) but phenomenally-saleable fiction. We all know murder is abominable murder, come on. So only kink deserves the headline link to... kink, no?
Here is my ten point response to the article, assuming you've read it by clicking the headline above or here.
1. Sometimes the article reads like a headline-fusing editorial pitch. O'Toole has, by exploring link denial, linked a horrific murder case, Fifty Shades of Grey, feminism and kink. But O'Toole I feel is definitely right to call for debate, and internal debate especially.
2. And it's great that Emer O'Toole calls us to ask ourselves questions. But is this to say most kinksters
don't ask these questions of themselves every day, and every time before, after and during their play?
3. I don't see the link to BDSM or kink from horrific murder or mental health problems. As has been said it's not kink, where is the link?
4. To parallel real-life victims of nutcases with fictional characters of Fifty Shades is irresponsible. See my own (seemingly-endless) analysis of this in Mr Rocco Will See You Now: Fifty on Fifty.
5. As I say in that article, I'm not sure you can distance yourself from Fifty Shades. It's just kind of unavoidable if you want to debate it and show the world what (positive) kink really is. And this goes against her call for solidarity and openness in the final paragraph. These women looking for 'spice in their lives' because of Fifty Shades, who will they seek out to help them?
6. All communities are historically reluctant to discuss the true weirdo in the realm. Whether that's kink (Graham Dwyer), media (Jimmy Saville), politics (Cyril Smith), music (endless list...) there will unfortunately be a few without boundaries. As recent cases have proven, it's notoriously difficult to bring non-consensually abusive people to the attention of the appropriate authorities. Frankly, yes, the kink community attracts as many fruitcases as the gym, the local pub or club. Though mostly these weasels tend to have an aura of not getting laid: That's the first clue.
7. I'm not convinced we live in a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist society. Bit of a Guardian-reader crowdpleaser that one. I live in Kemptown and went to the most multicultural school in Britain. Up the road the Nuffield hospital caters for gender reassignment and St James Street round the corner is the most liberal street in the world. I also volunteer for a radio station that sees adults with learning difficulties hosting their own shows. Even in these environments the people I know deal with adverse or hostility issues on a daily basis, but it doesn't mean that they feel society as a whole is made of this. I think it's a perspective thing and about the individual's ability to separate personal grievance with actuality. O'Toole is right if referring to those uncivilised minorities that spoil things for others. Yes, that is definitely part of life, but all of it?
8. Where is the connection between interpersonal kink communion and feminism? I'm with Joni Mitchell: 'Why do you have to label yourself anything?' These labels are effective for a game and a release, not for the flux of the daily grind or for a gender-political movement. Surely labels are counter-productive?
9. I'm not a feminist, I personally already treat everyone as a blank canvass. That is, until either of our personalities gets in the way of a good time for us. But aren't we already liberated? Or doesn't Europe lead the debates regarding such values of freedom? Isn't the internet the greatest forum and leveller in history?
10. I think Emer O'Toole and I can agree for a call to end kink-shaming. The thing is we need to begin a new era of clarity over chosen topics. We are all human and retain the capacity for great love and hate, great joy and pain, whether as a chosen path, lifestyle or temporary role-play. The jump from the assumption of mass influence to personal reassessment albeit noble is a little quixotic, and still comes inherently with a nod towards kink-shaming. Personally I'm glad my kink leanings all point towards loving congress for my consenting partner and myself. Graham Dwer is an example of insane cruelty, not governable aggression. Elaine O'Hara is not an example of nearly every woman you and I have ever met, she is an individual of whom I can only, and that is only, surmise may have had an irrational predilection for especially nasty men.
To conclude then, I agree with O'Toole reopening the debate, but I'm unconvinced it's ever been closed. We can agree that kink-shaming tends to lock doors: from either side. But I think such debates need to be taken at one subject at a time, not free associated by linking murder, popular fiction and BDSM debate in feminist circles. This just leads to people blending those case-by-case things in their head and spreading even more ignorance.
If we want social order we must have reason, a proposition put forward by no less than Mary Wolstencraft (pictured above). With this in mind my intellect tells me that such headline amalgamation is editorial flame-spreading and therefore ultimately unreasonable.