I’ve been involved in the scene for well over a decade and have learned a tremendous amount in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve gone from clueless noob, to less clueless noob, to vaguely less clueless but not noob, to knowing some stuff, to knowing enough stuff to be in a relationship, to being happy to not need to know all the things. It’s been a fun, somewhat peril-filled journey that’s inevitable even if it’s not necessarily what I might have thought.
During that time I’ve encountered a great many predators, both anecdotally and personally. And, like the mythical Hydra, each time one seems to be dealt with and expunged, two more crop up to take their place. Worse, some of them are like a bad penny, turning up again and again.
So how does one define a predator? Simply put, they’re someone who’s out only for themselves, a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath who’s only interested in gratifying their own desires. They have little to no regard for anyone else, existing only in their own head and scratching their own itches.
They tend to be unsafe players intentionally, as they’re often sadists who’re indifferent to the inclinations of those under them. They’ll beat someone black-and-blue or even bloody, all the while complaining about the bottom’s inadequacy in taking pain. They’ll clumsily tie someone ignoring trigger points and nerves, causing pain and permanent damage. Needless to say, they’re no fans of safe words.
And of course, they have a tendency to prey on new people.
So yeah, I’ve… we’ve as a community… encountered them. And inevitably we drive them out. We’ve won! Game over!
Except it isn’t.
Many of them hang out in the periphery of any local community, sniping new profiles on FetLife, contacting them and ingratiating themselves, even as they denigrate the local scene. They’re bad people, but it can also be easy to warn new people away from them. Stick to the groups and you’ll be fine, right?
Sure, except for the groups that are harboring predators or, worse, are run by predators.
They’re the groups with a member (or members) that seem to have an inordinate number of consent violations against them, yet seem to enjoy an otherwise sterling reputation, particularly amongst the leadership (with whom they’re best friends). Often the defense which is given is, “I’ve never seen them do anything bad,” or, “They’ve never done anything to me.” Both of which are, of course, utter and complete horse shit.
You’d think that in a age of #MeToo we’d be better at believing the victim. But it turns out that we’re not. Perhaps we’re too proud of the “consent culture” we’re providing but, if someone’s got a lot of consent violations floating around them, they need to be addressed.
And then there are the groups that are actually run by said predators, often under the auspices of being a group for new people, a sort of “101 group”. Sure they may well do a decent job of presenting 101-style topics and throwing parties which are highly welcoming for newbies. But they also serve as a target-rich environment for the predators at the top.
Ask yourself this; how often have you seen a group’s leadership take a surprising, personal interest in a promising, pretty new member, and then said member is gone within six months? Consider the concept that they’ve been abused and tossed aside, never to return to something they once craved but are now soured on.
There are more subtle examples as well, people who were once eager and wide-eyed and remain as more cynical and suspicious individuals.
We also need to notice that these predatory “community leaders” have a tendency to push out the best people in the actual community; they don’t like the competition nor the fact that they’ll get called out for their bad behavior. My personal count is seventeen, people with whom I was good friends, but who I now only see at private events, disgusted as they are with the public scene.
Of course it’s not all bad news. Many of said “good people”, as well as those who’ve seen their consent violated, go on to form their own groups, often to bring in new people and help them navigate what they see as a complicated and potentially dangerous scene. I know of a few locally, and it warms my heart to see them thriving.
But how can you tell the two apart, the predator-led groups from the good-people-led groups?
Honestly, as a newbie, you often can’t. Both can have sterling reputations, with large memberships and long histories. Indeed, the “good” groups may have a shorter history with fewer members.
In the end, it’s up to you. Use your best judgement, trust your instincts, trust your feelings. Predators can have a way of saying the right things, and a practiced manner of ingratiating themselves, but it always feels wrong. Go with your gut. The good people will always feel good.
PirateStan has been involved in his local BDSM community since 2007, after having had a lifelong inclination towards it. He currently lives a contented life in Southeastern Virginia with his girl, zeirah, while working by day for a Major Metropolitan Publication.