This is a fictional story to look at the question of how a person can play well with some people while others experience consent violations, abuse, and even rape. I think often we imagine that people are either always abusive or never abusive, and while we’re getting better at recognizing that people can make mistakes and work to own and address them over time, there’s still not a lot of understanding of how a person can violate consent over the long term with some people and not with others. I wanted to group together a bunch of common perspectives in a tangible example to show what this often looks like in practice. Content warning: this is primarily descriptions of sexuality, consent violations and abusive behavior, occasionally graphic and including some systemically oppressive behavior and ideas and characters defending abusive/oppressive behavior.
Joy plays with many people of any gender as a top, and has a reputation for exciting, extreme play. Most people report great experiences with her, and she vets well both as a player and as a community member for her years of involvement. A number of people report that after consensually tying them up she engaged in nonconsensual gender humiliation and gagged them without consent, preventing them from safewording. Those people are all trans women. Outside of play she is a dedicated trans ally, and no trans men have come forward about any concerns, but she’s got a pattern of bad play behavior with trans women.
Why do gay bars exist?
I can’t possibly hope to encompass the entire spectrum of gay bars, and that’s not my goal here. It’s actually to address the pervasive fallacy that marginalized groups self-segregate simply by choice and therefore diversity efforts are unwanted by members of that group. Therefore I’m intentionally focusing on some common trends in gay men’s bars specifically which may be seen as examples of this self-segregation. To deal with some of the wordiness and repetition, I’m just referring to them as gay bars instead of gay men’s bars, and referring to their core attendance as gay and bi men. I apologize for the failure of the wording on account of the entire English language. (I’m pretty sure being white gives me that authority…erm…)
Gay and bi men go to gay bars to meet other men with a similar attraction, to socialize with friends, to be out, to find new lovers with whom to share the rest of their life or just a handjob in the bathroom. But straight people do that in straight bars, too. We made our own private venues, eventually working out to be straight bars, for this reason: that sexual and romantic relationships between men were legally forbidden and socially subject to violent efforts to prevent us from loving and fucking each other. We made places to hide and even to thrive, to share resources, to be employed and out, to create our own art and folklore and subculture around our sexual attraction. It’s a world that provides both safety from homophobia as well as the ability to be out and common.