On FetLife, there is the Spammy MicroDom – the 21 year-old “master” who gets an account, finds every woman within 20 miles of him, and emails cut-and-pasted orders for her to kneel at his feet. This kind of behavior is widely mocked, and rightfully so; at least three times a week, you’ll see vicious parodies of the MicroDom hitting the “Most Popular” boards. Women have contests to create the most insulting reply, and there are whole boards dedicated to shredding these pathetic attempts of domination.
Believe it or not, I have some sympathy for these guys. Not a lot; just a glimmer.
I say this because I got an email from someone asking me to look over one of his posts, where he argued – and correctly – that a lot of this idiotic behavior comes because the media presents an impression to men that this is how they’re supposed to act in BDSM situations. These guys have heard through various badly-presented filters that this is what “submissive” women want, and so they arrive on Fet and treat women in the way they’ve been told that women “in the scene” want to be treated.
Now, the reason I lack most sympathy for these guys is because they’re from-the-hip idiots. A single Google search would tell you that this isn’t how things work in reality, and any understanding of how human beings actually work when they’re not your masturbatory fantasies would tell you “Hey, women usually don’t want random strangers splurting their sexual desires all over them. Women, in fact, are drowning in dumb generic offers like yours.” (I mean, this isn’t unique to FetLife; I’ve heard many similar horror stories from women on OKCupid, where the sexual innuendo actually seems to be more prevalent.) And they’re often emailing women who self-identify as Dommes, presumably on the basis that “these women are pretty” and “I want to sex them” means “So they must be submissive.”
So these guys are misled, but only because they’re short-sighted and lazy. Fail.
However, the guy writing the post essentially said (paraphrased by moi), “Why aren’t we more compassionate to these guys? They’re stupid and ill-informed, yes, but instead of responding with mockery to drive them away, why don’t we as a community concentrate on educating them? Guys who look at the Kinky and Popular board will see nothing but parodies of them. I feel like all we’re accomplishing is creating this negative atmosphere for new male doms.”
To which I replied, “This mockery accomplishes something more vital, in a way: creating a more positive space for women, both dominant and submissive, who are less likely to have to deal with this shit – and more likely to stay. And who would you rather privilege – newbie male doms who are acting reflexively like assholes, or all the women on FetLife?”
“Think carefully,” I concluded. “There’s some very encoded and subtle sexism built into your thought patterns here.”
Don’t get me wrong; I am all about the teachable moment. I think you’ve got to allow for them, and someone has to stand up and be nice and take someone’s hand to walk them through all the dumb mistakes. But every time you “open up” a community to make it more welcome to those expressing dumb and insulting behaviors, you alienate those who are insulted.
And you have to choose. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be compassionate. But if you create a place where people are very tolerant of the MicroDom’s mistakes, then more MicroDoms are likely to thrive there. Which means that the women get more dumb emails. Which means that the women are more to leave rather than being harassed.
Classic liberal thinking has “the big tent,” where everyone can stand underneath it. I’m here to say that the best reality can do is a largeish tent, where you can either choose to evict a rowdy subset, or have them drive off some portion of people who don’t want to deal with them. In either case, not everyone will be in that tent, and whoever’s not in the tent will feel alienated from you, whether you intended it to be or not.
I’d argue that it’s far better to intend it. Yes, it’s a wonderful goal to have everyone able to act however they please, and all of us being tolerant of their quirks. But what happens is that some people’s quirks are so unpleasant that nobody wants to be around them – and if you don’t choose to eject them, you unconsciously choose to be okay with certain groups of people leaving.
I feel a little bad for the MicroDom. He’s uneducated, stupid, naive, and maybe could become someone worthwhile with a little guidance. However, I feel way worse for the forty women he emailed, who routinely wake up with an inbox clogged with mails not just from him but from everyone like him… and I’d far prefer they stick around. They’re more likely to have something interesting to say.
And maybe we could apply pressure in a way that includes less mocking. I agree that it’d be nice if we were all a little less hateful. But on the other hand, if we’re asking people to change their behavior, I’d probably prioritize the people who decided that random strangers were worth harassing, you know?
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/361228.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.