January 3, 2014

2014: The Year Ahead

By Marc Esadrian

Happy New Year to all!

2013 saw a lot of growth for Humbled Females. Our forum membership has tripled from last year, our site aesthetic and social features have evolved, and we managed to add more open access articles to the publications section. Overall, things are looking pretty good for the site’s reemergence. But there’s more to do, of course.

I’m hoping 2014 will bring even more quality articles written from new authors. I hope we’ll see first-class membership increase at a faster rate this year than last, and that we continue fostering an atmosphere of learning and productive exchange here. The latter point is particularly important to me. We’ve seen many “adult” networks rise and fall over the years, but when I consider their histories, I’m reminded of a particular thread of wisdom:

“Nothing is more damaging to a new truth than an old error.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s hard to know what the old errors are with networks and forums, exactly, but I do know one of the common pitfalls we see within many are the establishments of argument-prone cliques. I think we’ve all done a pretty good job at managing that “creeping crud” thus far. At Humbled Females, things have been done a little differently and I think it’s paying off. We don’t have ads. We aren’t just another “meat market” online. We don’t see jaded young ladies filing in to build monuments to their narcissism and little else. We don’t see the same old vacuous BDSM platitudes being parroted by self-appointed gurus. Our forums, for the most part, are free of the divisiveness and childish insults we see hurled regularly on other networks. Our membership count is not in the hundreds of thousands, so discussion is manageable. The people we do have here, however, are quality personalities with many good things to say.

I hope the trend of quality community, where newcomers are welcome to engage in conversation, ask questions, and explore a deeper shade of submission or dominance, continues strongly in 2014. I want Humbled Females to persevere being the beacon of no-nonsense talk on female submission that it has managed to be since its re-inception in the past few years. With continuing engagement, patience, and thoughtful consideration, I think that’s not only possible but a fairly easy goal.

Aside of that, new features and additions to the site are on the way. The environment is constantly being enhanced and tweaked with the end user in mind. The articles will continue to delve into the wilderness of female submission (and male dominance, for that matter) with clarity, depth, and pragmatism. The Humbled Females primer will be updated and more material will be made available in the pay area.

In closing, I wish everyone peace, fortune, and fulfillment in the new year to come. I have a feeling 2014 will bring more good things for us!

October 10, 2012

D/s and the Digital Cult Of Personality

By Marc Esadrian

The Internet: it’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Especially for those who practice dominant-submissive relationships, the creation of the Internet was a watershed moment for anonymous and remote communication. Pre-Internet, the fear of being stigmatized for one’s prurient interests were walls that kept social exploration of such interests effectively hammered down among all but the most daring. But when the Internet did arrive, it became a means of connecting to others by shared interests without the risk of personal exposure. If you had long been haunted/blessed by strongly submissive or dominant motives and unable to practice these things for lack of finding a willing partner to take the opposite role, the “information superhighway” and all its wonderful anonymity tore down those barriers for minds across the globe that, until the advent of such communication, would have never have had the chance to make union before.

So here we are, all together online in a big melting pot of collective consciousness, all sharing our ideas, all learning and evolving from all the experiences and perceptions we have to share. We’re so much more well-rounded now because of the Internet. Or are we?

As anyone who has even the slightest notion of how news blogs react to scandal before having any solid facts, how libelous mere Tweets can become, or how much anger and argument drives the larger proportion of Internet message boards, one will inevitably concede there’s more to the Internet than merely a superhighway for information. The Internet has a dark side: it’s just as easily a misinformation superhighway, too.

This is the digital age in a content-rich medium of countless sources and opinions. Today, we can easily “choose our news” and preset the spin that suits us best. On the Internet, we can all too easily elect association with personalities and ideas that stroke our world-views and perpetuate comforting half-truths without verifying anything grounded in reality. This monster has a tentacle in the “BDSM” community as well, on message boards and groups that associate with terms such as master and slave, owner and property, or total power exchange. Within these groups the phenomenon of politics and popularity is alive and well and it’s not long before visitors begin learning who the celebrities are. In the virtual world of M/s chat, the cool kids are those who identify as having “a lot of experience.” After all, they’re in relationships that have lasted X amount of years. Their profiles say so. But beyond that, they may seem popular, well-liked, and tend to garner applause from whatever group in which they have their roots firmly settled. This network of users quite often chats behind the scenes, forming alliances and intimate dyads with other users. Beneath the floorboards of public discourse, another current of communication is always buzzing through PM and a network of remote relationships begins to develop. Before long, the group is marbled with these alliances. Suddenly, critical discourse isn’t so much about being critical over the heart of things discussed: it’s about influence, affirmations, and communal back patting. It’s about backing up your buddy at the expense of intellectual honesty. In such places, the fate of group discussions becomes a smarmy strength in numbers game, no matter how ignorant or creatively dishonest those who make up those numbers are.

Ironically, it’s “submissive females” I see doing this quite often online (which reflects, no doubt, the indirect aggression of female cliques in real life). How many times, for instance, have we seen an individual who identifies as a dominant male make an open statement, only to have the “submissive female mafia” descend upon him and tell him how wrong he is in a dog pile that grows increasingly belittling and mocking? Within the course of a few replies, this hapless visitor has somehow managed to personally insult dozens of users who find it perfectly justified to pitch ugly jabs his (or her) way and take his (or her) words completely out of rational context for the sake of snark. Just what exactly is going on in these scenarios? Is it that the newcomer’s ideas are universally abhorrent or is it that such ideas have not properly genuflected and observed the delicate feelings of a tight-knit cyber support group? Things to contemplate, I think.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with liking the personalities people present online and forming friendships that occasionally migrate to the real world. There’s nothing wrong with friends list building and finding yourself among said groups online. But is wanting to be liked and accepted (and continue being accepted) by a group reason enough to forgo critical discourse or keeping a truly open, fair, and balanced discussion? Is it reason enough to ignore basic courtesy? Is it reason enough for a submissive female to forget that no matter wherever she goes in the world, she is a reflection of her master and should thus demonstrate the better angels of her nature? Perhaps for some, it is.

I feel a little differently, however. I like to keep politics and the cult of personality out of good debate and discussion. I think that when we make the discourse at hand about the subject and not about the person and his/her popularity or ability to tow the politically correct line in a group, a chance for the expansion of good discussion (and freedom from from groupthink) comes into play.

Where online discussion board celebrities are concerned, I’d warn to be vigilant of their sociable influence while they quietly murder rational thinking in the other room. Liking someone is not a good enough reason to ignore the validity of their opponent’s points and to do so is tantamount to being an enemy of truth. And while we’re on the subject of truth, I’d like to remind everyone to take what they see and read online with a certain grain of salt. There is no defacto arrangement of words, phrases, or story telling that guarantees someone can be verified as “sincere” in what they’re showing or expressing online, but this often doesn’t keep people from assigning certain online characters more clout in a discussion group, due to their charisma and bold claims of experience.  Online, we can dress up in words in any way we wish with impunity. That is the virtual nature of the Internet. One really needs to keep that in mind when considering expressions of “experience” online and how much we invest in them.

Ultimately, I look at the thought or argument or idea expressed, not the person’s credentials formed of a self-styled resume, their number of years lived “in the lifestyle,” or their popularity level in a group. What I care about is the thread count of their ideas, described experiences, visions, and what can be gleaned from them. And I trust they care about what I have to contribute, in turn. That is the atmosphere I hope Humbled Females continues to contain and project well into the future as our reader membership increases.

August 25, 2012

The Humbled Females Primer and Other Updates

By Marc Esadrian

It has been a long time coming, but the primer is finally here. When I announced it this past May, I had no idea it would take this long to set up credit card processing. The verification and compliance hoops a merchant has to go through and the money one needs to put forward in getting set up for this is a little obscene, but we did it! The Humbled Females Primer On Ethos is at last available for access for a very reasonable cost.

Additionally, the Subscribers area will provide a slowly growing collection of imagery, video, and audio media content. Those who sign up will have access to this material for one full month. The sign-ups are non-recurring for the moment, as the content is pretty sparse. That will change in the future, of course.

To purchase our recently published primer and access our media area, click here.

With all that said, I want to make it very clear to everyone that everything but the private subscribers area will be 100% free. We still have an endless amount of articles to write and a limitless amount of subjects to discuss in the forums. Our site does have to find a way of supporting itself, however, and having a subscription area is the best way to achieve that. When we’ve raised enough money, Humbled Females will be moving to a dedicated server, meaning we’ll have a hosting system in place running strictly for Humbled Females. Things will be faster and more responsive on the site. Download speeds will increase and social functions will be instant.

We are gradually making little improvements to the forums as well and a new profile design is in the works. All things considered, we have been pretty busy behind the scenes to make this site more stable and solid. We’ve slowly been getting more members, too, and that’s always encouraging to see. Please tell your friends (of like-mind) about this community and encourage them to join and participate in the conversations. Unlike many of the popular social pools surrounding the acts of fetish, our site is solely devoted to the subject of authentic female submission and male dominance without the usual hyper-inclusivity and politically correct nonsense one finds in the larger networks. As long as we stay true to that goal—and we plan to—I think we’ve cut out a very unique space on the web for those who take relationships such as these seriously and I hope that your support continues in the years to come!

March 18, 2012

Let Us Name Abusers?

By Marc Esadrian

As those who are associated with me on Fetlife know by now, I’ve been involved in the “let us name abusers” (a result of the minority movement born of the “culture of consent”) dialog over the past week. By now, it’s fairly clear where I stand on this issue. While joining in with others in articulating dissent to the suggestion, there have been some interesting if not revealing developments in the thread which go well toward outing more than a few of the usual suspects who would no doubt join in a morality-based class action lawsuit against Bitlove (the company that runs Fetlife) if they could. This is the same group, who, while hurling cynical venom and conspiracy theories at the network within its own environment, wonder openly why Bitlove has a rigid, two-tiered system of legal protection that keeps user ability to do harm at bay. Some mystery, indeed.

The expressed opposition others have to this idea hasn’t been well received in the discussion. We are called rape apologists, misogynists, and above all, devoid of morality and decency if we so much as question the good intent behind this concept. The management itself was accused of willfully siding with rapists by a certain someone who is perhaps the most vocal of supporters for this idea. I too was labeled (among other things) a “misanthrope” for my mistrust in others for what users would do with this freedom if Fetlife relaxed its policies. For those of you who may not be up on the meaning of that word, it means “a person who dislikes humankind.” Isn’t it amazing what people can ascertain about us in these little plastic windows?

While I may indeed have accrued a weary view of my fellow humans over the years, I’m a firm believer that if anyone has a cursory understanding of the social evils waiting in the wings of our fellow men—and women—they wouldn’t be completely optimistic about letting human nature run amok in a grandiose naming and shaming experiment, either. We can convince ourselves that acts of mob violence, social or otherwise, against someone else is absolutely justified, despite lack of fair evidence. All most humans need is an authority figure or “good cause” to give the green light in doing so. Nazi Germany is the most obvious example of abhorrent and clearly immoral acts carried out by thousands of people, which was a result, ultimately, of a clever disinformation campaign bent on perceived crimes of European Jews. Even people who had been year-long friends with their Jewish neighbors turned against them because they believed some ungrounded lie about them from someone they didn’t even know.

This is, of course, why we strive in society, however imperfectly, to create a fair and sound system of representation within a court of law, where the premise of innocent until proven guilty is upheld and not up to a (however well-intentioned) mob to decide, as was the case with the nine teenage “Scottsboro Boys,” who were accused of rape in Alabama in 1931 and nearly lynched by an angry white crowd crying for justice, too. I could go on with more wonderful examples of what violence and wrong has been committed in the name of decency, but that effort would span the breadth of a novella, in the very least. Needless to say, human history is a catalog of persecution, often in the name of some good intent gone awry or bad intent pretending to be good.

Figures Don’t Lie, But Liars Do Figure

The natural concern that openly naming rapists and criminals in a public forum on Fetlife could be used for ill isn’t much to worry about, according to those in support of the idea. After all, the FBI’s false rape allegations statistics are “only” 8%. Using that statistic, 2 out of 25 people accused of rape in a community of over one million on Fetlife will likely be innocent.

Oh well. A few innocent people getting ground up in wrongful accusations from cunning liars is worth the risk, right? Even if you think that collateral damage is acceptable, you’d do well to consider how anyone who has soberly addressed the research on false rape allegations will note there isn’t any truly reliable data upon which to base the falsity factor. Susan Brownmiller cites 2% (later debunked as entirely unfounded), David Lisak 6%, and Eugene Kanin 41-50%. In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence, defendants themselves made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials. Where the real number lies in truth and fiction of rape and other crimes remains inconclusive, but one thing we know for sure is that half-truth and outright deception will be and is much easier to spin behind the comfort of a keyboard.

“Simply let the accusations come fourth, so the accused can challenge his accuser openly,” they say. Lost upon them is the fact that no one should have to commit to a second full-time job in repairing unjust character assassination amongst his peers on-line and off-line in the first place. Pin on to that the fact that false accusations, once lodged, are quite difficult to call back, if possible at all.

Libel, Defamation, Cyber Bullying, and the Evolving Nature of Internet Law

Second are the legal ramifications involved, not only to individuals who may have their real identities exposed without just cause, but with the site itself if it’s somehow perceived as cultivating an environment of open criminal accusation. This too is waved off as a “straw man,” even while the legal protections in the terms of use were obviously written with protection of the network itself well in mind.

What were Bitlove’s lawyers thinking? The requirement that nothing constituting defamatory libel (a crime in British Columbia Canada’s Criminal Code) is said against another user and that all civil legal disputes with the network’s management must be settled in binding arbitration in Canada gives us insight as to what Fetlife’s legal counsel saw as the challenges in running an international “Fetish Facebook” community online—an effort entirely different from, say, Facebook itself.

Mainstream consumption of BDSM continues to grow, but the stigma attached to BDSM, while it continues to lessen in light of increasing activism from organizations like NCSF, still exists, but stigma and negative perception is not only asserted by religious conservatives from the bible belt; one of the biggest enemies to our freedoms is the BDSM community itself. I, personally, don’t consider this ironic, given how widespread the gamut of alternative sexual practices and sadomasochism has become. Those who haughtily consider themselves in a different social reality by virtue of their sexual practices fail to realize they are so often agents of the mainstream themselves, seamlessly and unknowingly importing into this assumed counter-culture all the same moral cognitive dissonance and stereotypical thinking found anywhere else. This makes the BDSM collective itself an unknown quantity in terms of intellectual responsibility and ethical vagaries. Bitlove clearly understood the threat from within and without when building its network, and was wise to take solid steps in protecting itself from a community of such disparate parts.

Disenfranchisement’s Ironic Effects

The third quandary with this idea lies in the very minds of so many of its supporters themselves, who are filled with conspiracy theories and lack of trust in the proper channels to pursue real retribution. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, strongly advocates the use of the criminal justice system for all victims, but this doesn’t keep advocates of naming abusers from asserting the legal and support system is useless and broken and that the only real way they can extract revenge is by engaging in a he said/she said campaign on Fetlife, of all places.

At this point, statistics inevitably get rolled out again, citing how high the lack of conviction rate is for sexual assault and how high the number of unreported rapes are purported to be. The breach in logic is somewhat astounding in this instance, too: how do we help the rate of unreported sexual assaults go down if we insist that going to the police is utterly and completely pointless? The reality is we won’t. And people asserting so would do well to consider how much they themselves are scaring victims from coming forward. If anyone really wants the right to name an abuser, they would first work toward a conviction. Once someone is found guilty of a clear crime, you can legally talk about the realities of his or her crime all you want, but until due process has been achieved, it’s unwise and simply wrong to support an environment where you or I could be accused of anything at any moment without any shred of proof. We are not a community of informed lawyers and honest journalists. People can lie and they will lie if this idea is implemented. That’s really the bottom line.

While the idea behind outing violent abusers may be a noble one in theory, it would be a logistical nightmare to manage and would surely be abused in every way one could imagine. I’m sure I don’t have to go far in describing likely scenarios; most can conceive of them quite easily. What’s strange is how doggedly the camp in favor of this idea fails to recognize this, but it’s clear there’s more to the heart of their passion than the subject of good sense or honest concern; there is a political element present to this idea, too, and it’s fighting bitterly for the soul of this network. Leaning in on the entire discussion is that familiar taste of authoritarian political correctness (with a touch of misdirected feminism) which takes ugly swipes at anyone for daring to question the validity of the idea in “naming abusers.” Proponents also framed the argument strictly in terms of evils visited upon women, up until they were reminded that men can be victims of rape and abuse, too (in addition to false accusations of rape, of course). Nonetheless, going by much of the tone in favor of the proposal, one gets the idea this is being subconsciously framed as a “women’s rights issue” and that anyone who would question the likely sock puppet free-for-all resulting in accusing others of criminal acts on Fetlife is likely affiliated with Fox News or angry men’s rights activism.

An attempt at my credibility was made as well because I’m the owner of Humbled Females and, according to the insinuation of one user, there isn’t a single word about female consent to submission on my site. It’s true that I do operate Humbled Females. The idea consent is not a part of that community, as any member here well knows, is a bold-faced lie, and only serves to illustrate the lengths the crowd in favor of this proposal will go to caricaturize those who oppose their ideas in the holy cause of protecting those women who may be future victims. They condemn our culture’s eagerness to believe the “myths of lying girls,” but one could just as well assert that the “women don’t lie” myth is alive and well and perhaps more asserted today than many might be willing to admit. Ultimately, this is a matter of humanity: humans lie, humans deceive, humans manipulate—both men and women.

That aside, it’s important to keep in mind that not only men will be hurt by this idea. Women will likely be hurt, too, in ways that perhaps aren’t at first obvious. If we create an environment of open accusation rife with the fiction sure to follow, what will that do to the validity of a woman’s real complaint? How do we separate the wheat from the chaff in this respect, once the accusations, false and not, start flying? How are we, as readers, to know what’s true and what isn’t? Further, men won’t be the only victims of false accusations. Women themselves will be branded “liars” in the court of public opinion, even when they aren’t. Their words may not be accepted in favor of influential figures good at disinformation campaigns. Dominant females will also be attacked by men in open forums by being labeled mentally deranged and/or cruel, manipulative users. If you question the validity of that idea, just try starting up a conversation about financial domination here or on collarme.com’s boards and watch the caustic venting unfold.

The cry for outing the identities of alleged abusers has somehow been linked with overall site reform, where other subjects like underage sex and bestiality are now being imported in and railed against. They want Bitlove to be more accountable for what’s being allowed on the network and what isn’t. They angrily decry the fact that some posts hidden somewhere within the labyrinth of the fora going unmoderated is evidence of conspiracy and bias, when in fact it’s all the more likely that Bitlove’s resources are limited in having to parent a network of 1,272,980 children in over 38,000 groups (as of the date of this posting). But are we children or are we adults? Do we need a big leather collective to keep us safe in approved traces, or can we handle that responsibility on our own? The question, ultimately, is a matter of personal accountability. If we are all accountable for our actions and decisions and if we are all well informed on how to navigate our interests to the best possible outcome in the community, we’ll all be safer. That is the philosophic undercurrent needing to be driven home to newcomers and the young, not the collective morality and approval of a group think tank concerned with “protecting us.” Objectors assert that part of shouldering accountability is also watching out for your fellow man and that can only be done with community caring (see: policing). The obvious hitch with community policing is that it won’t be able to escape political machinations based upon who knows you and who approves of you or who doesn’t. With enough entrenched clout and social capital, both men and women in the community will have unfair advantages over others in what will become an increasingly more hostile popularity (and morality) contest, all at the expense of the greater good. We shouldn’t, if we consider ourselves sensible and responsible to ourselves, the D/s community at large, and Bitlove’s network as a whole, allow an environment like that to flourish.