The news and events surrounding the death of August Ames has been the catalyst for the following post. This is a complicated issue that involves a lot of elements that are not in my forte. Though I have been involved in the sex blogging/education world for several years now, I certainly am not an expert on the adult industry or really even the wider the sexuality community. So what I want to speak of here is removed from the center of this tragedy. What I have to say has been on my mind for some time, and is not just about this recent happening.
Most of the news stories and consternation surrounding the death of August Ames concerns the activity that took place on Twitter. The arguments, discussions, and harassment that unfolded is also in itself complicated and multifaceted, so I am not going to comment in detail about that. I am only going to comment on the splinter of the incident that I witnessed.
Last week, before her death, I saw many of the responses to Ames's original tweet pop up in my feed. Some people I follow were quoting her tweet, replying to her, or favoriting/retweeting responses to her. I know that not all favorites and retweets are endorsements. And people favoriting or retweeting things is not the same as making direct statements. There is also a lot of context that can get lost. All that considered, most of those responses I saw I personally considered to be bullying. The language, tone, and allegations were hurtful and ill intended.
I saw them.
And I just kept scrolling.
Because these responses are nothing new.
Most people in the sex positive community refer to such responses as calling out bad behavior or thoughts. I see it so often I don't think twice. I don't engage, but at this point, even hateful and unfair statements have become white noise to me.
So, I have a few things I just want to say. They are not unique to the situation regarding Ames. I have wanted to say these things over the past couple years for various incidents. But I was always afraid to speak my true thoughts and feelings. But I’m doing that now.
1. Not all calling out is bullying. But some of it is. Holding up any concept uncritically is unhealthy and I think a lot of people have reached that point in the concept of calling out. Justifying toxic action or hurtful statements as calling out encourages abuse that should be stopped.
2. There's this sentiment that people who have been hurt are incapable of hurting other people, but that is just not true. As a disabled person, I have been completely dismissed. “She said something hurtful, well, look at her! She has nothing going for her, no one wants to be her! She can say all the hateful things she wants.” Bullshit. I have the power to hurt other people. Victims still have the power to hurt people. To deny anyone their ability to be hurtful denies them a part of their humanity. I take my ability to hurt other people very seriously. Hurt is powerful.
3. The other sentiment is that hurting others is justified if that person is already hurt or belongs to a group that has been hurt or marginalized. Again, I disagree. I used to think this way. As a disabled person with a lifetime of experience and an acute awareness of the historical context of how disabled people are still treated, I harbored a lot of frustration, anger, and pain. There was a time I wanted other people to feel my pain. I wanted the hurt. I wanted the name calling. I wanted the blame. I wanted to silence and censor and rage. But it almost ate me alive. I stopped listening. I became wonderful at manipulation. I only spoke if I was arguing or if I knew it would hurt. I became slick with my well-timed words, just like those who had abused me in the past, emotionally and verbally. I hated who I was and I wasn't producing anything good in my creative life. But I woke up. I realized I don't hold a monopoly on pain. I realized that the pain I shared with others connects us, even if that pain looked different than mine.
4. Finally, I have never changed my mind by being called out or called in. (I’m actually a fairly staunch believer that neither calling out nor calling in works, but that’s another post in itself.) When I was a raging anti-porn advocate lots of people tried to call me out and it never worked. What worked was books. Articles. Blogs. Getting to know people. Original content, stories, and work. Thus I believe, we should do our work. It has power. Against mean, ignorant, and hateful tweets, even. So any time you want to rage tweet or call someone out, I truly feel your efforts will be a million times more effective and compassionate if you instead work on your own projects and put your own content into the world.
I’m not saying we should not speak up for ourselves or others when we see things that are wrong or hurtful. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to manage themselves or how to respond to this world we live in or the people in it.
But something has to change.
I see a lot of people in the sex positive community saying how proud they feel to belong to this community of so many people: educators, bloggers, therapists, artists, performers, writers, counselors.
Right now, where I’m at, I don’t feel that way. A lot of what I see coming from this community on social media makes me feel sick and sad. We preach and teach one thing, but act entirely different on social media. We shower ourselves with accolades while we isolate those that need our help the most. We argue and rage, but we don’t make anyone’s life better outside our own circles.
Those are my thoughts and feelings. I am owning them. I am working through them. I hope to find my way back to that pride and peace.
But I could not do that while remaining silent on these points, so I am choosing to share them now. If you are still with me, truly, thank you for listening.