Male Strippers Rescued from East London Venue

We welcome back stripper, activist and blogger Stacey Clare, who reports that Islington council has bravely “rescued” some male strippers from being objectified and exploited in a London venue.

The men of Adonis Cabaret have been saved from a lifetime of exploitation at Club Aquarium!

Last weekend, on Saturday 23rd of September, licensing officials from Islington Council attended a male strip show, which was found to be in breach of local by-laws. The Adonis Cabaret, a “male stripper troupe”, who were resident at a well-know nightclub on Old St. in London for several years, were found to have been exploiting men every weekend, forcing them to flash their genitals for the titillation of hundreds of women.

Men have been earning thousands of pounds from stripping, often using the money to support their steroid and cosmetic surgery addictions. Others have been spending their earnings on lavish lifestyles, posting photos from luxury holidays and expensive shopping trips on social media. One male stripper posed with his mum on a yacht, drinking champagne. It is estimated that male strippers earn on average £2k from gyrating their hips.

During their premises inspection, the licensing officials sat all the way through a two-hour long performance, right up to the very end, in order to catch the ensemble flouting a local licensing regime that forbids full nudity, as they waved their willies in the direction of the audience. Licensing laws were changed in 2009 to protect the public from the spread of an industry that is responsible for modern slavery and human trafficking.

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Club Aquarium, famous for it’s indoor swimming pool and late license, may seem like any other conventional venue, but within it’s subterranean walls it hid a dark secret. Just as one would stare at underwater creatures on a trip to SeaWorld, customers at Club Aquarium are encouraged to view men’s bodies as a commodity. There is nothing to alert unsuspecting passers-by to the nature of this seedy underworld; any normal, healthy person on foot would be fooled into thinking it was a regular discotheque. But every Saturday night drunken hoards of women arrived in their hundreds, joining parties of gay men to queue up for their seats at the so-called cabaret.

The Adonis Cabaret website is a lurid display of oiled up flesh, men pose in degrading outfits to be sexually objectified by the female gaze and gays. “The UK’s Hottest Ladies night” is how the men, aged between 18 and 50, are touted online. Their “unbeatable fun party package” includes “free yummy buffet…the sexiest lads…interactive variety acts…Sing-a-long”. Commercial sexual exploitation of men has become as normal as a Karaoke bar or All-You-Can-Eat smorgasbord. On arrival to the venue young frightened looking men with rippling chests provide a meet-and-greet; a chance for the consumers of these so-called “services” to grope and fondle the “entertainers”, all under the guise of taking a selfie.

When the show starts the mood among the audience turns to a more predatory atmosphere. Where the men were earlier viewed as sex-objects, they now become veritable pieces of meat, to whom the women in the rows of seats feel entitled. Men are pushed onstage by a thuggish, so-called drag queen, and are made to perform sexualized dance routines, entirely for the pleasure of the onlookers. The finale of each show, a flash of engorged genitals, is the ultimate form of sexual objectification – a spectator sport for the mostly female viewers of this so-called entertainment.

For the attendees it’s all bit of light-hearted fun right? An excuse to ogle at fit blokes while they appease the audience with a tantalising striptease. But the human cost of this type of entertainment goes largely ignored. New evidence revealed recently found that more than a half a million men, mainly immigrants, are working in the sex industry and in brothels and have been trafficked or coerced in some way or other.

One Eastern European man using the name ‘Mike’ said, in broken English “I was working out in the gym one day, when a nice friendly guy approached me. He said I could get work as a dancer in the UK and earn thousands. He was really nice to me, and I trusted him. He paid for my flights and brought me to the country, it was really like a dream. Next thing I knew I was put in a room with all these massive guys in thongs. Their muscles were bulging. They gave me some fake tan and some porn, and told me to get myself hard; showed me how to use a rubber band as a cock-ring to keep myself erect. Suddenly I was on stage, about a thousand women were screaming and grabbing at me, tearing my clothes off. My life is ruined. Things will never be the same now.”

The normalisation of viewing men as sex objects has had a devastating affect on the locality as women leaving the show have sexually harassed normal, healthy men passing by the club. “I’m too afraid to walk down Old St. now” said one 26 year-old man, who preferred not to be named. “I feel intimidated and fearful at night, it’s like the streets are not safe for me anymore”.

The male strip clubs are a growth industry in the UK, worth an estimated £10bn. However, researchers say that the cost to our so-called economy is probably greater. For now, the men of Adonis Cabaret can breathe a sigh of relief; having been released from their gruelling routine of working one day per week, they now have the freedom to figure out how to pay next months rent by going back to normal lives, working a 60 hour week on minimum wage. 

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Black Music and Racist Feminists

I’ve attended London’s Notting Hill Carnival most years since 1981. This year, like most, I went both days: Sunday with the family, Monday just to dance. Carnival showcases a West Indian culture that (unlike European cultures) shows no shame in blurring the line between dance and sex. And of course, this openness is bound to upset western sensibilities. Once, conservatives would have complained bitterly about the displays of sexuality, but the mantle of anti-sex puritanism has now been firmly taken over by the political left, and especially by parts of the feminist movement.

So it was that Star Wars actor John Boyega posted a video of himself wining with a woman at this year’s Carnival, and so it was, inevitably, that feminists (unable to tell the difference between sex and sexism) attacked his behaviour.

As an anti-censorship activist over the past decade, I began to notice about five years ago that anti-sex feminists had particular issues with black music and dance. I dedicated some time to documenting this in my book Porn Panic!

The following extract is from Chapter 7 of Porn Panic!

“Since their invention, music videos had come under fire from morality campaigners, but this was a phenomenon better known in the United States, with its powerful Christian right, than in Britain. Many of the attacks on popular music in America contained thinly-veiled racism. US Society was racially segregated for most of its history, until relatively recently, and most white Americans had had little contact with black Americans or their cultures, until the rise of music recording and radio. Although black artists were often boycotted by radio stations, white performers, from Elvis Presley onwards, began to copy black music, and young white people began to dance to it. Unsurprisingly, this infuriated white conservatives.

A 1960s circular from the Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans reads as follows:

"Don't Buy Negro Records"
“Don’t Buy Negro Records”

“Help Save The Youth of America

DON’T BUY NEGRO RECORDS

(If you don’t want to serve negroes in your place of business, then do not have negro records on your jukebox or listen to negro records on the radio.)

The screaming, idiotic words, and savage music of these records are undermining the morals of our white youth in America.

Don’t Let Your Children Buy, or Listen To These Negro Records…”

Such a message shows more than hatred or anger: it reveals fear. As well as breaching the carefully constructed walls of racial segregation, black music and dance had caused a deeper concern: it was highly sexual. African dance had always been more ‘wild’ than the European equivalent. Now, as civil rights and anti-colonialism movements peaked, and segregation ended, continents were belatedly colliding. For the first time, black music entered mainstream Western culture. The dam broke. This was not a meeting of equals: African culture poured over white society like a tsunami.

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Blues, jazz and rock and roll had just been the beginning. Now soul, hip hop, disco, reggae, dancehall, afrobeat, soca, dub, house, R&B, and many other genres sold records by the millions and entered the charts worldwide. By the turn of the century, it was hard to find music in the British charts that did not have some black roots.

And the videos that came with the music showed another African influence: clothing became skimpier, hips and backsides rolled in a way that white bodies had never before moved. As the moral panic against ‘sexualised’ music videos took root, it was not just a reaction to music; it was a reaction to black music.

Black female artists came under particular attack during the Big Panic. Especially singled out for criticism were Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. But far from apologise and cover themselves up, all three of these artists revelled in their displays of sexuality, and responded to attacks by becoming more ‘sexualised’, apparently taking enjoyment from taunting the mostly white, middle-class commentators that were attacking them. Beyoncé’s famous performance outfits became more revealing. Rihanna turned up to the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers Awards in a near-transparent dress, which generated an inevitable barrage of outrage. Minaj’s Anaconda video gave the finger to her critics, being a celebration of her famously rounded backside, and featuring the line, delivered as a parody of a prissy, white girl: “Oh. My. Gosh. Look at her BUTT!”

Prudish anger mounted, with article headlines such as “Don’t call Beyonce’s sexual empowerment feminism” trying to create a faux-liberal case for demanding that the singers cover themselves up. But there was no contest: three of the world’s most confident and talented black female performers could easily handle whatever the bloggers and journalists could dish out. Commentators were reduced to whining, inaccurately and patronisingly, that the singers were the ‘victims’ of a white, male-dominated capitalist music machine. The women, and their millions of fans, paid little attention.

Given how deeply rooted the Big Panic was in the political left, and that the anti-sex movement was dominated by white, middle-class women, endless overt attacks on black performers would begin to look suspiciously racist. A white target for the rage was needed. Enter Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus had committed multiple sins in the eyes of moralists. She had been a child star, and now had the nerve to grow up and become an attractive young woman. She appeared naked in the video for her single, Wrecking Ball, and, most outrageous of all, during a 2013 live TV performance, she twerked.

Although twerking was a fairly new term, it described a dance move that had been around for decades, if not centuries. Nobody who has seen videos for hip hop, dancehall, R&B or other black music styles could be unaware of the ways in which some black female dancers could move their hips, buttocks and thighs. I had been a happy witness to this at least since I started attending London’s Notting Hill Carnival and West Indian parties in my teens. It is hardly surprising that twerking provoked the backlash it did among so many commentators: the link between dance and sex had never been more obvious.

Now the anti-sex movement could finally take aim from the moral high ground. Object teamed up with black feminist group Imkaan, created an astroturf campaign to censor music videos called Rewind and Reframe, and, with help of the ever-supportive Guardian, began to insinuate that Cyrus’s twerking was not just sexist, but in some way racist too. Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman ludicrously complained that Cyrus had ‘culturally appropriated’ black people by daring to move her buttocks in a certain way, and having apparently worked herself into an angry froth, described the performance as a ‘minstrel show’. Under the guise of anti-racism, here was a white ‘liberal’ journalist doing what racists had done in the Deep South decades earlier: trying to stop black culture from being adopted by white people. In place of an exhortation not to buy ‘negro records’, the new left had found new language to express their discomfort that white kids were copying the dance moves of black artists.

Freeman’s real problem was revealed in the article when she wrote of Cyrus “…adding in a racial element while she copied the dance moves of strippers and bellowed her love of drugs”. Black people, nudity and drugs: the triumvirate that has upset white conservatives for centuries. She even dared to invoke (or appropriate, perhaps) Martin Luther King, ending the article by stating that she ‘had a dream’:

“I have a dream that female celebrities will one day feel that they don’t need to imitate porn actors on magazine covers and in their stage acts. I have a dream that the predominantly white music world will stop reducing black music to grills and bitches and twerking. And I have a dream that stupid songs about seducing “good girls” will be laughed at instead of sent to No 1.”

Freeman’s dream, of a world free of strippers, porn, drugs, good girls doing bad things, and white people doing black things, is hardly a progressive one. She could have found her dream in Selma, Alabama, in 1963, where King made his famous speech. If any article summed up the 21st century collapse of the left into ugly conservatism, this one did.

If it had appeared alone, Freeman’s article might have simply been a one-off piece representing her own views. But it was not: the Guardian was in campaign mode. The piece was handily followed and supported a couple of months later by an article from Imkaan’s Ikamara Larasi titled ‘Why must we accept the casual racism in pop videos?’, putting the boot in on Miley Cyrus once again, and adding the ‘authenticity’ of a black voice to Freeman’s messy argument (albeit a black voice with close links to Object). And in case we did not get the message, a month later Larasi wrote another Guardian piece, ‘Sexed-up music videos are everyone’s problem’. Beyond her two attacks on music videos, Larasi was not again seen in the Guardian; her work was done.

In addition to Freeman’s and Larasi’s contributions, the Guardian carried a surreal ‘news’ piece on the story that 73 year old Christian singer Cliff Richard also disapproved of Cyrus’s behaviour, and he “just hopes she grows out of it”.

However clumsy and quasi-racist it might have been, the Guardian’s attack on ‘sexualised music videos’ helped do the trick. It was never about convincing Cyrus fans – the goal was to put pressure on the UK authorities. Just one month after Larasi’s second article, in January 2014, the Guardian wrote in approving terms that the BBFC wanted to regulate (i.e. censor) music videos in the same way it did feature films. Of course it did: the BBFC, let us not forget, is a private business.

“Following the issuing of new classification guidance from the BBFC on Monday, the organisation’s assistant director, David Austin, said it was responding to pressure from parents who were concerned about the sexual imagery freely available to children who had access to the web…”

And a few months afterwards, in August 2014, the Prime Minister, David Cameron announced in a speech on (ominously) The Family that the government was backing censorship of music videos:

“From October, we’re going to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos by working with the British Board of Film Classification, Vevo and YouTube to pilot the age rating of these videos.”

The Big Panic had claimed a an important cultural scalp. Without any genuine public discussion or outcry, and certainly without any research showing that ‘sexualised music videos’ were causing any harm to anyone, music – and especially black music – would be subject to prurient censorship controls. The old Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans would be proud.”

Jerry Barnett, Lianne Young, Vikki Dark and Gail Dines in Porn Debate on Tell Vanessa TV Show

So here’s me, squished in between two ex pornstars, Lianne Young and Vikki Dark (now an anti-porn campaigner), to debate the new Digital Economy Bill (now passed into law as the Digital Economy Act). This is one of the perks of my campaigning work. The venue was the west London TV studios of Tell Vanessa, a current affairs discussion programme. The debate is the first thing in the programme. It’s followed at about 9:30 (if you can stomach it) by a Skype interview with anti-porn zealot – or should that be impartial academic porn researcher? – Gail Dines.

Lianne and I both take an anti-censorship position. Vikki and Gail take a pro-censorship one. You can also listen to my podcast interview with Vikki Dark here.

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Trans Activism, Language Policing and Identity Politics

In a recent Facebook thread, a trans woman was attacked for declaring herself instead to be a “transwoman”. The missing space was deemed to be crucial; and to me this demonstrated, yet again, the intellectual abyss into which much of left-wing politics has fallen. It began when self-declared transwoman/trans woman Erin Palette shared a blog post she’d written titled Being a Concealed Carrier Made Me a Better Transwoman (note – I’m not endorsing the gun politics here – let’s stay focused).

A comment swiftly appeared:

 

 

To which Erin sensibly responded:

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve spent some time over the past few years observing and documenting the bizarre cult of identity politics, as well as trying to explain the phenomenon. There are a number of overlapping explanations as to why the left has been subsumed by this pedantic nonsense.

But in reality, identity politics seems to be best explained by one thing: bullies have found a new language with which to justify bullying. Once upon a time, political activism took effort, required people attend meetings, understand history, and read books. Now, all one has to do is Like a few Facebook pages and learn a few slogans (“neoliberal patriarchal oppression is bad, m’kay?”) and – hey presto – you’re a Marxist, a feminist, or an intersectional person-of-colour LGBTQ+ warrior!

This nonsense invariably surfaces during (attempts at) political discussion. Identity politics means that people can completely ignore the subject under discussion and instead focus on – yes – identity. Thus, any discussion can be “won” (at least, in the feeble mind of the identity warrior) by responding to any point with “Ah yes, but you’re cis/white/male/all three”. Under these politics-for-kids rules, one need never lose an argument. One wins simply by being female/brown/queer/whatever. On this basis, the ciswhitemale must simply admit defeat and exit. “I’m a ciswhitemale and I’ll still be one at the end of this discussion, so there’s no point continuing, is there?”

The  new religion of “intersectionality” takes all this to new heights: for example, oppressed white feminists can tell privileged white men to shut up, but in turn can be told to shut up by black feminists who claim to be even more oppressed than they are. This would all be top-class entertainment if these halfwits weren’t slowly infiltrating the machinery of education, media and politics, and establishing their neo-theology as “fact”.

As well as playing the identity card, the identitarian has a second fallback gambit to avoid engaging in actual reasoned discussion: language policing. This is beautifully demonstrated by the reply to Erin:

 

 

 

So we discover that:

a) Men aren’t allowed to join this discussion, on account of them being men n all, and
b) There is a “recognised standard” for good and bad words – thus implying an elite that gets to decide which words other people are allowed to use. Who elects this elite? Don’t be silly, elites are self-appointed, not elected.

In this brave new world, meanings no longer matter. Only words matter. Trying to phrase a political point in the language of Identity is like tip-toeing through a minefield. Your entire argument will be declared null and void if you place a foot wrong. And since the rules keep changing, and only the most dedicated identitarian can be bothered to keep up, you’ll never get it right.

“DON’T SAY BLACK SAY PERSON OF COLOUR!” “DON’T SAY GAY SAY LGBTQ+!” “DON’T SAY PROSTITUTE, SAY SEX WORKER!” etc… (of course, this being nothing more than a childish game, the moment you master the words, they’ll change; see “coloured person – negro – afro-american – african american – person of colour” for a particularly circular example).

Erin concluded:

 

 

But of course – it’s simple courtesy to refer to people using their preferred words, if they have preferred words. But identity politics isn’t about courtesy – it’s about control. We’ve entered a back-to-front world in which people claim “oppression” simply in order to control and bully other people.

If feminists and race activists are good at this game, trans activists often take it to a surreal new level. A perfectly non-bigoted friend was recently screamed at (by a non-trans woman) for daring to ask genuine questions about trans people but phrasing the question wrongly. You can’t be told the answers, because you don’t know how to phrase the questions. It’s as if playground bullying and grown-up politics have suddenly merged – and perhaps they have.

It should be pointed that identity activists rarely represent their supposed constituency. Most women aren’t feminists, most black people choose not to be categorised as perpetual victims, and most trans people are perfectly OK with being asked questions about themselves, even if the language used is clumsy. And it’s been a long time since I met a real-life homosexual who felt represented by the “gay rights movement” (or whichever words it uses to describe itself these days).

Whatever the identity bullies might tell you, you have every right to use any word of your choosing. It’s preferable that you don’t use words in order just to hurt people’s feelings. But this policing of language is censorship, both in reality and intent.

The Far-Right, “Muslim Rape” Hoaxes, and Feminism

Currently circulating on social media: a video purporting to show a woman being attacked by a “Muslim rape gang”, somewhere in Europe. This video pops up repeatedly, often claimed to be in different locations. Its spread is orchestrated by far-right blogs, which may in turn be creations of the Russian state as part of Putin’s war on the EU and European stability. The claim is a hoax – the video in fact shows an attack on a woman by a Czech drug gang last May. The protagonist was jailed in December.

There is no accusation more potent than a rape allegation against “foreigners”. This taps deep into our primitive, evolved instincts; as I’ve written previously, the most valuable asset in any human society is its fertile women. Much of what is called “racism” actually stems from anger amongst men that “their women” may cross tribal lines to mate with outsiders. The loss of female mates from the tribe is the greatest loss of all. Thus, a stereotypical complaint about immigration is that “they come over here, take our women…”. When an accusation of rape is made against outsiders – whether true or false – the lynch mob is more than happy to spring into action. The idea that “our women” might voluntarily mate with foreigners is difficult to accept – far easier to believe that force was used.

Rape claims were a driving force behind the lynchings of black men in the US South in the early 20th century. Nobody knows how many of these claims were fabricated. But one can suspect that the proportion is high – after all, with lynch mobs on the loose, and no effective protection by the law, how many Southern black men would be likely to risk raping white women? This was demonstrated only recently, when a woman – Caroline Bryant Donham – admitted she had fabricated a rape allegation against a 14 year old black boy in 1955. The accused, Emmett Till, was lynched.

Foreigner rape claims are so powerful that they can even be utilised as a tool of war. During the 2003 Iraq War, a US soldier, Jessica Lynch, was famously captured by Iraqi forces. Rape claims abounded. It shows something about the human psyche (and the relative value put on male and female lives) that claims of rape against one woman aroused more anti-Arab emotion in America than dozens of male deaths in battle. The rape claims turned out to be false, but the propaganda helped rally American support for Bush’s war. As if to demonstrate the link between rape accusations and racism, two other female soldiers had also been captured: one black, and one native American. Unlike Lynch, neither became household names.

So it is unsurprising that, of all the accusations made against Muslim men in Europe by the far-right, rape allegations are the most popular. This formula has been reused and refined for a number of years. The English Defence League often focused on accusations against Pakistani men, while ignoring similar claims against white men. Their attitude seemed to be: rapes are OK, so long as “our tribe” is perpetrating them.

As racial tension rises in Europe, we must be extremely sceptical of rape allegations against “Muslim mobs”. A few days ago, the German newspaper Bild apologised for reporting an Arab “rape mob” in Frankfurt. The claims were entirely unfounded, and were the work of two people – probably far-right sympathisers.

The feminist movement has been culpable of aiding and abetting the far-right by also making false or exaggerated rape claims, though typically against all men as a group rather than immigrants. In recent years, some feminist commentators have deliberately stoked up fear of sexual violence, using fake statistics and unrepresentative anecdotes. The prevalence of sexual violence in the western world has, in fact, been falling for decades, rather than rising. This is inconvenient for a movement that claims ‘rape culture’ is a dangerous force and is turning men everywhere into dangerous brutes. The “campus rape” hoax has been a recent example – the media happily reported a fake epidemic of sexual violence on university campuses.

These claims are used to empower an increasingly intolerant feminist movement, which requires male evil for its continued existence. Further, there is good money for “women’s rights” organisations in false rape claims. Canadian columnist Margaret Wente has exposed the rape culture myth, and accused its proponents of being a ‘grievance industry’:

“The evidence is overwhelming. We are more enlightened now, and men – most men, anyway – behave much better. That is bad news for the grievance industry, which must stretch its definitions of assault and abuse to ridiculous extremes to keep its numbers up.”

The far-right has increasingly adopted feminist language and propaganda in its attempts to demonise Europe’s Muslim population. The fascists of the 1930s had a traditional view of women as mothers and home-makers. Today’s fascists stress how liberal they are, and use their supposed liberalism against Muslim migrants, accusing Muslims (mostly falsely) of not accepting European values such as women’s rights. This ignores, of course, the fact that women’s rights are almost as recent an innovation in the West as they are in the rest of the world.

We must demand proof rather than blindly accept far-right accusations of “Muslim rape”, or feminist rape-culture accusations against men in general. Among the strongest of our western values is the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In the specific case of rape, this value is under attack by fascists and feminists alike.

Podcast 15: Dr Eddie Fernandes on Swinging, Porn and Politics

A discussion with Dr Eddie Fernandes, a social psychologist at Barton College, North Carolina. We discuss his specialism, swinging, as well as our mutual horror at anti-sex feminism and the new-left attitudes towards race and racism.

Artefact | The death of kink?

I was interviewed by Nana Akua-Baah for Arfefact Magazine…

Jerry Barnett, free speech activist and author of Porn Panic! believes that the bill is only the beginning of other things to come: “There’s more to it than sex. Politics isn’t in a healthy direction at the moment and porn is a good excuse to introduce censorship by the back door without calling it censorship,” he said.

Source: Artefact | The death of kink?

Major kink site Fetlife Forced to Censor Content

We received news today that Fetlife.com, a cornerstone of the global kink community, has been forced to remove vast amounts of content in order to stay in business.

My book Porn Panic!, published last year, warns of an imminent attack on sexual freedom and free speech. These things don’t exist in a vacuum: they are proxies for liberties that have been taken for granted in the western world for decades. The sexual expression I defend isn’t that important in its own right: what’s important is that sexual expression is the stone on which wannabe dictators sharpen their knives.

Now, with the authoritarian Trump administration taking power, and the promise of Internet censorship coming to the UK this year, there can be little doubt where things are going. Only a couple of weeks ago, Backpage.com was bullied into closing down its adult services advertising in the United States. Now, the assault on Fetlife confirms the direction of travel. Hold onto your hats, because this is going to get very very rough, very very fast. To support this campaign against censorship, please donate or buy Porn Panic! and help spread the word.

Below is the full announcement issued by Fetlife this week:

John Baku @ Fetlife posts:

Changes
by JohnBaku

I have a lot to apologize for; I apologize for the cryptic announcement I made last Tuesday. I apologize for the deletion of 100s of groups and 1,000s of fetishes without any warning, let alone sufficient notice. I apologize for not making this announcement earlier and leaving everyone in the dark, and most importantly, I apologize for letting many of you down.

I wish we could have done things differently, but even upon reflection, I believe we did what we had to do to protect the community and FetLife with the information we had when we made each decision along the way.

Before making any decisions, we consulted with multiple parties. We consulted with the team, partners, financial institutions, the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom), the FSC (Free Speech Coalition), lawyers, and anyone else we thought might have insight for us.

So, why did we make the announcement last Tuesday? Why did we remove some of the content we removed over the last 3-4 days? And, why didn’t we delete some of the content a lot sooner?

Everything falls under one of three categories: financial risk, legal risk, and community risk.

Let’s first talk quickly about the financial risk and get it out of the way because I don’t want it to detract from the high priority issues i.e. the legal and community risks.

The Financial Risk
A merchant account is what allows us to process credit cards on FetLife. The ads you see on FetLife covers the cost of approximately 1/2 the cost of our servers and bandwidth – that’s it.

Your support pays for the other half of the servers, plus the team that keeps FetLife up and running, lawyers, accountants, software, etc. So your support pays for the vast majority of FetLife’s monthly expenses.

Hence, without a merchant account, FetLife runs at a loss every month – and we are not talking a couple of dollars a month, we are talking significant losses.

Last Tuesday we got a notice that one of our merchant accounts was shutting us down. One of the card companies contacted them directly and told the bank to stop processing for us. The bank asked for more information, but the only thing they could get from the card company was that part of it had to do with “blood, needles, and vampirism.”

Like me, you are probably thinking, but they have to give you a good reason? No, no they don’t. The only thing they have to do is protect their interests sadly.

Because we couldn’t get any more information than that, we had to act quickly and preemptively protect our other merchant account by making changes to our content guidelines. But since we were very much in the dark, we didn’t think it would be a good idea to go into any more detail than we did at that point.

Three days later, we get another notice, this time from our other merchant account. They got a similar call from the same card company, and they were asked to close our account. This time they were told it was for “Illegal or Immoral” reasons.

Both of the bank’s compliance departments thought it was prudent to close our accounts down even though they were only contacted by one of the card brands so not to risk being fined from both card brands.

The banks maintain a shared list that contains all merchant account closings. The card brand also required the banks to add us to the list which will make it tough for us to ever get a merchant account again, at least for the foreseeable future.

Hence we can no longer process credit cards on FetLife and will most likely not be able to for a while.

The Legal Risk
Over the last five days, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to multiple organizations, each with part of the puzzle.

There are numerous things at play here:

A highly publicized rape case in Australia involving a member of the community;
An organization that participated in the anti-porn bill that wants to see sites like FetLife taken off the internet;
Talk of reviving the obscenity task force in the US;
The Digital Economy bill in the UK that’s being debated currently;
BPjM in Germany; and
We’ve been one of the most liberal, if not the most liberal, adult site on the web which makes us the perfect target;
We can put our heads in the sand, but that is both naive and irresponsible. All of the above have real legal risks attached to them with potentially equally real consequences. Maybe not to you directly but it does to FetLife, the team behind FetLife, and myself.

The Community Risk
The one thing that bonds us all together is our love for the kinky community. Without the kinky community, without sites like FetLife, many of us would not have a place to call home, a place in which we are accepted and understood, and dare I say a place in which we feel free to be ourselves.

If we hope to win the war, if we want our society to be more accepting of us, then we can’t give them a reason to vilify us. People always need someone to blame, and we need to stop making ourselves the easy target.

On what seems like a daily basis, we hear of another atrocious sex or hate crime committed against a fellow friend. And for every story we hear, there are tens of thousands we never hear about. As a community, we need to stop turning a blind eye.

One of the ways to do that is through defining a better list of guidelines that we live by as a community.

Changes Ahead
At first, it bothered me that we would have to tighten our rules because I felt I was letting people down. But after discussing potential changes with the NCSF, CFP, lawyers, and our merchant providers, I couldn’t help but be excited for the community and FetLife’s future.

Maybe I’m just a naive optimist, but I believe this is an opportunity for us to set the bar higher. These changes affect many of us, to one degree or another, but I think the sacrifices some of us will have to make will be worth it in the grand scheme of things.

Both FetLife and the NCSF believe that the proposed changes will give us the opportunity to flourish as a community while better protecting ourselves from outside attack.

With the help of the NCSF, lawyers, partners, and merchant providers, we came up with the following pillars that will make up our guidelines:

Nothing non-consensual (abduction, rape, etc.)
Nothing that impairs consent (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
No permanent or lasting damage (snuff, lacerations, deep cutting, etc.)
No hate speech (Nazi roleplay, race play, etc.)
Nothing that falls under obscenity (incest, etc. )
These guidelines aren’t intended to be a negative comment against your kink or your fantasies. Some things we believe can be done ethically, like CNC or hypnosis, but they can also be considered nonconsensual in a legal context, and we have to take into account the opinions of the authorities and merchant accounts as well to not only survive but thrive as a community.

Non-Consensual Deletion of Content from FetLife
Why did we act without first announcing changes and without first notifying anyone who would be affected? I know many of you might not believe me when I say this, but it was for our protection.

Yes, it was mainly for FetLife’s and my protection, and we had to act swiftly. One could easily argue that we didn’t move swift enough and that I shouldn’t even make this post because something in it might incriminate FetLife or me.

It’s always been a delicate balancing act. We try our best to balance the needs of individual members, the community as a whole, the team, and FetLife itself.

Everyone’s needs are not always balanced equally. Historically we’ve sided more with individual members needs, but what we’ve learned from recent events is that we need to start putting more weight on the safety of the community, FetLife, and the team behind FetLife – including my personal safety.

Next Steps
We are still going through FetLife to see if anything else needs to be removed or cleaned up. While going through this exercise, we are using the different situations we encounter to help us better define where we need to draw a line.

We hope to be able to publish our new content guidelines shortly as well as implement changes to caretaking so that we don’t ever find ourselves in a similar situation again.

After that, we need to work to repair any relationships we might have ruined with members both inside and outside the community.

First they came for the pornography…

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