Q: What to do if attacked by Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks?

Elizabeth's picture

A: Consider an unlikley strategy. Identify common goals and engage!

Margaret Brooks and Donna M. Hughes recently attacked Maymay, originator of the KinkForAll unconference model, in a bulletin published by their organization, Citizens Against Trafficking (CAT), which Maymay suggests is more suitably named Citizens Against Sexual Freedom and Discussion (CASFD). The bulletin [1] uses a technique typical of CAT CASFD: Take out-of-context statements and blend them with factual inaccuracies to produce a piece of writing capable of creating (or sustaining) irrational moral panic on the part of those who read it.

Rather than responding similarly, Maymay invites Margaret Brooks and Donna Hughes to discuss with him the issues around the goals they share, namely, the creating and sustaining of communities that are sexually safe places. Of course I have my doubts. I suspect that while they agree on the importance of community - and sexual - safety they do not agree on the definition of safety (not as it relates to community nor as it relates to sexuality). While Maymay invites Hughes and Brooks to discuss ways to further enhance the safety of events like KinkForAll (which already provides safe space for inquiry and education around sexuality), I don't imagine Hughes and Brooks think that an event like KinkForAll can ever be safe. Still, I hope they accept the invitation and engage in the discussion. If we can identify areas of common interest we maximize our chances of successfully creating more inclusive and respectful communities, societies and cultures.

I want take a moment to thank Maymay for his courage in writing so honestly and freely about the ways in which his experience of sexuality affects all aspects of his life. Many aspects of individual difference are stigmatized. Whether it be sexuality, mental or physical abilities, educational or occupational achievements, much of the distance between us comes from the shame or stigma associated with our differences.

In the second paragraph of the CAT CASFD bulletin Donna Hughes and Margaret Brooks refer to Maymay as a middle-school dropout with a history of bi-polar mental illness. You can practically hear in their tone the glee they felt when they took his statements out of context and used them in an attempt to discredit him. They add that "He says he learned about sex by watching pornography as a child" for added effect. But I don't think that Maymay's statements discredit him at all. In its proper context the statement about bipolar disorder speaks to his ingenuity and thoughtfulness when, after being diagnosed in his early teens he created an award-winning web site about adolescence and mental health. Regarding that statement, the one about pornography, and others, Maymay's willingness to say out loud (in the contexts where he actually said them) things that others are afraid to say is a credit to him. It speaks to his desire to create a more open and respectful world, one in which stigma and secrecy do not hurt so many people.

I have written before that I think personal blogs, including personal sex blogs, have the potential to be powerful consciousness-raising devices.[2] I think Maymay's work supports this assertion and I applaud his courage in inviting reasoned and thoughtful discussion of such personal and difficult issues.

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[1] Brooks, Margaret and Donna Hughes, "Events for Kinky Sex & Sadomasochists Open To Children," Citizens Against Trafficking bulletin, March 20, 2010.

[2]Wood, Elizabeth Anne. 2008. "Consciousness Raising 2.0: Sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons," Feminism and Psychology, 18:4, pp. 480-487 DOI: 10.1177/0959353508095530

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