(Image courtesy of XKCD. A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, maths, and language.)
As Kaelah pointed out in Kink, Discussions and Emotions, we had a fair number of online debates in the spanking community in recent months. A few more than normal perhaps - is it the time of year for that, or just coincidence? Today, I would like to share with you my personal views about the matter of online debates in general.
There is, of course, the famous dictum that arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics: even if you win, you are still retarded. I don't entirely agree with that. You can find discussions on the internet that are intelligent, informative and respectful. Most, however, are not, and that is where the saying comes from. It all depends on who is doing the discussing. If you have a bunch of people who are classy and mature enough so that they are not looking to "win" every argument, your chances for an intelligent debate are good. Indy, Mija, Kaelah, Paul and I managed a debate like that recently, about Spanking Tube's policy of keeping M/M content separate. Even though we had to agree to disagree in the end (Kaelah and I didn't think Spanking Tube was worthy of as much condemnation as the others gave it), it was always friendly and a very interesting discussion overall.
Should one ever debate with people who are not classy, but obviously stupid and / or mean-spirited? That is another question entirely. Is that worth it, if nothing else, to publicly counter their misguided ideas? Or is it always a complete waste of time? Dan of Spanking Blog thinks it is the latter. Here is what he had to say in a recent comment he made here:
"I start from the premise that the internet is full of sexually broken people and ethically broken people. This, in most of ten years of moderating blog comments, I am convinced is the case. [...] I just don't think there's much point in engaging with broken people. They never change their opinions, it leads to flame wars, and I'm not sure it does a lot of good with the mass of silent readers, either. Ultimately this isn't a 'you shouldn't' claim on my part; it's just a 'I generally don't, because it strikes me as a waste of time.' There's a saying attributed to Robert Heinlein: 'Never try to teach a pig to sing ... it wastes your time and annoys the pig.'"
Kaelah, on the other hand, is of the opinion that it is necessary to engage with strange and / or stupid people, because if you don't, you abandon the field to them. So if you care about the subject that is being discussed, you have an obligation to speak up. My own position on this lies somewhere between Dan and Kaelah. I am going to recount how I arrived at it emotionally. That requires me to go back a few years in time:
The most emotionally draining debate I have ever been involved in, in the spanking community, happened in early 2009. I had recently made my first "professional" spanking film, as a guest top for Mood Pictures. I had written an extensive behind-the-scenes report on the blog and I also mentioned it on the British Spanking Forum. One poster there was evidently so shocked by looking at Mood's site that she wrote a long (2.000 words), rambling, furious post condemning them and myself. Most of it was just a rant about how horrified she was to discover that such videos even existed, how no adjective could describe her disgust, how she felt the urge to format her hard drive after just looking at some trailers. The one argument she used, if you can call it that, was that any model willing to do such a video surely had to be mentally ill, that therefore, the videos were not consensual "since the people involved are not fully mentally healthy", and that anyone watching such stuff had to have an even worse mental illness.
I had seen similar rants before, but this one was even dumber and more vicious than the norm. The poster freely admitted that she was "not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or even remotely associated with the mental health profession", but insisted that her assertions had to be right because they were based on "common sense". It really was pathetically stupid. A whole bunch of me-too-sheep quickly jumped on to express their full agreement with the original poster, and before long, the thread was ablaze with all the usual urban legends about the exploitation of starving, drugged Eastern European girls...
I knew it probably would not do any good, but since I had been called out by name, I replied to the thread. I did so in a consciously polite and diplomatic manner, saying that I could understand how not everyone likes severe caning videos and how some people might be totally turned off by them, but that this was a matter of taste and that the assertions which had been made about the moral aspects were unfounded. The videos were, in fact, fully consensual, there was no exploitation of desperate poverty involved, most models were people who wanted rather than needed extra money, they knew what they were doing and they were treated respectfully on the set. In light of this, I concluded, the OP's theory about all the models being mentally ill did simply not have any basis in fact. Neither did her theory that only a sociopath could enjoy such videos. Many kinky people play hard and like hard videos, and they are nice, caring people. Anyone who knows me in person will tell you that consent, decency and respect for the spankees are of the utmost importance for me.
But, as expected, it really did not do much good. In fact, the personal attacks from the OP and others intensified, calling me a "psychopath", a "sick, sick man" and (my favourite) a "true Teutonic demagogue". Some accused me of just being on an advertising mission for Mood, as if I got a profit from every video they sold (I obviously don't). My arguments were largely ignored or misrepresented. Because I was obviously a bad guy, I was not worth listening to. They did not feel like they had to reply to the content of my posts or even read them. Eventually, after wasting far too much time repeating myself and trying to explain myself, I resigned myself to the fact that it was futile and I just gave up on the discussion.
It wasn't all bad. I received a good deal of support as well, posters agreeing with my point of view, saying that they found the generalisations of the OP judgmental and offensive. In the end, it was probably a fifty-fifty split, pretty remarkable for a forum that did not usually cater to "severe" tastes. I also received messages in private, encouraging me to not be bothered by the people attacking me, who were apparently known for being insufferable, anyway. I would have been even more thankful if the private messengers had come out into the open, but I could understand that not everyone wanted to make themselves a target.
On balance, though, it was a very hurtful and draining experience for me. Not so much because of the personal attacks per se. Actually, I regretted that some of the most colourful insults (like the "true Teutonic demagogue") were deleted by the moderators. I would have been happy to see them remaining as a testament to who was really behaving psychotically here. No, what really hurt me was simply the stupidity of it all, the disappointment on a human level. The fact that a whole mob of people - spankos, who should have known a little bit about the dangers of prejudice and the merits of tolerance - was willing to jump on me based on totally faulty assumptions, without even listening to what I had to say for myself. When so many people are behaving in such a painfully stupid, painfully judgmental way, it just bothers me. I mean, it just undermines your faith in democracy, doesn't it? Makes you wonder whether universal suffrage is really such a good idea.
I can brush off name-calling, but what infuriates me a great deal is when people just keep ignoring or misrepresenting what I write. I don't expect anyone to agree with my point of view. But if you are going to reply to me, you might at least do me the courtesy of reading, and trying to understand, what I actually write. I remember how, in another discussion about severe play, I probably explained five or six separate times how my own moral position was that 1) all participants in BDSM have to be consenting adults, and 2) no permanent physical damage must be inflicted. And still, several pages into the thread, people kept going: "But OMG, what about mutilation and murder? WE HAVE TO DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE!" So I resigned myself to the fact that I was talking to idiots, and I gave up on that discussion, too.
What helped me to put everything into perspective, and to put it all behind me emotionally, was the realisation that going through a series of painful, frustrating discussions is an experience which most performers in spanking videos make almost as soon as they appear on the scene. It almost seems like an initiation ritual of sorts. In chapter seven of her autobiography Dances With Werewolves, Niki Flynn recounts how she had just made her first film The Exchange Student and started chatting about it on online forums: "Most of the members were friendly and welcoming and many were interested in hearing about the shoot. I loved reliving the experience, so I was happy to talk about it. What I wasn't prepared for were the attacks." Some people would confront Niki with all kinds of wild claims and accusations. How her fantasies were sick and how the films she made promoted violence towards women. How the canings in Lupus videos were all fake, anyway, just make-up. How she was not really a spanko at all, but just a publicity whore making videos for the fame and money. Et cetera.
Other performers in spanking videos talked to me about similar experiences of theirs. It always seems to be the same arc. You make your first film. You are still brimming from the experience and start talking about it on forums or in chats. Most people are friendly, asking you about the shoot and wanting to know more. A few attack you, though, and there is always at least one who writes a lengthy diatribe about how you are a psychopath, a whore or generally the scum of the earth. That takes you by surprise, it hurts, and for a while, you focus only on the negative stuff. Eventually, you put it into perspective and you just divorce yourself from it emotionally.
With hindsight, it occurred to me that the OP and the others attacking me at British Spanking had not really been talking about me at all. They had a certain preconceived notion of what someone who watches severe caning videos (or, even worse, participates in them!) must be like, and that preconceived notion was impossible to shake. I had to be a psychopath, could not possibly be anything else. No matter what I said or did, there was nothing that would have changed their opinion. In their minds, liking these videos and being a nice guy were simply irreconcilable. It was beyond the horizon of their imagination.
Once I realised that, any sense of anger or hurt that I still carried inside of me after the discussion just evaporated. I felt a sense of pity for these people (honest, non-condescending pity) because they were so limited. But I did not feel any anger towards them anymore. Moreover, my impulse to publicly confront their claims evaporated as well.
When I had replied to threads which claimed that severe caning videos were immoral, or exploitative, or fake, I had never done so because I honestly expected to convince the people who started such threads. I had replied to them because I feared that, if I did not, their nonsensical ideas would spread and other people would believe them. So I addressed every such post, every false claim made in them, every flawed argument... It took me a while to realise what an overkill it was. The point is, people are going to believe what they believe. Some people are going to have an informed opinion, others are going to believe nonsense. It is not my job to correct all the latter or to address every single nonsensical claim that is made somewhere on the web.
If people want to inform themselves about Eastern European CP videos, they can read my behind-the-scenes reports and those of other performers who have worked there, like Adele Haze or the aforementioned Miss Flynn. If people want to find out whether I am a psychopath or not, they can read my blog where I have written a ton of stuff over the past three years about who I am, what I do, my thoughts and feelings. It's all on the record for those who are interested. And if some people, on the other hand, choose to persist with chatter about evil / mentally deranged / fake caning videos, that is their prerogative. I can't be bothered with it and I honestly don't care about it anymore.
So, these days, I just ignore blatantly stupid opinions. I only respond to them when they are voiced by a commenter on my blog (which happens extremely rarely, because I have an intelligent audience here) or if they are voiced by a commenter in my immediate "neighbourhood", on the blogs which I visit regularly (also very rare, because the blogs I like have generally intelligent audiences as well). I care about the intellectual environment in my neighbourhood. As for the big wide web, a lot of nonsense is being talked there in many places, and will forever be talked there in many places. Not my concern, not my job to dispel it. Leave it to the people who live there.
Anyway, that's my take on it. If you like, share your personal views about the whole subject. Did you ever get stressed out by one discussion you were involved in in particular? Did you emotionally divorce yourself from it, and if so, how? Do you still get involved in weirdo debates, or can't you be bothered with them anymore? Let us know your thoughts and experiences.