A few weeks ago, I posted about being vetted for a play party and the organizers declining my request to join, and how that made me feel. Well, recently on Fetlife there was a rather insightful post about some racist imagery at the party, and the resulting discussion featured an awful lot of virtue signaling and an awful lot of defensiveness on the part of the party organizers, who happen to be white.
This is really hard to talk about without coming across as virtue signaling myself (and I can’t promise that it won’t happen somewhere in this post), so let me just say this: I knew there was racist imagery at the party because I was warned about it. I was also warned, in vague terms, that slurs were sometimes used at the party. I believe the exact phrase was “people aren’t careful about their language.” Those really should have been red flags that I shouldn’t attend this party to begin with. However, I hate feeling excluded from things, so my post about it was about my feelings of exclusion, not about how I shouldn’t have wanted to be part of a group that accepted racist imagery and language as a cost of doing business.
That said, I try my best to minimize harm to others (except consensually), and I try my best to be inclusive. I’m the first to admit that my writing could be more inclusive of persons of color, but when I do include them, I do my best to be respectful, realistic, and honest. I do the same when I write trans characters. But I make mistakes, and when I make mistakes, I’m more than happy to own up to them.
But more than owning up to them, I try to do better. And that’s one of the most important things: recognizing you made a mistake, admitting you made a mistake, and then trying to do better next time. It’s happened in both of my current relationships, and I always try to do better next time. I may not succeed, but I try.
What don’t I do? I don’t get defensive. Even if I’m not in the wrong, getting defensive just creates confrontation where it doesn’t need to be. I spent a very long first marriage learning that lesson the hard way, and with the help of my second wife I put those lessons into practice. Now that that marriage has ended (more than two years ago, actually), and now that my rebound relationship has also ended, I feel like I’m much better equipped and much more willing to stop and think, to see things from the other person’s point of view, to determine thoughtfully what my responses should be. I’m not perfect, but I try.
Getting defensive just confirms that you know you’re in the wrong and you don’t want to admit it. And when a white person gets defensive about holding a BDSM event in a location with racist imagery — in an area that is more than 50 percent non-white, even if the actual town where you hold it is (a) mostly white and (b) is sadly not offended by said imagery — they clearly know they’re in the wrong, and they just don’t care. I mean, the party organizers literally warned me that this imagery was there — why would you warn me if you didn’t think I would be offended? And if I, a white person, would be offended, imagine how a non-white person would feel.
So go ahead and hold your party at a place with racist imagery. It lets everyone know how you — and your party attendees — really feel. Just, don’t get butthurt when there’s blowback.