Art by Kott0n_K4ndy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MTSR #5: Cleanliness is Next to Hawtliness

Once upon a very long time ago, I was asked a question about a “proper” way to clean toys. Yay for questions! While “my way” is by no means the only or best way to minimize the risks of accidentally giving your play partners 'extra bonuses' when you play, in my not-at-all humble opinion the best way involves either getting new toys for each person you play with, or having an autoclave in your kitchen. If you don't happen to be made of that much money, feel free to try my way, if you like. I won't even charge you a user's fee.

A brief little blurb about pathogens, since this is obviously what we're trying not to pass on (I suppose it's __possible__ that pregnancy can occur by sharing a flogger in some very intimate ways, but I'm going to let someone else talk about ways of preventing that, okay?) Most (not all! Hep C, for example, can live all safe and happy on surfaces for up to four frigging days!) but most pathogens do not survive for very long outside their host body _unless_, and pay close attention here because this is the point of this paragraph, they have some small part of that body to keep them all safe and cozy and warm. That small part is usually a bodily fluid like blood, or mucus, or semen, etc... Think of that fluid as acting like the little bag of aquarium water you bring a goldfish home in, except that it's a bag for chlamydia instead.

The goal when you're cleaning toys that might break skin or otherwise come into contact with broken skin or other high risk areas is actually two mini-goals: We want to remove and/or kill off all the pathogens that we can, and then we want to make the area as toxic and inhospitable for whatever sneaky little buggers we might have missed so that they too will die a horrible, horrible death.

Now, I'm a bit lazy, so if, say, I want to use an insertable on more than one person, I'll generally just wrap it up in a condom. Otherwise, my method for cleaning toys is as follows:

1. Wash it down with a foaming, mild antibacterial soap. I like Softsoap antibacterial. If there are nooks or crannies in it, consider using a fingernail brush to get into the hideyholes. Rinse or wipe down well.

2. Spray or wipe down with a 10% peroxide solution.

3. Let dry completely. Yes, Virginia, this is a separate step. Allowing the peroxide to evaporate is the way to make sure it's done it's job. If we remember our little terrifying lesson from the first paragraph, the longer the better here.  Like, as in, days longer.

4. Rinse well or wipe down with baby wipes to remove any residue that could irritate the skin. Please note that this is my step _#4_, baby wipes alone do not come anywhere near a safe enough cleaning method for toys that could potentially create fluid exchange.

Ta-da! That's it! I deliberately didn't say that this is a way to sterilize your toys. Nothing short of that kitchen autoclave I mentioned above really is. But I've done quite a bit of research, and this is the method that stuck with me as a good balance between being pretty dang effective and also fairly easy to do.

“But Mad!” you say, “Some of the toys that I want to clean are leather! Won't the peroxide dry out my leather and make it all yukky and cracky?”

Honestly, peroxide will dry out leather, and this will lead to it becoming damaged, but if I had a leather singletail that had drawn blood I'd still do all the steps listed above to it, *despite* it being made of leather. That being said, as soon as the peroxide evaporated, I'd be all over that whip to reverse the damage I might have done to it. For me, that would mean a nice lathering with saddle soap (the Dove bar of leather soaps) and a finish up with some leather conditioner. It's worth it to me to make sure I'm not adding any special treats to my partner's play experience.

If I may for a very quick moment before I leave you today return to my chlamydia-in-vaginal-fluid-as-goldfish-in-bag-of-aquarium-water analogy, goldfish may live for a while in there, but at least it's not as long as they would if you brought them home and put them in your nice, big aquarium with food and a filter and maybe a cute little pirate ship at the bottom. If you're on the fence, and wondering whether you need to go through my 4 steps of superhawt cleanliness, consider how long it's going to be before that toy is going to be used on someone else. If it never is, then leave that blood drop caked on there for all I care, use it as a badge of honour! If the answer's in two weeks, then maybe wiping it down carefully and hanging it out to dry is enough. If it's going to touch someone else later tonight, you bet your ass that you should do all 4 steps. And also know that even those may not be enough.   That is if, of course, if you want my learned advice. If not, then why are you reading this article anyway?

Yours in squeaky clean hawt kinkiness until next time,

Mad the Safety Ranger

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MTSR 4.5: Dealing With Disclosure (RE: BDSM and Abuse)

I had the pleasure of checking out a new blog for the first time the other day and was gratified to see that the first post I came across was an advice piece, discussing what you could do if someone you know is being abused in a BDSM context. The author described what he would do, and has done, as a response to a disclosure. The gist of it seemed to me to be that he would get a written record of the events, verify that it can legally be classified as abuse, check to see if any other people have claimed that this person has assaulted or abused them, and if so, whether or not they have pressed charges against him or her. If he could find corroboration for the victim’s claims that they have been abused, then publicly (within his local scene) he would state his concerns about this person’s potentially abusive behaviour.

 The goal, as far as I can tell, is to keep people in your kinky community safe from potentially abusive behaviour, and to ensure that no one is unwittingly exposed to someone that you know has been abusive in the past. I am, of course, all in favour of not tolerating abusive behaviour, and of not hiding or protecting people who behave in this completely unacceptable fashion. You can find the original post here

It has me mightily conflicted. In fact, it had me thinking pretty hard about whether or not I want to reply at all. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am far too fond of the sound of my own voice, and the look of my own written words, so clearly the impulse to stay mum on the subject has been overruled! Here’s why the choice was a tricky one, though:
   I am glad that someone is discussing “breaking the silence” when it comes to abusive situations in BDSM relationships.  (I won’t get into what constitutes abuse in a BDSM context here, but if you’d like to see my opinion, feel free to take a gander at my post on the matter) The absolute WORST thing that we as a kinky community can do is to pretend that abuse just doesn’t ever happen here. I am glad that this post is up, and hope that it gets people thinking about what we can do to make sure that we have zero tolerance for abuse in our midst.

That being said, if someone in my local area disclosed to me that they felt that they were being abused in their current BDSM relationship, I would do none of the things listed in the post above. Not. A. One.  Now, I’m not saying that what I would do is the “right” thing, and I’m certainly not saying that the approach detailed in this post is wrong.  Not by a long shot. What I think I can do, though, is to offer my perspective as a woman, a feminist, a switch, and someone with a background in sexual assault and domestic violence activism and crisis intervention.
        Author’s note: During the course of this article, I will be using the feminine pronoun to refer to the person disclosing during the rest of this post. This is not because I think that men cannot be victims of abuse. It is mostly for ease of communication, and partly because statistically speaking, women are five times more likely to be a victim of dating violence or sexual assault than men are. I will be using the masculine pronoun for the abuser. Again, while statistics are on my side, (98% in this case!) I don’t discount that women can also be abusers. Consider this a single example, not a generalization,  if you would be so kind.
                     My personal  philosophy, when hearing a disclosure of assault or abuse, is not to question whether or not they are lying, or whether or not it is legally classifiable as abuse.  If someone is choosing to tell me about their experience, I choose to take her account at face value. Chances are good that I am the first person that she has told, and undoubtedly my reaction will affect how or if she chooses to disclose to other people. I have the luxury of not being in any way shape or form involved in the criminal justice system. I don’t need any corroborating evidence, I don’t need to decide whether her treatment is harassment (a civil rights violation) or assault (a criminal offense). Because I am free of all that, I can simply be someone who will listen—really listen— to her. If I do nothing else but I’m able to convey to her the messages “I believe you,” and “it’s not your fault,” then I will have done enough.  If you think those things are self-evident, then consider how many times you’ve heard statements like “she’s just mad because he dumped her, so she’s lying about him to get even.” Or “If things were so bad, why didn’t she just leave?” or “if she hadn’t gotten drunk, or worn those clothes, then she wouldn’t have gotten raped.” We live in a culture of victim blaming, and slut shaming, and that isn’t even ACCOUNTING for the stigma that people who practice BDSM face from society at large and law enforcement in particular.
      I have mentioned that I’m a switch. As a switch, I have my “toppy” moments, and especially in those moments I’m not immune to what I like to call “White Knight-itis.” I’ve had impulses that have ranged from wanting to show up on his doorstep with a baseball bat, through whisking her away right then and there to somewhere he can never find her or hurt her, to shouting his name from every kinky rooftop I can find so that no one falls for his shit ever again. In other words, I’ve wanted to sweep in, take control, and save the day. It’s very, very tempting, but I never do.
     You see, abuse is all about power. Not the delightful game of power exchange, freely offered and respectfully taken, but about forcibly and non-consensually changing the situation until the abuser has all the power and the abused has none. And for her to begin to really, truly heal, she needs to wrest that power back. That doesn’t come from my swooping in and saving the day.  That comes from her swooping in and saving her own day.

 With this in mind I deliberately push all white-knightly impulses away and instead I create an empowering environment for her to work in. I will help her determine what her options are, but I deliberately do not offer an opinion about which option she should take. The ONLY time that I will break that rule I set for myself is if she or someone else is in imminent, serious danger, if I think that she will seriously hurt herself, or if this situation is actively endangering a child. Those are deal breakers and I will intervene if she won’t take definitive action. Period. Fortunately I haven’t yet encountered any of those situations. I’m up-front about the fact that those are my exceptions, though— my “hard limits,” so to speak.

If she is considering reporting the abuse to the police, I will try and help her understand what the process will be like, and what she will have to do. If she think that it is important for members of the local community to be warned about his behaviour (especially likely if she knows that he has hurt others), then I will help her come up with a plan of action. The key, for me, is to show her that she has options, and choices, and to help empower her to take the actions that she feels are the right ones for her at that particular point in time. As much as good tops can seem psychic at times, no one will ever know what is right for her better than she does. And as much as I can feel concerned about others who might fall prey to the same thing, this is not my story to share, and at this particular moment, the person who is most important is the person I’m talking to. I choose not to take any steps to protect others at the expense of taking away what precious little power she feels she has left.

That being said, I’m not a robot, and I can’t promise not to actively cheer (with virtual pom-poms) if she decides to take steps to make sure the bastard is locked up or banned from of ClubKinkyHawtSexiness for life! The key word, though, is choose. She has to choose it. This is her story, and her battle, and I will not fight it for her. That is *my* choice, and it’s a personal one. If someone discloses to you, then you will have to make your own choices about how to handle it, but hopefully I’ve helped you see that there are more ways than one for you to do so.

Mad the Safety Ranger Out.