Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Safety Net

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  • James Butler,

    It doesn’t cease to matter just because you can’t punch people in the face over the internet. (You can’t. Seriously, you can’t.)

    You know what? There's a business model for the new economy right there.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    So do people adjust their behaviour to a "level of risk" depending on the environment. Not just are they more open in some "safer" environments but rather do we each have a level of risk we actively want to take. So in a safer environment we push the boundaries to achieve our desired risk level?

    The other part of this may be that for some people the kind of risk on the internet is much greater. You are much more likely to be called an idiot on the internet. If being called an idiot is the most scary thing for you then the internet is a much more dangerous place than the "real world". I know people who would much rather be punched in the face than have an idea exposed as incorrect.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I know people who would much rather be punched in the face than have an idea exposed as incorrect.

    I think this is common enough - it's probably the root cause of all armed conflict.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Not just are they more open in some "safer" environments but rather do we each have a level of risk we actively want to take. So in a safer environment we push the boundaries to achieve our desired risk level?

    That is a really interesting question, and given it's about human behaviour, the answer is almost certainly, 'for some people, yes'.

    I suspect people would find the proposition more acceptable if you phrased it as "a level of risk we're actively prepared to take". Which involves a certain degree of sophistry.

    I worked with a woman who, in a relatively closed, safe web community, simply wouldn't communicate with any of the men. She perceived that as a level of risk she wasn't prepared to take. So she would see my willingness to engage with men I didn't know as a risk-taking behaviour.

    If being called an idiot is the most scary thing for you then the internet is a much more dangerous place than the "real world". I know people who would much rather be punched in the face than have an idea exposed as incorrect.

    I would assume (always dangerous) that kind of person is less likely to have identifiers which would lead to them being automatically excluded or scorned in a public environment. They're not a Muslim in a supposedly-Christian country, etc. One of the scariest things I've had to do this year is find a medical professional I could trust in a context where I would have to reveal my sub identity. No, I don't like being called an idiot. It's quite a lot scarier to feel that I might not get fair, adequate medical treatment.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    So do people adjust their behaviour to a “level of risk” depending on the environment.

    Completely. One of the things currently exercising the Women of Wellington is this delightful story in the Dom Post. (Deborah's excellent analysis of why it's problematic here, so we don't have to litigate it all over again.

    The comments are predictably victim-blamey. I'd love to be able to go on there and say "You know what? The way the police have described that assault is very similar to something that happened to me, relatively recently. In my house. By someone I know. So, would you all like to weigh in on how "common sense" would have kept me safe? How that relates to property theft or (my favourite) walking in South Auckland covered in swastikas? Or would you like to think about the fact that your arguments are bullshit, and directly related to why most victims of such attacks don't report them?"

    I've said this basic thing on Twitter, where I was slightly uncomfortable. I'm even less comfortable saying it here, cos it is way more public. But while I would love to, there's no way in hell I am leaving that comment on Stuff. It's not worth the risk to my mental health.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Thing is that the risk assessment is two-way. People who behave badly online - your persistent propositioner, Kiwiblog trolls, geeks flaming each other over minor differences between Linux distros - feel empowered to do this because it is safe for them. The person hitting on you (hopefully) knows that he/she couldn't get away with that for long IRL, because their own social safety would be compromised.

    In the end, an online community sets its boundaries by (often) implicit consensus just like a "real" community; but it certainly seems that the default in both cases, without active moderation (or in the case of real life, decades of social and political action) the default is safety for those with power to exercise their power.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    n00b camping? I learned something today.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    feel empowered to do this because it is safe for them.

    Absolutely. And I'm now considering the idea that the job of active moderation is to shift the balance of power. So a 'safe space' is safe for the people who (actively, as a community) make it. A sex-pos feminist Safe Space is not going to be "safe" for an MRA. Even when you ban particular types of behaviour, you're shifting the power from "those who are prepared to flame" to "those who can deliver the barbedest of complisults".

    Also, I think it's important to note that just because someone feels threatened, that doesn't actually mean they're being threatened. Our ability to assess risk is actually pretty bloody terrible. Like that article Megan's talking about. You'd never guess from the piece, or the comments, or pretty much anything else that men are more likely to be assaulted on the street by strangers than women are.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Our ability to assess risk is actually pretty bloody terrible.

    Hence the need for an Internet Face-Punching Service. People's risk-assessment abilities would improve quite quickly methinks.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    One of the scariest things I've had to do this year is find a medical professional I could trust in a context where I would have to reveal my sub identity.

    That must have been very hard indeed. I'm curious whether you ended up with a man or a woman?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    Hence the need for an Internet Face-Punching Service.

    *knockknockknock*

    "Hello?"

    "Yeah, hi, are you 'libman496nz?"

    "Um, yeah..."

    "And did you say, 'Not that it's her fault or anything but she made the decision to be out alone at 2am, and she was probably drunk and dressed like a slag, I'm JUST SAYING she has to take some responsibility!'"

    "Well... well, yeah, but..."

    *Thwap* "Have a nice day!"

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm curious whether you ended up with a man or a woman?

    A woman. I don't know that it would have made all that much difference. She was not... hugely comfortable or supportive, but she wasn't actively obstructive, either.

    In the US, where communities are bigger by dint of sheer numbers, this is the kind of information that gets passed through kink communities and websites: kink-aware doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors. It does happen here too: I got a GP recommendation rather after the fact, but it's harder.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    So do people adjust their behaviour to a “level of risk” depending on the environment

    There is a very interesting book by Gerald Wilde called Target Risk, which talks about this at length and calls it 'risk homeostasis'. Amongst a number of examples it presents a study where half a fleet of Munich taxis had anti-lock brakes while the other half did not. The study found that the accident rate was the same because the drivers adjusted their behaviour to compensate for the extra safety aforded by the ABS. In another traffic related example the book discusses how numerous studies have found that the installation of traffic lights has no affect on the accident frequency at the intersections concerned.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Roger,

    'risk homeostasis'

    That's kind of the thing I was getting at. Rather than Megan's point about not daring to enter the stuff comments, a sentiment clearly based on intelligence rather than fear, but instead suggesting that a person might naturally adopt set level of risk regardless of the absolute level of risk.

    That may not make sense (heh, may) so for example say Emma* happened to find herself in a knitting circle she would adopt a behaviour that shocked 70% of the participants, like by saying dammit when she dropped a stitch. But when in her local S&M dungeon would shock 70% of the participants by saying ... er I'm not really sure I know and certain I don't want to know.

    The idea is rather than finding a community where she can be herself and not shock her friends she has a natural desire to be a certain level of shocking.

    *totally fictitious character of course

    This also relates to David's column about bike helmets where drivers give a cyclist without a helmet more space - because like they think the helmet will help when they run the cyclist over with their 1 tonne car.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But when in her local S&M dungeon would shock 70% of the participants by saying …

    "So I was at my knitting circle yesterday..."

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol, in reply to Emma Hart,

    One of the scariest things I've had to do this year is find a medical professional I could trust in a context where I would have to reveal my sub identity. No, I don't like being called an idiot. It's quite a lot scarier to feel that I might not get fair, adequate medical treatment.

    I don't understand this.

    My simplistic world view is fucking me up again. Shouldn't doctors just do doctoring and shut the fuck up with judgey bullshit? I mean they don't even bother telling me to sort out my digusting fat body, which seems much more likely to hurt me than how I fuck.

    Is it something that's bitten you before, or is it more of a general fear thing?

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As a white male who's been writing on the internet under his own name for ever, risk in this context isn't much of a factor for me.

    The exception? Sometimes, feminist blog discussions. That's the only time where I can be interested in the discussion, feel I have something to contribute -- and not do so.

    That was underlined when one time I did comment in good faith on part of a post and quickly found myself in an unpleasant confrontation where I ended up being abused for declining to be abusive in response (which would, of course have been a truly fucking terrible idea). It caused problems for my friends and made me feel unhappy and embarrassed.

    It's not much of a risk compared to what others face (reputational, maybe?) but it was enough to make me wary of going there again.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also: most-commonly cited reason for wanting to contribute to PAS discussions, but not doing so?

    People tell me they're anxious about looking stupid, or at least insufficiently clever.

    It's actually a bit of a pain for me, because the people who say this are perfectly clever. They're just over-thinking it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    As a white male who’s been writing on the internet under his own name for ever, risk in this context isn’t much of a factor for me.

    The exception? Sometimes, feminist blog discussions. That’s the only time where I can be interested in the discussion, feel I have something to contribute – and not do so.

    Have you ever been tempted to break out a pseudonym?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    anxious about looking stupid

    You get used to it, trust me.

    It's actually why I love Emma's blog so much - I feel stupider here than most places. That sounds odd but when you say something stupid here you usually learn something and you generally don't get abused in the process.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Morgan Nichol,

    Shouldn't doctors just do doctoring and shut the fuck up with judgey bullshit?

    Say (and this is an entirely hypothetical situation for me) I need treatment for injuries sustained in a BDSM session. Shouldn't happen in the normal course of things, but even with the best of intentions, things go wrong sometimes. Or I need a physical exam for something else, and it's going to make bruising obvious. My GP may come to the conclusion that I'm being physically abused, particularly if they're not very aware of BDSM practice. I don't want to end up with the cops knocking on the door. In some places (some US states, England) the police can press charges even if the "victim" objects.

    Or, say I'm having dealings with the family court, and I'm ordered into relationship counselling, and there are custodial arrangements at stake. How much do I not want that counsellor to consider me a lesser person or an unfit parent because of my sexual practices? Fuckloads.

    Also: most-commonly cited reason for wanting to contribute to PAS discussions, but not doing so?

    People tell me they're anxious about looking stupid, or at least insufficiently clever.

    I am currently, in this other community, lurking, and have been for about a week. I want to be able to start by saying something interesting and original. And I know just how ridiculous that is.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Morgan Nichol,

    Judginess can be real. I've had bad experiences with GPs and specialists to the point where I've walked out and refused to pay because they were overlaying their morality on the medical issues. Also because they frankly didn't understand WTF I was talking about because their life experience just didn't cover it. I stopped using a dentist because he went to the same church as my parents and I just didn't trust him anymore.

    Perceived unsafety is not imaginary - safety is very subjective.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2208 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Also: most-commonly cited reason for wanting to contribute to PAS discussions, but not doing so?

    Dont't forget the ones who say "But I don't listen to any of that hipster music. They'll judge me." To which I replied "I don't like the Pixies, actually". Then Sacha said "Them's fighting words!" and it was all on ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2208 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    People tell me they're anxious about looking stupid, or at least insufficiently clever.

    You get used to it, trust me.

    I'm on the opposite trajectory, personally. Initially thick skin, but not so much any more. This has almost linearly tracked my fall from comfortably ignorant privilege.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Hence the need for an Internet Face-Punching Service.

    Well, there was a stab-in-the-face device suggested at Bash.org a long time ago.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 798 posts Report Reply

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