It's risky to meet strangers -- whether on-line or off -- but it's possible to minimize your risk by hiding your identity, checking the backgrounds of strangers, establishing safe calls, and using safewords.
Some Notes on Safety for Meeting On-line and Off
With Lots of Help from Cyne Enright
Dedicated to Patrick and Raven
Why Be Concerned About Safety?
The example of John Edward Robinson Sr. a.k.a. "Slavemaster":
"The Texas woman who went on a kinky sex date with a suspected Kansas serial killer set up elaborate safety precautions that may have forced him to spare her life and ended his alleged 16-year murder spree, the Daily News has learned.
"The Texas woman, a licensed psychologist whose identity is being protected, arranged to make coded phone calls to the leader of a Houston-based group of sadomasochists who was worried about her because she had met the man on-line. 'We have in our community what's called a safe call,' said Travis, head of the bondage group called People Exchanging Power. He did not want his last name used.
"'If you are going to meet someone you're not sure of, you have someone sitting there waiting to hear from you.' Robinson, who is in jail after five decomposing bodies were found on his property last week, was angry when he learned the Texas woman had made sure someone knew exactly where she was. 'The gentleman in question was furious at her for setting up the safe call,' said Travis. 'He said this showed a lack of trust in him. What it really told him was that someone was paying attention.' The coded calls she made during their tryst at a Kansas City hotel did not prevent Robinson from brutalizing the woman, police said. But her precautions including insisting on meeting in a public place and giving his cell phone number to Travis may have ensured she was set free.
"Robinson called himself Slavemaster while surfing the Web for sadomasochistic sex partners, police said. He lured the Texas woman to a Kansas motel by promising her 'lots of stuff,' said Travis. 'She would be his full-time sub[missive]. He was going to set her up in an apartment and help her find a job,' the bondage leader said. 'He was going to make her life easy.' But before she left to meet Robinson at the motel, Travis said, she asked him for some advice. 'I said don't go,' Travis said. '[Robinson] wouldn't give her his home number or home address. He said he was so wealthy that when submissive women found out he had so much money, they would stalk him.'"
- HELEN KENNEDY and CORKY SIEMASZKO
"Harrowing Tale Of S&M Escape: Woman's call led cops to slay suspect"
New York Daily News, June 6, 2000
- PA. prosecuters allege that in February 2004, Anthony Frederick, 47, of Eagleville, Pa. stabbed to death porn actress "Taylor Sumers" (23 year old Natel King) after making arrangements with her on-line to photograph her in a bondage session.
- St. Paul, MN - November 2002 - Steven H. Bailey admitted to accidentally killing Maceo Frank Brodnax of Hollywood, CA. Bailey called himself "The True Master" and described himself as "old guard". (He had been practicing S&M since the early 1970s.) Bailey has been quoted as saying "I always err on the side of safety." He also admitted to accidentally killing Brodnax during a game of erotic asphyxiation on November 2, the first day of Brodnax's visit. In Bailey's account, he had placed Brodnax in a gas mask and covered the opening with a plastic bag containing chloroform. Unfortunately the phone rang, Bailey answered it, and he lost track of time while Brodnax died. He kept Brodnax's body in his apartment for several days before trying to dispose of it. The two had meet on-line in September.
- New York - August 2002 - A 17-year-old boy in New York was accused of the stabbing and beating death of a 14-year-old girl he met in an Internet chat room.
- Los Angeles, CA - August 22, 2002 - Daniel Zabuski, 42, of Los Angeles, a third-strike offender and one time police cadet, was sentenced to 80 years to life in state prison for raping and assaulting three women. Zabuski's lawyer said that the sex and sadomasochistic acts were all consensual. Zabuski's wife said her husband is only guilty of infidelity. Zabuski had prior convictions for sexually assaulting two teenage girls while posing as a talent scout. In 1986 a judge threw out a case against him, ruling that prostitutes cannot be raped. In this latest case, he had met the three women in Internet D/s chat rooms.
- Brush Prairie, WA - September 2002 - Michael Aaron Wilson, 45, and William Joseph Fritsch, 22, were charged with first-degree kidnapping, rape and assault against a 47-year-old homeless man who was held as a sex slave for eight days in a well equipped torture chamber in their middle-class home. Wilson and Fritsch contend that the incident was consensual. Charges were later dropped. They had met the Seattle man in an Internet chat room.
- Japan - Early 2002 - In the first six months of 2002, crimes linked to Internet dating services in Japan more than doubled according to Japan's National Police Agency. The total number for the first half of 2002 came to 793, up from 302 in the same period in 2001. 23 were rapes and 1 was a murder case. In another suspected instance, police believe a man had murdered a 16-year-old schoolgirl whom he might have contacted through an Internet dating service.
- Long Island, NY - August 2001 - James Warren -- who called himself "Sir Whip" and his friend Beth Loschin were charged with attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, rape, sodomy and other crimes for allegedly kidnapping a 15-year-old girl from Massachusetts and bringing her to Long Island. Warren's defense was that the sadomasochism was consensual and the girl claimed to be 18 years old. He had meet the girl on-line.
- In 2000, the "CyberAngels, an organization that assists victims of Internet crimes, received 650 on-line stalking complaints every day." (from "The Web's dark side" by Margaret Mannix, U.S. News and World Report Vol. 129, No. 8, August 28, 2000.)
- In 1999, the FBI opened 1,500 on-line child sex cases, up from 700 in 1998. (Ibid.)
- Anderson, MO - late 1998 - William Miller lured Jo Ann Marie Brown to Missouri where he fatally shot her in the head and stuffed her body in a well. He had met her on-line.
- New York, NY - November 1996 - 30-year-old doctoral candidate in microbiology and former chess prodigy, Oliver Jovanovic, engaged in a session of sadomasochism with 20-year-old Barnard College English and Philosophy Major, Jamie Rzucek, in his Manhattan apartment. Almost a week later, she brought charges against him of kidnaping, assault, and sexual abuse. Citing the New York Rape Shield Law, Judge William Wetzel refused to allow the defense to introduce her emails into evidence to show that the session had been consensual and that she was an experienced S&M enthusiast. Other evidence and testimony which directly contradicted Rzucek's claims and cast doubt on her honesty were similarly withheld. The court sentenced Jovanovic to 15 years to life. The Appellate court reversed Jovanovic's conviction in December 1999. State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller dropped the case on November 1, 2001. The State Supreme Court found that "The trial court's rulings erroneously withheld from the jury a substantial amount of highly relevant, admissible evidence." BTW, Jovanovic and his accuser had meet an AOL chatroom. (See more on the Jovanovic case at Justice for Oliver Jovanovic and NYT Articles About Oliver Jovanovic )
In addition to these major news stories, there are anecdotal accounts of stalking, rape, and abuse committed under the guise of consensual BDSM. I'm personally acquainted with several submissives who have been victimized by someone they meet on-line. And as in the example of Oliver Jovanovic, tops are also vulnerable.
You don't really know anyone on-line. Whether you're a top or a bottom -- be careful.
"The Internet is not some horrible, horrible place where nothing can ever go right. Wonderful love stories can and do happen. It's just that horrible, horrible things also happen, and are seemingly happening more and more because people aren't being smart."
- Beth Jenkins, Los Angeles Psychologist
"The thing with most Internet relationships is that it's a secret fantasy. The majority of people involved in Internet relationships are having a very profound romance with their own imagination. You have an internal image of the person (that you've created in your mind). Then you begin to relate to that person and convince yourself there's nothing to fear. People don't tend to tell their friends because...they might say to them, `What are you, out of your mind? He could be anything!'"
- Esther Gwinnell, psychiatrist
Author of on-line Seductions: Falling in Love with Strangers on the Internet
"The Gorean is suspicious of the stranger, particularly in the vicinity of his native walls. Indeed, in Gorean the same word is used for both stranger and enemy."
- John Norman
Outlaw of Gor, pg 49
Predators and their Submissive Victims
"In a dominant/submissive relationship, someone who is a con man has a very, very willing subject."
- Jes Beard, Tennessee kink aware lawyer
"Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to spot and use 'nurturant women' -- that is, those who have a powerful need to help or mother others. Many such women are in the helping professions -- nursing, social work, counseling -- and tend to look for the goodness in others while overlooking or minimizing their faults: 'He's got a problem but I can help him,' or, 'He had a such a rough time as a kid, all he needs is someone to hug him.' These women usually take a lot of abuse in their belief that they can help; they are ripe for being left emotionally, physically, and financially drained."
- Robert D. Hare, PhD
Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
The vulnerability in these submissives is not a lack of intelligence or knowledge. In the first example, it was a psychologist who traveled to Kansas to see Robinson. Of all the people to fall under a psychopath's spell, a psychologist should have been the least susceptible. But she was desperate and he offered her a simple, romantic solution to all of her problems. Predators are master manipulators because they are very adept at playing off the needs and desires of their victims.
"I don’t know anybody who does consensual sadomasochism who does it without empathy, without respect, without caring, and not infrequently without a great deal of love."
- William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
San Francisco psychotherapist and co-author of Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely
Despite my examples, the majority of people who practice this lifestyle are not serial killers.
However, there are dangerous predators on the periphery -- dangerous people who participate nominally in BDSM munches and support groups or cruise leather bars looking for fresh meat. But -- more disturbingly -- sometimes the predators are among us. Membership -- even leadership -- in the (Real Time/Offline) BDSM community is not a confirmation that someone is safe and honorable. For example:
- Between 1978 and 1993 in London, England, UK, three different British serial killers -- Dennis Nilsen, Michael "the Wolf" Lupo, and Colin Ireland -- employed the Coleherne pub in west London -- an English equivalent of the American "Leather Bar" -- as their private game preserve. The three murderers have taken the lives of 29 men who made the mistake of going home with a stranger.
- In June 2001 in Spokane, WA, David Dailey, Edmund Ball, and Lana Vickery kidnapped and raped two Japanese college students attending the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Washington state. The two victims were raped and assaulted over a seven-hour period. Ball was the President and Co-founder of the Spokane Power Exchange. Vickery was Ball's "branded slave."
- July 2000 - Quincy, MA - According to the confession of Barbara M. Asher, a professional 52 year old dominatrix known as "Mistress Lauren M," she left 53-year-old Michael Lord strapped on a rack with colar around his neck and a hood over his head. While she was changing into her professional uniform, she could hear him struggling and gasping. After 15 minutes Asher returned to find him dead -- the victim of an apparent heart attack or asphyxiation. She was afraid of IRS and police scrutiny of her business so she did not call 911. Instead her boyfriend, Miguel Ferrer, unsuccessfully attempted CPR on Lord. When that failed, Asher and her boyfriend dismembered Lord's body and dumped the remains in a trash bin. Prosecutor Robert Nelson said "She had a duty to act at the time, to take him off the rack ... and call appropriate medical response teams." She has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. (She later recanted her confession and was acquited.)
Exercise caution when meeting alone or playing with someone you don't know well -- whether you've meet him on-line, through a R/T BDSM organization, or even if he's prominent in the community.
- While most of these notes are in the context of advice to bottoms, tops are also at risk from dangerous playmates, predators, and unstable individuals. As in the case of Oliver Jovanovic, sometimes a submissive will damage a dom's reputation -- or worse -- by making false accusations.
- BDSM themed Chat Rooms and IRC are 97% fantasy. They aren't representative of the "real" scene -- which itself is heavily influenced by fantasy. R/T BDSM more closely conforms to the laws of man and physics as well as common sense and politeness.
- You should educate yourself about safety, BDSM, and your community before you start playing.
- Be cautious and take your time: Don't rush into a situation no matter how tempting.
- If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.
- Don't believe everything you read on-line. Profiles and other information can be faked.
- Strike a balance between safety and good manners -- but when in doubt err on the side of safety. Predators take advantage of their victims' desire to please and their need to avoid conflict. Some common lines the predators and CHUDWAHs (Clueless Het Dom Wannabes) will use are "A real submissive would do just what I asked" and "A real submissive wouldn't need to negotiate or use safewords or safecalls."
- Listen critically. (See "Warning Signs" below.)
- Use a scene name -- a pseudonym -- to protect your identity and privacy. It can be just your first name or something more fanciful such as "Ambrosio," "Raven," and "Lord Hughes-Coq." Scene names are quite acceptable. (But don't use "Ambrosio" because it's taken or "Raven" because it's over used or "Lord Hughes-Coq" because it's ridiculous.)
- Listen to your intuition.
- Some of the following advice may seem extreme. To be honest the author doesn't know anyone who follows all of this advice -- himself included. You must decide what is reasonable and realistic. However, these points are offered as safety guidelines.
- This advice is not the final word on the subject. You must still use your own common sense. You are responsible for your own safety.
Join a local munch group and/or a BDSM organization -- by which I mean a group of people who meet face to face, usually in a public restaurant. It's a safe venue to socialize, to find people who interest you, way to discover people's reputation, and opportunity to create a safety network.
- Many novices are intimidated to going to their first munch. They shouldn't be. Munches are not free for all group gropes or play parties. They are opportunity for socializing in a public venue. (Please read What To Expect At a Munch by Mistress Constance at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/constance01.cfm.)
- One place to find groups is at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/groups.cfm.
- Make numerous friends in the community not just contacts with potential play partners.
Don't give out personal information about yourself to anyone else on-line -- especially to a stranger. Don't give out ...
- Full name - Use first name or gender neutral handle
- Home address
- Where you live (If you live in a small town, don't identify it.)
- Social Security Number (duh! -- SSNs can be used to steal someone's identity.)
- Passwords (double duh!)
- Credit card information (triple duh!)
Even if you know and trust someone on-line, the Internet is not a secure venue for sharing this information.
- Create a "disposable" free email account -- from Yahoo (http://mail.yahoo.com/), Microsoft (http://www.hotmail.com/), Google (http://gmail.google.com/), etc., -- for anonymity and privacy. Use the account for receiving responses to your personal ad or sending responses to personal ads or posting to mailing lists and newsgroups.
- Don't respond to IM invitations or unsolicited emails from people unknown to you. Spammers and other desirable characters often send vague email messages with subjects such as "Haven't heard from you in a while." Just because someone wrote you, doesn't mean you need to reply anymore than you need to obey the orders of a stranger who says he's a dominant.
- Remove anything that identifies you or where you live from your profile(s.)
- Lurk on mailing lists and in newsgroups: Don't start chatting right away. Sit back and observe.
- Read profiles when available.
- In Internet Relay Chat, use the /WHOIS and /WHO commands to find our more about other people on your channel. Caution: that information can be false. (See "Internet Relay Chat" below)
- If you like what someone types or someone intrigues you, write that person privately: email, IM (Instant Messenger), private chat, /MSG (in IRC), etc.,
- If someone harasses you through email, don't reply. That's likely to encourage them.
- Report any attacks or threats to police. Save offending messages for police and report them to your service provider.
- In on-line communication, you are doing without the auditory and visual cues that you have in a "R/T" (Real Time, Face to Face) meeting.
Email Account Settings
Whatever email account you use be sure that the settings will not display your real name. Sometimes people have the mistaken assumption that their user id will appear in the "From" field but what they enter as their first and last name won't. For example, in these screen shots, a woman named Beverly Quince is selecting "princess_boup_coup" for her user id and is entering her real name in her new hotmail account:
Whenever she posts to a mailing list or sends a private email, her real name appears in the "From" field.
From: Beverly Quince <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Lord Hughes-Coq <The_One_True_Master@hotmail.com>
Subject: RE: Natural Born Dominant Looking for vulnerable, submissive newbies
In this next screen shot however, another hotmail user is substituting a screen name -- "Lord Hughes-Coq" -- for his real name in his hotmail settings.
His emails look like this:
From: Lord Hughes-Coq <The_One_True_Master@hotmail.com>
To: Beverly Quince <email@example.com>
Subject: Beverly Quince (was RE: Natural Born Dominant Looking for volunerable, submissive newbies)
Here's some instructions for changing the setting for a Yahoo email account:
- Login to your Yahoo email account
- Select "options" in the upper right corner
- In options, select "general preferences"
- Change the name which appears in the "From Name" field
- Click "Save"
And in Gmail:
- Login to your Gamil email account
- Select "Settings" in the upper right corner
- In Settings, click the "Accounts" tab
- On the "Send Mail As" line, next to your Name and Email address, click the "edit info" link
- Change the name which appears in the "Name" field
- Click "Save Changes" button
The other free email services should be similar.
Before you start posting or sending emails, be sure to send yourself a test message to be sure that your vanilla name does not appear in the "From" field.
NOTE: When using the email account that comes with an ISP account, your real identity is still somewhat vulnerable. The advantage of "disposable" (i.e. free) email accounts, is that the email providers don't need to know your real name. Whereas, your ISP has your billing information and it's conceivable that someone could hack their database or subpoena your account information.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is one of the earlier Internet applications. It followed the creation of email but predates the creation of the World Wide Web. It is a method to carry on real time "conversations" with other computer users over the Internet by typing text into a chat client -- a computer program such as mIRC or vIRC. The chat client relays the information to a chat server which relays the message to other users in the same chat "channel." In this way, people from all over the world can "meet" and "talk" in a "virtual space." For some it's an attractive way to meet people with similar interests. Here's a list of commands that are especially relevant to our topic. (Caution: Information gathered from IRC commands can very easily be falsified.)
- /whois [nick]
- used to get info on a nick.
example: /whois Ambrosio
- /whowas [nick]
- used to get info on a nick that has just left IRC or a person who has just changed their nick.
example: /whowas Ambrosio
- /who [#]
- shows nicks, addresses, and optional user info if available for users on a channel.
example: /who #txdungeon
- shows nicks of users on a channel.
example: /names #txdungeon
- /msg [nick] [message]
- sends a private message (whisper) to a user.
example: /msg Ambrosio hello there
- /query [nick]
- opens a new window for private dialog with a nick.
example: /query Ambrosio
- /ignore [nick/address]
- use to prevent someone from talking to you. The persons nick or address may be used.
example: /ignore Domlydom or /ignore *!*firstname.lastname@example.org
- /mode [nick] +i
- This is the invisible mode. You are not literally invisible on IRC. Users on the same channel as you still see you there. You are invisible to a user who does a /who or /names. A /whois nick, however, will show your user information and the channels you're on.
example: /mode Ambrosio +i
For a longer list of IRC commands, please read Internet Relay Chat Commands
on this site. For a general overview of IRC, links for IRC client programs, and a short list of BDSM oriented IRC channels and Chat Rooms visit the "Internet Relay Chat and Chat Rooms" article at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/irc_chat.cfm
- "How long have you been in the scene?"
- "How long have you been in the local scene?"
- "Where else have you been involved in BDSM?"
- "How experienced are you?"
- "How did you start?"
- "What is it about BDSM or the scene that you enjoy most? The exchange of power? The role playing? The sensation? Something else entirely?"
- "Who/what are you looking for?"
- "What sort of relationship do you want?"
- "Are you friends with your past playmates?"
- "Have you ever made a mistake during a scene? What was it?"
- Disable caller ID feature so as to call anonymously
- Don't call collect - it will reveal your phone number
- Use a pager or a cell phone
Side Note: In case of emergency, store the word "ICE" in your cellular phone address book with the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency." If you have more than one emergency contact use: ICE1, ICE2, ICE3, etc., In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will be able to quickly contact your next of kin or designated emergency contact. (This practice was implimented in a national campaign in England launched by the East Anglian Ambulance Service following the London underground terrorist attacks.)
- Ask your potential playmate for referrals. But be careful: Some predators have numerous on-line identities. Robinson would pose as multiple doms who would vouch for each other and even took over the email account and on-line identity of one of his missing slaves.
- Ask around about your potential playmate. Ask numerous people. Opinions are often subjective and sometimes unfairly biased. When one or two opinions are extreme in one direction or another, consider the source.
- Know the other person's legal name and check it out.
- Know the other person's phone number, address, and place of employment.
- If the other person claims to be a member of an elite organization, verify that the organization actually exists. Robinson claimed to be a leading member of the "International Council of Masters," a secret group that no one has ever heard of outside of the "Slavemaster" case. He claimed this elite society had been in existence since 1920 and had chapters throughout Europe and the United States. Except for the website Robinson had commissioned (A secret society with a website?) and a sensational television expose, there is no indication the group actually existed.
- Use one of the many commercial on-line Background Check Services (Background Verification.)
- Use a local sexual offender registry (Caution: Exclusion in the database is not proof that someone is harmless just as inclusion is not absolute proof that they're dangerous. Also, there are different types of sexual offenders. Someone who had sex with his 17 year old girl friend when he was 19 is not as dangerous as the man who abducted and raped numerous elementary school children when he was 35. But if you confront a sexual offender about his inclusion on the database and ask for his account, don't accept his explanation of the crime without verifying the facts. Criminals tend to lie.)
- Run a search on your potential play partner in Google. The results will be incomplete and sometimes irrelevant -- right name / wrong person -- but it's remarkable what you can find. (Again, just because it's published on-line doesn't make it true.)
SIDE NOTE: In a study released November 2004 by Harris Interactive and Dogpile, 23% of Internet users polled searched for information on coworkers, employees, potential employees, bosses, or clients. The study was conducted online, and based on responses from 2,266 people. (Source: Jason Tuohey, Medill News Service. Friday, December 03, 2004. Reported in PC World, Dec. 2004)
- These notes advise against giving out personal information.
- These notes advise to check the background of your potential playmate.
- Doesn't this advice create an impass if both parties follow it? ("No I won't tell you my real name. You tell me yours.") Yes it does.
- An Imperfect Compromise: Don't give out personal information to a stranger. You should only share personal information with someone you know well enough to trust. How much is well enough? That's a difficult question. I can't decide that for you. You will have to use your best judgment.
On-line Stalkers and Harassers
On the topic of dealing with on-line stalkers, MsJ of San Antonio MsJ of San Antonio wrote the following:
Getting rid of an internet or phone harasser requires three simple steps. That is all. Do these three things and your pain in the ass will be gone. They work for any type of harassment, even people pushing their political views.
I will be the first to admit that while it is simple it is not easy. As a few will notice, I did not take my own advice. Perhaps ego just gets in the way.
- Ignore them. This seems simple but I have not met one woman in my life that did this and it didn’t work. In fact, most women say they are ignoring it and they really aren’t. Ignoring means hanging up the phone without comment. You don’t yell at them, you don’t explain why you are hanging up the phone, you don’t do it nicely. You simply hang up, every time, as soon as you realize it’s him. For example, he calls, you chat for a minute figuring out who’s on the phone, you realize it’s him. At this point most women do something like say, “oh, I didn’t know it was you.” You don’t say anything, you simply hang up the damn phone, without emotion or passion, just hang it up. Ignoring also means you don’t tell people. When you post on a list then he gets to read it and he knows you are thinking of him. It is good to privately tell the list hosts about the person so they can watch him or ban him. If he IMs you, you simply minimize it and ignore it. I don’t recommend closing the IM because he’ll try a few times and if it’s just minimized then you don’t have to see a new window pop up every time. Do not write a single word onto the IM. Do not ask him to stop IMing you. The same if he e-mails. This seems simple and most women tell me that they have done this, but they haven’t really done it. In 99% of the cases it will work in two weeks. It may get worse for a few days because he’s going to try very hard to get your attention, but he’s a weak man and he won’t keep it up for long.
- The second thing you do is in case you have to do the 3rd thing. You document everything. Print out the IMs. Print out the e-mails. Keep a notepad next to the phone where you write down the times that he calls.
- If you try number 1 for a full month and he is still contacting you more than once a day then you file a police report with all of your documentation. You never tell him you’re going to file a police report, you just do it.
It should be noted that this is NOT for any harasser that knows where you live.
I have no personal experience with stalkers, but I think Ms. J's advice is excellent.
Other measures to counter on-line stalking include:
- Report him to his ISP and your ISP.
- Block the stalker from your IM account and block his email address from your email account. (RTFM for instructions.)
- Discard the comprised email account and the IM user name and set up new accounts.
(In situations where the stalking occurs offline or the stalker knows your home or work location, please read the Offline Stalkers and Harassers section later in this article.)
"If anyone is behaving in a manner that makes you uneasy, you should listen to your instincts."
Roger Shenkle, physical security analyst
- Have your own transportation to and from the meeting place.
- Set up safe calls (see "Safe Calls" below.)
- If the person you're meeting objects to the safe calls, leave.
- Whenever possible bring a friend who knows you and your interests.
- Meet in a public place, preferably one where there are security cameras or where your friends frequent.
- Bring a cell phone.
- Don't let the other person see your license plate or follow you to your car.
- Don't leave your keys, wallet, or drink unattended.
- Stay sober.
- If the first meeting is a success, schedule another meeting before the first meeting is over.
- Don't play the first time you meet, no matter how tempted.
- Be honest and straightforward
- If the meeting isn't going well or you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, leave. (Listen to your intuition.)
- If you decide you want to play with this person at a later time, exchange drivers licenses. Make a photocopy of the other person's license or ask him to bring a photocopy.
- Before you meet to play, negotiate what you'll be doing and how much you'll be doing. (See the "Dating and Negotiation" section at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/date00.cfm for scene negotiation forms and activities checklists.)
- After the meeting make sure you're not being followed. (Drive to a police station if you feel you are.)
Meeting Someone in Another City
- All of the above applies
- Set up safe calls with someone in the area that you are visiting (see "Safe Calls" below)
- Have your own transportation -- do not rely on your potential playmate
- Stay at a motel -- not your potential partner's home
- Meet in a public place -- not your hotel room or the other person's home. Don't tell your potential playmate where you are staying.
- Arrange to meet at a local munch if that's an option
- Determine where you can get help -- police station, friend's house, women's shelter, etc., -- and where that help is physically located, before you need it. Have those addresses and telephone numbers handy. (Don't keep it on your person or in your hotel room. Instead keep copies in the glove compartment of the rented car and in a sealed envelope addressed to yourself at the front desk of your hotel.)
- Is the other person domineering and bullying?
- Does the other person seem to be hiding something? Does he avoid answering reasonable questions?
- Is he inconsistent in what he writes and says? Does he contradict himself?
- Is he presumptuous about the relationship? Does he expect complete submission from a stranger? Is he ready to collar you and move into your home on your first meeting?
- Does he seem more interested in sex than you are? Does it seem like he wants cyber sex from the beginning when you're looking for something else?
- Does he respect your concern about safety or does he belittle your precautions and try to coerce you?
- Does he try to isolate you from friends, family, and other people in the scene?
- Does he have nothing nice to say about past partners?
- Does he understand that cyber is more fantasy than R/T?
- Does he seem a perfect match? Maybe too perfect? Robinson presented himself as a divorced millionaire Master in need of a woman to care for his invalid father. He was still married to his wife of 38 years, his father was dead, and his financial empire -- like the exclusive "International Council of Masters" -- was all smoke and mirrors.
Offline Stalkers and Harassers
In response to a thread on an email list about a stalking incident, Tura Belle Spankerstein wrote the following:
First off, ALL LADIES, in the future, if any of you are followed by anyone DO NOT GO HOME. Head to the nearest police station or hospital. Call 911 to tell them that you're being followed and tell them where you're headed. When you pull into the parking lot, if he's still following you, make a scene by honking your horn a lot. Most likely, he will run away once you reach the hospital or police station. If not, he's a total idiot, and the police can file a restraining order.
Second, ... I think this is the same guy that contacted me a few months ago. ... I told him I wasn't interested in meeting him and he bombarded me with abusive emails calling me a "crazy bitch". After a week of not responding to them, he stopped. This guy is PROBABLY just a reaction junkie. The more you respond to him, the more abusive he will be. Any response will only fuel his fire, like a playground bully.
None the less, you still need to protect yourself.
There's a good chance he is a sexual predator since he followed you. I STRONGLY urge you to report this to the police. They are starting to take these things more seriously as women are starting to be assaulted by men they've met on the internet. If (let's hope not) he does go farther than this, you will have history of his actions with the police. Another reason you should report it is that you are not the only one he's doing/done this to. I'd bet money on that. It's his M.O. He may already be listed as a sexual preditor who is one violation away from being locked back up. Guys like this KNOW that women will not report it to the police because they know you're thinking "Well, what are the police going to do? File a report? No harm, no fowl." There might be a woman that won't be able to get away in the future. If there are enough reports, the police will track him down. Yes, he can erase his profile but there is still a way to trace where they were sent from. Please do report it to police. Let them know about the woman you talked to.
Keep in mind that predators depend on women not taking action. I'd bet that of all of you on this contact list, there's at least one more who relate to this story. LADIES, stop playing the victim role here and do something about it.
In closing on the topic of stalking:
- If you feel that you are being followed by someone who doesn't know where you live, drive to a police station, hospital, or other public area and report the activity imediately to police or security guards. DON'T lead the stalker to your home or where you work.
- Keep a complete record of the stalker's actions. Save all notes, emails, IMs, and voice mails. Print copies of the emails.
- Report the stalking to the police. Depending on your location, it might be a crime.
- Many stalkers are are "reaction junkies." They are bullies motivated by a need for attention and a desire to control contol others. In this case, your best move might be to ignore his behavior. Do not give him the staisfaction of knowing the effect his behavior is having on him because it might encourage him.
- The book --- The Gift of Fear --- covers in part the topics of stalking and harassment. It's written by a specialist in violent crimes and I can't recommend it highly enough.
- See also the Texas Attorney General's Information on Stalking at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/stalking.shtml
- Negotiate the scene before you meet to play.
- Set up safe calls (see "Safe Calls" below)
- If your scene partner objects to the safe calls, leave.
- Play light the first time.
- Don't try bondage until you know your partner better and trust him.
- Be careful what you bring with you. I know of an instance where a top tied up the bottom then rummaged through the bottom's wallet looking for information he could use.
- Play somewhere where you're free to leave: If you're playing in your home and the scene goes bad, can you leave?
- Practice Safe Sex -- assuming you both choose to have sex. (See the "Sexually Transmitted Infections Including Hepatitis" articles listed on the "Health & Safety" page at http://www.evilmonk.org/A/health00.cfm
- Respect limits -- including your own: Use your safe words when you should. (See "Safe Words" below)
Safe Call Definition
a safety procedure where people tell outside parties where they will be and when they’ll be checking back in by telephone. If a person does not check in, the third party calls for help.
More On Safe Calls
From "More on Safe Calls" (Author Unknown) and other sources.
- Choose your safe call carefully.
- You should provide the person receiving the safe call with the following information about yourself: your full name, your home address, your phone number, car information (make, model, color, and license plate number) and detailed travel itinerary (flight numbers, departure times, arrival times, rental car information, etc.)
- You should provide the person receiving the safe call with the following information about the person you're meeting: his full name, his screen name(s) / logon ID(s), his address, his phone number(s), his age, description, drivers license information, and anything else you know about him.
- Also provide the safe call receiver with the location of the meeting, phone number of the meeting place, time and date of the meeting, the local phone number of the police, and a list of people to contact in case of an emergency.
- Use a minimum of three code words or phrases: 1) All is well, 2) I feel uncomfortable about this and I want to leave, and 3) I feel that I'm in danger and I need help right away.
- The code words or phrases should be common usages that are easy to work into a casual conversation.
- You should have a clearly defined "all clear" phrase. Something the safe call recipient expects you to use unless the situation is very bad.
- Be sure to communicate what your codes words and phrases mean and what sort of response they warrant.
Too Vague: "If I use my code word that means I may be in trouble."
Better: "If I say that I 'left my window open' that means I feel uncomfortable and I'm gong to leave as soon as possible. But if I don't use the 'all clear' phrase -- even after you prompt me -- that means he's listening in on the call, he's threatening me not to use my safewords, I'm being held against my will, and you should call the police right away!"
You don't want any doubt in anyone's mind what the code words mean or whether or not you need help.
- Set up a course of action if you fail to call at the appointed time or if you use your code words . Both safe call participants need to understand the appropriate actions which correspond to which phrases: either for the safe call recipient to call the police and explain the situation or to show up at the meeting. You don't want the police to show up at Starbuck's with their guns drawn because your date is 100 pounds heavier than he had claimed to be. On the other hand, you don't want the safe call recipient to be driving across town in rush hour traffic to save you from an embarrassing first meeting when you've already been taken against your will to an abandoned meat packing plant.
- Make safe calls after the first 15 minutes, after the first 45 minutes, after the first 2 hours, when the meeting is over, and then 30 minutes after. If the meeting is longer than 3 hour make the call every 2 hours.
- It would be a great help if the person receiving the safe call had Caller ID.
- Safecalls are not the beginning and the end of safety. Their effectiveness is limited.
Safe Call Networks
While it's best to choose a friend that knows you and about your interests for your safe call, in some cases you might choose to use a Safe Call Network. In choosing a safe call network, bare in mind that these networks are all volunteer efforts and often there is no screening process for the volunteers. Hopefully their motives are pure but there's nothing to someone from volunteering in the hopes of meeting someone volunerable. I've also noticed that these organizations tend to disappear on a frequent basis. I am listing a few of the Safe Call Networks of which I am aware but I can not offer recommendations as to their reliability or effectiveness.
Safe Word Definition
- Safe Word:
- A pre-arranged signal to notify the other play partner(s) -- usually the top -- if they go beyond negotiated boundaries, the sensations become too intense, or it becomes necessary to slow down a scene or stop it for any reason. One set of common safeword is "yellow" to slow down and "red" to stop. Some people use their own names as safe words. Some couples who have been together for years do not use safe words. It is generally recommended to use safe words at least when participating in BDSM for the first time or when playing with a new partner.
Historical Note on Safewords
The use of safewords -- or at least the concept of safewords -- have been in the scene for a long time. As far back as 1975, Larry Townsend wrote in the Leatherman's Handbook:
As we progress toward the heavier action, it might be well to point out again that a true leatherscene is not merely an exchange where one guy binds the other and whips the shit out of him. Only a few Ms want this; most don't. For this reason it is always important that the M be given an "out." For example, in a situation where the M is gagged a blindfolded -- rendered almost incapable of expression -- it is still essential he be able to let the Topman know when he's had enough. It may only be a case of needing to take a break, or it may require a complete shift in the type of action. Regardless, if the S is worth his salt, he will have made some provision for this. It is much less disruptive of the role situation for the S to say, "When you can't take any more, do such and such," than for the M to set the signal. (pgs. 169-170)
At least one highly respected scene person has said that safewords originated with play "rape" scenes.
Questioning the Benefits of Safewords
In the past 10 years has seen a marked re-evaluation in the value of safewords. Back in the mid 90s I learned that safewords were de rigeur. "Never, ever play without safe words" went the popular maxim. "If someone suggests or even jokes about taking away your safeword" -- intoned one community elder and two year veteran -- "you should run away from him because he's abusive, dangerous, and eats unbaptized babies at the Black Mass."
(At the same time there were a lot of older, respected, and more established players in long term committed relationships who played without safewords but no one accused them of abuse because they were older, respected, and more established players in long term committed relationships. However some of them no longer played publicly because their style alarmed most other party goers and DMs.)
More recently another view of safewords came to my attention: Safe words are over rated -- even dangerous. It seemed heretical at first but the heresy had some good arguments that were hard to dismiss:
- Bottoms don't always use safe words when they should. Sometimes bottoms become non-verbal in subspace or become oblivious to the warnings that their bodies are sending them. Sometimes bottoms are too afraid to use their safe words out of concern for looking wimpish or they're afraid of embarrassing or disappointing the top.
- Tops may depend on safe words as a crutch instead of learning their techniques, negotiating thoroughly, and observing the bottom's non-verbal cues.
- The "consensual non-consensual" game isn't as much the norm as we might think. By "consensual non-consensual" I mean the type of scene role play where the bottom gives every indication of wanting to stop the scene EXCEPT using the safe word. "Oh Vishnu! For the love of goodness stop it you sadistic love child I can't take it anymore you're killing me! ... Why did you stop?!" Maybe you've heard the joke that "Ouch is not a safe word" but for a lot of people it is. When they say "Stop!" they mean it.
- For some couples, safewords ruin the scene. They both find it more exciting to play without the safety net -- to "dine with tigers."
Despite those arguments, safewords have a place -- especially among novices, between players that are new to each other, at play parties, and for play rape or ravishment scenes. I strongly recommend that novices use safe words with new partners. But at the same time everyone needs to understand that they are not the final word in safety.
Additional Reading and Postscript
Further Reading on BDSM
You owe it to yourself and all of your partners to read at least one book on the "Books for Beginners" list at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/book.cfm#Books. These books go into greater depth and are more comprehensive than web sites. Plus, the publishing process encourages qualified, well written content. Sadly, unqualified, sloppily written content abounds on the net. The Internet is like the world's largest library where a copy of Gibson's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire sits right next to a self published pamphlet about the Illuminati's conspiracy with Martians to assassinate Mozart.
Additional Reading on Safety
Additional Reading on Finding a BDSM Partner
Additional Reading on Abuse
"Vanilla" Books: True Crime and Self-help
- The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin De Becker: I recommend it to all my scene friends -- especially single submissive women. Jay Wiseman as written this book review which does a good job of describing it and putting it a BDSM perspective: http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/feargift.cfm
- Three True Crime books about John Edward Robinson, Sr.
- Douglas, John with Stephen Singular, Anyone You Want Me To Be: Written with the insights of a retired FBI profile.
- Glatt, John, Internet Slave Master: A little sensational and credulous about the "International Council of Masters"
- Wiltz, Sue, Slave Master: Better researched than Glatt's book.
- Women Who Love Men That Kill: about women who seem attracted to dangerous men.
- Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, PhD.: an eye opening book about amoral manipulators.
Side Note: You can order some of these books from the Amazon.com website by clicking the links below.
Translations / Adaptations
An early draft of these notes was part of a handout for a class -- "BDSM for the 'Net Generation" -- that Cyne Enright and I presented at the Austin chapter of the National Leather Association's Texas Leather Pride XI. You're free to copy, distribute, and re-post it, provided you:
- Post it in its entirety (including the copyright notice and dedication but the images are optional.)
- Credit us properly,
- Include a working hyperlink to my website at the bottom of the article, and
- Write me via email with the details (including the URL of the posting.) Use the form at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/email.cfm. But please don't post my email address in the article. (I've gone to a lot of trouble to hide it from spammers.)
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