A friend of mine came to me recently saying he could not longer be in the kink community. After months of harassment, he couldn't handle the negativity and decided to leave.
My friend hasn't been accused of a consent violation, only of being someone that some people don't like, and those people have made a concerted effort to push him out of the community. He's not the only one either; I've had other friends tell me similar things, to greater or lesser extents over the past year, and I have also experienced it. People who aren't accused of consent violations are simply made to feel uncomfortable in a given space and eventually leave.
There's a word for what's happening to them: Bullying
I remember being bullied as a child in school. Another student, usually someone larger/tougher than me would physically intimidate me, threaten me and possibly beat me up. This was my experience as a boy.
I noticed that the girls endured a different type of bullying. It was one based in whisper campaigns, rumor mills, cruel comments, pressure to isolate and other tactics designed to make one feel that the world was against them.
This second type is what I'm seeing in our community, and it needs to stop.
We take certain behaviors in our community very seriously such as outing and consent violations. If someone is found to have outed, they will be disinvited or even banned, whether or not the outing happened during the event itself. The same is true for consent violations- event planners don't accept consent violators within their events whether or not the infractions happened under their watch. Yet I've encountered a deaf ear about bullying unless it happens at the event itself.
We talk about making welcoming spaces and being tolerant of differences, yet bullying behavior of the kind I'm describing is not mentioned any codes of conduct I've seen and continues to go unchecked. The victims are invisible because many simply leave or move rather than continue to face the harassment. The ones who stay often internalize the shame that their abusers have tried to make them feel. These are abuse patterns, plain and simple.
We have a communal obligation to make spaces where our members feelsafe and this must include protections against bullying.
If you see bullying behavior by others, call it out. If you're an event organizer, ban bullies in the same way you ban other bad behavior. This needs to stop now, and we all need to be part of the solution.