Vir Cotto's BDSM Blog

Conflict aversion in the scene is unhealthy

I've been in the scene for less than two years, yet I've already seen an unhealthy pattern in our leadership: Conflict Aversion

It's easy to understand conflict aversion- we all want to be liked by our mentors and peers. We want to appear kind and helpful, and we certainly don't want negativity, so when a problem arises, we often make the decision not to address it or address it by disconnecting from the person we had the problem with. We talk about the problematic incident to our friends, rather than communicating with the person directly, and then we're surprised when small disagreements blow up or when a consent violation accusation is met with a dozen others. This happens because once a conflict explodes, it finally becomes "safe" to talk about previous incidents.

This behavior is entirely contrary to what we talk about publicly, the way we encourage communication within a scene, the way we encourage bottoms to tell tops how they're feeling, and how some of us actively thank our bottoms for safewording. We talk about Non-Violent Communication and other techniques to make our interactions safer and clearer, and yet I've seen more than once that when we find a particular person or situation difficult, we turn our backs rather than confront the person, only to see the situation blow up later.

"I want people to like me"- This is an important issue in our community. Being liked is crucial in a social circle as small and as tight-knit as we are. No one wants to be seen as negative or as the center of "drama." But we have a different, more serious problem when we fail to address problems quickly. Problems grow and spread and eventually they cause blowups or fractures in our community. By addressing them early, we can reduce the chances of that happening.

"But what if they have a strong negative reaction?"- That's useful information if they do! We need to know how someone responds to negative feedback or criticism. Do they take it to heart and try to improve, or do they go on the rampage? Do they run from the community or do they double down their efforts and try to make themselves a better person? This kind of information is invaluable for deciding who to play with, who to present with and who to befriend.

"What if I'm seen as confrontational?" - If you're afraid of being confrontational, then work on your presentation style. There are ways to express sentiments, even if they're painful or delicate in a way that conveys caring and empathy rather than disgust and hate. Cultivate the ability to talk to others in a way that respects them, including wanting to help them better themselves. And if you're afraid, then realize that if others are afraid to speak up, then your decision to address the problem head on may be seen as brave and people will respect you for it.

Conflict aversion is a breeding ground for many problems, consent violations being one of the main ones, but it also breeds a festering undercurrent of back-channels and rumors, all things that we do not want in our community. So if you have something negative to say- find a way to say it. And if you're the recipient of negative feedback, accept it. You don't have to believe or agree with the person giving it to you, but even then, thank them for having the courage to talk to you and provide you with information about you and themselves.

Together, we can all find a way to make the community healthier, but it starts with identifying and addressing our problems.