Ethical Consumption of Rope Photos

A featured guest post in our ‘FetLife Finds’ series uplifting, celebrating and spotlighting the many voices within the lifestyle kink community

by AbundantMischief

I believe it’s important to help build the kind of kink community that we want to have, and I believe our actions on social media can help support that.

For instance, I greatly appreciate communal efforts to raise the visibility of BIPOC kinksters and kink educators, as well as increasing visibility of diverse bodies and genders in rope.

However, there’s another aspect of these signal-boosting actions that I encourage folks to consider.

Recently my local community was notified that a top raped someone the first time they played together (I’m using that term because that’s how both the top and the bottom describe what happened).

This happens to be a top who posts a lot of photos of their scenes and has a significant following on kinky social media. Photos of pre-consent-violation moments of that scene remain on the top’s Instagram.

There’s no way to know, from looking at the photos, that a traumatic consent violation happened later that day. There’s no way to know, simply from looking at any kinky photo, anything about a top’s behavior or the circumstances surrounding the creation of their images.

This is a much more widespread issue than this one recent, local incident, as I’ve learned from hearing first-hand accounts and reading incident reports in bottoms’ groups:

  • bottoms injured because they said they needed to be untied but the top insisted on keeping them tied up to get a few more shots
  • pressuring bottoms to ignore their own boundaries for the sake of a photo concept
  • traumatic consent violations during or after photoshoots
  • taking or posting photos without the bottom’s consent

Some people who take pretty rope photos are predatory.

Some people who take pretty rope photos have left a trail of emotionally and/or physically injured bottoms in their wake. Many of these people are helped by the popularity of their photos in attracting new bottoms.

Many of these people use their photos to distract new bottoms from concerns that may emerge from a vetting process, focusing on the bottom’s desire for pretty photos of their own, while downplaying their concerns about risks.

Sometimes these people even use their photos to establish a foothold in a new community, after being banned from their old community.

There are also a lot of perfectly respectful, responsible people who take pretty rope photos.

I see two issues here.

First, people who are newer or less connected to their local kink community (or any kink community) who ‘like’ a lot of a dangerous person’s photos may be approached by that person to bottom, because they are seen as an “easy target” who doesn’t know the dangerous person’s reputation beyond photos.

Secondly, people who are more well-connected may be inadvertently complicit in giving dangerous people more visibility by following them and liking their photos.

Much like ethical clothing consumption, I care about the wellbeing of the people involved in the creation of the art I consume. I also care about the ripple effects of what I choose to consume, as I acknowledge that I’m one of those more-well-connected people.

I suggest that folks with similar concerns do their research on where these images come from, and the conditions under which they’re created.

You can use some of the same strategies that you’d use for vetting a new play partner:

  • Ask longtime community members if there’s anything problematic that you should be aware of, regarding a popular rope photographer you want to follow, especially ones who live in the same area or have attended the same events.
  • Ask event organizers who are local to a rope photographer about their in-person behavior.
  • Check their local kink community’s Discord (if one exists) for incident reports or local contacts who may be able to answer your questions about them.
  • Check the databases of things like NCSF or the Rope Bottoms Google Group (if you identify as a bottom) for their social media handles.

The good thing about the high visibility of these people is that frequently you don’t need to dig too deeply to find out who has a problematic track record and who’s generally respected in-person.

That said, there are also dangerous people who have a habit of intimidating anyone who accuses them of bad behavior, so make sure to consult multiple sources and do so in private conversations (no public posts in groups).

If we truly want to build a safer kink community, this is something everyone can do to contribute to those efforts. I acknowledge that I have the privilege of consulting a wide network of friends in multiple kink local and regional communities when vetting someone, and not everyone has easy access to that same level of information.

But figuring out which vetting strategies work for you is a valuable process for all kinksters, so perhaps this is an opportunity to practice and learn how to vet people before your own in-person safety is on the line.

And, even if your only interactions are online, at least consider taking a moment to do your part by making sure you’re informed and not signal-boosting a dangerous person.

About the Author:

AbundantMischief is a toppy switch, gleeful sadomasochist, and enthusiastic boot fetishist. She has over 14 years of experience as a member of the kink community, as well as over 2 decades of experience as a professional dancer, circus artist, and performing arts educator. She has been an informal mentor to kinksters over the years across a wide variety of interests, and has taught both online and in person for a variety of kink organizations across the US, including TES, Dark Odyssey, TESFest, Tethered Together, House of Kush, House of SCK, and Black Rose. Find them on FetLife HERE