Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A number of people have asked me to comment on issue of Travis Frey and his wife's "slave contract". But frankly, I don’t have a whole lot to say. I’m aware of it, yes, and I do see that some people seem to think that BDSM folks should be all over this, either supporting the guy’s ‘right’ to create a sex contract for his wife, or verbally tar-and-feathering him for making all us right-thinking kinksters look bad.

But unlike some people, I have a hard time getting terribly worked up about it either way. Do I think the contract as it’s written is rather petty, adolescent and trite? Yes, but that’s probably because contracts aren’t my kink. I think clear communication about one’s expectations is a good thing. To me, though, slave contracts in this style seem about as erotic as a tax form.

However, do I know people who’ve happily signed rather similar documents? Not in my immediate circle, but yes, I’ve met folks who had and enjoyed this kind of arrangement with their partners, and I get people writing to me all the time asking me to create not-very-different contracts with them. It’s not uncommon.

Are they legally binding? Not for a minute. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on Metafilter and elsewhere about whether the wife actually signed a copy of this or not. We don't know if she ever did consent to these rules, but it doesn’t matter one little bit. Even if she thought this contract was the sexiest thing in the world on a Tuesday and signed it in her blood, she could change her mind Wednesday morning, and she has the absolute right to do so. You cannot sign away your right to withdraw consent, ever.

Let’s remember, too, that the guy hasn’t actually been convicted of any of the charges yet - it’s still all he-said/she-said at this point. So while it’s quite possible he’s a criminally abusive rapist asshole, it’s also possible that he’s just a juvenile twit with bad relationship skills. This document reads to me like the guy would be happiest having a relationship with a blow-up doll, but that’s just my bias and doesn’t prove a thing. There’s the always-icky child porn charge, but that’s unrelated to the “slave contract” issue.

To some degree, the imagery, culture, and vocabulary of BDSM has become part of mainstream consciousness. Bad people are going to use it to create a frame and a justification for doing bad things, just as they’ve used other cultural institutions. If I, as a kinkster, start taking every instance of that really personally, I’m not going to get much sleep at night.

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