E. Winter Tashlin

Private Sexual Conduct Threatens Mountie's Career

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | July 08, 2012 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: BDSM, Fetlife, liberation, RCMP, sexual freedom

The Canadian Broadcasting Company's website reported a story on July 5th about an RCMP officer under investigation and on administrative leave after the CBC and his superiors learned details they disapproved of regarding his private sexual conduct.

The officer, Cpl. Jim Brown, had posted photos of himself on a private, members only website that were leaked, leading to the situation at hand. To quote the article:

While we must strike a balance between an individual's rights and freedoms when off-duty and the RCMP code of conduct, I am personally embarrassed and very disappointed that the RCMP would be, in any way, linked to photos of that nature.

Fifteen years ago, they could easily have been talking about photos of a Mountie and his same-sex partner. Back w:harness.jpgToday that's unlikely, certainly from our more "enlightened" cousins to the north.

In this case, the photos, and sexual practices they depict, described in the article as "inappropriate," "conduct unbecoming," and "abnormal," were of Cpl. Brown's activities as someone involved in the BDSM subculture. The pictures and the profile to which they were attached were from Fetlife.com [NSFW], the social networking site that serves as something not unlike a Facebook for the kink/BDSM community.

I haven't had much occasion in the time I've been a Bilerico Project contributor to talk about my "real" job, but it's relevant here, if only to give context to my perspective on this issue. I'm an educator and activist who presents on sexuality, kink/BDSM, spirituality, and LGBT issues, sometimes all at once. I am also a programing coordinator and production assistant for Dark Odyssey Events, which produces (in my admittedly biased opinion) some of the finest sexuality/BDSM events in the U.S.

And yes, of course I have a Fetlife profile, it's as essential in my work as a Facebook profile, if not more so.

So this whole situation, and the CBC article itself, was deeply distressing to me on two separate, but connected levels. First off, as a sex-positive and BDSM educator, I was disgusted by the level of fear mongering inherent in both the article and the response of Cpl. Brown's superiors. Among other things, his conduct in the investigation of a serial murder who killed women was called into question in light of his kinky interests. The CBC reported that his now removed Fetlife profile listed his role a "dominant" which they imply points to something nefarious, although they don't elaborate as to what.

For what it's worth, my profile lists me as "sadomasochist" and I'm considered to be one of the finest sadistic needleplay instructors in the northeast. I also cry at long distance commercials and send my mom flowers on Mother's Day. Yes, that's a non sequitur, but also my point.

At the same time, I was also quite bothered by all this as an LGBT activist. Granted, being queer/LGBT doesn't make you kinky, and in fact some of the most vociferously anti-BDSM folk I've ever met were part of the LGBT demographic. But as queer/LGBT people, we do know a thing or two about being punished and publicly humiliated (and not in a fun or consensual way) for our private sexual practices and the nature of our relationships.

I'm not going to dive headlong into the whole "Is being kinky an intrinsic part of one's nature or a choice?" issue here and now, although perhaps I'll revisit it in the future, when I'm feeling particularly masochistic and want to be spanked by the internet. All I'll say is that there are some people who would tell you that their kinky explorations are a fun bedroom diversion that they could take or leave, while others say that kink/BDSM is central to their understanding of themselves as sexual beings and the relationships they have.

What's important here is that Cpl. Brown engaged in consensual acts with other adults and is being punished for it. Arguably he's being punished for the pictures, but even that is more than a bit unclear in the article, which focuses much more on his involvement in BDSM itself. There is a mention that it was inappropriate for him to wear his RCMP-issue boots in such a context, but frankly it is clear that the tempest in a teapot tearing apart this man's life is about far more than his footwear.

The very foundations of the gay liberation movement can be found in the quest for sexual freedom. What's happening to Cpl. Brown flies in the face of the underlying values on which we as queer/LGBT people have built our successes, and it's just plain wrong. You don't have to be kinky, or find anything of personal value in the BDSM lifestyle to see that.

Moreover, the quest for our equal rights has not always been unidirectional, and the persecution of one kind of "sexual deviant" is a short step away from leading backwards towards the days when job, housing, and societal discrimination against the LGBT community was broadly acceptable in the service of "community norms" and "family values."

The argument can be made that the woes of Cpl. Brown and the BDSM community are not those of the queer/LGBT community. But leave this injustice unanswered and mark my words, they will be.

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