Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dating in a Community, Part II - How the Community Polices Its Own

Yesterday, we talked a bit about the benefits of having an open community that is willing to give you frank advice about people they know. Today, I would like to explore this topic a little further, looking at how the community can create a comfort level that allows a relationship to happen and how open discussion can help reduce or prevent sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault.

Candy says: I run in the kink and poly communities, communities where people are pretty open about things and everyone seems to know everyone. I met this guy through Fetlife, and he seemed pretty cool, but he was a bit older than me and lived a ways off. At first I wasn't sure, but then I saw that we had common friends,  so I was able to ask around. People knew him and told me he was a good guy. I felt more comfortable and agreed to meet him. It turned out awesome, and we had a great relationship, but I would have never gone ahead with it if I had not been able to check him out with people I trusted.

Because Candy lives in a community of people who are open and willing to talk honestly, Candy was able to develop a level of comfort needed to develop a new relationship.

There are other benefits to discarding the none-of-my-business mindset. I am not saying that one should poke their nose where it does not belong, and one should not treat their friend's love lives like their own private editions of the National Enquirer. What I am saying is that people should feel comfortable sharing information that they feel is relevant.

Dan says: In the kink community that I run in, STDs and domestic violence are almost unheard of, not because people don't talk about them, but because people do talk about them. People don't pry, but everyone understands that if they do something improper, word will get around, not as rumor mongering or as people trying to move up in the pecking order, but as public advisory.

Because of this willingness to talk openly about sexual matters, the whole community is made safer. Even if an individual is trying to hide and STD, someone will figure it out, and when they do, they will make sure to warn everyone else. Knowing this, people are encouraged to be very careful, the best way to avoid having to deal with people knowing you have an STD being not getting on in the first place.

This is even more true around issues of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a disease with lives in darkness and silence. It goes on because victims are afraid to speak out. In communities where people "mind their own business," an abuser can abuse one significant other, leave that person and then go on to start a new relationship with another person and abuse them. The second, even though they may have social contact with the first, may get no warning about this individual. Silence insulates the abuser from the consequences of his actions.

In an open community, topics like abuse are discussed openly. People openly discuss their discuss with abuse and people who perpetrate it. This sends a message to potential abusers that such behavior will not be tolerated, and it sends a message to one who is abused that their community will support them, and, if necessary, defend them.

This is not a new concept. In medieval cultures, the gossip network among housewives who gathered at the well would keep abusers in line. If a man beat his wife, she would mention it to her friends at the well, who would tell their husbands. The abuser would find his reception a little cooler at future social encounters because most men really do find abuse objectionable.

Communication is a theme that comes up again and again. Communication among significant others, among friends, among communities. Almost without exception, most situations are improved by more communication rather than less. The challenge is breaking down the walls that encourage silence.

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