Nov 152010

By Brian Flaherty

On September 7, 2010, the Western District of Missouri issued an indictmentCarnalNation, which links to Lindsay Beyerstein’s especially good discussion of this case in the context of BDSM and consent. However, there are other elements of this case – peripheral, but worth exploring.

One aspect of this case which seems very elephant-in-the-room-ish to me, is that in July 2007 the young woman in question was featured on the cover of Hustler’s Taboo. The photos themselves were reportedly taken by someone well known in the BDSM community, Nina Hartley’s husband. The ‘didn’t anyone notice something was wrong?’ questions are dealt with nicely in the CarnalNation article linked above. However, I’m still wondering: what’s going to happen when legions of anti-porn zealots get their claws into this? The all-pornography-is-abuse arguments are general, generic, and toothless. When these arguments are attached to a specific person – attached with objective, graphic evidence – the arguments will grow more compelling.

It reminds me very much of Linda Lovelace, who was abused and threatened into making pornography – most notably Deep Throat – in the 70s. With the 1980 publication of Ordeal, which told of monstrous abuse at the hands of her husband and manager Chuck Traynor, she provided fuel for a thousand anti-porn fires and one very terrible commission report. I fear that the legions of myopic anti-porn zealots will use Ed Bagley’s victim the same way they used Linda Lovelace: as a poster-child for the dangers of pornography. Ironically, they will miss is real similarity between the two: both were victims of violent controlling men, not of pornography. Oh, and at least one became a victim of the anti-porn movement as well: it should be remembered that at in the 90’s, Lovelace complained that she was “used” by the anti-pornography movement, that they “never helped me out… they made a few bucks off me, just like everybody else.”

There is a lot to say, a lot to write about this case – and the trial hasn’t even gotten started yet. More updates as they occur. But when this case gets big – and I fear that it will – you, as the kinkiest person in the room, may be asked for an opinion. Pay attention, separate fact from conjecture, and most importantly: call people – and the media – on their bullshit. Abuse is abuse. BDSM relationships involve extreme care, extreme protection of the other, and explicitly
negotiated boundaries – the precise opposite of abuse.