You can't use that tie! He raped someone!
There have been so many public accounts released about bad behavior by tops lately, especially within the rope community that this problem has been on my mind almost constantly. This bad behavior has involved everything from assault to abuse to straight up rape and has come from some of the most well respected tops in the community. Many of them earned that respect from extremely positive contributions to the kink community, especially in the areas of education and creation of knowledge.
My ethical dilemma is what to do with that knowledge that these people have brought. As a rope teacher myself, what am I supposed to do with the knowledge that I learned from these people? If I teach something that they created or that I learned from them, is that me suggesting that I support their behaviors? As a community can we separate the knowledge from the person?
Personally, I have no problem separating knowledge from creator. I believe that if something positive was created, that we should continue to use it even if its source is less than palatable. A loss of knowledge to me is a tragedy for any community but even more so for a community like ours where knowledge and the ability to share it is more limited than in interests in the vanilla world.
Upon reflection, I came to discover that there is more to this dilemma than I originally thought. I thought it was a question of “do we use this information or not” but as I have discussed with those around me, I’ve realized that the bigger problem is a bit different.
The real problem is a community problem. In my experience, when I show people something with rope, particularly more experienced riggers, the very first question that I get asked is “who did you learn this from”. When talking about rope safety, something that many bottoms seem to ask is “who taught you”. While these questions seem innocuous and like a good way to vet information, there is an underlying (and potentially subconscious) assumption that certain people hold higher educational status in our community than others. If this sounds to you an awful lot like putting someone on a pedestal, that’s because it is.
These questions suggest that only certain people are qualified to create knowledge within the community and that anyone else is irrelevant. It assumes that all knowledge in the community comes from a few sources and that no one else is capable of creating something new. It assume that people that are self taught are inherently inferior to those taught by the big names, frequently the people that we are finding turn out to be problematic.
Knowledge and growth are always positive things. As a community we should be striving to learn more, to create more, and to grow more. Less positive is this idea in the community that certain people are the keepers and creators of knowledge. When we look at rope this way we do two things: we put certain people on a pedestal, which we should have learned by now leads to bad behavior, and we stifle the growth of the community by only accepting that which was created by specific people. My call to you is not only to continue using the knowledge that you gained from every single source that you have but also to create knowledge, no matter your rope background. Try new things. Create new things. Question everything.
P.S. You should always question the validity of what you are taught, no matter the source, but especially if that knowledge came from a source that was found out to be problematic. If you learned a harness designed by a rigger that hurt a lot of people, it is your duty to determine if that harness is to blame. If it is, to either not use it, or better, try to improve it. We all can and should be knowledge creators, not just the “rope elite”.