Post CLAW18 Consent Statement
From the Board of Directors of CLAW Corp.
May 18, 2018
Responding to community concerns regarding the issue of “Consent,” the CLAW Board of Directors decided to take a hard look at Consent at our event, forming the CLAW Conduct Committee. Through the Committee, we researched, learned and engaged in a thorough and rigorous exchange of ideas. We sent delegates to the NCSF’s Consent Summit in NYC, and spoke to many informed leaders, straight and gay, about this dynamic topic. We discovered that Consent is not a “one size fits all” type issue.
- We crafted a Code of Conduct for CLAW’s public spaces, one that acknowledges that some touching between Leathermen occurs without explicitly verbalized consent. We framed that as “Casual, respectful touching”, but affirmed that “No” absolutely still means “No.” There is no license for predators to grope.
- We identified a team of mediators and social workers to be CLAW’s Incident Response Team (“IRT”), to provide independent and immediate attention to any incidents reported during CLAW and, together with them, established a standardized reporting mechanism based on the best practices of experts in the field.
- We organized an education track on the issue of consent, including an open community discussion called Consent in the Lobby.
We continue to evolve. After our first year, we have identified these areas for improvement:
- “No still means No” should be more prominently displayed in our Code.
- Many people didn’t know of the existence of the IRT, how to report incidents, that it is available year-round, and that it is formed from community professionals independent of CLAW. Some others didn’t understand that it is independent on purpose, so that it can be trusted by everyone. Every expert on the issue advises against an IRT controlled by the organization holding the event.
- Some people don’t understand that a report is the only way the IRT can officially step in and assist, or that it is the best way to identify a predator that has infiltrated our event as opposed to someone we know who might just need some coaching. For the IRT to be effective, people must report incidents as they happen.
- We strive towards better training and oversight of volunteers, and intend to include additional training on Consent and our Code of Conduct, and reporting to the IRT.
On Repercussions and Reporting:
There’s been a public push for accountability and calls to ban individuals from events. “Banning” is never off the table, but we have learned it should only be done as the last resort, not the first. CLAW is about education, learning, growing. Banning someone takes away an opportunity to educate that person and get them to change bad behavior.
We want everyone to understand that the role of an IRT when an assault occurs is to serve in a support role for the victim. Unequivocally, the Police must be called for assault. Our IRT is there because it has been shown that statistically most incidents at fetish events aren’t assault, but occur either because a signal was read wrong, there was poor negotiation before a scene, drugs / alcohol were involved, or someone is being obnoxious and just needs some clear feedback.
CLAW endeavors to create the safe spaces that have been lost with the disappearance of men’s leather bars and play spaces. There are many event options for Leather folk around the country, but none that focus so clearly as CLAW on Leathermen -- including transgender Leathermen -- and the unique dynamic found in male Leathersex. Unique among events, a large focus of the CLAW weekend is dedicated to education, and passing along the technical skills and know-how to one another. No other event does more, all while raising large amounts of money for charities important to us, thanks to the work and donations of hundreds of people.
CLAW’s simple goal is to bring together self-identifying Leathermen for four days every year and maintain and strengthen our sense of community. We work hard to make each year the best CLAW ever. We continue to trust the good will of CLAW leaders and attendees, while listening carefully to the observations of those affected by unacceptable behavior. Patience, caring and a policy in place will produce the positive result we all want.