Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rules are rules ... except when they're wrong

I actually posted this to FetLife in August 2014, in response to a lot of (sometimes heated) dialog concerning the list of "rules" in Mind Play.  After some prodding from one of the discussion participants as to why there was no errata in the book yet, I realized I really should have put this on this blog as well.

Also, there will be a corrected edition of Mind Play eventually.  The way I originally formatted the manuscript is making unnecessarily time-consuming to fix all of the print and ebook editions.  We will get there, though.


Rules are rules ... except when they're wrong

As I write this, my book Mind Play: A Guide to Erotic Hypnosis is 13 months old. The reception has been everything I could have wished for and more, and I can't tell you how grateful I am to the community for embracing the work.

One of the perils of being your own editor is that you become blind to some of the little mistakes in your own text. Over the year I've become aware of a couple of typos, a missing word, and a problem with formatting for night mode in the Kindle edition. All of this is pretty minor and can wait for a revised edition to be fixed.

There's one thing, though, that really can't wait and shouldn't have waited this long. On pages 47-49 (print and PDF editions) is a list of rules entitled Wiseguy's Guide to Ethical Hypnotic Play. The first item in the rules list for hypnotees is:

You have an obligation to disclose your true biological age and sex to the hypnotist before there is any agreement to play.

This one sentence has caused a lot of grief, outrage, and some harm -- or at least an excuse for others to do harm -- to members of the transgender, genderqueer and genderfluid communities. There are those who see it as a license to persecute people, which by extension means I must be sanctioning that kind of behavior. Some people that I greatly respect and admire were among those hurt by the wording, in ways that I never anticipated or expected anyone would be.

For a year I've been quiet about this publicly because if I learned anything from reading reviews it's that there's no way an author can respond to a negative comment without making things worse. Some have concluded that I must be anti-trans/queer/fluid myself, which anyone who knows me well can refute but that shouldn't be their job. The arguments get emotional very quickly, and it's easy to get mired in perceived accusations and insults to the point where the real issue gets obscured: that the rule as written is harsh and wrong and potentially harmful.

There are non-bigoted reasons for the rule, which I won't go into because it would sound too much like justification. If I had it to do over again, I would rewrite the rule to say something like this:

Before engaging in sexually explicit play, you have a responsibility to ensure that everyone involved meets the legal age of consent in all of the localities and to discuss what sexually explicit terms are most appropriate for each person.

Despite the poor wording in the original, the spirit of the rule has always been be honest. Erotic hypnosis is about trust and communication, so all parties in the scene should be willing to trust and to communicate honestly. If they're not, engaging in hypno play is probably unwise altogether.

I don't know when there will be a revised edition of Mind Play -- I don't want to be like a certain RPG publisher who seems to put out a new edition every time sales for the current one slow down -- but when I do you can expect to see that new wording, or something similar to it that's been vetted by friends in the community, in place of the old. If you're one of those who read the original wording and was outraged, offended, saddened, or harmed, all I can say is that I'm sorry and that was never my intent.

Thanks for reading.


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