Moving onto other things. For those who have a problem with sexuality, spoilers.
A few days ago, I stumbled across a post I hadn't read from seven months ago, written at the time I was on a tear about player-vs-player. And on that subject - that of Spazalicious' post - I want to proceed carefully. I believe that the argument made there is legitimate and worth examining.
The crux of the argument is a familiar one that has been argued before: that PvP can be, at a given table, consensual. I've never argued that it could not be. Many things are consensual. It is reasonable to argue that if every player at a given table agrees to the player-vs-player formula, then it ought to be legitimately pursued.
To press the point home, Spazalicious urges the reader to "take a lesson from the BDSM community:"
"Obtain consent from all persons involved, always ask if your partner is okay, and have a safe word for if [sic] things get too intense for 'stop' to make sense in context."
For those who may not know, a significant part of the BDSM community - that part that is most concerned with winning acceptance from the general public that does not practice BDSM - has promoted something for several decades known as "Safe, Sane and Consensual." The guidance offered by this policy (SSC) is to discourage harm between participants and to encourage the best possible mental health for those involved. By talking over what sexual practices are desired, it is sincerely hoped that participants will not find themselves regretting their actions and that the greatest possible empathy will be shared by all.
Unfortunately for some in the BDSM community, a strict adherence to SSC denies many of the desired activities that are part of BDSM. These activities cannot be reasonably described as 'safe,' simply because they are not. It is further argued that many completely accepted social pursuits - such as mountain climbing, hang-gliding, white-water rafting and hunting - are also fundamentally unsafe, even though efforts are made to make these as safe as possible. Still, the best way for a mountain climber to remain safe is to not climb mountains. This, however, does not work for the climber.
As such, some in the BDSM community have opted for a position known as "Risk-aware consensual kink," or RACK. In this philosophy, it is desired that both or all partners are aware that the proposed activity is dangerous, that everyone is of sound mind and that elements of SSC - such as the use of a safe word - may be legitimately set aside in preference to an experience that is less concerned with safety and more concerned with sexual gratification.
What, then, does this have to do with D&D and role-playing?
Spazalicious is expressing the philosophy - as it is promoted in the BDSM community - that consensuality trumps all other concerns. Yes, it isn't safe. Yes, people get hurt. But everyone agrees - so everything is okay, nyet?
If the reader ever gets an opportunity to speak with a member of a Search & Rescue team - and better yet, has the opportunity to get a few drinks into said member - then do not fail to ask about the 'consensuality' of people who get themselves into life and death situations while mountain climbing or white-water rafting. Get ready for a rant - a potentially furious rant if said member has ever lost a friend or relative while trying to rescue a 'risk-aware' mountain-climber, hiker, winter skiier or any of the other truly dangerous pursuits that people jump into with a minimum of preparation or real awareness. Because people are stupid. People think they are self-aware and prepared to get consensual with the mountain and forest, but it is exactly this kind of thinking that gets perfectly aware people killed while trying to pull a citizen out of trouble.
The reader might, if the reader knows people at a hospital, have an opportunity to meet someone who can tell at least one story about a BDSM participant who was flayed or beaten to within an inch of their death, on the argument made by the top (dominant, dominatrix, etc.) in the situation who says, "But he didn't use his safe word!" Because it is reasoned by many in the BDSM community that people, in the midst of being tortured, are consciously self-aware enough to even remember that they have a safe-word. Human beings, made up of chemicals that flood tissue in the most potentially dangerous soup imaginable, simply aren't that reliable. The BDSM community likes to pretend that humans are reliable, because it helps sell their practices to non-participants . . . those same non-participants who are just aching for a reason to shut down BDSM clubs, to end the careers of a very vocal and protective Professional Dominant community and to encourage everyone, everywhere, to recognize that BDSM is, in Spazalicious' words, "universally evil."
I don't feel that it is, myself. But BDSM isn't a very good argument for the magical legitimacy of personal consensuality. The so-called community is more divisive, troll-ridden and predatory than any group of people that has ever existed - except probably the military. Fact is, participants in that community just don't care. They're not participating for the glory of social acceptance - they have other motives. Social acceptance is simply the veneer that has been lacquered over the top by a small number of voices who recognize that acting as leaders in a beleaguered and largely misunderstood community gains them a small amount of personal power. It is these leaders who have invented terms like SSC and RACK in order to sustain the pretense of that power. Most participants, however, simply act as they will.
The key error in Spazalicious' thinking - and it is an error that we all make, continuously, since more than a century of brain-function research and psychological investigation has failed to make an impact - is that we are in control of our desires. This isn't so. We would like it to be so, we're very certain that it is so, since it very much seems to be the case. It is very easy to delude ourselves - since it is an unreliable brain affected by hormone-evolved brain chemistry that we use to convince ourselves.
Sorry, however. I have no actual way to determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all the people at my table who consensually agree to play PvP are actually consensually doing so. Some will agree because the group agrees. Some will agree because their sexual partner at the table agrees or because their siblings agree. Some will agree because they lack information or experience about other ways to play. Some will agree because they are habitually predatory because of other activities that have shaped their thinking. Some will agree because it seems that the authority figure at the table, the DM, seems to want it.
None, however, can be absolutely certain to agree on a strictly consensual basis. Because humans are prejudiced, naive, easily swayed, confused, anxious to agree in order to win approval and on the whole, stupid.
The best solution for this uncertainty is to seek forms of game play that do not promote unnecessary conflict and stress. Because it is universally recognized that a lack of negative conflict and stress is the best way to ensure that everyone has a good time. PvP may not be "universally evil" - but it is dead certain that a lack of PvP is "universally good."