A page on the alt.torture newsgroup


Personal view and history of the Charter
The alt.torture Consensus Charter v.5.0
The alt.torture Consensus Charter v.5.0 (plain text)


Alt.torture: a rambling personal view and the history of its Charter.
 
In June 1996, the primary Usenet newsgroup for BDSM activities was alt.sex.bondage, a group that had been highly regarded for its intelligent discussion of BDSM topics and which was regularly read even by many not in the scene. But this was the time when the old Usenet was ending. Access to the Internet was becoming easier and was no longer restricted to the technically aware. New ISP's were springing up, and their primary motive was profit. There was a great influx of new arrivals, many without respect for the traditions, values and protocols on which Usenet was founded. Some were simply unaware of "netiquette", others took the view that they had paid their subscription so they could post what they liked where they liked and so what if it ruined the newsgroups for other people. Others, still, realised that they could exploit Usenet by massively crossposting anything from religious propaganda to commercial adverts, often to irrelevant and unrelated newsgroups. This massive crossposting became known as "spam", after the words of a Monty Python song ("spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, .........") which itself referred to the brand of tinned processed meat. This Net meaning of "spam" has since altered in use to refer to unwanted commercial posting in general. Alt.sex.bondage suffered like other major newsgroups.

I was part of that influx of new arrivals and once I had configured my newsreader, I made my way to a.s.b., eager for the information it would contain. So I discovered spam; I discovered flame-wars; I discovered a sort of politically correct bdsm where people who didn't follow others' preconceived "rules" could be flamed as viciously as they might expect from someone outside the scene. There was little practical content and a lot of intolerance. So I looked elsewhere.

Hidden amongst the (then) 20,000 newsgroups I was offered I found alt.torture. It was like getting to a party when everyone else had left. There was the occasional post, maybe one per day. Then a guy who called himself DataRat started to post. He started several threads and invited responses. "Some hope," I thought. But he started getting responses. He deliberately went to related newsgroups and promoted alt.torture as a spam-free, flame-free newsgroup. (Well it was at that time!) Someone else asked for ideas and I read a brilliant answer by a lady who used a different nick then, but whom we now know as poenkitten. I was inspired to post an answer myself.

The traffic to the newsgroup grew. DataRat kept a fatherly eye on things. Above all he promoted the idea of the alt.torture "family", not a clique, as new arrivals were readily and routinely welcomed. But as traffic grew, so did problems. Should there be a policy about what to post? At first, binaries and personals had seemed reasonable enough, they were still within the small family. But we were seeing what was happening to other newsgroups. Thriving discussion groups elsewhere were being flooded with binaries, rapidly reducing the expiry time of other posts. Much as we hated "rules" we began to appreciate that anarchy was worse. I drafted out a policy document in my mind and went to post about it, to find that another guy, Woodwork, had been thinking on the same lines. After some consultation, we floated the idea of the "Consensus Charter" (Woodwork's term for it). The newsgroup were broadly supportive, though some quite understandably expressed serious concerns. But we got it going.

I took on the role of the coordinator for the Charter and over a period of several months we established where there was consensus, established where there was disagreement, and in the latter cases I organised votes. Many new people had joined us, but they understood the problems, took part in the discussions and contributed new ideas. I wrote the bulk of the Charter, but with substantial contributions from poenkitten and often useful phrases or ideas from others. Each part of the proposed Charter was put through the newsgroup for discussion and amendment, often several times. Binaries remained controversial, but by now we had our official binary companion newsgroup, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.torture. All the disagreements were resolved by at least a 2/3rds majority and by April 1997 the final (we hoped) version of the Charter was put up for vote over a three-week period. Not all of us, not even myself, agreed with every word of the Charter, but the vote was overwhelming. Seventy in favour and only two against. We had us a Charter.

The approved version, with incorporation of the vote result, was version 4.0. Anyone with older versions should scrap them. The Charter has remained almost untouched, other than correction of a numbering error and revision of the numbering and wording of the supplementary notes (which are not part of the Charter itself). However, the wording of the binaries clause (3.5) was amended by newsgroup vote in April 1999. This means we are now at version 5.0. This is given below.

(I should acknowledge that alt.sex.bondage has undergone its own transition. Effectively, the old newsgroup has been abandoned to the spammers and business transferred to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm. They have been bedevilled by one long-running flamewar that it is not appropriate for me to comment on here, but I think they have regained at least some of the vitality of what I imagine the old a.s.b. was like. The companion newsgroup, soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm.femdom has also been created. Alt.torture remains independent, a bit wilder, a bit wackier, and newcomers should not believe everything they read, but there is a lot of good stuff in it, and some brilliant flashes of humour if you know whose posts to read.)

The Nazgul, April 1999


Anyhow, here's the Charter:


The Alt.Torture Consensus Charter (vers. 5.0_html)

THE ALT.TORTURE "CONSENSUS CHARTER" AND POSTING GUIDELINES
(version 5.0, revised and accepted by the newsgroup, April 1999)

CONTENTS

    1. About Alt.Torture
    2. About the 'Consensus Charter'
    3. Posting Guidelines
         3.1 Usenet guidelines.
         3.2 Pedophilic material (unacceptable)
         3.3 Commercial products and services
         3.4 Personals
         3.5 Binaries
         3.6 Crossposting
         3.7 Safety
         3.8 Stories
         3.9 "Chat"
         3.10 Test messages
         3.11 Trolls and flames
         3.12 Miscellaneous
    4. Maintenance of the Charter
    5. Supplementary Notes


1. ABOUT ALT.TORTURE

This newsgroup is a forum for the discussion of torture. It is believed that the newsgroup was originally set up for discussion of and opposition to non-consensual political and institutional torture, both historical and present day. It remains a forum for such topics. It also covers CONSENSUAL Sadomasochism between adults. [Note 1]

Consenting adults are construed as those people who have reached the age of majority in their country or state, and this specifically prohibits those who are underage at their locale. All possible permutations of adult sexual interactions are covered, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Both male-dom and female-dom activities are included. [Note 2].

For the purposes of this newsgroup consensual torture is defined to include such activities as stringent Bondage, Discipline, Electric Shocks, Body Piercing and Modification, Mental and Physical Control and all other similar tortures not specifically mentioned. It is held that free discussion of such activities contributes to greater understanding and consequent safe practice. [Note 3, Note 4]

This newsgroup does not condone NON-CONSENSUAL torture and abuse, sexual or sadomasochistic activities involving children, or the solicitation of Erotic Death. Fantasies and discussion of non-consensual torture involving adults are acceptable, provided there is no encouragement, specific or implied, of such activities in real life.

This is an international newsgroup, so it is the posters' responsibility to ensure they comply with their own national or local legislation when posting or downloading. Posts are for the information or entertainment of responsible adults and are not suitable for viewing by minors.


2. ABOUT THE 'CONSENSUS CHARTER'

This document has been put together after much self- analysis and discussion of types of post acceptable in alt.torture. It follows revitalisation of this newsgroup during the summer of 1996. No original charter for this newsgroup has been traced and this document is a substitute, representing the current will of the newsgroup participants. It does not have the Usenet status of a charter written at the time of a newsgroup's creation, hence the phrase "consensus charter".
It was finally adopted by a vote (70:2) held during April 1997.


3. POSTING GUIDELINES

Contributions are gladly received from anyone with interests covered by this newsgroup. It has been a policy to promote a "family atmosphere" in the newsgroup and new contributors are always welcome. However, all contributors are asked to follow the following guidelines, which represent the consensus of the newsgroup users.

    3.1)     Posters should follow accepted guidelines for posting to Usenet and should avoid "net-abuse". Such prohibitions include gratuitously offensive or abusive posts; threats to and harassment of other contributors; impersonation of other contributors; multiple cross-posting ("spam"), especially of commercial material; "MMF" (make money fast) posts; deliberate and repeated posting of off-topic material. Such posts are liable to result in complaints being made to the poster's service provider. Many service providers give initial advice on posting etiquette and may make their provision of Usenet access conditional on following these guidelines. [Note 5]
    3.2)     PEDOPHILIC MATERIAL. The posting or solicitation of materials (especially stories or pictures) or activities involving children in any Sexual Manner, or that may be construed by legal authorities as a sexual manner, are repugnant to the great majority of users of this newsgroup and are specifically prohibited here. Such materials are damaging to the newsgroup and may restrict its availability on news servers. Any such post may result in complaints to the poster's service provider and other appropriate authorities. The sole exceptions to this are anecdotal statements not designed to display in a Sexual Manner histories of childhood abuse, or awareness of self.
    3.3)     COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. The posting of commercial and advertising material in the newsgroup is not acceptable. This particularly applies to the posting of material advertising commercial WorldWide Web sites or telephone services and to the advertising of professional domination or submission services, or other personals for financial gain, which may result in complaints to service providers. The following exceptions to this may be noted:
    1. Short, informative announcements of new, commercial BDSM products are acceptable (newsgroup vote, December 1996). This does not apply to services, to non-BDSM products or to repeated announcements.
    2. The use of signatures and taglines to provide links or contacts to commercial services is accepted practice, so long as these are placed at the ends of fully legitimate, on-topic posts [Note 6].
    3. Brief, relevant responses to legitimate, posted enquiries.
    Professional doms/dommes are welcome in this newsgroup as a place to relax and exchange ideas, but are specifically asked not to advertise here (discreet taglines excepted).
    3.4)     PERSONALS. While alt.torture is primarily a discussion forum, the posting of personals is tolerated (newsgroup vote, December 1996). Such personals should be on-topic, i.e. about "torture" rather than about light bondage, spanking, worship, etc, for which there are more appropriate Usenet personals newsgroups [Note 7]. Personals should not be crossposted to/from these other groups.
      Personals for financial gain or for any activity involving minors are not acceptable.
      Personals should be suitably informative; brief "drive-by personals, apparently from those seeking simply to exploit the newsgroup, are not welcome. [Note 8]
      Anyone responding to personals is reminded that due caution MUST be used when first making contact and in subsequent negotiations [Note 9]. Replies to personals should normally be via e-mail, not posted to the newsgroup.
    3.5)     BINARIES. Alt.torture is not a binaries newsgroup according to Usenet organisation. The posting of binaries to the newsgroup may result in excessive bandwidth usage and the dropping of the newsgroup by service providers. The companion binaries newsgroup, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.torture has been set up for such material. Binaries must not be posted here (original newsgroup vote, December 1996, this clause amended, April 1999). Short posts to alt.torture, giving notice of relevant binaries posted to a.b.p.e.t. or other binaries newsgroups, are encouraged. [Note 10]
    3.6)     CROSSPOSTING. Alt.torture shares areas of interest with other BDSM newsgroups and there may, at times, be important topics meriting common discussion. However, such occasions should be seen as exceptional. Crossposting more often leads to continuing threads of no further relevance to one or more of the crossposted groups. Consequently (newsgroup vote, December 1996), crossposting to other newsgroups should normally be avoided. Crossposted personals are specifically unwelcome (sect. 3.4) and "spam" is prohibited (sect. 3.1).
    3.7)     SAFETY. It is legitimate to post on safety matters, particularly where it seems that inexperienced players are unaware of safety concerns that may not be immediately obvious. However, postings specifically to criticise experienced players for taking informed risks are generally less welcome. This group caters for those interested in playing closer to the edge than some are comfortable with and, while safety is important, the group tends to be more interested in ideas. (An analogy may be made with a mountaineering newsgroup, where a post to simply say that climbing a particular mountain is too risky and must not be done would not be well received.]
    Nevertheless, the sharing of information and experience is seen as promoting safety. Beginners should be aware of these background assumptions of safety and must be VERY cautious about using ideas from this group without explicitly considering and asking about safety issues. While fantasies are legitimate posts, the portrayal of untested fantasy as reality should be avoided as potentially misleading.
    3.8)     STORIES and fantasies are acceptable in the newsgroup, even those describing non-consensual torture (of adults). Appropriate headers should be used to give warning of content. Contributors are advised to consider their own legal liability regarding any fantasy post that includes living, real-life personalities, and they must avoid making any post that could be regarded as creating or promoting harassment.
    3.9)     "CHAT". Short off-topic postings as personal responses within threads are acceptable and welcome where they have wider entertainment value and foster overall friendliness within the newsgroup. Nevertheless, posters should consider whether private e-mail would be more appropriate in individual cases.
    3.10)    TEST MESSAGES should obey Usenet practice in being sent to alt.test or equivalent test newsgroups, unless it is receipt by alt.torture that is specifically being checked.
    3.11)    TROLLS and FLAMES. It is inevitable that posts ("trolls") will be made with the deliberate intention of provoking angry reaction. It is in the best interests of the newsgroup to ignore these, or, if appropriate, to complain to the poster's service provider. Similarly, angry or offensive public disagreement ("flames") to others' posts are unwelcome and damaging to the newsgroup. Disagreements with someone else's posts should be civil and constructive. Polite response by private e-mail should always be considered.
    3.12)    MISCELLANEOUS. Posters are urged to follow Usenet conventions of "good practice" [Note 11]. Examples of this include not posting in capitals (difficult to read, regarded as "shouting"), and lurking in a newsgroup and getting to know it for a short time before posting. A post that requests responses only by e-mail may be seen as a sign of someone seeking only to exploit the newsgroup (personals excepted and allowing for newsserver problems). [Note 12]


4. MAINTENANCE OF THE CHARTER

This Consensus Charter belongs to the newsgroup and has been put together following newsgroup discussions from November 1996 onwards, supported by e-mail voting as required. It will be maintained by an administrator [Note 13] and posted regularly back to the newsgroup. It may also be made available for consultation on one or more Web sites.

Suggestions for improvements to the Charter may be made (to the administrator) at any time.

If such suggestions are apparently non-contentious, and after formal posting to the newsgroup and receipt of no objections, amendments may be made without further vote.

If objections are received, but the proposal is supported by ten or more newsgroup users, the administrator will call a vote.

Any proposal to reverse a previous vote must be supported by fifteen or more newsgroup users and must be made not less than 6 months after the declaration of the previous vote results.

Supplementary notes and any appendices are not a formal part of the Consensus Charter and will be kept updated as required.


5. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES.

Note 1: Background information to alt.torture is maintained by poenkitten at
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/1434.

Note 2: Genuinely abusive relationships, even within a BDSM framework, are not condoned. While there may not always be agreement on all points, a useful guide to recognition of abuse in BDSM relationships has been produced by the International S/M-Leather-Fetish Celebration and may be found in the soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ
(http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm or go direct to http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/u.htm)

Note 3: Alt.torture seeks to maintain its own identity. However, newsgroups with related or overlapping subject areas include soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm (all bondage and BDSM matters, and more appropriate for posts on light bondage without a "torture" element); soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm.femdom (the primary newsgroup for discussion of female dominance in bdsm, and more appropriate regarding rituals of worship and submission); soc.sexuality.spanking (a robomoderated ng concentrating on spanking and light whipping); alt.sex.necrophilia (dead bodies, including death by torture); rec.arts.bodyart (piercing and body adornment, including excellent FAQs). Attention is also drawn to nl.erotiek.bdsm (Netherlands) and uk.people.bdsm (Britain).

Note 4:Advice on safe consensual torture practices is given in the alt.torture FAQ, maintained by poenkitten. Parts are occasionally posted to the newsgroup and it is accessible as a web document at
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/1434.
Comprehensive safety advice is also given in the soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ, now existing as a multi-part html Web document at
http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm.

Note 5: A net-abuse FAQ is regularly posted to news.admin.net-abuse.newsnet. A valuable compilation of related FAQs can be accessed at
http://www.crl.com/~sjkiii/news-admin-net-abuse.html.

Note 6: Taglines may provide references to commercial (hopefully BDSM) websites maintained by newsgroup contributors, or provide means of contacting those offering professional (including personal) BDSM services. Postings must never be made simply for the sake of publishing the tagline.

Note 7: Personals on spanking should be directed to alt.personals.spanking (or a.p.s.punishment); general bondage and BDSM personals should be directed to alt.personals.bondage.

Note 8: Personals of a biographical nature are acceptable in Alt.torture. Please use ISO and geographical location in your header (remember, this is an international newsgroup). Make clear your own gender and that of the person for whom you search.
     Our preference is that the person seeking a partner for play tell us something about themselves, what they enjoy, what area they are in. As space on Usenet is not so limited as in a newspaper you can tell us more about yourself, which may result in a better quality of response. Polite and mannerly ISOs are more pleasant to read and allow a person to begin matching their needs with yours more fully, making you stand out from the hundreds of rude and clueless ISO postings on the net.
     Remember, postings of requests for children, for binary pictures of children being used in any sexual connotation, or questions on how to gain access to a child will be referred to your service provider and to the authorities.

Note 9: Anyone responding to a personal, as with any other contact medium, should be aware of the risks. This particularly applies when someone is going to allow him/herself to be placed in bondage and made physically helpless. Initial meetings should be in a suitable public place where kidnap would be very difficult. Personal addresses and telephone numbers should not be given too readily. Someone else should be aware of the arrangements and be prepared to raise alarm in the event of non-return by an agreed time. Consideration should be given to the use of "silent alarms" (messages to someone else at agreed times and which MUST contain secret code words to indicate all is well). Be aware of applicable legislation as regards the limits of "consent".

Note 10: It is appreciated that many service providers do not give access to a.b.p.e.t. Advice on alternative routes of access appears regularly in the newsgroup. Relevant binaries appear often in a.b.p.e.bondage, which is more generally available. This document should not be seen as encouragement to download material in contravention of applicable local or national legislation.

Note 11: A set of articles giving information and advice on posting to Usenet is posted regularly in news.announce.newusers.

Note 12: Persons joining a discussion are recommended to read previous posts in the thread. Web access to previous alt.torture posts is usually available through DejaNews (http://www.dejanews.com).

Note 13: This document has initially been put together by The Nazgul (silver@mordor.u-net.com) who currently acts as administrator for it. Many newsgroup members have provided valuable advice and comments. The initial idea came from Woodwork, and the current text incorporates, in particular, contributions from poenkitten. All who have taken part deserve the newsgroup's thanks.

End of version 5.0