Corporal Jim Brown is guilty of some seriously bad judgment, but then he’s not the only one. And frankly I’m not convinced he’s guilty of anything else.
You’ve probably already heard or read the news, and if not the story is linked to below. I’m not here to talk about the story so much as to talk about the story: that is the reporting of it.
The Vancouver Sun’s Ian Mulgrew reports that there is an ongoing RCMP code of conduct inquiry into the actions of the officer in relation to pictures found on an “S&M website.” In the pictures, according to the Sun, he is depicted wearing “only his regulation-issue Mountie boots and an erection as he wields a huge knife and a bound naked woman cringes in terror.” The paper then goes onto describe a series of photographs depicting an apparent abduction and imprisonment. “He slashes her.” How does he slash her? He slashes her hair? She’s left with a gaping, bleeding wound? He scratches her with the knife? Or he merely raises the knife as if to slash her? Inquiring minds want to know.
The paper, meanwhile, has whipped us into a frenzy from it’s very first paragraph, where Brown is described as “a Mountie who played a bit part in the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton and appeared on an Internet website posing in sexually explicit torture images reminiscent of the pig-farmer’s crimes.”
Really? The description of the pictures isn’t enough to raise your ire? Somehow this has to be linked to the Pickton case.
The story goes onto tell us that while the RCMP’s legal services determined there was no crime or violation of the Mountie code of conduct here that this inquiry has been started in an effort to discover if there is. In the parlance of the courts it’s a fishing expedition or a witch hunt.
In case we’re left in some doubt as to the unworthiness of Jim Brown to wear the serge, the Sun provides the insights of Mike Webster, who it describes as having had a career counseling police officers and advising departments, while not letting us know if he’s a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a counselor. Mister Webster doesn’t think much of Corporal Brown.
“The fact that Mr. Brown could engage in these activities without considering current attitudes toward this type of behaviour indicates to me that his empathetic abilities are impaired,” Webster said.
Like I said, some seriously bad judgement.
I don’t know enough about this case to start forming an opinion one way or another. And there are some questions I’d like answered before I’d bother to try.
What was the relation of the officer to the woman in the pictures? It’s been determined she’s not a victim. Was she his girlfriend, a casual “play” partner, someone he hired to appear in the shots?
What is the S&M website that these pictures appeared on? Was it Fetlife, a sort of Facebook for kinky people, or was it on some hardcore rape porn site?
Who’s idea was it to engage in this sort of activity and to document it in pictures? Was it Brown’s, or was he merely being, as sex columnist Dan Savage describes it, “Good Giving and Game,” with regards to his partner’s desires?
All of these are things we don’t know, and which if we did know might change the opinions of many, particularly those knowledgeable about BDSM activities and play.
The fact of the matter is what we do know is that Corporal Brown engaged in what is known within the BDSM community as kidnap or abduction scene. That may have turned into a torture scene and possibly a rape fantasy. And he chose to document that and to share that on the web.
What this story tells me is that, as BDSMers, we’re subject to judgment based on misunderstanding and lack of knowledge.
We’re told of the concerns of Lawyer Jason Gratl, who represented Downtown Eastside community groups at the Missing Women’s Inquiry. In his view this depiction of Brown’s represents some ethical connection between the RCMP and Pickton’s killing grounds.
I’ve met Mr. Gratl. I’ve shaken hands with him in the Inquiry room, where I had gone as an observer in my role as a board member of PACE. But I wonder if he’d be willing to if he knew of some of the things I’ve gotten up to in my bedroom over the years? Because the fact of the matter is that I am a BDSMer, and over the years I’ve occasionally engaged in the sorts of scene, albeit perhaps not to such extremes, as the one depicted in the photographs featuring Corporal Brown.
Of course I’m not an RCMP officer, and I didn’t take pictures and put them out on the web for everyone to see.
As I said at the start of this piece, the only thing I’m convinced that anyone is guilty of here is bad judgement: Corporal Brown for sharing those pictures with the world, and reporter Ian Mulgrew for running this story without answers to all of the questions I’ve posed.
*CORRECTION: The headline to this story mistakenly originally said “Vancouver Sun Vancouver Sun reports on code of conduct inquiry into RCMP Officers sexually explicit photos on the web” The Vancouver Sun of course has reported that there was no code of conduct inquiry.